Deploying the Magical Minions and scouts, and coordinating with the Dragon’s Eyeballs system of watchtowers, the PCs manage to corner a pair of goblins in an alley. One of them viciously stabs the other to death, seeming intent on shredding its chest. One of the PCs kills the goblin, and they discover the following message carved into its chest:
Jellah – We paid your price. Now do as you promised. Light the second nightcandle, and we’ll attack when the defenses fall.
Llandrin Trawscoed knows that nightcandles are inventions of the Prince of Shadows — their flame can only be seen by those attuned to them by rubbing their blood on the candle. The PCs ask the mayor about Jellah, and someone in the office remembers her as an old blind woman whose family came into Burnham as refugees. They’re staying with another family in an old, abandoned building in the poor side of town that used to be a slaughterhouse. Jellah’s family has experience slaughtering cattle, so they’ve been slaughtering refugees’ cattle there and salting the meat for provisions for the siege.
The party arrives at the slaughterhouse to find Drayton Slaughter stacking barrels of salted meat along with Hengar and Aud Woodbine. Jed Slaughter sits by the cellar door sharpeining his axe, his killin’ sledgehammer propped up next to him. Jed wears stained leather armor and a leather helmet that encases his head, hiding his features. Drayton is crazed and belligerent., Hengar and Aud seem frightened and conciliatory toward the PCs, clearly wanting to avoid trouble. The paving stones are stained with blood, and hooks hang from a wooden arch in the yard. Atop the arch the PCs see two nightcandles.
Things go south fast as Drayton takes out his own killin’ hammer during an argument with Hochnor and Nureddin, and Jed rises to his feet and readies his axe for throwing. The fight is short and bloody, leaving Drayton crumpled in the yard and Jed frozen solid with a spell. Hengar and Aud reveal that Jellah, the Slaughter’s matriarch, lives down in the cellar and she has their young son Mikel down there.
When the party enters the cellar they see old, blind Jellah rocking in a chair and knitting while Mikel levitates over a pit in the floor. As she and the PCs talk, she occasionally jabs her knitting with a needle and blood trickles down Mikel’s arms. “Blood must be paid,” Jellah says cryptically, before un leashing a psychic attack on the party.
Hochnor blows a hole in Jellah with his magic shotgun and she topples into the pit, cackling as Nureddin dives across and saves the boy from falling. The ground begins to shake and the party flees to the mayor’s.
As they run through town, cracks begin to open in the earth. Unholy light pours out and sulfurous fumes fill the air. Hochnor realizes that a hellhole is opening beneath them.
The walls crash down and the orc army pours in, with goblin bat cavalry flying toward the dragon skull shrine bearing explosives, blocks and tackle to lifting the skull out of its vault. While the town’s defenders battle the orcs and evacuate the townspeople, the PCs confront Thurash Many-Rocks, Smasher of Elves, Albenna Queal, Cobin Isfeld, and their squad of orcs. Halfway through the battle, demonic spirits rise from the abyss and possess the corpses of their fallen foes, turning them into powerful hellborn undead.
Hochnor uses his connection with the Crusader to call for help NOW, pledging the town to the Crusader in return. A rain of ash falls from the sky, and moments later the Crusader’s terrifying elite Ebon Gauntlet strike force emerges from a rift leading to the dead realm known as the Echo. They join the battle, but Thurash is absolutely slaughtering Nureddin, Llandrin is out of spells, and Hochnor falls with a mortal wound.
But then, miraculously, everything turns around.
Hochnor uses his 6 relationship advantage with the Emperor to return from death’s door, and he uses Smite Evil to destroy one of the undead. While Elanesse distracts Thurash by blasting him with acid breath, the Crusader’s inquisitor uses one of her abilities to give Nureddin an immediate extra shot at his foe — which he uses to kill Thurash dead.
And then the dragons show up, in response to Llandrin’s call last session. But they’re not good guy dragons: they are all evil dragons. They massacre the orc army and seize the dragon skull for themselves. As they fly off, the party glimpses their first icon in the flesh: the Red looms in the distance, before vanishing.
The Ebon Gauntlet will stay behind to contain the growing hellhole until the Crusader can arrive to seize it and turn it into one of his demon-guarded fortresses. They open a passage into the Echo, and the PCs return to Foothold.