D&D Chronicles: Death of an animal companion

ZILLAH — The Broken Forest

D&D CHRONICLESI’m on watch with Squirrel in the dead of night when the tree moves.

It’s a massive tree in a loop of the stream. We’ve camped here because it seemed safer to have the water on three sides. We’ve been attacked so many times at night. But now it sounds like something is being uprooted and the whole canopy is shaking.

Oh, hell. Alix and Blizzard are pinned to the ground by massive roots. As a deep voice demands to know why we’re here, I realise my error and curse myself for a fool. It’s not a tree. Idiot!

It’s a tree ent. A very pissed off tree ent. And it’s not happy about the influence of this dark tree we keep hearing about.

We try to placate the ent, tell it we’re trying to bring balance and peace back to the forest, but it makes us promise to go beyond the dark tree to find and defeat those who created it. He says its creators came with the army of someone called Gom. The corruption extends from the tormented forest south of here.

Ironically, I think we were already heading there. I think that’s where the other Eye of Varrien is rumoured to be. Hell.

But first we must find that troll and get Climber her axe back. We’ve been following the stream for a few days now, and all we’ve encountered have been giant spiders and giant bugs and giant spider-eaters… all attacking us. This is not a nice place.

Hunting is not straightforward

We’re running out of food. We didn’t get time to re-supply before getting chased out of Lhangessa about a week ago, and now things are getting desperate.

Ash and I went hunting the other day while Squirrel sat beneath the tree ent and learnt a new spell (he’s a little excited); but we failed. The forest did not provide. We’re trying again today and I can only hope to make a better account of myself. This time Squirrel has accompanied us.

Well, here’s a surprise; we’re under attack. Three more enormous forest bugs. Bigger than any we’ve seen yet. Ten feet long at least.

Oh god. It’s not going well.

First a howl of pain and then a thud. Ash is down, a crumpled heap visible out of the corner of my eye.

My heart jolts with shock and I can barely stand. I’ve been bitten twice and I can feel the venom flooding my body. My head is swimming and it’s all I can do to swing my swords. I’m not hitting much.

ash_02 blog
Ash – valiant wolf-dog

Vale Ash

Fuck! Ash is being dragged away by one of the bugs. No no no! Blessed Emrys protect him. I just need to kill this fucking thing, and…

I’m stumbling into the forest. The tracks are easy to follow, but I can hardly put one foot in front of the other. They lead me to a tree and I stare up its tall, smooth trunk. There’s a slimy trail and streaks of bright red blood staining the bark.

He’s up in the tree. My Ash has been dragged up into the tree and I know it’s too late. High up in the canopy I can see his poor broken body, wrapped in some type of web.

I want to climb up and get him, save him, but I can’t. I can barely stand. My limbs are like water.

And I know he’s already gone. My Ash is gone. My heart is breaking and I think I want to die.

But there’s this cursed mission. I’ve sworn oaths. And my friends are depending on me. I have to keep going.

But just now I want to curl up at the base of this tree and die.

There is a lot more to come from our most recent session, but I wanted to give Ash’s passing the respect and gravitas it deserves.

I knew there was a reason I wasn’t deploying him in battle! But I had to face the fact Zillah’s animal companion was not really engaged in activities, maybe occasionally providing assistance with tracking and on watch, so I judged it worth the risk just to have him DO something.

It was wonderful while it lasted (a whole 1.5 sessions), with Ash giving an excellent account of himself in melee. If he hadn’t been dragged away by those giant bugs, I think Zillah would have been able to save him; but being removed from the field of battle really nailed it for him.

I got in trouble with the DM for my character not responding appropriately to the demise of her animal companion… and I’ve replayed the scenario endlessly in my mind. Should Zillah have tried a healing spell in the middle of melee? (Zillah has just made it to level 8 where she can have a “cure light wounds” spell!)

Maybe she should have chased after the bug dragging Ash immediately. Probably this is what she should have done, but sometimes you just make the wrong decision in the heat of the moment.

She was very weak herself. Those bugs had drained her strength to 4 (from 17), so she could literally barely lift her sword.

Possibly she should have tried to climb the tree, despite her impairment. But in my mind, she knew it was too late. She would have felt the severance of the animal companion bond. Had she been at full strength, though, nothing would have stopped her from trying to climb that tree.

Anyway, Ash is dead and I am very sad. So is Zillah.

There will be another installment in a week or two.

D&D Chronicles archive page

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