Slogging through the low woods

The players have the map from the crooked oak or perhaps there is the remains of the trail. As the players start to head out into the wilderness it’s important to start seeding the threat of the woods themselves. Even the low woods are misty and choked with moss and thick twisted trees. As they push through they might encounter sounds of laughing fey that follow them or perhaps the eyes of animals reflecting in the torchlight watching them. The woods are not a safe place for the characters and they should know it.

The Green Palace

The group has followed Targus to his hideaway. Tucked away in the depths of the low woods the thief has made a small shelter near a large pond that gathers in a deep stone basin. This pond is fed by a gentle stream which also sustains a gnarled, ancient tree that stretches out it leaf covered limbs giving the whole space an emerald hue as the morning light diffuses through them.

The group find themselves arriving just after Targus. The thief has his blade out warily approaching the makeshift wooden structure that sits on outcrop that juts out from basin’s high walls. He’s currently distracted but he will rapidly notice the party if they don’t stealth closer, he is wary and will roll perception checks with a +6.

The is a few ways this can go. Though all end with same result, the tree attacks Targus. Looping a noose round his neck and yanking him into the air.

While it might seem like a safe place it is not, the tree has been secretly awakened by powerful magics. It lies in wait for Targus to get in it’s reach. It will then strike. The tree is intelligent and specifically charged with killing Targus so if it looks like he might leave with the players, talk too much about the Dog Witch, or just bolt it moves in and strikes. The tree will start to strangle him,  ignoring the players until they attack or otherwise interfere with it’s assassination. As an intelligent creature that understands common it can also react if it can hear them discuss a strategy.

Role playing ‘Difficult’ Targus

Motivation: Targus wants to be rich and provide for his family but lacks the impulse control and patience to make it. 

Personality: He’s never been in a situation he can’t run from or talk his way out. He tries to lie and bargain out of every opportunity, confident he can come out on top.

Past: Targus has been frequently employed by the dog witch to steal or spy on areas she prefers or cannot go. While he’s never hurt anyone on her behalf he hasn’t worried to much about the repercussions of his actions.

Targus will reveal certain things if they talk to him in the basin before the tree attacks.

  • (P/I-DC12) He’s being hunted by the Dog Witch
  • (P/I-DC14) Because he may have stolen some money from her.
  • (P/I-DC16) It may have been some money he was meant to donate in town.
  • (P/I-DC18) He only spent some coin because the merchant fired his sister, then he had to go fix things.
  • (P/I-DC20) In hindsight he’s pretty sure she gave me some kind of cursed coin. That monster has hoovered up all of it, including the small stash under the Bent Oak.

The Witch's Tree

The Dog Witch who is responsible for this tree’s orders and awakened state has also put the spell magic mouth, so she could let Targus know what she really thinks of her cat’s paw.

“My little thief I did tell you to not skim any money from my donation till after the job was done. In fact you gave your word and one’s word is their bond. So let me bind you to speak no more lies. I hope whatever gaudy purchases you made were worth it. Killing you has been far too much work” This spell repeats the same few lines again and again in a noblewoman’s voice. Leaving a long pause between each recital.

The tree’s main goal is killing Targus and while it has him will use one of it’s actions to strangle him. If the players free him the tree will continue to attack Targus over the rest of the group unless it is below half health where upon it will just attack whoever seems the biggest threat. Once the teifling’s dead it will continue to attack the players if they attacked it. For the purposes of killing him Targus has 21hp for the tree to get through. He does not act in this battle apart from trying to use his movement (15ft a round due to his injuries) to get away from the tree. 

To make this a memorable battle my quick tips to have the tree use it’s toss ability to sling around those it’s picked up, potentially using them as weapons. It can also use it’s heavy roots to climb, digging into the basin walls and climb around stronger characters to reach weaker targets. The tree has a particular hatred of any one who uses fire to hurt it. 

A quick note on long rests: This campaign is paced so that the fight with the bard and tree happen in the same day, with a short rest in between. If the players have had a long rest between facing the Satyr Bard and the Tree it might feel a little bit easy, they’ll have all their powers and abilities. It may be worth throwing an easy random encounter at them just before they reach the tree, (perhaps another couple of rabid blink dogs) to help scuff them up so the fight feels more dangerous.  

 

Timber

After defeating the tree the players can do one of a few things depending on how the combat went.

  • Talk to Targus if they were able to keep him alive
  • Look over Targus’s corpse
  • Check his shack.

What you find

In the small shack the group finds.
A makeshift climbers kit, a nice set of thieves’ tools, a set of (damp) cold weather gear.

Rolling an investigation check (DC14) the players will notice that the rock wall is not completely seamless and one rock in particular appears to have some moss just plastered round it’s edges. Behind it this rock is a small chest. A DC16 thieves tools check is required to open the lock, or using the key from Targus’s body.

In this box is.

  • 15gp, 50sp, 200cp.
  • 2 figurines intricately carved from black stone, each is worth 20gp.
  • A fine crimson cloak which is almost completely covered by an impressive golden thread crest of a dragon eating the sun. It radiates magic.
Targus has on his person:
  •  A couple of daggers.
  • A purse with 52sp and 60cp in it.
  • A nobleman’s outfit (damp).
  • A necklace carved with the holy mark of the Sky Weaver.
  • A small iron key. (Opens the hidden chest in his shack)
  • A damp notebook.

Role playing ‘Friendly’ Targus

If Targus survives it as a much wounded and scared man. Targus talks in two very different manners to the players depending on how the meet him. If they are confronting him before the fight he’s very suspicious if not completely hostile. After the fight he could not be more helpful, pledging to help the group if they’ll just keep him safe.

What he knows:

  • (WV) Dog Witch asked him to make a donation of several hundred gold to the reliquary of the Church of Talan. The were some conditions to the donation though.
    • The donation had to be made all in one day though.
    • This donation had to be completed a day before a night with no moon.
    • The donation had to be made secretly and so he stole a key to help place the money in secretly.
  • (ARQ) He donated it to the reliquary but also used about fifty of it to buy some items for himself and his family.
  • (ARQ) Targus frequently does work for the Dog Witch but quite regularly annoys her, so he hides in Barta whenever that happens to let her cool off. He thinks this time it’s a bit worse than that.
  • (ARQ) In hindsight he’s pretty sure she gave him some kind of cursed coin. That monster has hoovered up all of it, including the small stash he’d hidden under the Crooked Oak.
  • (WV) He only spent the money because he got his sister fired.
  • (ARQ) The coins all had the image of a wolf’s head on them, Targus thinks that the text was of the ‘Mute kingdom’ a famously insular place.
 

The note book

The note book on his person is there as a back up to continue the story should Targus have been killed without any of his information being relayed. It’s damp and damaged so only a handful of pages remain. It is up to you to decide how much to tell the players but it is essential that they understand this is the Dog Witch’s work. If the players have got most if not all the information without needing it then you may think about giving them a bonus reward such as a secret.

Returning to Barta

As the players return to Barta, have the forest feel a little lighter and less menacing, they just encountered, and killed, a living tree, destroying a powerful witch’s minion. They should feel powerful.

This marks the first suggested milestone for levelling up.

For those who like XP here’s the break down.

  • Dog fight: 100xp
  • Investigation: 100xp
  • Bard fight: 150xp
  • Tree battle: 200xp

Returning to Barta the Captain is happy and pays up. He also gives them a bonus of 50gp for bringing him back alive. Part of this payment is allowing the players caravan to park up. He takes Targus for questioning promising that justice will be dealt in the proper manner. He is appreciative of any information the players can provide to help convict Targus.  Govlen may also direct them to go talk to the Priestess about the donation and the Dog Witch as well. 

 

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