After a bit more discussion with the druid council, a plan to deal with the plant creature was agreed to by everyone. Nektet, druid of one of the lizardman tribes, has offered to guide the party through his forest since his people have been most affected by the depredations.
The meeting over, all of those in attendance, save Nektet and Ra'Sterin transformed into their favored forms and left for home. Ra'Sterin suggested that he would gather a band of warriors at a camp about 3 days travel from the giant tree, and that he should be contacted when the task was complete. Nektet, quick and eager to get going, suggested meeting at the bottom of the tree and sembled into a lizard and vanished down the side of the tree.
Nektet led at a brisk pace through the forest, and found a much smaller, though still comfortable, hollowed tree to camp for the night. While traveling, and around the fire, Nektet answered questions about the creature but there wasn't much to go on. Most notably, the creature had left no traces in the forest to be found by elves, lizardmen or druids, using magic or not.
Late morning of the next day brought everyone to the banks of the river along which the problems had been occurring. Morwen had been chatting with Nektet about things druidic across the morning's travels, filling the miles with talk of plant lore, the local forest and so on. This led her to ask him whether he had spoken to the trees around where the killings had happened. He had not, nor had any of the others. He suggested that some willows he knew of near the river might have felt something.
The willows, after Morwen cast speak with plants, were quite willing to help, and provided quite a bit of information. They told of a darkness that had passed by recently, an amalgam of plants and a semblance of death; that the roots tell of the creature's destination: a cold place where the trees wear the raiment of autumn even through the summer. The roots could follow them no further, that there must be a way in that location. The reeds at the river bank gave much less cogent information, but provided vivid images of many feet passing, trampling, crushing: one set of very large splayed feet, and several-to-many pairs of cloven feet.
Nektet knew of the strange grove, and led the way. He fished a canoe out of the reeds which had been completely unnoticed by everyone, grinning in evident pleasure at the surprise on everyone's faces, and led the way downstream to a circle of beech trees. They were red and gold of leaf, and the temperature near the bottom of the hill they crowned was noticeably cooler than that on the river.
Some investigation was done around the grove, and Wrenaldo discovered that the entire place had been consecrated to some Fey power long ago. Merrin found lingering traces of conjuration magic on a pair of treen at the centre of the glade which had grown together to form a natural arbor, and Varis found the tracks of an elk which had entered but not exited the glade. It seems that the location of a portal had been found, but nothing was in evidence, except for the ruins of an ancient building, and some stairs leading down to nowhere — or rather stairs ending in dirt and rubble.
In search of more information, Merrin wanted to ask some questions of some of the elves which had been killed by these beings, so camp was made near where one of the groups had been killed. In the morning, after an evening of fruitless searching, Merrin found what he was after.
XXXX There was some description by the spirit of a dead elf of the forest coming alive, growing brambles, and poisoning them XXXXX
That information in hand, the group paddled back upstream, and returned to the grove. At a bit of a loss for what to do, other than camp in or near the grove and wait to be attacked, Morwen had another chat with the trees. This time, rather than an earnest conversation, she found quite a bit of hostility. Apparently she was the child of an enemy to the beech trees, who, after a bit of flattery and boot… er… root-licking, told her that they had been created one thousand years ago to protect the way to the autumn grove. The traditional gift to these protectors was a fresh skull, and that blood on the stones would open the way.