Spoiler alert: if you plan to play The Evils of Illmire don’t read this!
Once more I have to thank @Dragongirl74 for keeping such detailed and brilliant session notes for our group. Here is a bumper set covering our last two sessions.
The blades the giant undead hold are quite archaic, they must have lain here in wait for many years. But no matter, they are attacking our heroes and must be sent to their eternal rest. Anistor the fighter swings his fiery sword Flambolg at the one to the north, taking it out with his two attacks. Gravik flails at the one to the south taking a chunk out of it before it returns the swing but is clearly caught off-balance as it swings wide of the dwarf. Kristos the thief misses with his first arrow pinging the string off his short bow, he needs to fix it before long to stay in this fight! The party’s half-elf Vigark hits the one to the south taking it down and Kristos looks up from repairing his bow string, realising he can now take his time as the danger is passed.
The party move to the door in the southern wall of the room. It opens into a room with two pillars along the middle of it, another coffin on the east wall and some jewels scattered across the floor, reflecting the light from Flambolg. The floor is easier to see in this room, so it is unlikely to be trapped with spikes like the one they needed the “cultist bridge” to cross safely.
Gravik enters and although what he sees with his darkvision is a bit grainy he is certain there is nothing moving in the room. He checks the ceiling, noticing it is intact. Thinking of another Bard’s tale, of the adventurer we mentioned before, where the door swung shut as he entered the room and it began to fill with sand, he hammers 4 iron spikes in the doorway to wedge it open, to prevent that horrid trap catching them. The dour dwarf then heads along the south wall whilst Anistor sweeps the north wall, the rest following behind.
As Evalore the magic-user crosses the threshold, he notices as ominous creak behind him just as the coffin shatters and an enormous undead figure appears scattering more jewels as it rises. Its mouth moves in a parody of speech and the magic-user can see the arcane energy swirling around it. Kristos lets off an arrow hitting what should be a vital point, but it barely scratches the creature, for a moment it looks like the strike may have disrupted the spell it was casting, but it suddenly goes dark in the room, that blasted darkness again!
Gravik flails blindly into the dark but only succeeds in hitting the stone pillar. Vigark stows his bow and moves into the room drawing his sword finding his target. Anistor moves to the east wall and slices through the creature with his trusty Flambolg. Evalore moves into the room and prepares his detect magic spell, hoping to provide his colleagues with some indication of where the creature is.
Kristos unwisely fires off two arrows, missing wildly with the first which clatters off the wall. Hitting flesh with the second, he starts to grin, but there is a cry of pain from Gravik, he’s hit the wrong target and the grin drops from his face before it is fully formed. The undead calls its magic again and the hairs prickle on the backs of our heroes’ necks as it does so. The front row (Gravik, Vigark and Anistor) feels the Cold of the Grave creeping through their bones and they lose the ability to move for a moment. While Gravik and Vigark manage to shake the fear off there is a dull thump and Anistor falls to the floor unable to break free of the skeletal shaman’s hold.
Gravik brings his flail round, following the path of the magic back to its owner and manages to hit. Vigark, following suit drives his sword up though it’s throat with enough force to shatter the top of its skull so its bones separate and collapse to the floor around Anistor, clattering loudly; the chill in the room noticeably lessens.
Shortly thereafter Anistor groans as his muscles relax as the hold person spell dissipates, releasing him. Our party decide to rest here until the darkness spell wears off. Gravik returns the arrow to Kristos, the look of disdain on his face barely discernible in the gloom.
The coffin is lined with jewels, which all glow from Evalore’s detect magic spell. Gravik decides to take some anyway even though the rest of the group warn him that they are likely not real gems, just illusory ones. But after a while and some sidelong glances from Evalore and Kristos he tips them out of his bag again. The dwarf then searches for hidden doors along the south wall, hoping to find a short cut back to the other room where the darkness was, but no luck.
After the searches and once the never-ending dwarven stew pot is tidied away it is time for the bridge of corpses again, it’s more successful on this attempt, only one spike is released snagging in the leg of the corpse that Evalore is walking past.
The party head back to the small room accessed down the left of the pool room. In a recess in the wall behind the coffin there is a larger statue like the one Evalore already holds, but this time jade. Kristos leans over and plucks it out of its place. This is the only coffin still intact; should they open it? Anistor tries to slide the lid but needs help from Gravik, it grates along the top, echoing loudly throughout the chamber as it moves revealing another huge skeleton, this time of a racoon creature. As they finally tip the lid onto its edge at the head of the coffin the creature inside moves…
It jumps elegantly upright in the coffin, but doesn’t make it out as Anistor swings, smashing it to pieces with two swipes of trusty Flambolg, collapsing it back into a neat pile of bones in its true final resting place. Checking the room where the first darkness spell was cast, they discover nothing of note there and then decide to head back to the pool room, grateful for the warmth coming off the water, but hesitant to enter its depth. Kristos drops a coin into the water, the colour of the water obscuring the depth the coin sinks to, but it does not appear to dissolve; it appears the water is not acidic.
Kristos spins a web from the spider silk amulet and drops it into the water to catch the glinting gold object they spotted the first time they entered this room, using his sword to pull the web from the water. The treasure is a gold necklace, different from any of the ones they have found before with a racoon shaped pendant hanging from it. There is also a finger drawn out of the depths that is moving by itself as if beckoning them towards it. Dismissing it as useless Kristos throws it back into the pool then hangs the necklace round his neck. He concentrates intently reaching out to the cosmic forces of magic hoping to unleash the power of the charm, but they do not answer. The thief decides this is just a pretty trinket.
Our band head to the small room off the end of the pillared room with the rune marked skulls in the alcoves to the very southern end of the crypt. Anistor heads down the spiral staircase first with Flambolg lighting the way, followed by Gravik, Kristos, Vigark and Evalore bringing up the rear. The staircase seems endless, and the party lose track of the number of times they have turned round the spiral. Anistor drops a coin, and it tinkles down the stairs for a while. Gravik talks about a childhood toy he used to play with made of wire wound into a spring that would slink down the steps. They debate whether it would make it to the bottom of this endless staircase or if it would end up in a tangle after the first turn round the central pillar. Continuing downwards, they start to feel like they are leaning towards the centre as if pulled towards it slightly. Gravik determines that they are indeed descending further underground rather than being caught in a strange magical trap. After what may be 20 minutes or may have been an hour they finally reach the bottom and exit the stairs into a corridor that is lined with bones with a row of jawless skulls at head height all along the walls on either side extending past the light of Flambolg. Gravik says, “we’re here now, we need to go on rather than retreating like cowards”, so they head down the passageway. In the slightly wider corridor Evalore swaps places with Vigark so he can protect their backs. After about 10 minutes they approach a crossroads with three other identical corridors leading off it. Gravik uses an iron spike to scratch an arrow into the floor pointing back towards the stairs and another on in the crossroads pointing towards the first arrow so they can find their way out. They take the path ahead thinking that if they reach another crossroads, they will turn back.
After a while of careful walking Gravik notices Anistor suddenly drop out of sight, straight down into a hole. Looking down they see that Anistor is battered and bleeding but much better than expected after a 30 ft fall onto spikes. Then they spot the huge, singed scrape in the wall where the fighter rammed Flambolg into the wall on one side and braced himself with a hand on the opposite wall. Gravik and Kristos drop a rope into the hole to lift him out. They catch their breaths for a moment and reluctantly head back up the long circular staircase. Reaching the top, exhausted they trudge back to the first room and barely able to move anymore barricade themselves in and fall easily into deep sleep.
In the morning, feeling refreshed they head to the stone slabs and try to piece the jigsaw back together. They complete one of the patterns – a racoon, the symbol of the Rackoo clan whose crypt they are in. Then another with an eel, deciding that this represents the water amulet that fits the door with the four circular recesses in it. A third slab depicts a wyvern, they decide this represents the air amulet, a fourth slab shows a salamander, and they decide this represents the fire amulet needed, with the already completed one of the gecko representing the earth amulet. Realising they don’t have all the talismans they require to open either of the remaining doors our heroes decide to head out of this crypt and venture towards the fungi swamp.
After days in the dark confines of the crypt our heroes wince at the sun and decide to head for Gribblet Village to break up their journey to the fungi swamp with a restful visit to the Froglings. The journey passes uneventfully until they reach the outskirts of the village where they notice Froglings bounding away from them as they approach. Rubigroak is waiting for them as they enter the clearing at the bottom of the great trees that Gribblet Village is built amongst. She greets them “Ah my friends what we you been doing since we last saw you? We can feel the mood is lightening and the shadows are shortening all around us.” Kristos replies “We have many tales to tell you” and RubiGroak nods sagely “We knew you were true heroes when you saved us from the mantis men. Come, join us and share your stories.”
The Froglings help our heroes climb the trees to the platforms high above. Evalore recalls their offer to teach the party the secrets of scaling the trees and wistfully wishes there was time for this field of study, but alas, a week is too long to take out of their quest to defeat the cult. Atop the platforms a great campfire is burning and feasts of Frogling fare are passed around. Our heroes politely pick out a few morsels from the bug filled bowls and manage to swallow them as they recount the stories of their adventures. During the telling Evalore realises this is the end of their 39th day since reaching Illmire. It has certainly been a busy few weeks and they have achieved more than they realised.
The next day dawns fine and bright for the time of year, spring quietly fading away into summer. As they pack up their gear and make ready to depart once more RubiGroak asks “Where are you heading now? What plans have you to defeat the cultists?” Kristos replies “We head to the Fungi swamp north of the mantis men. We hear that the cult make their fear potions there and we must interrupt their supply.” The Frogling shaman priestess nods as if approving the plan. “We have been there before – a race of fungal people dwells there, also the witch, Vosethra, who cares for the swamp and is ancient and wise and kind. You have nothing to fear from her if you go there without ill intent. She hasn’t been seen elsewhere in Illmire for as long as I remember.”
With many fond farewells and wishes for good luck our heroes set of towards the swamp. Every now and then they hear the rustle of the trees in a quiet moment and notice briefly a Frogling or two shadowing them until they reach the limits of the Frogling lands smiling to themselves at the escort. The journey is uneventful, and in the late afternoon the scenery changes, fungi sprout on trees and the forest floor becomes damp and squishy underfoot.
Moving into the heart of the swamp, not sure what they are looking for, the party start to notice that some of the mushrooms are glowing near ground level, almost as if indicating a path they should follow, spores floating gently in the air. They follow the pathway, and as the darkness falls the land starts to rise before them and they face a giant cliff side with caves dotted within it. There is also a soft blueish purple glow coming from the cave entrances.
Over to the left of the cave mouth is a ramshackle building that sheds lights from its window and the party hear high pitched, strangled shrieking coming from within it. Kristos sneaks up trying to peer into the window and see what is happening and he hears loud sounds of joyous human voices from within. As he approaches the window, the shrieking stops briefly almost stunning him with the absence of the sound, it had been so loud in his ears.
The thief sees at least a couple of people in there through a gap in the curtained window; they have something in their ears muffling the sounds they are extracting from their prisoners by their torturous actions. There is a cage in the corner with a humanoid mushroom being tortured and his fear being siphoned off into large bottles by a machine. A plate is being pressed down from the ceiling of the cage squashing and liquifying the captive as it lowers down, as if this was some kind of sickening cider press.
“So, this is how they are making the fear potions” Kristos thinks, recalling another one of the bards’ tales where oddly fluffy monsters scare children to collect their screams. Kristos deliberates, does he return to the group for backup, or does he burst in and try to save the mushroom man before he dies a horrible death? Luckily, he remembers the pre-arranged signal with the burning lady and waves it in the correct pattern to let the others know to join him. He calls forth Shalmaneser’s Lion, opens the doors and looses arrows in the direction of two of the eight cultists in the room.
His first arrow hits the one in the middle of the room and the cultists crumples to the floor almost silently, a look of glee falling off his face. The second arrow sinks into the arm of the cultist operating the vile machine.
Gravik runs up to the window and dives through onto the table just under it, surprising the three cultists clustered around drinking wine. One of them drops the bottle he is holding, and it rolls across the floor thunking against the bottom of the cage. Gravik sweeps his flail at the closest cultist but misses, instead ruffling the lank hair on his head as he falls of his chair in surprise at the dwarfs appearance.
The cultist operating the machine, grabs his wounded arm and hides behind the cage while another standing in the doorway starts at the sight of the lion, then steels himself, high on the terror he’s been absorbing and attacks the beast, swinging his club wide. One of the cultists near the window attacks Gravik but misses wildly, another moves in to swing his sword at the dwarf, but also misses. Kristos fires at the other cultist in the doorway, his first arrow going wide but the cultist falls to the second. Vigark waves his hands and sends out a stream of barbed thorns to the cultist in the middle of the room, stripping flesh from its bones. Anistor dusts off his crossbow and shoots over the lion’s head at the remaining cultist in the doorway but is clearly out of practice as his shot whistles past the cultist’s head and sinks into the cot behind him.
The third cultist from the window misses Gravik with his club as the lion moves into the room out of the doorway and takes a swipe with each of his front paws at the cultist who tried to attack him, drawing blood with each, then biting the mans head off. Evalore waves his hands, and the remaining cultists hear lullabies in their ears and fall to the ground asleep where they stand, as does Gravik. The shrieking from the cage is also silenced.
Kristos moves into the room, quickly dispatching the remaining cultists before gently slapping Gravik to wake him back up. Sadly, they realise that mushroom man is beyond saving, the machine has done its evil work too well already. That sleep spell was a final mercy to him. The machine is drenched in the squashed remains of the mushroom men, the one in the cage looks to be the last of their victims for today.
There are more bottles of the same liquid that is being drained from the caged mushroom man, eight smaller jars on the shelves and three of the larger collection bottles. Normal night noises come from the forest now. Our heroes dismantle the machine that looks like a giant cider press and remove the press bar to stop it being used again. They also destroy the distilling equipment in the corner so it cannot be used for this evil purpose any more. Carrying the bottles and remaining flesh of the myconid bodies away from the building into the forest, they return them for a burial of a sort. Evalore mutters a prayer over their remains and uses prestidigitation to cleanse the hut. The party rest in the cots the cultists used, setting watches in case anymore cultists appear to relieve the ones that were here, but the night passes uneventfully.
The day dawns hazy and unpleasantly hot and sticky. The band watch the caves and spot myconids running out of them and rushing off into the forest, then build a pyre for the cultists’ bodies, pouring their lamp oil over them to burn them so that their evil taints the swamp no more.
Now heading towards the cave that the myconids came out of, the glow is now very faint but can still be seen. As they enter, they can see many varieties of large mushrooms around, but none seem to be the sentient ones. The floor is very spongy as they progress further in, the floor and walls are covered with lichen and they cover their faces with scarves to protect from any spores and continue further in. The glow can be seen off to the left of the cave and a faint mechanical noise can be heard in that direction. They head towards it, any cultist machinery they find must be destroyed!
The party see a ledge of cave wall rising about 10ft above them and the noise seem to be coming from up there. There is a purplish mist coming from the ledge above and they spot a slope upwards and begin to climb up it, heading towards the noise and mist in the centre of the wide ledge. The mist floats about a foot and a half above the floor spreading out at least 40 feet in all directions. The mushroom caught in the wide-reaching mist all look damaged and withered as if poisoned recently by the mist pouring from a bubbling device in the centre.
Backing off Evalore summons his arcane arts and blue magical energy darts from his hands towards the pot which explodes and flashes, burning away the purple mist. They wait until the mist clears completely before approaching the shattered device. It looks the same as the ones in the building. They find three more metal cages lurking under the mushrooms and dismantle them, realising that with the dissipation of the purple mist the glowing light has also gone.
As they retreat down the slope and head towards the path leading right a figure approaches from the back of the path, peeking out from behind the fungi. They sheathe their weapons and hold out their open hands in front in a gesture of peace.
The figure, now seen as a beautiful, slender woman formed from fungi, steps out onto the path and asks “Strangers, you destroyed the vile devices who are you?” Kristos replies “We are here to destroy the makers of those devices.” She inclines her head “I had heard of strangers who do good deeds, and not all your kind have hatred in your hearts. What Vosethra said is true, I will lead you to her, come, follow.”
Introducing herself as Delitha the dryad the party follow her along the path, and it widens out into a very large cavern. Along the way she points them to another pot spewing purple mist. “The mist sends the myconids into a screaming shrieking state and the other humans capture them, we do not know what they do with them, but they never come back.” Gravik approaches the pot and destroys it with a flick of his flail.
Their guide smiles warmly “Stay close to me as we travel further in, the myconids will not be able to distinguish you from the other humans and they will attack you.” They continue on, smashing any purple mist pots that they pass closely enough along the way, heeding their guide’s advice not to stray away from her. They spot myconids peering out from behind mushrooms and there is obvious anger on their faces. Moving further into the cavern they approach an older woman with myconid features, her feet planted deep into the spongy floor of the cavern, hunched over on herself almost statue still.
Their guide calls out to her “Vosethra, I have brought you the humans that work against the cultists”. The woman lifts her head slowly and opens her eyes, the only human features in her face. She looks at their guide, “thank you Delitha”, then turns to our heroes. “I have suffered here so long, waited so long for someone to come, why does it take people an eternity to get around to these things? The cultists have long been stealing the people I protect, draining my power in the process. They do awful things to them, making a potion from them, but I know not what they do with it.”
Kristos replies “They make fear potions from it, poisoning wells of villages and corrupting those that dwell there.” Vosethra’s eyes sheen with tears “That explains it, the myconids exude a fear inducing fluid with magical properties when they are in that shrieking state brought about by the purple mist.”
The thief asks “do you know of any way to negate the fear potion?”
Vosethra’s eyes spark “I have felt the effects, there is something powerful in this region, but I do not know how to dispel it, maybe an alchemist could do something with the potions you have found.” Evalore looks at the ground, maybe burying the myconid and the potions with it was not such a good idea after all.
Gravik steps forward addressing the witch, “Do you know how many cultists are in this place?” Vosethra turns her gaze towards him, “No, I do not. I am tied to this spot; I am in great pain. As you have seen, they have placed great machines throughout the caverns that corrupt the myconids, as they become corrupt, I am tortured with their pain and terror. If you destroy these machines, I will reward you greatly and will be able to move again, at least for a while.”
Evalore notices purple mist swirling around Vosethra’s feet. “Can your assistant lead us to the machines so we can destroy them?” asks Gravik, and “can you do anything to allow the myconids to know we are different to the cultists?” Vosethra replies “Once you have destroyed the machines, I will be able to do so, but for now go with Delitha, if you are with her the myconids will not bother you”.
The party follow Delitha, easily destroying the machines throughout the caverns, returning to Vosethra. Her feet are now free from the spongy ground and she is more upright and looking more human. The purple mist has also gone from around her. The swamp witch thanks them and touches them each on the left arm, a tattoo like brand of flowers and leaves appears on the backs of their hand as she does so. “This will allow the myconids to know you are one of my people. It will fortify you and make you better able to battle the cult. This is all I can do until my idol is returned to me. It was taken from me by the Rakoo clan many years ago. If you can return it to me, I can assist you further with the Cult.”
They thank her and Gravik asks “What do you know of the Observer?”
“He is powerful, but easily distracted” she replies.
We finished the session with a choice for the players:
- Try to recruit Vosethra to fight the cult which would require trips to both the Obsidian Forge and Prison Vault to recover the salamander and wyvern talismans, or
- Head straight for the cult HQ now all of their operations in Illmire have been dismantled
The players have taken the second option and feel ready to bring Virica and the Fearmother to an end… as we draw towards the end of the campaign I’m hoping for an epic finale!