Standing in the dim light of the stone chamber the party could just make out a large stone sarcophagus at the far end. As they slowly entered the room they began to discern around the walls the iconography of Bahamut, Lord of Dragons. Here he was portrayed as the champion of justice, a noble leader of men who upheld the highest values of honour, self-sacrifice, and the pursuit of peace and goodwill. The ornate relief work showed the fluttering banners of well disciplined armies standing against a foul horde of chaos spilling forth from a gaping maw of darkness as the divine dragon looked on.
“Of course, Bahamut is no more a dragon than Moradin is a dwarf,” whispered Des, who had made a study of such imagery. “But such a noble form is fitting indeed for this godhead.”
Aran approached the sarcophagus cautiously, the flagstones seemed secure and evenly aligned, the stone work bore no traces of arcane inscription that his keen eyes could reveal, even the intricately worked dragons head that adorned the front of the stone case was free from slots from which arrows could fire out or grooves which might hide a poisoned scythe blade. “You can never be absolutely certain of such things,” he thought to himself. “But it pays to be careful.”
As the adventurers edged forwards the lid of the sarcophagus swung silently open. They jumped back as one, and in the half light the figure of an armoured knight arose.
“The Rift must never be reopened. State your business or prepare to die!” came an otherworldly voice, a sorrowful sound that lingered in the stale air as if it’s echo was trapped. The adventurers looked at each other. “Who speaks for you?”
There was a degree of discreet jostling amongst the group, and finally Elwanen found himself nudged a step closer than the others.
“Sir Elf,” came the voice again,” What business have you here so close to the dark heart?”
“We have come to close the rift, and we would seek your help, if you are indeed Sir Creegan, lord of the keep.”
“I was once that man, but I fell to the madness that seeps ever daily from the other side. It is no earthly place to which you venture near, and its influence claims all in the end. Linger not, for you will fall as once I did.” The apparition lifted its gaze as it studied the group, it’s baleful eyes full of remorse, it’s once strong face drawn with suffering.
Fangorn stepped up beside the Eladrin paladin. “Natural it may be not, but we are determined and resourceful folk. Long did I dwell in darkness before I saw the sun for the first time, and I swear by the soil from which I sprang that I would rid this place once and for all from evil, or die trying.”
“Brave words indeed tree-sprite. A stout heart will see you well, but it will take more by the end,” replied the revenant of Sir Creegan, “And what say you, Master Dwarf, who guides you on your path?”
“I follow Moradin the Maker, he teaches us that strength comes through justice, and that we will find the truth through our labours.”
“A worthy edict, your cause is just, but are you equipped to meet the arcane power that your enemies wield?” said Sir Creegan turning to the warlock. Sabbat Fau stood for a moment as if giving the question some thought.
“Yes.” He replied matter-of-factly. There was an uncomfortable pause.
Turning to Des, the ghostly apparition lowered his voice. “Your companions appear ill-chosen, word-spinner…”
Des cleared his throat, “…At first knowing [being what they are] my companions may oft appear a touch bereft in the arts of diplomacy [and this is not [I must underline] a failing on their parts, but simply [and factually speaking] a mere resultant of the gritty business to which they have [each and every one] so capably applied themselves, that business being [namely] the socially responsible and [ultimately] spiritually purifying pursuit of [if I may] that which is [by all right folk] commonly held to be the ‘good’].”
“Furthermore, we together [one and all] face a threat of malevolent Machiavellian machinations which would maliciously muster a menace that would make mice of meeker men [but we are not that]. Morality is our watchword, the paragons of virtue are our patrons, and you, good sir knight, would [if you view our cause as just] offer us your blessing.”
“Listen, it’s dangerous out there,” interjected Aran, “it’s nasty and the wilds are dark and sinister, full of kobolds and goblins, and nastiness far beyond either of those I’m sure. We are here to right this, and with your blessing we will make the land a place fit for good people once more. You should know that we have found descendants of the ancient lineage of Kaius not far from here in Linden Field, the dynasty lives on, there is hope!”
“Indeed,” pondered Sir Creegan. “That is welcome news. Now speak you wizard. Conclude our conversation.”
“…And I’m so bad with words,” confessed Theron. “You see, I operate on the theory that whatever trouble I fall into, I somehow fall out of. I’m hoping that somehow I may just fall out of this!”
“Then know this,” began Sir Creegan, “The vile taint of an evil power known as Orcus seeps through from beyond the rift. This being is as ancient as the world itself, and commands forces of evil beyond the power of any mortal.”
“This keep indeed stands on a gateway to the realm of Orcus, a land known as the Shadowfell. It was built to guard against the menace from beyond, and men such as I have lived and died here so that mankind should be safe.
“But the power of the Shadowfell is assiduous and lingering, dwell too long here and you shall all succumb, as have I, to it’s sinister lure. It will claim your mind and your friends will not know you from your foes.
“In life I was given to command this once strong garrison, but the Shadow found me in my dreams and turned me from my path. I heard the voices calling to me, a call I could not resist. They bade me work evil in the name of their master, and evil I did.
“I took the lives of my two children as they slept in their beds. I smiled as I squeezed the last breath from their lips. I carried them to the fire and cast them into it’s warm embrace, because… He wished it to be so.
“My captains fell to my blade because they knew me only as a friend. All but one, who escaped to warn the others. In life I had studied swordplay with great masters, and many worthy opponents had I bested, and when near twenty knights lay dead before me I was wounded gravely and forced back into the lower levels where I was trapped.
“There before the altar of Bahomet did I finally come to my senses. Knowing what I had done, I took my own life. Death came as a blessing, for the pain of a blade is nothing compared to the torment of the Shadowfell.
“If you are to succeed in this task you must be have steel in your hands and your hearts. This sword is named Aecris. It has taken many lives and it bears many regrets. It longs to right that which I have wronged, and whomever amongst you is best trained to wield may do so wih my blessing.
“Know also that Bahomet blesses you. These dragon tokens will aid you towards the end. Now go, and seek whatever end you are worthy of.”
And with that the tragic figure of Sir Creegan, Lord of the Keep on the Shadowfell, lay down in his tomb and was silent once more. The stone lid closed quietly and the room was still.