After stepping through the portal into the Shadowfell, the heroes find themselves in a new and foreign place. Hoping to catch Modra, the group rushes outside, only to find themselves standing before a great encampment. Challenged by some Dark One sentries, the heroes pretend to be merely mercenaries and proceed towards the sprawling camp spread out before them. Beneath patched canvas tents stands open-air taverns, market stalls, apothecaries and herbalists, weaponsmiths and armorers, butchers and greengrocers—all doing roaring trade. Shortly after their arrival, the heroes experience a series of tremors. The ground shakes violently apparently due to the existence of the Shadow Rift at the center of Umbraforge.
Training grounds rest between the various camps, and soldiers of different races clash against each other with sword and shield. In the quieter corners, combat casters train—the flare of arcane fire dancing between them. But as the party approaches, they notice with surprise that these are not Shadowfell mercenaries for the most part. Though shadar-kai and dark ones are well represented, the fields and camps are packed with orcs and hobgoblins, ogres and trolls, lizardfolk and kobolds and a dozen other monstrous races of the world.
Making their way through the market, the team immediately begins their search for Modra. Spreading out, the group asks around and hears some very interesting rumors. * Apparently, this mercenary camp is called Umbraforge, under the dominion of Sarshan, a shadar-kai trader of great reputation and even greater wealth. He resides in a large tower, and utilizes a foundry, and many forges. The camps are those of the mercenaries and slaves whose services he sells across the Shadowfell and the world.
- “Sarshan is an outcast who made a name for himself as the leader of a legendary mercenary band known as the Black Arrows. At their height, the Arrow put so much fear in generals and kings alike that Sarshan could take payment to fight for one group, then take a bigger payment from their foe to stand down.
- Modra is known well in Umbraforge, but for all the wrong reasons now. He was one of Sarshan’s trusted lieutenants before he brokered a weapons deal that Sarshan had already turned down. That job was to supply Tusk’s army with weapons, supplies, and information. People know that Modra sold the orc his weapons, and word on the street is that Sarshan wants him dead. Sarshan is a careful businessman and never makes a sale if it has a chance of coming back to him.
- Most folk assume that Modra is long gone from Umbraforge and the Shadowfell because Sarshan is so angry.
- The foundry is the new jewel of Sarshan’s operations. Its power comes from the fire and shadow driving its furnaces. Sarshan’s sages create beasts of battle there, born killers with magic in their blood.
- It used to be that Sarshan brokered mercenaries mostly within the Shadowfell, but that’s changing. Dark ones and shadar-kai are still his elite troops, but more and more, he brings creatures from the world to Umbraforge for training, then marches them off to places unknown.
- The Shadowfell is only a stopping-off place for Sarshan’s mercenaries. A force of archons from the Elemental Chaos was in Umbraforge six months ago, and Githzerai from the Astral Sea have been seen in Umbraforge as well, though rumor has it they did not take a job for Sarshan.
- Sarshan’s slave bazaar is about more than just servants and soldiers. His experiments in the foundry only begin with dumb beasts. He’s building new soldier races there, born from the slaves he traffics.
- Sarshan’s mercenary operations have tripled in size in months past, but it’s not the Shadowfell they’re fighting in. When his forces are bought and sent on the march, they’re bound for portals to the world. Shadar-kai, dark ones, undead, giants, ogres, trolls, gnolls, orcs— Sarshan has the armies of two planes on the march. War is brewing in the world, but the forces that will fight it are moving into position in the Shadowfell, unseen.
In the course of the investigation, Modyom accidentally reveals the existence of the portal nearby leading to Overlook to a Dark One tavern patron. This Dark One is helpful in answering questions, but is much more interested in the location of the portal. Apparently, most of the troops gathered in Umbraforge have to travel overland to reach Sarshan’s camp, and knowing a closer portal could be greatly beneficial. Unfortunately, the Dark One is eager to learn the location of the portal and points a small group of ogres from the Bonecrusher clan to the party, causing an ad-hoc brawl in the mud. The mud is a little slick to fight in but not a significant challenge.
After the fight, a mysterious shadar-kai witch approaches the team. She wears a black cloak edged with adamantine beads, and she keeps her long hair plaited to hang down her back. Gold piercings line her ears and lower lip, and a black starburst tattoo encloses her right eye. She introduces herself as Leena and quickly explains that she used to work with Modra. After he elected to go behind Sarshan’s back, though, she told him they were no longer friends. “I heard word of him in the camps even before you started asking around. He has a plan to disrupt Sarshan’s operations by destroying the foundry, and then the tower.” According to Leena, Sarshan has a private tunnel connecting the foundry to the tower, and Modra is planning on venting the foundry’s destructive energy there, using a mass of mercenaries moving out as cover.
After Leena departs, the party prepares to rest for the evening. As they search for a place to rest, an extremely violent tremor shakes the ground. Before the party knows what is happening, the ground splits open. Raw Elemental Chaos spills out, and with it comes several elementals formed from the chaotic lava-like energy. The Heroes act quickly to end the threat posed by the elemental creatures, and then find a place to rest.
That night, the party moves stealthily to the Foundry, sneaking in to stop Modra. After ambushing the saboteurs, the heroes glimpse what goes on in the Foundry. Lined with vats filled to their brims with green sludge, the Foundry straddles the Shadow Rift river of energy with steaming hot pipes siphoning off shadow lava from the river to fill the vats. Modra quickly dumps a goblin henchman into a vat, and then releases the mutated goblin golem creature onto the heroes. Though the fight is difficult, Modra and his hired gang of thugs are eventually defeated.
The heroes now prepare to move through the secret door to investigate Sarshan’s tower. To what purpose has he harnessed the power of The Shadow Rift of Umbraforge? Only Sarshan himself knows the answer.
NOTES: The party leveled up.