Dust motes danced like fairies in the soft rays of sunlight that filtered through the broken roof. She awoke. "Oh no. No, no,no..."
Miss Adventure kicked Gildrid in the head.
"Ow! What?" the elf said, angrily.
"Shut up dummy. I think I heard something".
Sure enough, a twig snapped outside. They both peered through the cracks of the ruined hovel they had spent the night in.
Just outside their shack, a large, filthy, yellow furred creature wearing rusted armor trudged about. He, it looked male, poked around the refuse of the abandoned village with a cruel looking polearm. He stopped suddenly. He sniffed the air. Then again.
He turned and gazed with malevolent red eyes at their hiding place.
While Gildrid donned Miss Adventure magic boots he whispered back. "I can speak Bugbear."
"You think he really wants to talk? He looks hungry".
Just as they had gathered their things, and the halfling once again jumped piggyback on the elf, what was left of door burst open.
"BREAKFAST!" the bugbear howled.
But they were already gone.
Gildrid sprinted down the road, only stopping when they hit a somewhat familiar crossroad.
One track led east to the Deepen Wood. The other led west to a hill beyond.
As Miss Adventure climbed down from Gildrid's back she said, "Was that western trail here before?"
"I don't know," the elf said, "but I'm not ready for the those zombie plant things in the woods."
So, they followed the trail west. It led up a gradual, then sharp slope. When they reached the top, almost out of breath, they found a lone tree.
It was large and ancient. The wood was gnarled and twisted. But instead of leaves, this tree seemed to have sprouted corpses. From almost every branch hung a body in various states of decay. Some wore ancient armor, some simple peasant clothes. The ground below was dead to too. No grass grew.
The whole scene should have reeked of decay and offal, but instead Miss Adventure only smelled fresh baked pie. To Gildrid, it was the pines of his woodland home he smelled.
There was no breeze yet the corpses seemed to blow gently in the wind.
The two adventurers stood, transfixed by the scene. Miss Adventure was almost ready to say something, when the closest hanged man moved.
There was a sick cracking of bones as his head straightened and turned to them. It spoke.
"Leave this place"......