An unfamiliar guard (dressed just like Milo) summoned the heroes to Lord Kingspirit’s throne room. He explained that Milo had taken ill with a mysterious sickness that none of the doctors could seem to cure. But there were rumors that in the Forbidden Forest, there was an abandoned laboratory which may contain the key to a cure. However, the forest is very dangerous. They agreed to help and set off.
As they journeyed through, they came across a swiftly rushing river that was too wide to jump and looked dangerous to swim. Lily (Kira) immediately noticed the log that had fallen across it, but before they could head that direction, they heard snorting in the bushes. An enormous dire boar appeared, charging them angrily. I explained that they know boars are very territorial and they’ve probably disturbed it. This gave them something of a moral quandary as they didn’t really want to kill it, but Drago’s (Kai) attempt to talk some sense into this beast was ineffective, and he took a nasty tusk wound for his trouble. Hermione (Erin) even tried a healing spell in the hopes that it was just scared and injured, but alas it was fully healthy and simply enraged.
At this point, they decided to make a run for the bridge, with Hermione getting there first. Of course as soon as she stepped on the “bridge” she was slid back onto the riverbank and an annoyed treefolk was scolding her. He spoke slowly in a deep voice and asked why she thought it was okay to just walk on him. Of course as she’s scrambling to apologize the boar is still charging them and injuring them (Lily and Olivia have climbed a tree for safety at this point). Hermione’s frantically trying to get him to lift her over to the other side, but he’s in no hurry, though he seems friendly enough. He asks why they are in such a rush and they point out the angry boar, which he appears to notice for the very first time. He sighs and says “Oh, Sophie” as another round of combat begins.
So now Erin’s realized that he knows this boar and she’s like “Um, can you help us” and so the Ent scolds Sophie the Boar and she scampers back into the forest with her tail between her legs. They thank him for his help and Drago asks what his name is. He says Limbquick, the irony of which is not lost on Kai who giggles and says “but you are slow!” They respectfully dub him “Mr. Limbquick” and ask for his help in getting across the river, which he grants, lifting all of them to the other side with ease, with the exceptions of Olivia (whom he lifts with difficulty) and Firebreath (who simply flies over).
Limbquick then goes back to sleeping stretched across the river. Drago can’t resist one more question and wakes him up to ask why he likes to sleep in the river (it keeps him cool) and how he can breathe (he sleeps face up). Leave it to a 4-year-old to require an on-the-fly explanation of Ent biology and behavior.
Lilly scouts ahead a bit and avoids detection by a group of carousing Bugbears drinking ale around a campfire. They are positioned right in front of the entrance stairs to the abandoned laboratory. Herminone makes a knowledge check to discover that Bugbears are not friendly at all and are as likely to punch you in the face as say hello. Nevertheless, a heated discussion follows about what to do next. Erin initially favors an attack so as not to sacrifice the element of surprise. Kai wants to talk to them a little further first. Kira breaks the tie, favoring an attack, but then Erin waffles a bit. As she put it “at first I wanted to attack, but now I feel bad since they are just drinking and having a good time with friends”. Yay for humanizing the bad guys a bit! Anyway, they ultimately opt for the surprise attack, so I let them take the first combat actions without an initiative roll.
More tree-climbing and a fierce battling later, Firebreath is knocked out, lots of others are wounded, but the bugbears have all fallen. Down the abandoned steps they go, only to find that the laboratory is sealed with heavy stone doors and runic inscriptions. They will be unable to get in unless they can solve at least two of the three puzzles. I present each of them with an age-appropriate printout. Kai gets tic-tac-toe, Kira gets a maze, and Erin gets a Sudoku. In retrospect, Kai’s is a little different than the others because he can actually fail by losing. The other two CAN figure it out given enough time. We wrap up for the night, and will pick up at the entrance (if they indeed can succeed at getting in). Kai lost his tic-tac-toe matches, Kira managed to complete the maze with the perfect amount of frustration and subsequent sense of achievement, and Erin will be struggling through hers all day with a sense of minor annoyance at me for “making” her do it.
Not sure if the puzzle angle was “better” but it certainly injected some variety. Now we’ll just have to see what the laboratory actually holds.