The Dryad


Chapter Six of Under the Goblin Trees

Campaign adaptation by Thomas Kelly

The Dryad

I latched the door of my bedchamber behind me and opened my psalter, praying fervently to the Lady of Ever-Changing Seasons for protection through the night. I laid down, still fearful. As drowsiness closed my eyes, a soft knock at my door startled me to full consciousness. I got up and lifted the latch cautiously. Cirilli entered with a candle, and Myron trailed behind her.

“What’s all this?” I asked.

“You need to hear what she has to tell,” Myron said.

Clandestine Converse

Cirilli sat herself down on the edge of my bed and began her tale. “Last night, after the household had fallen quiet, I spoke with the baroness. She stealthily sent word to me by the hand of her maidservant, inviting me to meet her atop the tower. I went as she requested, and in the privacy of the night air, she told me her tale. I have spent much of the day today in her company as well. No elf-lady nor one of olven blood, but rather, she is a nobleborn of the forest, queen of oaks, stolen away from her great tree which grows not far from this place. She is no willing wife to the baron, either. He has brought her here by force, and he keeps her imprisoned at his side in this house. She dares not flee nor resist, for he holds her life in his hands. The false-hearted baron has made a hostage of the great oak to which her soul is tethered, and he has left strong axmen to guard it, ever ready to strike. They keep the blades of their axes sharp, and they are prepared to drop the tree if she should resist the lord baron or flee from this place. And here is the treacherous design he has devised. Each day, he sends a certain messenger to the axmen who dwell within a tower that rings about her sacred tree. The messenger instructs the axmen to let the tree stand for another day. If on any day this messenger should fail to arrive at the tower by the designated time, the axmen have been instructed to fell that mighty oak, and she will perish from the earth.”

“A horrid arrangement,” I muttered.

“Yes,” Cirilli agreed. “But there is more to the story. The lord baron is not as he seems, nor is he a loyal nobleman of the March, but he himself is a lord of werewolves. Not only he, but all the men and women of the house as well. Except the lady Nyssa’s maidservant, who is herself a nymphmaid from the forest, all the servants and court are under the curse. From the lowest washerwoman to the noblest knight, they are vile werewolves within, and they are all under the control of Baron Wulurich. Moreover, the lord baron is the very one who set that same curse upon the village Roanwood, and he alone can lift the curse. All these matters I learned from the solemn-eyed baroness, the lady Nyssa, who is most cruelly imprisoned here against her will.” Tears of empathy moistened Cirilli’s eyes, and she choked upon a stifled sob.

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The Chops of the Beast


Chapter Five of Under the Goblin Trees

Campaign adaptation by Thomas Kelly

The Chops of the Beast

We washed and changed out of our travelling clothes before coming to the baron’s table, eager to see if his larder matched his expensive taste in furnishing. He did not disappoint. We ate such a feast as one might hope at the table of a nobleman, far better than one might hope to find in the remote vales of the Dim Forest. A small army of servants busied themselves serving us fresh hot bread from the oven, golden-crusted but soft and airy on the inside, a fine vegetable soup with savory broth, a whole roasted boar, sizzling hot from the spit, and wine and ale to slake the thirst of Wenta.

Among those seated with us at table sat several knights of the Watch. Some of these personally knew Sir Belvenore and had ridden with his father in years now past. The lord baron himself, we learned, had in times afore, served beside Commandant Petros on the field of battle. The baroness sat to the right side of the baron, and despite myself, I often caught myself gazing fixedly on her. Her glance met mine on more than one occasion, and I sensed a fearsome soul behind her burning eyes. Her eyes spoke to me of wild untamed places, uncleared spaces and fading lands where fairy folk dwell, far away from fields and gardens where plows furrow the soil and sewers cast seed.

The Tale of Orlane

Having satisfied desire for food and drink, attention turned to business. The baron inquired after our affairs. I stood to my feet and bowed in the courtly fashion before speaking: “I have come to you, Lord Wulurich, by the command of our Most Resolute Magnitude Commandant Petros Gwalchen of the Gran March, who has bid me relate my tale and present these documents, recently obtained from the lair of a foul naga witch, deep in swampy Rushmoor.”

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Horse Thieves


Chapter Two of Under the Goblin Trees

Campaign adaptation by Thomas Kelly

On the Edge of the Wood

“Four or five days to the keep at Forest Watch. We know not precisely how far beyond the Foredge to the baron’s lodge,” Sir Merciful and Sir Belvenore poured over parchment with a few sparse lines that sufficed for a map. Many miles passed before our road entered the wooded lands. Groves and wild woods stood in patches now and again, thicker to the north. We had fair skies for two days, but on the third day from the keep, more snow hampered our progress again. This time we camped and waited out the weather in shelters beneath a stand of white chestnuts. Bruin foraged about in the woods and collected dry timber enough to keep a merry fire blazing, despite the wind and the snow.

The warmth of the fire was not enough to chase the chill from the bones but it melted some of the ice between our party and our chivalrous escort. Considering their coming errantry in Farvale and Orlane, Sir Belvenore and Sir Merciful inquired of us regarding all we could tell them about that place. Their questions gave us the opportunity to recount for them the tale of the naga witch. After hearing our story and asking after the details until they were at last satisfied, they looked on us with newfound respect, and their demeanor improved.

We woke in the morning under skies both clear and cold. Cirilli and I conducted our prayers while the others stoked up the fire, heated the water, and boiled the grits. The Watchers followed their own monastic-styled devotions, reading the psalms of Cuthbert and the odes of Heironeous each morning and conducting themselves according to their fixed routines before strapping on armor. Myron reviewed his spells. Bruin saddled the horses.

Now the trees had begun to grow more closely, and we saw that we drew near to the shadowy world beneath the boughs of the Dim Forest. Nevertheless, we camped that night in good spirits for we knew that Forest Watch remained only a short journey on the morrow. We looked forward to warm beds, cooked food, and strong drinks.

An Interrupted Night

Sir Merciful was at watch when thieves stole into the camp and made off with the horses. How it came to pass that he neither saw nor heard, I received no explanation. None was needed. It was clear enough that he had fallen to sleep. Some hours after his watch had begun, he roused us. A Watcher is a watcher in name only, I suppose. Now in the middle of the night, shivering in the darkness and stiff from the cold, we did not know what to do, nor did we know then the culprit that had stolen our steeds. Bruin wanted to pursue immediately, but what was the point in that pitch darkness? Myron cast a magical light on his quarterstaff, and we searched about the immediate vicinity of the camp. The light proved to be a bad idea as it made him a clear target. The first arrow stuck him and buried its head into his chest. As if a dam broke, they charged from out of the woods.

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