A Little Bit of Wood


A Little Bit of Wood
(Campaign Notes and Adaptation by Thomas Kelly)
Based on Living Greyhawk module GEO1-05 by Wesley Wright.
Beware total spoilers.

Bryn sighs and sweeps her sleeve across her face to wipe the perspiration from her eyes.

Fang lifts and cocks his head quizzically as he trots beside her. “I’m worried about Gundoriel,” she explains to the uncomprehending dog. The mud-packed roads of the encampment have baked dry and solid under the mid-summer sun. This is the camp of the Army of the Liberation outside Hochoch’s walls. Bryn and Ansgar navigate the maze of streets, shacks, and tents to make their way toward the command tent of Cadofyth Parn to which they have been summoned. “It’s been nearly six months and we’ve still seen no sign nor heard word. How could we have left that noble elf to such an evil fate?”

“An evil and miserable fate, indeed! I thank the gods ‘twas not me you abandoned in the arms of that soggy river nymph,” Ansgar agrees too readily.

Bryn rolls her eyes, “You wish!”

“I never!” the young ranger objects, blushing red through his whiskers. “Don’t even like daffodils,” he mutters.

“And what of Boots? Will we ever see our dearest friend again? Have we forever lost them both in fey lands? Fie on the shadows of the Dim Forest! Let the light of Pelor burn it!”

Mission to Oytwood

An old cymorth halts them from entering the command tent of the cadofyth, “Wait out here with the others.” He motions toward an open-walled pavilion under which a few adventurers lounge in the shade, some reclining on the ground, some seated on stumps for chairs. Bryn and Ansgar regard the group already assembled outside Parn’s tent: a wood elfess in a green elven cloak, a long bow strapped across her back; a tattooed and brooding young Flanman dressed in the shamanistic stylings of the Old Faith, a tall pale-skinned and bare-chested Northman leaning on a great axe, a grey-haired, middle-aged gentleman sweating beneath the pointed hat and wizardly robes necessary to advertise his profession, and a quick-eyed gnomish bard strumming away absently on his shalm.

“I know you! You’re the gnome that sings with Rhys of Ash! I saw you at the midsummer bonfire, and I saw you in the parade of the muster some ten-day ago,” Ansgar says to the gnome.

“My name is Squint Nonizson, hero of the gonfalon. These friends of mine that with me rest accompanied me on that great quest. And who are you, pretty lass and whiskered lad, like wanderers and rangers clad?”

“No one special,” Bryn replies. She sinks to the ground to sit next to her dog. “The captain summoned us here, same as you, I suppose. I’m Bryn and this is Ansgar and Fang.”

Squint introduces his companions: “Meet my most useful friend the magic user Edwyn. And here is pretty Kylikili, daughter of the shady trees. To your eyes the elf appears a girl, but more than a century she’s walked the world. Look! Bogardes is her human son, twice her size but half the fun. See here this big fellow? You should hear him bellow! This be the Northman, a Wolf Nomad we call Hemann. Forsooth, these are my companions, each one a champion. Together we travelled to the edge of Forest Dim, to recover the long-lost Gonfalon!”

A soldier emerges from the tent and beckons the adventurers all enter. Inside the tent under the summer sun, the air feels over-heated and stuffy. Cadofyth Parn sits behind a desk littered with maps and papers. Perspiration drips from his face. A Flanman sits at his side. Parn stands and welcomes the heroes and introduces them to the other man, “This is Iosef ap Llywen, our chief engineer. He needs your help. Our patrols have been stretched thin of late, garrisoning our border forts, so we are sending irregulars, such as yourselves, to assist the Liberation. Iosef needs all of you for an urgent mission.”

“Tomorrow, I leave for Oytwood with a group of woodcutters to retrieve some logs, and you go with us. I can say no more. The journey should take not but a ten-day,” Iosef ap Llywen explains.

Parn searches the faces of the adventurers and asks, “Where, is your friend, that grey elf priest, Gundoriel Thingolin? You will certainly need his help to deal with the elves of Oytwood if you should be unfortunate enough to encounter them.”

“He tarries in the arms of the river nymph, Sesonya,” Bryn reports with bitter inflection.

“We left him with her in the Dim Forest,” Ansgar adds.

“I fear that may prove ill for all of us,” Parn sighs. He uncovers a large map of the region stretched over an easel against the wall and begins to point out the objectives of the mission. “Your path is to be here, on the northern side of Realstream. Escort Iosef and his woodcutters here, to the edge of Oytwood. Iosef will mark the trees to be cut, and you are to make sure no goblin hampers the work. Once you have the logs, escort them back to us.”

“For what are these logs to be used?” Ansgar asks.

“A foothold for the future. I can tell you no more,” Parn replies.

Kylikili speaks up, “What about the grey elves? Will they suffer me, a daughter of the Dim, to walk beneath Oytwood?”

Parn shrugs. “It’s true that the Marchers clashed with the Oyt elves when they were felling trees to build the border keeps, but that was many leagues to north of where you will be working. No one has seen elves on this side of the river for a long while. We don’t expect any trouble, but more’s the pity you don’t have Gundoriel to speak for you if trouble comes.” He sighs thoughtfully before continuing, “Now you have your orders. Meet up with Iosef and the woodcutters two hours after dawn tomorrow morning, outside the Camp’s South Gate. Good luck to you.”

Slow Chopping, Fast Talking

Morning comes too soon. The dew is not yet dry when Bryn, Ansgar, and Fang meet the others at the South Gate to the camp. The woodcutter’s caravan consists of eight large draft horses pulling what appears to be fourteen sets of wheels with straps attached to them, four covered wagons, and two open wagons. A score of woodcutters are milling about. More yet, three score draft horses and their handlers and two squads of soldiers. These latter look not to be soldiers at all, for they wear no uniforms, but they do bear the insignia of the Army of the Liberation on their jerkins, just as Bryn and Ansgar do upon their own. Iosef organizes the caravan, gets the woodcutters onto the open wagons, and the whole parade sets out.

The morning passes quickly. The gnomish bard called Squint enlivens the miles with songs, tales, and the type of pranks and jests common to gnome folk. His friend Edwyn puts on a little sideshow of cantrips and wizard tricks. Hemann speaks with the woodsmen about the various competitions and feats of strength in which he participated as a boy among the Wolf Nomads, “…and whoever could hurl the log the furthest would win the whole sack! Never did I ever go home without the sack!”

The countryside flourishes in the full bloom of Reaping. When the summer sun is at its highest and hottest, the caravan stops beneath a shady grove for hanner dyth, the midday meal which is usually the biggest meal of the day for Geoffmen. A cook opens the larders in one of the covered wagons and distributes meager portions of griddle bread, creamy cheese, gooseberry cakes, and cider. A small picnic commences. Iosef assembles everyone together: the soldiers, the woodcutters, and the irregulars. He bids everyone listen, “Now that we are far from prying eyes and traitorous ears, I will speak to you of our mission. We go into the Oyt to retrieve seven forty-foot lengths of ironwood.”

At these words, the woodcutters moan in protest, but Iosef continues, “I know it will be hard cutting, but our need is desperate. True, the ironwood will blunt the saws and axes, but we’ve brought along an extra wagon of tools. Once we arrive under the Oyt, I’ll pick out the trees to be dropped. We will need to work quickly, lest we tempt goblins, giants, or elves to interfere. So finish up your chow and let’s get back on the way.”

The woodcutters protest, “Not enough coin to cut ironwood!”

Back on the road, the rest of the day passes quickly, as does the next, and the one that follows that. The land to the southwest of Hochoch rests peaceful and idyllic under summer sun. The caravan passes farm after farm surrounded with golden fields of wheat and oats readying for the harvester’s sickle. “Beory has blessed us this year,” Bogardes observes. The wandering ribbon of the Realstream runs its course on the left. One might easily forget the perils close at hand across the River Javan.

A day further on the journey and rolling fields give way to the outer edges of misty Oytwood as it thickens on this side of the Javan. The spirits of the woodcutters rise as they enter the old forest. By midday, Iosef has found two trees that will suit the need, and he tells the men to break out their saws.

The work has scarcely commenced when two arrows sink into the trunks of both the trees. The woodcutters leap back, startled; the soldiers pull swords from sheathes and frantically look about for the shooters. Fang’s hackles rise; he sniffs at the air and growls. Kylikili’s sharp eyes spot the archers up in the boughs. She points them out but warns the soldiers, “Sheathe your blades and lower your bows lest they slay us where we stand.”

Three sylvan elves and one grey seem to melt out of the forest and into view. They are all armed with bows and have arrows nocked to the string. The grey elf steps forward and speaks in a faltering mostly-forgotten form of Old Flan, “Unto thee, I, Nerivonias, pose a query. Pray, tell of thine intentions in our wood. So do I beseecheth thee. I would have thine answer ‘ere I depart, thou shalt grant it unto me!” Laying his eyes upon Kylikili, he adds in Olven, “You have wandered far from home, Dimwood Daughter. Go back to your own kin.”

Bogardes understand the tongue of the elves. He takes a step closer to lithe Kylikili. “Mumma, we should go home,” he agrees.

Bryn hears all of this, and she speaks up on behalf of all in the Olven tongue, “Fair Nerivonias, we mean no disrespect to your people or your wood. We only seek ironwood for our own defense against the giants who have taken our lands from us and driven us hence. All our lands have been ravished, our people trampled, our lifeblood spilled to soak Oerth from this wood to the mountains. Grant us this small gift from your wealth, and we will use it well against our foes and yours. We will pay for what we take.”

“A daughter of Geoff that speaks the tongue of the elves,” Nerivonias is impressed. He replies in the same language. “Courtesy and passion are uneasy partners, yet you have wed the two. Your sincere words move me, but the trees are neither mine to sell nor grant. You must come to the Weeping Council and recite your plea. Bring your chief and not but a few companions to plead your case. The rest will remain here under the benefice of our mantle until we return.”

The Plea Before the Council

Bryn conveys all these words to Iosef, and he agrees, “What choice have we?”

“Follow me,” Nerivonias says, and he adds in Olven with a gesture toward Kylikili, “You will come too, Dimwood Daughter, and account for your trespasses into our woods.”

Bogardes frowns, “Mumma! I’m coming too.”

Nerivonias leads the party away from the woodcutters, deeper into the misty forest. He moves quickly through the trees. Some members of the party struggle to keep the pace. Presently the trees grow so thickly as to shade out the sun. Nerivonias often disappears ahead, reappearing again, beckoning them on, leading them along twisting paths, through leafy portals, and through narrow passages which none but the rangers among them might hope to ever retrace. Fang trots along happily as if it’s a game to chase the elf. After the dog come the rangers, Bryn and Ansgar. Then comes Squint, hopping along to keep pace with the long strides of the wizard, Edwyn. After them labors Iosef, huffing and puffing beside his man-at-arms, a Gran Marcher named Horse. Next is the Northman, Hemann, swinging his enormous axe at the air as he walks. At the back of the party walk Kylikili, Bogardes, and the three sylvan elves.

“How have we not come to the river?” Bryn asks.

“I’m so turned about I know not which direction we have come,” Ansgar admitted.

By day’s end, Nerivonias leads them into a village among the trees, peopled by the elves. Bryn recognizes the keen features of both the greys and sylvan peering down from boughs and flets. The party passes through a low rock wall and thick hedge of thorn and branch to walk in open spaces, still aglow under gloaming light of setting sun. Hanging from the branches round about the village streets, lanterns already twinkle in the evening mists, and fireflies and pixies flicker between the trunks of Oytwood trees. All those about the place cease from their activities and conversations to silently stare at the strangers as they pass. Bryn cannot decide if she sees malice in their eyes or merely the weary weight of too many sorrows.

“I’ve had enough of fey magic and fairy kingdoms,” Ansgar complains as he looks about.

Nerivonias leads them to great tree that stands at the center of the village. “It must be at least a thousand years old!” Bryn exclaims. It’s as thick as the watchtowers that guard the borders of the protected lands, and she cannot even see the top of it.

“There be tress in the Dim Forest like these,” Bogardes says. “But they are of an evil sort.”

Nestled among the great tree’s branches rest several large huts, their windows glowing with warm light of lamp and candle. “Thou shalt bide below ‘til the council summon thee up,” Nerivonias instructs as he deftly climbs to one of the larger huts. The last light of the fading day darkens before he returns with a lantern in hand. He bids the strangers climb a rope ladder that has been lowered for them. “Stay here, Fang. Wait here,” Bryn tells her dog as she climbs the ladder. One by one, they make their way up and enter into the candlelit council hut where sit thirteen grey elf elders, each one weighed with many sorrows.

The elves speak quietly among themselves for some short time. Presently the elder betwixt the six that sit to his left and the six that sit to his right speaks in the Old Flan tongue, “Behold, thou dost stand before the Weeping Council. The doom of Corellon Larethian hovers above thee. Tremble ‘neath the weight and majesty of his hand. Speak truly and thou wilt pass its judgment. Stray but a little and he shall smite. Surely, thou dost know our laws and thy trespasses. Wherefore then dost thou assault our bark-clad brethren and steal from our own wood?”

Now Bryn speaks persuasively, translating words to Olven on behalf of Iosef, pleading also the righteousness of their cause against the giants. Moreover, she speaks of one of the Oyt elves’ own people, a friend of hers named Gundoriel Thingolin, who would vouch on their behalf if he were present. The priest is known to the members of the council, and they nod in recognition.

“Why then walks this spy of the Dim Forest among your number?” asks one elder elfess, speaking in the Olven tongue. “She should have been bound and blindfolded or never brought under our wood.”

Kylikili objects, “I am no spy nor party to your squabbles with my people. I am a free marksman and ranger of the Dimwood, a wanderer and guardian to this good man that I have raised as my own since I found him an orphaned child, one rescued from the Battle of the Goblin Trees. As of late I walk among menfolk to accustom him to his own kind, for he grows older, and the time draws near for him to leave my side. He speaks our tongue and knows our ways, but he has yet to learn the company of humans.” Bogardes shuffles about and studies his feet as his mother speaks.

The elders of the Weeping Council speak quietly among themselves for a few moments. At length the elder betwixt the six that sit to his left and the six that sit to his right speaks up in the Old Flan tongue, “We believe thine intentions be true and just, but ever capricious and faithless are the ways of humans. We require more than words to bind thee and more than coin for thy ransom. If thou would purchase the trees of Oytwood, thou shalt earn their lumber by shedding thine own blood for the weal of the wood. Accompany a group of our warriors this very same night and raid against a clutch of loggers who fell our bark-clad brethren some many strides north. If thou dost well, we shall permit thee leave with that which thou seekest, but if not, we send thee hence with thy lives.”

Iosef shakes his head, “I can be of no value on the field of battle, but I send my man-at-arms in my stead while I remain here to pray for their safety and wait for their return.”

Horse agrees, “I will go for you, my lord.”

Proof Given in Blood

The Weeping Council gives the party a few hours to eat, sleep, and prepare for battle. They set out with thirty elven warriors—mostly sylvan folk commanded by a few greys. The party travels by faint light of fairy lamps through the darkest hours of the short night. Presently, as the first light of dawn brightens the sky, the sound of axes and saws and uncouth voices alert the troop to the logger’s camp. Creeping forward with all stealth, they crest a ridge and see an open clearing below. Dozens of goblins and orcs move about timbered trees, stripping off branches. Ogres and orcs, stand guard about a central campfire. Two knuckle-headed hill giants oversee the whole operation. All night the woodcutters have been at work.

Nerivonias, the leader of the elven troop, points at the hill giants and ogres and whispers to Bryn, “Those are the ones you must defeat. Give us the signal when you attack, and we will support you with arrows. Once you have struck down the giants and the ogres, we will deal with the rest.” He crawls back into the darkness and begins to move his elves into position.

Bryn relays these instructions to the rest of the party.

“Did your elf friend tell you how we should go about killing two giants and a mess of ogres?” Ansgar asks.

Horse answers confidently, “The trick with giants is to get right up close to them.”

“I came all the way from the north to slay giants. I’ve been waiting a long time for this day,” Hemann is eager.

“I have prepared certain spells which will serve us in battle,” Edwyn adds.

“And I have a song that can’t go wrong,” Squint tunes up his shalm.

“I know a certain charm that will turn this morning mist to heavy fog,” Bogardes suggests.

Ansgar makes a plan, “Summon up a fog, Bogardes. Under its cover, we will creep unseen into the camp and strike the giants as one man.”

All agree except Kylikili who says, “With wiser council and better thought we might flank them, half from here and half from there.”

“Everyone knows that’s foolhardy. You never split the party,” Squint objects.

Under cover of magical fogs, the party creeps into the logging camp. The night’s lumber operation is at an end. The loggers begin to put away tools and turn their attention to the cooking pot that simmers over the open fire. The sentries take no notice of the rolling fog that rises at the edge of camp, nor would they have ever suspected anything unusual had not Squint tripped in the fog and fallen noisily upon his shalm. Then come two big orcs shambling into the fog to see what noise that was, and all stealth is at an end. Quick now! The party hastens to strike at giants and ogres, whilst others fight those orcish sentries.

Bogardes summons up a wave of thunder to discomfit the giants. Edwyn also employs what meager spellcraft he possesses. Then come the fighting men. “Up close, like this!” says Horse, and with his spear thrust out ahead of him as if in joust, he runs to the meet the hill giants. Ansgar follows close, but Bryn and Kylikili hold back, preferring to let their arrows strike.

After suffering many brutal blows, the first of the ogres is already dead, but the giants have recovered themselves and come to the fight with swinging clubs. Horse thrusts his spear at close range, fearless and foolish. Jealous of the bravery of the Geoffman, big Hemann rushes upon the giants with his great axe and smites at one knucklehead so as to cleave him open. He suffers for the blow under the buffet of a great club. The buffet staggers the strong Northman. Ansgar adds his own strikes on ogres and giants, but he falls back, learning quickly to rely upon his bow and stay far away from the reach of the giants’ clubs.

“I have nearly spent my spells,” Edwyn complains.

“And I have nearly spent my arrows,” Ansgar says. “But well spent! Look! That one falls to his knees, and the mighty Northman cleaves opens its skull!”

So the battle the continues until another ogre, much wounded, turns to flee, and only the one giant still stands, hollering with terror. Fang leaps around its legs, snapping at its heels, while Hemann and Horse flank it from either side.

All the camp is alerted, and all the orcs and goblin folk take up their axes and their blades.

“Surely, now is the time!” cries Ansgar. “Give the signal for the elves to attack.”

“What is the signal?” Bryn asks.

“Are you jesting? We don’t know the signal?”

“I forgot to ask!” Bryn admits. Panic and dismay wash over her. She shouts at the top of her lungs in elvish, “Oytwood elves! Now is the time!”, but din of battle drowns her voice.

“I think we are going to die on this battlefield,” Ansgar laments as he pulls back another arrow. “Sore are my wounds already!”

Bogardes steps up out of the magical fog. “We took one down, mumma!” he boasts.  

“Bogardes, be quick! Bring up root and shoot and vine and tangle that one’s feet!” Kylikili tells her son. The druid nods. He reaches out for Mother of Oerth, and up comes root and shoot and vine from Beory to tangle around the giant’s feet. The big fellow stumbles. Sword and spear and axe strike fast, and down the second giant falls. All the party raise a great cheer while all the orcs and goblins and ogres hesitate with dismay. At sound of that cheer, a war horn winds in the trees. Arrows loose from many bows, and the elves sweep into the clearing to join the attack. In moments, all is done.

Nerivonias congratulates the victors, “Thou didst risk thyself nobly for our woods and for our people. For that I thank thee. And also thee, Dimwood daughter.”

Turning to Bryn, he says in elven tongue, “I see a future about you, dark and dreadful. I do not envy you, daughter of man. For you compress the suffering of a thousand years to a mere three score.” He hands her a quiver full of arrows. “Take this. It will serve you well.”

Healers among the elves administer healing by means of blessings, charms, potions, and bandages to all the wounded members of the party. Presently, all are mended as best can be. They return to the Weeping Council in high spirits.

The elder betwixt the six that sit to his left and the six that sit to his right speaks in the Old Flan tongue, “Thou has done well. Thou hast risked thine only life’s blood for our wood passing nobly. Thy ransom is paid. In thine absence, this Iosef has made clear thy needs. We send thee back to thy woodcutters, and we send along scouts who will say, this one thou may take, but this one thou shalt not. Until the sun sets on the morrow to complete thy work we grant thee leave. Beware thou dost not overstay thy welcome.”

Getting what you Came For

The elves offer hospitality for a short rest and a meal of summer berries, elven cakes, and good mead to celebrate the victory. With courteous farewells and words of gratitude and good will to the Weeping Council, the party departs. Elven scouts escort them back to their camp. Despite her ranger’s training and best tracking skills, Bryn cannot not make sense of the directions or determine where they move in the woods until she sees the wagons of the woodcutters. “I don’t think I could ever find my way back there again,” she says to Ansgar.

“I don’t want to ever find my way back there again,” he replies. “But it felt good to strike down a few giants.”

The woodcutters gather themselves and the caravan sets out. Nerivonias shows Iosef seven trees of proper length, “Remember, sons of men, until the sun doth set to finish thy task! Prithee make haste.”

The logs are finally cut, and the woodcutters load them onto the wagon wheels they brought. Putting the draft horses on each log, they trudge back to Hochoch. The heavy weight of the logs make the journey slow.

“I have the strangest feeling we are being watched,” Bryn says.

“They watch to see that we leave their wood with nothing more than has been agreed,” Kylikili confirms. “You did well. If not for your quick words, things might have gone worse. I suppose you’ve learned a thing or two about diplomacy from your friend, Gundoriel.”

Ansgar laughs and shakes his head, “Everyone loves, Bryn.”

Visit the Geoff page for more adventure from the Liberation of Geoff.

Artwork “A Strange Village” by LPSDC

DM Notes: We played this session over Thanksgiving 2021 where I had both Geoff parties at the same table. With the size of the two combined parties and the promise of support from the elves, I needed to increase the difficulty of the battle with the loggers, so I tossed in two hill giants to make things more interesting. We ran out of time at the end of the session so I omitted the final fight with the goblins which, in any case, seemed superfluous and unnecessary to the story.

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