Adventure Recap – The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle

The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle is a seasonal Halloween adventure that contains several strong horror elements.  It was written by Ash Law with Carrie Rasmussen and extra development by Rob Heinsoo for level 3 characters.  The adventure pays homage to the haunted house tradition from the high camp of Rocky Horror Picture Show and Clue to the chills of The Haunting of Hill House, 13 Ghosts, and Red Rose.  The material contains ghosts, ghouls, bleeding walls, inexplicable happenings and more which may not be suitable for all readers. 

CastleIt was a dark and stormy night… 

It was unusual to see such a storm this close to Pocket Bay, Aubey thought to herself.  The Emperor’s blessing usually kept the Midland Sea calm and steady.  The halfling ranger tightened her cloak to protect her from the hammering rain.  A streak of lightning lit up her four companions.  Pathiel, the silent dwarf-forged monk walked tall as if he barely felt the rain.  Next to the dwarf-forged’s massive form, the capricious Rylien, a bard who claimed to sing the songs of heavenly choirs. Their newest hire, a dark elf cleric by the name of Sytera was standing behind Pathiel’s bulk hoping he would shelter her from the rain.  Finally, leading from the front as was his way, Havok the half-elf fighter kept watch for any shelter.

Aubey had seen the mansion in the distance first.  Her eyes were blessed by the power of the falcon spirit, a companion that had unexpectedly chosen her as its guardian when she was young.  It was a blessing normally reserved for a remote tribe of wood elves in the Wild Woods, yet for some reason the falcon has chosen her long ago.  Their spirits has been intertwined since and made her unique in this world.  “There, on top of the cliff overlooking the bay.”  The castle looked like it was designed to impress rather than protect.  The fortifications were largely decorative, and in the light of the storm they looked foreboding.  “It’s the only shelter we’ve seen for hours and this storm is getting worse!”  The halfling had to shout to be heard as the thunder was growing louder.  An image flashed in her head of an immaculate flower, the Falcon’s Eye.  It seemed her companion was trying to tell her something.

Havok shielded his eyes and tried to examine the castle.  It seemed like all the widows to the estate were well lit.  “Someone must be in there.  Let’s hope they’re helpful and not more bandits intent on taking our coin.”  Their journey between Santa Cora and Horizon had been plagued with numerous dangers.  Havok wasn’t new to the dangers of the world.  He boasted he had spent several years as a mercenary, pirate and treasure hunter.  If his claims were to be believed, the fighter had even managed to steal some of the Red’s power at one point.

As they approached the castle, it was obvious that some sort of gathering was taking place.  The castle gates were open and the courtyard beyond was lined with numerous carriages.  When the party reached the front door it slowly creaked open.  A flash of lightning and a peel of thunder ripped through the sky as a hunched figure emerged from within.  “Good evening. Mmmyes. You are expected. This way please, mind you don’t mmmheheh drip on the rug.”  The figure bowed low and gestured the lot inside.  Rylien noticed the man’s clothes were far out of date.  Quick to get out of the storm, they all ushered themselves in. “Honored guests, I am Podraic the butler.  I buttle.  I welcome you to Scrimhunt Castle.”  At the castle’s name, another flash of lightning illuminated the room.

The castle’s name triggered something in Pathiel’s memory.  Since the day of his awakening as a dwarf-forged, he had followed the guidance of a mysterious scroll he kept on his person.  The three different authors of the messages on the scrolls rarely agreed with each other, but they had all been telling him to find Scrimhunt’s legacy.  The author that was his builder had told him a machine of evil design was built there and pieces of it must be recovered.

The adventuring life usually took them to grim locales but at first appearance this castle was anything but. The floor was made of marble and the wall a solid and imported oak.   The foyer was a two tiered room lined with priceless paintings, statues, and works of art.    Podraic commented on each statue as he led them past.  The party became more unnerved at each remark.

“Ah, Magister Landjager. Yes, brilliant brain. They found most of it in this very hall.”

“Meheheh. Mmyes. Magister Weckewerk. He beat himself to death with his own skull. Talented fellow.”

“Lady Pinkel. In the library. Mmmwith a candlestick, if I recall correctly.”

“Magister Saumagen. Drowned. In blood. His own. Can I offer you some wine?”

Sytera peeled off her rain soaked cloak and dumped it into Podraic’s arms.  “No wine.  It clouds the mind.  These wet clothes do not suit me.  Bring me a dry cloak.”  As a dark elf, Sytera was used to having others bend to her will.  She had no reservation about demanding what she wanted of others, especially from lowly servants.  If Podraic took any offense he showed none.  With a chilling smile, he produced a drab gray cloak from a nearby closet that looked like it hadn’t been in fashion for centuries.  At least, it would be out of fashion for anyone in the 13th Age.  Unbeknownst to her companions, like the cloak, Sytera did not belong to this Age.  The dark elf cleric had been involved in the Battle of the Deep during the 8th Age when the Dark Elves triumphed over the Dwarven Kingdom.  It was in that battle that she had also died…. until she found herself resurrected on the southern shores of the Midland Sea with no indication of why she was brought back.  It was to her astonishment to find our that several ages had past since her death.  Never before had she heard of such a happening.  When the Aubey and the others had found her during their travels the cleric decided to travel with them to discover what this new 13th Age was that she had awoken to.  Sytera had no true loyalties to anyone, yet she felt something draw herself to the castle.  She felt an old presence from her past when she neared the castle.  It was improbable and yet intrigued her.  The dark elf would tolerate these meaningless interactions with others so long as it fit her means.  Sytera wrapped the cloak around her shoulders and felt the oddest sense of nothing from it.  No warmth came from the fabric, but it wasn’t exactly cold either.  It just felt like a void.

Podraic grinned again, “Ladies and Gentlemen, let me show you to the ballroom.  It is our pleasure to be holding another one of Magister Worst’s soiree.”  Rylien gasped.  Her time as a bard had gotten her into many a social event among the Dragon Empire’s elite.  Magister Worst’s parties were absolute legends among party goers.  Surely they were in for a treat!  Podraic laid his hand on a silver fanged door handle, “Honored Guests, this way to the main event.  Meheheh.”

TheParty

The Party

The Butler opened the large door to the master ballroom beyond.  Within were numerous guests all wearing an odd collection of outfits.  At first glance they all seemed to be dressed as adventurers on a quest, but a closer examination from Pathiel saw wooden swords and not a single true piece of fine craftsmanship in sight.  What first looked to be wizards were just people in sequined robes throwing colorful feathered balls at each other.  Pathiel stood a good two feet above the rest and his body of iron drew a lot of faces toward him.  One of the guests with silver painted paper mache armor approached the dwarf-forged monk.  “OH MY!!!  You look stupendous!  I spent a month working on my armor and you outshine us all!  You must tell me how you made your costume!”  The monk was quickly surrounded by several awestruck guests mistaking him for a well-dressed party goer.

The ranger Aubey wanted nothing to do with the attention so she quietly slinked off toward the refreshments.  She was just pouring herself a glass of some odd thick red substance when she heard a breathless voice behind her, “Oh Brand.  I’m so frightened!”  The woman was wearing a necklace of a distorted hand with an eye in the center.

A young muscular man wearing glasses and a ring in the shape of a mailed fist put his hand on her shoulder, “Dammit Jaenette, I love you.  It’s alright, surely someone here will help us.  But you’re right.  Something strange is going on here…”  Aubey tried to move away from the couple but Brand saw her and called out “Excuse me, but you look like a normal person.  Do you know what’s going on here?  Everyone seems consumed by the party…”  The ranger assured him she’d investigate and sent her falcon, Halcyon, a flight around the ballroom.

Through her falcon’s eyes she witnessed Havok casing the joint.  It was in the fighter’s nature to always be prepared to have a way out.  He had noticed the balcony exits, servant’s door, and the doorway out to the main hallway.  Rylien was helping Pathiel try and ward off admiring party goers.  As the falcon made his final pass toward the balcony he saw Sytera approached by a tall handsome man.

A voice behind the dark elf cleric caused Sytera to turn.   “My my my. We are graced with the presence of uninvited guests. Real adventurers to add to our little soiree! Welcome. How thrilling.  Enjoying yourself I trust?”  The man behind her was well built and in mock robes of an ancient magi style.  “Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Magister Worst IV, proud owner of this estate.  In honor of my father’s career as an adventure, I have put together this little celebration of those in our land with an ‘adventurous’ spirit.”

Sytera’s eyes narrowed.  Something about the way Magister Worst IV talked was unnerving.  “Tell me, Magister, has this castle always been in your family’s possession?  Or did your father win it from his adventuring days?”

Worst’s laugh was hollow and a bit overplayed, “No no, my family has always held stewardship over the estate.  Ever since my great grandfather performed his experiments on that fateful night.  It was this exact night, 150 years ago.  He hoped to harness the power of healthy wizards to heal the maladies of the weak.  He built a great machine to do so, but alas something went horribly wrong.  Everyone died.”  The smile that crept on his face sent a chill down Sytera’s spine.  “Back then he only had 13 souls of wizards as power for his machine.  One wonders what the Apparatus would do with a whole castle full of people. hahahaha.”  The smile had turned into a manic grin as he gazed out over the guests.

TheEventAt that moment lightning struck the castle and momentarily blinded everyone present.  A creaking sound rippled through the room.  The next moment the screaming started.

Through Halcyon’s eyes Aubey saw most of the events unfold.  The doors slammed shut as the castle began to move.  The ranger and falcon saw the railings of the balcony above tear off the supports and turn to sharpened teeth.  The balcony twisted and crunched down on the guests like a vicious bear trap.  Below on the main level areas of the floor and walls slide away revealing giant brass cogs and rotating shafts.  Unsuspecting guests fell prey to the mechanism, their party clothes caught in the teeth of the cogs.  Screamhaunt Castle was eating the guests!

Pathiel was just turning to assist an elven troubadour who was trying to escape through a window when a chandelier from above shot down and grasped the partygoer.  With a strangled cry, the troubadour was pulled up and in to the ceiling, a shower of blood the only remnants of the elf known as Chon Brees.   Pathiel and Rylien both bolted toward Havok and the door.  The fighter ahead of them was struggling against a grandfather clock which had opened and began to pull the fighter in like a vacuum.  Havok barely managed to hold himself steady as he slammed the clock shut.  “What in seven hells is going on here?!”

As chandeliers grabbed guests and partygoers fell through hidden doors into the machine, Sytera grabbed hold of her sword with one hand and reached out to Magister Worst with the other.  Worst knew something and she could not let him get away.  As her hand closed around his arm, the Magister backhanded her and sent the cleric flying across the room.  Sytera blinked past the pain and dimly recalled Worst’s other hand clenching a large cog.  She did not have much time to think it over before the center of the floor started to peel away to a dark abyss below.  Startled screams echoed from below as guest after guest fell to their demise.  Backing away from the growing chasm in the floor, Sytera began praying to her gods drawing upon a ritual magic of protection.  As the floor peeled away around her, a protective bubble kept an island of ground around her secure.

ServitorShieldAubey saw Sytera holding firm and leapt from the refreshment table to a chandelier intending to swing over to her ally.  As she grabbed hold of the chandelier, the iron rods twisted and attempted to attack the halfling.  She deftly twisted away from most of the blows and was able to land near Sytera.  Pathiel had found a sturdy section of the wall that did not appear to be moving like the others.  As the floor tumbled away from him he dug one massive iron hand into the wall to secure himself and used his other hand to grab onto an excited Rylien and cursing Havok.  As the monk considered what to do, the window behind him opened up to a gargantuan blood shot eye.  Not wanting to stick around, Pathiel drew upon his strength and dexterity.  Bracing his legs against the wall, he launched himself across the room to Sytera.

Pathiel, Rylien and Havok landed with a crash within Sytera’s protective bubble.  Rylien was looking around the room at the Chandelier’s grasping straggling guests, the floor devouring all others.  Before she could get her bearings, the room suddenly twisted, seeming to explode and reform all at once.  Another flash of lightning and the bard was amazed to find herself and allies in a twisted study.  A small fireplace crackled near an armchair and several end tables surrounded them.  The high elf bard breathlessly muttered, “This is going to make the best song ever…”

Havok had already picked himself up and drawn weapons.  “All of you on alert.  We need to get out this damned place.”  Pathiel was examining the only door within reach that had been saved from Sytera’s ritual magic.  Its frame was twisted in an odd direction but it seemed to open with ease.  The long room beyond was lined with detailed frescoes of significant events in the dragon empire’s history.  Aubey stepped forward to the nearest fresco, a large depiction of an old Dwarf King and Elf Queen signing some form of treaty. A deep rooted distrust of dark elves creeped into Aubey and the ranger turned to look at the party’s cleric.  This one couldn’t be trusted.  She would need to watch the dark elf closely.

Rylien raised an eyebrow at the odd look Aubey gave Sytera.  Whatever that look was for, the bard would never know.  Rylien turned her head and saw a large fresco stretching up to the ceiling above.  The fresco depicted the modern versions of the Priestess, Diabolist, and High Druid despite the fresco’s ancient age.  The three figures were glaring judgmentally down on a single cowering figure.  As Rylien looked closer, she realized that the figure was her.  Terror ripped through the bard’s mind as she struggled to understand how this was possible. She called out for Pathiel who came over after glancing over his massive shoulder twice.  “I swear I just saw a goat… What is it?”  Rylien gestured toward the figure in the fresco, but this time the figure was just an ordinary girl.  Pathield glared down at the bard.  “Pull yourself together.  This is no time for games.  Everyone, look for a door out!”

Havok was first to find the exiting door.  He pulled open the door and found a massive library that stretched out as far as he could see.  The moment everyone entered the door behind them slammed shut and a bolt of lightning shot towards the adventurers sending them scrambling for cover.  An ethereal figure of bones wreathed in blue lightning materialized over a large tome.  The ghost cackled, “None shall escape Billion the Blue!”  The ghost raised his hand and several books flew open.  From their pages emerged hands and claws, followed by grotesque forms of shambling corpse-bits.  Horrible collection of body parts in humanoid shape shuffled toward the party.

IMG_3543

Yes, this ghost is green. Just go with it.

Havok and Pathiel were first to charge the monstrosities, using blade and fist to take down as many as they could.  Seeing an opening on their flank, Sytera and Rylien tried to get closer to Billion.  Aubey sent her falcon Halcyon into the fray and let loose a hail of arrows at the corpses.  The Ghost continued to send bolt after bolt of lightning at the party, but as the monstrosities fell, Billion was quickly overwhelmed.  Pathiel closed the distance quickly, and shattered the Ghost’s crackling bones under the weight of his blows.

IMG_3536

Shambling Corpse-bits

As Sytera tended to Rylien’s wounds, the bard picked up a nearby book and skimmed the pages.  Even with the danger that surrounded them the bard was not about to pass up a chance to learn some great material for some songs.  The pages within contained a horrifying tale of torture and murder, the subjects of which shared features identical to the party.  Rylien shook it off and picked up the next book only to find a story about a paranoid halfling plotting her dark elf companion’s demise.  Book after book seemed to be nothing but stories of characters identical to their own suffering horrible and gruesome fates. The bard dropped the books to the floor. “Best not to read the books.  Not if you ever wanted to sleep soundly ever again.”

Pathiel, however, had found one book that was different from the others.  Billion had been hovering over it when they entered.  In it, the dwarf-forged monk found a collection of bizarre and complicated schematics.  Notations on the design talked about infusing inanimate objects with the power of a living soul.  The monk had known such arts existed, but had always considered them ungodly uses of power.  He slammed the book shut but tucked it in his pack so that it would not fall into the wrong hands.

Eager to move on Havok moved to a door on the right tucked behind stacks of books and pulled it open.  A gust of wind buffeted the party followed by a deafening scream.  The wind blew all of the lights out in the room, but the adventurers were quick to ready their lanterns from their kit.  “Is everyone okay?”  Havok’s mercenary experience had kicked in, his swords were drawn and at the ready.  Looking around at his companions, something did not quite seem right.  Then he noticed it – There were too many shadows for the three lanterns they had out.  “The shadows!  Look out!”  No sooner had he uttered the words than the shadows turned and twisted away into the darkness.  “No one let the lights go out again.  It may not be safe.  We had best keep moving.”

As the party entered the next room they found a large hall containing a collection of draconic trophies.  Rylien recognized the statue at the end of the hall as the hero Gorgomaw, Slayer of Dragons and hero of the Empire.  Large pedestals held the skulls of once great dragons now long deceased.  Havok noticed the telltale signs of a white dragon’s skull and approached it.  The plaque read ‘Deathbreath, dread servitor to the Lich King’.  The fighter smirked; he knew the Three were after this dragon’s remains ever since Deathbreath betrayed the dragon flights by becoming a dracolich.  If the party ever got out of this castle alive, Havok would need to come back here and retrieve the skull for the Three.

Having served in a handful of campaigns under the Emperor, Pathiel was no stranger to the tales of Gorgomaw.  As he approached the statue, he noticed a scratched scrawl underneath the plague reading ‘show respect’.  Trusting the note, he sank to one knee and bowed his head before the Empire’s hero.  Havok saw a frosty breath form in Deathbreath’s skull as the skeleton turned toward the kneeled Dwarf-forged monk.  Diving toward his ally, he mustered his strength to pull Pathiel away from the blast of icy breath.  “We had best keep moving.  We cannot trust what is a trap and what is not.”

As the party exited the hall of dragons, they were keen not to look upon any of the statues.  The room they entered was another long hallway, but this time overlooking the foyer they had originally entered into.  A cry issued from below as Podraic raced toward the front door, axe in hand.  As the butler hacked away at the door, it seemed merely to rebuild itself again.  Aubey darkly muttered, “It appears the castle won’t let anyone out.”  None of them made a move to leap down to help the butler.

As Podraic made another attempt to hack down at the door, the foyer was suddenly lit up by another flash of lightning.  The electricity had hit the front door of the castle and surged through its foundations.  As the party watched, the lightning coursed along the walls of the room, only to leave the wallpaper behind it withering away.  Below the wallpaper the very wood seemed to decay and they were soon looking in to the rooms beyond.  They could see a collection of animated plants devouring guests in the green house, ghouls feasting on piles of bloody meat in the kitchens, and directly below them they could see in the distance a great collection of bronze metalwork whirling in activity.  Just as suddenly as the lightning flash, the walls flickered back to a solid state again.  Sytera spoke up “Magister Worst said something about the machine feeding off the guests of the party.  If the vision can be trusted we will find the machine in the basement.”

Pathiel widened his stance and raised his huge iron fist into the air, “Then we better start heading downward.” Drawing on strength from the Icons, Pathiel began hammering away at the floor, feeling the floorboards creak and groan under the impact.  Sytera began a ritual of strength to channel the power of the gods into the monks’ blows.  Pathiel was happy when the felt the floorboards shatter.  His joy turned to horror as pools of blood started to collect where he was hammering away.  The cracking of wood was soon replaced with the squelching sound of juicy flesh – Underneath the floorboards seem to be a layer of bloody tense muscle.  A horrible cry ripped through the air as Pathiel made his final blow down to a level below.

IMG_3642

Just as Pathiel made a hole big enough for them to fit through two ghosts burst through a door at the end of the hallway.  One of them, a fiery female form, engulfed the room in a thick choking smoke.  A twist of her hand conjured a long flaming trident into existence.  The other ghost brought with it the smell of unopened tombs, yet its face triggered something in Sytera’s memory – It belonged to her former teacher, Charl-u-kha the Verentil.  Sytera had studied the divine mechanics of the soul under his dark teachings before he was said to go truly mad.  The ghost may know why the cleric was brought back.  She had to find out!  The two ghosts let out another wail and charged forward.

The fiery ghost engaged Havok with her trident, taunting him, “None shall escape Cerina!”.  When Havok went to return a blow, the ghost winked away in a swirl of smoke.  Pathiel, Rylien and Sytera moved in to corner Charl-u-kha against a wall, but the soon felt their life force begin to drain as the ghost linked himself to their souls.  The three struggled to keep their standing as their own health fueled Charl-u-Kha’s will.

IMG_3645

Aubey held back, firing arrow after arrow into the fray.  A clicking sound was the only warning she had as she ducked out of the way before the air around her exploded in fire and smoke.  Cerina had emerged again, cackling and driving her trident at the surprised Ranger.  A moment later, Cerina’s cackling was cut short as Havok drove his weapon into her fiery head.  Aubey took the opening to retreat and maintained a steady stream of shots at the fiery ghost.  Between the two of them, they were able to beat the ghost down, defeating it.

IMG_3648

Rylien felt like they were finally turning the tide against Charl-u-Kha when she saw Sytera turn and swing her sword into Havok’s side.  Charl-u-Kha had begin to whisper to his former student, telling her to turn against her companions and join him.  Havok was barely able to deflect the blow from Sytera before sending his blades twirling in to Charl-u-Kha’s side.  Sytera still operated under her former master’s control, but Havok was able to keep her at bay while Rylien landed the killing blow on the ghostly spirit.  Charl-u-Kha disintegrated to dust, but not before the echo of laughter drifted through Sytera’s mind… The ghost of her former master was gone and the dark elf cleric was left with more questions than answers.

The foes defeated, Pathiel moved back to the hole he had created in the floor.  Aubey joined him, peering in to the depths.  All they could make out was the faintest glimmer of a black metal amongst shadows.  “I’ll go down first.  My falcon and I should be able to scout around.”  As Pathiel lowered the ranger down on a rope Aubey felt her foot touch a gritty cold metal.  Lighting a torch, she found she was hanging just above a gigantic cauldron.  Looking around, the ranger saw a room littered with an endless collection of furniture and trunks.  At the far end of the room, a single circular window looked out over the bay.  “Nothing’s tried to kill me yet,” she hollered upward, “It looks safe.”

One by one the party descended into the room and took stock of their surroundings.  Pathiel was able to find a set of grandfather clocks, all shattered but still clicking.  As he examined them, he discovered the ticking continued in his head despite the shattered clockwork.  He steeled himself, reassuring himself it wasn’t real.  Aubey found a stuffed cat in mid-leap.  Something distracted her and when she looked back the cat was gone.  A yowl echoed through the darkness and she felt deep scratches dig into her back.  The cat was nowhere to be seen.

Sytera had found a stand holding several old and broken canes.  On one of them she recognized her old master’s seal.  A voice drifted in her head “It was a good cane.  I always liked the button on the bottom.”  Sytera looked around for the voice, but could find no source.  Carefully, she picked up her old master’s cane, and finding the button at its base, pressed it.  The other canes in the vase sprang to life, and began to sprout limbs full of leaves.  They expanded outward, breaking through the ceiling and floor.  Havok approached on of the roots, finding it had broken a hole through the floor to a room below.  Seeing no other way out of the room the adventurers descended downward again, never knowing their first descent had actually taken them up into the attic.

Havok was the first one down.  Looking around, he saw a vacant ballroom lined with mirrors and dust.  The polished wooden floor is thick with dust and grime.  The only object was an old dust covered piano in the corner.  Rylien landed behind him, “Do you hear music?”

Pathiel helped Aubey and Sytera down from above, “I don’t care if we hear music.  We need to find a way out.”  Not seeing any doors, Aubey let loose an arrow into the nearest mirror.  When her arrow struck the mirror exploded sending a storm of glass shards and cold wind into the room.  The party did the best to guard themselves from the flying glass and avoided any serious wounds.  The shattered glass continued to fly across the room before reforming into perfect mirrors again on the other side.

GhostSytera had ignored Pathiel’s advice and walked over to the piano in hopes of finding the source of the music.  As she placed her had on the piano, reality warped around her.  The next thing she knew, the cleric was trapped within the mirrors, attending a party from long ago.  Her companions still in the ballroom saw her image in the mirror as well as the reflection of a raucous party.  As they raced to find some way to get out, Sytera moved to a figure that looked familiar to Magister Worst IV.

“Enjoying yourself I trust?  Welcome to the opening ceremony to witness my great machine!”  Magister Worst I had the same manic grin as his great grandson.  Sytera didn’t trust him any more than she trusted his descendant.  Seeing a large gear on his belt, the cleric quickly grabbed hold and yanked it from his belt.  The Magister did not have time to object as the mirror image shattered and Sytera spilled out once again into the dusty ballroom with her companions.  The broke glass had opened several gashes in her skin, but she was alive.  The party ghosts were gone, but the gear in her hands remained.  Pathiel had peeled the mirror off the wall and let it shatter against the floor.  Where the mirror had been, a large wooden door stood.

Rylien noticed a light under the wooden door and shadows moving beyond.  Gesturing to her companions to keep silent, she carefully opened the door.  Within, they found a small confined kitchen smeared with blood and gore.  In the corner, a large stove and chimney stood burning, its front arranged eerily like a face.  Cooking utensils, pots, and pans were all out on the counter and an uncooked turkey lay nearby.  From the center of the room, four gore-caked ghouls were busy devouring the bloody remains of the kitchen staff.

Rylien mimed to her companions to once again remain silent and they all slowly crept across the room.  The ghouls made no notice of the party as they continued their meal.  They made it half way across the kitchen when Sytera’s hand brushed against a raw turkey on the counter.  The uncooked turkey came alive and slammed against a shocked Sytera, flapping its raw wings at her face.  The cleric hollered in dismay and threw the raw turkey toward the stove.  The ghoul’s looked up from their snack, and seeing fresh meat, leapt toward the party.

Aubey leapt up on the counter to gain the high ground and launched a few arrows.  As she did so, she was caught off guard as spare utensils at her feet started stabbing at her.  Sytera used the counter to leap at one of the ghouls in hopes of knocking it into the open stove, but she critically missed her mark and slipped on the uncooked turkey.    With a cry, the cleric tumbled into the heat of the stove.  Everyone knew raw poultry was dangerous, but this was ridiculous!  Pathiel charged forward, deftly pushing the ghouls aside as he reached into the belly of the stove and pulled the cleric out.  The grate of the stove chomped down at them, angry that it has been denied a meal.  Horrified that she had nearly been cooked alive, Sytera forgot her senses and began hacking away at the turkey on the floor, leaving her companions to deal with the real threat of the ghouls.

IMG_3659

Havok the fighter was shielding the bard Rylien from a pair of ghouls.  His blows kept them at bay long enough for Rylien to summon the force of thunder in her cry.  Screaming, she directed the blast toward the pair of ghouls, destroying them.  A well placed arrow from Aubey slayed the ghoul nearest Sytera who was still lost in her madness.  With only one ghoul left, Pathiel grabbed hold of the creature and hurled him in to the stove’s mouth.  Seeing a chance at revenge, Sytera shoved the raw chicken into the stove’s mouth following the ghoul.  “Begone fowl creature!”  A satisfied groan came from the giant stove’s face as the grate closed and locked on its own.

IMG_3661

As the chicken and ghouls roasted in the oven Sytera regained control of her senses.  The dark elf took a moment to compose herself before tending to the party’s wounds.  Rylien considered remarking what a wonderful song the Dark Elf vs. the Chicken would make, but a look from Havok silenced her.  After a short recovery they pressed on.

The door on the opposite of the kitchen opened to a dark and rickety stairway heading straight down.  Grabbing a torch, Havok led the party forward.  The trek downward was much farther than a single story should be.  The wooden walls eventually gave way to earthen dirt, and deeper still began to hold several mechanical gears and lines of blood.  When the stairway finally ended, the party found themselves in a carved tunnel, a trail of blood leading farther down.  The sound of machinery echoed from deeper in.  Cautiously, they crept forward.

Several hundred feet in, Havok found himself drawn to a single stone wall.  When he looked closer, he saw a message write itself on to the surface.  The ancient words were crimson red, and when he touched it he found it warm to the touch.  A sharp pain pierced his hand and when he looked down he found a gaping wound dripping blood in the center of his palm.  “Blood.  My own.  Whatever is doing this, it needs to be destroyed.”

Sytera bandaged his hand and looked at the text.  “I haven’t seen this text for a long time… It says  ‘We are all dead.  Our souls are bound to the machine.  We must be freed.’”  The voice of Charl-u-Kha’s voice whimpered in her mind as she read the words out loud.  “I believe the machine is behind this wall.  Pathiel, would you mind?”

OrreryPathiel crunched his fists together then assumed his stance.  With one blow he sent the mortar exploding forward into the hidden tunnel. The sounds of machinery increased as they moved into a large chamber lined with moving mechanical pieces.  Spinning saw-tooth cogs rose and fell from the floors.  The massive machine before them looked like an infernal orrery.   Thirteen chairs with thirteen mummified corpses replaced where planets in a normal orrery would be.  As Pathiel noticed three of the figures were only ashen remains, he darkly muttered, “We killed three ghosts.  Those must be the remaining ten powering the machine.”

IMG_3680A surge of lightning coursed through the walls of the room, collecting on the giant bronze disc.  As they watched, the large rivulets along the floor filled with blood that pumped in toward the heart of the great machine.  With a horrible shriek, two mechanical legs emerged from a pool of blood, followed by a glass dome full of whirling gadgets, wild electricity, and crimson blood.  Static electricity caused the hair on Havok’s arms to stand on end.  On the far wall, a platform on two cogs detached and extended large coils from which arcs of lightning began to collect.  The adventurers quickly dodged out of the way before the coils launched a stream of electricity at them.

IMG_3664

The glass dome opened its undercarriage displaying multiple arms with attached buzz saws and mallets.  The machine walker grabbed hold of Havok who struggled to ward off the many attacking mechanical limbs.  Aubey saw an opening and tapped in to her falcon’s powers.  She had picked up a few sorcerous tricks and gracefully flew her way to the top of the dome.  On landing, she took her dagger into the dome’s top, trying to carve her way in to the walker’s innards.

IMG_3674

The Great Apparatus

Rylien and Pathiel had broken off from the walker, making their way to the wheeled lightning generator.  As Pathiel charged full force into the giant machine, Rylien started forming a spell in her mind.  Pathiel’s fists crashed into the metal of the machine sending bits flying.  As the machine charged another series of bolts, Rylien yelled over to it, “So you like Lightning?  I’ll show you lightning!”  Linking her hands together she launched a fierce bolt of lightning across the room and into the machine.  The bolt coursed through the corpses powering the machine and the room flickered as it lost more of its power source.

IMG_3685

“The corpses!” Havok yelled out as he finally broke free of the walker’s arms.  He swung both his blades into the creature’s legs then called out to Sytera, “We must destroy the corpses to defeat the machine!”  Sytera grabbed hold of the gear she stole from the old Magister Worst and began climbing up the walker’s legs.  When she reached the top, a confused Aubey looked at her incredulously.  Sytera held up the gear and pointed to the opening in the walker’s dome.

“You can’t be serious!  You want to help the machine?!”  Aubey moved to push Sytera away.  The way the cleric had been acting odd lately and Aubey thought she might have gone mad.

Sytera ducked underneath Aubey’s arm and slid the gear into the opening of the walker.  “Do not question me!  I mean to use this part of the machine against them!”  The walker fell under Sytera’s control as electricity from the gear coursed out into the walker’s frame.  “Now let’s get rid of those wizards!”  With great thundering crashes, the walker charged toward the remaining wizard corpses.  Sytera crashed the machine down onto the bronze disc, but not before witnessing one of the corpses stir.  Under the hood, she could see the shocked face of Magister Worst IV wide eyed before his demise.  With a horrible crash, the walker smothered out the remains of the wizard’s bodies and the Magister.

The wizard’s souls poured out into the room and toward the ceiling above.  A gentle ‘thank you’ whispered into Sytera’s mind and she knew her master might finally find peace.  A small part of her felt relief, but mostly she felt annoyed that once again her own questions were left unanswered.  Pathiel was busy picking a wounded Rylien off the floor; the bard had taken the full force of the machine’s anger and it has nearly cost the bard her life.  As the machine began to wind down the sinister presence the party had felt all night finally disappeared.

As they made their way back up into the castle proper, they were satisfied to see that things seemed to return to normal again.  Doors led where they should, there were no eerie voices in the dark, and ghosts no longer roamed the halls.  Eager to leave this wretched place behind, they made their way off the estate and back out into the world again.  And each night they prayed that the great machine would never revive itself again.

(Sarah)    (Ben)

Part 5 & 6 Recap – The Heart of the Problem

Adventure 5 & 6 – The conclusion of Wyrd of the Wild Wood

HighDruidTileThe peaceful chirping of the morning birds drifted through the mists of the Wild Wood.  The sun was just beginning to rise, casting the village of Alamede and the surrounding forest in a deep green-gold hue.  It was a simple delicate moment as the beasts of the night surrendered the realm to those of the day.  Vaelen finished watching night turn into day before turning back to Alamain’s tower where the villagers and his other companions took refuge in the night before.  The last of the marching treants had departed the area hours ago and it was time the party set out again on their journey to New Port.

It was not long before Jasmind, Gillian and Tycho had all their supplies gathered.  The villagers thanked them again for saving their village and said their tearful goodbyes.  Fully stocked with provisions, the party headed north to the small dirt path beyond Alamede that would take them to the road to New Port.  It was not long though that they discovered the path was destroyed by the treants and vine creatures that had marched through the area the night before.  Where the marching treants had stepped, plants began sprouting.  Overnight those plants had grown into a wall of thorns.  At the center of the wall was a large glowing piece of crystal.  As the party approached they witnessed plants mutating into horrific shapes as the contagion spread even wider.  With their way blocked the party started on the slow task of navigating around the thorn wall.

It was Jasmind who first noticed the shadow trailing behind them a few yards back.  At first she thought it was a simple branch twisting with the wind, but then he spotted the gloved hand underneath the dusky cloak.  She went to draw her sword when Vaelen’s hand gently held her at bay.  “Why don’t we ask questions first before attacking?”  He whispered before turning towards the shadow. “Who goes there?  Show yourself.”

CloakFrom the tangle of thorns and trees a figure emerged shrouded in a cloak that emulated the colors of the forest around him.  It seemed to be a dusky brown, vibrant green, and dirty gray all at once.  The figure was dressed entirely in green leathers and moved like an elf.  A bow was slung across his back and with their trained eyes the party noticed the bulge of weapons under his cloak.  A broach on his cloak had a symbol of an animal paw print upon it.  Though his face was mostly obscure from his cloak, the party could see the stranger’s eyes flicker from them to the large mass of crystals on the thorn wall and back again.  After determining that the party was not contaminated by the crystals the figure peeled back his hood to reveal the face of a dark elf wearing a green bandanna.  “My name is Dermak.  I am a member of the Green Shadows and slayer of abominations.”

Tycho, Vaelen and Gillian had never heard of the Green Shadows and their eyes fell on Jasmind.  Drawing on her knowledge of the Wild Wood, Jasmind explained.  “The Green Shadows are rangers and protectors of the Wild Wood.  They are not seen by outsiders unless they wish to be.”  Jasmind looked at Dermak and bowed her head in respect.  Warden of the Wild Wood was a prestigious position, one that granted her great respect among elven folk.  But the Green Shadows were legends.  More often than not they were described as myths more than a real organization.  “We greet you in peace, Dermak.  If you ask anything of us, we will offer whatever aid we can.”

“Whoa who whoa, why are we helping the creepy stalker with the dirty cloak for free?”  The objection came of course from Tycho.  The Halfling fighter glared at Jasmind.  The wood elf might know a lot about these woods, but lately she had a bad habit of forgetting he was in charge.  “Nothing is free.”

If Dermak took any disrespect he did not show it.  “Indeed I am in need of aid.  The corruption from the crystals grows rampant.  The Green Shadows seek to find the cause this corruption and put an end to it.  If action is not taken the horrors of the Green Realm will be upon us all.  Your party is not native to these lands.  If you aid me I will see to it that the Green Shadows will help you find the New Road so that you may exit these woods.  I warn you though, the forest is changing rapidly.  I will not be responsible for your safety.”

Vaelen shoulder his massive warhammer.  “We can take care of ourselves.  What is the Green Realm?”  The cleric has spent a lot of time in his youth studying the world and holy scripture at the Cathedral, but he had never heard of this Green Realm.  The cleric looked back to Jasmind, but the wood elf paladin did not seem to recognize the term.  Gillian’s knowledge in arcane magic also seemed to fail her at the moment.

Dermak considered for a moment then answered the question.  “The Green Realm is another place where there is no death, only life.  It is not a set location, but coexists around us at all times in another universe.  Without the presence of death to temper it the Green Realm is a chaos of unrestrained growth.  If you were to ever find yourself there you would only find pain.  Something has caused an unbalance between our worlds.  The Green Realm now leaks into our own, bringing with it mutations that disrupt the delicate balance of nature.  Too much damage has already been done.  It cannot be allowed to continue.”

Crystal ShardGillian’s eyes widened at the implications.  “The crystals…”

Dermak nodded.  “Yes.  We suspect they are the cause of the imbalance.  The Green Shadows have been scouting the forest trying to contain them, though this has proven difficult.  The crystals are wide spread and although it pains me to admit it we are too few.  Come, I will take you to our camp.  It is not safe here.”

As if on cue a vine wrapped around Tycho’s leg and with a sudden yank pulled the halfling deep into the forest.  With her quick wood elf reflexes Jasmind was the first to react, but when she turned to run after Tycho a wall of thorn covered vines grew rapidly in front of her path.    Hissing poisons dripped from the thorns.  She swung at the vines with her sword, but for every one she chopped down three more covered its place.  The paladin was so focused on her task that she did not notice that the forest was beginning to close around all of them.  Dermak ran over and grabbed her arm.  “We will find your companion later.  We must go.  Now!”

Vaelen wrestled a thorn away from himself, “Not without destroying the mass of crystals on this thorn wall!  If they are causing this letting such a mass behind is too dangerous!”

Dermak helped Jasmind retreat from the expanding wall of thorns, “I know the way back to the cluster.”  He slashed a short sword at an attacking vine.  “Once that cluster is destroyed, we can rendezvous with my companions and destroy the remaining corruption.  Follow me!”  With that, the dark elf raced through the undergrowth leading the adventurers behind.  What had been arduous terrain earlier now seemed much easier to traverse with Dermak guiding them.  If Gillian did not know better, she could have sworn parts of the forest were melding to Dermak’s intended path.  It was not too long before they found themselves staring at a mass of crystals within the center of the thorn wall.  The area here had turned even more horrific since they had seen it earlier this morning.  Some trees were had mouths frozen into screams.  An impossibly large snake slithered away between two bushes.  Pulsating vines were everywhere, leaking emerald fluid onto the trees that they wrapped around.

As Vaelen and Gillian moved closer to the crystal cluster, they noticed that small portals had formed in between some of the crystal growth.  Through the portals they could see hazy glimpses of vibrant green growth and flickers of shadows.  Thinking it over, Vaelen concluded that he could produce a ritual with an element of death in order to destroy the crystal cluster.  While death normally seemed like something a cleric would oppose, Vaelen had spent many years traveling with the Crusader’s armies.  The Crusader had taught him plenty on the subject when it came to attacking demons and Vaelen taught he might be able to transform that knowledge into a ritual to suit their needs.  Dermak warned that death could not enter the Green Realm, but perhaps it could harm the crystals.  Gathering some reagents quickly Vaelen got to work with assistance from Gillian.

The entire thicket shrieked and groaned as Vaelen channeled the energy from the ritual magic straight into the heart of the crystal.  The beam of energy built upon itself until it was a torrent of chaotic power.  In a brilliant flash of purple and green light the crystal exploded outward.  In that moment the party felt the energy of the forest around them breathe life back into the forest.  Vaelen felt the natural healing effects of the forest energy and knew that any heals in this area would fully repair even the gravest of wounds.  It was just the help they needed.  For as the light from the explosion faded the party found themselves staring at two horrific looking green dragons made out of living plants.  The dragons were flanked by five plant creatures, wild growths that had taken a shape of their own.

GreenHorrors2

The two plant dragons charged in, flanking Gillian and Vaelen, covering them in claw made of thorns and poisonous breath.  Jasmind ran forward to protect her allies, but was cut off as a group of wild growths stepped in her path.  Dermak shuffled backward a few paces and let loose some arrows at the living dragons.  Not comfortable in close combat Gillian disengaged the dragons so she could start drawing power at a safe range.  As a battle hardened melee cleric, Vaelen stood his ground.  He found out though that may not have been the wisest choice as the roots around his feet grasped at him and before he knew it another wild growth sprouted from the ground next to him.  A quick look at the ground found that the roots beneath Gillian’s feet had also started coming to life, but with nothing to grasp onto they could not take form.  Understanding the dangers that spawned around that Vaelen raised his voice to warn the others, “Keep moving!  Watch your feet!”

Jasmind cut through three of the wild growths that stood in her way.  Just went she thought they were dead the vines covering the growths bulged outward rapidly and exploded.  The paladin barely had enough time to raise her shield to cover herself as green ichor and thorns rained around her.  Another wild growth shambled toward Gillian and exploded sending sticky sap everywhere.  The battle was a brutal one, but thanks to the healing energies from the forest the party was able to withstand even the worst of the blows.  With Vaelen’s warning to keep moving they were able to avoid any more wild growths spawning and focus most of their attacks on the horrific green plant dragons.  With Dermak guiding their blows the party fought their way to victory.

GreenHorrors

When the plant dragons had been defeated Dermak sheathed his bow behind him and moved forward to investigate the scorched ruin of the crystals.  As the party tried their best to clean the sticky sap off their armor, the Green Shadow agent surveyed the surrounding area, “Your magic was dark, but effective.  There is no more trace of the crystal here.  I wish I could say the same of all of the Wild Wood.”  He sighed and looked off to the north, muttering something into the breeze.  “Perhaps you are more valuable than I first thought.  Let us be off to the Green Shadow camp.  We will look for your companion along the way.”   The party told Dermak to lead on.

The thorn wall seemed to be withering away as they traveled.  Dermak explained that the crystals were stronger when they were clustered together and caused more direct links to the Green Realm.  “Without the focused clusters, the wild expansion should die down and become more manageable.  While the cluster we destroyed should slow it down, I fear the corruption runs far deeper.  Our camp is not too far from here.  We’ll be there soon.”  When they reached the camp Gillian thought it was generous to consider it as such.  It seemed that the only touch of civilization was a handful of bedrolls made of moss and leather satchels.  The Green Shadows definitely lived off the land.

Another elf wearing a cloak identical to Dermak’s approached the party.  He hurriedly whispered a few words of Elven into Dermak’s ear.  The two of them spoke in hushed voices for a moment before turning to the party.  The newcomer spoke first, “I am Alistad, first of my rangers here.  Dermak sent word through the winds that you destroyed one of the clusters to the south.  I fear before we can look for your companion we have a more urgent matter at hand.  A crystal mass has begun corrupting a sacred place of the forest nearby.  We must deal with it immediately or the whole forest could be lost.  Hurry, there is no time.”

Alistad quickly lead them all to a deep secluded part of the woods.  They reached a circle of great Sequoia trees, rising high in to the canopy above.  The trees formed a near complete circular wall surrounding a faintly pulsing green and purple living orb.  As Vaelen looked upon it, he swore he could feel some kind of ancient presence within.  Gillian felt power here as well, unlike anything she had felt before. Jasmind put her hand to her heart in reverence – They were looking at the heart of the forest.

ForestHeart4

Their awe quickly turned to horror as they noticed a crystal shard embedded into the heart of the forest.  From the crystal poured out roots covered in veins that were leaking brown ichor onto the forest floor.  Dermak and Alistad moved into the circle of trees, their faces full of despair from the sight in front of them.  The party moved to join the Green Shadows, but was stopped by a crashing noise behind them.  Turning, they saw a large vine dragging none other than Tycho along the forest floor.  The Halfling was cussing loudly and slashing wildly at his captor with his great sword.  Just as Tycho was pulled into the clearing his sword connected, sending him tumbling into Vaelen’s legs.  As Tycho stood up, the pulsing heart shifted to a purple color identical to the crystals.  Rapidly, crystals grew around it to encase the heart.  As they did so, vines and creepers along the floor snaked out toward the adventurers.  The sequoia trees around them shifted to completely trap them within.  There was no time to celebrate being reunited with their companion.  The forest heart under the corruption of the crystals was on the attack.

ForestHeart2

Tycho had just regained his footing when sharp roots burst through from the ground next to him, threatening to pierce his feet.  Still cussing the Halfling fought back, hacking at the roots with his great sword as his nimbly danced away.  Vaelen invoked the gods of strength, letting their might bolster his companions.  Inspired by the divine presence, the cleric brought his warhammer to bear against the crystals.  Jasmind found herself surrounded by phasing tentacles.  Eyes grew out of the tentacles and focused on her with a look that would drive anyone to the brink of insanity.  Yet the eyes found Jasmind implacable and she shook off their confusion before she could raise her blade against her allies.  Drawing upon her connection with the Great Gold Wyrm, Jasmind unleashed a powerful Smite against the tentacles.  She would do everything in her power to strike them down before they could confuse anyone else.

Meanwhile, Gillian launched bolt after bolt of scorching flame into the forest’s heart, hoping to burn the Green Realm roots away.  With Dermak and Alistad there to help them, the party was able to fight the root and tentacles back.  Finally a well-place blow from Vaelen knocked the rest of the corrupted growth off the heart of the forest.  The crystal was all that was left before them to fix the heart.

ForestHeart3

The next action they took would change the entire fate of the Wild Wood.  Walking away would certainly mean the High Druid’s realm would fall apart. Even though some of them shared no love for the High Druid, there was no telling what effects the crystals would have on the entire empire if left alone.  Always one to grab a chance at being more powerful, Tycho reached up and grabbed the crystal.  A spark of purple energy zapped the Halfling fighter and the Green Shadows tensed.  Jasmind quickly yanked the Halfling back and the crystal was pulled back with him.  Dazed by the power he felt within the crystal Tycho dropped it to the ground.  His mind made up, Vaelen stepped forward and shattered it with his hammer.  The heart of the forest glowed in a soft green light, free from the corruption.

Alistad looked relieved, but Dermak had his bow drawn and pointed at Tycho.  Jasmind positioned herself in front of the Halfling fighter and dropped her sword.  “Hold!  He meant no harm.  He was just trying to pull the crystal free from the heart… right, Tycho?”

“…yea….what else would I be doing?” Tycho muttered, hiding the fact that he could feel part of the crystal’s energy now pulsed through his blood.  The next time he was in battle he would have one helluva good time.

Dermak slowly lowered his bow.  Alistad tended to the party’s wounds, using a store of herbs and poultices.  When the party was all patched up, Alistad removed the cloak from his shoulders and handed it to Jasmind.  “Long ago the Wardens and the Green Shadow fought side by side to protect the woods.  Let us today reignite that old friendship.  Take my cloak as thanks.”  Honored beyond words, Jasmind smiled and draped the cloak of leaves around her shoulders.  Dermak took off the bandanna around his head and handed it to Gillian.  The sorcerer felt magic within the bandanna and bowed her head in thanks.

The Green Shadows let them sleep at their camp in the evening.  The following day, Alistad personally lead them north through the woods.  What would have taken them several days was accomplished before sunset with Allistad leading the way.  He seemed to know the wood better than he knew himself.  If the Green Shadow was not there to guide them they could have easily found themselves facing owlbears or worse.  When they reached the New Road Alistad halted them with a gesture, “This is as far as I can take you.  My duties are to safeguard against the Green Realm and I must return deeper into the wood.  Take this road north; you will be in New Port by sundown tomorrow night.”  With a last nod, the ranger disappeared into the forest.

— End Part 5 —

CrystalAgainThe night passed without incident.  It appeared that they had gone past the worst parts of the Wild Wood.  In the morning, they woke to the gentle sounds of a quiet wood.  It was eerie after the horrible attacks they had suffered just days ago.  After they gathered their gear, they set out on the road north.  After a few hours they saw a gigantic crystalline structure ahead of them.  The crystal was roughly the size of a large boulder and had a large crack running through its face.  As they walked around the crystal and continued north, they found themselves again at the crystal, the identical cracking still there.  After several repetitions of this, Gillian had had enough.  “We are stuck somehow. It looks like there is no way around it.  The crystal must be destroyed.”

The declaration seemed to brighten Tycho’s mood.  A whole morning had gone by without a fight and he was in need of some destruction.  Unsheathing his sword, he went to hack away at the large crystal.  When his blade connected with the surface, he was flung far backward.  A symbol flared up on its surface and Gillian recognized it as a rune the Diabolist frequently used.  “If the diabolist had been tinkering with this crystal, then it surely must be destroyed.  Vaelen, I am going to summon all the strength I have.  Keep me standing.”  As the young sorceress pulled together all the energy she could from every fiber of her being, she unleashed the strongest stream of pure arcane energy she would probably ever handle.  As her legs buckled under her, Vaelen fortified her with healing.  The stream of energy carved deep into the crystal, shattering the entire structure in pieces, wild magic pulsing outward knocking them all off their feet.  It was by the grace of the Icons that watched over them that they were not destroyed with the crystal.

DiabolistAs they stood, they could see remnants of the crystal everywhere.  Where the structure had been they found corpses of several cultists.  It seems they were encased in crystal immediately and suffocated.  Vaelen checked each corpse and noticed the Diabolist’s mark on their wrists.  The cleric found a large tome in the hands of one of the corpses.  Opening it, he scanned the pages, “It seems like these cultists had been the first to tamper with the crystals.  Their log here shows they smuggled themselves aboard Darkskye to lure the Red there… It was her, the entire time.”

Gillian shakily got to her feet and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.  “It makes sense. Chaos is her specialty after all.”  The young sorceress shuffled over to the corpses.  “Thank the gods we were able to triumph here.  I do not want to know what else she would have done with the power of the Green Realm at her disposal.”

Jasmind and Tycho had to help Gillian travel as they resumed their march.  Her spell had taken quite a lot out of her.  Vaelen was left to keep watch on point.  They were on high alert after seeing the crystal from earlier.  Just then a tiny winged creature flew out from the forest trees and found itself face to face with Jasmind.  The little tree sprite gasped in horror that it had been discovered and attempted to fly away, but instead crashed into Tycho’s head and knocked itself unconscious.  Reacting on instinct, Vaelen brought him warhammer down and crushed the tree sprite in one swift fatal blow.

TreeSpriteNow it was Jasmind’s turn to gasp in horror.  “VAELEN! You just…. That… That was a tree sprite!  The poor thing was scared half to death!”  The wood elf paladin looked away as the cleric wiped his hammer clean.

“The blasted thing crashed into Tycho!  Besides, you should never trust the frey.  What is done is done.  We need to keep moving.”  Shouldering his hammer the human cleric walked on up the New Road.  The others followed behind.

Farther up the road they heard a thunderous crash and the groaning of wood under impact.  As they rounded the corner, they saw a bridge that was constructed high above a roaring white river.  It was under bombardment of large boulders thrown by a rampaging earth elemental.  The smallest glimmer of amethyst glinted out from its eye, hinting at crystal corruption.  The bridge was the only way across the gap.  The elemental needed to be stopped.  With a savage cry, Tycho rushed forward to meet the earth elemental in combat.  Before the others could join him they heard a loud buzzing behind them.

EarthElemental1

Jasmind turned just in time to see a rushing swarm of angered tree sprites pour out of the forest toward the party.  They swarmed the party, shocking them with jolts of negative energy.  Most of the tree sprites swarmed around Vaelen, angered that he had killed one of their own.  As the party struggled to handle the tree sprites the earth elemental charged across the bridge at them.  As the earth elemental was about to crash down into Tycho its whole form melted to mud and slid underneath the halfling’s feet.  Reforming before Jasmind, it hammered its fists down onto the paladin’s shield.  Gillian launched numerous flaming bolts at the tree sprites, keeping them at bay with Jasmind at her side.  One of the tree sprites flew over the edge of the bridge to escape the sorcerer’s fire.  Not about to let an opponent escape, Tycho leapt off the bridge.  He sliced the tree sprite in two before disappearing over the edge.

“TYCHO!” Gillian shouted as she saw the Halfling jump off the bridge.  It was suicide!  If the fall did not kill him, the river surely would.  Just then Tycho teleported directly above the earth elemental and brought his great sword down upon the creature’s head.  Gillian had only ever known High Elves to have such an ability until she remembered how Tycho grabbed the crystal embedded in the heart of the forest.  So the Halfling did draw power from the crystal and had been hiding it all this time!

EarthElemental3

Tycho was cackling like a mad man as he teleported around the battle field, striking blow after blow to the earth elemental as the rest of the party dealt with the remaining tree sprites.  When the tree sprites had been struck down Jasmind and Vaelen helped Tycho dispatch the earth elemental.  Still eager to flaunt his new power Tycho tried showing off by teleporting across the bridge, but nothing happened.  Whatever power he had drawn from the crystal had now left him.  Based on the look the others were giving him, he had some explaining to do.

After Gillian gave Tycho a stern warning about the danger of the crystal power, the party made their way across the bridge.  Further up the New Road they came upon a broken caravan.  Two of the carts were turned on their side, wheels shattered.  Dozens of crates, bags and loose items were strewn about the ground.  The third cart still looked operational, but the horses looked spooked.  They had good reason too.  Surrounding the broken caravan was half a dozen dead bodies.  Three men are sifting through the wreckage and cargo.  When they spot the adventurers they stand upright suddenly.  The nearest of them addressed Jasmind, “Thank the gods you are here!  Dire Wolves attacked us last night.  We were on our way to New Port.”

The Paladin took another look at corpses around her.  The wounds on the corpses did not look like dire wolve attacks – There were no bite marks.  In fact, it looked like a mace had been taken to the back of their heads.  Looking back at the men the paladin saw a mace strapped to the man’s belt that addressed her.  As his hand inched toward the weapon, Jasmind drew hers with lightning reflexes.  With her sword pointed at the man’s face she demanded to know what was going on here.

“Prisoners.” Vaelen muttered.  He lifted his warhammer and pointed it to the man in the back.  “That one is Gareth.  The one in front of you is Borack and if I am not mistaken the third is Timuren.  Nasty pieces of work with bounties on their head.  I never forget a mark.”

Borack moved his hands up into the air in front of him.  “All right, all right.  This wasn’t our caravan.  We escaped from the crash of Darkskye, just as you said.  Come now… there’s plenty of supplies here for all of us.  Help us get to the next town and we’ll split it… say 50/50?”  As Vaelen stomped forward Borack reeled several paces back.  “Fine!  30/70 split!  No need to cause more trouble now.”

Just as Vaelen was about to reach Borack something grabbed at his left ankle.  Looking down the cleric saw one of the corpse had wrapped a hand around his leg.  All around them the freshly dead caravan members were rising, ready to unleash their vengeance upon the living.  Using this opportunity to get away Borack, Gareth and Timuren dropped the cargo they had been pillaging and ran off the road into the forest.  The party had no time to pursue them before the undead attacked.

UndeadCaravan

Battle hardened from all the dangers of the Wild Wood, the party had no difficulty dispatching the angry corpses.  When the corpses had all fallen again Vaelen said a prayer to help put their souls at rest.  Gillian summoned her magic to set the corpses on fire, burning them all to ash.  The only thing that remained was the wagon packed full of treasures and supplied that the trio of prisoners had left behind, and conveniently two horses to pull the wagon for them.

From there onward the road was safe.  They even passed a few farm houses, an oddly foreign site after their experiences in the wilds.  As the party traveled they shared their future plans with each other.  Gillian could not stand the thought of the crystals spreading out of the Wild Wood and was resolved to stay in New Port to monitor anyone trying to smuggle them out.  Tycho agreed to stay in New Port, but with more selfish intentions –  He figured a port town was a great place to restart his smuggling business.  Vaelen and Jasmind both committed themselves to returning to the wood.  The Green Shadows could use their help, and they did not want the crystals spreading any further.  Besides, Vaelen had a nice tower as a vacation home to return to anytime he wished.  Tycho gleefully reminded Vaelen that it was their vacation home and the Halfling would gladly return whenever he had a craving for more owlbear meat.  They might even find Kzzmet and Billips frolicking in the forest while they were at it.  First though they all had set their minds to notify the Emperor about the one responsible for this mess.  Someone would need to make sure the Diabolist answered for her crimes.

The city of New Port appeared in the distance.  With smiles on their faces the party moved on to greet it.

GM Notes – 

The player behind Tycho had to duck out for a bit during adventure 5, hence his disappearance for a little while.  The heart fight was one of the favorite battles during the adventure and I had a lot of fun being creative with the terrain.  The heart was actually a glowing puffer ball and the players got a kick out of it when I put it on the table.  During part 6 of the adventure the tree sprite is written to be a role-play opportunity, but the player behind Vaelen declared he smashed the tree sprite with his warhammer before I could introduce the NPC.  The player’s reaction of “It’s a flying thing, kill it!” had the entire table rolling in laughter.  The final fight against the angry corpses seemed to be one of the weaker fights in this adventure, but there was plenty of other fun challenging fights that more than made up for it.  Overall, I loved running Wyrd of the Wild Wood.  I applaud the writers of the organized play adventure for all the hard work they put into this.  It seemed like they really listened to player feedback from Crown of the Lich King and some of the mechanics were changed slightly to run a lot smoother in this adventure.  The Wild Wood is one of my favorite locations of the Dragon Empire so I hope one day in future organized play adventures we can return to it.  I hope our players bring some of these characters back for higher tier adventures as it was a blast sharing them with you.  Liked our adventure recap or have any comments?  Please let us know!   Thanks for reading!  

(Sarah)    (Ben)

Part 4 Recap – The Tower of Alamede

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!”

WaterNymph

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!”

Crystal ShardNo 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.

WizardsTowerAlamain’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.

Tower

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.

Tower3

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.

Tower4

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.

DireRats

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.

DireRats3

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.

Saplings

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.

Saplings1

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.

(Sarah)    (Ben)

Part 3 Recap – Through the Wild Wood

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.

WizardsTowerUsing 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!”

Owlbear1

Owlbear attack!

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.

Owlbear2

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.

Ruins1

Ruins: Citadel of Autumn’s End

AegisVaelen 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!”

Ruins3

Aegis and Lesser Aegides activate

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.

Panorama1

Wave hello to our players! /wave

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.

Ruins6

Gillian goes down!

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.

Swamp1

Entering the Swamp….

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.”

Swamp2

… of Flame Spurts!

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!!!”

Swamp3

Beware the Lightning Sand and R.O.U.S.!

OtyughBillups 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.

Swamp4

Otyughs emerge from the watery depths

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.

Swamp7

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.

Wolves

Hoot?

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!

Wolves1

Timber Wolf pack strikes!

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.

Wolves3

“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!”

GM Notes:

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.

Player Feedback:

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.”

(Sarah)    (Ben)

The Adventure of Billups and Kzzmet!

The Adventure of Billups and Kzzmet!

(Last seen during Part 1 Darkskye Crashdown)

When the water from the lake stopped falling Billups found himself soaked to the core and utterly alone.   Any bard who spun songs about the Wild Wood knew it was a dangerous place.  Much too dangerous for a bard to face alone, Billups decided.  Assuring himself that there would surely be more survivors of the crash or a rescue party coming soon the bard thought it best to stay put.  Staying on the ground level would be risky though so Billups climbed the tree that had saved him from the rush of water.  Once secure on a high branch the bard surveyed the surrounding damage.  The crash was devastating to the surrounding forest.  This event would be remembered in ages to come.  Determined to be the first to tell the tale the bard began composing a song about the crash of Darkskye.  If he was lucky perhaps someone would hear him and help him out of this dangerous area.  Compiling his words, he began…

Once an island enchanted by flight,

To keep the distrustful out of sight,

Magnificent it rose through the air,

Yet flown too close to the dragon lair,

 

Deep in the island in tunnels old,

Lay crystals of power yet untold,

Magic energies twisted corrupt,

Did cause mighty Darkskye to erupt,

 

With twists and turns the island cried,

As old enchantments slowly died,

Flight stripped away; situation grim,

The fate of so many looked so dim,

 

Wild magic burned, crystals aglow,

Down Darksyke fell into woods below,

Destruction echoed far as thunder,

As the Wild Wood was torn asunder,

 

Countless voices now have ceased,

A lucky few are blessed! Released!

Prisoners no longer bound by cages,

Fighting for survival as the Wild Wood rages,

A noise below gave the bard pause.  Looking down Billups saw that his voice had indeed attracted attention, but not the type he desired.  Below enraged water nymphs circled his tree, angered by the destruction the lake water and crash had wrought upon the land.  Nervously Billups crept up a little higher on the tree and changed his tune…

Now here I stay among branch and leaf,

While unpleasant things crept beneath…

“QUIT YER YAPPING!” A voice called down below.  The high elf looked down from his perch again just in time to see Kzzmet crush one of the enraged water nymphs with his hammers.  The dwarf ranger had come back for him!  Perhaps he had a way out of this mess yet…
(Sarah)    (Ben)

Part 2 Recap – Wild Things

Adventure 2 – Wild Things

WaterThere were several times Vaelen thought he would surely drown.  The sheer force of the water from the lake hitting him from above blasted the air of his lungs.  Just as he thought his grip on the tree Gillian had thrown him to would hold he felt the wood snap and the water swallowed him whole.  At one point the cleric slammed into Kzzmet, but before he could grab hold of the dwarf a surge of water carried him away. His instincts told him to lie on his back, keep his legs pointed downstream and keep his head above water, but the heavy armor he wore made it all but impossible. Water surged into his mouth, up his nose, clogged his ears, and knocked him senseless.  Deaf, dumb and blind Vaelen was left feeling helpless against the might of the unruly water.  Just as he felt his world darkening he felt a strong hand heave him out of the water.  Even after the world came back into focus he couldn’t believe his eyes.  Vaelen had just been plucked out of the water by a half-orc who was surfing down the raging river on wooden wreckage from Darkskye.  He would have thought himself delusional if he hadn’t recognized the barbarian’s face.  Vaelen coughed, sucked in great gasps of air, and found his voice.  “Penny?!?”

Penelope ‘Penny’ Dreadful grinned down at Vaelen. “I thought that balding head looked familiar.  Hang on.  I got you!”  As the reigning champion of the Imperial Legion’s dodgeball championships avoiding falling wreckage and surfing down the raging river was a piece of cake for Penny.  If you could dodge a ball, you could dodge a weapon her former drill master in Axis had always told her.  Of course balls were made of stone not rubber, so dodging wreckage didn’t seem all that different.  She saw the tip of a helment sticking out of the water and pulling it up with her free hand found Tycho attached with a half-elf sorcerer clinging to his belt.  A thud behind her announced Jasmind as the paladin climbed onto the board as well.  The floating wrecks creaked with all the additional weight.  “Whoops, fun time is over.  Brace for landing!”  With a twist of her legs, Penny guided her makeshift raft over to the shore.  Deep in the Wild Wood with a motley collection of adventurers may seem a daunting situation for normal folk, but Penny was grateful to be getting some exercise.  For the past several weeks she had served desk duty as a guard on Darkskye and her leg muscles had started going soft.  If there was one thing the barbarian couldn’t stand, it was growing soft.

Tycho half laughed, half sputtered water out of his lungs as Penny threw him onto dry land.  If he had known the new guard he had working to smuggle things in and out of Darkskye was that skillful he would have given her a bigger cut in his smuggling operations.  The half-orc barbarian seemed to have a little bit of crazy in her.  Tycho liked that.  The halfling fighter climbed to his feet all the while grinning like a madman, but his smile faltered when he noticed the absence of a certain dwarf.  “Where’s Kzzmet?”

TanglewoodCold, wet, and shivering to the bone, Gillian was only half listening to the conversation.  Vaelen had not seen Kzzmet since he lost his grip on him in the river.  No one had seen the bard since the water fell.  It seemed that their “savior” was a relatively new guard stationed at Darkskye.  Vaelen knew the half-orc barbarian from her former bounty hunter days which seemed to be brief at best.  Tycho also seemed familiar with Penny, although Gillian couldn’t place how. While the others talked Gillian stood up and looked around.  They were in the thick of the Wild Wood and Darkskye’s crash had made a mess of things.  From the looks of it the water had washed them all downhill a few miles north, but even from this distance Gillian could still see fragments of the island spinning in the air still suspended by wild magic.  Looking north Gillian saw that the rushing water had broken through the edge of a massive patch of tight twisting trees and vines.  She had to look twice to make sure she was certain, but yes – there it was – just beyond the gap in the tanglewood was a small collection of primitive dwellings.  “A village!”

As the party walked toward the village Jasmind listened to the others share stories about the Wild Wood.  Out of everyone present she had the most experience in the area, having been a Warden of the Wild Wood before her imprisonment.  Trees that come alive. Hah, even younglings in their cribs knew that.  Bears the size of buildings. An exaggeration, for sure.  Hags, gnolls and trolls. The Wild Wood was home to many creatures, even unsightly ones.  Rumors of wild elves corrupted by the Diabolist. Wait- what?  Jasmind turned to see who had shared that last bit of information.  Vaelen.  As a wood elf Jasmind nearly took the comment as an insult, but perhaps the bounty hunter knew something she didn’t….

“I thought you said this was a village,” Tycho quipped at Gillian as they approached the dwellings.  Tucked into the tangled roots of massive trees were small huts.  The only thing that qualified as a building in Tycho’s mind was a longhall-like house that rested in the center of all the huts.  The natives here were wild elves garbed in simple animal pelts or woven grass.  The wild elves were non-aggressive, but apprehension was clear on their faces as the party approached.  It was just so…. primitive…

Jasmind elbowed Tycho in the side.  “Show some respect.  While I have not traveled here before I know of this village.  This is Onkafield, a focal place for hunters to trade pelts.”  After speaking a few words of Elven with a villager nearby Jasmind beckoned the party towards the longhall.  “Come.  There are people inside that may help us.”

WoodElfTileInside the longhall the party found two village elders that were willing to help, for a price.  The first was Okonkwo Nasiche, the village healer, who offered to craft two healing poultices if the party agreed to stay overnight to protect the village.  The other was Kalu Kadokechi, a magician of limited skills, who offered the party magical oil if they helped him extract sap from trees.  Kadokechi explained that the water had brought many glowing crystals into the woods just outside the village and no one dared approach them.  While Jasmind talked to Nasiche about staying in the village overnight Gillian and the others talked to Kadokechi about the crystals.

Nasiche was in the midst of explaining how the ragging water had destroyed a portion of the tanglewine that protected the village when Jasmind heard a commotion behind her.  Turning the wood elf paladin saw a youthful wild elf female with a dagger raised at Gillian.  The half elf sorcerer was shouting. “Seven Hells!  I was just asking for some help out of these wretched woods!  Calm down!”  Clearly the troubled bunch the paladin traveled with lacked the delicate touch needed to gain trust with the wild elves.  Jasmind hurriedly excused herself from Nasiche and rushed over to difuse the situation.  She glided up next to Gillian and softly spoke a customary greeting of peace in Elven that she had used many times before in her past when visiting other villages in the Wild Wood.  The wild elf’s eyes widened in recognition as the elf looked at Jasmind and she lowered her daggers. “Leafkin Jass~mind!”

Tycho raised a bushy eyebrow.  One minute the sorcerer was about to get them all in trouble with an elf, the next minute the paladin had the elf bowing in reverence.  In a rare showing of grace and authority Jasmind looked as if she had been blessed by the Elf Queen herself.  The wild elf female introduced herself as Akiki, a village guide.  She humbly apologized for her actions, not having known these strangers traveled with a Warden of the Wild Wood.  Tycho chuckled and leaned in close to Jasmind.  “A Warden, aye? Guess this one doesn’t know you’ve been tucked away in prison.”  The halfling’s taunts were promptly returned with another elbow in his side.

With an hour or two of sunlight left in the day the party set out to collect the tree sap requested by Kalu Kadokechi.  When they exited the village they saw that the rushing water had subsided, leaving a trail of crystals and debris littered throughout the forest.  After studying the crystals for a moment Gillian grimly admitted that she lacked the magical ability to render them harmless.  Vaelen similarly admitted that his knowledge of divine scripture from his studies in the Cathedral offered no solution.  Tycho suggested shattering any crystals they saw and Penny happily obliged.  Reducing the crystals to dust would not solve the problem as time in the prison tunnels had proven, but perhaps it would lessen the harmful impact they had on the forest.  As Tycho and Penny got to smashing Jasmind found the tree they were looking for and began extracting the sap.  Before long the party was headed back into Onkafield, sap in hand.

The aged Kadokechi offered them a bright smile as he accepted the sap.  “This sap is said to be blessed by the blood of our ancestors.  It has helped protect our village for generations.  Our most profound thanks!”  The aged elf stated that he would use a small portion of the sap to create the magical oil as promised, but Jasmind stopped him.  She thanked him for his most generous offer, but explained that simple provisions of food and water would be a much more valuable reward given their predicament.    Kadokechi instructed them to wait and disappeared deeper into the longhall.  When he returned he carried three large sacks.  “It’s not much, but my wife makes amazing elven bread.  That, a bit of water, and a few scraps of jerky should see you well fed for several days.”  Before  Kadokechi  had finished speaking Tycho had already upended one bag and was rifeling through the food.  Penny and Gillian grabbed hold of the other two sacks and thanked Kadokechi for his generosity.

DiabolistNeeding a breath of fresh air, Vaelen was the first out of the longhouse.  His trained eyes surveyed the people of the village, sizing everyone up.  Whether it was by luck or the Priestess herself guided his eyes Vaelen couldn’t be sure, but a mark on the wrist of a wild elf that walked into one of the small huts caught his attention.  A bracer on the elf’s wrist has loosened revealing a mark of a deformed hand with an eyes at is center.  The rumors were true.   His companions emerged from the longhall just in time to hear Vaelen curse.  “We’ve got trouble.  I just noticed an elf bearing the mark of the Diabolist.  And where she goes, chaos follows.”

Alarmed, Gillian demanded to know where the elf was.  Vaelen nodded towards the hut the elf had entered, but grabbed Gillian’s wrist before she could pursue him.  “Contain yourself.  We don’t know how far the taint has spread.  We might have to wipe out the whole village,”  Vaelen whispered.  Not one for tact Tycho blurted out “Yes! Wipe them out!” not caring that Akiki still accompanied them.

Jasmind quickly pulled Akiki aside.  She would be having some words with the halfling fighter later, but for now she had to salvage their relationship with the elf guide.  The paladin explained to Akiki that the Diabolist was a great threat to the village’s safety.  She stressed that it was of great importance to know who the elf was that resided in that hut.  Akiki looked wide eyed at Tycho, then back at Jasmind before finding her words.  “He is a fur trader who arrived here yesterday.  A newcomer to our village.  No one else here bears the dark mark.  Leafkin, I bow to your judgment in this.  You must do what needs to be done for the people.  I only ask that you honor our people’s laws and no foul deed will take place in the village grounds.”  Jasmind nodded and promised Akiki that no one free from the Diabolist’s corruption would be harmed.  As a paladin it was her oath to protect the innocent and smite the wicked.  She turned to deliver the news to the others.

Fire burned in Gillian’s eyes, but the half elf listened to the wisdom in Jasmind’s words.  “Fine.  No blood will be shed in the village.  Go out to the woods.  I will deliver him to you shortly.”  Shaking her wrist free of Vaelen’s grasp she stomped toward the elf’s hut, leaving her party him her.  Gillian had more reasons than most to hate the Diabolist.  She had long ago sworn that she would never let that monstrous excuse for a women ever sink her claws into her again.  Without knocking she flipped the door to the hut open to find the elf sitting crosslegged on the hut floor, a satchel in hand.  She pulled herself up in her most intimidating pose, “Mother sent me.  She needs a report on your activities here.  We must speak in the woods immediately.”

The elf looked up alarmed and slid the satchel behind his back.  He opened his mouth to speak, but was silenced as Gillian let the magic from her demonic heritage come to life.  Infernal runes flared across her skin before darkening agin.  Gillian narrowed her eyes and spoke again.  “I am Mother’s creation.  You will answer to me.  Follow.  This is not a discussion.”  She flung the door to the hut open and gestured the elf out.  Reluctantly, the agent let the sorceress march him deep into the surrounding woods.  When he saw the others arrayed before him, fully armed, he stopped dead in his tracks.  One look at the grin on the halfling’s face and the elf knew he had walked into a trap.

“Deceiver! Traitor! Mother did not send you!”  In one quick motion the wild elf unsheathed a dagger from his belt.  Gillian went to defend herself, but was alarmed when the elf plunged the blade into his own chest.  “Mother… will honor… me…”  His body slumped to the floor dead and the satchel spilled out onto ground.  Gillian picked up several samples of crystals and a leather bound book.  Flipping the books pages open, she found a demonic script scrawled across the pages.  At least her time in the hellmarsh had taught her to read abyssal.  The pages seemed to be scattered notes concerning the crystal samples.  Apparently the Diabolist herself had an interest in the crystals.  Yet Akiki had told Jasmind the elf arrived the day before Darkskye crashed.  What did that mean?

“Damn, he denied us the fun part,” Tycho muttered as he approached the elf’s corpse.  “Must have been posion on that dagger to work so quickly.”  With a grunt the halfling picked up the elf by the legs and started dragging him to a nearby clearing.  He paused a moment when he noticed the look the others were giving him.  “I doubt the native knife ears be wanting us to leave bodies lying around and he ain’t going to bury himself.  Stop your bloody gawking and give me a hand!”

After the elf was buried and forgotten the party members took shifts to protect the village overnight.  It had been a very long day, but Jasmind had given her word to Okonkwo Nasiche that they would do it.  Though brief, the rest allowed them to heal up from their wounds.  When the morning came the band of adventurers found Akiki waiting to guide them out of the forest.  Before they departed the village healer Nasiche delivered two healing poultices to the party as promised.

To the party’s surprise Akiki guided them to the north end of the village to where the tanglewood was the thick.  Penny questioned why they could not just go around in the gap the water created.  Akiki pointed back to the south.  The hole in the village’s natural defense barrier was gone, replaced tanglevine that was unnaturally large.  “You looked, but you did not see.  The dust from the crystals you shattered mixed with the dirt and caused the tanglewood to grow wild.  Kadokechi works to restore the natural balance, but if you wish to depart you must do so now.  Come.  I will show the way.”

Tanglevine1Akiki was fast.  Very fast.  There were many times the elf guide would disappear through the tanglevine quicker than anyone could follow.  It was not until the party was a few feet into the tanglewood that they understood how good of a natural barrier it made for the village.  Twisting branches and thorny vines created a massive thicket that blocked out most the sunlight above them.  Gillian and Penny both slipped down a hillside, cutting themselves on the massive thorns in the woods.  Tycho mocked them until Jasmind pointed out he was standing in a patch of Itchbane weeds.  The halfling cursed and frantically leapt out of the plant he had walked into, but it was too late – he would be itching all day.  Thankfully, whenever the party seemed to be completely lost Akiki would always find them again.

Vaelen breathed a sigh of relief when they found the edge of the tanglewood.  By the grace of the gods he had emerged unscathed.  Unfortunately, it looks like they were trading one danerous environment for another.  Before them were the massive trees of the Wild Wood, their trunks dotted with various fungi and unusually large flowers.  Akiki made a gesture to several tracks in the ground, “Direwolves have gone through here recently.  Great and terrible predators.  You would best keep away from them.”

Akiki quickly darted ahead and the rest tried to keep up.  None of them had the sense to notice Akiki’s path stayed far away from the flowers along the tree trunks.  When Gillian got too close, she was  alarmed when a flower lashed out to wrap its petals around her.  Her muffled screams alerted Jasmind who tried to pull the half-elf out of the flower petals.  Jasmind yanked Gillian free, but the two of them stumbled back into a noxious fungus that released a spore cloud towards them.  Penny lifted them both to safety and the party moved on more cautious of their surroundings.  Their their raised awareness the party noticed that the grass swayed towards the crystals that had fallen in this area of the Wild Wood, even when the wind blew in the opposite direction.  Something was wrong with the forest.

As the sun began to set, the adventurers found themselves approaching a small clearing.  Within was a crumbled mass that once may have been called a building.  Around the ruins were countless gravestones.  Akiki pulled on Jasmind’s arm, “I can take you no further, Leafkin.  My people dare not tread in this place.  Travel north, you will find your way home.”  Jasmind nodded in approval and touched three fingers to her brow, a sign of thanks among her kind.  With one last bow of her head, Akiki sprinted back into the forest toward her village.

Skeleton2Penny strode into the clearing and looked around.  “Next time our guide won’t enter a place, perhaps it be best to ask why.”  Drawning on her background as an imperial legionnaire the half-orc continued, “In ages past there used to be troops sent in to pacify the High Druid and her followers when she first begin to harass the imperial lands.  Judging by the graveyards, I’d wager this was one of their field hospitals before the wilds overtook them.”  Penny started walking towards the nearest headstone, but as the sun dipped below the horizon and night began to fall a harsh chill wind swept through the clearing.  The half-orc paused as the dirt beneath her feet shifted and a skeletal hand emeraged.  Three skeletal warriors and six decrepit skeletons rose from the graves around the party.  A bone-chilling shriek pulled their attention to the hospital where a ghostly apparition had materialized holding icy-blue blade. Their presence had awoken a wraith.

Vaelen was not one to wait for trouble to come to him so he leapt into the fray, swinging his warhammer around at the nearest decrepit skeleton.  The skeleton’s head came clean off and lodged itself into the ribcage of another nearby as its body crumpled to the ground.  Tycho slid up next to Vaelen and brought his Greatsword of the Bear down upon a skeletal warrior.  His aim was to outmatch the cleric, but the halfling found the warriors to be far less brittle than the others.  His sword chipped away at the skeleton’s bones, but the warrior stood strong.  Seeing the danger the warriors posed Jasmind flanked right and got the attention of two remaining skeletal warriors.  As the skeletons charged in at the remaining party members, Penny stood firm, swinging her axe in a frenzied whirlwind at every undead horror to come close.  It had been far too long since she had seen combat and Penny was itching for a good fight.  With Penny guarding her Gillian took the opportunity to gather power.

HospitalRuins

Pine cones represent trees.

The wraith raised his ice-cold ghost blade and flew at Jasmind.  Jasmind found him to be quite the foe, his etheral body making it difficult to land a solid blow.  With a wraith and two skeletal warriors on her the paladin took a beating, but before long Tycho and Vaelen were by her side after dispatching their own warrior.  Vaelen reached out towards Jasmind and used his divine arts as a cleric to mend her wounds.  With a shriek the wraith unleashed a spiraling assault upon those that surrounded him and teleported away.  He appeared behind Gillian just as the sorcerer was about to unleash a scorching ray and drove his blade into her back.  Negative energy filled the sorcerer and she fell to one knee, staggered.  Distracted dealing with the remaining decrepit skeletons Penny was unable to help.

HospitalRuins4

We had a wraith miniature on the table, yet somehow forgot to take a photo of it. Whoops.
Enjoy a close-up of a skeleton and our crystal shards instead.

Vaelen saw the plight of his companions and ran over to Gillian.  The cleric quickly healed his companion before he turning his gaze upon the wraith.  Raising his hand he let the might of the light and dark gods that flow through him.  A beam of intense golden energy connected with the Wraith’s chest.  Holy energy thrummed through the clearing and the Wraith abruptly exploded in a flash of divine light.  Caught in the light, the remaining skeletons turned to dust.  The undead had not just been turned – they had been destroyed.

With the threat gone the party took a moment to recover from their wounds.  Vaelen darkly reminded the others that while they had won one battle it would be unwise to stay here overnight as untold amounts of undead could still be lurking within the hospital ruins.  Hurriedly, the party assembled their gear to leave.  Jasmind picked up the icy-touched blade that the wraith had carried and felt a chill run into her arm.  It may have been an instrument of evil once, but it would still serve her as a useful tool.  Before departing Vaelen noticed that one of the shields a warrior had carried was not rusted over like the rest.  In fact, it looked as new as the day it was crafted.  Picking it up the cleric felt the power within the metal disc and smiled.  With no other magic items in sight the party made their way north out of the graveyard and into the Wild Wood beyond.

LizardMan1At night the Wild Wood was full of haunting sounds.  As the party ventured through the wilderness they could hear shuffling in the bushes just outside their torchlight.  The howls of direwolves echoed through the air.  And above all, the constant hum of insects in the air.  Tycho swatted yet another mosquito off his neck and looked off to his right.  He had thought he heard something, like a collection of hoots and hollers.  Squinting under his torchlight, he saw the shadowy figures of several humanoids about his size running through the woods near a small stream.  More sounds echoed through the woods then a very abrupt THWACK.  “Mates, I think we may have a problem…”

Penny was just about to say something when she heard movement to her right.  Then behind her.  Then to her left.  The glitter of scales reflected the moonlight as several massive forms emerged out of the woods.  When they came closer to the light Penny recognized them immediately.  Several of the barbarian’s exploits in the Legion involved pacifying or fighting against the Lizardmen that worked for the Three.  Brutal savages, they preferred the noise that their primitive clubs made when smashing the bones of their victims.  To make it worse the one infront of her was a Giant Dragonman with a big honkin’ club in one hand and dragged the corpse of a savage halfling native to the Wild Wood in the other.  “Yes, that’s a problem.”

Lizardmen

The sound of a fallen tree branch snapping behind Tycho was his only warning before another Giant Dragonman appeared behind the party.  The fighter was barely able to duck out of the way before the Dragonman slammed his massive club down into the ground next to him.  Tycho retaliated in kind, twisting around the brute and slashing away with his greatsword.  Gillian let her arcane energies build, lightning crackling around her.  Vaelen and Jasmind got the better of two of the smaller lizardmen and flanked the pair.  When Penny took a club to the chest, she lost all notion of civilized combat.  With a blood curdling cry, the barbarian let her adrenaline pump through her veins as rage filled her.  For every hit she took, she sank her ax deeper into the brute in front of her.

Lizardmen1

DiceFail

Lightning Fork Fail

Trading blow for blow, Tycho continued to stand toe-to-toe with the brute before him.  He may be small, but he knew how to handle a blade well.  The bigger his target, the easier it was to hit.  The Dragonman eventually collapsed from the numerous slashes across his body. Gillian saw Penny swarmed by three lizardmen and sought to help.  She channeled her gathered power and released a lightning bolt, only to see it fizzle in the air.  The lizardmen barely noticed the lightning bolt and kept harrying Penny.  The raging barbarian served as an effective distraction and let Jasmind flank around behind them.  With the Dragonman weakened from Penny’s blows Jasmind unleashed a powerful smite which felled the creature.  With the grace only a wood elf could muster Jasmind followed up and delivered a finishing blow to the last remaining lizardman.

Lizardmen2
Gillian walked over to one of the fallen lizardman and removed a pouch from his waist.  Sure enough, they too had been collecting samples of the crystals. First the Diabolist, now the Three.  Who else has a hand in this mess?  Something big was going on here, and they seemed to be caught in the middle of it. Tycho muttered something along the lines of only caring about finding a peaceful place to rest for the night.  Tired and beaten bloody the others agreed.  They had only walked a few minutes before coming upon a small village full of dead feral halflings, no doubt wiped out by the lizardmen they had encountered.  “Whelp, this place is as good as any,” Tycho said as he threw down his gear to settle in for the night.  Too tired to argue the others followed suit.

The next morning the band of adventurers were greeted by a sign of hope.  As the sun rose over the treetops they saw a tower in the far distance.  It would take at least another day’s travel to reach the tower, but they rejoiced in seeing the first sign of civilization.  Gathering their gear they set out North.

GM Notes:

The unnamed wild elf in Onkafield that Vaelen uncovered as a servant of the Diabolist was a creation of our own game.  It was not part of the Wyrd of the Wild Wood organized play packet.  At the start of the game players were given an opportunity share information their characters knew about the Wild Wood.  This information was then integrated into the game as fact.   As we went around the table the person who plays Vaelen added that Vaelen had heard rumors of wild elves or gnolls that were corrupted by the Diabolist.  This gave a great opportunity to tie in some Icon relationships and it fit into the ongoing mystery of the crystals.

Similarly, the party faced Lizardmen working for the Three as a second encounter because it tied in closer to the Icons present in our game.  The organized play packet outlines a fight against feral halflings, but thinking Tycho wouldn’t like that much we went with the Lizardmen which are a bonus monster offered in Appendix 4 of the organized play packet.

(Sarah)    (Ben)

Part 1 Recap – Darkskye Crashdown

Adventure 1 – Darkskye Crashdown

Flying Island 2Perhaps it was only the after effects of the teleporter, but Gillian swore she felt the ground shift beneath her feet as Vaelen marched her towards a group of guards to collect his bounty. Too angry to look at the guards she instead took in the sights. So this was Darkskye. With a quaint village in the distance and enchanting signs of the Archmage’s magics present around her the flying island might not have seemed so bad if she didn’t know that the worst criminals in the empire were imprisoned in the crystal tunnels below. The ground shuddered again and the young sorceress felt a ripple of magic pulse from the tunnels below. Deep within the flying island wild magic stirred.

Billups felt a ripple of magic disrupt his song and slowly lowered his three string guitar. Whatever the ripple was, it had set his nerves on fire. By the looks of the magically attuned guards in the recreation room that served the Archmage they felt it too. It was the only warning he would get before the entire room started shaking.

In their cells both Tycho and Jasmind felt the tunnels begin to shake. It only lasted a few seconds and seemed to emminate from directly below them, deep where the tunnels were still mined for crystals. An explosion? Jasmind felt a warning from the Great Wold Wyrm scratch at her mind, but the next moment the room shifted sending her crashing into the bars of her prison cell.

The world reeled around him and Kzzmet peered down into his now empty mug. Wow, whatever Tycho had smuggled in this time was good stuff! Coming from a dwarf, that was saying a lot. He never knew of the danger he was in until the entire room tilted sending him, his drink, tables and chairs crashing towards a wall.

Vaelen saw firsthand the reason that the entire island lurched to the side suddenly, though perhaps he wished he hadn’t. Like a sudden storm a massive shadow overtook the island. The roar that followed was deafening. His ears were ringing too loudly to hear a guard in front of him shout to take cover in the prison tunnels, but by the way the guard was frantically waving his arms the cleric turned bounty-hunter understood the message. Tightening his grip on Turrock and Gillian’s chains he half ran, half dragged them towards the tunnel entrance. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a massive red scaled claw reach out of the sky and shred through a guard tower like tissue paper. Bricks and mortar rained down around the three of them like a hailstorm. Vaelen, Turrock, and Gillian barely made it into the prison tunnels before the entire ground lurched beneath them.

The Red had attacked Darkskye.

TheThree

In Horizon, the city of wonders, the Archmage looked south east.  Beyond the window of his flying tower, past Gorogan’s Maw and the two-hundred mile rift known as the Abyss lie the Red Wastes.  While his mortal vision could not see that far, the image of the wastes burned in his mind.  Once, long ago, the Wild Wood forest had stretched east to Horizon.  Now all that remained was a scorched deadlands that civilized folk dare not enter.  In another age when the Great Gold Wyrm used his body to seal the Abyss the Red had swooped down to unleash his destructive power on the demons that had escaped.  The demons had burned, along with everything else in the Red’s wake.  As the preserver of peace in the Empire, the Archmage has sworn not to allow such destruction from the Red to harm the lands again.  For uncounted years the Red was kept at bay just outside the Empire, but now for reasons unknown the Red had returned.  Through his arcane magics the Archmage could feel the vicious attacks the Red unleashed on Darkskye.  Tapping into the nodes he had strategically placed around the Empire that drew arcane power from the ley lines, the Archmage began to gather his power.  Once he had gathered the energies he required he activated an arcane barrier around Darkskye with enough power to repel the Red.  Little did the Archmage know was that the crystals deep within the island had just become unstable.  As the Archmage’s power surged through the island the magic buried within the crystals overloaded and went wild.

It was to Billup’s surprise that his three string guitar survived in one piece when he, everyone and everything else in the prison recreation room went crashing into a wall as the flying island suddenly lurched to one side.  As the bard picked himself and his instrument off the floor he looked around.  Next to him a dwarf prisoner emerged from behind the splintered wreckage of a wood table.  Near the door a group of guards were trying to maintain order and tend to the wounded.  Billups never had a chance to offer them assistance.  Before the high elf could take a step the floor began to rumble.  A cluster of large amethyst crystals burst forth from the floor and impaled everyone near the doors.  Whatever danger they were in had just started.

Crystal ShardLocked in their cells, Jasmind and Tycho could only hang on to the prison bars and pray that their world would stop shaking.  Clusters of purple crystals were breaking though the corridor wall that ran along their row of prison cells.  As a guard ran past one of the crystals began to glow and shot him full force with a beam of wild magic.  In an instant the guard disintegrated into nothingness, save his clothing and the prison cell keys.  The keys!  Jasmind reached through the bars of her cell with all her strength trying to reach them.  She almost reached them too before the island tilted again.  When she regained her senses she saw Tycho in the cell next to her twirling the keys around a finger.  “You’re lucky I like you.  If you weren’t a member of my crew I would leave you in that cell.  Let’s get out of here.”

Vaelen looked over his prisoners as chaos erupted around him.  While he no longer heard the Red’s roars outside, it felt like the island was tearing itself apart.  Worse yet, if the gut wrenching feeling in his stomach was correct, the flying island was no longer flying – it was falling. Soon there would be no more prison cells to lock his two marks up and if they survived the crash they would be free once again.  The sorcerer perhaps he could trust, but the half-orc demon worshiper never.  Dropping their chains the cleric brought his warhammer to bear as he loomed over Turrock.  Before he could land a fatal blow the wall behind Turrock collapsed onto the half-orc, doing the cleric’s work for him.  Vaelen lowered his warhammer and looked at Gillian.  “Take a step out of line and you’ll meet the same fate as him.  Let’s go.  I have an old dwarf friend in these cells that I’d rather not see dead.”

The purple crystals may have cut off the door to the prison recreation room, but as Darkskye continued to break apart one of the other walls crumbled giving Kzzmet and Billups a new exit.  The bard was too distraught to notice the crystals that had overtaken half the room start to pulse with energy, but Kzzmet did.  Just as the crystals fired off a beam of raw magic the dwarf grabbed Billups by his delicate elven arm and pulled the bard through a hole in the wall.  Billups took the back end of the blast, but he would live.  Not wanting to spend another moment here the two of them started heading towards the prison entrance in search of other survivors.

WaterThe sound of rushing water was Jasmind’s only warning.  She grabbed onto the bars of the prison cell she had just exited and held on tight.  Not graced with an elf’s enhanced hearing or quick reflexes, Tycho was not so lucky.  As the wave of water hit it carried him screaming down the corridor.  The rush of water only lasted a minute.  Jasmind concluded one of the water reservoirs in the prison must have burst.  If it had been the lake she would have surely drowned.  Once it was safe to move Jasmind took off down the hallway after her halfling companion.  She found him towards the end in a room screaming not in terror, but in delight.  The fighter stopped his yelling to beckon her over. “What a rush! Look where the tide carried me!”  Weapons and armor were scattered around his feet.  The water had knocked open an armory closet used by the guards.  Selune be praised, perhaps they could get out of this in one piece.  The two quickly armed themselves and set off towards the upper levels of the prison.

Kzzmet couldn’t believe what was happening.  Either Darkskye really was falling, or he was drunker than he thought.  “This’ll make one helluva song for ya, laddie!” he called out to the bard behind him. Billups couldn’t help but smile as the two of them entered a cavernous intersection.  From a tunnel leading to a row of prison cells emerged a halfling and an elf, obviously prisoners but surprisingly armed.  Kzzmet smiled, “Tycho!  Good ta see the crystals didn’t skewer ya.”  A moment later, a balding human carrying a wicked looking warhammer twisted around a corner with a half elf in tow.  “By the dwarf kings beard!  Vaelen?  What in seven hells are ya doing here?”  Vaelen opened his mouth to answer when a horrible ripping sound shook the island.  With a loud groan the portion of the island that housed the prison tunnels broke away from the rest of Darkskye and began to tumble end over end.

Gillian was the first to recover when the tunnels stopped spinning.  As everyone regained their footing she noticed that the prison tunnels has complete reoriented themselves – They were now standing on the ceiling.  Through a crack in the wall Gillian could see the magic barrier that still surrounded parts of the island and the forest below.  Large portions of the forest had been flattened by glowing chunks of rock.  Oddly, the larger portions of the island such as the one they remained on had not crashed yet.  The laws of gravity did not seem to apply here, warped no doubt by the magic of the crystals.  While she had no doubt that they still would crash, it was hard to predict when.  Inside the tunnels the shift had knocked dirt free from the walls and crystal dust was thick in the air, giving everything a shimmer glow.  She pulled a piece of fabric over her face and instructed the others to do the same.  “The magic feels wrong.  We need to get out of here. Don’t breath the dust in.”

Tycho had just finished securing a piece of clothing over his mouth when he heard hoots and howls echo through the hallways.  A group of prisoners and guards emerged from a crystal lined tunnels.  With their strange gate, glowing red eyes, and mutating crystal growths protruding from their skin it wasn’t difficult to tell something was wrong with them.  Most of them still looked humanoid, but others had been warped by the crystals into lumbering brutes.  Not one for diplomacy, Tycho tossed Kzzmet a pair of hammers he has pilfered from the guard closet earlier and raised a two-handed longsword.  Not waiting to hear what everyone else would do the halfling charged into battle.

CrystalMutation1

Infected Brutes and Mutating Infected
The crystal shards were crafted with sculpting clay. Click image for blog post on how to create your own crystal shards. 😉

Tycho’s charge might have been epic if he hadn’t tripped over a cluster of crystals and crashed into a nearby wall before reaching his opponent.  Jasmind sighed.  She was mid thought wondering how the halfling had survived this long when the high elf bard ran in and tripped over Tycho.  In a tangled mess of limbs the two tried to wrestle themselves free from each other.  How could two people both critically fail an attack in a row?!?  Well someone would need to save them.  Striding forward the paladin raised her sword and brought it down to bear on the closest infected brute.

“Bloody hell” Vaelen muttered before jumping into the fray.  The infected brutes and mutating infected humanoids put up a fight, but with Vaelen’s holy invocations, Gillian’s super charged magic, Billup’s battle cries, and the martial expertise of the rest of the group, the party emerged victorious. They never had a moment to celebrate though because at that instant the tunnel started to collapse.

CrystalMutation4

The Halls of Crystals

As the party frantically ran down a tunnel Billups caught sight of one of the Archmage’s elite guards. “He has the key to the barrier!  Follow him!” the bard shouted and led the party on.  The guard was running for his own life as crystals continued to burst out from the tunnel walls.  Billups sensed a warning from the Archmage again and barely avoided a beam of light shooting out from a larger crystal.  Before they knew it, every crystal along the tunnel was firing beams of pure arcane energy at them.   Vaelen, Jasmind and Tycho led the charge, deftly dodging their way through danger.  The rest were not so lucky and suffered a few nasty burns and cuts.

When they turned a corner, they found the sizzling corpse of the guard on the floor, obviously killed by the crystal beams.  Tycho  rifled through the guard’s belongings, “Waste not, want not, eh?”  He handed three potions out to Vaelen, Jasmind and Kzzmet.  He was about to discard an odd shaped rune when Gillian reached out and grabbed it, placing it in her pocket.  When the hafling turned the guard over, he saw a solid looking great sword with the pommel of a bear.  Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, he sheathed it behind his back.  The guard’s slippers also looked to be in fine fashion and handed them over to Billups, who reluctantly slipped them on.

Gillian was just about to tell the rest they should get moving when the island slammed into something solid and the wall in front of them crumbled away.  The air just beyond the wall rippled with purple magic indicating the magic barrier was still up.  Beyond the barrier not a few feet away was the most massive pine tree any of them had ever seen.  Gillian yanked the key from the guard’s burnt hand and held it out to the barrier.  The barrier gave way and she was buffeted by a sudden rush of wind.  The sorcerer turned to look back at her party and raised her voice so they could hear her over the wind.  “We may not have another chance like this!” Without another word Gillian leapt out into the open air.

Tycho gave a wry smile to the rest before following the half elf out.  Another shudder from the island was all the encouragement the rest of them needed.  One by one they too made a leap of faith towards the tree.  Jasmind’s tree branch broke upon contact and she plummeted through the canopy to the forest below.  It was not long before Billups came crashing down from above her, his leg catching one of the low hanging branches as the high elf hung upside down above the forest floor.

CrystalGolem2

Crystal Infected Forest

As the rest of the party made their way down the massive pine tree, they took stock of their surroundings.  The forest was alive and covered in the strange crystals that had broken free of the island.  Some smaller crystals littered the forest floor while others seemed to be alive, melding with certain elements of the forest itself.  Large crystalline structures had formed around the trees, streams, and boulders.  In the distance they could see a village and farther still a road, likely the one that led to New Port.  Above them the smaller chunk of the island they exited had already begun to spin back up into the air.  As it moved away they could see a larger portion of the island floating closer.  They would have to move fast.  If the larger section of Darkskye crashed, it would be right on top of them.

Once everyone had climbed down the pine tree Kzzmet moved to help Billups when a thunderous crash erupted from a small rise to the west.  The massive form of a stone golem burst through the foliage.  Glowing purple crystals lined his arms and back.  It looked as if the crystals had cracked his normally durable exterior and forced their way inside his body.  His eyes glowed red from the wild magic coursing through his being.  The golem cracked his hands, and seeing Billups still hanging from a tree, charged in.

CrystalGolem4

Crystalline Golem

The golem used Billups as a punching bag, hammering into the suspended high elf’s form almost cheerfully.  Barely catching his breath, Billups called upon his elven heritage and vanished in a silvery wink.  The bard reappeared on the rise behind the golem.  Sighing in quick relief the bard straightened himself and began a song that would strengthen his defenses.   Tycho and Kzzmet let the melody fill them with courage and they flanked the massive construct before them.  The golem was quick to deflect the blows and returned the favor with gargantuan amethyst fists.

Seeing her new allies in trouble, Jasmind readied her sword and shield, preparing to charge.  She never saw the crystal shards at her feet come alive until one of them sliced into her side.  The damage was minimal and she was about to laugh it off when she saw thirty formations of crystal shards manifest all around them.  “Okay, that could be a problem. “

CrystalGolem3

Crystalling Shardlings (stones)

Gillian saw the true threat in the multitude of crystals slashing and cutting away at her allies.  She sent a quick shock of electricity into the body of the one nearest her then did what she feared she wouldn’t have to – She tapped in to the demonic magic the diabolist had infused within her.  She felt her blood boil and her skin crawl as infernal sigils light up across her body.  Out of the corner of his eye Vaelen saw the shadow of horns and wings unfurl from the young sorcerer.  With a horrifying scream the sorceress unleashed a massive arc of raw lightning onto the crystalline structures.  The bolt of lightning ripped through the crystal shards, obliterating over half of the field before finally connecting to the golem itself.  Gillian struggled to keep her will her own as the demonic power flowed through her.

CrystalGolem6

Save the bard!

Kzzmet and Tycho continued to dance around the massive golem, slashing and hammering away at the creature.  Kzzmet took another heavy blow knocking him to the floor.  As the golem raised his colossal fist above him for a deathblow, his eyes glazed over.  Billups’s voice whispered into the creatures mind befuddling him.  The golem looked up towards his crystalline brethren and saw the reflection of his enemies in the crystals.  In a frenzy, the golem crashed into the whirling crystals attacking Vaelen, shattering the remaining of them with two quick strikes.  Jasmind saw the opening in the golems defenses and struck the golem’s back with a powerful smite.  With a wailing cry, the crystals along its back shattered and the construct crumbled to the floor.

CrystalGolem7

Incoming Amethyst Hammer Fists attack!

Vaelen shouldered his warhammer and strode over to the half-elf.  He had trusted the sorcerer until this point, but he would not tolerate having one touched by demons in his midst.  “What in seven hells was that, and what abomination are you?!”  Gillian glanced up at the human cleric, but never had a chance to answer.  From above came a deafening rumbling sound.  The lake atop Darkskye had burst and any moment now thousands of gallons of waters would threaten to drown them.  Gillian grabbed Vaelen and pulled him towards a pine tree.  Tycho and Jasmind ran up to the same tree and grabbed on tight.  Gillian never saw Kzzmet and Billups before the water poured down on them.

Billups never had a chance to run towards his allies since he had teleported to a high rise to escape the golem.  Instead he grabbed hold of another tree near him and held on for dear life.  The impact of water knocked the air out of his lungs and left him choking, but his grip on the tree held.  It felt like a lifetime passed before the water stopped.  Rising unsteady to his feet the bard looked out over the rise to where his allies had been.  The trees below had snapped from the impact of the water and had been washed away down the Wild Wood’s newest river.  None of his allies were in sight….

GM Note:

This was a fast paced adventure that never let players catch their breath.  Everyone had a great time.

The introduction to Part 1 asks players the reason Darkskye is crashing into the Wild Wood. Our party decided that reason was that someone tried tampering with the crystals to control or capture one the Three, but the magic energies in the crystals went wild and exploded. Since the adventure is written that Darkskye follows the flight path to the lair of the Red it made sense to say that the unnamed individual was targeting the Red. The Red normally resides outside of the dragon empire as entering the realm would set off the Archmage’s wards, but the fact that someone dare try to control him has him too enraged to care.  The Red is too dangerous to keep around, but it was fun bringing in an Icon that typically does not physically appear in the game.

(Sarah)    (Ben)

Adventure Prelude…

Adventure prelude for Wyrd of the Wild Wood….

Honor and grace. Those two words once defined Jasmind’s life, but there was little place for them in the dark prison cell in Darkskye where she found herself now. Once she had been a noble paladin rising in the ranks of the Elven Court and even dispatched by the Elf Queen herself to be a warden of the Wild Wood, but that was gone now. Gone ever since agents of the Emperor caught her embezzling money from the crystal dust trade. At first it seemed so simple. The crystal dust trade in Shadow Port was a commodity and some elves in the Court of Stars wanted in. By the time the shady figure approached her in the Wild Wood with the proposition she was buried in debt and desperate to earn some quick gold. Perhaps if she had the foresight back then to know accepting his offer would land her in prison she might have had more care in figuring out who he was first. That did not matter anymore. The only thing that mattered to her now was getting out of prison so she could regain her honor. The agents of the Emperor had given her an offer. Find out who controlled the smuggling operations on Darkskye and her prison sentence would be reduced. The fighter that was in the cell next to her was the key. His name was Tycho, a foul halfling with an even fouler taste for Troll Bile. The Emperor suspected he had connections in the smuggling operations and she had been strategically placed as a new recruit in his gang to figure out how deep his connections went.

Kzzmet tipped his cup back and enjoyed a nice healthy swig of ale. Life was so much more splendid when a mug of ale was in his hand. Well, except perhaps for the time he was caught dancing naked in a drunken stupor in the Dwarf King’s throne room. His actions had been forgiven, he was the bastard brother of the Dwarf King after-all and blood was blood, but their relationship had been complicated ever since. Shortly after that…. incident… the dwarf ranger had taken his leave of Forge and started a new life as a bounty hunter. Ale once again had gotten the better of him and one of his fellow bounty hunter companions had turned him into authorities for being stupidly drunk on a job. Now he found himself as a prisoner on Darkskye. At first it seemed that ale here was a luxury that was not permitted to prisoners, but he had found a halfling fighter with connections to get him what he needed. He might be a prisoner, but the gods still looked after drunken fools. The dwarf smiled, leaned back into a chair in the prison recreation room and listened to a high elf bard sing some silly song about great heroes who overcame a troubled past. The bard, Billups, was one of those fancy high elves that was visiting the prison on a mission to convince the corrupt here to lead better lives. Kzzmet might be a drunken fool, but that bard was simply a fool.

Vaelen was having a good day. As he stepped off the Darkskye teleporter with not just one, but two bounties in tow he couldn’t help but feel satisfied with his career path. When he was a young boy he had shown a talent for the divine arts so he has been brought to the Cathedral for a traditional upbringing as a holy cleric. As he grew into manhood though he became dissatisfied with his life in the Cathedral. The empire was rotting away with corruption and while he respected the Priestess’s place in the world he viewed her actions as too soft. The wicked deserved punishment and for that he left the Priestess’s service to join the ranks of the Crusader. Apprenticing under the Crusader was tough, but rewarded him with physical strengths he had never known before in his life. It was not until the Crusader had ordered him to kill an innocent he suspected of being tainted by demons that Vaelen had realized this was also not the path he wanted in life. So he created his own path. He became a bounty hunter, offering his services to the Emperor when the price was right. Recently that life was well rewarding. Not two nights ago he had succeeded in tracking down one of his marks, a nasty half-orc demon worshiper named Turrock. The only surprise was that he found Turrock engaged in a fight with a half elf sorcerer. When Turrock was subdued he was about to let the sorcerer go when he recognized her face. The sorcerer was Gillian and also had a bounty on her head for setting the Archmage academy ablaze. What luck. A well placed blow with his warhammer had brought her to her knees. Now here he was on Darkskye, leading them both past the guard checkpoints, eager to collect his well earned gold.

None of them had any clue that their world was about to go spinning out of control…

Meet the party for our Wyrd of the Wild Wood adventure!

Characters2

VAELEN

Human Cleric

One Unique Thing

The blood of a light god and dark god flow through him.

Icon Relationships

Complicated 1 with the Priestess.  Respects her role in the world, but views her as too soft.

Complicated 1 with the Crusader. Respects his efforts to fight demons, but does not agree with his methods.

Positive 1 with the Emperor.  Serves the Emperor as a bounty hunter to bring criminals to justice.

Backgrounds

+2 Holy studies.  Received training in the Cathedral in the traditional upbringing of a holy cleric, but abandoned the Priestess to bring a sterner justice to the empire.

+2 Battle hardened.  Apprenticed under the Crusader, but left his service after the Crusader ordered him to slaughter innocent people he viewed as tainted by demons.

+4 Bounty hunter.  Now walks his own path in life, a wrathful cleric that will bring the guilty to justice…. if the price is right.
————————————————————————————————————————–

GILLIAN

Half-Elf Sorcerer

One Unique Thing

Prized creation of the Diabolist, gone rogue.

Icon Relationships

Negative 2 with the Diabolist.  Gilliam was created by the Diabolist and the Diabolist wants her back.

Conflicted 1 with the Archmage.  Rescued by the Archmage, but treated as an experiment.

Backgrounds

+ 4 Raised by demons in the hellmarsh

+ 4 Studied Arcana under the skeptical watch of the Archmage

+2 Repeated escapee of several prisons.  Imprisoned for setting a Horizon academy on fire.  Now being transported to Darkskye.

————————————————————————————————————————–

TYCHO

Halfling Rogue

One Unique Thing

Loves him some Troll Bile (see reference here).  It makes him stronger.

Icon Relationships

Positive 1 with the Crusader.  Fought alongside him to get revenge.

Positive 1 with the Orc Lord.  Wishes to become stronger.  Believes in social Darwinism.

Negative 1 with the Emperor.  Imprisoned for serving the Orc Lord.

Backgrounds

+2 Battle hardened.  Fought demonic scourge with the Crusader.

+3 First halfling to be a Captain in the Orc Lord’s army, which as a result landed him in prison.

+3 Smuggling boss.  Took control of the smuggling operations on Darkskye.  Does not care about the crystal dust so long as regular shipments of troll bile keep coming in.
————————————————————————————————————————–

JASMIND

Wood Elf Paladin

One Unique Thing

Warden of the Wild Wood

Icon Relationships

Conflicted 1 with the Emperor for embezzling the profits from the crystal trade.

Positive 1 with the Great Gold Wyrm for serving under one of his paladin orders.

Positive 1 with the Elf Queen for being a guardian in the Court of Elven Stars.

Backgrounds

+ 4 Soldier of Selune, a god of the moon, stars, navigation and wanderers.  Received training in one of the great paladin orders before greed got the better of her.

+2  Smuggling operative.  Pure paladin at heart, but good deeds did not pay her debts.  Imprisoned for embezzling profits from the crystal dust trade.  She is now trying to ease her sentence by ratting out the people that illegal send crystal powder shipments off Darkskye.

+ 2 Warrior in the Court of Stars.  Has connections in the royal elven court and elves in the Wild Wood.  Some of these connections were her previous crystal dust “clients”.

————————————————————————————————————————–

KZZMET

Dwarf Ranger

One Unique Thing

Drunken Bastard Brother of the Dwarf King

Icon Relationships

Complicated 1 to the Dwarf King. Shares a blood line, but the Dwarf King is still struggling to forgive him for dancing drunk in the throne room.

Positive 1 with the Diabolist.  Done a few shady jobs for the Diabolist.

Positive 1 with the Archmage.  Done a few respectable jobs for the Archmage.

Backgrounds

+5 The gods take care of the drunks and fools.

+3 Bounty hunter.  At least he was, until he foolishly mistreated his marks while in a drunken stupor.  Now serving time.

+5 Tracking.  Tracking background.
————————————————————————————————————————–

BILLUPS

High Elf Bard

One Unique Thing

Pan linguistic

Icon Relationships

Positive 1 with High Druid.  Welcome guest in the Wild Woods.

Positive 1 with the Archmage.  The Archmage guards that help keep Darkskye afloat are cheered by his music.

Complicated 1 with the Crusader.

Backgrounds

+4 Linguistic finesse. Often praised as a translator which gets him in places that others cannot.

+2 Hypnotic charm.   People love his charm and music.  When he sings at a tavern he rarely has to pay for room and board.

+2 Well traveled.  Travels frequently and knows a lot of the sights.  Is currently visiting Darkskye to convince prisoners to turn their lives around by singing songs about great heroes who overcame a troubled past.
————————————————————————————————————————–

The Ties That Bind… 

Unbeknownst to Jasmind, Tycho is the ringleader of the smuggler trade that she was ordered to uncover to reduce her prison sentence.

Kzzmet and Vaelan used to be drinking buddies and work together as bounty hunters, until Vaelan turned Kizzmet in to authorities for mistreating his marks.

Gillian had a bounty on her head after setting the Archmage academy on fire.  Vaelan is turning her in to collect on it.

Tycho has connections to smuggle the good stuff into prison.  He and Kzzmet occasionally enjoy drinks together.

Both Vaelen and Tycho served under the Crusader at one point in time.

Billups and Jasmind are both welcome guests in the Wild Wood.
(Sarah)    (Ben)

Part 6 Recap – The Lich King’s Vault (final)

Adventure 6 – The Lich King’s Vault

LichTileThis is the haunting conclusion of the Crown of the Lich King adventure.

The air in the storage room was thick and rank with the smell of decomposing mushrooms.  Crates upon crates of them lined the chamber walls.  It was not the most aromatic hiding spot, but it gave the party shelter long enough to patch their wounds and ready themselves.  After the near fatal beat down from the Tomb Guards patrolling the halls none of them were eager to be discovered again.  When they had collected themselves Ark-Kelli peeked through the doorway – The coast was clear.  Silently as he could, he crept out into the hallway, gesturing to his companions to follow.

The band of adventurers had elected to have Xylia and Ark take point.  The rogue was effective at sneaking ahead a bit and Xylia’s sharp senses helped alert them to danger.  More than once, the duo’s quick thinking saved the party from another patrol or trap.  In a large hallway where they would be flanked by two oncoming patrols, they silently ducked into a side room to wait it out.  Inside, they were shocked to find a modest sized treasury filled with coin, artifacts, chests, and dark suits of armor.  Augustine could tell instantly that the suits of armor belonged to fallen paladins.  The Lich King took a certain pleasure in breaking champions of light and enslaving them to his will.  Augustine picked up one of their shields emblazoned with the symbol of the Great Gold Wyrm and was relieved to see that no corruption had touched the metal.

Mimic2While the party stood around admiring the paladin’s new shield, Ark’s eyes glistened greedily at all the treasure that surrounded him.  He noticed one of the open treasure chests overflowing with gold pieces.  The object that caught his eye however was a large brooch consisting of three intertwined claws.  One red, one blue, and one black.  As he reached his hand forward to pick up the brooch, he was alarmed when the treasure chest suddenly clamped down around his arm, unseen teeth digging in to his skin.  In his greed he never noticed it was a Mimic!  Ark’s scream triggered another trap and the suits of armor around the room suddenly sprang to life, drawing swords and advancing on the intruders.  The air around them hissed and an eerie voice spoke out, “You have touched the forbidden treasure! Now you will never again see the light of day!”  Xylia and Deneveve were able to pry Ark’s arm out of the mimic’s mouth and quickly dispatch it.  Augustine, aided by Alleric and Xin-Shan smashed the armor to pieces, hoping that it may give its wearers some measure of peace.

The quick skirmish in the treasury was a sharp reminder of the incredible danger they were in.  “We should be more careful.  There are far worst dangers in here than snapping treasure chests.  Let’s move.”  Xin-Shan cracked her knuckles and moved back out into the hall, “Ark, take point again.  Let us know what’s ahead.  Don’t. Touch. Anything.”  Cautiously, the adventurers moved throughout the halls, avoiding any dangers they could come across.

They reached a section of the palace that opened up into a courtyard.  Ark carefully peaked around the corner into the open space.  The party saw Ark turn back to them, his face paling as the blood drained from it.  “Back up! It’s huge!  We can’t defeat-“  Any other warning he might have given them was choked out as a chain wrapped around him and yanked him around the corner into the courtyard.  Terrified but determined to try and aid their companion, all of the remaining party members charged around the corner to face whatever had grabbed Ark.  A hulking monstrosity stitched together from various bits and pieces of animal and humanoid alike stood across the courtyard from them, guarding a door behind him.  In one giant meaty fist, the undead abomination held the chain that had tore through Ark.  Their rogue companion was hung dangling from the other side of the chain, his lifeless body contorted in odd angles. The creature roughly peeled the halfling’s body off the chain and threw him to the ground, then started winding up the chain again to catch his next victim.

UndeadAbom

Undead Abomination.
Nailed it!

Alleric was quick to react, running forward and ducking behind one of the large tombstones dotting the courtyard before he began gathering power.  He had just ducked behind the stone when he was showered with dust from the chain ricocheting off the front of the tombstone.  As the creature reeled his chain back in, the rest of the party charged in.  Deneveve, Xylia, and Xin-Shan ducked behind the cover of tombstones or pillars.  Augustine however, trusting in the protection of the Great Gold Wyrm, charged straight to the undead abomination.  The creature saw a tempting target in front of him and slammed his overly large fists down upon Augustine, laughing with satisfaction as the Paladin’s legs buckled under the force.

His arcane energies gathered and seeing the paladin in trouble, Alleric stood up from his covered and sent a charged lightning attack towards the abomination.  Something in his magical incantation went awry though which caused the lightning bolt to zig zag through the air before coming straight back at the sorcerer, knocking him prone (critical fail).  The hunter’s white tiger Tig roared and leaped into the fray, tearing at the abomination’s skin.  As the tiger pulled some of the stitching loose a piece of flesh fell away and several large beetles spilled out onto the floor.  The beetles quickly swarmed around Xylia.  Disgusted but determined, Deneveve and Xin-Shan flanked the Abomination and pummeled it with mace and fist.  Deneveve’s prayers of healing filled Augustine’s ears as he felt his strength restored. Angered that these pests would not simply be stomped under his feet the undead abomination went into a frenzy.  As he repeatedly hammered into Augustine and Tig, the abomination’s wounds started to stich themselves back together.  His frenzy was healing him, driving him to fight on.  The last blow to Tig crushed the tiger into the floor.  With a whimpering yelp, the white tiger fell over dead.

IMG_2922Knowing that the tiger was the hunter’s beloved trapped in an animal body, Alleric turned towards Xylia expecting to see the hunter grieving.  Instead he was horrified to see the ranger dead on the floor, barely visible under a swarm of beetles.  Enraged, Alleric launched several chaos bolts at the beetles, destroying them.  Despite the creature’s healing and heavy handed blows, the remaining adventurers pushed on.  With a desperate plea to the Great Gold Wyrm, Augustine plunged his sword into the creatures gut, watching as it collapsed on to the floor, separating into its many respective pieces.

Somberly, Deneve gathered Ark and Xylia’s bodies together, side by side, with Tig’s body resting on Xylia’s.  The remaining party members had not known them long, but they had come to respect them as companions.  Saying the rites of passing, she gently closed their eyes before asking Alleric to burn their bodies.  They did not have the time to bury their companions and bodies did not say dead for long in Necropolis.  It would be heartbreaking to see their companions come back as the Lich King’s thralls – Burning was the only way she knew how to prevent this.  All four of them watched as the bodies burnt away.  Xin-Shan quietly said, “The crown had better be worth this.  They were good people.  Their deaths will be avenged.”

When their dead had been put to rest Alleric moved over to the remains of the abomination.  It was clear that the creature had been held together by dark necrotic magic and he was curious if he could learn anything from it.  His studies with magic led him to discern that if the creator of the abomination was nearby it would have been much stronger, much more magically imbued.  “It appears this creature was weakened.  I do not believe the Lich King is here.  If he was this creature would have destroyed the lot of us.  Small blessing – He must be somewhere other than Necropolis.”

“Then we need to hurry up before he returns,” Augustine confidently strode past the creature’s corpse into the halls of the vault beyond.  “Let us not tarry any longer.  The crown awaits.”

The Lich King probably never expected for anyone to get beyond the creature.  Beyond the courtyard door they discovered a collection of vacant but recently used guest rooms without any guards in sight.  In one wardrobe, Xin-Shan was able to find a pair of gloves equipped with long retractable blades.  She slipped them on and knew they would come in handy.  Deneveve was able to locate a long lest treasure of the Elf Queen’s – A simple circlet of twigs ensconced with several gems representing elvenkind.  Humbly, she placed the diadem on her head.  Augustine found another set of armor, this one a deep black like the abyss itself.  He immediately recognized the symbol as being of house Voth.  “He’s here.  The Baron is here.  We cannot afford to lose this opportunity; we need to recover his phylactery immediately.”  Deneveve pocketed a piece of the armor, thinking it may be handy later.

LichRoyaltyTileWith a renewed sense of urgency, the party was able to navigate their way through the palace before finding themselves on the second floor of a great hall, overlooking a large banquet of sorts below them.  Two long tables traveled up the hall with another near the far end of the room.  The tables were covered with various samples of decaying food and wine glasses filled with red liquid.  Numerous liches, vampires, and other undead horrors stood mingling around the room.  This must be the party that Adros, the bartender in the undead tavern, had told them about.  The second level that the adventurers were on was a balcony that wrapped around the hall and at the other side was another door.  They knew they had to get across without being seen.  Discreetly, Alleric waited for a lull in the festivities then launched a chaos bolt at the leg of one of the tables.  Food and drink spilled over the floor.  The party seized the opportunity and quickly bolted across the upper floor to the door beyond.  Xin-Shan noticed that the head table of 5 figures, led by a robed figure wearing dark black armor stood up and exited the door below the one they were entering.

The hallway before them was blank with no traps.  Deneveve felt a chill pass through her and she quickly reached out her divine senses.  She felt a profound unholy enchantment around her.  She paused to consult with Alleric.  The sorcerer and the cleric discerned that the vault they were about to enter was warded with magic.  It was constructed to keep the undead out.  At first this seemed an oddity, but then they realized that it meant only the Lich King and his inner circle could enter here.  Putting all the information they had together, Xin-Shan slowly said, “The Lich King doesn’t trust his own subjects.  And those that I saw leave the table earlier must be part of his inner circle.”

Carefully, they moved into the vault’s lobby.  The adventurers stood at the top of two curved stairways wrapping around a circular marble room.  On the floor below them, a barred door blocked a large room glittering with golden treasures.  Augustine hushed his companion as he heard footsteps below.  They just barely had time to duck back behind cover before seeing five figures moving in to the room below.  The robed figure in dark armor was flanked by the two liches and vampires on each side.

“Baron, I must object.  The Lich King will flay our hides for this.”  A vampire glanced nervously around the room; passing over the adventurer’s hiding places.

The robed figure waived his hand at the vampire.  “Silence.  I do not trust the King to hold my phylactery any longer.  It is mine after all.”  His voice was like chains being dragged over a grate.  Effortlessly, the Baron walked directly through the bars in front of him, disappearing into the vaults beyond.  The two liches and vampires stayed behind.  Deneve leaned in to Augustine, and requested that she could get the Cathedral’s stone again.  She had an idea, but she would need a distraction and quick.   Seizing their chance, Xin-Shan leapt over the banister and barreled down on one of the liches below.

IMG_2961

There was no longer any point in hiding so Alleric stood up and gathered whatever arcane energies into himself as he could.  Running down the stairs, Augustine swung wide against one of the vampires.  The vampire skipped to the side, leaped over the railing and charged toward the Dark Elf Sorcerer.  The Liches below flung necrotic bolts at Xin-Shan, shrieking at her the entire time.  When she struck the nearest one, the lich baroness erupted, hundreds of souls streaming out and wrapping around her.  They raked against Xin-Shan’s skin before she quickly backed away.  She would need another target.

Taking her chance, Deneveve ran down the other side of the stairs toward the barred door.  Clutching the armor of the Baron she found before and the stone Augustine had lent her, she opened herself to the will of the gods.  She prayed for protection and was grateful to see a shimmering gold-white barrier stream out from her hands to encase the doorway.  With a little bit of help from the gods, she hoped that the Baron wouldn’t be getting through until they were good and ready for him.  The Baron could walk through physical barriers, but a holy one would be another matter.

The vampire above was still after the Dark Elf, and finally struck home.  Batting the sorcerer’s staff aside, he sank his teeth into his neck, draining Alleric of his very life.  Horrified and furious, Augustine ran back up the stairs and brought his blade down into the Vampire’s back.  The creature spun shrieking but was quickly burned away by a bolt from Alleric.  Augustine helped his ally up from the floor then turned to see the battle before them.  Xin-Shan was sparring with a lich and vampire, nimbly evading their strikes and returning her own.  The second lich was pelting Deneve with dark magics, cackling as she did so.

Xin-Shan landed a well-placed strike to the lich she was engaged with, watching with satisfaction as her skin melted away and her bones turned to dust.  A small ugly spark of a soul hovered where the lich was for a second then sped off through the walls toward its phylactery.  Unleashing a powerful torrent of acid, Alleric used his green dragon’s breath on the remaining lich and vampire.  Slowly, they burned away, finally collapsing to the floor or melting away.

IMG_2983

They barely had a moment to catch their breath before a blade pierced Deneve’s barrier, slowly pushing through.  A voice echoed into Deneve’s mind, one she immediately recognized as the graceful melody of the Elf Queen, “Be strong young one, my power is yours.”  Deneveve felt a sudden surge of energy course through her and into the barrier.  The sword continued to push through the barrier, followed by the baron’s naked decaying hand, then his torso, then the entire baron stepped through.  The barrier had stripped the Baron of his armor save the elaborate garments he wore beneath, but his wrath remained.

Augustine charged forward and with a determined swing he smote the Baron.  Xin-Shan sprung forward, pummeling against the Baron’s form in a flurry of blows.  A crackle of energy signified Alleric was pulling together his remaining reserves of power for another hard strike.  The Baron ignored all of this and turned toward the cleric who dared to lock him in the vaults.  How dare she, a simple elf!  He war Baron Voth!  He sunk his black blade into the cleric’s side and smiled as darkness seeped into her body.  The baron whispered a dark incantation and a purple beam linked his soul to hers.  All at once, Deneveve experienced a flurry of memories-

A young man thirsting for power.  Opening the tome of power before him.  The joy of his first kill.  Leading armies into combat within the wild wood.  Kneeling before the Lich King. 

Gasping, Deneveve came back to reality and felt a dark presence stirring in her soul draining her of her life force.  With her soul linked to the Baron her healing powers would surely heal him too if she tried healing the gaping hole in her side.  She only hoped Augustine would have bastion ready if another attack came her way.

The Baron continued to fight on, bolstered by the healing he siphoned off from the cleric.  After parrying a blow from Augustine, he mercilessly attacked Xin-Shan.  Another dark incantation and he ensnared Xin-Shan’s soul to his.  In a flash, the monk witnessed a torrent of his memories.

The baron retreating his forces from an ancient temple defended by tenacious druids and rangers.  Kneeling in shame in front of the Lich King. 

A shower of sparks as Alleric’s spell blasted the Baron brought Xin-Shan back to her senses.    Deneve brought her mace down on the Baron’s skull, causing him to turn around and scream in the elf cleric’s face.  Gracefully, Deneve whipped her mace around and under the Baron’s guard, shattering his rib cage.  With an unearthly howl, the Baron’s body was consumed in a blue flame before disintegrating to dust and falling to the floor.  The wretched spark of a soul flew back into the treasury toward the Crown, his soul’s phylactery.

One last memory echoed in Xin-Shan and Deneve’s head, just a sound of the voice of the Lich King  “You have failed me Voth, and for that you will be punished.” 

CrownBloodied and bruised, the adventurers silently acknowledged their victory.  After a quick recovery the adventurers entered into the treasury and found the crown amongst the myriad of priceless treasures.  Sitting on a pedestal, its ring of simple dark metal writhed as the Baron’s soul fought to break free of it.  “It will take a long while for the Baron to gain his body back.  We need to take this to Santa Cora immediately.”  Augustine handed the crown to Deneve who placed it in a simple pouch around her waist.  Alleric reasoned that stealing the crown and purifying it of its power was a good enough lesson for the Lich King to learn from the Orc Lord.  Xin-Shan was satisfied that the terror the Lich King released in the High Druid’s domain was defeated for good.  Neither of them made a move to take the Crown from the paladin and cleric.  A long adventure had drawn them closer together.  Yet it was not over yet.

The journey home was blissfully uneventful.  The party navigated out of the palace the same way they had entered,    Those undead they did find quickly yielded when they displayed they had retrieved the Lich King’s crown.  The ever trusting paladin Augustine managed to strike some deals with the bartender at the Bloody Hart tavern to smuggle them off the island.  Granted they delivered a shipment to Santa Cora for him, of course.  A few days later the party found themselves at the steps of the magnificent Cathedral in Santa Cora.  It had been a long time since Augustine stood at these steps after being exiled for traveling with the Crusader.  Received quietly as heroes in the Cathedral, the Priestess herself welcomed the heroes to the inner sanctum.  She thanked them for their courageous work, commending them for the bravery they exhibited.  Their deeds would forever be remembered, and their names recorded in the Cathedral’s hall of heroes.  Augustine’s exile was dropped and the Priestess welcomed her son home.

Priestess

Player feedback:

“A most excellent and satisfying ending to a neat campaign (or at least the first installment of one), including the near death of PCs and some truly daunting baddies.” – Player 4, Xin-Shan

“Agreed. Even included an epic “final battle” scene where I thought we were all going to die. And we nearly all did. :-)” – Player 1, Alleric

GM Notes:

Over the course of these six adventures I was delighted to see an engaging an epic tale unfold that embraced the players character.  The adventure packet was created to be flexible to player’s whims and GM’s tweaking which I was thoroughly appreciative of.  The adventure also offered plenty of entrance and exit opportunities for migrating players (Xylia and Ark couldn’t make it to the last session, hence death).  I’m very grateful to the team at Pelgrane Press for assembling a wonderfully exciting story and adventure.  I’d also like to thank the amazing players whom I was lucky enough to have at my table.  While I won’t be running the next adventure (Sarah’s running the next one), I look forward to GM’ing more Tales of 13th Age in the future.

We’ll be back next week with the start of the next Tales of 13th Age: Wyrd of the Wild Wood!
(Sarah)    (Ben)