A small collection of animated trees, dangerous and magical.
They do not necessarily need to be found near the Fortress, but any sufficently magical woodland can suffice.
Additional Ideas (6)
Brawlerwood trees appear as large regular trees of varying species (usually oak, pine and crabapple) - all of which have large, thick branches. However, they are magically animated and are quite dangerous. They will attempt to pummel their victims with their thick, woody branches.
Only the larger branches will be used, so typically man-sized victims will be subject to no more then two such attacks at a time. The tree remains rooted to the ground, but can bend it's trunk at the ground level to allow for slightly longer reach.
The trees are not intelligent in the least - those who deploy them as defences know to simply keep out of the reach of the branches.
Optionally, one could grant sufficient intelligence to the tree to allow victims to come close before it attacks, or to use local debris as missile weapons (including fallen/chopped off limbs, former victims, etc). Those with available fruit (such as crabapple) could optionally use those as missile weapons if victims stay frustratingly out of reach. Not much damage, but a minor avenue for the tree to release it's aggression.
The process of animating such a tree employs components such as bull blood, strength or berserker type potions, and applications of plant-controlling spells. Alternately, minor evil spirits could be bound into the tree, which would yield the most intelligent and dangerous specimens.
An example of such a tree and it's behavior is typified by the Whomping Willow of Harry Potter fame.
This magical tree is generally created from thin, lith trees such as willows which bear many strong but thin branches. As opposed to Brawlerwood, which simply batters victims with wild aggression, the grapplewood is generally more intelligent and malignant. It will allow victims in very close before it takes action, first employing roots and runners to impede and perhaps capture one victim. If the victim is alone, or once a few other victims come within reach (to assist the first victim escape the runners) the upper branches will take action en masse. It will attempt at least to grapple, but will attempt to entwine necks where possible. Afterwards it will constrict with great force, either suffocating, garroting or even severing the necks, depending on the strength of the tree, and how well protected the victim is. It will not release a grappled victim until they have decomposed significantly, so playing dead is not an option.
The individual branches are not difficult to cut, requiring but a single strong edged strike, but the tree will launch many such attacks at any and all victims withing reach.
The tree is more malign then the Brawlerwood and is actively evil. Its animation generally requires the binding of some form of evil spirit to the tree.
The gorgewood combines some of the properties and behaviours of the Brawlerwood and Grapplewood, and adds a few of its own.
A gorgewood appears as a large Broad Oak with scars on the trunk which make it resemble a human face. Should an intruder step within the tree's dripline, they will become the subject of the tree's attack. Massive, alien eyes will flick open - spheres the color of an unripe apple with no visible pupil, and a massive vertical slit of a mouth will open up, showing an array of bone-white wood-splinter teeth and maple-red interior. At the same time, amblitory roots will burst from the earth, seeking to entwine ankles and massive low-hanging branches will reach out to snatch the victim.
Should the victim be entrapped by the massive branches, they will be drawn in to be devoured by the hidious maw, chewed by magically strengthened teeth strong enough to pierce mail.
The tree is rather stupid - unable to plan and simply lashing out at potential victims. It is unable to use debris as missle weapons - largely due to it's stupidity, but also due to the limited dexterity of it's limbs.
The tree is strangely the easist of the three trees listed here to animate - certain Broad Oaks have a marked predisposition towards such magical alteration.
This animate Oak tree is more subtle then the others. Appearing as a typical oak tree, it is distinguished by the presence of cocanut-sized acorns which it can drop on command. One must be directly underneath this massive tree's branches to be subject to attack.
There are rumours that there are variants that can actively throw these nuts up to 100' feet, should that much open space exist.
These nuts are not used for reproduction and are almost entirely wood. They are sought after by some for use in woodcarving.
One of the less sinister of the animated trees, the Bending Mahogany is extremely rare, the forests around the Unseen Fortress being one of the few places where this tree is known to grow.
The unique characteristic of this distant relative of the mundane tropical mahogany, is its ability to literally bend, often at extreme angles. The wood itself has a feel and make-up, that is not unlike hard rubber, and the tree is therefore prized by specialists for the crafting of flexible maces (Talislanta shout out), spears, and many other weapons and devices. This is of course, the main reason for the tree's rarity, because while sentient, and even capable of defending itself, the Bending Mahogany is not all that difficult to "down" if the proper precautions are undertaken.
When one comes across a bending mahogany during a period of strong wind, one may glimpse the reason for the tree's namesake. The stronger the wind, the more the mahogany bends, almost as if the tree itself revels in its own bending ability. Even some of the bigger specimens, averaging fifty to sixty feet in length, can often be seen, bending and touching the ground with its upper branches and crown.
Of course, this is where the danger presents itself. Bending Mahoganies usually grow in copses of six to eight trees, and whenever its windy, the trees curve and arch, sometimes even at right angles. The trees are easily capable of killing wanderers and trespassers by simply wacking the unfortunate traveller with its branches and flexible trunks.
Sages have pontificated for years, as to the exact nature of the Bending Mahogany. All that they have ascertained is that the trees seem to take a great and palpable pleasure in twisting, turning, contorting and bending, but only when there is strong wind. The Bending Mahogany may remain an ecological mystery forever.
The Bastard Saffron tree is an anomaly. Saffron, as all herb enthusiasts know, comes from the stigma of the crocus flower, a vivid, red powder is derived, and then used in various cuisines, accentuating the flavor only slightly, but giving any dish in which its used, a vibrant orangey-yellow tint.
Mundane Bastard Saffron is simply the colorful term for the common safflower, which gives off a similar powder, and is used as a cheap imitation of saffron, for similar purposes.
The Bastard Saffron found around the Unseen Fortress however, is another plant entirely. A thick, bulging, obnoxious looking tree, gnarled and gray, yet sporting bright, carrot-orange flower-like fronds. These fronds, leaves really, have seemingly one insidious purpose. To shoot, blow, or rub an orange powder from their pointy stigmas onto any living creature passing by.
In all other aspects, the Bastard Saffron is quite harmless. Compared to the other trees that can be found around the Unseen Fortress, it is quite low on the sentience scale. Sages certainly postulate that it is magical however, claiming no natural creation could possibly have such an obnoxious attribute.
The powder of the Bastard Saffron comes off of its vivid fronds in copious, unending amounts, at the slightest breeze, or whenever any sentient creature is in its vicinity. The fronds in fact, can even spit this powder a few feet. The powder stains anything it touches a bright, insufferable orange. Nothing short of magic can remove a Bastard Saffron stain...nothing.
Those that have been unfortunate enough to be affected with this great nuisance have reported no ill long-term effects however. Many have used hedge magic or hired spell casters to remove the orange spots from their faces or bodies, but many of those, without the means or ways, endure the mark of the Bastard Saffron indefinitely, even after death. Once a corpse decays, a small orange spot remains. As the bones begin to turn to powder, they attain an orange tint, and wherever the remains are buried, a Bastard Saffron tree will spring up, ten years later.
At least that is what the sages conjecture. Most sages of upstanding reputations refuse to even discuss the weird flora. Theyll mumble instead that its simply, "aptly named".