Adventure 4 – The Tower of Alamede
Vaelen was dreaming of his march with the Crusader when a soft girlish giggle broke his slumber. His instincts took over and he bolted up with his warhammer in hand. The laughter once again sounded over the wind ever so softly. The forest was still dark, but pre-dawn illuminated the sky above him in a purple glow. Gifted with keen eyesight, Vaelen immediately saw small wet footprints in the dew-soaked grass around their camp site. Vaelen marched over to Kzzmet’s bedroll and kicked it open. The dwarf was gone. A quick check showed Billups the bard absent as well. Cursing, Vaelen moved across the camp and shook Gillian awake. “Wake yourself. It looks like the water nymphs got the better of Kzzmet and Billups again!”
Gillian groggily got to her feet. She yawned and looked around their camp to confirm was Vaelen said was true. “Those two have broken free of the Nymphs before. I’m sure they’ll make it out okay.” She kicked Tycho who was still snoring loudly on the forest floor. “Up with you, we’ve got tracks to make. The tower is within a day’s walk.” With some grumbled protest, the halfling fighter packed up his gear. Jasmind was tending to Kzzmet and Billups belongings – If they met up again, she wanted to be sure they would be provided for.
Setting out just after dawn, the party of four made surprisingly good time across the Wild Wood. Haflway through the morning they came across a handful of mindless brutes with crystals protruding from several parts of their body. They had seen these mutated infected before, back in the prison tunnels on Darkskye during the crash. Even though the faces of the mutated had been warped, Tycho recognized them as members of his gang from the prison. As the mutated infected shambled towards the party Tycho brought his blade down upon their heads. “Never liked these blokes anyway. They were weak. Pretty sure they owed me money too…” The Halfling quickly rummaged through their pockets and pulled out a handful of coins. He patted their heads, “Consider your debts settled!”
No more than a 100 feet off they found where the infected had come from. A jagged chunk of Darkskye had crashed down into this section of the forest. It speared right into the earth, spilling its remaining prisoners out into the forest. Crystal growth spread rampantly out from the wreckage into the woods beyond. Gillian crossed her arms. “Great. I was hoping we’d see the last of these crystals. Best be on the look out. The magic those things hold is incredibly volatile.” Weapons ready, the party made their way through the wilds yet again.
As the adventurers made their way through a dense undergrowth they saw the tower clearly for the first time. Vaelen nudged Jasmind and pointed east of the tower where a village could now be seen, previously obscured by the dense vegetation of the Wild Wood. “Over there. Another village. They may be able to point us in the direction of New Port.” The cleric gestured for the others to follow then set off.
As the party neared the village they were surprised to see it had no obvious walls or sentries posted around its exterior. The buildings all appeared to be residential in nature and arranged in a radial pattern, save a large communal structure which stood in the middle. Small fruit and vegetable fields surrounded the outskirts of the village and planter boxes filled with herbs could be seen outside nearly every home. Most of the homes were constructed out of wood and the pillars were covered thick with fruit vines. To the party’s surprise, the villages were not elves as expected, but rather human and approached them the moment they were within sight. The villagers that approached wore simple linen clothes and none of them weilded any weapons. Given the dangers of the Wild Wood, the lack of defenses or weapons made them uneasy.
A kind faced woman in her middle years approached them first, her arms extended in welcome. “Welcome to Alamede Village! My name’s Elenri. I hope you haven’t had any trouble reaching us! Come, come, rest your worries a while! Traveling through the woods must have been so dreadful with what has been happening lately. That crash a few nights past has us all worried. But don’t you mind that, you’re safe here!”
As the woman chattered on the party all shared suspicious glances. At first all eyes were on Jasmind, but the paladin shrugged her shoulders slightly to indicate she was unfamilar with this village. Vaelen leaned in towards Tycho and whispered, “Be on guard. This could be a trick.”
Never one to lower his voice Tycho echoed his suspicion loudly, “You’re right. No one is this nice.”
The woman stopped mid-sentence and looked down at the halfling. “Oh dear, you poor thing. You must have been around so many terrible people to lose sight of kindness in this world. Here at Alamede village we hold hospitality at our highest virtue. Please, come rest, we ask for no coin in return.”
Tycho looked ready to proudly declare that he was terrible himself so Jasmind spoke up quickly to change the topic. “What is this place? I thought the Elves were the only ones to have settlements here.”
“Come, see!” Elenri said with a smile and led them back to the village. When they had passed a few houses the woman stopped her tour to rustle through one of the many fruit vines covering the houses. “Alamede originally grew around the wizard tower southwest of here. Perhaps you’ve seen it, yes?” Elenri held out a handful of berries that she had just picked to a perplexed Gillian. With the woman watching expectantly, the sorceress slowly popped a berry into her mouth and nodded slowly. “Good, good. The village gets its name from the wizard that once resided in the tower. Alamain abandoned his tower long ago. Good riddance. A terrible man who did terrible things, but nothing you need to worry yourselves with. All you need to know is that all who live here now do so in absolute peace.”
Tycho snorted, “Yeah right, I’ll believe that when the Orc Lord wears an evening gown.” When Elenri looked at him confused he continued, “There is no possible way you can survive the horrors in the woods that we have faced without arms.”
The woman gave another charming smile, “Oh, the wood elves handle everything like that. We give them herbs; they make sure no scary old beasts sneak into the village at night to steal our children.” She laughed as if she told a joke. Tycho looked incredulously at his companions, but the woman didn’t notice and continued, “You are welcome to stay here, so long as you make your keep. We ask no coin from you, but there are plenty of chores to be had if you ask around. You’ll find everyone quite welcoming!” She leaned in and hugged a very uncomfortable Gillian then wandered off to help with some gardening.
Tycho looked around desperately, “Not a single weapon?! These people have gone nutters!” It was then that he noticed a younger lad with a simple short bow slung over his back. “AH! A hunter! Finally someone who understands strength!” The fighter marched over the lad and grasping his shoulder he proclaimed loudly, “What’s your name lad? Doesn’t matter. Come on, I need to kill something soon. Let’s hunt!” The man was obviously confused but trustingly followed the halfling into the woods.
Jasmind noticed Elenri helping one of the elders with a large vegetable garden. She strode over and offered to help. The older man handed her a trowel and introduced himself as Modupe Adenjii. He was a kind old soul, and made the Paladin feel as welcome as a longtime friend. She felt good to get her hands back into the earth again; it reminded her of her youth growing up among the wood elves in the court of stars. With their work done, Modupe was happy to invite Jasmind inside his house where he prepared some additional travel rations for the party.
Vaelen knew where his talents lay and went to see the local healer. He found the healer tending to her herb garden. When he offered to help, the wizened old woman took one look at his travel worn clothes and gestured to her house. “There’s a bath inside and it seems like you need a wash. Go clean up then you can help me all that you like.” Thankful, the cleric made way to the bath, eager to refresh himself. Once clean, he happily helped the old woman as she did her rounds around the village to treat anyone with ailments. Vaelen quickly discovered that weapons were not the only absent thing here. The villagers seemed to lack any magical abilities as well. When he inquired about it the villagers the elders told him that while they would not protest to him using his divine arts to heal, magic had been forsworn by all villagers due to the evil Alamain onced caused with it. The cleric tried teaching them that magic was not evil by nature, but if nothing else the villager elders seemed stubborn in their simple ways. Vaelen thought better to argue further and helped aid anyone that sought out the village healer during the day. After a few hours the healer handed two healing poultices to Vaelen, “For your troubles. Go ahead and take it.”
Knowing the biggest gossips in the village tending to be those that did not know any better, Gillian sought out a group of children playing in the center of the village. Curious as they were, they approached her and started asking questions. With a mischievous smile, she offered to tell them a story in exchange for questions of her own. They eagerly agreed and sat down in front of her. Gillian may not have been a bard, but her experience in the Hell Marsh gave her the ability to tell a horrifying tale. By the end of her story, three of the children had run off crying and the others were on the verge of tears. “Those stories are too scary! Scarier than Alamain and his evil plants!” Intrigued the Sorceress asked for them to tell her more about Alamain. Apparently the old mage had been running experiments on the plants and villagers and nobody was allowed to go to the tower since he left all of his magical artifacts there. The children thought the artifacts were evil, but Gillian had other thoughts in mind.
Around dusk they all reunited to the village square. Tycho was the last to arrive, his face distraught. When Jasmind asked what happened, he sullenly shook his head. “The kid with the bow, Yetune. I tried to tell him that he should take whatever he wants from this world with no regrets. He was so confused that I stole his bow and said it was mine. The thing is, he just smiled and asked me if I liked the craftsmanship. He’d gladly part with it since I liked it so much!” Tycho groaned. “What is wrong with these people?!” Gillian chuckled a bit before relaying what she had learned about the tower, including the artifacts within. Tycho perked up, “Treasure?! Yes, anything to rid me of this village. Tomorrow we ransack the tower! A little loot and pillaging fix everything!”
Later that night they shared a meal stew with the villagers. The food was largely vegetarian and the only one who truly seemed to appreciate it was Vaelen who had taken to boasting about an odd vegetable diet ever since he picked up his magic shield from the graveyard days past. It seemed everyone in Alamede was simple going and carefree. The constant stream of smiling faces was downright unsettling. When one of the village elders detailed how to get to New Port or how to contact the nearby wood elves, the party politely nodded their heads. They thought it more prudent to not tell the villagers their intent to plunder the tower for riches.
Alamain’s abondoned tower was not too far from the village. The structure had a magical blue aura glowing softly around the white stone. The tower stood strong, but several holes had pocketed some of the walls letting the forest light within. Since they no longer had Kzzmet around to take lead, Vaelen scoped the area before reporting back to the others. “Looks like no one is around. I think I saw something move in the tower though. Best be on our guard.”
“Vaelen, at this point it’s safe to assume that we will always be on our guard. Let’s go.” Gillian made a gesture of her hand and the main door lurched. “No magical guard. Small blessing.” Carefully, they made their way into the white tower. Inside the furniture was almost all broken. Equipment lay shattered on the floor. It looked like a fire had made its way through the structure, burning the large collection of books on the second floor library next to what appeared to be apprentice’s chambers. Gillian sensed something peculiar about one book and opened in to find a Rune of Creation within. She moved the floating sigil onto her robes – It’d prove useful later no doubt. The third floor was host to a large greenhouse filled with odd planter boxes and potted plants, mostly dead. Among the workbenches a variety of valuable ingredients caught Jasmind’s eye so she slid them in to her satchel. Focused on looking for treasure, Tycho nearly paid dearly when a portion of the floor crumbled beneath his feet. He leapt away just in time to save himself was some nasty fall damage. More aware of his surrounding, he and Vaelen carefully worked on making sure no other dangers threatened the party.
When they reached the fourth and final floor of the tower, they were surprised to find it surprisingly undamaged. Apparently Alamain’s wards had protected his private study from the fire. Jasmind found a large Iron Oak Shield of Protection leaning against Alamain’s main desk. A long blue glowing wand caught Gillian’s eye. She picked it up and felt a pulse of magic connect her to the tower itself. Normally she would have given it more thought but she was distracted as Tycho was leaning out of the highest window, two new shining polished wooden Branchiating Bracers around his wrists. The Halfling was muttering something about climbing to the top of the tower to stand on top of the world. Jasmind was attempting to pull him back in the tower when something slammed into the tower sending the Halfling fighter crashing backwards into the paladin. “By the Prince’s Cloak, what was that?!” Another tremor shook the tower hard. Not knowing how long the tower would stand against such an assault the party ran down the stairs to get to ground level.
Tycho and Jasmind were the first to make it to ground floor. Pulling the door open, they saw two large treants covered in wicked vines hammering away at the tower edifice. Gillian was still rushing down the stairs behind the others when the wall next to her blew apart. Several sharp branches that looked like fingers reached within the new hole in the wall, narrowly missing at grabbing her. Dodging nimbly away, Gillian tapped the rune she had affixed to her cloak – She felt she was going to need it. Vaelen was just about to run out the door to join the fighter and paladin when a vine snaked out from the shadows beneath the staircase and tripped him. Looking up he saw an animated potted plant hop out from the shadows, its large flower shaped maw riddled with sharp thorny teeth. Vaelen rose to his feet and readied his warhammer when he heard more click-clank noises echo through the room – additional potted plant monsters had joined the fray.
Gillian set one of the plants on fire quickly then tapped into Alamain’s wand. She smiled as she felt the power of one of the wizard’s spells flow into her mind. Vaelen stood his ground, quickly invoking the gods of trickery and chance which would make him harder to hit. As the first animated potted plant hopped over to him he brought him warhammer down upon it, crushing one of the vines and cracking the pot that held it. The cleric has been through too much to be taken out by enchanted flowers.
Outside, Tycho and Jasmind were dealing with the large Arboreal Gaurdians. One of the treants had grabbed the Halfling by the leg and was savagely beaten the fighter against the paladin. Tycho was not going to let his current situation hamper him however and every time the Guardian swung him around he slashed at the tree with his sword. Jasmind was about to help her halfling companion when the other treant swooped her up from behind and swung her about.
As Vaelen continued to dance his way through the many vines around him, Gillian channeled the essence of Alamain’s power left in his wand. She tapped into the wizard’s memories left within and let loose a powerful spray of multicolored light beams at the plants. The beams lanced through all the remaining potted plants tearing them to shreds. With the potted plants finished, the Cleric and Sorcerer raced through the doorway to help their allies. Amazed, they saw Tycho and Jasmind gracefully making the best of the situation, fighting the trees mid-air as they were tossed about. Together, the four of them made quick work of the guardians.
With the monstrous plants defeated, Jasmind suggested that they seal the tower again so that no other plant creature could get out. Gillian and Vaelen put their heads together and reasoned that with the right spell, Alamain’s wand, and some reagents they could ward the tower again to not harm anyone else. Jasmind offered up the few items she had scavenged from the tower earlier. As Vaelen began the ritual to safeguard the tower again, Tycho spoke up, “Ya know, this tower would make a good vacation home. We could even make the villagers our servants and set up a nice operation for ourselves here.” Jasmind rolled her eyes at the Halfling and started walking off. She wanted no part in that scheme; she only wanted the local elves and village to be safe from the tower’s terrors. Finally, they settled on reconstructing the wards so they wouldn’t harm anyone who didn’t intend to harm them.
With the tower sealed and new artifacts in hand, Jasmind suggested they make their way to New Port. It had been four long days and she was ready to see real civilization again. The road led from Alamain’s tower in a roughly north-western direction. When they had traveled a mile or two down the road they caught their first glimpse of crystal growth again. Gillian speculated that Alamain’s tower may have kept the crystal growth at bay, but it had definitely started to take root deeper in the woods. At first it appeared just along the forest floor, then hanging off of tree leaves, then encasing entire branches of trees.
A flurry of movement ahead caught Vaelen’s eye and he called his companions to a halt. A frenzy of squeaks sounded from farther down the road. A wildcat darted down the road towards them, pursued by a swarm of dire rats. While the halfling may have been happy to watch nature take effect, Jasmind knew that the Wildcat was an animal of great status in the Court of Stars. She charged ahead, cleaving in to the horrifyingly large rats. Like a wave, the rat swarm poured over to Jasmind. Soon the entire party was surrounded by the sharp poisonous teeth. They made quick work of the rats but not before taking their fair share of cuts and poison. Concerned with the wildcat’s safety, Jasmind let the power of Selune flow through her to soothe the beast and its wounds. The wildcat took a liking to the wood elf and followed the Paladin as they continued their march north.
After the rough days they had been experiencing in the Wild Wood, the road was a welcome change of pace. Just when Jasmind was about to say as much to Vaelen, a lurching figure appeared farther down the road. Squinting, the paladin could make out the build of an elf, but large crystals and bulbous plant growth had encased much of his body. The ground beneath their feet began to rumble. In the distance the party could see a massive army of angry treants marching in their direction. Around their feet, hundreds of infected wood elves shuffled along. “This road leads too close to the village! Alamede’s in danger!”
Tycho chortled, “And I should care why?”
Vaelen grabbed the scruff of the halfling’s neck, “Your tower’s in danger too. And there’s no going around this army. We need to hurry!”
With the rampaging crystal infused army at their heels, the adventurers sprinted to Alamede. It appeared that the village was conducting business as usual, without a care in the world. Breathless, Jasmind grabbed a hold of the nearest person she could find. It was Modupe Adenjii who greeted her with a smile, “Back so soon?” Gillian took a deep breath and explained that twisted magical trees were rampaging across the wild wood. The old man did not seem to have a worry in the world until Gillian mentioned that the wood elves had been turned into mindless vine creatures. With the village protectors gone the blood drained from Adenjii’s face. Other villagers who overheard their conversation broke out into panic.
Vaelen raised his voice to address the crowd. “People of Alamede, your village is in danger! I fear that some twisted magic again threatens your safety. An army of massive walking trees marches to your doorstep. You must abandon your village and seek safety within the woods.”
Elenri stood up, shaking, “But where will we go? We’ve only known this village for as long as we have lived.”
Surprising his companions, Tycho stepped up, “Its fine, you can all reside in my tower.” Jasmind nudged the Halfling sharply. “I mean Alamain’s tower. We cleared it earlier of any magic remaining. You’ll be safe there.” The people seemed reluctant but trusted the adventurers. When Vaelen remarked that it was unusual for Tycho to show such kindness, the halfling smiled and said, “Well, I’m charging them rent of course.” Vaelen thought it best to not point out that the villagers had no money.
Leaving nonessential items behind, the villagers hurriedly made their way to the tower. Tycho was bickering with Yetune, saying he needed to stay with his people. Vaelen and Jasmind helped construct a blockade in the limited time they had left. They had just finished securing a large log into place with a crash sounded through the trees. The treants were marching. The larger trees lumbered on by past the village, eyes set on Darkskye’s crash site in the distance. Just as the party thought the village might be spared a collection of vine saplings and hive plant thralls charged toward the party among the hordes of infected wood elves.
Jasmind and Tycho stood strong as the large collection of thorny vines smashed against them. The wildcat that they had saved earlier stuck close to Jasmind, biting and tearing whatever he could reach. The crystal thorns cut against their skin but they were no match for the edge of their blades. On and on the fighter and paladin carved their way through the attacking vines. As the two battled the oncoming waves, Gillian pulled together what power she could muster, letting the arcane energy light up the sigils along her body. Vaelen was chanting to his gods, letting their might and power fortify his friends with a Shield of Faith.
The party fought back some of the saplings, but were not prepared for the oncoming plant thralls. Tycho’s first attack against a hive plant thrall cut it down easily, but before the Halfling could boast the corpse exploded into a cloud of spores. The spore explosion caught Tycho right in the face and the Halfling found himself doubled over in a coughing fit. Vaelen ran up to the fighter to see if he was alright. When the coughing subsided, Tycho looked up slowly, his eyes glazed over and skin starting to turn yellow. Vaelen barely had time to raise his shield before Tycho, confused by the hive spores, began repeatedly slashing his massive sword at the cleric.
A flash of light filled the air as Gillian unleashed a bolt of lightning at the hunter vine saplings and thralls with the magic she had gathered. Gillian had poured a lot of her strength into that spell and resorted to smaller scorching blasts for the rest of the fight – They were not as flashy as chain lightning, but the sorcerer reasoned the plants would hate fire. Jasmind cleaved through the last of the Vine Saplings only to be assaulted by the last remaining thralls’ spore clouds. Confused, she too turned on Vaelen.
The cleric desperately tried to hold the fighter and paladin off and was alarmed to find Gillian charging at him as well, crazed by the spore’s dust. Vaelen had had enough and ruthlessly smashed his war hammer against Tycho’s head, sending him sprawling on the floor. When he made to attack the paladin and Gillian, he noticed the frenzy in their eyes dissipate. Whatever infection had hold of them was fading fast. “Good to have you back. The more we see of the crystal effects on the forest, the more dangerous they seem.”
Gillian shook her head, still regaining her senses. “Yes. You have to wonder what the Archmage was doing mining them in the first place. And why on earth the Diabolist and the Three want them now.” With a little effort they were able to rouse Tycho. Battered but safe from the army of enraged trees, they made their way to Alamain’s Tower. The tower showed no signs of being attacked and they found the villagers safely inside. The villagers embraced them in gratitude, tears of joy running down their faces. After speaking with the elders it was decided that everyone would stay in the tower overnight in case any more treants went on the march. If the village was still safe in the morning the party would set out again down the road to New Port. None of them slept easy that night.