Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire don’t read this!
Once more my players have stepped up and provided notes for the last couple of The Evils of Illmire sessions. First we have a letter from the front style report by @JimjimTheGrim, sent from his character Anistor to Lord Crellmont in Illmire. The first part of this letter overlaps with @Dragongirl74‘s write up from the last session.
Dear Lord Crelmont,
Thank you for sharing your map of the lands and the rumours that you’ve heard from the returning captives about the cult’s activities. I trust Gravik’s dubious personal habits didn’t inconvenience you too much during his recuperation, the scratching is just something minor we think he picked up down the mine.
When we left Illmire and travelled to the east, thinking that we would consult Esmeraldra at the circus, and for once wouldn’t be travelling knee deep in marsh. The only one amongst us that doesn’t seem to smell after more than two hours of travel is Evalore, but I think this is due to his magic.
Esmeraldra reminded me of my Auntie Mabel, who is a complete charlatan, pretended to tell people’s fortunes. Still, I know that Esmeraldra can certainly see the future, she saw us coming when she charged us 100 gold pieces for what would normally cost 2 silvers from Mabel!
Evalore went first and was told “From splintered wood of crimson thorn, a tangled sprawl of talons born”, I can see a bed of roses in Evalore’s future.
Vigark was told “The watchful eye rudely awakens the resting mask whose life was taken”.
I asked her about the cult and in the end Kristos persuaded her to reveal that The Observer in the tower could have brought the cult to Illmire somehow. It seems Esmeraldra is a sworn enemy of The Observer and she made us swear we will kill him or die trying – we wanted to avenge Kivarg who died while in the tower in any case.
She explained she arrived in Illmire in ages past and was in conflict with The Observer. She summon a pair of demonic warlords to attack him and would have succeeded but for a familiar who betrayed her and she lost control of them. The demons caused havoc in the land and she only just succeeded in imprisoning them before, being weakened, she had to flee from The Observer. The demons are imprisoned under a mountain, but there is an item in a prison vault that could be used to banish them – we need to find the Periapt of The Dark Star. Once this is done Esmeraldra may help us against The Observer. She had no more information about the cult, indeed she seemed to consider them beneath her notice.
Having stopped in Illmire to pick up Gravik (once again I apologise) we set off for the barrow mounds the cult have shown an interest in. Gravik may not have been fully recovered, as the cold mist enveloping the mounds seeped into his bones. We rested, but had a night interrupted by the howling of some kind of inhuman creature (that wasn’t Gravik).
In the morning we approached an entrance to a crypt and descended once more into darkness. Almost immediately we found some cultists. We dispatched the leader, who cast a spell on Kristos that caused him to flee once more, but captured one of her minions. He told us of bodies that will not die haunting the ruins that his leader was doing some type of research on. Evalore freed him from the control of the cult with a merciful strike of his sacrificial knife, and read the truth of whether the Fear Mother would die if we killed her worshippers, in the cultist’s entrails. The fight against the cult seems to have brought out a ruthless streak in some of us.
We found a locked box that had belonged to the cultists. Kristos examined it and attempted to pick the lock, but he was still shaking from fear and failed, so we broke it open. Of interest there were some papers, fortunately Evalore can read and reviewed the cultists’ research notes, they were studying the undead in the ruins.
We continued our exploration. The cultists had put back together a broken granite slab, with the symbol of the gecko carried by Kristos. Evalore thought the remains of another slab may be the giant creature we encountered in the lake. Could there be others, such as a giant spider?
Later on in our search we found a room containing many skulls, with iron javelins that erupted from the floor if we stood in the place. We retreated from this, but we went into other parts of the crypt that held similar hazards.
In the end it had to be snakes! They appeared as we found a racoon statue, but we were able to shut the door on them. The door of the next room was sealed magically, preventing us getting in, it too bore a racoon symbol on it though.
We found a room that contain murals, which included The Observer killing creatures of the forest. Other images showed The Observer turning some humans (ambassadors) into fishmen and a battle against The Observer. There was much symbology associated with creatures we have encountered near Illmire. As we continued we disturbed some skeletons that clashed their way out of coffins.
The devil is in the detail though and @Dragongirl74 didn’t let us down with her fabulously comprehensive session notes.
Looking in fascination at the cultists entrails that have spilled messily on the floor, Evalore is struck with the sudden surety that killing the cultists will not destroy the fear mother, taking away her worshippers and the sacrifices they give her is not enough. She will need to be battled and killed outright to break her evil pall across the land.
Within the room there is an altar like table upon which sits a skull with a black candle burning in it, a cot in one corner and a lockbox resting on the floor. Evalore smashes the skull with his staff, putting out the candle in the process, the magics of this cult shall not be allowed to remain whilst he has any say in it.
Kristos examines the lockbox and confirms that it is not trapped, but the lock defeats his picks, and he appears to be still jittery from the fear spell earlier. Frustrated, he forces the lock with his blade instead. Inside there lies 80 gold pieces, a diamond ring, a sheaf of handwritten notes (with writing on one side of the parchment only) and a cloak like the cultists wear. Evalore pores over the notes and discovers that it is the sorcerer’s research into the skeletons here and what she thinks animates them. Necromantic power it appears, but she had not discerned how it worked, or from whence the power came from. The necromancer also queried if it gave them some sort of sub-human intelligence. The notes seem to reveal more questions than answers, it seems the cultist they questioned was indeed telling the truth and the research was not completed.
Stowing the notes for later, they head off towards the narrow corridor to the north, behind the shelves of bones. Gravik goes first and using his dark vision spots that there are smashed slabs strewn across the room, and a door further in on the south wall. One of the slabs has been reconstructed and lies 7ft long and 4 and a half ft wide. It has symbols inscribed on it, like those on the gecko amulet. Assessing the room, the group decide there are enough pieces for at least 4 more such slabs.
Anistor think that the symbols on some of the broken bits may be something to do with the creature from the lake – Evalore looks across the pieces and spots parts that could be fitted together that would indeed look like that, but it would be a huge task moving the heavy pieces around and matching them up, like a giant stone jigsaw. The group decide to come back to it later when they are sure they are alone and thus safe to play with the puzzle. Evalore wonders if maybe The Observer had destroyed the slabs in a rage as the party had undone each of his works that they represent, but notices that there is dust and grime on the edges as if they have been broken for ages, far too long ago for that to be the case.
The stone door to the south of the room is heavy and has four circular sockets each with a pattern carved into the recess. One has three wavy lines like mapmakers use to represent rivers, one is a flame, one is a mountain, one is swirling lines as if they are wind or air, four recesses representing the four elements, but what do they mean? The door is another puzzle for later.
Our heroes head up the narrow passageway to the west with Gravik and Vigark leading and the rest staying behind, out of the range of their dark vision. They pause as they approach two niches opposite each other in the walls, there are no obvious traps in them or anything else of interest in them, so they continue onwards until the corridor branches south for about 10ft with a door in the both the north and south ends.
Gravik pushes at the southern door, which opens into another room with a pool at the southern end and doors to the east and west before the water’s edge. The water is bubbling and has a greenish tinge to it. Gravik sniffs at the air in the room and is rewarded with an unpleasant smell reminiscent of death, and he can feel warmth radiating out from the water. Heading in he is swiftly followed by Anistor, guarding the others against a surprise visitor from the water. They can see the glint of yellow reflecting in the murky water, is it gold? Maybe, but that water does not look inviting in any way, so they decide to leave it alone, at least for now. Gravik looks at the door to the east but refrains from opening it as the others have not joined him and Anistor, lingering in the corridor instead.
Vigark, Kristos and Evalore approach the door to the north of the corridor. Kristos listens at it, but is met with silence from beyond the stone. Thinking they are safe from that direction the others head into the room to join Gravik and Anistor.
Gravik pulls the door open, revealing another short corridor running from north to south and a longer one running east that turns south at its end and joins up with the wider, western corridor from the first room they entered in this crypt, it appears they have travelled in a large loop almost back to where they started. At the very southwest corner of the first room, some stairs can be seen going down to a lower level. Someone must have passed that way recently as the thick layer of dust there has been disturbed.
Kristos decides to go back through the pool room and short corridor to the north, to the door they left closed, opening it into a large room like the first one in as much as there is a large square set of shelves lined with bones. A javelin protrudes from the floor topped with a skull, but this must have been set there some time ago as there is a layer of dust covering the whole room as it has been undisturbed for centuries. On closer inspection it appears that the skull is skewered through by the metal javelin as if placed there very forcefully, the rest of the body is nowhere to be seen though, a spike trap perhaps? Or a display of what happens to nosey adventurers trespassing on the clan’s territory?
Anistor goes into the room anyway to check if there is anything hiding behind the bone shelves ready to sneak up on them. He takes the skull from the spike and rolls it across the floor to no effect and walks further into the room. He hears a click and is nearly the replacement for the skull he removed, but manages to dodge the spike enough to take merely a glancing blow. Wisely he decides to retreat and come back to explore this room later. Heading back the pool room they check the western door – it opens into a very short corridor, with an abrupt end to the north and leading to stairs heading down to the south, again the corridor is carpeted with the dust of eons.
Leaving the stairs for now, they head back through the pool room towards the first room and check the doors in the western corridor off it. The door nearest the room the cultists were hiding in opens into a small room, with the roots of a great tree forcing its way through its ceiling, the room looks as if it has been disturbed recently, maybe by the cultists.
There is a statuette glinting like silver in the light from Flambolg towards the back of the room. Why have the cultists left this seemingly valuable treasure whilst having looted all the crates, casks and urns in the front of the room? As the rest of the party enter safely before he does, Evalore soon discovers why. As he passes the doors into the room a chunk of ceiling is dislodged and falls, catching him on his raised arms doing some damage. He steps back out of the room to catch his breath.
There is one remaining burial urn towards the back of the room near that statue. Anistor waits for Gravik to retreat from the room, preparing to do a swap and switch like a famous explorer from the tales of bards in the inn. And just as in those tales, it doesn’t quite go to plan because as he lifts the statue, snakes start pouring from cracks in the walls. It had to be snakes, didn’t it?
Just like the hero in the story, Anistor brandishes Flambolg (instead of a torch), the flames keeping the snakes at bay long enough to retreat with Gravik and for Kristos to slam the door shut with the snakes on the opposite side. Hurrah! That urn will have to wait.
Leaning against the wall breathing heavily they take a moment to relish the escape before checking the door further along the corridor. This is heavier still than the other doors in the crypt and is emblazoned with a symbol of a Racoon looking creature, set within a recessed circle at least 3 inches deep. Perhaps this is the clan’s sigil? Evalore casts detect magic and in addition to the expected items (Flambolg included) the door glows, however the statue does not. Evalore knows without doubt that the door will not fall to his portal spell. There must be some other way to open it though. The statue does not fit in the recessed circle, mayhap another amulet like ones the party have already found would do it. Could it be in the urn those snakes were guarding? Whilst the detect magic spell is still in effect, Kristos checks the strange coin with faded edges that he picked up in The Observer’s Tower at the same time as the stew pot…it also glows!
The adventurers head towards the stairs (the ones on this side of the pool room) and descend. They empty out into an oblong room with a door to its south, the walls are bowed with moisture, mayhap from the green broiling pool? The room is decorated with symbols like pictograms seemingly detailing the history of the clan: the first scene depicting prosperous times of feasting and joy, the second showing the clan meeting a floating eye like creature, which although it is crudely drawn, looks very like The Observer, the third shows the eye using magic to kill creatures of the forest, the fourth shows ambassadors approaching the eye, seemingly pleading with it to spare the lives of the forest creatures, the fifth shows the ambassadors turned into the fish men, the sixth shows them attacking the eye in retaliation, the seventh shows the eye killing the ambassadors and the eighth and final scene shows them being laid to rest. There are symbols throughout depicting different animals (but not the ambassadors). There is a salamander, an eel, a racoon amongst others, maybe they represent different clans interacting with each other.
Gravik pushes the southern door open, Anistor ready with Flambolg in case of attack. The room beyond is lined with seven coffins in the walls but the party pass through regardless. Suddenly from behind them there are loud crashes as stone lids are pushed off the coffins and they turn to see skeletons clambering out of each of them.
Kristos aims the tetractys sword at one of them and chips small pieces off it. Anistor strikes another with Flambolg, and it crumples to the floor, sent to its true eternal rest. Pivoting the warrior destroys another behind him. One of the skeletons swings a glinting battle axe at Gravik but misses wildly and teeters under the weight of the heavy weapon, just holding onto its balance. Another two undead swing their spears at Gravik, both missing the dwarf, and in return he strikes with his flail, destroying one of the ones that attacked him. The last skeleton turns on Gravik and sinks his battle-axe into his flesh, but the dwarf shakes off the pain and stands fast. Vigark swings his glimmering longsword through the skeleton separating its top from its bottom.
Evalore tries to reason with them, “Noble brethren of the Racoon clan we are enemies of the Observer come to free you from his tyranny, lay down your weapons and let us pass”. Kristos stares at Evalore pointing out the blue glow on his tetractys sword showing that the skeletons are truly evil and cannot be treated with. Maybe there is no intelligence bestowed upon these reanimated creatures after all, sub-human or otherwise muses Evalore.
Kristos then explodes one of the evil undead and Anistor quickly smashes the final one. The weapons the skeletons wielded have something about them though, maybe they are magical. Kristos picks up one of the javelins and takes it with him.
Anistor pushes the door open cautiously, protecting Gravik in case there is another attack from behind…
Honestly, both @JimjimTheGrim and @Dragongirl74 are putting my session notes to shame, both filled with a load of character and lots of detail. Really appreciated.