Tag: Obviously the Woodsman is just a Neutral Evil druid with plant growth – right?

6.13 – The Woodsman

The horned wolf stalked a few paces to Einarr’s left and lowered its head, staring down its opponent. It growled and tossed its head as it turned and stalked several steps in the opposite direction. It could not circle its opponent as it wished. When it snarled again, Einarr brought Sinmora up, poised for an overhead strike.

The possessed wolf bounded in for another attack, but as it did it seemed to grow, and its silver fur grew shaggy, green, and mossy. Soon it stood on two feet, no longer a wolf at all. Surprised, Einarr staggered back a step as Einarr and Jorir came to flank him. Runa’s rhythmic chanting had not faltered.

Einarr saw no more wolves: even the one that had watched him hungrily after falling back with its tail between its legs was gone. Now it was just the four of them and a creature that could only be the Woodsman.

A giant, Einarr might have called it even a year ago, although closer in height to the fimbulvulf than to Fraener. The suggestion more than the fact of a pair of legs, and arms like great sweeping tree branches. And, sitting atop the over-broad “shoulders,” the wooden skull of a stag.

The Woodsman gave a roar like the crashing of wood as it closed the distance between itself and the interlopers, even as Runa’s chant built into a crescendo.

The leshy swung at the three men with one club-like arm, turning its whole body with the blow. Einarr hurled himself forward into a roll and felt the wind of the branch’s passing far more closely than was comfortable.

They couldn’t move out of the creature’s path, however, not until Runa finished with her part. Einarr came out of his roll in front of one tree-like leg and hacked at it with Sinmora. The blade embedded itself in the wood, but did little other than knocking free some bark.

The thudding of axes signalled Erik and Jorir’s attempts to slow the unfamiliar monster, to similar effect.

“You almost done?” Einarr called behind him, yanking free his blade. Not that Runa could answer him. He looked up: with a little luck…

The “leg” he stood before was gliding towards him. Now or never. Einarr took half a step back and ran forward, scrabbling up the trunk in hopes of grabbing hold of a branch.

He was in luck. Just as he lost the last of his momentum, Einarr was able to throw his sword arm over a branch jutting out from the creature’s arm as it swung past. Now he was sailing through the air, hanging on by an elbow to what was effectively a tree trying to kill him.

His life had taken a definite turn for the strange somewhere along the line.

At the top of the swing, Einarr managed to loop a leg over the branch he had grabbed hold of and pull himself up.

Moments later, a pulse of energy spread out through the clearing. The Woodsman stopped moving, just for a moment.

That moment was long enough. In that space where the leshy was frozen, Erik and Jorir both buried their axes in its trunk. Arrows flew from Irding’s tree, although it was uncertain what an arrow could do to such a thing. Einarr began to run up the limb he had pulled himself onto.

“It’s done!” Runa’s voice seemed to echo through the clearing. “Let’s get out of here!”

They were not supposed to try to fight the Woodsman. Auna had said they thought it was unkillable, and Einarr could already see why. But as his feet carried him closer to the stag’s head on top of the furious trunk, he could see no way out but forward. A yell escaped his throat as he charged the creature’s head, Sinmora raised high for the strike.

Several things happened at once as he reached the wooden skull. First, Sinmora cleaved into it and it shattered like a rotten log. Second, a vine lashed across his back and caught around his leg. A skull-shattering cry echoed among the trees. And the five companions were hurled bodily from the clearing.

The moon had long since set, and the world was beginning to lighten again, by the time the five reunited around Runa, who was once again tending to a wounded, groaning Irding. Had it not been for the sound, they might have searched for each other a good deal longer.

Erik kindled a small fire from dead tinder near their impromptu campsite, and Jorir promptly set some stones over it for heating water. When Einarr arrived, he was grinding herbs for a poultice for their injured companion.

“So,” he said, his voice low to avoid carrying. “How do we know if we succeeded?”

“We get back and Auna’s people are still there, I think,” Runa answered. Her song magic had done what it could for now. They would have to wait for Irding to regain consciousness on his own, and for Jorir’s poultice to do its job.

Erik grunted. “Tough going, with an injured man.”

“Not like we know if there’s any other help nearby.” Jorir was laying strips of bandage over the poultice herbs now.

“No. And as much as I hate to chance it, we should all try to get some sleep before we go wandering about in the forest again. Be a really stupid reason to get lost, trying to find our way back exhausted.”

“I’ll keep watch,” the dwarf volunteered. “The Woodsman probably still has spies about, an’ I doubt I’ll be sleeping anyway.”

“My thanks,” Einarr nodded at his liege man. He leaned back against the trunk of a nearby tree and shifted his shoulders until he found an almost-comfortable position.

Erik lay back on the ground where he sat, staring up at the canopy. He sounded uneasy when he spoke, but the reasons were all too many and too obvious. “Good night, then.”


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6.8 – Infiltration

The difference between the Woodsman’s territory and that the hulder still clung to was stark and immediate. It was more than the absence of signs of fighting: in the area around the hulder village, the wood was open, like a well-tended garden. It looked as though man and beast alike would have been able to gain what they needed from the forest. Where the leshy controlled, however, was a riot of plant life and swarming bugs, so thick that anything larger than a rabbit would need to pick their way carefully through the underbrush in places.

Einarr frowned, wishing not for the first time that putting Erik and Jorir in the lead to cut their way through wouldn’t draw the leshy’s attention. Unfortunately, however, he was even more certain now than he had been before that the spirit was a stone-fisted tyrant who kept a careful watch over his demesne. This had been reinforced as they stepped across the battle-lines to see months’ worth of growth over land that had been fought over within the last few nights.

The bramble that spread before him presented no easy answer, of course. The thorny vines climbed not only the nearby trees but each other, weaving together in a chest-high mat that may as well have been a wall. It was the third such blockage they had run across, on three separate attempts to penetrate past a ledge they could just see on the other side.

“Is it just me, or are these vines following us?”

“Based on what we’ve already seen?” Jorir’s answer sounded mildly winded, and just as annoyed as Einarr felt. “It wouldn’t surprise me. Does that mean the creature already knows we’re coming, though?”

Erik grunted. “If he does, he doesn’t know what we intend. Otherwise we’d be fighting our way through.”

The sound of breaking branches and tearing vines signaled Irding’s less-than-graceful descent from a nearby tree. “The ledge curves around toward us just further on. I think we might be able to get through the vines there.”

Einarr took a deep breath, nodding. There was no point getting upset about the noise, not at this point. Not since he was pretty sure the Woodsman had known they were coming for hours now. “Worth a shot, then.”

Back through the brush they went, and once again Einarr would swear the plants were moving to impede their progress. He was not – yet – irritated enough to begin hacking his way through, but his fingers twitched.

Irding led the way this time, since he had the most recent lay of the land, and while there was much grumbling and cursing about the underbrush Einarr could not argue that his more direct route was slower than picking their way through easier paths. Or less effective: the vines, by the time they reached the ledge, did climb up and over it. However, where they went over the ledge, the vines were much lower to the ground, allowing just enough space for the five of them to hurry across.

The vines began to coil, snake-like, as Einarr half-leaped across. Erik followed next and the mat grew visibly taller. Jorir followed hot on his heels, and then Einarr offered a steadying hand for Runa. Even as she made the leap a vine reached up and thorns tore at her skirt.

Irding was the only one left, and now the vines were knee-high and still climbing visibly. The tall young man took a step and a half backwards before running forward to vault over the climbing hedge.

Irding stumbled a little at the landing and winced as he straightened himself.

“You all right?” Einarr asked.

The other man nodded perfunctorily. “Just a scratch. Nothing to worry about.”

“We should keep going, then.” Einarr started off again, deeper into the woods and away from the creeping hedge. The others followed close behind, Runa muttering under her breath the entire time as she ran through the instructions she’d been given.

The light that filtered through the canopy was dim now, the leaf cover above so thick the sky was not even visible in slivers. They pressed on through this until their thighs burned from the exertion of pressing through underbrush.

Einarr stopped and held up a hand for silence. Erik nearly collided with him, but no more than another heartbeat passed before Jorir quieted Runa.

The birdcalls had stopped. Up until that moment, the birds had not seemed to care that they existed, but now the forest stood in silence. Einarr strained his ears for the disturbance and came up empty, although his hackles stood on end. It felt as though something were watching them. Whatever it was, it felt hungry.

Something growled from off in the underbrush, something that was neither wolf nor bear nor lynx, and then the presence faded.

Einarr shrugged off the feeling of a lingering presence. “I think the Woodsman wants us to know he’s watching.”

“So it seems.” Jorir sounded just as unnerved as Einarr felt, for which Einarr was grateful.

“We’ve done nothing to his forest,” Erik reminded them. “He should have no reason to attack us.”

“Nothing except venture into his territory. That sounded like ‘go away’ to me.”

“You’re not wrong, milord.” Jorir’s eyes still scanned the forest around them, but the threat had passed. “Under other circumstances, I’d be inclined to oblige.”

“Under other circumstances, I’d agree. Let’s go.” Einarr heeded his own suggestion and started moving again, wading between a pair of shrubs that reached to his hip because there was no other route.

They had not gone much farther on when they spotted what passed for a clearing in the Woodsman’s territory. In the interest of a moment’s respite, and the vain hope that it might be the clearing they sought, Einarr steered his companions towards it. This clearing, however, contained no cave. Instead, its lone inhabitant was a massive brown bear. A bear, it should be noted, with stag’s antlers and red eyes.


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If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.