Crubren Ironhouse reluctantly informed the heroes that the council had locked Priestess Runa Castillo in a chamber guarded by dwarven warriors for her protection — specifically from Dietrich, whose soul would be claimed by Balor within the next 12 hours. The council also ruled that Dietrich must leave the Blackguard Mines within the hour.
As the heroes were preparing to depart, Thomas Cormyn revealed that one of the members of his spy network had found Thanatos’s secret lair within the crater beneath Blackwall citadel’s former resting place. Only somebody with demon blood could open the door, he said, and that this may be a chance to sabotage whatever Thanatos had been working on. They would need to talk to the spy, “Tik Tak the Carnivorous”, if they wanted more info. Meanwhile, Rawlin Adair, a mercenary who aided in the evacuation of The Green Dragon during the destruction of Thrax, offered to guard the citadel and act as their security officer. He asked for nothing in exchange but a clean cot and hot meals. The adventurers agreed.
The heroes decided it was in their best interest to head to Blackwall and open the door to the secret lair before Balor arrived to claim Dietrich’s soul, so they met Tik Tak in a deeper chamber. The kobold, who had captured KazKaz, was willing to help the group in exchange for payment; luckily, kobolds have minimal understanding of monetary value and he did not ask for much. While negotiating with Tik Tak, Cain was suddenly overtaken by a shadowy figure who called itself “Zarkhesh”, and three wraiths erupted from his body. Tik Tak helped the heroes defeat the wraiths, proving his worth in combat. When he led them out of the caverns, he affixed a comical pair of tinted goggles onto his face to prevent blinding by the sun.
When they boarded the citadel, they found a banquet awaiting them. Rawlin refused to eat, but Goladin and Alyssa were heartily eating. After Goladin admitted to not having prepared the food, Rawlin suggested they may have a stowaway aboard.
The citadel sputtered and drifted along weakly, but eventually made it to Blackwall. There, the heroes deliberated on their next course of action. Dietrich suggested they affix zombies to the citadel’s core to power it, but Ivy recalled that Branislava, the vampire caretaker of the citadel, said the bodies affixed to the core must be sentient.
They descended to Blackwall and found it filled with zombies. After engaging in battle with several plague zombies near the former site of the citadel, they met an elven family consisting of the father Aradriel Evergreen, his wife Tarulae, and his two daughters Prism and Eolanda, huddled inside an old magic shop. In the presence of Prism and Eolanda, the Spine Dagger came to life and overtook Obed, casting fireball in an attempt to kill them. Ivy took the dagger for safekeeping, and they sent the elven family to the citadel.
The crater was guarded by a zombified tyrannosaur, which the party was able to successfully sneak past — until Dietrich opened the door. It shone brightly and the tyrannosaur attacked, swallowing Dietrich whole but not before he could toss a healing potion into its stomach, ripping its innards apart and tearing a hole in the beast’s stomach. Dietrich slid down the throat and through the hole, landing in a wet, sloppy mess, and the party was able to escape into the door leading to Thanatos’s lair.
Thanatos’s lair was more than just a hiding spot — it was a laboratory for unearthly experiments. Inside, they found a series of rooms, each with experiments more horrific than the last. The first contained the bodies of enlarged humanoids, grotesquely engorged to the size of supersoldiers. The second appeared to contain failed attempts to meld regular humans with other creatures, likely ones Thanatos found in the sewers; horrid, twisting appendages unleashed a stench nearly unbearable. The third was the largest and cleanest and contained rows and rows of racks meant to hold small gems much like Alyssa’s. They only found six gems and took them out of the lair through a secret exit.
When they emerged, they could see the citadel under attack by three dragons in the distance; the citadel was spewing trickles of lightning bolts that fizzled weakly, but was clearly an attempt to maintain its defense. Cain flew up to the citadel and was struck by a bolt while the others crossed the field to the citadel. When they boarded, they found Rawlin shooting at the dragons with a ballista. Cain took the soul gems down to Branislava, who immediately took one, cracked it open, and drank the soul within before affixing four others to the crystal and bringing the citadel’s defenses to full power. Cain kept the remaining gem for himself.
As the citadel began to repel the dragons, Balor appeared to claim Dietrich’s soul, whipping him with a vicious spiked chain. The party tried to subdue Balor, but the devil prince was far too strong — it was clear that Dietrich would be lost.
In their moment of failure, however, Ayla reappeared in a bright flash of light and drove the demon back, citing her new status as the Ambassador of Iomedae.
Ayla described her journey in the afterlife and her encounter with a goddess named Iomedae, charging Ayla with the task of disrupting Thanatos’s ritual to release all the souls within the Heaven’s Shield to the dark god Asmodeus. On top of that, it was revealed to Ayla that Virtus, Chaos, Ordinem, and Malum are false gods. Whether Iomedae is truly a god or not remains to be seen…