While the town slaughter was going on, Fulgor and Faq were gathering supplies, and having returned seeing nothing but corpses and several of their allies covered in blood and wearing death cultist robes, there is a tense confrontation as justifications are attempted. Ultimately, though, the mercenary dragonborn and the bloodthirsty brawler cared little for reasoning and simply wished to continue their mission. Donning death cultist robes but leaving their enchanted weapons behind, the party re-enters the keep through the back door and meets with Kalarel, who debriefs them – more curious than angry, he asks why they stopped when they did, and why they don’t carry the armaments and armor he gave them, to which they mumble excuses and ask to see the portal. Shashakti reveals her extensive religious background and experience with the intricacies of manifestation portals and denounces the unconvincing gate the old man takes them to. While Kalarel recovers and explains this is not, in fact, the real portal, the real one is too dangerous to allow civilians near, the monk decides he’s had enough confusion and deception and simply beats the grandfatherly figure to death in front of his chanting, hyperfocused disciples.
The world flickers and fades around them, and they make a hurried escape through the underground lair, desperately seeking refuge from the rapidly disappearing halls. Between Dante’s expert arcane knowledge and Shashakti’s insight, with a little motive power from Fulgor’s lightning, the party manages to reconfigure one of the teleportation doors to take them to what they believe is the actual location of the rift that would release a wave of undead from a shadow dimension. Suddenly seeing the dark, blood-dripping death cultist’s lair they have been expecting, the adventurers face off against skeletons, vampires, creepers and a chanting priest with a ram’s head tattoo, and make short work of them. Climbing down the blood-soaked chains into the ritual chamber, they are faced with more undead warriors, a shambling mass of corpse limbs rolling and skittering through the pools of blood, a glowering black portal with dark claws and whispers emanating from its depths, and a high priest of Orcus with a ram’s head mask and skull-topped rod bearing the once-kindly face of Kalarel. Suddenly twisted in rage and disgust, Kalarel laughs off most of the party’s attempts to stop him, and although the skeletons don’t pose much threat the shambling wraith seems to cause them to rise again and again. The rift’s whispers draw adventurers in range of its brutal shadow claws, nearly consuming Dante as he rapidly works through the arcane defenses of the magic portal. Through great rolling spheres of flame, brilliant pillars of holy radiance, vicious and far-reaching strikes and dominating grabs and beatings, the shambling mass and reanimated skeletons finally fall. Sacrificing healing surges and risking necrotic feedback through religious and arcane attempts at disabling the magic circle, the party together succeeds in ultimately reversing the ritual, sealing the rift from where Orcus would invade the earth and destroying the cursed spellbook. His plan defeated, his allies destroyed, Kalarel still nearly wipes out the remaining party members, each remaining conscious just long enough to attack and pour healing potions into their allies. His necrotic blasts and ram’s-head rod cripple and weaken, and his high defenses and great strength nearly proves to great for the adventurers, but eventually the cleric once more lands the final blow, stunning herself but destroying Kalarel.
In their triumph, suddenly the world flickers once more. The party finds themselves once again in the “fake” rift chamber, standing over the bloody and broken body of the grandfatherly old man named Kalarel, with screaming and horrified cultists fleeing in terror at the brutality. Quickly gathering their senses, the party evacuates the lair alongside the cultists, who put up paltry attempts at stopping them and run and hide before their blood-soaked and vicious appearance. Climbing the secret exit once more into the woods outside Winterhaven, the party limps their way to the tower of Valthrun the Prescient seeking refuge. On their way, the monk notices the bodies they had seen disarmed near the temple when they had dropped the enchanted artifacts appear to be armed once more – but being too weak and too tired to care, the remaining adventurers haul themselves up to the living quarters in the half-abandoned wizard’s tower and recover their health, ransacking the now-deceased inhabitant’s stores for medical supplies, food, blankets and soothing herbs. No matter who was innocent or guilty, who deserved to die and who was caught in the cross-fire, the rift is closed and the sense of doom has lifted, and the adventurers are left with no certainty but that someone, somewhere was deceiving them, and that gods are dicks.