Adventure 3 – Through the Wild Wood
Tycho grumbled as morning birds filled the forest with their song. Three days had not yet passed and Tycho was already growing to hate these woods. He had been assaulted by living rock, itchbane weed, the undead, and lizardmen. He was so accustomed to being locked in dark tunnels that even the sound of the birds was an assault on his ears. Stretching, the halfling fighter rose to wake the others. As he walked through the small village they had taken shelter in overnight he stopped to look down at the lifeless face of one of the many feral halflings that had been killed by the lizardmen the night before. Weaklings, the lot of them. They never knew what true strength was like he did. He snarled and continued on to where the party slept. “Up, the lot of you! Time to get out of these gods forsaken woods!”
Jasmind gave the fighter a scathing look. He was an able combatant but had no respect for the beauty of the wilds or the people that lived within. Her mind drifted back to the diabolist agent among the wood elf tribes. A demonic presence in the Wild Wood was unsettling. The history of the Wild Wood was often lost among civilized folk, but she knew stories of an age past when the demons ripped through a scar in the earth. Many would say it only happened at the sight of the Abyss, but they would be wrong. The Abyss was the demons’ second attempt at bringing chaos to the empire. They had tried once before that and were pushed back only when the High Druid and an Emperor of a previous age stood united against them. Drove them back they did, but the battle also tore apart the short lived peace between the Icons. The High Druid never forgave the Emperor’s forces for disrespecting the forest. So began the distrust between the High Druid and the Emperors to come. Now the Diabolist had her hand in the Wild Wood and that could only mean trouble. As she assembled her gear, Jasmind vowed to herself that she would do all she could to prevent that. She had no direct relation to the High Druid, but she had sworn once to the Elf Queen that she would help protect the wild elves that lived among these woods.
Using the tower in the distance as a guide the party set forth north. An hour into traveling they came across a small cliff face that gave them a better view of the path that lie before them. Between them and the tower a great chasm tore deep into the earth. On the south side of the chasm stood a structure with a stone dome. Vaelen gasped, “It can’t be! That’s the first demon scar! And there, that’s the Citadel of Autumn’s End!” Jasmind’s ears perked up and she looked sharply at the cleric. Just who was this human and how did he come to know so much of the Wild Wood….
“The crash rattled your sense of direction Vaelen. The Abyss lies hundreds of leagues to the west,” Gillian reminded him.
The cleric waved his hand, “No no, different scar. This one was out dates the other by ages. Different Emperor, perhaps even a different High Druid. The Emperor and High Druid united their forces to construct a Citadel to keep the demons back until they could finally seal it. Amazing that the Citadel dome still stands.” Vaelen was about to continue when a rattling in the bushes interrupted him. The party turned quickly, ready to fight whatever danger that may come. Just then Kzzmet and Billups stumbled out of a bush.
Both the dwarf and the high elf had dialated eyes and were obviously several sheets to the wind. Kzzmet slapped the high elf across the back when he saw the others. “I told ye we would find ’em!” The dwarf stumbled forward and grabbed Vaelen by the shirt. “You’ll never believe it! I found this bloody oaf stuck in a tree singing to a flock of angry water nymphs! Took ’em out, we did, and guess what! Water nymph water makes a FINE drink!”
Vaelen could hardly believe his ears. “You…. drank a water nymph?”
Kzzmet beamed up at Vaelen. “Aye, we both did! Many, in fact!” Billups swooned behind Kzzmet and let loose an abrupt laugh. Jasmind gasped in shock, horrified at the notion.
Vaelen looked back at the rest of the party members. “Perhaps we should rest a moment. Let them recover their senses.”
Gillian offered Kzzmet a skin of water. “I think you better drink some normal water for a bit, friend. Sober up a bit.” She handed another skin to Billups who eagerly drank up and wiped his lips. The bard opened his eyes, pointed behind then, and screamed. A giant shadow fell on the party as a massive eagle descended upon them. Before anyone could react the eagle sank his talons into Penny and flew off with the Half-Orc.
Stunned to silence the party could only watch as the eagle flew off with their barbariana companion. Eventually Vaelen broke the silence, “Well…. if anyone is going to survive that, it would be Penny. Gods be with her. We’d best not stay out in the open any longer.” The party carefully made their way down the cliff’s edge, pausing several times to assist Kzzmet and Billups. When they reached the bottom of the cliff, they all set out for the direction of the tower.
Kzzmet took point, still giggling from the nymph water, but insisting his keen tracker skills would not fail them. Disgusted, Jasmind took the rear guard, intent on staying away from the dwarf and high elf until they sobered up. Tycho was about to make a joke about the way Kzzmet seemed to be prancing, almost frolicking, through the forest when he heard a twig snap. “Did anyone else hear that?” A strangled scream erupted behind them as a ferocious owlbear burst from the bushes and sank its beak into Jasmind’s shoulder. Tycho unsheathed his sword and smiled. Now here was a foe worth fighting. Owlbears were known as the most vicious, aggressive and evil-tempered beasts in the empire. This was exactly the challenge the halfling lived for. Raising his sword the fighter ran forward, “CHARGE!”
Sadly, Tycho was left disappointed. The owlbear that attacked Jasmind seemed half starved to death and ravenous. The party dispatched it quickly before it could even land another blow to one of them. The only good the battle had done was finally sober up Billups and Kzzmet. Kzzmet hoisted the Owlbear corpse over his shoulder and started reciting a few recipes for owlbear that he knew. The sorcerer had already partially cooked the owlbear with a chaotic fire ball and the dwarf wasn’t about to let good meat go to waste.
The owlbear must have driven the other beasts of the surrounding areas away. Not a single beast or creature was seen as they marched along. Billups noticed that the flora around him began to take on the amber tones of autumn. He would have to write a song about this later. As he was looking at the golden leaves on the trees above, he walked right into Gillian who had stopped midstep. Ahead of them stood the remains of the Citadel of Autumn’s End. The dome stood firm with very little sign of age, but the ringfort around it was crumbling in places. Atop the walls were several statues of the champions who once defended the citadel. The bard remembered a song about their deeds that he had learned among the High Druid’s circle. Softly, he began to hum the chords to himself.
As the party climbed over the crumbling wall they spread out to investigate the ruins. Kzzmet admired the handiwork of dwarven architecture in the dome and knew that it would stand firm for centuries. Billups continued to examine the statues on the walls, bringing back his memories of their tales. Gillian tried to make sense of the ancient rune script, but found most it was covered up with dense twisting vines. Jasmind and Vaelen entered into the ringfort to find one large immaculate statue of an imperial knight and a crumbled statue of an elven lord. Jasmind pointed out the symbol on the elven lord’s chest as a member of the Druidic Circle.
Vaelen was examing the imperial knight when Kzzmet called out to them from one of the walls. “There’s a section of the wall here with the runes still inact!” Jasmind spun around to tell the dwarf not to touch anything, but it was too late. When the dwarf’s hand came in contact with the rune the Citadel of Autumn’s End came alive. Two bright orbs burst forth from the wall and flew at the two statues that Jasmind and Vaelen were standing next to. One of the orbs disappeared into the imperial knight statue. The second orb flew over to where the elven statue once stood, paused a moment, then exploded sending several shimmering lights throughout the citadel.
When the party looked around they saw that the lights had formed into thirty elven spirits. They were surrounded. The party hesitated, not knowing if the spirits were hostile. The answer came when the imperial statue in front of Vaelen came to life and raised a massive war axe. The Aegis, a being created only to protect the citadel at all costs, had been activated. Kzzmet backed away from the wall, hands held high. “I didn’t do it, I swear!”
Outside the ringfort Billups, Gillian and Tycho found themselves surrounded by angry spirits. Billups was the first to attack the spirits that neared him in defense and yelled out a moment later when a giant imperial statue holding an ax walked around the wall headed right at him. Tycho made to charge at the statue but was swarmed by several spirits crowding around him. Gillian saw the spirits swarm around the halfling and tapped into her infernal heritage, allowing the demonic power to flower through her.
Inside the ringfort, Vaelen, Kzzmet and Jasmind found themselves completely surrounded by the spirits. Every time a spirit touched they felt a painful surge of energy charge through their skin. On their own the little shocks were merely a nuisance, but so many presented a formidable threat. Determined to unite with their allies outside the three of them carved a way through the spirit swarm with sword, hammer, and shield. Kzzmet had just rolled out from the doorway when he saw the Aegis stop his ax from crashing down into Billup’s skull.
The Aegis recognized the High Druid’s mark on the Bard and turned instead towards Gillian. The shadow of a demon’s wings had just unfurled behind the sorcerer giving the half elf a demonic form. Before Gillian could unleash the raw energy she had been gathering the Aegis and a swarm of spirits fell down upon her. The Aegis’s ax sank deep into her shoulder and her world turned white as the spirit’s energy shocked her. Unable to withstand so many wounds the sorcerer collapsed to the ground.
Watching Gillian go down, Billups sang out a hymn of restoration to help cure the sorcerer’s wounds. The bard was relieved when Gillian began to stir, but the danger was not over yet. Kzzmet, Vaelen, and Jasmind cut down the lesser spirits that blocked their path and rushed in to help their ally. Billups ran up behind them and started a purifying rythm that would put the spirits in the statue to rest. Just as the Aegis was about to strike Gillian again it stilled, the ax dropping harmlessly to its side. Gillian rose unsteadily to her feet and even though the Aegis was defeated she made sure it stayed that way by blasting the statue to pieces with a lighting fork.
The party was ready to breath a sigh of relief when they heard Tycho call out to them. The halfling had been surrounded by spirits the entire battle was finding it difficult to strike them down with his slow two-handed greatsword. Getting assistance from others was not something Tycho was used to, but he would gladly take it to be rid of these annoying spirits. With the help of Jasmind and his travel companions the remaining spirits were swiftly defeated.
After the party took some time to recover from their wounds they moved past the dome to inspect their surroundings. The battle had knocked free some of the dwarven stonework and behind it Kzzmet found a leather belt that would perfectly hold his healing potion. From the pieces of the Aegis, Gillian found a shimmering ring that was likely left by one of the wizards who created the Aegis. When no other items of use could be found the party made their way to the edge of the citadel which overlooked the vast chasm that carved into the terrain. Tycho let loose a long drawn out whistle. Knowing the terrain better than the others Jasmind spoke up, “The chasm is far too wide to get around. It’ll take days. We need some way to get across.”
Vaelen walked over to a towering tree that looked more than tall enough to cover the distance across the chasm if they could manage to knock it down. The cleric studied the tree and thought back on the strength he has learned from the Crusader. “With a god’s blessing we should be able to get one of these trees down. I may be able to channel the essence of destruction into our weapons.”
Gillian approached him dragging the axe the Aegis had carried with her. “I had the same idea. This axe should do the trick. I can attest to its ability to destroy.” Vaelen collected the party’s weapons and put them in a circle around the ax. Praying to his gods, he performed a ritual to channel destructive energy into the blades and hammers before him. Tycho picked up his weapon, feeling the hum of energy pulse through it. Eagerly, he marched over to the tree and started hacking away at the trunk. Giant splinters of wood flew through the air as his sword sank deep. While Jasmind was hesitant to destroy such an old tree she saw the necessity in it and joined Tycho. The others followed suit.
Using their divinely blessed weapons, they quickly hacked down the massive tree and watched it fall across the chasm. With a gigantic thud it crashed onto the other side, groaning from the impact. Quickly, the party made their way onto the massive tree bridge. A crunch was the only warning they had before the tree buckled underneath them. Kzzmet looked wide eyed at his companions and yelled at the top of his lungs, “RUN!” In a frenzy they all hustled across the bridge. Kzzmet and Billups trailed the party and leapt from the tree to the side of the chasm just as the makeshift bridge cracked and fell to the floor below. Kzzmet took a drag from his flask, and muttered “Lets never do that again.”
The other side of the chasm had been afflicted with some form of demonic energy pulsing from the giant scar. The terrain used to be a simple swamp with a series of small pools and rivers throughout. Now the terrain had been twisted against them. As they made their way through the muck they were assaulted by licks of flame spurting from the earth, sandpits that sank like lightning, and rodents of unusual size that nipped at their legs and feet. Billups had had enough of this swamp. Another gout of flame erupted near him as he stood next to a pool of water. “Inconceivable!!!”
Billups barely got the words out of his mouth when a large tentacle shot out of the pool and wrapped around the high elf. Tentacles continued to shoot out from other pools around them, surrounding the adventurers. Behind the tentacles large eyeless gaping maws of teeth snapped at them. Kzzmet had heard stories of Otyugh’s before, but never in the wild. He quickly rushed toward the Bard’s aid, hammering away at the beast. A scream went forth from Billups as teeth sank into his torso. Gillian pulled together her power and launched a sizzling bolt at the beast nearest her, followed quickly by Vaelen’s blessed hammer. Jasmind and Tycho guarded the back of the adventurers as they dealt with two of the Otyugh’s by themselves. Slowly and bloodily the party fought back the swarm of tentacles and teeth, eventually standing victorious and covered in filth.
The swamp continued on for several miles, and the hazards did not stop. Eventually the party became used to the warning signs of lighting sand and flame spurts so travel became slightly easier. An odd clicking noise kept alerting them of incoming flames. Kzzmet was also able to track the signs of the rodents in the wetlands so he could help the party to avoid them. Tycho smiled again, “You know, once you get used to this place, its not so bad. I could even build a house here!” The rest of the party laughed him down, obviously mistaking his statement for a joke. He kept his mouth shut for the rest of the day as they made their way out of the swamp and back into the forest proper.
When dusk fell they could see the swamp no more. They had entered into heavily wooded areas again, occasionally catching glimpses of the tower in the distance. The sun began to set and sounds of the night again surrounded them. When they reached a rise looking over the surrounding woods, they heard snarls sound out from the shadows of the trees. As eyes lit up in the night Jasmind swore in elven, “Direwolves. Run!” The party fled towards the tower, but all the mud that had collected on their armor from the swamp weighed them down. The massive dire wolves had no trouble keeping pace, stalking and circling the party for almost a mile before closing in. The party had just reached a small clearing with an owl perched on a small branch at its center when the wolves attacked.
Claw and teeth ripped away at the adventurers as they struggled to hold their ground. Kzzmet had just wrestled one off of him when he could have sworn a boulder slammed into his back. Twisting around, he saw a wolf the size of a horse above him, its fur spotted with sharp pointed bits of what looked like tree bark. He smashed his hammer into the Alpha Wolf’s head and went in for more. Vaelen had channeled the full might of his gods into his hammer and swung the glowing weapon with conviction. Tycho and Billups held the rear as they danced between two nimble wolves, fighting tooth and claw with steel and song.
A howl through the trees warned of more wolves on their way – The pack was larger than the party originally thought. Gillian had just freed herself of a younger wolf and began pulling together whatever arcane energies she had left. Vaelen stepped by her side to protect the sorcerer. Kzzmet had the shaft of his hammer between the Alpha’s jaws when he noticed the sleek silvery owl for the first time. He had seen an owl like that before. His mind racing, the dwarf tried to remember something important. The Archmage was fond of seeing the empire through the eyes of homoculi and familiars. That was it! The archmage’s familiars were all silvery owls!
Kzzmet was about to yell out to everyone to guard the owl when more wolves emerged from the treeline and sped towards the party. Before the wolves could reach them the owl flew at one of the wolves and clawed at its face. The wolf turned and fled back into the forest. The owl circled around in the air to chase off another wolf when an arrow plucked it from the air. Eyes wide, Kzzmet looked incrediously towards the shooter. The bard was fumbling with a crossbow, obviously not too familar with handling ranged weapons. Billups had intended to shoot the wolf, but a critical miss had taken out the Archmage’s owl familiar instead. The Archmage would not be pleased.
“Billups, you idgit! That was one of the Archmage’s familiars! We could have gotten help!” The dwarf was about to shout more obscenities at the bard when the alpha wolf barreled into him again, snapping him back into the battle at hand. Tycho swept in, knocking the wolf away. The next moment a thunderous crack reverberated through the clearing. Lighting streamed down from the sky, through Gillian’s oustretched palms and out again to the wolves. Day seemed to turn to night as a gigantic sweeping arc of lightning burned through the remaining wolves. The alpha slumped down on the ground next to Kzzmet.
Gillian was still coming down off the high of having so much energy pass through her. She walked over to the owl corpse and nudged it with her boot. “We don’t want the likes of that man’s help. His help always comes at a price.”
Tycho picked up the owl’s corpse and looked to the owlbear carcass they had retrieved before. His gaze continued to the defeated wolves and a genius idea popped into his head. “We make camp here tonight”, the halfling declare. When the others moved to object that they were so close to the tower the halfling put his foot down. As the others began setting up camp Tycho disappeared behind some trees to get to work. When the party had a fire going the halfling reemerged with a very stuffed owlbear. “Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we feast on OWOLFBEAR!!!”
Vaelen, Billups and Gillian looked up confused. Jasmind’s face turned green. A big smile that only a dwarf could pull off spread across Kzzmet’s face. “Brilliant!”
The timber wolf mooks were substituted out for a normal pack of dire wolves. And yes, the party did indeed declare that they used the owl, wolves, and owlbear to make a stuffed roast, “Turducken” style.
The individual who plays Kzzmet sent us this feedback to share. Connecting our players to the 13th Age world and inspiring them to run their own games is exactly what we love hearing!
“I really appreciate the fact you guys, Sarah and Ben, put so much effort and care into making sure that we all have a great time and that all of the events are so balanced and interesting. I especially have been enjoying this adventure and can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Nothing like slaying Owlbears, punching mud monsters in the face with axes and zapping wolves with ball lighting. It’s a very good mix of encounters and storyline that has kept me wanting to know more about the 13th age world, especially when there are such myriad ways to tie in things like Icon Relationships and backgrounds. Overall, I really enjoy this system, and the game and playing with you guys it really makes me want to make my own adventure.”