Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire, don’t read this!
Taking cover behind a huge table thrown across a corridor in the old fortress, our party wait for bandit reinforcements to arrive. They have a plan: wait for the brigands to clump together, then take them down with Evalore’s sleep spell. Kristos and Gravik try to keep Rohn and his companions busy with missile fire as the bandits pour in; Rohn shouting orders to kill or capture the invaders. All for nought! Evalore’s spells fire off and take down nearly all of the bandits, leaving just Rohn and one other to sensibly flee.
Taking stock of their situation the party question the rescued villagers and learn that Malstern often visited the tower to the north; he seemed to enjoy wanton cruelty but was afraid of something. They all were, there was something under the watchtower itself, something they all feared – if you were still for just a moment you could feel it, it’s malignant presence infesting the place.
Gravik turned a blind eye while Kristos casually slit the throats of the sleeping bandits. The dwarf was uncomfortable with this, but didn’t see any other option; what were they to do with a dozen captive bandits? The Illmire jail was out of the question; Captain Frey was corrupt and they would cause more trouble and suffering if freed.
Pressing on they see the open eastern gate and can only assume Rohn and the remaining bandits fled that way, their leader dead, their base compromised. The PCs realise with regret that the escaped bandit dragoon may yet cause them trouble. A further exploration of the fortress leads them to a pit with undernourished and weakened villagers and travellers desperate for rest and food. These are freed and the party learn that some of them were taken while sleeping at the Inn of the Weary Wagoner, yet others were taken while on the roads to and from Illmire. There is a deep rot at the core of Illmire and our heroes determine to get to the bottom of it.
Moving on to explore the tower they find bandit quarters with some loot and steps leading down under the tower. A foul stench of rotten flesh and fear comes from the stairs. Moving cautiously and prepared for trouble the adventurers find a room with two people strapped to stone tables – at last they have found Sergeant Wilfret and a blind monk called Varoo. Both have been terribly tortured by Malstern and yet their spirits are not broken. Once freed and given some healing Wilfret tells how the bandits stormed the watchtower not long ago, killing all of the watch; Malstern kept him alive to learn about the area and whether the watch from Illmire would cause trouble, but then it became clear that the bandit leader just enjoyed inflicting pain on others. Varoo was taken from the Temple of the Luminal Star in Illmire one night, he knows not by whom or how long ago, and was brought to this place. Malstern wanted Varoo to tell secrets about the people of Illmire and seemed to be acting on someone else’s orders to keep him alive. Both are pleased to hear that Malstern met his end. Sergeant Wilfret tells the party of a hidden sanctum once used by a Zenovian Knight in ancient times, with items that may help them; certainly the items can’t be left here. The room opened they find a suit of Zenovian Mail, the Tetractys Blade and the Horn of the Bullwind (all as cool and useful as they sound), along with some other treasures.
Determined to discover all of the secrets of the old watchtower the adventurers push on through natural tunnels, all the while the stench of death and sense of dread growing. An entrance to a room is seen on the edge of their lantern light; rotting bodies are piled high, the source of the stench. Perhaps these are of the original watch? As the PCs look on, fear overwhelming their senses, they see a hooked tentacle lash out from beyond their vision and tear off a piece of flesh from one of the rotten corpses. Slobbering, chewing gulping sounds are heard. A growing feeling of dread threatens to overwhelm them, and sensing this may be a battle beyond them right now, they withdraw and head out of the dungeon, understanding they may need to come back here one day to deal with whatever monstrosity the tentacle belongs to.
There is a discussion on next steps. Our heroes don’t feel they can head back to Illmire now, suspecting it has been compromised by a dangerous organisation, perhaps a cult. They need to find safety and allies and ask Sergeant Wilfret if there are any other watchtowers in the area; there is only wilderness out there, but the Sergeant does tell them there is a Loggers’ Camp a few miles beyond Illmire, they may find somewhere to rest there at least.
The party camp overnight in the ruins of the tower, the brooding sense of fear preventing good rest, and the next day skirt Illmire, heading on to the Loggers’ Camp. It is late in the afternoon when they arrive at a huge clearing in the Redthorn Forest, a great lodge in the centre, stacks of logs filling much of the space. Standing nearby is Rigdorf, a legendary lumberjack according to Wilfret. Hoping he may help, the PCs approach the giant of a man…