Shadowhand Campaign Summary
The PCs began in a small town called Kenshah, north of Taerva, in the country of Coravana. They investigated a series of coordinated goblin raids against the local villages, and eradicated the goblin base. However, while taking out the goblin outpost, they found evidence linking it to a more centralized area of training and operations. The PCs moved on to take out the larger goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear base, and successfully infiltrated and destroyed it.
At the large goblin base, the PCs found signs of interaction with some merchants from Taerva, the large city to the south. They also encountered the motif of a flaming black hand, one they would come to recognize.
In the city of Taerva, the PCs chose to work guarding a merchant caravan for a fair price. The caravan headed into the forest north of Taerva, known as the Greenshroud. The caravan was ambushed, and the PCs were captured by a group known as the Hiveband, lead by a ranger named Jefrald Hornebane. He informed the PCs that the merchant they were guarding was evil, and was supplying allies of the evil Church of Bane with food, weapons, and magical items. The black flaming hand symbol is revealed to be the sign of the Shadowhand, a secret sect of the Church working to further some secret ambition. After interrogating the PCs, Jefrald decided they were not part of the evil merchant’s schemes, and invited them to join the Hiveband.
The PCs engaged in several raids with the Hiveband before being given their first real mission. They were to head north, into the dry, cavern-ridden area (think Arizona) along the border with the desert tribelands of Aradaeth, to find out what the Shadowhands were trying to supply. Their search led them to a series of canyons where a tribe of copper-mining kobolds known as the Ooraku were engaged in a bloody war with a nearby clan of minotaurs. The Bane-worshipping minotaurs were getting aid from the Church of Bane, and the tide of war was turning quickly in their favor. With the help of an ancient prophesy, the PCs uncovered the helm, armor, and katars of a famed Ooraku chieftain. Then the PCs aided the kobolds in a final assault on the minotaur base, attacking at night (remember, this is where Owly and Dan Lewis dropped the alchemists fire onto the tents). The Ooraku kobolds were so grateful that they inducted the PCs into their tribe, and give them each a Necklace of the Ooraku, a magical item aiding them and binding them to the tribe. The PCs returned to Taerva and the Hiveband laden with beautifully-crafted copper jewelry made by the Ooraku jewelsmiths. Upon their return, Jefrald gives the PCs each their own insect-mount (the choices were dragonfly, spider, or preying mantis).
After a week of resting and raiding at the Hiveband base in the Greenshroud forest, the PCs are given a new mission by Jefrald Hornebane. A Hiveband spy named Talver has infiltrated the castle of a noble named Lord Gaverfeld, and has found that he has been dealing with Shadowhand merchants, and that the Shadowhand is working to obtain his allegiance. Jefrald’s orders are simple: kill Lord Gaverfeld. No others may be killed, and items that are not his may not be looted by the PCs. The PCs concoct a cunning plan infiltrate the manor. Some of the party attempt to gain Lord Gaverfeld’s trust with diplomacy, even going so far as to gift him with a set of ruby and sapphire studded ivory dice. At the same time, the other half of the party creates a public scene. The monk is arrested and taken to the Lord’s hidden torture chambers, while his support follows from behind. As Lord Gaverfeld enters the torture chamber with the diplomatic half of the party, he is ambushed. Half of the party is already behind him, and the other half bursts through the secret prison entrance. The fight is quick, and Gaverfeld and his samurai lieutenant are felled quickly.
In the guest rooms at Lord Gaverfeld’s castle, the PCs capture the Shadowhand emissary and interrogate him. They find that the Church of Bane in Taerva has some very strange wall carvings in the secret ritual-sacrifice chamber. Normally, the carvings show Bane sitting on a throne in his realm of Shadowmount, eating shadows. However, once each month the stonecarving somehow changes, infuriating the High Priest. The changes are quickly obliterated, and nobody but the High Priest and a few mute laborors know what they show.
When Jefrald hears of this, he immediately assigns the PCs a new mission: get a charcoal rubbing of those carvings before the changes are removed! Chance is favoring the PCs, because High Priest Archero will be away from the city for six days at the end of them month, the same time when the carvings are set to change. Jefrald cautions the PCs that Archero is far to difficult for them to best. However, Jefrald suspects that Archero’s right-hand man, a man named Maloch Disterlo, will still be in the temple. He further has reason to believe that Archero and Maloch are both vampires.
The PCs scout out the Temple from the outside, and then launch their invasion. They sneak in by climbing up to the second floor. They proceed to make their way to the basement, where they find a gruesome scene: the ground is inlaid with a gold ritual circle, and in the middle is a bloody altar used for sacrifice. However, along the walls they find the carvings: the walls of Shadowmount are being torn down by four colored spheres: red, brown, blue, and white. Suddenly, out of the shadows, a fierce vampire attacks. After a difficult fight, Maloch is forced to retreat, and the PCs escape.
Jefrald is stumped by what the signs mean or what he should do, so he sends the PCs to find a skillful gnome wizard who is friendly towards the Hiveband. When they reach his house, however, they find that he has been captured. He was taken by a Shadowhand agent, and then they escaped on dragonback. The PCs track the dragon down to a ruined monastery in the middle of a swamp. There, they fight of a massive earth elemental made of massive building stones. Entering the monastery, they fight off a tentacled monster that hides within a deep look. Finally, descending the stairs into the basement of the monastery, they find the gnome. He is tied up in a chair, with the bloody signs of torture marking him. Behind him stands Maloch Disterlo and a pack of fearsome wolves. Maloch is willing to negotiate, but the PCs renegade on their bargain. Maloch uses the wolves as a distraction as he escapes, calling on the black dragon to attack the PCs. The dragon nearly makes it away, carrying the gnome with him, but a lucky shot by Tarniya forces him to drop the gnome just as he is getting out of range. The gnome, after recovering from his torture and his fall, desciphers the charcoal rubbing. He says that his research and the rubbing both indicate that there is a ritual that can make Shadowmount accessible from the mortal world, but it requires powerful symbols of air, earth, fire, and water. He knows nothing about where to obtain most of those symbols, but his research indicates that there is something strongly linked to fire in the core of a volcano in the Bearclaw Isles, far to the south. They have yet to go to the Bearclaw isles, for something more pressing has come up: the Order of the Seven Suns, a religious, militaristic, expansionist nation, is attacking into southeastern Coravana.
On an emergency mission, the PCs sneak past into Order lands, to the fortress closest to the border. There they must obtain the campaign map being used to plan out the invasion strategy. After making their way into the base, they capture the man running the fortress, Corporal Torian Haldor. They also take the map, after Eldon narrowly avoided getting skewered by the magical dagger-trap protecting it. Ganz is nearly killed when he slips away from the party, onto the roof of the fortress, where he engages a swift nimblewright.
During their brief downtime PCs befriend a powerful ship captain named Nightclaw the Gold, who sails a powerfully magical, intelligent trireme known as the Lady of the Sea. Nightclaw is old friends with Jefrald, and a useful asset to the Hiveband. With his help, they obtain a naval alliance for Coravana against the pressure of the Order.
New news comes from Hiveband agents. The Shadowhand has assembled a large fortress in the mountains of northern Coravana, far from the writ of the government. There, in a forest of giant bones, hides a walled fortress of black basalt. It appears to be guarding something, but none of the agents who have entered the fortress have come back out. Jefrald sends the PCs, his elite strike force, to investigate.
The PCs easily enter the fortress during a large gladiatorial event going on in the arena there. They take out a powerful wizard quickly, and free a strange prisoner: a non-evil intelligent skeleton wizard. He informs the PCs that the fortress is guarding something the Shadowhand calls a Portal of the Moon. It is a portal to an area within the Shadowfell, the plane of death and shadows. There, the Shadowhand have a powerful base, training grounds, and a marshaled undead army. He opens the portal with a magical ritual, and the PCs pass within.
The PCs find themselves in the basement of a large tower. The far end of the portal is being guarded by a minotaur cleric bedecked in finery. They attack the minotaur, only to be assaulted by powerful undead that were lying in a false semblance of death. After a bloody fight, the PCs are victorious, but need to rest. Working their way up through the tower, the PCs find a dark floor full of cages holding terrible monsters. They quickly realize that there is some sort of enemy freeing the monsters and making them attack. Another combat ensues, before the players make their way to a floor made out of ice. A bird of ice shards attacks the PCs, and they barely fight it off, tired as they are from their previous combats. The PCs are just about to ascend to the next level of the tower.
As all of this has been happening, the PCs have been earning fame and fortune fighting in The Arena, an interplanar Colosseum. Within The Arena, magic does not escape, and death can be reversed, making it the ideal place for blood sport. Angels, devils, demons, mindflayers, archwizards, and other powerful planar forces watch and fight alongside the ordinary folk. Here, the rule of the Lady of Pain, ruler of the Sigil, the City of Doors, keeps the fighting to the sands of the arena floor.