Postfest II: The Bonewood
Date: Tue, April 06, 2004
Topic: Mysterious Places

The Bonewood holds the source of the Thelly river, so it was only a matter of time before th river started drying up. But what clue do the gemstones of the Thelly give to the solution?

The Bonewood
By: peteroui
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

The Bonewood

Once known as the Thelwood, this has never been a populous forest. However, its woodsmen have made superb infantry and bowmen, playing a leading role in taking the lands south of the Grayflood in times gone by and demonstrating excellent morale and pride.

Now, the 5,000 or so original pre-war foresters are living mostly in and around Rel Deven. An enclave of some 100 voadkyn, exiles from the Bonewood, has taken up residence in Rel Deven's Beory's Gardens, and is now part of the city's army. Their goal is to reclaim the Bonewood/Thelwood and deal with the evil therein. Likewise, 600 Thelwood soldiers are garrisoned here, their brown and green jerkins and ashwood bows demarcating them from the other soldiers. Even a few wood elves are to be found in Rel Deven, from a tiny Thelwood clan which has brought its famous silver-streaked elven cats with them. The Hands of the Axe are a group of Thelwood men, driven from their forest home, seeking employment throughout Ahlissa and the southern lands. Low-level fighters for the most part, they have some repute because of a priestess of Beory who travels with them, allegedly with superior powers of healing and curing disease. All groups sorely miss their home.

Shortly before the outbreak of the Greyhawk Wars, a horrifying change came over the woods. Trees were transformed, almost ossified, overnight, in an ever-wider area from the heart of the forest. Their barks became bleached and hard as stone. In moonlight, they looked like ghastly bony sentinels, hence the name of the wood these days. Game became scarcer and undergrowth shriveled. Any who tried to stay alive in this place found themselves succumbing to disease or madness, haunted by phantoms and nightmares. The cause of this change is wholly unknown to the general population, but it is striking that the few druids of Obad-hai once here have fled—surely a sign that some truly dire evil is at work now. Likewise, the wood elves and voadkyn have departed, taking refuge in Rel Deven, pondering on what they can do to return the Thelwood to its former state. The few treants of the Thelwood vanished. A message was delivered by the last treant to be seen; one who had faced a hundred axes and a thousand seasons. Tumbalemorn appeared in the wood elf enclave to deliver a most un-Entish message: “Flee.” Now the Bonewood is a barren, lifeless shell, with only the yellowy-white "bone" trees remaining.

The new Over King of Ahlissa, Xavener, was content to simply post warnings near the site, giving up the land as cursed and lost. It was a profitable wood, both in terms of human and natural resources. However, Xavener saw the Bonewood as even more profitable as a distraction and disturbance to the Cranden nobles, whose lands surround the Bonewood. Xavener suspects the cooperation between the Crandens and Nyrond-occupied Almor; Worries about a cursed forest are better thoughts to occupy a Cranden's mind than those of secession. Xavener has a new worry occupy his own mind: the Thelly River will not flood this spring.

One would think most lords would not look forward to a natural disaster.

The source of the Thelly percolates from the huge aquifer beneath south western Ahlissa. The headwaters of the Thelly arise deep within what is now the Bonewood. The waters emerge from a cave mouth in the highest, most central part of the Thelwood, and flows down the gentle highlands to empty into the port of Pontylver.

The huge Flanmi-Thelly river systems make central Aerdy a vast, rolling plain of arable land, with river basins providing excellent land for growing grain and vegetables. When these rivers overflow, the silt pours onto the land, providing rich soil ideal for farming. Livestock farming becomes more important away from the regularly-flooded river basins. It is also the first line of defense against the Kingdom of Sunndi, although recent peace overtures by both sides ensures more peaceful uses of the river. Being navigable for its entire length from Relmor Bay, the Thelly serves as the primary mode of transportation and communication across southern Ahlissa. Indeed, the Thelly is the primary means of thwarting the Scarlet Brotherhood’s blockade of the Tilva straight. Xavener plans to recover city of Pontylver, using independent mercenary companies to remove major threats before his army moves in. He hopes to re-open the entire Solnor-touched lands for trade. He suspects the river either dammed or consumed by the same force destroying the forest. His Court Mage Reydrich has suggested, strongly, that Xavener test mercenary companies otherwise bound for Pontylver by first sending them to investigate the Bonewood. Both places seem beset by necromancy, and what better way to assess mercenaries?

DM Information:

Reydrich is, of course, lying. As the major, undercover representative of the Scarlet Brotherhood in Ahlissa, he wants to both destabilize Ahlissa as well as prevent the recovery of Pontylver. Reydrich, or has his minions, regularly summon and create undead monsters within the Bonewood to perpetuate the myth that it is “a necromantic problem”. These minions include the assassination and spy ring known as Midnight Darkness (which he assumed control of with the death of Karnquiza at the hands of the original Reydrich), as well as master spy Ulrik Nessarien and his partner, Elder Bother Ghrigiel, a high priest of Nerull and former ambassador of the Scarlet Brotherhood to Greyhawk. Reydrich knows the real story behind the “ossification” of the Thelwood, but he isn’t saying: a gate to the elemental plane of water has been corrupted by priests of Obad Hai to reach the plane of Mineral. The energies from the gate are slowly spreading from the gate, fossilizing everything in its wake.

He is using the Bonewood to dispose of mercenary bands that might be eventually used to cleanse Pontylver, something his red-robed masters would not want to happen.

The original source of the Thelly River was actually a minor, naturally-occurring Gate to the elemental plane of water found within a cave in the heart of the forest. The gentle, yet plentiful stream of water from this gate filled the aquifers from Rel Deven to Hexpools.

About a half mile from the cave mouth, upstream, the cave opens to a large grotto, more than 100 yards across. The source of the Thelly fills the middle of the cavern with a slightly bubbling, 50-yard-diameter pool. It glows nearly as bright as daylight, with the source of the illumination coming from beneath the water. A stone circle surrounds the pool, forming 18 stone archways. No writing of any kind are apparent, although any character with a mining or masonry skill (or a dwarf or gnome character in 1e) can tell you that the stones do not seem to have been shaped with metal tools.

Soon after its revelation by priests of Beory, this gate was magically modified. Creating a stone circle that could be used much like mirror of mental prowess with greater range - a mini-mini-Tovag Baragu. It allowed two-way access to other planes. To prevent a major disaster, such as opening a two-way gate to the elemental plane of Fire and incinerating the travelers, the clergy of Beory literally installed a safety valve. There is always a minor gate open to the elemental plane of Water to regulate the overflow of planar energy. Powerful magic channels the blowback generated by opening a gate to an otherwise-hostile plane in two ways:

First, the permanent gate to the elemental plane of water (found at the bottom of the pool) opens slightly, sublimating the energy. Second, the water of the pool has the effect of acting as Oil of Elemental Invulnerability for the plane to which the current gate has been opened. Those wanting to enter the gate into the plane need only bathe themselves in the pool before crossing over. The effects last a day. The water cannot be bottled to use else where, as the magic involved also involves the gate itself as well as the immersion in the temporarily-transformed water.

A bit of overflow from the target elemental plane is inevitable, but mostly harmless. The gemstones found in the Thelly are the result from the mini-gate touching upon the plane of Mineral, the robust plant life (the forest) from the effects of Positive and Earth planes, and so on.

Each elemental plane can be accessed through one of the 18 stone archways if the proper command phases are known. Some say the command phrases are hidden within the intricate carvings of the rock. Others say certain keys are needed. Still more say the commands are lost to time (DM’s discretion). What is known for sure is that certain astrological cycles must be obeyed as well, particularly the phases of Kule and Luna. Thus, when, where, and how long any gate was governed, in a fashion, by nature.

Such a wonder of magic and mystery is destined for abuse. A particular subset of the clergy of Obad Hai has ever felt threatened by the priesthood of Ehlennestra. This particular subset ("a misguided, rogue subset who Greatly Offended the Oerth Mother", as they were proclaimed by True Obad Hains in the following Old Faith Moot) figured they needed power, and money was power, and the quasi-plane of mineral is the biggest storehouse of wealth, so poof! They force the gate, and forget about the petrifying side effect that exposure to the plane of mineral causes. The result was the petrification of the forest. The Thelly started drying up as well, as the safety/overflow valve was forced off as well to open the gate, and to keep it open.

More impudent still, they might have managed to enthrall Crystalle, the Boss of the Plane of Mineral. (DM’s discretion).

A party can expect many threats, including the minions of Reydrich preventing them from even getting and surviving there. Agents of Midnight Darkness, who may even possibly have joined with the dispersed Hierarchs, will hound them. The guards just outside the gate working for the clergy of Obad Hai (and from whom the party can start to learn the truth) and their stone golems, as well as the Dao, elementals, mineral mephit, pech, xaren, and xorn that may or may not be working with the deviant priesthood. Fossilization is the greatest risk - once per day travelers must successfully save or be turned to stone (or possibly precious gems).

The rewards for such a mission depend on one’s campaign. It may just be the enmity of Reydrich, or land grants from Xavener. The Voadkyn may prove grateful, maybe teaching the party their semi-limited polymorph self technique, or just friendship. The obvious monetary rewards ae there for the taking. However, because the mineral plane is actually a border of the plane of earth flooded with positive energy, might some of the stines be much more, either ioun stones, dweomerite, or a jewl of monstrous attacks?

The party may be approached by Xavener to fix the problem. Also, the clergy of Ehlonna as well as repentant members of the clergy may approach the party, depending on how much help the party needs.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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