The Halfling and the Ent

You and your companions are a well known group of adventurers in the sunny and warm area of the continent known as the Fiefdom of Seaside. You have built a name for yourselves banishing the werecrabs of Bygone Bay, re-discovering the lost underwater city of Wayrwazet and throwing epic parties on the beaches of Seaside. Your deeds and escapades caught the attention of Lord Seaside. He made your group his official adventurers in residence and paid you a hefty retainer to be at his disposal for the most dire of missions. Thus far, that has consisted of retrieving the long lost recipe of the Holy Pina Colada of Culkaan from the pygmy-infested jungle of Culkaasan and escorting his bride-to-be from the nearby fiefdom of Summerland. Turns out the Pina Colada recipe was needed for the reception. It was every bit as delicious as the legends indicated and well worth all of those little spears to the hindquarters that you endured.

The Hook

You and your party have been traveling for weeks to reach a remote, wooded corner of the world much further north than you ever really wanted to go. You left your warm beach adjacent city at the behest of Lord Seaside. Lord Seaside has a far distant cousin in the north named Lord Oakenfen who requires the assistance of able-bodied adventurers. Lord Seaside received a missive from Lord Oakenfen six weeks ago now that described a dire, if somewhat comical, situation with a halfling and an ent terrorizing the forests all around his fiefdom. He has lost many of his local garrison trying to hunt down the duo to put an end to the attacks, but cannot afford to send more or he will not have enough men to man his keep. Lord Oakenfen begged Lord Seaside to remember their days long ago spent together as wards in the home of their Grandfather Strongtree and to send help as quickly as he can. Lord Seaside contacted you and your companions, equipped you with provisions and cold weather gear and sent you on your way with instructions to end the threat in the north by whatever means necessary.

The crunch of snow and a shiver bring you back to your current environment; surrounded by snow blanketed pines with a large ridge of mountains to your north, you are as far from your tropical home as you have ever been. You are beginning to doubt Lord Seaside’s decision to send warm climate adventurers such as you and your companions to such a cold and desolate place. One of your party members spots several lines of smoke to the north and estimates you are less than a day away from your arrival at Strongwood Keep and your meeting with Lord Oakenfen. You arrive at Strongwood Keep as the sun is starting to set. It is an imposing edifice of dark stone against the white and green backdrop of the surrounding forests. You are met by the guardsman and stable master. The stable master takes care of your mounts as the guardsman leads you deep into the keep to Lord Oakenfen’s main hall. When you enter the hall, the the heat from the many fires washes over you and you feel more warmth than you have in weeks. Lord Oakenfen sits at the end of the hall on a raised dais made of pure black obsidian, but the large chair that he sits in appears to be made only of unadorned, but intricately carved oak. Lord Oakenfen welcomes you with genuine gratitude and asks you to join him in a meal before speaking of the task to come.

After your meal, Lord Oakenfen begins to speak. As he does, you notice that his face is much more worn than it first appeared to be and there is more silver in his hair than you first noticed. It is obvious that the north takes its toll on a man. He tells you that the Fiefdom of Strongwood makes almost all of its income by logging the local forests and then shipping the raw wood further south to be processed into lumber before being sent even further south to be made into products for purchase by the wealthier citizens of the southern reaches. Several months ago a few of the logging crews went missing. The north is a harsh place so it was not unheard of for even groups of men to be ambushed by wolves and other wild creatures, so not much was thought of it. Soon after that, a logging crew was found slaughtered and dismembered with their bodies arranged into some sort of arcane symbol that no one could identify. After that, Lord Oakenfen ordered guards to accompany every logging crew. Then, about two months ago, one of the crews was attacked again and wiped out except for one survivor. According to the one guard who escaped, they were attacked by a halfling casting magic and a large tree-like creature known as an ent. After that incident, Lord Oakenfen stopped all further logging, unwilling to further risk the lives of his subjects and guardsmen. Lord Oakenfen gives you the location of that last attack and bids you to start your investigation there come the morning.

The Truth

You and your party uncover clues at the scene of the last attack the lead you to a cavern entrance in the foothills of the nearby mountain range that you spotted on your way into Strongwood. As you make your way through the cavern, your are surprisingly attacked by increasing numbers and types of undead creatures. One would not think that a halfling and an ent would keep company with such foul beings, but you have no choice but to press on. Once you fight your way through the undead hoard, your arrive in a large central cavern carved out of the same kind of obsidian as Lord Oakenfen’s throne dais. You are alarmed as shrill, maniacal laughter fills the domed chamber. A halfling dressed in dark robes stands in the center of the chamber flanked by braziers that burn with purplish-black flames. Behind the halfling stands a 20 foot tall, vaguely tree-like creature, which can only be the ent. You have no choice but to engage the enemy. As you fight, it becomes readily apparent to any magic users in the group the the halfling is casting mostly necromantic spells. When you engage the ent, you are confused as your weapons crack through a hard but thin outer surface and sink sickeningly into flesh, blood, muscle and bone. After you fight the “ent” a bit longer, you come to realize it is actually a flesh golem comprised of body parts that likely came from the first two missing logging crews and assembled together into the grotesque mockery of an ent. The thin outer layer is nothing more than a scabrous covering of dried blood.

After the halfling and flesh golem are defeated, you uncover the journals of the halfling named Fizzlewig. Fizzlewig was a member of a large enclave of nature worshipping halflings that used to inhabit these forest along with their friends and protectors, the ents. The cavern that you stand in now used to be inhabited by a great oak tree that connected the ents and the halflings to the very spirit of the forest itself. They lived a life of peaceful coexistence with the cold natural world of the north and had done so for centuries untold; that is, until the men came. Men from the south arrived under the leadership of Captain Lance Oakenfen. They established a small outpost and began harvesting wood from the local forests. The halflings and ents were concerned and cautious, but, having lived in peace for so long, they believed the best approach to solving the situation was diplomacy. Two ents and a handful of halflings were sent to meet with Captain Oakenfen at the human outpost. He greeted them warmly and promised to cease his logging if the halflings and ents were to allow him to visit their home and view the magical oak tree that they had freely spoken to him about. The agreement was struck, but, unbeknownst to the nature worshiping halflings, Captain Oakenfen had a tracking spell cast on him before leaving and left instructions for his men to follow behind him. Once Captain Oakenfen was in the cavern of the magical oak tree, his men struck. They slaughtered all of the ents and halflings. They chopped down and burned the magical oak tree, saving only one large piece that now serves as Lord Oakenfen’s throne. The obsidian dais that he sits upon was quarried from this cavern. The throne and the dais have magical properties that allow Lord Oakenfen to know the location of every creature and tree in the forest, ensuring that he cuts the trees and collects the pelts of the creatures that will fetch the highest prices.

Somehow, Fizzlewig managed to survive the slaughter and soon came to realize he was the only one living. Without the magical oak tree, the obsidian chamber became a place of darkness. Shadowy voices began to whisper their secrets to Fizzlewig and lead him down the path of necromancy. He slowly built an army of undead over the years and planned his assault on Oakenfen’s keep. His last step in building his army was his flesh golem ent. He slaughtered the first two logging crews and used them to shape his flesh golem. He then attacked and killed the third logging crew and used their bodies to create the gruesome glyph that gave his flesh golem life. It appears that his attack on the keep was imminent and would have occurred any day now if you and your group had not arrived.

Now knowing the true story of how Oakenfen came to be and the atrocities that Lord Oakenfen committed, you and your companions must decide what to do. Do you let Lord Oakenfen remain ignorant of your knowledge and return south? Do you confront him directly and demand that he pay for his crimes? Do you find some reason to remain in the north and search for a way to bring Lord Oakenfen to justice. The choice is yours.

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