“THE TREE THAT OWNS ITSELF FEARS US,” the yellow aspen said, projecting the words into the minds of the adventuring party. “THAT IS WHY IT HAS SENT YOU HERE TO FELL US.”

“No need to flip your wisk there!” said O’Reilly. “I don’t even know if that tree is anything but a normal tree, its gold and McScroggins’s insistences aside.”

“Is that why you brought in the gnolls?” said Runthorn. “To protect yourself?”

“NO. THEY ARE AN IRRITATION IN THEIR CONSTANT WORSHIP. GOOD RIDDANCE.”

“What could one beautiful, natural tree have to fear from any other beautiful, natural tree?” said Willow.

“ASPEN ARE DIFFERENT. WHERE ONE TREE GROWS FROM ONE ROOT, WE GROW A FOREST. IN TIME YET TO COME WE WILL SPREAD OVER THE OTHER TREE’S ROOTS AND DESTROY THEM. IT KNOWS THIS.”

“Or! Or, maybe, it’s just a tree that tourists like,” Ellie said. “And they don’t want a new tree taking all the tourist money.”

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