Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire, don’t read this!
Booting the door open, Anistor charges into the room beyond to be greeted by darkness… total and complete darkness. Disoriented he hears a muffled voice chanting but before he can take action a wave of despair and fear envelops him and washes out over the whole party. Perhaps it is the darkness and the stench of death that unmans him but Anistor panics, terror running through his soul. Running as best his fear weakened knees allow, he forces his way back past the rest of the party and out of the undercroft through the mausoleum.
Evalore, Gravik and Kristos hold true although there is no denying that something terrifying awaits beyond in the darkness. Kristos pushes forward and is only able to move a few feet before a blast of necrotic energy surges from the darkness and rips and tears at his exposed skin, causing wounds and painful welts. Uncertain of which direction to move in, the thief is rendered immobile; Gravik hearing Kristos’ scream of pain charges into the darkness and pulls him back into the corridor. For now the party don’t see a way forward; wounded and demoralised they flee back into the crypt, planning to escape through the secret door and regrouping in the cemetery.
Just as the trio are about to disappear back through the hidden passage they hear a door close behind them (surely the door Anistor had kicked open moments before) and footsteps heading in their direction. Perhaps their assailant is following to check they have retreated. Evalore hides behind the secret door while Gravik and Kristos both hide in alcoves, a strand of sticky spider web from the rogues Cloak of the Spiderhand stretched across the room between them. Their plan works! A figure they recognise as Father Rand is hurrying towards the stairs when he becomes entangled in the web; more a spell caster than a warrior he is quickly dealt as the three attack and bring him to an end. Meanwhile Anistor has overcome his fear and returns to the group; seeing the dead sorcerer he takes a lead in the much anticipated decapitation of the fiend. Perhaps the severed head of their leader might break the spirit of some of these cultists.
Regrouping in the crypt the band consider their options. With Evalore’s insight they suspect that the sorcerer had cast a darkness spell which would persist for a while longer yet, and they didn’t want to face the horrors beyond while unable to see. A decision is reached to head up into the main temple and deal with any threats up there, so no one attacks them from behind later on.
They find much of the temple has been ransacked and desecrated by the cultists; statues of the gods have been smashed and defaced, furniture in ruins. Beyond an unlocked door they find a priestess who introduces herself as Nivendra; she claims to be have been kept here against her will by the cultists, and while she can roam much of the temple she is not free. Under her bed the party find a chest, but Nivendra isn’t keen on them opening it, but when the group decide to go ahead, the priestess backs away towards the door. The chest is trapped and disarmed and once opened the party find some treasure and a bundle of letters; these appear to be from Nivendra’s family. Suspicious of her, they decide to lock her in the room for now and deal with her later.
In a further room a group of cultists are performing some bizarre ritual; half naked and imbibing a dark liquid from a jug, they sway from side to side on their knees mumbling strange words. When Anistor and Gravik burst in (using their tried and tested ‘smash first, ask questions later’ tactic), the cultists leap at them, but lightly armed and armoured and lacking in coordination they are quickly cut down. An exploration of the room shows they were mixing the contents of a dark liquid stored in jars with run of the mill wine. Evalore’s senses detect a whiff of dread from the jars…
Beyond is a library, with bookcases toppled and tables smashed. A quick search reveals a ledger of book loans, the last being about 3 months ago which tallies with the party’s understanding of the cults rise in Illmire. The library leads into the main temple itself with other doors leading off. The adventurers can hear people working at stone, smashing with hammer and chisel and can also hear the footsteps of pacing guards. Stealthily moving into the shadows Kristos crunches stone fragments beneath his boot and draws the attention of the one of the workers, but Evalore’s quick thinking, charisma and deployment of a featureless porcelain mask convince the worker it is nothing to be concerned about. Further exploration of the immediate area leads to a room with captives, beaten, bruised and malnourished, but they are relieved to see help has arrived.
It’s about this point that one of the guards spots something amiss and before too long all hell breaks lose. There is some combat, a couple of the cultists die, but presentation of their leaders head breaks their spirit and they run for it. The great doors to the temple flung open the cultists run out into the night calling for help. The temple is secured by our heroes who are able to question one live captive. This poor soul seems half dazed, but the party learn that “Virica will not be pleased…”. Virica they discover is the sister of Father Rand, true name Rancidius. Knowing that the cultists may be heading back with reinforcements, the temple is quickly searched, and there is little else of interest beyond a doorway covered with a black tarpaulin scrawled with demonic symbols in blood.
It is with surprise the party discover one of the captives is Destor, one of Anistor’s many cousins. Month ago Destor had begged Anistor to take him along on one of his jobs and due to not being an adventuring type, he was caught. The matriarch of the family was furious and Anistor felt honour bound to pay the ransom to free his cousin. But that was before he had to leave the city for Illmire. The fighter learns that as the ransom hadn’t been paid (neither Anistor or the family had enough cash at the time), he had been sold into slavery and onto the cult.
What to do next? Our adventurers may only get one chance at this, will they see what is behind the tarp, face the terror in the crypt or just call it a night and quit while ahead…