Fortunately for us, the path to the graveyard was not choked with more assassin vines and we soon arrived to a clearing outside the graveyard. What little we could see showed a very large tree in the center of the graveyard, as well as a stone wall surrounding the cemetery covered with yet more vines. Having just fought a number of vines that sought to eat us, we were naturally suspicious of practically any and all plant life that wasn't Grovetender. Feron approached the vines in an attempt to negotiate with them, but the results were less than hopeful and we convened a safe distance away to determine the best course of action. Soma decided to summon an earth elemental to attack the roots of the vines directly, ensuring a clear avenue of escape, however he had greatly overestimated the efficacy of his elemental and the vines soon became rather hostile, releasing four zombies to attack us.
The zombies were...well interesting and strange as words do not fully describe their actions, but they seem the most accurate. The zombies, of course, shambled towards us and began trying to attack me but one of them decided to turn instead and attack its fellows, which came as a surprise to the other zombies as well. Between fighting amongst themselves and the sheer killing power the entire party the zombies did not last particularly long. The vines, however, proved a greater challenge and even Meda's archery and Whitmore's bombs could only take down one before the other decided to burrow underneath the ground and disappear. We quickly reformed the party, worried that the remaining vine would come back and try to seek its revenge, but it must have decided it enjoyed living more and we've seen no sign of it since.
As we entered the cemetery Soma and Feron noticed that the tree which dominated its center was a gallows tree, a nasty plant which turns any corpses around it into little meat puppets that hang from its branches. Although we didn't like the look of it, we decided Feron should at least attempt to negotiate with the tree so that we could investigate the cemetery in relative peace. I will never know exactly what Feron said to that damn tree but it must have pissed the tree off because it killed him just moments after he walked up to it, smashing him into a very fine pulp. Grovetender quickly gathered up what little was left of Feron and ran back into the woods, much to our dismay because as frustrating or annoying Feron was, we all had taken a liking to Grovetender. Probably because he didn't talk as much. Confronted with certain death if we continued into the cemetery, we decided to head back to the town and see if Deris could give us more information.
Deris seemed somewhat surprised about the tree and despite our protests still wanted us to investigate the graveyard. We asked him if there was anything he could do to help us take care of the tree, and he said he could write some spells down on a scroll, but Soma concluded none of the spells would be of much help. The great age and strength of the tree meant that Whitmore's bombs and chemicals would be of limited help, and while I could certainly attempt to cut down the tree with my sword, it seemed unlikely that the tree would let me live long enough to accomplish anything significant. Meda, however, had a skyhook that could leave her suspended in air, well above the tree's clutches, and she could sit all day flinging arrows at the tree until it finally expired. As this seemed the best plan with our limited resources, we decided to begin Operation Skyhook the next day.
Despite a promising beginning, Operation Skyhook proved to be extremely unsuccessful, much to everyone's regret. I did find it rather entertaining to watch a dwarf be lifted a hundred feet in the air and then stay there while she launched arrow after arrow towards a giant tree, but after a few minutes it became apparent that Meda was doing little more than scratching the bark of that damned tree. If it had been almost any other creature our plan might have worked, but the tree's thick bark meant most of Meda's arrows clattered uselessly around its roots. While she was suspended a hundred feet in the air, though, Meda did notice that thirteen of the graves in the cemetery had been defiled. Determined to prevent this trip from becoming a total loss I carefully entered the graveyard and skirted the edges, staying well out of the maiming radius of the tree. Although unable to investigate all of the graves, I was able to discover (much to no one's surprise) that twelve of them were child-sized graves and one of them was adult-sized. Presumably Corrister had stolen the corpses of Deris and his students for some nefarious purpose. With no other options available to us we decided to return to the town and inform Deris about the developments.
It was at this point that we started debating if Deris was either useless or trying to dick us over because the argument could be made very strongly either way. Apparently all Deris needed us to do was confirm that his grave had been desecrated, something which he had already concluded from available evidence but could not prove. Furthermore in life Deris had been a verdant sorcerer which meant he had planted the tree in the center of the graveyard with the intent that it would help protect the cemetery and prevent any desecration of the corpses. I was very quick to inform Deris that the tree had very clearly failed to do its job, and he could have very easily told us about this tree before we left for the cemetery the first time. Or even the second time after we told him a giant-ass tree had killed Feron but still wanted us to go into the cemetery and investigate. Furthermore, rather than wasting our time with confirming something he already knew, Deris could have just told us to go find whoever had stolen his body so that it could be put back to rest, which is what we're now going to have to do. Either Deris completely forgot to mention all of this relevant information until we reminded him of it, making him utterly useless, or he selectively omitted information because he's planning to dick us over at some point, possibly with the tree. Not even the promise of treasure (of course buried underneath the tree) is able to make the more mercenary of us eager to perform this task. I'm left with the suspicion we should have just hunted down Corrister in the first place, which would have saved us a lot of trouble.