The journey northwest from Ramos was uneventful. On the fourth night of travel, the road hooked right to wind around a lonely mountain, and Katarina, Roland, Dameris, and Cyrus found themselves in the outskirts of the next village: Brockton, occupying the space at the base of the mountain. The buildings were there – houses, barns, shops, even an inn. The entire place was devoid of any signs of life, though. Everything looked desolate, deserted, and empty. No voices could be heard and no one could be seen.
The party pressed on further into the village, eventually discovering signs of habitation: the entire population of the village was crowded into three large, defensible buildings up the hill. The largest building, the mayor’s manor, was full of injured people – about 50 villagers had been attacked by wolves two nights prior, or run down by Moose the night before. Most of the guard was gone, looking for the village’s lumberjacks, who hadn’t come back when they were meant to, but the guard hadn’t come back either. After two consecutive unnatural animal attacks, the villagers were expecting a third, and were fortified to weather it out behind their walls.
Not content to simply weather the attacks, Roland, Cyrus, Katarina, and Dameris agreed to meet the expected attack with steel and magic. A perimeter was set up to announce the presence of unwanted guests, and the party prepared for battle. The battle came to them about 1 hour after dusk. A single enormous moose came charging down the mountain from the north, while a small pack of wolves entered form the west. Roland met the moose with his lance, the shock of which was enough to shake off whatever madness had possessed the moose to attack in the first place. It escaped back into the woods from whence it came. Cyrus met the wolves with his sword, his armor turning away their blows again and again as they fell one by one. Katarina and Dameris provided fire support from rooftop, peppering both wolf and moose with arrows and arcane energy.
The battle was over quickly, and the rest of the night was without incident. At first light, the party went out in search of the escaped moose. Its trail was not a difficult one to follow – dried blood and broken foliage were in no short supply. The moose had gone all the way up the mountain before collapsing outside a earthen tunnel. The tunnel seemed to lead to the inside of the top of the mountain, right beneath the root structure of a singularly colossal oak tree. At the end of this tunnel, the party found two druids, a direwolf, and all of the lumberjacks. The druids attacked, with their wolf. They were soon joined by a third elf and his dire badger. The party prevailed over all of them, despite the mauling of Cyrus at the paws of the badger.
An interrogation revealed that this tree defended the second node of this beam. To get to the node, the druids enslaved the lumberjacks and set them to work destroying the tree’s roots. These elves worked for Duskrunner, just as the elf in Ramos had, though the prisoner was not very forthcoming with details about his boss. In exchange for his information, he was given a swift death.
Freeing the Lumberjacks was a difficult procedure. There were no locks on their manacles, but they were rigged to explode if opened. It took incredible focus, concentration, and patience for Katarina to release everyone. Twice the traps were triggered (with no lasting damage, thanks to Roland), thrice the manacles were opened preserving the trap, and the other manacles were successfully disarmed. The lumberjacks literally danced with joy before gathering their dead and returning to the village.
A party was had, for the safe return of many husbands and wives, for the memory of those who did not return, and most of all, for the heroes of Brockton! Philos appeared to assess the node, at the behest of the party. He seemed put out that the node already had a master, but he was not so foolish to try to sever the bond. He encouraged the party to find a druid to look after the tree, then wished them luck and winged back to his own node.
At the moment, Allan and Elric were the only ones available to help the tree, and they did what they could, though they were self-trained novices by their own admission. So the party sent word to the Archdruid of Northport for help, using the Silver Raven. A veteran druid of the Phoenix Legion arrived a few days later, accompanied by a ranger. They immediately went to work caring for the enormous oak and repairing its root structure.