In the month that the party has been in Lespathia, capital of the Gurundathi empire, they have purchased a tavern, done a great deal of research into the Ashen Lady and means to use souls as a source of fuel for rituals, among other things, and worked with the temple of Bahamut to generally aid the town.
These days, Lespathia is in the grip of winter, cold and ferocious, and it was on this day that the sky was darkened even earlier than usual by the beating of great white wings as the whole host of the White Dragonflight filled the sky. Terrified at what might happen, the wall guards used a harpoon to wing one of the dragons and it landed in town. The party quickly destroyed it and the fellow dragon that came to aid it, and were scooping up the rewards of two dragon hordes when some members noticed a strangely familiar dark and sinister group heading for the palace.
Running for the palace at a full tilt, the group tried to intercept the Shadar-Kai. Although they did not reach the palace first, they did reach it in time to hear their leader deliver an ultimatum to the emperor: Surrender or Die. Preparing to leave, their ultimatum forcefully rejected, they ran into the party, and beckoned Karath. They tried to tempt him into serving the Raven Queen directly as a scourge in charge of part of the Queen’s armies, pointing out that it is his destiny. The other members of the party objected stridently, and the Shadar-Kai mocked them for their “ignorance” of fate, telling the party that the white dragons they defeated were as nothing before the coming onslaught, and revealing that the white dragonflight were now under the command of the Raven Queen. Thinking quickly, Karath responded that if the Shadar-Kai could defeat him, then it surely was his fate, but if not, he would have their heads to make anyone think twice about ordering him around. They fought, and the Shadar-Kai were cleanly beaten, but vanished, with a warning to Karath about the defiance of fate, before they could be destroyed.
The emperor, who witnessed all of these events, demanded that the party account for these strange interlopers into his imperial palace. The group tried to explain to him about the disappearance of Malakite and the over-writing of the material plane by the plane of shadow, but the emperor had some understandable difficulty believing all he was being told. As a measure of practicality, he commanded Krav, now a tax-paying resident (and in the emperor’s opinion, thereby a subject), to escort his scribes and tax collectors to Malakite, to either collect taxes and prove the group false knaves or to confirm the “disappearance” of Malakite. Further, having been told of their aptitude in dealing with the dragons that “attacked” Lespathia, he commanded them to go into Tiamat’s Clutch and confirm the Shadar-Kai claim that all the dragons were gone.
The group elected to stay together and to head to Malakite first, since that would be a short journey and there was nothing there. With horses and the two carriages provided to the bureaucrats in tow, the journey took about 3 days. The terrain surrounding the road to Malakite was preternaturally quiet, and the group travelled unmolested. At the beginning of the third day, as they were turning toward Malakite, the terrain gradually changed, becoming more barren, and shadowy…and the road was gone, replaced by an eerie forest, which was close and dense for all its sparseness. Krav and Rabadash halted the procession, and asked one of the guards to look for himself to see that the road was no more, that the terrain was not Malakite at all. The guard said to them that the emperor’s orders had been to verify, so that until they were standing on the spot where Malakite should be, they could not hold their orders fulfilled.
It was at about this time that the rangers in the group, being experts not only at hunting but at knowing when they are being hunted, and the shaman, hearing the alarmed whispers of protective spirits in her ear, noticed the gargoyles perched in the trees above. As battle was joined, the gargoyles swooped down, knocking over some of the party members, and panicking the horses, whose riders and drivers kept control of them…for the moment. Then, heretofore unseen skeletal mages appeared, and began hurling deadly bolts of force at the group, including the guards, as their gargoyle guardians attacked anything that came too near. As good as the riders were, in this situation, as their riders were being thrown by bolts of pure force and gargoyles swooped down on to the carriages themselves, the horses simply could no longer contain their animal panic, and they bolted in all directions, with or without their riders. It was with the exhaustion of all the group’s resources, as well as the advantage of tactical errors made by the deathbringers, that the group survived, and the hunt for the bolted horses and frightened riders began.