Bruised, beaten, battered, and filthy beyond description, the party returns to the surface to rest back at Winterhaven. The entire first floor of the dungeon, wiped clean of life, seems as though it will keep to itself for a day or two. Blinking into the bright sunlight, the wilden spreading her leaves and soaking in the golden rays, the party hikes to town only to see the town gates closed, guards posted. Lord Padraig calls to them and informs them of the missing villagers and zombie attack that have them all on alert and asks them for their aid, agreeing to open the gates for supplies and a quick rest. They bath, clean their armor, sharpen their weapons and load up on healing salves and potions, and before heading to the cemetery they make a stop at the tower of Valthrun the Prescient, a low level wizard and scholar of some repute. They pepper him with questions of the keep, showing proof of their adventures in the dungeons and, although hesitant at first to discuss the secrets of the history of the rift and the cursed keep, after a bit of intimidation, diplomacy and bluff they convince him their knowledge is genuine and their goals relatively aligned with his own. Although they know much of what he explained, having met Sir Keegan and seen the undead rise firsthand, he gives them some healing salves, a few scrolls and some dire warnings of the consequences of their failure – should they fail to disable the ritual to open the rift before it’s completed, the world would be flooded by an undead army too powerful to withstand.
Armed, refreshed and equipped, the adventurers make their way to the cemetery, lit by a sickly blue glow of a magic circle, and are ambushed by a dozen undead fighters erupting from the earth, twisted gravehounds with a corrupting bite, and the elf huntress Ninaran, rapidly firing arrows through most of the party. They recognized her from the tavern their first night at Winterhaven, and realize the false tip she gave them was partially responsible for the slaughter of innocent kobolds – worse, she hadn’t slept with any of them, despite their best efforts. They brutally dispatch the zombies, the monk dancing in a violent, jerky style to the tune psychically broadcast from the immensely satisfied cleric, finally in her element fighting her destined enemy. In blasts of holy light, firework explosions of arcane blasts like roman candles and the relentless pounding of gauntlet-clad fists, the party scythes through their enemies. Ninaran goes down in a blur of elbows and fists, but with her last burst of strength she wrenches her and the monk into the mausoleum she had hidden in, the heavy, runic-inscribed door slamming shut behind her. While half the party tries to smash through the enchanted door to much self injury and frustration, the cleric and the wizard witness the dead start to rise again, realize the still-glowing magic circle is to blame and quickly disable it, finally silencing the unholy ritual, returning quiet and tranquility to the place of rest.
Searching the body of Ninaran after disabling the cursed, sealed mausoleum with a quick telepathic conference between wizard, kalashtar cleric and trapped monk, the adventurers find a note hidden among her possessions that reveal the truth – she was an agent of Kalarel and a member of the death cult. The note included instructions on how to create the magic circle, warned that the cult’s plans were soon coming to a close, and most importantly revealed the password to enter the second layer of the dungeon beneath the keep at shadowfell. They take this damning evidence and return to town, given a hero’s welcome despite the still-pervasive air of doom and darkness emanating from the rift. Resting once more, the party prepares to re-enter the keep and end this vile threat before it’s too late.