A sinister transformation has occurred in what was formerly known as the Thelwood. The trees of the forest have all slowly changed into a dead, bone-like matter. The plants and animals of the forest have either died or fled to other areas. A plague of calcification has been created and is now slowly spreading beyond the borders of the forest. This calcification plague now threatens to transform the entire region. What is behind the curse of the Bonewood?
The Thelwood Horror (POSTFEST submission)
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The Thelwood Horror
At the center of the Thelwood Forest lies a sunken Ur-Flannae stone circle. This circle was used by the Ur-Flannae to commune with and summon beings from the Abyss. Over the centuries, it became forgotten and fell into disuse. A tribe of Suel, in their migrations to the south, came across the ruined site, but was not able to stay and study it. The discovery laid dormant in the records of the Scarlet Brotherhood for years before an adventuring priestess of Beltar happened across the records in the Ekul archives. Soon, an expedition was formed with the idea of researching the site and additionally conducting monster creation experiments within the forest. A small party made its way to the Thelwood and arrived there just before the start of the Greyhawk Wars (Foot Note 1).
What they discovered was that the site could be used to touch upon an obscure plane of the Abyss. But they were not able to tap into its potential. As fate would have it, another interested party arrived and solved the problem. A powerful priest of Incabulos led this second party. He claimed to have been guided to the location by a vision of creating a “plague of living bone”. He was able to translate the Ur-Flannae summoning rituals carved into the stones and had the necessary skills to open a gate to the plane and contact its most powerful resident, a minor demon lord named Wagamawezwik (FN 2). The demon negotiated with the evil priests and together they struck an unholy bargain.
The three priests created a weird ceremony that blighted the heartwood of the oldest treant of the Thelwood. When the treant was weakened, a second ceremony, conjuring Wagamawezwik from the Abyss, was completed. The demon then possessed the helpless treant (FN 3). While possessing the body of the great treant, Wagamawezwik spread an abyssal plague that turned the woods into a calcified, bony material. This “calcification plague” eventually killed the Thelwood, turning it into the Bonewood.
Somehow the demonically possessed treant did not fall back into the Abyss when the Flight of Fiends drove out so many of its kin. Perhaps the process of possessing the treant somehow shielded Wagamawezwik from the powers of the Crook of Rao. In any event, the possessed treant is today the most powerful being within the forest (FN 4), and is starting to spread the calcification plague outward from the forest and into the surrounding plains.
Presently, only the outer fringe of the Thelwood remains in its natural state. The calcification plague has claimed the rest. Only a few brave and foolhardy souls still attempt to make a living from hunting and trapping in the forest any more. It is simply a massive graveyard.
The triad of evil priests who created this horror are still present in the forest. The priest of Pyremius was responsible for creating a potent mixture of chemicals and noxious poisons that were leeched into the soil for the ceremony that first weakened the treant. This poison, when combined with the treant’s unique chemistry and the Abyssal influence of the demon, caused the calcification plague. The priest, Nilard, worried that he was in over his head and the blasphemous creation would get too powerful to control. For voicing his concerns to the other two, he was cruelly attacked by Wagamawezwik and his followers. This shattered his sanity and he now hides somewhere in the forest and avoids the demons and the other priests (FN 5).
The priestess Wythul of Beltar (FN 6) was the one who bound the demon who possessed the treant. The original goal of the triad was to simply to gain a powerful ally and spread woe in the civilized lands of good aligned beings (especially Castle Goldbolt). It was she who first discovered the sunken, buried site of the Ur-Flannae that served as the summoning nexus. She delights in the ability of the treant to spread chaos (she always did chafe under the yoke of the lawful Scarlet Brotherhood). She sees her position now as an independent player who can use the threat of spreading the plague as a threat to increase her personal power and the power of her malign deity.
The priest of Incabulos is the leader and most powerful member of this unholy triad. He weakened the treant with a series of specialized spells that enabled the demon to take possession. He is the one who is most pleased with the entire project. He sees the creation of the calcification plague as a boon from his dark master, a famine to scourge the entire world with (FN 7). He is currently experimenting with the unholy sap of the dire treant, trying to extend its potency to allow him to spread the plague to other forests. Currently, the sap loses its ability to start the ossification process about 12 hours after it falls from Wagamawezwik’s body.
The calcification plague can destroy wide swaths of crops and forests. Groups of druids have attempted to halt the plague or cure the trees have all failed. The plague is growing further out from the Bonewood and shows no sign of abating. This horror has the potential to cause a famine like nothing Oerth has ever seen before, and the forces of good and nature are at a loss as to how to stop it (FN 8).
1: This party consisted of two powerful priests – the priestess of Beltar who discovered the find and a priest of Pyremius who was tasked to experiment with creating evil treants. This mission led to the idea of having Wagamawezwik possess a treant to study its powers.
2: Wagamawezwik, is a minor Abyssal lord who specializes in creating famine, to the point of cannibalism. Wagamawezwik’s followers include the shape-shifting Tsulkala (CE dopplegangers) and ravenous undead beings that are so emaciated that they can only be seen from one side called Witiko (treat as ghasts under a permanent duo dimensional spell, but without the power to paralyze). Some of these creatures are present in the forest and have been instrumental in defeating the druids that have attempted to save the woods. It is unclear as to what Wagamawezwik gains from supporting these human priests by destroying the forest. It is likely that with the spread of famines, he gains power, but this is pure speculation. As a demon, his motives may be as simple as causing death and destruction just because it wants to; or as complex as immortal Abyssal politics.
3: The demonically possessed treant is as powerful as a lyrannikin (evil treant) with maximum statistics. In addition, the demon has the ability to create insatiable hunger in his foes with a wave of his hand, equivalent to a chime of hunger. He is always preceded by a few of his demonic followers, who spread fear and cause starvation before Wagamawezwik arrives.
4: Wagamawezwik in his treant form is a truly gruesome and horrific sight. The bark of the treant is now blackened, hard as stone, and has vile runes are carved into it. The runes leak a nasty, rust-red sap that drips onto the ground like blood. This sap is poisonous to all plant life and is the source of the calcification plague, where it falls, the plant life dies and starts to calcify. Dangling from the treant’s limbs are the severed heads of some of the Thelwood’s druids that were caught before they could escape. The demon has tied large chains with hooks on its body. Impaled on these hooks and dragging behind the shambling treant are the bodies of woodsmen that he was able to catch. Thus, the sound of his approach is a distinctive booming of his footsteps followed by an unsettling dragging noise. Few who have heard it have ever lived to tell the tale.
5: Nilard was recognized as one of Oerth’s foremost experts in creating herbicides and was heavily involved with the Brotherhood’s early experiments with the lyrannikin. The constant exposure to the raw emanations of chaos has unbalanced him, however. His hair turned white from the horrors he had witnessed, and he now a wretched shell of a man. He fears that the plague can not be controlled or stopped and spends most of his time huddled in a hollow log in the center of the forest, gibbering and crying for his torment to end. He may yet be useful, as with his knowledge of poisons he might be able to find a way to kill the treant. The problem would be trying to find him and then restoring his sanity so he could give any helpful information.
6: Wythul was always unbalanced. She stalks the outer fringes of the forest, ambushing lone travelers that stray too close to the woods. It took a long time for the entire forest to fall under the plague, and this has tested the priestess’ patience. She was instrumental in opening a gate to the Abyssal plane of Wagamawezwik in order to bring some of his followers to Oerth. She sees all this as the start of a great army of famine and chaos that will spread across the land. Her appearance is as grotesque as her personality; corpulent with grey pockmarked skin and greasy hair.
7: The priest of Incabulos, true to form, never gives his real name. His paranoia is exceptionally acute. He refers to himself in the third person as “The Virulent Master, Pestilence, the Arch Bishop of Pox and Plague”. He appears as a middle-aged man with brown hair and beard and wild, blood shot eyes. His constant exposure to the demon Wagamawezwik appears to have turned him into a cannibal himself, as he has recently filed his teeth to points and hungers for raw meat.
8: Several groups have attempted to hire parties to investigate the source of the ossification. The voadkyn and wood elves of the forest now living in Rel Deven represent the most powerful and determined of these groups. A few humans still try to eke out a meager existence from what parts of the forest are still living, but their numbers have dropped to almost nothing. A powerful druid of Obad-Hai recently entered the woods with a large contingent of rangers and assistants, intending to restore the forest to life. Their heads now grace the possessed treant as a grisly necklace.
SOURCES: Ivid the Undying by Carl Sargent first provided the location of the Bonewood. The inspiration for the demon and his followers came from American Indian folklore of the wendigo and other creatures of hunger. The lyrannikin is a monster originally found in the From the Ashes boxed set.
The statistics for the priests and the demon are left for the individual to tailor to his campaign as needed, but the priests should be a suitable very high level with possessions indicative of their power.