Chapter Two Part Three
The Forest and the Tree
Next morning our plans change as Leatony says we should get rid of the body of the tainted monster rather than leave it around for carrion to eat and spread the taint. Sir Helfer sends some of his villagers to help and with Yogi hauling firewood they build a bonfire around the monster and we turn it to ash. Mind you Sir Helfer did want the other tusk from it for his wall. With another day done with we retire to the manor for supper and sleep. Over supper Sir Helfer, mentions that he wants the forest pushed back from around the shed area opening the road up more and allowing new land for farming. Now that the evil has been put to rest seems a good time to do this. He would like us to stay and provide protection for his villagers. We agree, after all that was part of our mission and something both I and Sir Leatony are beholden to do.
Sir Helfer has two sweet twin daughters, Hellive and Helline, his wife died giving birth to them. With no son’s he has no heir and villagers have been leaving as he doesn’t have men to defend them. Sir Helfer will offer one of his daughters to Leatonay to stay on as his son-in-law. The twins  both with long black hair and green eyes are identical and are looked after by a simple old woman called Janyne. She has looked after them since birth and all three are attached to each other. Sir Leatonay is flattered but says he thinks his grandmother has other things in mind at this time, however if things turn out differently he will bear the offer in mind. Due to his charming curtesy no one took offence.
The clearing will take up around 4 weeks, Sir Helfer tells us, and all we need to do is be in the area to protect the villagers. So, Leatony takes the time to get me and Janyne to teach him to read and write or at least start to. Yogi gets Leatony to help him improve his spear use while I make use of teaching Leatony to get Janyne to help me learn how to teach properly. The twins keep watch with us enjoying the company as the days go by. Slowly the forest is hacked back past the shack with the twigs and scrub burnt on a couple of large fires with the logs taken back to the manor for future use.
One day in the third week we hear shouting and see the people running towards us. Following them is a “tree trunk” 15’ long, the pale grey sapwood showing beneath, and branches stick out from the trunk like sharp spikes. With a pair of strong but stubby legs at its base and with forelimbs which are the raptorial forelimbs of a praying mantis. A slab of wood forms a cruel mockery of a face, a mask-like structure with two eyeholes. On all fours it approaches with the bodies of two villagers on it’s branches. I move fast and load my bow and then let lose at the forest tree, my arrow hits its mask face and I rapidly reload. The tree stands upright on its hind legs swinging it’s forelimbs to smash a peasant down. Yogi runs to help a villager who has fallen over, picking him up at the run and bringing him back to the fires. Leatony, having mounted, moves to be able to charge at the tree.
The tree moves sideways to line up with Leatony while I hold my next shot.
I let go of my next arrow which thuds into the right rear leg of this thing, neither arrow seems to have slowed it down or hurt it, as the tree continues to move toward Leatony. Yogi throws his spear with all his strength aiming at its mask and sinking the spear in deep, as Leatony pushes his horse forward and as he passes the tree stabs at it with his mighty lance. He also chooses to hit it in its mask ripping a gouge across it.
Seeing my arrows have little effect I wonder about fire arrows as the tree moves after Leatony. As it does so Leatony turns his horse and jabs at the mask face again. This time smashing into it deeply, the tree shutters and falls apart into a trunk and various branches all ready to go for firewood.
It seems Sir Halfer was right to have us watch the clearance as without us more than three villagers would be dead in fact the whole village could have been wiped out. Yogi tells us that this was just a small version of a forest tree spirit, just as well is all I can say. Leatony is treated as the hero he is by the twins and the village. I know that without the spear of Yogi already in it Leatony might have had more trouble. However from everyone else’s point of view he was the one and is treated as such. Sir Helfer offers us all a reward, I take tuition in teaching for two weeks; Yogi takes a red-kite and 24 chickens; while Leatony takes trade goods worth 300 slivers and gives it to the families of the dead villagers, getting more cheers.
After the work is done and the forest has been pushed back we head back to the city. I take the leather journal of the Skanjar to Sir Abrofar the Scancole city herald. He wonders what a Northman is doing so far south and on his own as well, we know he was looking for a motherlode but was it iron ore, silver or gold? Maybe we need to be on the alert for any raids; he will let the place know and see if we can get some miners to go and have a look. Leatony tries out his writing skills by sending his first letter home to his beloved sister and another to his beloved lady. Both surprisingly turn out passable.