Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire don’t read this!
@Dragongirl74 has provided fantastically detailed notes of the previous session of The Evils of Illmire (we’ve played another session since), they really capture everything. Great work, thanks @Dragongirl74!
The Sorceress’ Tale
Leaving the wounded Gravik in the care of Lord Crelmont in Illmire itself, our heroes set out to visit the circus and seek the secrets of their future from Esmeraldra the fortune teller now that they have gold and (a little) time to spare. On their approach the circus looks the same as before, acrobats and jugglers abound before they reach the old wooden gypsy caravan.
Esmeraldra appears in its doorway as they arrive and smiles her toothy grin at them. “I was expecting you” she says, “what can I do for you?”
“We would like you to tell us our futures” they say, she smiles again.
“The price is now 100 gold pieces”, the heroes look at each other slightly shocked at the increase in price, but then shrug realising they can still easily afford it. After all, what price can be placed on potential foreknowledge of the cult and any other foes they may face?
“Be warned” she cautions them, “the crystal ball can be cryptic and it’s message may not become clear until after the events have unfolded”. She holds back the curtain over the doorway and beckons them to enter.
Evalore is the first to cross her palm with not silver but a bag of gold. Esmeraldra mutters over the ball, passing her hands above it, barely perceptible and undefinable images flicker within. She takes Evalore’s hand, it’s a strangely unpleasant sensation and he is glad when she releases her hold. The fortune tellers head goes back, her eyes rolling in her head and she starts talking in a voice eerily different to her own:
“From splintered wood of crimson thorn, a tangled sprawl of talons born.”
She comes back to her senses and claiming no recollection of her prediction, “I hope the message serves you well” she remarks in her own voice once again.
Evalore notices a look of fatigue about her now that was not there before, intrigued by this, he watches her closely as she continues.
Vigark steps up next and with the same muttering, gestures and indistinct images the strange voice intones his message:
“The watchful eye rudely awakens the resting mask whose life was taken.“
Our heroes look knowingly at each other at this, “The Observer?” they all think as if speaking silently to one another.
The fatigue in Esmeraldra’s face is deeper now, “mayhap there is something to this clairvoyance after all” Evalore muses in his mind.
Anistor produces his gold but stops Esmeraldra before she starts with a question. “Tell me what you know about the Cult in Illmire.“
She looks him in the eye, then looks slightly away muttering in her own voice, almost as if to herself. “The cult, his creation, or at least called by him, he brought the false gods to this place. He is the cause of all these evils in Illmire”.
“Who is he?” Anistor asks. “I may have said too much already” she replies guardedly.
More gold is proffered, but she scoffs “Money is nothing to me, be careful, he watches, he will have observed you coming here.”
“Shhhhhhh” Esmeraldra demands on a long breath.
Lowering her voice she says, “I’m not sure if I should tell you this, but I know you’ve had dealings with him, and that these dealings didn’t go his way. For that reason, I will tell you this: we are ancient enemies he and I. I have things I must do, and he mustn’t know I’m here. My goal is to undo him, but I’m not sure that is something you can do.”
“We are pledging to undo him or die trying” says Kristos.
Evalore looks up, slightly surprised.
“Are you pledging on your mortal souls to do this now?” Esmeraldra challenges.
They all answer “Yes!”
Looking pleased, she continues “I summoned two demon overlords to destroy him and they would have except for a traitorous familiar who interfered with my control over them. They brought devastation to this land, burning it to ashes. I managed to capture and imprison them in the mountains, but this weakened me, and he was able to overpower me. I spent centuries healing before I could come back to finish my task, but before I can take him on, the demons must be defeated.”
“How can we take on such powerful creatures?” our heroes inquire.
“There is an item that can help you in your task. It is in the prison in the mountains, the Periapt of the Dark Star. It is a dangerous place and if you go, you may not return.” She warns. “They must not be allowed to escape, or they will again lay the ground to ashes. Once they are defeated I will be able to destroy him.”
“As for the cult, I have no interest in them, they are as a mote in time to me, and I am not able to assist you in that mission” she declares.
Finally, Esmeraldra looks each one of them in the eye, firmly announcing, “You must tell no one of what I have told us today, even if you think no one is watching. I am tired now and must rest, leave me.” Then she turns away from them, an even stronger message of dismissal than her words.
Evalore notes that the fatigue in her face had indeed greatened deeply as she was sharing her story. Stepping down from the caravan, our heroes return to Illmire to ponder on the information they have been given and check on Gravik’s progress. They are pleased to discover he will be able to travel the next day.
The Forgotten Crypt of the Lost Clan
Heading out to the lands of the lost tribe, the forest starts to thin out and they can see the distant burial mounds in the clearing. Without the cloak of the trees, the temperature drops with an unnaturally deep chill penetrating armour, clothing and even reaching under fingernails. Gravik feels it the most, possibly as a lasting consequence of his recent near-death experience, and starts shivering almost uncontrollably. Our heroes quickly make camp, scavenging for wood to build a fire to try to warm him through.
The fire does seem to settle Gravik a little and he eventually falls into a restless sleep. The night is split into four watches, allowing Gravik to sleep through and the fire to be kept alight. The watches pass uneventfully, although Evalore heard howls of agony echoing through the night, seemingly from all around, with no possible way to discern from which direction the cries came.
Gravik wakes up more refreshed and seems to have shaken off the cold, breakfasting heartily of the unending Dwarven stew pot. After breaking camp, the band set off and, late in the morning, find the way into the crypt. The entrance has large stones surrounding it, with broken flagstones on the ground. Beyond the entryway there are stairs leading down into the darkness.
Gravik and Vigark enter first using their darkvision, so the party can enter without announcing their presence with light. Gravik notices that the stairs are not made of stone, they are in fact made of bones… the stairs empty out into a stone chamber, with a long corridor of it to the east, some alcoves to the north and a single door to the south. The chamber feels ancient and is scattered with broken skulls and bones.
Gravik and Vigark enter the alcoves and meet up behind a large pillar that is lined with shelves upon shelves of bones. The floor has been disturbed by the pair, but there is a curious absence of dust, in fact there are some other footprints in the area, not made by the party, oddly spaced around, not in any kind of trail.
Kristos listens at the door to the south but is only met with silence beyond. He turns that handle carefully and pushes it a few inches open. It is then flung open, pulled by the cultist hiding behind it. There at least 3 of them, armed with swords and behind them a woman, chanting the words to a spell. She mutters the magical phrase that is more felt that heard and Kristos is overcome with fear and starts to runs out of the room, sent back in his mind once more to his battle with the fear spawn under the Watchtower.
One of the cultists attacks Kristos with a sword, but he is too quick in his departure and the sword swooshes through the spot where he previously stood.
Anistor closes in on the door but can’t reach it time and is unable to attack.
Vigark looses an arrow at the spellcaster and strikes true, wounding her and her muttering stops.
Evalore moves into the doorline and aims his sling bullet at the spellcaster, but is out of practice and misses, the bullet pinging off the wall behind her.
Gravik notices that the spellcaster has a crossbow on the wall behind her within easy reach in case she can’t use her magic so he discharges a crossbow bolt at her, killing her outright and she crumples to the floor in a pool of blood.
The cultist in the doorway slams it shut closing off line of sight vision, but they can be heard dragging things around behind the closed door.
Anistor swings Flambolg at the hinges of the door attempting to remove the barrier, burning straight through the wood and the door creaks ominously in place, he then kicks the detached door into the room and it lands with a resounding crash! But the cultists have jumped out of the way.
Evalore fires an arcane dart at the cultist in the doorway towards the back of the room and he crumples to the floor, no longer a problem.
Gravik moves into the room to attack one of the two remaining cultists, but misses. The Cultists try to make a run for it, looking almost as terrified as Kristos did from the fear spell.
Anistor tries to attack one as he passes, they are moving fast, but he still manages to hit the first one.
Evalore trips the other one with his staff and he clatters to the floor, gibbering in terror. Vigark runs over to block the doorway and this final cultist is apprehended.
Evalore approaches and says calmly, “Tell us what we want to know and I will spare you”.
The cultist starts muttering nervously “We’re the only one’s here… the spell caster was researching the bodies that will not die that haunt this place. I know no more than that, I was only here to carry things.” Vigark holds a blade to the cultist’s throat and he quietens.
“What do the bodies do” someone demands, “I don’t know, we were here under orders from Virica to find out, but you killed the mage before she completed her task.”
Realising that line of questioning will yield no further information, Evalore changes tack.
“What about the place where you have your headquarters? How do we get in unseen?”
“I don’t know,” replies the cultist, stumbling over his words “how am I supposed to answer that, that’s crazy talk, how would I be able to know that?”
“It appears he has told us all he knows; would someone check his ears to see if he is infected with a mindphage worm?” Evalore asks as he looks through his bag.
No worm is found, and it is obvious that the cultist was acting under his own free will.
The cultist renews his struggling, “You said you would free me if I told you what I knew” he pleads.
Evalore steps forwards, puts a hand on the cultist’s shoulder and calmly says “I only half told you the truth, I will free your mortal soul from this curse you are under” and stabs him with the black bladed Athame of the Haruspex.
The blade is drawn across the cultists belly in an action almost beyond Evalore’s control, he watches in fascination as the cultist’s innards spill out onto the floor and is hit with a sudden insight that…