The port city of Cardia is one of the three seats of power within the Gravenholm Confederacy. The majority of its economy comes from shipping and trade, and is the primary importer/exporter for the Confederacy. Cardia provides the rest of the Confederacy with trade goods and commerce in exchange for military support.
At the center of the city stands the Gravenholm Consulate, which is the working office of the Cardian Magistrate, Zanamros Serpenthelm. The consulate divides the two halves of the city: the port side and inland side. The wealthiest citizens have built extravagant homes among the commercial buildings and tourist attractions along the coastline, while the working class lives in the slums of the inland residential district.
Sentinel, Flint Gemhide, and Zelvan Zendark arrive in Cardia after reading about the job posting related to the caves recently discovered outside of the city. Upon reaching the city gates, they head straight to the Consulate and speak with the Magistrate. Zanamros hires the traveling party to explore the caves and find the ancient tomb thought to be buried deep within. The Confederacy believes the relic buried inside the tomb will provide useful, and puts pressure on Cardia to deliver. After losing a dozen men to the caves, Serpenthelm fears whatever is down there, and refuses to waste any more of his soldiers. He asks that the traveling adventurers are able to face whatever evil is down there and return the relic.
The three then stop over to meet the Cardia Historian, Thola Dumein, who provides them with more information on the tomb's history. She explains the tomb is a monument to the Dragon-King Ratatoskr. The one and only dragonborn of his time, Emperor Ratatoskr used his godlike powers to conquer several wandering tribes and appoint himself as their new ruler. He enslaved those who disobeyed him and tasked them to build a lavish tomb in his honor. She then asks the team to consider donating any other ancient artifacts they find in the tomb to help further the study of the Dragon-King’s reign.
While on their way to meet with the soldiers stationed outside of the caves, they run into another traveling adventurer named Dingleberry. Dingleberry is a traveling monk who has recently left his monastery, and is looking for adventure. He originally came to Cardia for the same opportunity, and so joins the other adventurers to recover the ancient relic.
Along with their new companion, the party heads to the caves. They meet with the soldier posted outside of the entrance, who provides more info on the soldiers that have already been sent down. So far, a total of nine soldiers have been sent down to the caves, all of whom have not returned. They are presumed dead, but the soldier asks the team to look out for them to find out what happened. With that, the group enters the cave.
As they begin searching through the sprawling cavern, the party quickly feels an overall sense of evil and decay. One by one, they find the remains of first half of the scouting teams, accompanied by bodies of half-human half-spider monsters. They come across a rocky ledge overlooking a seemingly bottomless expanse. The path picks up roughly 10 ft away, but they find that they have no other option but to jump across the gap. Zelvan uses his magic to easily step across the gap, and Dingleberry is able to tap into his innate dexterity to traverse the walls along the side.
Unfortunately, the gap proves too unstable for Sentinel. As he lands on the other side of the cliff, the weight of his heavy metal armor forces the loose rock to break and fall, and takes him along with it. Flint, fearing a same fate, uses a rope to crawl across the now larger expanse. Without knowing how far the fall goes, the remaining team decides to keep pressing onward in hopes to reconnect with Sentinel. They find a few more soldiers' remains outside of a narrow passageway leading deeper into the cave.
Meanwhile, Sentinel awakes to find himself in pitch blackness suspended in mid-air. He gathers his bearings and realizes he's landed on a giant spider web, which ironically enough saved him from death. He carefully crawls out of the web and onto solid ground, and light his torch. Sentinel starts looking for a way out when he comes face-to-face with a giant choldrith beast.
The choldrith covers Sentinel in a thick webbing and climbs on the ceiling while she prepares to devour him. Fortunately, he is able to break free from the web and starts swinging at the beast while she is overhead. Unable to reach her, he then cocks his arm back and throws his sword like a spear right at the choldrith's legs. With a powerful toss, he is able to sever a few of her legs, bringing her to the ground. Before the choldrith is able to react, he quickly grabs his sword and slices through her head. He picks up and continues searching for a way back to his teammates.
Flint, Zelvan, and Dingleberry go deeper into the cavern until they come across a large wide open area with two gigantic closed stone doors. Since the cave has been very narrow up to this point, they felt a small wave of relief once the area around them opened up so dramatically. But, they had little time to rest, as they watched as a mass of bones and torn flesh started to materialize before their eyes. The bodies of all the dead Cardian soldiers began to magically take form and, one-by-one, breathed into undeath as skeleton warriors. The skeletons all jumped at the party with their rusted swords and tattered armor. Zelvan retaliated with a series of spells blowing burning acid on the skeletons and melting their bones. Dingleberry then used his elemental attunement to unleash a flurry of flaming punches against the remaining undead.
Once the skeletons were finished, they approached the smaller of the two stone doors. On the other side laid a closed casket, accompanied by a pile of ancient golden statues. They opened up the casket to find a corpse of a woman with a glowing red necklace around her neck. Thinking this might be the relic the Confederacy was looking for, Flint bent down to grab the necklace. He grabbed a cloth from his pack and carefully cut the necklace's chain trying to preserve it as best he could. As he got back up, he jumped back at the sight of a ghostly figure now floating above the body.
Sentinel made his way through a winding tunnel to come across what looked like a giant stone wall directly blocking his path. He then noticed a small hole that looked like it had been blown open, and crawled through. On the other side was a huge, beautifully decorated tomb. All over the tomb was decorated with gold, and a small offering plate stood at the corner containing a number of precious jewels. He saw rudimentary carvings along the walls, which seemed to tell a story through pictures. In the center of the room stood an ornately decorated coffin, which he determined must be the final resting place of the Dragon-King. Sensing the great evil contained inside, he exited out through the large stone door in front of him to continue searching for the others. When he opened the door, he was stopped by a terrifying shriek coming from ahead of him. He busted down the smaller stone door to find the rest of his team cowering in fear in front of a floating banshee.
The team regained their collective sanity and struck back at the ghostly figure. Dealing blow after blow, the team was unable to do any substantial damage to the ghost. In a moment of inspiration, Flint imbued his hammer with divine energy. As he struck down on the banshee, a bright light appeared from his hammer and filled the room. The light was quickly followed by a loud shriek, as the banshee dissipated into a collection of swirling energy.
The energy dissolved and reformed into the ghostly image of a young girl, now calmly standing atop the casket. The ghostly projection explained that the Dragon-King took over her village when she was very young, and murdered her family in cold blood in front of her. Instead of killing her as well, he decided to enslave her as his bride. He gave her the magicked necklace as proof that she was his. She spent years in isolation and fear, until she eventually killed herself. She thanks the party for finally letting her spirit rest, and asks them to take the necklace away so she can find peace.
Sentinel informs the group of what lies in wait in the next door, and the group moves into the Dragon-King's tomb. Inside, Zelvan is distracted by the jewels and other gold trinkets, and starts to pocket whatever he can carry. The rest of the group approaches the large coffin to find the perfectly preserved body of what looks like a man with a dragon's head, all decked out in heavy plate mail. Beside the body is an expertly crafted axe, with smaller jewels carved into the hilt. As Sentinel picks up the axe, a magical flame bursts on either side. Fearing the evil magic, he runs and throws the axe far over to the other side of the room. He watches the sharp side of the axe wedge right into the stone wall only for a second and then disappear entirely. He looks back to see the Dragon-King's body floating above the coffin and start to come to life. The Dragon-King's body stands upright as the flaming axe now materialized in its hand.
The Dragon-King looks out among Flint, Zelvan, and Dingleberry, reels back his neck, and channels his otherworldly powers to let out a burst of flame from his mouth. Watching the rest of his team get pummeled with flame, Sentinel leaps at the Dragon-King from behind. Unfortunately, he is unable to pierce the Dragon-King's thick plate armor. The Dragon-King turns toward Sentinel and two clash swords together, each trying to overpower the other. Zelvan, meanwhile, begins charging up a powerful fireball spell, but the fire is only a minor inconvenience to the animated corpse. Drawing upon the successes of the last fight with the banshee, Flint once again channels divine energy into his hammer, and delivers a strong blow against Ratatoskr's back. The hammer shines with boundless energy and cracks through the heavy plate armor. Dingleberry then summons his remaining ki energy to conjure a whip made out of water. He flings the whip right at the Dragon-King's side and manages to rope his arms together, forcing him to drop the flaming axe. Sentinel, now with the advantage, raises his sword above his head and strikes down right on the Dragon-King's chest. The evil spirit is finally destroyed, and the corpse once again becomes limp and lifeless.
Without a doubt that the magicked axe is the relic in question, the group takes the weapon and heads back to Cardia to reclaim their reward.