Lively Locals 10: Rurik’s Tree

Photograph of a tree on a beach, with a very annoying modern ship in the background.
A photograph of Cyclades Paros island in Greece. Photographer unknown.

Rosco Rurik was good at killing the undead. The ranger had devoted all of his training, and all of his time to becoming more efficient at slaying the hated creatures. He’d memorized every type ever encountered or created. He’d memorized the known weaknesses and powers of each, and carried with him an extensive array of tools to accomplish his undead slaying task. If anything could send a shiver of mortal fear through a vampire’s spine, it was the name ‘Rosco Rurik.”

Rurik’s hunting made him famous through the land. Tales were told of him round campfires, and over pints of ale. And nearly every story mentioned Rosco’s powerful magic axe. In the presence of the undead, the axe’s blade became shrouded in white mist, and it was uniquely suited to slaying them. After a single cut, the blade would adapt itself to take advantage of the individual creature’s weaknesses, meaning Rosco’s second blow was often the last he needed to make.

There are many tales which could be told of Rosco and his mighty axe, but what concerns us today is their last adventure. As usual, Rosco was in pursuit of some undead ne’er-do-well who had caused a lot of suffering. A lich by the name of Amkon, who lived on an island surrounded by treacherous waters. Rosco had thought himself sufficiently prepared to kill the vile creature, but the Lich had lured him into a trap, and Rosco barely escaped from the lich’s lair alive.

He ran with all haste, the Lich’s ghouls close on his heels. The brave ranger managed to make it to shore, but found that his boat had been destroyed by the lich’s servants, to prevent any possible escape. He was trapped on an island with a foe he could not defeat by himself. Rosco knew he was going to die. Knowing he could not allow his axe to fall into the lich’s hands.

He had managed to gain a good twenty minutes on the creatures chasing him, but that did not leave him much time. With his hands he shoveled sand away as fast as he could, then shoveled it back in place again once he had dropped his axe into a hole deep enough that he thought it would not be discovered. By the time the lich and his minions arrived. Rosco was sitting peacefully in the surf, looking out over the water. The lich grabbed him by the throat and held him off the ground. He demanded to know where the axe was. Rosco smiled

“The ocean tides will carry it far from here. You’ll never find it. “

Those were Rosco Rurik’s last words, before the lich tossed him into a pack of ghouls, which tore the ranger into unrecognizable chunks of what had once been a man.

The lich spent a year sending zombies to walk the ocean floor, searching for the axe. He hoped he could use it in his magical experimentation to produce undead creatures resistant to their traditional weaknesses. He never thought to search the beach itself. Eventually the lich grew bored, and moved on to some other project in its interminably long life. For many years the axe lay beneath the sand, undisturbed. Then an unexpected thing happened. A green sprout appeared in the sand, where the axe had been burried. And the sprout grew over years into a tree, towering above the beach and shading the surf. It is a mystery why precisely this happened, or how the tree survives rooted in sand. But one thing is clear: Rosco’s axe was the tree’s seed, and most agree that his blood was the water.

Rurik’s Tree is unlike any which has ever been seen before or since. The wood is brown, with soft bark and straight, sturdy branches. The leaves of the tree are large—roughly a foot across. They curve outwards from the branch, appearing very much like the blade of an axe. They cut very much like one as well. While the leaves are alive, they function as a battleaxe with a +5d6 enchantment bonus against undead. Unfortunately, within a day of being removed from the tree, the leaves wilt and becomes useless. No one has yet determined how these leaves could be used in a more permanent application.

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One thought on “Lively Locals 10: Rurik’s Tree”

  1. Oooh, very nice, tragic and leading. I wonder if a Dryad or some such would know more about Rosco’s Tree, or if the ghost of the ranger in question might appear to the right person at the right time..

    Have you ever read any of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, LS? Nontraditional trees such as Rosco’s Tree make me think of the Pie, Shirt, and Shoe trees, etc.. not to mention the Pillow Bushes and whatever other punny things litter the magic land. I grew up on Piers’ work, so I have a certain fondness for things like this in particular.

    Back to earlier though, this could make a hell (pardon that) of a haunting locale, for an especially tragic ghost who’s business can never really be done in a way that satisfies him enough to move on.

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