The trees thrashed to a terrifying symphony in the buffetting wind, and it was all I could do to keep my footing. I could hear Jayson behind me, shouting that I might be quick but he would wear me out in the end. Distracted, my foot caught on a upturned root and the wind dashed me to the ground. My fall was cushioned by a dry, crackling blanket of leaves nearly a hand deep, but this did nothing to calm me. Even in the halflight of the full moon, the leaves were bold, vibrant, signature red. Eyes wide, I looked up into the grove I had stumbled into, up into the thick, arching boughs of maple. Branches lashed in the wind, nearly denuded by the early autumn, but the proof was all around me on the ground: I was in the Bloodgrove.
I heard Jaysons footsteps approach and in a panic I dashed into the stand of trees, either forgetting or thrusting from my mind the terrible stories that surrounded the place. The wind wailed, whipping branches past my face, their bony ends drawing thin red lines across my cheeks. Jayson taunted me again as he entered the Bloodgrove, but for the first time his voice betrayed a thin trace of fear. His feet crashed through the sea of leaves no more than a few strides behind me.
Leaves left the ground and danced on the wailing wind, flailing about me in a bloody curtain. My stomach lurched as I was picked up by the wind as if only a leaf myself, and when I crashed to the ground a moment later, I faced Jaysons wicked grin. It was a knife wound across his face. The Bloodgrove moaned then, and the trees writhed like maddened dancers, until one long, sleek limb streaked down and caught Jayson, the branch tip lancing through his throat.
Still standing, supported in part by the limb, Jayson coughed once, twice, choked and rolled his eyes at the branch that had speared him in place. He gasped, and blood limned his lips and spilled forward, spattering onto the redleafed ground. The wind had stopped, leaving the grove utterly, perfectly still. A pair of maple seeds fluttered down through the breathless air, spinning on their tails, to land at Jaysons feet. Blood splashed across the seed pods, and the leaves around them crackled as Jaysons life spilled onto the ground.
Eventually he toppled, falling to his knees, torso still held upright by the branch that had killed him, and his corpse grew cold. Paralyzed by fear, I curled between the root of one of the groves larger members, but somewhere against the back of my mind, I could feel a warm touch promising that he would harm me no more. The Bloodgrove had assuaged it hunger, fulfilled its need, and the way of the world: justice, vengeance, even the cycles of life and death, had taken its course. No need to fear any longer.
I have visited the Bloodgrove since, though most think me mad for doing so. Each time I am welcomed with a warm familiarity, and my steps trace my earlier flight to a young sapling in the midst of that grove. Perhaps I am the only one who knows why its thick trunk looks ribbed, or why its roots thrust into the ground, splayed out like a pair of legs. There is a bole in the tree, just above where the branch of another tree intersects and is subsumed by the trunk. You might think it strange, but every time I visit, I smile up at that bole, touch it tenderly, and murmur, Hello Jayson.
A thick copse of maple trees deep within Homs forest, the Bloodgrove is known among the Fallen as a place of death, and is avoided at all costs. Both Jackers armed to the teeth as well as Doomsayers chanting exorcisms have entered the drifts of red leaves, never to return. It is common theory thatthe place is haunted with spirits; some whisper that the grove literally eats people. Both explanations are partly right. The group of trees is the mortal extension of a powerful spirit, an embodiment of the natural cycle of nature. The Bloodgrove is not evil, it is amoral; it does, however, have certain needs. The grove might be said to be blindingly deterministic, since it demands that all things within its domain fall to natural cycles: not only those of decay and new growth, but also of deserved retribution. Within the Bloodgrove, what goes around comes around; and in Vimary, everyone has something to pay for. Those who fall to the Bloodgrove are recycled into the body of the grove, and their souls are mingled into the collective soul of the grove. Perhaps the years of accretion of outcasts, criminals and other Fallen is responsible for the Bloodgroves surly demeanor.
The Bloodgrove does not have statistics; or rather, the Bloodgrove has whatever statistics it wants to have.
AGI +1, BLD -2, CRE +1, PSY +2
Combat Sense 1/0, Dodge 2/+1, Dreaming 2/+2, Lore (Spirits) 1/0, Sneak 1/+1, Survival 2/+1, Synthesis 1
Eminences: Purity and Mystery
Gilli was born and raised among the Evans, but when her sisters contacted her to reveal her true heritage as a Marion, that tranquil life was destroyed. Uncertain of who she was or why she was put on this Earth, she finally concluded that she could not live a lie. She left her plantation at the age of 13, and took up wandering through Duskfall and later Hom and the Outlands. She has a number of contacts among the Doomsayers, and shares their philosophy to some extent, but does not feel she can ever truly belong among the Fallen. When a disreputable man named Jayson chased her into the Bloodgrove, she finally found her place: her position as Jaysons victim as well as her own essential purity turned the fury of the grove onto Jayson and left her untouched. Now Gilli sees the Bloodgrove as something of a silent, protective friend.