Gallows groves are gnarled and mysterious trees that have loomed for centuries in ancient groves, silently standing vigil over the comings and goings of blackclads and Devourer Wurm cultists. These trees are involved in rituals of sacrifice and purification among some who serve the Wurm, such as certain Tharn tribes. They sometimes manifest strange capabilities, such as vanishing from one place and appearing at another. Having endured millennia of fire, war, and the axe of man, those ancient trees that still stand have gained an unsettling approximation of sentience over time and now prowl the deepest forests like scavenging beasts.
Gallows trees, which have little need of light, grow as leafless spires of bleached wood. Sacrifices are hung from branches and left to slowly water roots with their own blood and viscera. The best-fed trees appear as towering charnel houses, their branches and roots littered with rotted ropes and bleached bones. As a tree grows with age and soaks up more and more blood, glowing runes appear upon its trunk.
Gallows trees are believed to be manifestations of the Devourer Wurm — physical aspects of its thirst for blood and demand for sacrifice. They are found in forests across western Immoren, and the presence of many such trees in one area invariably marks the site of a massacre or a place of ritual sacrifice. Devourer cultists seek out gallows groves, spilling blood to feed the endless desires of the trees.
When sacrifices grow scarce in a given area, a gallows tree will inexplicably teleport to another part of the forest, its roots drinking deeply from a dead carcass. The very presence of a gallows tree saps vitality from the living, causing blood to drip onto its ever-thirsty roots. Though they are unable to actively strike out at prey, they are irresistibly drawn to blood-drenched soil.
Devourer Wurm cultists view the arrival of gallows groves as a sign of approval and sometimes respond with frenzies of sacrifice. The trees are known to appear without warning amid Circle Orboros camps as if they had always been rooted in place. They seem to move about the battle, teleporting wherever the blood runs most freely and moving in concert with the druids in a display of uncanny, if alien, intellect.
Gifted Devourer worshippers feel a special bond with the trees of a gallows grove. In their presence, the trees act as conduits for their power, and the trees are said to whisper secrets to blackclads. Some blackclads have developed a particularly strong affinity for the groves they tend, feeding them with loving care and treating them with a respect beyond that given to warbeasts.
Druids and Devourer cultists seek to cultivate gallows groves with a worshipful care. This is accomplished first and foremost through regular blood sacrifice. Some trees prefer the blood of one species or another and may look more favourably upon those who feed them their preferred food. The more fanatical among the Wolves of Orboros hoist prey into the trees’ branches, carefully bleed them out and let them rot. Some druids enter into communion with the gallows after the trees have fed, listening for whispers of prophecy.
A druid who has cultivated a relationship with the trees of a gallows grove is granted its favour in two ways: first, through the ability to use them as extensions of his own arcane will, and second, through immunity to their entropic energies. Only individuals who have made the necessary sacrifices over a long period of time are free from this life-sapping effect.