It's a Saturday and we're in Aldershot for session three of Evils of Illmire. Following session two's bloody conclusion, a new band of treasure hunters have made their way s into the titular settlement.
Welcome to Illmire - again! On the journey to fame and glory, an intrepid, determined and inexperienced band heroes had arrived at the sombre town of Illmire as the sun was beginning its westward descent. The gloomy frontier settlement did not look particularly inviting.
Being a pious man, Brother Jerry made straight for The Temple of The Luminal Star and was intercepted by guards patrolling the grounds. He was told that the temple was shut due to the renovations, Brother Jerry was also informed that Father Rand was the resident cleric. He asked to see Father Rand but the guards explained that Father Rand was otherwise occupied.
Before he left, Brother Jerry asked the guards to tell Father Rand that he would be in town.
Our heroes realised that today was what passed for market day in Illmire. A handful of the stalls in the town centre were being utilised by visiting traders to ply their somewhat poor selection of 'fresh' foods and wares. Taking the time to speak with a seller, our heroes were told with some 'authority' that the residents of Illmire were crooks and thieves who despised all outsiders - including them!
With this advice in mind, our heroes headed for The Inn of the Weary Wagoner. Inside, it was a dreary sight, dim slats of dying sunlight streamed through shuttered windows and a nervous, youngish looking man was tending the bar of a nearly empty common room. Our heroes introduced themselves to the barkeep who, with a stammer told them his name was Ballard. He had been the stable hand until the disappearance of Birella. Now he's been given the responsibility of running the inn. Our heroes for some drinks and booked rooms for the night.
During their ride into Illmire, our heroes had seen the outskirts of a circus. When asked, Ballard told them he knew little about it, it had been there for a few weeks, he had wandered around it but not many villagers bothered with it. Although he had heard that a fortune-teller could be found there.
Plato had had enough of this and decided to retire for the early night and headed for his room. Meanwhile Brother Jerry took the opportunity to try and sermonize the inn's few patrons. He spoke of purity and piety but they were having none of it, even when he tried to hand out his collection of tiny drums. They'd been hardened against proselytizing.
Irked at his lack of success, Brother Jerry went to find a more captive audience at the jailhouse. Inside he found a surly looking Captain Frey along with his two equally surly lackeys. Brother Jerry asked if he could provide succour to the prisoners. Frey indicated that there were no prisoners in the jailhouse. Brother Jerry turned to the three men and thought on preaching to them but they too were having none of it. In the end they had a conversation about the balding fever affecting Illmire. Captain Frey stated that the affliction concerned him but Brother Jerry sensed that Frey seemed somewhat insincere. There wasn't much more that Brother Jerry could ask so he returned to the inn.
The Inn of the Weary Wagoner was dull with little going on. Bert, Tina and Brother Jerry quickly got bored and decided to explore the town. Rising above the array of Illmire's mostly thatched rooftops were the slowly rotating sails of a windmill which caught their attention. Situated close to the northern edge of the settlement, the windmill and associated buildings appeared fairly unremarkable. As our heroes approached, they saw a young couple busy working. The woman turned to greet them enthusiastically, introducing herself, as Deela and her husband, Lanham. The couple were friendly and our heroes soon got into conversation with them. Deela and Lanham had moved into Illmire and taken over the running of the mill only a few months ago, they admitted that they were finding business tough, especially after the emergence of the Balding Fever. Lanham added that he found the town 'a little strange'. The day was growing dim as they left Deela and Lanham.
Next, their curiosity was piqued by a shady grove of densely placed, gnarled willows that sprouted out of a clearing in the western half of Illmire. Our heroes could see that the townsfolk neglected or avoided the spot, noticing an abundance of wildlife that flourished in the trees as they explored. Deep in the grove they found a old dilapidated wooden cottage overgrown with foliage and green with unchecked moss,a quick search revealed it's toppled walls and collapsed roof had been the result of sabotage and not a collapse, it was apparent the interior had been exposed to the elements for a number of months. There was nothing of further interest here and our heroes returned to the temple.
Brother Jerry once again approached the temple guards and once again asked them if he could speak with Father Rand. The guards told him once again that Father Rand was otherwise occupied. Brother Jerry told the guards that he could be found at the inn.
Before returning to the inn, our heroes diverted to the well and peered into its gloomy bottom. They did not see anything out of the ordinary.
Upon returning to Inn of the Weary Wagoner, our heroes took to their rooms for the evening. Bert spent some time perched on the his room's window ledge, quietly watching the town as night's silent stillness soon descended, nothing stirred and the loudest sound to reach Bert's ears was his own breathing as he observed lights across Illmire wink out one-by-one until only an inky darkness remained. Then he too, turned in.
All the fun of the fair Daybreak came and our heroes rose with the with morning sun; casting long shadows, it dazzled them as they briskly marched eastward into its dawn light. They had decided to visit the circus.
Half an hour and they were there. Situated in a pasture some short distance from the King's Highway was a cluster of wagons. stall-fronts and pitched tents that constituted the circus. Gaudy pennants fluttered energetically from tall centre poles that supported colourful marquees decorated in strips of alternating primary colours. A few decidedly un-circuslike individuals were traipsing around, ostensibly undertaking chores of some sort while giving our heroes questioning glances as they went on their way.
Our heroes managed to stop someone and were directed to the circus' gang boss who explained that the first circus showing would not be until two o' clock. They asked about the fortune-teller and were told her name was Esmerelda. They were also told that Esmerelda did not sit for readings until midday. When asked why the circus was here, the gang boss admitted to not knowing but was happy enough to leave it to the owner to manage.
There were still several hours until midday our heroes realised, so they wandered the tents and stalls with little to do. They managed to persuade some stall-holders to try their hands at carnival games; tests of strength, tossing hoops on to hooks and like. Eventually they grew bored of this and wandered off to find the Esmerelda's tent.
The fortune-teller's tent was a small affair, dwarfed by neighbouring contemporaries. its exterior was decorated with a swathe of exotic and indecipherable symbols embroidered into the fabric with threads of glimmering silver and gold while a netted door marked the way in. A quick peek inside confirmed the tent was empty. Our heroes resigned themselves to a long wait.
Some time passed and a woman dressed in distinctively colourful attire came strolling towards the tent, she wore an elaborate headscarf and intricately detailed shawl. Our heroes introduced themselves; she was, as they expected, Esmerelda.
Esmerelda was happy to give our heroes a fortune-reading for the low, low price of a measly one hundred gold pieces! They tried their best to hide their shock but clearly balked at the cost. "Could I get a free reading?" Brother Jerry asked hopefully. "You will find great fame and wealth," Esmerelda replied theatrically. Amazingly, Brother Jerry was elated at his impending good fortune!
There wasn't much else to be garnered at the circus, our heroes decided and marched back west, Brother Jerry was buoyant and did so with a spring in his step.
Fens for the memory Our heroes chose not stop at Illmore, instead pushing on north westward to the gecko fens. They'd heard that the geckos were an abundant source of hunting for the locals. The sun had passed its zenith by the time our heroes had left the sparse farmlands that surrounded Illmire behind and entered the expansive lush, boggy wetlands. A desolate green vista of wind-rippled, unpopulated grassland stretched before them as pushed on north-west.
For a time they encountered nothing, then abruptly, through the soles of their boots and sandals they felt a tickling vibration as something disturbed the ground beneath them. Nervously, their eyes darted about as the vibrations intensified into rumblings. The grass seemed to roil, a gout of muddy earth erupted into a shower of stinging dirt and the ground seemed to split open somehow. Giant undulating slick-skinned earthworms abruptly wriggled to the surface, blindly flailing towards our heroes. It was best to avoid a fight if possible, they decided and quick-footedly gave the invertebrate monsters a wide birth.
Pressing onwards, our heroes spied a small band of hunters travelling east, their silhouettes dwarfed against the deepening colour of a northern horizon with its near cloudless unending sky They changed heading and marched northwards, Brother Jerry uttered a prayer and a glimmering ball of intense light began emanating from his hand which he waved high to get the hunters' attention.
Unfortunately for our heroes, it was not the only attention they attracted. As they laboured over the unevenly marshy terrain, they became aware of a loudening buzzing. Before our heroes could get their footing, they spotted a swarm of giant dragonflies bearing down on them. There was no time to formulate a plan as the dragonflies rushed, our heroes couldn't order themselves into a defensive position before the dragonflies struck. The attack was overwhelming, our heroes fought hard but Tina went down, then Plato, then Bert. Brother Jerry was next, barely still on his feet when an unexpected volley of arrows rained down on the giant insects. The hunters, having seen the light and the dragonflies attack raced to aid our heroes. It was enough to turn the tide and vanquish the giant dragonflies.
After the injuries sustained by our heroes had been seen to, they decided to return to Illmire. During the return they spoke with the hunters who warned them to be wary when venturing into the western reaches of the fens. The hunters explained that mantismen, aggressive insectoids prowled the area and would anyone they spotted.
As they were walking back to Illmire, our heroes and the hunters encountered fishermen returning from the nearby lake with their catches and our heroes took the opportunity to question them about the rumours of a giant fish living in the lake. The fishermen also warned them about the fish-men who lived somewhere in the lake, who would occasionaly surface to attack them. Our heroes decided to investigate stories of the fish.
Night fishing Upon their return to Illmire, our heroes took some much needed time to recuperate, it would take several days to recover from their injuries.
During their downtime, Brother Jerry went back to the church again, asking to speak with Father Rand and about the renovations again. Again the guards told him that Father Rand was occupied and the renovations were well under way. Our heroes wondered what kind of renovation was underway since they'd never seen any workmen coming or going from the temple...
Four dull, uneventful and interminable days passed while our heroes were forced to convalesce. Time crawled seemingly almost to halt until they were well enough to venture back out into the wilderness.
A typical Illmire dawn fog had descended upon the region, reducing the sun to a shapeless orange eastern haze while smothering the town in a unsettling silence as our heroes set out for the lake. Soon the settlement had evaporated into the whiteish murk behind them and as they marched on, to their eyes it was as if the entire world had been consumed by noiseless gloom.
Seemingly isolated by fog, our heroes walked for a couple of hours before the day's rising heat began burning it off. A indistinct mist-shrouded horizon gave way to unfettered grassland beneath a blue sky. Ahead, our heroes saw the tall, swaying reeds that delineated the lake's perimeter and a thin fog persistently lingered across waters that stretched beyond sight while gently lapping at its edge. Not far along the shoreline were a number of Illmire's fishermen, hefting their simple wooden boats into the lake in preparation of they day's labour.
The fishermen were happy to talk to our heroes, all of them had heard stories of a giant fish that could swallow a boat whole, none had seen it though and none could provide any information or proof of its existence save one fishermen was adamant that the giant fish was real and only emerged to feed during night. Our heroes concocted a plan and returned to Illmire.
When back in the town they acquired a spear and some rope, then with some effort fashioned them into a harpoon and line. Next they took their remaining ropes and spliced them into a single long cord. Hours passed and in the afternoon, our heroes went and got a hold of some buckets of fish guts and walked back out to the lake. A red band had grown across the western skyline marking the day's end by the time they arrived.
They followed the shore until they found a sturdy looking tree close to the waterline and tied the harpoon's line around it. The fishermen had already left for town after beaching their boats away from the shore for the day. Our heroes took one of these and smeared the inside with fish guts then tied their other rope to it's rear cleat. They watched a pale waxing moon begin rising into a star-decorated night sky, its reflection shimmering across the lake's undulating black waters while silvery light dimly illuminated the landscape, they pushed the boat out and gripping the makeshift harpoon and line, waited. Some time passed, nothing happened.
After some discussion, they pulled the boat back in, with a resigned sigh, Tina then boarded the now foul smelling, fish gut decorated watercraft and rowed out further into the lake, reaching the limits of rope's length. The shore was a faint smear of colour against the darkness that surrounded her. Again, our heroes waited. Again, nothing happened.
As Bert, Plato and Brother Jerry watched intently, they abruptly became of aware of a presence behind them and they turned with a start! Stand before them were a band of bipedal frogs! Mannish in size and slight of build, they wielded spears and bows which they brandished warily in the direction our heroes. Our heroes stood unmoving, a quick assessment told them they were outnumbered nearly three-to-one. The frog men ribbeted at our heroes, gesturing with their weapons. Our heroes tried to communicate with them but made no headway and decided it would be prudent to withdraw. The frog men watched them leave until they were out of sight.
Meanwhile Tina sat in the stinking boat and waited. Time passed, the moon climbed to its zenith and began its downward journey. A thick fog began to roll across the lake, somehow darkening a already dark night and reducing the moon to a diffused flow beyond the mists. Tina continued waiting. Morning approached and night began its retreat, driven away by yellowish dawn light that turned a hazy fog shrouded night into a hazy fog shrouded day. Exasperated, Tina rowed back to shore, found no one waiting there and decided to head back to Illmire.
It was approaching the midday hour, the bright sun blazed its trail through a blue sky as our heroes regrouped at The Inn of the Weary Wagoner. The establishment was practically empty at this hour. Ballard was there of course. If he was curious about where his customers had gone overnight and returned, he didn't show it. Our heroes asked Ballad about the frog men, he called them 'froglings'. "A mysterious folk who live beyond the far side of the lake, in a forest of tall, abundant trees," Ballad explained. Next, he was asked about the ruined cottage in the centre of the grove. Ballad explained that it had been home to the druid Yorivar. He had disappeared about the same time the cottage was inexplicably destroyed so the two events must've been linked. Ballad did not know what fate the druid met, but to his knowledge, no body had ever been found.
The night's excursions had left them fatigued, they decided it would be a good time to rest for a while. They would be busy again tonight. They had another plan.
Midnight mass Midnight came and our heroes quietly ventured out of the inn. Illmire slumbered and was still. Empty, unlit streets were pools of darkness, making it easy for our heroes to move unseen as - again, they headed to the temple.
Three guards were patrolling the temple ground and graveyard, from a vantage point behind a close by shack, our heroes watched as they took their irregular route. When the guards drew close - they pounced. Loosing a volley of arrows, Bert and Brother Jerry closed to melee range
The exchange of attacks was quick and brutal. By the time it was over, all three guards were dead and Bert had been knocked senseless. Even so, the guards had managed to yell loud out warnings of attack and intruder. With the guards dispatched, our heroes rushed to the temple doors and tried to gain entrance. Unsurprisingly, the doors were locked. Barging the had no effect whatsoever, undoubtable, they were barred from the inside. Our heroes tried hacking at the doors, it was slow going, sturdy oak was reinforced by bands of tough steel and would not crumple so easily. They realised forcing their way in would be no easy task.
Close to panicking, our heroes quickly looked for a place to hide. Across the square they spied the town's gem cutter, a business which they saw had been closed up, sprinted over and began smashing through the doors. Screams and shouts came from within, surprising our heroes who had inaccurately assumed it was empty. Our heroes ran back to the temple.
They then ran over to the dead guards, searched their remains and found nothing of interest. Next they ran behind the temple, along the perimeter of the town and fled into the stygian night. After running for some distance, our heroes halted and took stock. It was quiet with no signs of pursuit. Our heroes scouted a suitably secluded location and camped for the night.