Thuria and Beyond

The adventure begins

1/7/1000 – Firstday 1st Ripening 1000 YT

In our first session, we learned about the back story for our two starting player characters, Tomek and Natalia. Advised to seek adventure in the Borderlands, our characters left their home village, promising to return within a year.

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Journey to the Borderlands

1/7/1000 – Firstday 1st Ripening 1000 YT

Tomek and Natalia headed north-west, the Brythunian countryside around them become less and less densely populated as they drew nearer to the edge of the kingdom.

They made good progress, only occasionally needing to stop to ask directions when passing through a village or encountering peasant farmers. By dusk they were on a narrow road passing through a thickly wooded area and decided to make camp for the night. Just as they were leading their horses off the narrow road and between the trees, they were surprised and attacked by two hungry wolves. Tomek killed one wolf. The other fled in terror. Neither Tomek nor Natalia were injured.

A little shaken, they took turns to keep watch during the hours of darkness. The night passed without incident.

2/7/1000 – Second-day 2nd Ripening 1000 YT

Tomek and Natalia continued on their journey, drawing closer to the Border Road. But before leaving the wooded area, they were surprised by a very strange attacker – a sword-wielding man wearing the chain mail of a typical Brythunian fighting man… but he appeared to be possessed and in some kind of zombie state. His skin yellow, his eyes blank and seemingly incapable of speech, the man also had a plant with yellow and purple flowers growing from a hole in his skull. His intent was clearly murderous. Tomek managed to slay the attack, decapitating him. His remains were searched and a little money was found on his person. Tomek and Natalia continued on their journey feeling mystified by the incident.

Soon after the fight with the possessed man, Tomek and Natalia reached the Border Road and followed the directions they’d been given when asking for the way to the nearest of the border keeps. By the middle of the afternoon, they arrived at Castle Kochilar.

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At the keep

2/7/1000 – Second-day 2nd Ripening 1000 YT

Tomek and Natalia stabled their horses and found lodgings at the inn in the outer bailey at Castle Kochilar. Near to the inn, they encountered Fenric Finegelder, a travelling Nemedia jewel merchant who asked for their help. Finegelder was travelling with a number of valuable gems in his possession, returning from the Graaskal Mountains and heading to his home city of Numalia in Nemedia. Fearing robbery, he did not think his two armed guards gave him enough protection and had been counting on the castellan of the keep to provide him with an escort for the next stage of his journey. But with the Garunt Kochilar away from the castle, Finegelder was frustrated to find that it was not possible to hire a contingent of soldiers in his absence.

So Finegelder offered Tomen and Natalia a reward to ride roughly 50 miles along the Border Road bearing a message to the castellan of the next keep in Brythunia’s line of defence. They accepted the offer and agreed to make the journey the next morning.

3/7/1000 – Third-day 3rd Ripening 1000

Tomek and Natalia rode north-east along the Border Road without incident and reached the next keep in good time. However, they were not admitted to the castle, one of the guards telling them that the place was in a state of alert because spies from Hyboria were in detention inside. But the guards took Finegelder’s message and returned with a scroll bearing a promise to send a detachment of men within two days.

On the ride back to Castle Kochilar, Tomek and Natalia found a farmer’s cart overturned on the road. As they approached, they saw a dead peasant, his body dotted with puncture wounds as well as wounds made by blades. There were also signs of another person having been dragged from the cart and up the wooded slope on the Borderlands side of the road. Suddenly, a volley of small javelins rained down from the slope above them and a raiding party of eight kobolds rushed to attack. Tomek sustained a number of wounds before Natalia managed to subdue all eight creatures with a sleep spell. The players decided to seize the kobolds’ weapons but leave them otherwise unharmed. They then rode back to Castle Kochilar, arriving as night fell.

At the castle, the sergeant of the guard asked about Tomek’s wounds and expressed surprise and disapproval when told that the gang of kobolds had been left alive. He told the players that they must speak with the castellan’s secretary in the morning.

Before retiring for the night, Tomek healed his wounds by drinking one third of the precious healing potion in Natalia’s possession.

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Raid on the kobold lair

4/7/1000 – Middleday 4th Ripening 1000 YT

Tomek and Natalia were summoned to the inner bailey of Castle Kochilar where the castellan’s secretary Davhand Silversgleaming scolded them for not finishing off the band of kobolds by which they had been attacked the day before. Silversgleaming explained that such troublesome creatures were a danger to the isolated farms and villages protected by the keep and that their lair must be found and cleared. Two men-at-arms (Horlamin and Waltumal) were ordered to accompany the players back to the scene of the ambush and ensure the kobold lair was dealt with.

The party found the lair with little difficulty and successfully destroyed the numerous kobolds found there. Tomek sustained light wounds.

The party then rode back to the castle, where Silversgleaming decided to reward Tomek and Natalia by giving them the modest quantity of coins that had been liberated from the kobolds. A valuable pendant found on the body of the kobold chief was of more interest to Silversgleaming, hence his decision not to take the coins for the castle’s coffers.

Silversleaming urged the players to keep their loot safe in one of the strong boxes provided by the castle’s broker, Rhom Hordar and to visit Father Yenros to have Tomek’s wounds treated. Both these pieces of advice were heeded.

At the castle chapel, Father Yenros told the players about the recent arrival of another Mitraic priest, Father Belben, who was in the area on a quest to find ancient lost shrines and who was looking for adventurers to accompany him. Yenros also spoke of another new arrival at the keep, a tallfellow halfling on a quest to find his people’s lost village somewhere in the Borderlands.

Tomek and Natalia decided that accompanying Father Belben on his quest sounded like the more promising adventure and sought out the travelling priest. Belben seemed delighted to see them and asked questions about their adventures. On hearing Tomek describe the skirmish with the man apparently possessed by a plant growing from inside his skull, Belben became very excited. He explain that the shrine he was seeking was meant to be protected by a deadly plant with precisely the power described, i.e. the power to take control of any trespasser defiling the shrine. Assured by Tomek that finding the site of the attack would be easy enough, Belben readily persuaded the players to set out with him and his two acolytes, declaring that the journey would begin the following morning.

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On a quest with Father Belben

5/7/1000 – Fifthday 5th Ripening 1000 YT

In the morning, Tomek and Natalia met Father Belben, who introduced his two acolytes Brother Timofey and Brother Casimus, both of whom, he said, had taken a vow of silence. As the party prepared to leave, Fenric Finegelder greeted Tomek and Natalia warmly, thanking them again for their help, giving them a metal token bearing his insignia and inviting them to seek his hospitality should their travels take them to Numalia.

A couple of hours into the journey, Brother Timofey, needing to urinate, dismounted and disappeared into the woods beside the Border Road. Within moments, the sounds of a skirmish could be heard. Belben, Casimus and Tomek rushed to investigate, leading Natalia to watch the horses. Timofey was surrounded by the kobold raiding party first encountered by Tomek and Natalia two days earlier. Their best weapons having been confiscated, a few of the gang had daggers while others were relying on their fangs and claws to suffice in battle. Tomek and the priests slew most of the kobolds, with a couple fleeing into the forest. Light wounds were sustained by all four men but the journey was recommenced once victory had been secured.

Further along the Border Road, the party met a peasant farmer riding towards them on a horse and calling for help. The man explained that a terrifying beast had burst from underground and attacked the isolated woodland village where he lived, killing and eating one of the villagers. Belben declared that the party would come to the aid of the villagers and asked the farmer to lead the way.

The farmer led the group off the Border Road and down a narrow track leading to the nameless hamlet whose small population scratched out a living by providing game, woodland fruits and mushrooms to markets in the two nearest Border Keeps. The party passed the fleeing women and children of the village before arriving in the clearing where the village lay.

The village was under attack by a lone Ankheg. Battle with the beast commenced, with the priests, Tomek and Natalia all doing some damage to the monster before Tomek finally landed the killer blow. But Brother Casimus was cut in half and killed by the beast’s mandibles during the fight. A village man was also killed.

Father Belben performed Mitraic funeral rites for the two dead villagers while Tomek led the frightened women and children back to the hamlet in the clearing. Belben then demanded complete privacy out of sights in the forest for the burial and funeral rites of the slain Casimus.

Belben, knowing that Ankheg’s are rarely found without others being nearby, rode back alone to Castle Kochilar, certain that the castellan’s secretary would agree to send a cavalry detachment to protect the hamlet and hunt down any more beasts in the area. By the time he returned with the mounted soldiers, darkness was drawing in so the party rested overnight in the village.

6/7/1000 – Marketday 6th Ripening 1000 YT

Tomek, Natalia and two remaining priests continued on their way in the morning and before long they found the road on which they encountered the possessed fighting man on the second day of their adventures. On finding the man’s remains, they noted that crows and other scavengers had been picking at the body but had left the decapitated head alone. They could also see that the plant growing from the skull had put down roots and grown noticeably.

Belben then led the way as the party followed the dead man’s trail through the forest. The going was slow and with a pause to slay, cook and eat a wild boar further delaying their progress, the group travelled all day, having good luck following the possessed man’s tracks.

But as evening approached, the trail appeared to have gone cold. Belben demanded privacy to pray to Mitra for guidance and, so saying, disappeared into the forest alone for some time. On his return, he seemed confident he could find the lost shrine and that it was close by.

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Soon afterwards, Belben became very excited when the group rode into a stand of immensely tall trees, one of which was truly strange to behold – high above the ground at the apex of its trunk, it seemed to take the form of a horned animal skull of some sort. It was impossible to tell if this strange form was carved by human hands or some bizarre natural occurrence. Belben said that the answer to his prayer for guidance had told him to follow the direction indicated the left-hand horn of the strange tree. “The Black Temple is close!” he cried before correcting himself and saying that he’d meant to say “the shine is close.” Laughing, he said that he had no idea why he’d said “Black Temple” instead. So the party continued in that direction as the sky above the forest rapidly grew darker.

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Battle in the forest

6/7/1000 – Marketday 6th Ripening 1000 YT

Not far from the strangely formed tree, the party were attacked by three people infested with and controlled by the Yellow Musk Creeper plant. One was a richly-dressed woman with the look of a wealthy Brythunian. The second was a disreputable-looking tough with a sword and a chain mail vest. The third was a darker skinned man in simple dark robes – he appeared to be a foreigner from the distant Settish lands far to the south. Battle was joined and the party prevailed.

Belben then surprised Tomek and Natalia by ordering that the slain strangers’ bodies not be searched for loot in an uncharacteristically angry, hostile voice quite at odds with his previous calm demeanour and good humour. Despite the suspicions this aroused, the players accompanied Belben and Timofey to a clearing where a large Yellow Musk Creeper plant formed part of the dense foliage growing around a mound of some sort. Declaring this to be the entrance to the lost shrine, then apologising to Tomek for his angry words (blaming it on excitement and impatience), Belben directed the party to make camp a safe distance from the Yellow Musk Creeper flowers, announcing that the job of breaching the hidden entrance to the shrine would be undertaken in the morning.

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A terrifying encounter underground

7/7/1000 – Godsday 7th Ripening 1000 YT

In the morning, Belben supervised the destruction of the Yellow Musk Creeper and the clearing of other foliage, thereby revealing the strangely constructed black metal door in the obviously man-made mound underneath.

The party made their way down a flight of stone steps and began to explore. Tomek and Natalia soon realised that they were not in a shrine of Mitra. Sconces on the walls and a mosaic on the floor of the first room they found all suggested the place was connected with some other religion or being entirely.

In another room, a chair made of human bones was found. Inside an old wooden desk, two pages of some very old book were discovered, along with a simple iron key, an ornate platinum ring and a small glass jar containing a glowing green maggot or grub which appeared to be alive. Belben handed the ring to Natalia, declaring it to be of great value but no apparent religious significance, suggesting that it be part of the players’ reward for joining the quest.

In the next room discovered, all hell broke loose! The room appeared to be some kind of prison with cages for detainees, one of which held the skeletal remains of some unfortunate person. Belben paralysed Tomek with a spell. Reacting quickly, Natalia then rendered both priests unconscious with a sleep spell. With great effort, she dragged them into the two empty cages, finding that the key found the previous room operate the locks to both cells. Both priests were still asleep when the spell affecting Tomek began to wear off. Worried and confused, the players continued exploring, finding several sinister rooms (one was a cave containing strange, low tables made from a weird metal and in which they found the remains of some strange tools and some human skulls with the tops cut neatly off; the second appeared to be a temple with a green stone altar marked with strange carvings; the third contained a vast stone cube which gave off a faint but disgusting smell of decay).

At that point, they heard the angry shouts of the now recovered Father Belben and decided to return to the prison room and remonstrate with him. Belben tried to trick Tomek into releasing him but lashed out with his fists once freed. With some difficulty, Tomek and Natalia overpowered the now crazed, ranting priest, locked him back in his cage and rushed out of the underground complex carrying the two priests’ shoulder bags. Tomek was visibly shaken by the sudden and horrible transformation of the previously kindly Father Belben.

As they emerged into the daylight, Tomek and Natalia saw that the weather was turning, with large raindrops beginning to hammer down.

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What next?

7/7/1000 – Godsday 7th Ripening 1000 YT

Shaken by the frightening encounter with the apparently evil Father Belben and Brother Timofey in the strange underground temple, Tomek and Natalia discussed what to do next. Knowing that by doing so they were surely condemning the two priests to die of starvation in the pitch darkness of the subterranean structure, they decided that they had no choice other than to leave the two priests imprisoned there. Both Tomek and Natalia felt bad about it. But having been attacked so viciously by Belben, and not sure what spells he might have at his disposal, they were not prepared to face him again.

They examined Belben’s possessions and found that hidden inside his prayer book were two pages torn from some other tome which bore a striking resemblance to the pages the party had found when searching the temple:

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Reflecting on this, they realised that Belben clearly had a connection to the temple and to the whatever strange cult or deity to which it was dedicated.

They decided to shut the outer door to the temple structure and to camouflage the entrance the best they could, spending almost an hour tearing up bramble and gorse bushes for this purpose. It was decided to keep all of the priests’ valuables (their cash and the various artefacts found in the temple) but not their prayer books, fearing they might be asked how they acquired them. The prayer books, then, were buried in the forest. With the same worries in mind, Tomek freed the priests’ well-kept horses, hoping the animals would wander far away to be found and used by some new owner.

Remembering Belben’s insistence that the bodies of the unfortunate Madame Zhara and her companions (the three people possessed by the Yellow Musk Creeper who had attacked the party the evening before) not be searched, Tomek and Natalia did exactly that. They noted that one of Massac Blueblade’s tattoos resembled the creature shown on the drawings on the pages found in the temple and in Belben’s prayer book. They seized various valuable items – Blueblade’s jewelled dagger, some gold coins and a ruby-eyed pendant in the form of black goat on Madame Zhara’s person. Zhara also had visiting cards giving her address in the city of Blodno. Noting that Belben also hails from that city, the players agreed that there must be some connection between this unfortunate group and Father Belben.

Discussing how to concoct a cover story explaining the disappearance of the two priests, Tomek and Natalia rode into the forest, nothing with concern that the heavy rain would surely make it hard to retrace their own tracks and find the trail up to the Border Road…

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Return to the Keep

7/7/1000 – Godsday 7th Ripening 1000 YT

Tomek and Natalia rode through the forest and after 5 hours’ travel were back on the Border Road. They reached Castle Kochilar as evening was drawing in. At the keep, the sergeant-of-the-watch asked why they were no longer in the company of Father Belben and Brother Timofey. Tomek blurted out a story about waking in the forest to the sound of screams and finding the priests gone. “We found big footprints. Perhaps a troll’s”, he said to the suspicious sergeant.

The sergeant reminded the players than all priests of Mitra are under the protection of nobles and of the king’s forces. So saying, he informed them they would be taken to the Castellan’s secretary in the morning and questioned about the disappearance of the two priests.

Before retiring for the night, Tomek and Natalia met the tallfellow halfling Graddak Gladdenstone, who told them the story of his people’s expulsion from Aquilonia three hundred years ago. The halfling described how his clan had then settled in an a remote part of the Borderlands. He went on to say that around 150 years ago, the community had been devastated by orcs and his people driven from their homes once again, leaving behind their most valuable treasures in a secret place he felt sure the orcs would not have discovered since. The quest to find the treasure, he told the adventurers, would involve riding most of the way along the north bank of the Border River before turning north into the Borderlands – a journey of perhaps 300 miles or more! Tomek and Natalia agreed to join the quest and to ride out with their new companion in the morning.

But they retired for the night worrying about what to say when questioned in the morning about the disappearance of Father Belben.

8/7/1000 – Firstday 8th Ripening 1000 YT
Early the next morning, Tomek and Natalia heard the portcullis of the keep’s main gate opening to admit a number of farmers’ carts. On realising that the gate was going to stay open awhile, they briefly considered the idea of fleeing the keep to avoid the promised questioning. But they decided to stay and face the music, still debating what story they should tell…

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