Sir Bruce had made camp deep in the thick forest a good way off the old king’s road in order to avoid any possible pursuit from Sir Darius Black and his bandits. Max stood guard while Sir Bruce slept. He awoke to a peculiar site. A young girl about 13 years of age was sitting next to Max and petting him. The dog’s tongue was hanging out and he gazed affectionately up at the girl.
‘I like your dog. What’s his name?’ The girl asked.
‘His name is Max.’ Replied Bruce, carefully getting to his feet. ‘And who pray tell are you?’
‘My name is Willow.’ said the girl.
‘What are you dong here alone in the forest?’ asked Bruce.
‘I am trying to rescue my father, the woodcutter. He was taken from our home and brought in there.’ Willow pointed towards a dark section of wood, thick with underbrush and sharp thorny walls of brush.
‘And who took your father?’ asked Bruce.
The girl turned to look Sir Bruce right in the eyes. ’Things took him… Evil things… ’
‘What sort of evil things?’ asked Bruce.
‘Trees that walk and drink the blood of men took him. And giant spiders like what you would see in nightmares. You are a brave knight. I see you have armor and carry a sword. Can you help my father? He is a good man trying to make an honest living here in the wood. I am too scared to go into the dark wood. But you must be brave. Please help me.’
‘I will help you. But first I must pray to Tyr for aid.’ said Sir Bruce. He then drew his sword and knelt before Willow and used his Divine Sense to try and detect any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of him. He detected none. But he sensed great evil from the dark wood – unhallowed ground tainted by the evil of undead.
‘Stay here with Max and Leadbelly, Willow. I will enter the dark wood and try to find your father.’ With that Sir Bruce took out The Chalice of the Sun. He filled it with wine and held it aloft in a lonely beam of sunlight that pierced the thick canopy above. He drank the wine and felt the heroism flowing through him. Sir Bruce cast Protection from Evil, readied his longsword and shield, and strode boldly into the dark wood. He followed a small path enclosed on both sides by a wall of thorns and underbrush so thick that it was nigh impassable. The sharp thorns scratched at his plate mail armor making noises but doing him no harm.
Suddenly one of the trees sprung to life and attacked Sir Bruce. The branches of the tree were like arms that ended in sharpened twigs that cut like claws. But again, Sir Bruce’s armor and shield aided him greatly, keeping the creature at bay while he cut through it with his longsword. Sir Bruce’s mighty cut cleaved straight through the creature and it collapsed. Thick red liquid that looked almost like blood seeped out of the cut portions of the plant creature. Sir Bruce was unsettled as he worked his way deeper into the wood. He found the path twisting back and forth through the thick thorny place.
Again he was attacked by a plant creature and again he fought back, cutting it down. He fought 4 of the twig creatures and one that could project sharp needles out to a distance. There was also a very large plant creature made of vines who could make the very woods come alive to grasp, entangle, and restrain Sir Bruce.
Sir Bruce’s armor protected him well but some of the attacks got through. Blood was seeping out from between the plates of his mail. Sir Bruce was forced to call on the power of Tyr and use his Lay on Hands to heal himself.
Eventually he made it deeper into the dark wood to a place where webs hung from the thorns and brush. There he was attacked by giant spiders led by an ettercap who attempted to use his web garotte to strangle Sir Bruce.
Sir Bruce bravely fought through the spiders to find a huge lair glistening with spider eggs. There was a huge spider here guarding what looked like a small tree that seemed to exude evil. There at the base of the tree was a human man laying on the ground but it appeared as though his legs and waist were enveloped by the tree. It looked as if somehow the tree was eating the man. Sir Bruce fought hard but was badly hurt and forced to withdraw. He managed to cast a sanctuary spell which made him almost impossible to hit while he healed himself with a potion of healing and re-positioned himself so that he could fight the spiders and ettercap one at a time. In total he slew three Giant Wolf Spiders and an ettercap. He left the giant spider alive and unhurt as he withdrew.
He escaped back to where he left Willow, Max, and Leadbelly. They were all there patiently waiting for him and glad to see him. There he got more supplies and tended to his wounds taking a 1 hour rest to patch himself up. He then mounted Leadbelly and cast magic weapon spell to bathe his sword in the power of Tyr making it an enchanted weapon.
He guided Leadbelly through the dark wood. The place would have spooked a regular mount, but Sir Bruce’s Warhorse was resolute. Sir Bruce returned to the large egg chamber with the evil man eating tree. He quaffed the potion of hill giant strength given to him by Lady Lymera and pressed ahead. He spotted the giant spider hiding near the tree and charged. As leadbelly’s hooves propelled the huge warhorse, they smashed hundreds of spider eggs leaving behind a trail of destruction. Sir Bruce’s lance pierced the hide of the giant spider and it recoiled in pain.
Sir Bruce drew his longsword and swung back and forth with the spider. They traded blows but luckily the poison delivered by the fangs of the spider was resisted by Sir Bruce and he was able to keep fighting. He finally made the killing blow and the spider collapsed. Sir Bruce tried to grab the man and pull him up onto his horse but his hand passed right through him. Confused, Sir Bruce dismounted and looked closer. He found the man was nothing but an illusion that he could see right through. Willow suddenly stepped out of the trees and said, ‘I am sorry Sir Bruce. I have deceived you. I created the illusion of the man to secure your help. But the deed is not yet complete. You must cut down the tree and burn it. Or its evil will grow and spread.’
’But where is your father?" asked Sir Bruce.
‘I have no father and this is not my true form.’ said Willow. ‘I will now reveal all’ she said as she suddenly changed from a young human girl into a beautiful dryad with green skin.
Sir Bruce held his blade in two hands and cut deep into the evil tree after three mighty blows it fell to pieces. What looked like human blood poured out of the gaping wounds in the bark of the tree. Sir Bruce spread oil on them but before he lit them ablaze, he surreptitiously took a sample of the a few twigs into a glass vial and put them in the satchel provided him by Lady Lymera. She had asked him to collect interesting plant samples and this seemed very interesting indeed. He also collected samples of the plant creatures that attacked him. As the tree burned Sir Bruce could feel the evil of it and the dark wood fade.
Sir Bruce mounted Leadbelly and used his hooves to ensure all the spider eggs were crushed. He gathered up two piles of treasure he found in the lair. He found 1400 CP, 900 SP, and 80 GP. There were also 9 amethysts worth 10 GP each. A box of three unknown potions was also found. The Master Treasure List was updated.
Sir Bruce made a pact with Willow that should he in the future return to the site of his original campsite and blow his whistle, she would come and speak with him. To this she agreed. And in addition, in order to thank Sir Bruce of Avalon for his service to the Fey of the Wood, Willow, the dryad, brought him to a small lake deep in the forest. There she bid him to wade into the waters. As he did so, Willow sang an ethereal sounding song, the water and the air suddenly seemed to come alive. Vibrant colors exploded into Sir Bruce’s eyes and sweet melodic sounds to his ears. Undulating mists rose off the warm waters. And up from the depths of the lake rose a female figure holding a sword. As she approached Sir Bruce and came into focus, he had to look away as her naked body was too beautiful to behold without going blind. But he could feel her presence as her body got close to his and he could feel her holding the sword aloft for him to grasp.
As soon as he grasped the hilt of Talon, thousands of memories flooded his consciousness. Fey Lords crafting the blade, the sword passing from one mighty hero of antiquity to the next. Sir Bruce stood in awe unable to move as The Lady of the Lake placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. The contact with her skin exploded through his very being filling him with sensory overload. He stood quivering, sword in hand, as the Lady slowly moved away sinking back beneath the waves.
Suddenly the music of Willow’s song vanished and Sir Bruce was standing alone in a normal looking lake. It was as if he had just awakened from a deep trance. Sir Bruce sheathed his new sword and climbed up the bank and out of the water to find Max and Leadbelly waiting patiently for him. There was no sign of Willow or the Lady of the Lake.
Sir Bruce wandered a bit through the forest but eventually found his way back to his original camp. He mounted up and pushed Leadbelly as hard as he could following the old King’s Road back to Twin Falls Keep. There he met with Lady Lymera who identified Talon and the potions as a Potion of Hill Giant Strength, Potion of Greater Healing, and a Potion of Climbing. She thanked Sir Bruce for the plant samples and said that she would study them to see what secrets they might reveal.
Sir Bruce also met with Duke Eltan Falconhand and asked him about Sir Darius Black and his apparent stronghold at Graveth’s Fort. He learned from the Duke that the old fort was built many years ago by the King’s Army as a forward base of operations to rid the area of goblins and hobgoblins who had infested the wood. When the humanoids were all gone and the King’s Army left, the fort was abandoned.
According to the Duke, Sir Darius Black was truly a knight of Twin Falls Keep under the command of Duke Eltan Falconhand. However, he never came back from a patrol that he was leading north of the keep. After hearing about the occupation of Graveth’s Fort and learning that Darius and his men have built it up and attracted many local brigands to rob and pillage nearby farmers, Duke Eltan was furious. The Duke has granted Sir Bruce the authority to apprehend or slay Sir Darius for his crimes.