Having rescued the body of Alarich from the Shrouds, the heroes discuss just what to do with it back at the Refinery. Should they try to resurrect him – thus bringing one branch of the Prophecy of the Impure Prince closer to fruition – or do nothing, giving the forces behind the Shrouds another chance to advance the other path? After some debate they decide to attempt resurrection – but this is no easy task, and they realise they will need to consult with House Jorasco.
The next day they take the body to the Jorasco Enclave in Respite – saluted along the way by members of the Stormreach Guard, their loyalty won by Sláine and Kaddik‘s generous donation. The Enclave’s leader, Alhaura d’Jorasco, agrees to see them and understands their situation; after all, she originally hired Rufus to learn what had happened to the body, which was stolen by the Emerald Claw from the Jorasco cemetary. (Plus, the heroes are extremely good customers of the House, given how often they buy potions of healing.) She agrees to use the House’s altar of resurrection to try to revive Alarich, but warns them that it can be a risky proposition.
It turns out Alhaura’s right – when she uses the altar, time stops for all but the heroes! A giant marut inevitable, the Arbiter of Passage, appears from nowhere and demands to know why the heroes would broach the barrier between death and life. When they put their case to the Arbiter, it agrees to allow them to seek out Alarich’s soul, but to find it they must journey through Dolurrh – the Shadowfell, the Realm of the Dead – and that the Keeper, the god of death, will attempt to prevent them from leaving.
The heroes leave the enclave to find themselves in a shadowy version of Stormreach; giant shades walk the streets, the remnants of ancient and new buildings collapse and reform, and everything is crafted from gravestones, darkness and bone. As they follow a path through the city of the dead, they encounter a number of familiar shades, ghosts of those who have fallen to them in battle:
- Sergeant Sinruth, holding his severed head in hands bound by his own spiked chain, watches the shadow of the Black Wrack forever burn, collapse and reform. He regrets nothing; life is for the strong. Caleb tries and fails to bind him in the helm of seven deaths, but Sinruth notes that the helm destroys the souls within it permanently, rather than sending them back to Dolurrh, and volunteers to enter it, having seen enough of the afterlife to satisfy him. The other adventurers are disturbed by the revelation of the helm’s power, but they press on.
- Outside the shadow of the Temple of the Silver Flame sits an Emerald Claw soldier, talking to the featureless, voiceless shades that are all that remain of his comrades. He tells the heroes that he thought the Claw would send for him in death and raise him as an undead hero; perhaps it will still happen, so he waits for the call, all the while wishing he was in the afterlife’s version of Karrnath.
- In the Marketplace the heroes come across a group of Storm Hammers, holding hands and speaking in fractured, sing-song unison. They miss the unearthly music that had enslaved their souls and are saddened to hear that Miraan did not succeed in bringing the Mourning to Stormreach. When Caleb promises them the quiet of oblivion, they coalesce as a single soul and pass into the helm.
- Within the fence surrounding the Refinery (iron grills replaced by bone) gibbers the soul of Duuth Velderan, now a tattered tangle of shadow sporting a ghostly face and random body parts. After he was torn apart by gnolls, the drow warriors took some of his remains as trophies and brought them to Stormreach, splintering Duuth’s ghost and binding it here. Caleb suggests Duuth enter the helm, but when the heroes break down the fence the ghost splits into pieces and runs off in multiple directions, cursing and mocking them.
- Outside a high wall of white marble – the only white in this world of grey shadows – they find Whisper, banging on the gates and demanding to let in. Furious, the ghost berates them for killing her; she was meant to become a member of the Deathless aristocracy after death, but instead the living (!) Aerenal elves behind the wall refuse to let her join them. The heroes leave her to her just desserts.
In the Harbour, a ship waits – crafted from the mummified corpse of a kraken, and captained by a rough-speaking devil of shadow. Pushing itself through the dead sea by drawing in black water in front and expelling it as silent clouds of flies, the ship takes the heroes to the Island of the Writhing Horde, where petrified vines and the skeletons of snakes litter the ground before huge fallen ziggurats and enormous half-buried skulls. Inside the lighthouse they find the ghosts of Alarich and Jin, locked in perpetual battle with the shades of the snake-man cultists. The heroes tell Alarich’s ghost of the Prophecy and the need for his resurrection; he takes some persuading, as he was wary of prophecy in life, but agrees to come back rather than be raised as an undead monster. Caleb, meanwhile, speaks with the ghost of Jin – who it seems he knew in life – and she agrees to enter the helm, unlocking its ultimate potential.
Returning to Stormreach, the heroes find it has changed, falling apart until nothing is left but a wasteland of bone and shadow. Followed by a throng of giant shades, they return to the Enclave, where they are attacked by the Claw of the Keeper – a huge dracolich, animated by the god’s will from bone and darkness! The heroes draw upon all their wiles, tools and power to find the monster, including all the souls within the helm, while the creature breathes clouds of necrotic poison and mesmerises them with its empty gaze. After a long, desperate battle they manage to defeat it, only for the Arbiter to throw up one last obstacle – as five souls entered Dolurrh, only five may leave. Ash and Slaine both volunteer, but it is Spark – a warforged who need not eat or drink, who has no ties to the mortal world and a burning curiosity about the other planes – who stays behind as his compatriots leave. The Arbiter restores them to Stormreach, time restarts and Alarich awakes with a gasp, alive once more!
In the wake of this great adventure, paths once united divide into new directions. Slaine returns to Khorvaire, there to refound the Order of the Iron Soul. So too departs Durgran’Torrn, leaving Kaddik to become the overseer of the Tharashk Refinery and the agent of the Gatekeepers. Caleb returns to see Jaris Cantar – and slays him in revenge for the murder of Caleb’s mother, a secret both Caleb and Jin have carried all this time. Ballast steps from a ship, scored with battle scars and bearing a sword crafted from a dinosaur’s jaw, ready to wreck havoc in Stormreach once again. Ash gets very drunk in a Harbour District tavern, telling all his admirers of his glorious deeds, while Rufus eats many biscuits and Alarich lurks on the fringe, wondering about his purpose. And in the eternal silence of the Shadowfell, Spark questions Shinra about 40 000 years of history while exploring the ruins of the giants.
The adventures of these heroes has come to an end. For now.
But adventure has a way of seeking heroes once again.