Forest/ Jungle
8 Votes


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Comments: 16
Ideas: 0
Rating: 3.75
Condition: Normal
ID: 6737


May 25, 2012, 2:12 am

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Stay out of the woods.  It's not a place for men.  Not anymore.


There are many methods that the Dembraava Wilds seeks to kill the humans who enter it, and the Dendrognaths are one of the most potent.  Called "knock jaws" by everyone who isn't a wizard, dendrognaths plague the entire forest. It is not a tree.  Nor is it an animal.  It is a trap set to murder those who anyone who passes near it.

Although the process has never been observed, it is believed that dendrognaths are created when a Deathwalker decapitates a wild animal, usually a wolf, heron, or snake, and splices the head on a recently cut section of living tree. Any kind of tree will do, although larger trees are preferred.  Through some unholy process, the head embeds itself in the tree and begins sapping it. The bones in the skull are quickly replaced by wood, and the head will grow larger as long as the tree does. The tree will never grow an inch--but the decapitated head will swell ever larger.  There does not seem to be any upper limit to how large the dendrognath may grow, and some truly titantic specimens have been recorded.

While the tree seems healthy enough (although perhaps a bit stunted), the animal head appears mouldering, with milky eyes and a black tongue. The head does not move in any way until it attacks. Part of their horror comes from their appearance. A ranger might brush aside a branch, climb down to a stream bed, and suddenly realize that he is standing only a few feet away from a ragged wolf head, black lips pulled back in a terrific, snarling rictus, the entire thing four feet long. The ranger hesitates--the milky eyes of the thing don't move, and maybe it hasn't noticed him, or it's asleep. . . but after that one half-second has elapsed, and hope has fluttered up and died, the thing bursts from the trunk in a splinter of rotten wood and torn flesh, slams into the man's chest, and summarily rips his throat out.

Although human mages and necromancers have been unable to duplicate the effect, it does not seem to be difficult to create; The Deathwalkers have constructed thousands of them.  And in the darkest places of the forest, where no ranger's foot has trod in decades, these terrible jaws grow the largest and most fearsome.  Similarly, where the trees are the oldest and the tallest, the Dendrognaths grow the fastest, for there is more power to be sucked from a mighty oak than a sapling.  And while dendrognaths can be found throughout the forest, they are 'seeded' at locations of tactical significance: safehouses, sources of fresh water, and the protective totems that stop the forest from spreading.  There are even rumors of a hidden glade deep in the forest, ringed by dozens of towering oaks, each with dozens of eldest lupine dendrognaths leering from their trunks.  And in the center of the glade, stairs downward.

Some insist that animal heads, even animated ones, have no means of jumping, let alone locomotion. When this is asked of a ranger, the woodsman's face will darken, and the response will invariably be something along the lines of, "Well, that hasn't bloody well stopped them, has it?"

Each dendrognath attacks only once. Although it has no mind, it is filled with the same spirit--that same hatred--that fills the Mordanfey and the Deathwalkers.  When it senses an outsider, the head is capable of leaping great distances towards its prey. Once it catches you, it will tear open your belly, or impale your eyes, or sink its fangs into your lungs. Once the attack is completed, successful or not, the head de-animates and will rot normally, except for the wooden 'skull'. Which are, of course, highly prized by the right parties. Wizards can always be counted on to be dumb enough to buy evil, cursed doodads. And in Basharna, the 'skulls' are painted and hung in wardog kennels, in the hopes that the savage spirit will enter (or at least influence) the packs of fighting dogs.

I'm not sure why we haven't seen dendrognaths derived from human heads.  The Deathwalkers certainly have enough of them.  Then again, if you ever find Colton by the fire after he's crawled inside a bottle of whiskey, he'll tell you otherwise.  He's been further in the Dembraava than most men can dream.  That's probably why he drinks so much.

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Comments ( 16 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Silveressa
May 22, 2012, 6:41
Nasty and creative, the perfect guardian for a necromancers lair or to ring around a cursed graveyard.

Such a cursed tree could also make for a suitably gory method of execution for a depraved (or mad) ruler.
Voted Scrasamax
May 22, 2012, 10:01
Cursed tree, horror, something that strange people value, this is solid awesome
Voted Kassy
May 22, 2012, 18:11
Damnit Sil, are we on the same wavelength tonight? You've pretty much said exactly what I thought.

Great, creative sub.

Voted Mourngrymn
May 23, 2012, 19:43
Ok, I don't get it. Its a cursed tree. Cool. It is created by cutting or ripping the head off of a beast/ creature and sticking it to the tree. Cool. It attacks, but only once, to no real affect other than hopefully killing its prey. I don't understand that part. I am not saying it isn't good but to me it needs more to make sense. The following is points I had thoughts on.

1) Perhaps this is just me. maybe if there was more information, or any information mind you, on the Deathwalkers it could have clarified some of what I feel is missing. The name sounds interesting but it brings forth visions of undead and cursed not of a pissed off treant walking around with animal heads sprouting from its body. I realize that it is not the case but I'm trying to rationalize it some.

2) Why does it kill or have prey? It is a protection of an area? Perhaps these Deathwalkers create these animal head trees to surround holy ground or some such sanctuary.

3) What, if any, does the death of their prey benefit the tree? Seems to me like if it is not used as a protective or defensive barrier then the blood or soul of those it kills is usable. Perhaps the soul of those killed by one of these trees turn into a Deathwalker. just a thought.

By the way, deathwalkers and Dembraava Wilds bring forth wonderful imagery just by their names alone.
May 24, 2012, 2:06
You make a very good point: this sub raises too many questions. So, I just posted an entry on the Deathwalkers. The stuff in the Dembraava Wilds is pretty integrated, and I'll see if I can't get my files cleaned up and fed to the intertubes.

The tree is just a tree. The head is cursed. This is really more of a trap that the Deathwalkers set up than it is an animal or plant.

So, I probably should move this to Traps instead of Fauna. Forests need more traps anyway. Aaaannd maybe rewrite this one a bit.
May 24, 2012, 2:43
Update: Edits done. I'm going to bed.
May 24, 2012, 7:08
You can have a fauna style trap, that's fine. Just a reason for it would be nice. I'll read the Deathwalker sub first chance.
Voted Cheka Man
May 24, 2012, 14:20
Owch.You could have this trap in a tomb;it would never starve to death.
Voted Moonlake
May 24, 2012, 20:59
I haven't seen the previous version but looking through the trail of comments, I think all of the points raised by Mourngrymn have now been fully covered. As the sub currently stands, it is complete, solid and overall a quality sub.
May 25, 2012, 0:00

There are rumors of a hidden glade deep in the forest, ringed by dozens of towering oaks, each with dozens of eldest lupine dendrognaths leering from their trunks. And in the center of the glade, stairs downward.This only explains the possibility of why they are in this one area not the rest of the wilds.

I don't think it explains it enough to make sense. If that is the only place these things are found then its perfect but by reading it it seems they are scattered throughout the wilds in a random half hazard order. It still doesn't give a reason why they are made or why they only attack once. Unless I am simply missing it somewhere.

May 25, 2012, 2:04
The Wilds (or something in the Wilds) has decided that humans will be killed as when they enter. They are not allowed in the forest. No exceptions. But, the largest trade route in the East runs through it, so the rangers of Braava are tasked with keeping the road open. They are opposed in this task by the Deathwalkers, who serve the forest. The Dendrognaths attack once because they aren't alive or undead--they're just a gruesome magical trap.

The Deathwalkers *do* seed them randomly through the forest, but they concentrate them at vital locations: at safehouses, the protective totems (which keep the forest from spreading), or fresh water access (streams change paths yearly).

I didn't want to write too much about the Dembraava Wilds, because this sub is just about the trap, no the forest, but I'll add a few details up there to clarify. I'm sorry, I'm just a little new to this. This is why peer review is good.
May 25, 2012, 2:12
Update: Added a couple things about where these traps are placed, and the hatred the forest has for humans.
May 25, 2012, 7:15
The Wilds hating humans is port of important information. Knowing that makes this much clearer. Put everything you just said in that last explanation and it will change my vote. Good job its fleshing out to be a wonderfully, horrible place.
Voted valadaar
May 16, 2013, 22:25
Ah, nice and dark. No fairy tale here. Waiting death with no mercy.
Voted Murometz
November 2, 2016, 13:33
Well these are pleasantly grim. Love the imagery of cursed wolf, bear, and boar heads hanging from tree branches. My PCs would (for some reason) immediately brace for a troll posse attack. :)

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Ideas  ( Lifeforms ) | September 25, 2002 | View | UpVote 2xp

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