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The Lost Ruins of Belsoketh

By Wesley Quadros
January, 2004

Summary
The heroes are sent into the forests of Ashrill to find a lost temple from the age of Khorzanelm the Magnificent. Competing searchers, an ancient guardian and wandering trolls complicate the operation.

History
Lukarius felled the Blue Moon which destroyed the city of Mernita. Many holy sites and ancient secrets were lost under the crushing stone of the Blue Moon; many more were buried under the ice. During the reign of Khorzanelm attempts were made to rediscover lost powers. Expeditions found and plundered various thingies. One site, found by a noble from Joranit named Arshkodavu, was settled and became a base of exploration in the surrounding area. Soon after the conquest by Arkat the Gbaji contact with Arshkodavu's settlement, Belsoketh, faded and finally was lost.

Recently, your house learned of Arshkodavu's settlement and its rough location but the team sent in to investigate never came back.

Introduction
Each campaign will have individual methods of getting the heroes involved in this expedition. A game based around a league or association can have the heroes assigned the task or asked to perform it by their superiors. A mercenary campaign can have them hired to join the expedition.

Sail for 1 day north of Bavero on the east coast of the White Sea. Enter the salt marshes east of Yunkedevo Island and keep to the eastern shore until you see Arshkodavu's Seat (roughly 50 miles from Bavero). Journey three days up the river portaging at the falls and crossing a perfectly clear lake and you will come to the village/town of Belsoketh where Arshkodavu made his home and delved for ancient secrets.

Travelling to Ashrill
There are many ways that the heroes can reach Ashrill. The quickest is by ship. Getting passage should be rather easy. If the heroes have access to a ship, then get them on their way. If they need to find passage have them test negotiation augmented by their relationship to their league and other abilities to find reasonably priced passage. Remember that horses are difficult to transport by ship so your heroes will probably be walking for most of this adventure.

Locations
Arshkodavu's Seat
Arshkodavu's Seat is an ancient watch tower that stood over the moorage in the river's mouth. Over the years it has sunk into the sea and now stands 30 or 40 feet high and is canted 30degrees. It still marks the proper river. The ancient moorage is long sunk into the marshes though signs of habitation can be found if looked for.

The River
The heroes need to make their way up the river. This is best accomplished by boat as the river is too small for the ship that brought them and the banks at the mouth are too marshy for easy hiking. There will be ancient campsites with mooring posts every 10 miles along the river banks where barges could be tied off at night. The posts were intricately carved with faces of guardian spirits and images of the river daimone. Many have now toppled or become so overgrown that they are difficult to recognise. Each site has a small shrine to the river where sacrifices could be made before the day's journey.

The Portage
Two days journey up river from Arshkodavu's Seat are the Veil Falls - so named because they reminded the first settlers of Dendara's veil.

There is a stone landing beside the falls with mooring posts like those along the river. There are guardian statues around the landing that face the forest - most are heavily overgrown. The statues look like carved representations of ancient hoplites - heavily weathered over the centuries so there is little that is still recognisable about them - with a hand outstretched in warning or warding. Similar to the previous way stations, there is a shrine here as well.

A set of broken stairs leads around the falls and comes to a similar landing above that rests on the bank of a large lake. This landing is surrounded the ruins of an ancient way-stop. Ruins of several buildings sit clustered on the shore and some show evidence of having once being richly appointed. The shrine at this landing appears to have been larger than the previous ones and is dedicated to the spirits of the lake.

The lake itself is crystal clear and still. The lake is the home to a large water spirit - or daimone, or essence - and its myriad servants. How these beings interact with your heroes will vary depending on the heroes' actions and the needs of your story.

The Camp
A day past the lake, the heroes find the remains of a camp on the side of the river. There are several smashed boats and shredded tents. There are also two heads mounted on spears leering at the river - they should be recognisable to the heroes as being from their own house. This was where the previous expedition camped.

Investigating the camp will reveal signs of a battle and tracks from many trolls and trollkin. There are the gnawed bones of a man tossed into the brush at one point. Nothing of value to a troll has been left behind - so there may be a few gold trinkets among the wreckage but nothing else.

The heroes will need to find out where the actual ruins are. If they follow the tracks made by the previous expedition should be able to find them within a day. The previous expedition cut several tracks through the forest in different directions, on both sides of the river. The ruins are about 2 miles south of the camp. Over the centuries, the river has changed course and no longer passes the old town.

The Ruins
These are the ruins of Belsokoth, a Dara Happan settlement from the Dawn Age when the World Council of Friends ruled. There isn't much left to show what the individual buildings were but the central ziggurat to Yelm is recognisable and the other ruins radiate in a typical Dara Happan circular layout from the central square until the crumbled outer walls are reached. Those that have the knowledge will recognise the architecture as being Dawn Age Dara Happan and there are still a few inscriptions the can be read praising the Emperor Khorzanelm and the noble Arshkodavu. Most of the ruins are drowned in centuries of humus, vines and brush. The old fields have long been overgrown but the settlement's outer boundaries can be followed by looking for the guardian stones - like those found at the lake.

The ruins are inhabited by a gang of trolls who were disturbed by the previous expedition and were quite happy at the unexpected supply of free meat. At various points around the part of the ruins that the trolls use are guardian fetishes that their shaman has prepared. Unless the heroes spot the fetishes and find a way of avoiding the troll's guardian spirit, the troll should not be surprised by the heroes.

The remains of the rest of the expedition can be found among the trolls' camp. Several of the labourers' corpses are handing from trees as they have not been eaten yet. The leader of the expedition, one of the house leader's sons is still missing.

The Ziggurat
Investigating the ruins will reveal a barricaded opening in the side of the ziggurat - the barricade evidently built by somebody to keep something inside the ziggurat. There are human tracks leading into the opening.

Within the ziggurat the inscriptions are clearer, not having been weathered over the millennia. However, the carvings are of a different style than those in the rest of the settlement; these praise the Golden Dragon Emperor.

The halls and rooms of this small complex are littered with ancient weapons and bones. The heroes may recognise them as being from the same era as the rest of the ruins though some are much more recent and appear to be the remains of slain trolls.

In one of the anterooms that the heroes investigate they find the body of their lord's son in his golden armour. It appears that he fled here when the trolls attacked his party. His tunic is rent as though by a great blade and there is a piece of obsidian still embedded in his chest-plate.

The final guardian of the temple, a warrior dragonewt, will make his appearance now.

Obstacles
Glowline
The adventure takes place beyond the Glow Line.

Rival Intervention
A rival house has also learned of your mission and wishes to have Belsoketh's secrets for themselves. They have sent a heroband of their own to follow the heroes, learn what they know, eliminate them and claim Belsoketh for themselves.

The rival band will make their move when it seems most profitable to them. It could be when the heroes find Arshkodavu's Seat, it could be when they are making their way around the falls or it could be some night when they are camped in the ruins of Belsoketh.

Rival party:
Scholar and/or wizard 10w
Champion 18w
House troopers 2w

Troll Hunters
The entire region of Ashrill is overshadowed by the Blue Moon plateau and the trolls that live there treat the forests as one of their huntlands. There are parties of trollkin and dark troll hunters throughout the forest. If you heroes don't think about the troll threat, remind them gently. Have a trollkin spotted on the shore watching them paddle by; have the tracks of a dark troll appear by their camp in the morning; or have a winged troll fly overhead in the night.

Troll gang 1
Dark troll hunters 10w
Value trollkin 16

Troll gang 2
Flying, winged trolls 17w

Lake Nymphs
The Crystal lake is the home to a large spirit and its servants. How they react to the heroes and the heroes to the spirits is up the narrator.

Big spirit 9w2
Little spirits 12 - 8w

Abilities
Alluring Song, Drown, Splash, Water spout, Whirlpool …

Troll Camp
These trolls have lived here for some time and established their own guardian spirit.

Troll camp
Champion 13w
Shaman 15w
Warriors 19
Misc Trollkin 7
There will be a couple of mothers and pups around.

Guardian
Awareness 4w (Sense Intruder)
Blessing 2w (See in light)
Defence 6w (Resist Dragon)

The Dragonewt
Long ago, during the rule of the Golden Dragon Emperor, Belsoketh was resettled and the delvings began anew. With the overthrow of the EWF Belsoketh was again cut off from the rest of the Empire and again was lost to history. There is one guardian left from that time, an ancient dragonewt warrior who had staunchly defended the ziggurat against all intruders.

Dragonewt warrior 18w
Klanth Fighting 2w2
Large 15
Strong 15

Wrap-up
Post-Script
The heroes have probably routed the trolls and slain the dragonewt. They will need to report back to their house on their findings and bring their lord the sad news about his son. What loot there may be lying around the ziggurat after 800 years is up to the narrator. What loot has the troll gang accumulated? That is also up to the narrator.

Future Plot Hooks
This is a site of some power, it must be, for it drew first Emperor Khorzanelm and then the EWF. The heroes' house decides to re-establish the settlement. The heroes are asked to participate in positions befitting their abilities.

The rival house hasn't given up yet and sends marauders to clear the new settlers. What do the heroes do?

What do the heroes do when the scattered trolls tell their clan what happened to them and their families come to take back what was theirs?


 

 

 

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22 January 2004