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Bonewrought Willow

This weeping willow tree has a pale and mottled trunk that is contorted into twisted and torturous forms, and long branches made of bones and fibrous fronds.

Bonewrought Willow CR 3

XP 800
N Large plant (extraplanar)
Init +0; Senses low-light vision, spiritsense; Perception +8

DEFENSE

AC 15, touch 9, flat-footed 15 (+6 natural, –1 size)
hp 32 (5d8+10)
Fort +6, Ref +1, Will +2
Defensive Abilities negative energy affinity; DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune death effects, disease, energy drain, exhaustion, fatigue, nonlethal damage, plant traits; Resist cold 10, electricity 10

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft.
Melee slam +6 (2d6+6)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks bonerattle, spray of splintered bones

STATISTICS

Str 19, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 5, Wis 12, Cha 17
Base Atk +3; CMB +8 (+10 bull rush); CMD 18 (20 vs. bull rush, can’t be tripped)
Feats Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack
Skills Intimidate +12, Perception +8; Racial Modifiers +8 Intimidate
Languages Common (can’t speak)

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Bonerattle (Su)

As a standard action, a bonewrought willow can shake its branches to produce an eerie rattling sound and attempt a single Intimidate check to demoralize all creatures within 60 feet who can hear it.

Spiritsense (Su)

A bonewrought willow can notice, locate, and distinguish between living and undead creatures within 60 feet, just as if it had the blindsight ability. This sense does not allow it to detect objects, but it does allow it to notice living things that are not creatures.

Spray of Splintered Bones (Ex)

Once per hour as a standard action, a bonewrought willow can eject a 15-foot cone of bone shards that deal 4d6 points of piercing damage and 1d4 points of bleed damage to all creatures in the area. A DC 14 Reflex save halves the piercing damage and negates the bleed damage.

ECOLOGY

Environment any land (The Boneyard)
Organization solitary, pair, or copse (3–8)
Treasure none

Arising from the bones sloughed from mortal bodies by souls moving on to their final planar destinations, bonewrought willows grow in lonely places in Purgatory. Despite their undead appearance, these trees are actually alive, growing in the shape of weeping willows to symbolize the loss associated with the deaths that created them. Stray soul fragments remain in a bonewrought willow, giving it a dim intelligence and a keen awareness of living and undead creatures in its vicinity. Bonewrought willows serve as protectors of the dead. They often distrust the living and shake their rattling branches to scare such creatures away. When pressed into combat, a bonewrought willow usually starts by disgorging a spray of partially digested bone fragments at its enemies and then follows up with slam attacks.

A bonewrought willow stands between 12 and 15 feet tall and weighs about 800 pounds.

Despite their bony appearance, bonewrought willows are living plants. They share many traits with undead creatures, due to their close association with the dead of Purgatory, but they require sustenance to survive.

Bonewrought willows do not draw nutrients from the soil through their roots; their rootlike appendages are actually phalanges that provide them with surprising mobility.

Instead, they gain sustenance by absorbing bone matter. A bonewrought willow requires bones equivalent in size to a human skeleton each month; failure to meet this dietary minimum robs a bonewrought willow of its spray of splintered bones ability, and several months of nutritional deprivation causes the tree to starve to death. Hungry trees range far in search of bones to consume and might become desperate enough to hunt prey.

Bonewrought willows also need light, but not necessarily sunlight, to survive; the moon that looms over Purgatory is sufficient for their needs. Willows in perpetual shadow sag noticeably, their bark becoming brittle and their fronds sweeping listlessly along the ground. These light-starved bonewrought willows might shamble toward a bright light source, which can be an unpleasant surprise for a traveler carrying illumination.

Bonewrought willows typically require 15 years to reach full size. During this time, the willows move erratically, if at all, and die if not planted where many bones are within easy reach. As they consume bones, bonewrought willows also acquire faint psychic impressions of the souls echoing in those bones; over many years, these impressions coalesce into a gestalt personality reflective of the willow’s meals. A bonewrought willow grown in a corpse-strewn battlefield might be particularly aggressive, while one grown in a monastery’s ossuary might be introspective.

Although they protect caches of dead bodies to secure their food sources, bonewrought willows also instinctively protect spirits of the dead. Ghosts and other lost souls can find comfort and shelter beneath the willow’s bony fronds, as the tree turns other creatures away from its spectral charges. When they grow in other planes, bonewrought willows extend their sheltering protection to creatures other than spirits. On Golarion, the willows harbor animals of every kind, and it’s not uncommon to find birds’ nests among the willows’ bony branches or arboreal animals lairing in a bony bole.

Bonewrought willows live for multiple centuries.

Older willows are distinguishable from younger specimens by the yellowing bones in the branches, although the bones at the tips of branches remain in the best condition regardless of the willow’s age.

Habitat and Society

Bonewrought willows primarily grow in Purgatory, where they protect souls awaiting a final planar assignment. Many psychopomps cultivate these willows as a hobby or as a way to free up their time to attend to other business without leaving vulnerable souls unprotected.

Some psychopomps teach their bonewrought willows specific frond movements to indicate agreement, pleasure, or alarm. Far cleverer than many other plant creatures, the willows often extrapolate these movements to an entire sign language, and they have been seen teaching this language to other bonewrought willows.

Many souls wandering Purgatory have not yet accepted their fate among the dead. These souls frequently see bonewrought willows as safe and comfortable places to stop and rest, even mistaking them to be ordinary willow trees despite their macabre appearance. Often, this sheltered respite is sufficient for a reluctant soul to realize its condition and come to terms with its recent demise.

Clever or persuasive undead creatures sometimes trick bonewrought willows into acting as bodyguards.

Although the trees have an instinctive desire to protect dead creatures from the living, they eventually abandon a ward that continually places them in danger. Particularly mistreated willows might turn on their charges entirely.

Because they retain echoes of different souls from the bones they consume, bonewrought willows can be targets of spells that seek a corpse’s knowledge such as speak with dead. Although a bonewrought willow’s responses are often more fragmented than normal for such a spell, it responds to questions in a deep, hollow voice. Bonewrought willows do not speak except when responding to spells.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Pathfinder Adventure Path #139: The Dead Roads © 2019, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Ron Lundeen, with Crystal Frasier, Kyle T. Raes, Matt Morris, Mikhail Rekun, and Mike Welham.