Lady Antinua’s cube brought the party on a hilltop road. Shadowfell was a bleak place; Rocky, barren and lifeless. The sun was faintly glowing from the grey skies, struggling to get past the dark clouds. Colours themselves seemed to have bled out, apart from the Party, who were still brightly lit. The gravelly road the Party stood on led to a foreboding forest behind them… And to the other side, over a black river to a jagged, uninviting castle sitting on top of a cliff. The cliff was the only place in the vicinity that could conceivably contain a place known as the Bleak Caverns, so they headed out.
As they came to the river, they found one of the plane’s inhabitants: A shadow-like being. It was following the riverbed, ambling along. The Party after a brief debate decided to engage the shadow in conversation. It barely acknowledged them and could not identify itself, only explaining that it was heading towards the castle on the cliff because it was “calling”. The shadow floated along the ground, more briskly than the Party, so very soon it had disappeared into the dim distance.
The Party soon came to a crossroad: The main path headed directly towards the cliff, while there was another, smaller, more disused side road that ascended the cliff to the side. By Zariss’ whim they decided to take the smaller path, which precariously took them to the castle proper, which seemed less like it had been built and more like it had been dreamed into existence: Jagged parapets and sharp towers made the castle very uninviting. But still, they braved inside, heading over the drawbridge and through the main door.
The antechamber was round, dark and contained very grim imagery along with one raised door and an iron maiden in the middle. As they stepped inside, a voice boomed from somewhere above, introducing himself as Zandath and demanding to know who had trespassed into his realm. Listening to the Party’s introduction, Zandath offered them a choice: Either leave his realm or entertain him. After protests and explanations that the Party sought the Bleak Caverns the being offered and additional incentive: Entertain him and he will allow them to pass the dangers of the place they sought. With that, the doors began to close by themselves, forcing the Party to make a decision. They stayed.
When the door closed, the ceiling began to rumble. Sharp tall spikes lowered from small holes in the tiles and the whole ceiling began to slowly descent. The Party dashed to the door on the other side of the antechamber, finding it opening inwards and being sternly closed. As the mages prepared their spells to get out of the situation, Dulkan took the chime he had found from Null and tried it on the door. A slow metallic screech rang, followed by the thud of something heavy hitting the floor on the other side; The bar that kept the door closed had moved! Quickly, the Party opened the door and dashed inside.
The nature of Zandath’s “entertainment” was now clear. The next room on the next floor of the castle contained a statue-filled corridor, which was trapped to the brim. This became apparent after Antinua stepped on a pressure plate that peppered the party with poison needles. Not willing to brave the many hidden traps, the Party used their foldable hole and Althaea’s magic to move beyond the next door, which was a disappointment to their “host”.
As they further ascended to the roof of the castle, they found several dark statues peppered with rain, and another drawbridge to another tower, this one the highest in the castle. Seemingly bored with trying to inconvenience the party with traps, Zandath sent their “dance partners” to test them: On the drawbridge, four strange characters climbed around them silently and attacked: Dragonborn and men, all with ashen skins and scales, sharp claws and teeth and eyes glowing malevolent red. A violent, desperate battle ensued. The beings seized their victims and bit into them, sucking vitality away and leaving behind emptiness. They barely slew three of them with spells and Dulkan’s fiery rapier, and the last one they flung to the darkness below by wrapping it into an animated statue, courtesy of Althaea.
Tired and injured, they could hear the amused and elated approval of Zandath, who was undoubtedly waiting for them on the top of the tower…