O’Reilly wiped blood from his eyes. “Well now,” he said. “That was somewhat more gnoll cultists than I expected to slaughter in order to get to the Golden Aspen.”

Ellie jiggled her ivory handled knives, Smashbash and The Bard, and the corpse of a gnoll shaman, still wreathed in dissipating arcane energy, slid to the forest floor. “Just one gnoll cultist is too many. Unless they’re worshiping me like in Middlesept.”

“That was less of a worshiping than a fattening of a sacrificial cow,” said Runthorn. Quickly realizing his mistake, he muttered a shield spell just in time for Smashbash and The Bard to come flying at him. “In a strictly metaphorical sense, of course.”

“Right,” said Ellie gruffly. She snapped and the enscorclled stabbyblades jumped back into her twin small-of-the-back sheathes. “Next time you call me a fat cow, you’d better expect one in your sleep.”

“Duly and magnanimously noted,” said Runthorn, sweating. “Willow, come over here, will you? I need you to speak for the trees, for these trees have no tongues.”

“Unlike those carnivorous trees from Murdermarsh last year,” said O’Reilly. “I have never been so happy to put vampire lumberjacks out of business forever.”

Willow was going to each of the many, many gnoll corpses and saying an absolution over them and knitting together their various extremely fatal wounds to make them more aesthetically pleasing. “Oh,” she said airily. “You don’t need me, this tree can talk on its own.”

“How can a tree make a noise without a mouth?” O’Reilly cried.

“Trees have bark,” shrugged Ellie.

“I SPEAK IN THE MINDS OF THE WALKERS ON BEHALF OF THE ROOTS BELOW.” The deepness, suddenness, and violence of the splintery voice in their heads sent every member of the party save Willow into a fetal position.

“Told you,” she said.

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