Savage Land of Oz Part 4. Hicks in the Sticks

Tree manIn the last installment of this Savage Worlds RPG set in the Land of Oz, our heroes went deep into the heart of the forest and encountered Baloo, a vengeful beast allied with the Wicked Witch of the West. After defeating this wicked creature, the Tin Man, Lion, Scarecrow and Prince Ozra now press on towards the Emerald City through the hinterland of Oz.

Prince Ozra found himself yawning as their party emerged from the enchanted woods. He belatedly covered his mouth, embarrassed at his behavior; heroes didn’t yawn, did they? The others didn’t seem to have noticed. Maybe that was worse. They never noticed anything special about him.

The champions of Oz had only allowed themselves only a brief moment’s rest before moving again as the sun’s first rays filtered through the trees. The group was fatigued, but they could not delay; with every passing moment, the Wicked Witch was surely consolidating her hold over the capital city.

In the distance, they could already just make out the uppermost spires of the Emerald City and hellish columns of smoke trailing up from those structures.

“The city is still on fire,” Prince Ozra said.

“What was your first clue?” Scarecrow said irritably.

“I must put out the fire!” Prince Ozra said. Without warning, Prince Ozra put his back to the scene, bent over and aimed his butt at the city in the distance. He let loose a horrendous blast that seemed to echo through the cool morning air.

The stench was atrocious.

“What the hell was that?” Scarecrow demanded to know.

“I was trying to put out the blaze,” Prince Ozra said, standing upright again. He turned around to face the city. “Oh. It’s still smoking. It seems I was unsuccessful.”

“Um, that’s OK,” the Tin Man said, trying to be supportive. “I’m sure that, er, magic could be effective at a shorter range. Maybe if we run into trouble on the way…”

“Just make sure we’re upwind next time,” the Lion growled. “That was putrid.”

The heroes kept moving and soon found themselves crossing farmlands. The pastoral scenes were a serene contrast to the trouble that loomed in the distance. But something seemed a bit off. Everything seemed a little too peaceful. Too quiet.

“You see those farmers in the fields,” the Lion said. “They are not moving. They’re just standing there.”

“Not just standing,” Prince Ozra said. “See that one? He’s staring at us.”

The rest soon realized that the Lion was right. “I detect magic in those farmers,” Scarecrow said. “Some kind of elemental magic. And do you see that tree up near that farmhouse? I think I saw it moving.”

“Should we check closer?” Prince Ozra asked.

“We don’t have time,” the Tin Man said. “We must get to the Emerald City as fast as we can.” The rest of the party nodded their assent to his plan. They continued along the path.

Up ahead, there was a farmhouse with a barn attached to it with more of those standing, staring farmers. At first, they thought the barn was on fire. On looking closer, they could tell that smoke was coming out of a hatch on the roof. There was a lot of smoke. It was the most activity they’d seen all morning. As they got closer, Scarecrow detected a disturbance in the auras of the farmers. These ones seemed more alert.

He looked at the closest one and made a frightening discovery. The farmer was not really a farmer; that is, not a Winkie farmer. His flesh appeared to be made of some kind of plant material, much like his own, though more like dense wood.

“I don’t know if we can just ignore this,” Scarecrow said. “Or if we should. There’s something happening here.”

The Lion nodded. He ran towards the barn. With impressive agility, he scampered up the walls and on to the roof. He peered in through the hatch, trying to see past the stinging smoke. As he did so, he caught a whiff of it and realized it smelled like barbecue.

There was a break in the smoke. He saw in the center of the barn, someone had dug a pit. He drew back in shock as he realized it was filled with the hacked-off limbs, heads and assorted body parts of people. The pile of disassembled cadavers was smoking, sizzling and popping.

The Lion sprang down from the structure and bounded towards his friends, who could see by the look on his face that the news was not good.

By now, one of the wooden farmers had actually approached the party. He moved slowly and stiffly but with determination. When he spoke, his voice was a ghostly rasp. “Get… off… our land. Go… now.”

“This is your land, is it?” the Lion growled back with a cagey sneer. “You monsters have done a wicked thing.” His comrades readied themselves for action. After what they’d seen, they could hardly leave the neighboring lands to the tender mercies of these strange things.

The wooden farmer pointed a gnarled finger at them. “No… more… Winkies.”

At that moment, the tree that Scarecrow had noticed before moved yet again… on long timbrous legs three feet thick and ten feet tall. The moss-covered wood elemental had glowing eyes that could not be deciphered. Its tree-branch hands looked fearsome. The thing stood at least twenty feet tall, glowering down at them.

“No way we can avoid this fight,” Scarecrow said.

“I don’t particularly want to avoid it,” the Tin Man answered. He struck at the nearest of the smaller creatures with his axe. The blade went in deep, but stopped halfway through as though he’d hit the bark of a tree. He held his axe against his chest and kicked the thing off before approaching their giant companion. In the meantime, Prince Ozra and the Lion faced off against the other wooden men, flooring a number of them with bestial might and eldritch flatulence.

Something about the giant tree man was familiar to Scarecrow from his magical research. Now he remembered an illustration in an old tome of Green Magick of the Ancient Wood, portraying the threat that now faced them.

“Hold, Tin Man,” Scarecrow said, while casting spells to entangle three of the nearest wooden creatures in thick vines that sprouted from the earth. “I know this thing. Redwood, a plant elemental. It is he who is controlling these murderous wooden men. His powers are terrible, from another dimension. Your axe will not be enough.”

“We’ll see,” the Tin Man answered without looking back. His axe struck hard in the thing’s tree-trunk leg. The blow would have easily felled an ordinary man, yet seemed hopelessly inadequate against this thing. Scarecrow was more surprised than anyone when the thing seemed to collapse under its own weight, nearly toppling the Tin Man over with the bulk of its suddenly-lifeless limbs.

“That was… strange,” the Tin Man said, astonished by the ease of their victory. Only a few of the wooden doppelgangers remained, lurching towards the heroes of Oz with no fear.

But if those things were still up, that meant Redwood was not far.

“Look out!” Prince Ozra shouted, pointing to Scarecrow’s feet. He’d noticed a trail of cracks in the ground and little weeds growing out of them, getting bigger by the second.

For the first time since anyone could remember, Scarecrow lost his cool. He jumped as Redwood erupted from the ground, flailing claws of wood that seemed to be growing at an almost explosive rate. In seconds, Redwood has achieved his full height; only Prince Ozra’s timely warning had saved Scarecrow from being crushed like a bug.

“This… witch land… now,” Redwood said in a raspy voice that seemed to exist in their heads. “Men… chop trees, make land. Now we chop men… Make land. Witch’s law. You… die now.”

Redwood’s fury left most of the party shaken. But the creature’s wooden form appealed to the Lion’s feline nature. “Biggest scratching post I’ve ever seen,” he purred. The Lion leapt on to Redwood, slashing away with his claws heedless of the plant elemental’s rage.

Once more, the Tin Man charged at their huge opponent, taking a running swing at the thing’s midsection as it stooped to try to grab the Lion.

Prince Ozra meanwhile put the rest of the wooden men to sleep with a lecture on the proper etiquette for serving royalty at a breakfast in the garden. Even their wooden personalities could not save them from the enchanted Slumber.

Scarecrow could not directly affect Redwood with his magic, but he could at least prevent the thing from escaping again. Between the Tin Man’s Axe and the Lion’s razor-sharp claws, the elemental would not last long at all. In the end, the Lion tore the tree man’s head from the branch-like sinews that held it to its trunk-like body. Redwood’s glowing eyes went dim; Scarecrow cast one final spell to ensure his departure from the scene, back to his own dimension.

Their bloodless enemies had fallen. There was an eerie silence upon the land.

“There may be more Winkies about, hiding,” Prince Ozra said. “Should we tell them it is safe to come out?”

“But it isn’t safe,” the Tin Man said. “The Witch’s minions have tried to delay us. With every hour, her power surely grows. It will spread beyond the city.”

“It is good to feel sorrow for your people,” the Lion said to Prince Ozra. “But the Tin Man is right.”

“There is a tunnel into the Emerald City,” the Tin Man said. “An escape tunnel. Even I do not know where it is, Prince. Only your sister would know… and you?”

The Prince thought hard. “Yes, many years ago, I learned of the tunnel. It must have fallen into disuse, but it could still be there. Perhaps that is how our enemies made their way into the city?”

“Let’s find out,” Scarecrow said. “We’re lucky we haven’t already bumped into a patrol. You have to figure the Witch has already turned half of the city into her Puppets. I don’t like our odds of going up against an army of mind-controlled Winkies — and probably more flying monkeys than you can shake a stick at. We’re good. But we’re not that good.”

“We’ll find our way in,” the Tin Man said. “But if it is how the enemy got in, then we should expect a welcoming party.”

The heroes trudged on through the long day. They were tired from traveling. Tired from fighting. But the Emerald City was close, now.

The adventure continues in Savage Land of Oz Part 5. The Iron Maiden


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