A medium-sized tree when full grown, the tree stands 20-30' in height. Foliage and bark are relatively unremarkable - oval leaves with shallow scalloping along the edge, and a smooth, light brownish-grey bark.
What is remarkable about the tree and the feature that gives it its name are its fruit. The fruit are large - 6" - 8" in diameter and have an odd profile, suggesting a nose and chin when looked at from different angles. Adding to the affect is the hair-like fronds which hang down from the fruit's top.
When seen under poor visibility - night time, heavy rain or fog, the tree has the disturbing appearance of having dozens of 'heads' hanging from it.
Despite its macabre appearance, the Headsman's Tree has no magical properties and no special ties to darkness or infernal powers. This has not, of course, stopped its being ascribed such powers by man. A plant with a wide range - from tropics to temperate climates - it is found pretty much anywhere and is known to most cultures on Neyathis. It has been ascribed mythical properties - the Theosians use its wood almost exclusively in the construction of the many Gallows found there, and this has lead to it being fairly rare within that country's borders.
The fruit are commonly used during rituals and festivals associated with death or the supernatural.
Its fruit is edible and nutritious, but high in tannins which make it rather bitter. The wood is a good quality hardwood and it is often used for furniture.
The headsman's tree is a forest prop, the tree can give a forboding atmosphere, especially when first encountered in poor visibility situations. First glance will paint the picture of a tree festooned with decapitated heads, putting people quite on edge.
-One could introduce magical or monstrous varieties of this tree if desired - it could easily go in that direction. One such tree could act as an oracle or sage of evil aspect, with the fruit actually having eyes and mouths that speak for the tree. For the right type of offering, the tree would answer questions, albeit perilously. If offended, the tree could call forth spectres to assault the offenders.
-These trees could be the favoured abode of various evil spirit-folk, often found with little houses constructed of animal (and perhaps human) bones nestled in it's branches.
-Death cults appreciate the effect these trees have in inspiring fear and may plant these trees in abandance about their temples and meeting places.
-As warnings/intimidations or even mean-spirited pranks, people might leave these 'heads' on people's doorsteps, possibly makeing them up to resemble their targets.
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? Responses (7)
Macabre indeed, and amusing at the same time, the demented companion of a Whimsical Flora post. :)
I like its innocent nature, though I fear in some locales would be the tree destroyed for its mere existence, and any who happen to be nearby may be considered suspicious. Who knows, perhaps the tree is a reflection of some horrible evil of the past (insert suitable legends).
After seeing the "For the right type of offering, the tree would answer questions" part, I couldn't help but imagine the offering to be a head, as fresh as possible; the tree would use it to speak, until the soft muscles dry out and decompose away... then, the oracle will need another mouthpiece.
I like it, a for the most part normal tree that just seems bad.
Great for atmosphere! I like the fact that they will no "KILL YOU DEAD" or something like that. The campaign use section was a nice touch and I loved the visuals.
I like the concept of the tree very much, but this one seems to be missing something or other, and I'm not even sure what it may be. This may have fit better as a scroll entry under one of your many Flora exposes :)
But you gottta love a tree that is harmless, but thought of as sinister and potentially deadly.
Updated: Spelling corrected - thanks Muro!
Excellent description and details! Great job!
This is really nice piece of gaming flair, can really add style to a setting.