The bull-headed figure moos uncertainly, and replies, "Narg find plantay. Him kill plantay with axe. Then cut off shin." Scratching at the base of one horn, it adds, sounding a bit confused at first, but gaining conviction as it goes along, "Take out wood. Then take wood, give to funny little man for bees knees orange mint. That drink. Make Narg head floaty. Yeah, bees knees orange mint."
It's evident that the minotaur is having a bit of trouble parsing Henrik's advice about plantations.
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
"We're going to kill the plantation, too. It's just harder than you think. Would you like to come with us and we'll show you how? The axe will help."
Rasnak speaks up, clearly agitated, "The ssspirt, one that the dwarf wassss working for... itsss trying to get the branch from Narg now! Itssss bad, bad sssspirit!"
The minotaur looks from Henrik to Rasnak, and finally ventures, "Axe always good for shins. Plantay shin. Lizard shin. Little beardy man shin. Pretty much any shin."
"Let's not test that. You coming?" Henrik tries to lead the minotaur in the direction of the group, signaling to Rasnak to wait with his objections.
The minotaur shrugs, and motions for his two companions to follow as well. The trio doesn't seem hostile, but they stick close together and keep a wary eye on your party. If their experience of life in Enteria's wilderness is at all congruent with your own, that's no more than good sense.
Shortly thereafter, you arrive at the plantation, and the lead minotaur comments, "Uhh. This forest funny looking. All same trees, all in straight lines."
"Yep. That's a plantation. Next thing is killing it. Chopping down the trees is the best way to start."
Narg's brow wrinkles deeply, although its a testament to his bestial features that the furrows are vertical, almost between his ears. "Narg cut trees? Take wood?"
Rasnak basically squeals with panic and hops around, "No, no take the wood! Bad sspppirit, bad! Desssstroy it all!"
"Once it's all cut down, we'll burn you a nice piece of wood. The ash will be a lot lighter."
Narg's frown deepens. "Narg take not burned wood."
"We can talk about it after all the trees are cut down. It's funny, in this language 'ash' means a type of tree. Maybe that's what he wanted."
Narg does not seem to have put it together that Henrik was trying to talk him into sabotaging his little band's errand for the spirit, which probably is a good thing. Seven hundred pounds of angry minotaur is a lot more than any reasonable person wants to deal with, and Narg's buddies don't look any smaller than he. There's no way your day could possibly be improved by an Imperial ton of hostile minotaur.
Instead, the minotaur squares up to a bleak banyan tree, unshoulders his axe, and gives the unearthly plant a good chop that shears nearly a quarter of the way through its trunk. The other bull-men fan out and select trees of their own.
Evrinel says firmly to Rasnak, "Who is the funny little man who gives bees knees orange mint? While I normally don't approve of cutting down trees, it seems like a viable option at the moment, but you seem to know more than I do right now."
In the time it has taken for Evrinel to ask the kobold why he's so upset about Narg's desire to cut down trees and take away the wood, Narg and his comrades have felled three of them. The minotaurs pause for a second to moo back and forth at one another in a language that none of you recognize.
Narg and the other two minotaurs seem to come to some agreement between themselves, and return to work, quickly lopping off the limbs from the newly felled bleak banyans. Despite the lack of plaid flannel shirts, they are doing a credible job as lumberjacks.
But if the minotaurs' intentions were unclear before, it's impossible to mistake them now. It's clear that they're preparing the felled timbers to be hauled away.
"Hey cowboy, I got a question for you and herd before you go off. The guy who asked for the sticks, was he an elf wearing a robe with a high pitched voice. Rapier at his side, voluminous clothing, but no pack or anything - seems to show up without leaving a trail?"
Narg squints at Henrik for a moment, mulling his way through the question. But when he finally answers, he speaks decisively. "Him cloak not loud. Quieter than beardy man."
Rasnak fidgets with obvious worry, crouched and wringing his claws.
Narg returns to work. His axe shears through the bleak banyan's branches without any great difficulty, until the felled tree is denuded of greenery. Placidly, the minotaur hoists the timber—easily a hundred pounds of green wood—onto his shoulder, and his brethren do likewise with their own. If you're going to stop them from wandering off to hand over the strange spirit's requested timbers, you'll have to act now.
If there were a time for this odd little encounter to break into violence, now is that time. But even with Rasnak hissing and squealing about bad spirits, none of you really feels like sticking your neck out to stop the minotaurs from harvesting the wood they came for. Or at least, not beyond the token effort represented by Henrik's attempts to talk circles around Narg. At the end of the day, you signed up for a mercenary contract, and meddling in whatever game the Stranger is playing was NOT part of it.
On the other hand, the minotaur and his brothers brought down those trees with impressive speed, and you have a lot of work ahead of you, if you're going to kill every tree in this orchard. It'd be really, really nice to finish what you came to do, and get the hell back to civilization, and aside from being top-notch lumberjacks, Narg and his kinsmen are the first creatures that haven't tried to kill you since you left Baronet Delavee's manor.
In this light, it's no huge surprise when Mbali asks, "Do you have time to chop down more trees, Narg? We could pay you."
The minotaur pauses at this proposal, and then asks, hopefully, "Orange lady give bees knees orange mint, too?"
Vexandi speaks up, "We have something better to offer, Narg."
Once the bull-headed monster turns his attention to the elf, Vex goes on, "If you and your friends help us chop trees, we'll give you a shiny thing that makes pretty noises. A lute."
"Loot?" Narg asks, sounding hopeful.
"It's a wooden thing with strings that make noises when you pluck them. This lute in particular is shiny. It's made of ebony, and there are diamonds on it. It sparkles," the black-skinned elf replies, sounding like he's doing his very best to drive home how shiny and sparkly is the instrument in question.
Rasnak, figuring the longer they are delayed the better, joins in, "Yesss, yesss! It is sssso ssshiny! Help ussss chop ssssome treesss and you can have the ssshiny!"
It takes a little bit more convincing, but after waxing poetic about the shininess of the lute, and the pretty jangling noises it will make, Vexandi and Rasnak manage to sell Narg on the idea of trading it for lumberjacking work from him and his brothers. For today, at least, you've got three minotaurs working with you.
The day's work goes . . . not quickly. No. But you get more done with Narg and the other two minotaurs, who turn out to be called Gruk and Burr. By the time you're ready to stop for the day, somewhat more than half of the orchard has been either cut down or girdled.
You think there are at least another three days of work ahead of you, but you also suspect that you could save a whole day, if you can talk the bull-men into working for you until every tree has been killed. All three minotaurs seem delighted with the lute, so maybe the offer of additional treasure might sway them, especially if you talk it up a bit.
Of course, there's no sign that the minotaurs have packed any food, so keeping them around may also require you to feed them. Hopefully they like dried apricots.