Savage Land of Oz Part 3. King of the Forest?

In the next session of our Savage Worlds RPG set in the Land of Oz, after returning to the Wicked Witch’s Castle, our heroes rush back towards the Emerald City. Their first stop along the way is the enchanted forest.

Silver moonlight filtered down through the cathedral of the forest treetops. Menacing shadows lurked along the trails. The Lion deftly guided them through his land, but he seemed nervous as they got further in.

“Something wrong, Lion?” the Tin Man asked.

“Listen,” the Lion said in a low growl as he kept his head low to the ground.

“I don’t hear anything,” Prince Ozra said.

“I think that’s what our friend is getting at,” Scarecrow said. “It’s awfully quiet for a forest at night. Lion, where are your furry little friends?”

The Lion seemed annoyed. “I’ve been trying to summon my Beast Friends since we entered this place. They do not answer my calls.”

“That’s what that shrill caterwauling was about a few minutes ago?” Scarecrow asked. “I thought you caught a sliver in your paw, with no mouse handy to retrieve it.”

The Lion growled back at Scarecrow. He stood up and roared as loud as he could. The party waited. If anything, the forest seemed even quieter now, if that were possible.

“Do you think you scared them?” the Tin Man asked. “Is that why they’re not answering?”

“I am King of the Forest,” the Lion replied. “They must come when they are called. Something is wrong.”

“Veeeeeeeery wrong,” Prince Ozra said. “With all due respect, Lion, perhaps the creatures of the forest are not so used to respecting the traditions of your court. As Prince of Oz, I recommend you obligate all of the denizens of this place to undertake the courtly training they so clearly lack. If I were in charge of this place…”

“Quiet, Prince,” Scarecrow said. “Everybody hear that?”

The silence had been broken with the baying of wolves somewhere close up ahead. Those were no mere pups.

“I didn’t know wolves were native to this forest,” Scarecrow said.

“They don’t visit very often,” the Lion said, sniffing the air. “And I don’t get many bears in this forest, either.”

“Did you say, ‘bear’?” Prince Ozra asked.

The Lion led the way as they entered the deepest part of the forest. Here in a small clearing around an ancient tree, they encountered the invaders of the enchanted forest. The wolves they’d heard moments ago prowled the perimeter of this place, crouching behind trees and spying the party from mere meters away.

In the center of the clearing stood the biggest bear any of them had ever seen. “Welcome, heroes, to my new court,” the bear said in a low rumble of a voice. “I recognize you from the old stories. Tin Man. Scarecrow. And of course, the Cowardly Lion.”

“Hey, what about me?” Prince Ozra whined.

“No one calls me the Cowardly Lion anymore,” the Lion growled, trying mightily to overcome the cold in his guts that made his knees tremble ever so slightly. “Just the Lion, now. And I hold court in these parts. Not you.”

“Is that so?” the giant bear growled back. Its remorseless eyes, long claws and outsized sharp teeth gleamed in the moonlight. “You neglected your responsibilities as king. You broke the contract between monarch and subject. Now there will be a new order.”

“I’m something of a specialist in monarchical constitutional legalisms in extra-civilizational territories and might be able to interpret your intent with a bit more data…” Prince Ozra began. The light of enchantment emanated from his pudgy form.

His sleep magic was potent, but against a beast like this, it was not quite enough. The bear’s eyes lowered only for an instant. It shook itself to stay awake, leaning on the great tree of the clearing.

“Nice try, little one,” the bear said, still slightly woozy.

“Sorry,” Prince Ozra said. “I had to give it a shot. We’re not looking to fight you.”

“The rage that keeps your magical sleep from me is the same that will make this conflict all but inevitable, little fat man. For I have been wronged, Lion.”

“How have I wronged you?” the Lion asked. “I do not know you.”

The bear rose up on his haunches even higher than before, looking down on the heroes with contempt. “I, Baloo, was hunted from the jungle where I made my home. I’d only ever asked for the bare necessities — the things that put your mind at ease, with which one could forget about your worries and your strife. The humans came and took those things away.”

“Wait a minute — Baloo?” Scarecrow asked. “Bare necessities? I’ve heard of you. You were a good bear, once. A hero, they said.”

“I had a good king, once,” Baloo replied. “But where was my king, to protect me and my friends from the invaders? Nowhere. If you will not provide protection in my old home, then I am not beholden to you or anyone. The Witch of the West came by to tell me she would appreciate a change in the tenancy of this forest, and I have obliged her. I will claim a domain for myself. Yours.”

The Lion girded his willpower to stand up to this great beast, who clearly outmatched him in size and strength. It was all he could do to remain in place. “If it is a fight you are looking for…”

“Oh, yes,” Baloo said. “My wolf friends and I are most certainly looking for a fight. The only question is the terms of it. I would prefer to tear you to pieces by myself, but I know the wolves would like to get a nibble as well. Your choice: Lion against Bear. Or else, all of your friends against all of my friends. Prepare to die, either way.”

The Tin Man looked to the Lion and saw his friend’s courage flagging. “Bullying beast!” he declared. “We will fight you together.”

Baloo looked disappointed. He gave a shrug. “We will tear the flesh from your bones. Rooooaaaaaaarrrghghgg!!!! Baloo launched his immense bulk at the Lion. Simultaneously, the wolves bounded in towards the heroes.

The first of the wolves dug its sharp teeth into the Tin Man’s frame. It bounced off into the forest a moment later, its ivory fangs cracked upon the Lord Protector’s metal flesh. The Tin Man slashed at another wolf with his axe, cleaving it in two.

Scarecrow and Prince Ozra fought for their lives against the savage howling beasts. Against such feral animals, the subtlety of their magic would be of little use. Prince Ozra’s blood spattered on the forest floor as he forced himself to stay standing; he knew if he was dragged to ground he would be dead. Beside him, a wolf bit deeply into Scarecrow’s arm — Oz’ greatest mind was only saved from worse treatment when the wolf tried to gobble down Scarecrow’s straw flesh; the wolf choked on its meal and fell back into some bushes.

Meanwhile, Baloo’s rage was his own undoing. His vengeful fury gave him energy to go further and faster than he’d anticipated. His claws slashed into the earth and his immense jaw clenched down on air as the Lion dodged.

The Lion not only evaded the attack, but actually felt invigorated. This bear was powerful, but clumsy. It could be fought.

The Lion’s eyes narrowed as his predator’s senses activated.

In a Frenzy, the Lion launched himself at his enemy, clamping his vicious bite into Baloo’s neck. The massive bear staggered back, surprised. It could not shake the Lion — though it tried. Baloo staggered into a tree, hoping to knock the Lion off. Instead, the Lion hung on fiercely, not daring to loosen its death grip upon the great beast.

Baloo cried out in agony and rage, thrashing ever more wildly. If the bear got loose, it was still anyone’s guess which way victory would be decided.

The Tin Man’s axe swung wild, this time cleaving a wolf’s skull from its neck. He saw an opening towards the main melee and did not hesitate. His metal legs clanked loudly as he rushed at them, swinging his axe towards the back of Baloo’s head.

The blade struck hard and deep. The bear’s immense body shuddered. The Lion sprang back as the Tin Man struck the final death blow, decapitating the great beast. A spurt of blood rained red upon the forest floor.

With their new leader gone, the rest of the wolves retreated into the undergrowth, vowing their vengeance upon Oz’ heroes. For now, their fury was overcome by their fear.

As the beasts fled, the Lion roared in triumph. A look of irritation remained on his bestial face as he glared towards the Tin Man. “It was my kill,” he said.

“Yes, it was,” the Tin Man said. “You had him by the throat. You held him despite his supernatural fury. My axe only sped the outcome, but you were the one who defeated Baloo. You are King of the Forest.”

The Lion grunted his assent.

“Perhaps we could save our explanations of dynastic continuity among the trees for another time?” Prince Ozra asked, while finishing up some bandages around his arm. Scarecrow likewise seemed impatient as he stuffed rotted underbrush into his padding to replace what the wolf ate.

“We must hurry,” the Tin Man agreed. “We must get to the Emerald City to stop the Wicked Witch. Let no man nor beast stand in our way!”

The adventure continues in Savage Land of Oz Part 4. Hicks in the Sticks


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