It took Garth a week to set up properly, charging a few dozen specially designed seeds, and arranging contingency plans.
He located the local Adventurers guild in the large city nearby and hired a couple high ranked teams to be on-call in case the forest overpowered him. Never hurts to be prepared.
He also spent a whole day finding a lady merc with impeccable references to go and bodyguard Sandi, and to a lesser extent, Clarkstown. Garth knew it was probably a stupid thing to do, considering that kind of behavior usually came right before or right after a bodyguard was needed in stories.
Fortunately, in real life, hiring a bodyguard increased survivability substantially and wasn’t some death flag.
Garth stood in front of twelve men and women, addressing them outside Beladia’s temple, in the center of the little village. They were a motly crew, some eight men and four women dressed in dinged steel – Garth even saw a bite mark in one – and scuffed, ragged boiled leather.
Three of the women seemed to be spellcasters, and five of the men looked like straight up meatheads, which made Garth sigh a little internally.
They were two of the best adventuring parties in the city, experienced in life and death battles in the depths of ancient dungeons. One of the parties, a nimble team of corio, had even shut one down.
The other team was mostly composed of orcs with heavy swords as long as they were, with two withered, shaman looking sisters leading them. They were excellent heavy hitters, adept at taking on big game or locking down one spot. If they were attacked by trees, Garth was confident they could bisect them without a second strike.
The corio team was more stealth based, with three lithe stealth specialists and two magical heavy hitters led by a ranger. They were reputed to sneak up on their prey and use their glass cannons in devastating sneak attacks. He’d need them to track Tanglewood if it ran away.
“So here’s the deal. You already heard most of the details back in the city, but I’m gonna go over it one more time so we’re all on the same page, then you can ask me questions, if you have any. Your job is to wait here and if the Tanglewood kicks my ass or starts to outrun me, I want you to hunt it down and kill it.”
Garth pointed at the amulet resting on his chest. “As you can see, I’m doing this with the hope of receiving divine patronage, but whether I succeed or not, I want that creature’s heartstone. Now, the reason you’re waiting here and not following me into the forest is because this village is the closest settlement to Tanglewood, and it’s possible it’ll try to take it out if I make him mad.”
“I don’t intend to be the guy that got a bunch of people killed because he fucked up attempting a trial. I have important business contacts here who wouldn’t look kindly on collateral damage, so safety of the villagers is priority one. After that is killing Tanglewood. After all that, have a good time, but keep yourselves ready to go and relatively sober. Once the fireworks start, you need to be at the top of your game.”
“Oh,” Garth said, pulling a box out of his Status Band and opening it in front of them, “And help yourself to a sample of my line of Better Than Bandages cocaine for adventurers. It’s got magical hemostatic properties, minor healing, along with a numbing effect. Best of all, it’s one hundredth the price of a healing potion. Sprinkle it on wounds to stop bleeding and pain while kickstarting the healing process, or inhale it for a burst of confidence and energy, good for those last ditch efforts. It’s a cheaper alternative to bandages and potions.”
The orcs, already full of confidence, simply stood with their arms crossed, while the more opportunistic corio pocketed more than enough for their group. Garth didn’t really mind. spreading the word was part of the job. If the corio resold it, it was all the same to him.
“Remember not to take more than two shots inside six hours, or your heart might explode, and for the love of Beladia, don’t give it to children.”
One of the orc’s eyebrows raised. “My heart might explode?”
“If you took too many, yeah.” Garth said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this stuff is potent, professional use only, meant for emergencies. Why do you think it’s in such small vials?”
“Sounds interesting.” The orc stepped forward and took one of the remaining vials and dumped it into his hand. Before Garth could stop him, he inhaled the whole thing. The orc spent the next minute sneezing.
Shit. Gath thought as the attention of the rest of the adventurers turned toward the claymore bearing orc.
“I can’t feel my face.” he said once the sneezes were under control, tapping his nose. “Wait a minute, I forgot to send a letter to Bisha before we left! I’ll run there real quick, be right back!” the orc dropped into a dead run toward the city some hundred and fifty miles distant. At the edge of the village, he began whooping and jumping ten feet in the air and flailing his arms as he ran.
“Kurgoth, go fetch your brother before he runs into the Tanglewood.” One of the old orc shamans said, while the other took four vials form Garth and put them in her medicine pouch.
“Don’t let them get used to it.” Garth whispered to her. “Could be habit forming.”
“I appreciate the advice,” she said, giving him a rotten-toothed grin. “But I know my way around medicines.” From the looks of it, the shamans were the responsible ones, and their troops were their..children? interesting dynamic.
The orc had reached the edge of the woods, still hollering, and his brother was having trouble catching up.
“Let me help with that.” Garth said, reaching out with telekinesis and snagging the orc around the waist and picking him up. The idiot’s legs continued to flail a good five seconds after Garth picked him up and began dragging him back to town.
Garth didn’t want them fucking around on his time.
When he deposited the orc in front of the elders, one slapped him across the face, and when that didn’t get his attention, the other kicked him in the shin.
“ow, what, what?” He said, glancing down at the two crones.
“The letter can wait Bugart. In the meantime, set up our rooms, help out with chores. Chop firewood, haul water.”
“I’m on it!” the orc shouted, bumping his fist against his chest as he began to run about the village, causing people to dodge out of his way as he ran.
“How long will it last?” the elder asked, watching her son sprinting through town to do his chores.
“My stuff will last about an hour. Longer if ingested, shorter if injected.”
Her sister’s eyes narrowed as she watched her nephew, before turning back to Garth and looking him up and down.
“My name’s Okresha Bindas, send me a catalogue of your wares once our business here is concluded.”
After everything was settled, Garth brought Wilson up into the sky and began to search for Tanglewood.
Garth had trained a version of his combat dodder back to having a taste for plants rather than flesh, giving the parasitic plant a triple stack of recursive plant growth. There were six of those in his bandolier. Garth didn’t think he needed more than that, seeing as each generation had hundreds if not thousands of seeds.
Dodder was much more explosive than wheat.
In addition, Garth had whipped up a moss that could cling like the dickens, climbing up anything and everything it could, achieving stickiness with modified pine sap. The substance was a bit more flammable and stickier than regular pine sap.
At the end of the reproductive cycle the moss would self-ignite with a little spark he’d worked into the spell. It should be able to clear out several acres of woods at a time. The concept Garth was going for was natural napalm.
“Are we concerned about forest fires?” Wilson asked as they floated above the woods, keeping an eye out for a moving forest.
“Yes, which is why we hired high level adventurers to keep the village safe.” Garth said. “I’m not going to pull my punches, though. That’s a good way to your ass killed. We’ll worry about a potential forest fire when the Tanglewood is ashes.”
“According to Ellanore the last place someone went missing was west of the village.” Garth said as he peered to the west, observing the lush green hills, not quite tall enough to build snow on the tops of them.
A few minutes of watching later and Wilson tugged his shirt. “Ooh, ooh, I see it!” He pointed off into the distance to the southwest, where one of the mountains seemed to be…melting.
“Damn, that’s big.”
The illusion was achieved as a large portion of the trees on the side of the mountain were slowly sliding down its side, making their way into a valley that led further south, pooling into a lake of trees before it began to slide through the valley like a verdant river.
It might seem slow from their distance, but it must have been pushing eighty miles an hour to go from the top of the mountain to the bottom in a matter of minutes. It was big, and it was fast, but…it can’t fly.
Garth put up his windshield and put on speed, heading for the Tanglewood. In a matter of minutes, He’d closed the distance, and was hovering several hundred feet above the moving forest. The forest had come to a complete stop, and was utterly indistinguishable from a normal, non-maneating forest.
Garth was briefly tempted to announce his presence to the forest and try to make sure he wasn’t being used by an evil witch to destroy a unicorn or some other noble creature, but then decided he didn’t care enough to give up the element of surprise.
“Bombs away,” Garth said, dropping a couple pea-sized dodder seeds into the forest. Garth had time to dust his hands as the seeds shrank into the distance.
“Hopefully that’s all we have to do, and the rest of the evening can be spent getting my blessing back, and going home.” Garth said, waiting for the dodder to hit the forest floor.
“Do you think just nuking the site from orbit is gonna get you any favor with the gods?”
“Well, not with the god of getting yourself killed like an idiot, obviously, but they’re a diverse bunch. Here’s hoping some gods place a premium on results rather than-
Garth’s words were cut off as the forest spasmed like a horse that just got bit. An instant later, a tower of wood speared into the sky, crushing Garth from beneath so hard he thought his shins were going to be driven into his lungs.
When Garth opened his eyes again, wood was pressing down on him from every direction, the sound of wind whipped by just outside the vice that was crushing him.
If the wind was still whipping by, Garth was only unconscious for a second or two. A little g-force assisted short-term memory loss.
“Garth, you alright?”
He heard Wilson’s voice coming from outside. Was Wilson in trouble or did Tanglewood not see him as a living creature? Only way to find out was to go and see. With a mental brush of his hand, and an application of Control Plant, Garth willed the surrounding wood to bend away from him.
It creaked and moaned, struggling to press in on him, but Garth was able to get loose enough to shoot out a narrow pocket, back into the open sky. Offshoots from the massive gnarl of wood pursued him, and more grew out of the ground, aiming for Garth. He decided to duck and weave, keeping his eyes open for Wilson
“Wilson, where you at?” Garth shouted over the roaring of constantly snapping wood that sounded like an avalanche on crack.
“Here!” Garth got a mental tug that brought his attention down to where Wilson was, some seventy feet off the ground on a branch that was trying to grow faster than Wilson could dissolve it with his spines.
Garth took a quick glance above him, where the mass of wood was beginning to spread out above him like the legendary Ygdrasil, creating a canopy that drowned out the light. In the distance, more towers of wood were growing up, creating a cage.
I guess it doesn’t know I can teleport. Garth thought, heading for Wilson. With a mental jerk, Garth picked Wilson up and threw him screaming at unearthly speeds toward the nearest empty spot in the forming canopy. The same strategy was still possible. There had to be a limit to how far the forest could stretch. Garth just didn’t know he was still in the splash zone.
Now we know why it’s a legendary forest, Garth thought as he slung Wilson upward.
“AAAH! What the heeell!” Wilson screamed, squirming in midair as he shot through the opening in the wooden ceiling.
That done, Garth dived down, aiming for the ground, thousands of tons of wood following him. On the way down, he popped open his bandolier and took out his fire-moss, throwing the pods out as he pulled up, weaving out of the way of an approaching tree trunk.
Once Garth saw the green moss that began spreading everywere start to turn yellow, then red, he bailed.
With a thought, Garth bailed, teleporting another thousand feet up, catching Wilson as the lizard reached the apex of his flight. I’m gonna have to make Wilson some enchantments so I don’t have to babysit him. Some of his most obvious design flaws were the most glaringly obvious in the heat of battle.
Garth looked down at the writhing forest beneath him, a bit of blood stinging his right eye as the massive four hundred foot tall canopy formed a face.
Never thought I’d see that.
“MEAT!” the face spoke with a voice of tortured wood grinding on wood
“I WILL RUN MY ROOTS THROUGH YOUR VILE FLESH!”
“NONE DARE CHALLENGE HE WHO IS MIGHTY IN HIS DOMAIN!
“BEHOLD THE POWER THAT SINGS OF YOUR DEATH, INSIGNICANT MEAT!
The forest burst into flame.