“Master, is your tale over?”
“Cease your interruptions, slug-thing, or I’ll have you toasted over an open fire.”
The Gathering Storm
The PCs are flying north into the Great Wood, a densely choked forest of incredible age. The wood is alive with strange noises, blinking eyes, and strong smells of musk, rot, and sugar.
The Great Wood has been affected by the coming influence of the Winter King, whose plots and madness are detailed in the new Pathfinder version of Courts of the Shadow Fey. As winter begins to hold sway, unseasonal storms lash the forest. With the storms comes the influence of the Moonlit King’s madness. The causes of these events are detailed further in the Courts of the Shadow Fey, but, for the purposes of this adventure, it is enough for the PCs to know that a cruel winter is upon the wood and that in the grip of its madness a giant has been driven insane. The giant—ordinarily a docile creature that cares for the wood and who has earned the name Verderer—has been driven mad by the Moonlit King’s song and raves about the wood with his axe, felling trees.
The PCs must travel to the giant and deal with the menace, one way or another…
The PCs fly north into the forest, which grows deeper and darker. The wind picks up; the PCs can choose to fly above the canopy, but doing so requires each PC to make a Fly check every day (DC 15) to avoid being hurled into a tree and taking 2d6 damage. Characters flying through the canopy do not face this check but more readily face encounters such as the one detailed below, which occurs when they are 10 miles from home.
The Web (CR 2)
A particularly large and hungry giant spider has threaded her thick webs about this section of the forest. Over the summer, plants have grown through them, causing the webs to become quite difficult to see. A Perception check (DC 20) is required to avoid flying into the webs; those who make the check pull away at the last minute.
Creature: An old and hungry giant spider lurks among the webs. She is a large dark creature about the size of a pony. The spider moves in to bite those held within her webs (which are DC 14 to escape), and she casts webs at others once she has bitten a trapped creature.
The spider slinks back into her webs when reduced to 11 hit points, but she attacks anyone attempting to loot or burn her nest after that until reduced to 5 hit points, when she flees, screaming.
Advanced Spider, Giant CR 2
hp 22 (Pathfinder Bestiary, pages 258 and 294)
Treasure: Among the webs are several bodies—mostly halfling and a few birds. Among these unfortunates are a trio of raven corpses from the PCs’ own unkindness. A Perception check reveals these bodies, and one of them has an old dry gourd on a spring about its neck. The gourd contains a potion of invisibility.
The Fleeing Animals (CR 3)
The next encounter happens after 21 miles and for the next 4 miles. Each mile, the PCs can make a Perception check (DC 15) to notice animals fleeing south.
The first animal the PCs encounter is a fox, who is panting and appears very tired. If the PCs approach him, he feigns bad hearing or inability to understand (using a Bluff check +4) in an attempt to get a bite at one of them. If the PC approaches within 10 feet, the fox launches into an attack.
Fox CR 1/3
hp 6 (use statistics for the dog; see Pathfinder Bestiary, page 87)
If injured, the fox attempts to flee, but if followed and harassed, it begs to be allowed to go free, claiming that a terrible thing is headed this way. He hasn’t seen it himself, but the whole wood is alive with talk of trees being felled by some brute creature.
The PCs then encounter a trio of sheep, who are fleeing because everything else is, and who have nothing to say. The final encounter is with a pair of magpies, who are flying southward in fear. The magpies begin as indifferent to the PCs. If they can be persuaded to be friendly, they tell the PCs what they know: a terrible giant thing is coming through the forest hacking and slashing and laying low trees.
As the PCs are talking to the magpies, a flock of stirges flies into the area and attacks.
The stirges attack random targets and may attack the magpies. (If they do, use statistics for a hawk [Pathfinder Bestiary, page 131] for the magpies.) The stirges swarm at the PCs, giving chase if they flee. If more than three of their number are slain, they flee.
Stirges (5) CR 1/2
XP 200 each
hp 5 each (Pathfinder Bestiary, page 260)
The Dreadful Storm and the Serpent (CR 2)
This encounter occurs when the PCs rest for the night. Plenty of cover is about, and the trees are thick and old, which makes hiding easy. Additionally, the whole place is alive with vermin and strange calls. If the PCs make a successful Perception or Survival check (DC 15; allow 1 attempt per PC), they locate an old nest big enough for them to face out the night; although high in a tree and swaying horribly, the nest is strong. If they fail, they are in the cold and must make a Fortitude save (DC 8) or be fatigued for the first half of the next day.
Creature: During the night, a large black snake slithers up the tree and attacks. The wind is howling at this time, so if the PCs fly out of the nest, they each must make a Fly check (DC 15) to remain in control. If a PC goes out of control for 2 consecutive rounds, it is dashed against a tree and falls to the ground, taking 3d6 damage.
Snake, Constrictor CR 2
hp 19 (Pathfinder Bestiary, page 255)
The Next Day and the Weeping Child (CR 3)
The storm abates around dawn, and the morning chorus is subdued in the forest. A character making a Knowledge (nature) check (DC 15) notes that this is unusual for such a large forest at this time of year.
Creature: As the PCs move through or above the forest, they hear a woman’s sob. Characters can follow this noise to its source with a successful Perception check (DC 15). If none of the characters make this check, they face an encounter with three more stirges as they wander the wrong way at one point.
The sobbing woman is a dryad saddened by the howling of the trees far away as they are felled by the mad giant called the Verderer. She hears them call in fear, their song telling of their fate:
“The axe man comes to fell our kin
Chop, chop, chop.
He brings his axe down again and again
Chop, chop, chop.
His great axe so keen parts limb from limb
Lop, lop, lop.”
The dryad, whose name is Hawthorne, is petrified of what is coming. She smells the dark curses of the Moonlit King upon the air and hears the sap drying in the wind. She is afraid of the axe man and has heard the vermin sing that he stands the height of a man on a shire horse. When she first encounters the PCs, she takes them for evil agents of the Moonlit King scouting for more trees to fell, so she commences this section as hostile to the PCs. If she finds out the ravens are awakened, she is even more adamant that they are agents.
The dryad has charm animal as spell-like abilities in place of her three charm person spells, and she casts them at the PCs, hoping to turn one against the other. If the PCs attack her, she reaches for her longbow and begins shooting. If the PCs can convince her they are not enemies, she stops attacking and tries to help. The PCs can attempt to cajole her into friendship using the normal Diplomacy rules, they can try to impress her with a song or tale about the Great Wood with a Perform check (DC 15), or they can use magic. You should also allow good roleplaying to modify the dice (possibly considerably).
Hawthorne, Dryad CR 3
hp 27 (Pathfinder Bestiary, page 116)
Development: If the PCs gain Hawthorne’s trust, she tells them of the strange song of the trees, which say that a giant of a man is intent upon leveling the forest. Each day, he walks a little farther with his axe, and each day he fells another great tree. Hawthorne is terrified of the rumor of the giant and admits she is too afraid to face it. If the PCs offer to do so, she grants them three gifts to help them. The first gift is a gossamer shawl, which, if tossed at the giant, may blind him. The object works as a glitterdust spell (CL 6th) and requires a ranged touch attack to throw; the increment is 5 feet. Secondly she gifts the PCs an acorn, which, if swallowed, casts a tree shape upon the swallower (CL 6th). Finally, she offers the PCs her wisdom: She tells the PCs that although the giant does lie north of here, perhaps a day’s flight of the PCs, the forests north are hunted by satyr foresters, who delight in bagging big game. It would be slower—but wiser—to take the route north and west for half a day and then north and east through the Weeping Wood, thus avoiding the satyr hunters.
So where do the PCs head? Satyr’s Grove? Or do they take the longer, safer way through the Weeping Wood? Do they even know the way or are they stumbling blindly toward the satyr hunters as they fly?