The party continued following the road to Brekton over several days, as gulch gave way to plains and finally thick coniferous woods. Frank continued to discuss his quest to discover his family, dutifully noting Walker’s suggestion that his parentage could have involved a three-fourths and a one-fourth orc pairing. By this point, Frank’s constant prattling about his family has nearly worn Fergus’s last nerve – but before the dwarf could smite the half-orc, a single woman on a horseback galloped up the road to reach them. Tabitha, of the Iron Guard, introduced herself with an exchange of the Iron Guard handshake with Daerik. She led them down a path off the main world to meet up with Lord Brekton.
As they walked down the path, the horses became skittish, and Raena met up with the party on the trail. As she eyed up the motley party before her, an arrow whizzed past, clipping Tabitha’s armor. Suddenly, a band of Willow Men emerged from the woods. A second arrow embedded itself deep into Raena’s thigh, dropping her to the ground in pain. She launched a firebolt back, setting some nearby evergreens ablaze. Frank cast thornwhip on one, wrapping a thorny vine around his neck and dragging him into the clearing. As he pulled him past Molly, she swung her sword and cleaved the Willow Man’s head. Walker sliced a second man across the chest, and Daerik clocked a third in the head with the broadside of his sword, crumpling his body to the ground; from across the clearing, Fergus incinerated his body with holy flame. Molly used his fists to knock the last Willow Man unconscious. Frank attempted to put out the flaming trees, only to have Fergus stymie that attempt (losing Fergus one-half of a friendship point). Daerik smothered the flames with his shield (gaining him one-half of a friendship point).
Tabitha tied the surviving Willow Man to a tree and splashed water in his face to wake him up. The orc, Morc Morcmanson, explained that before he joined the Willow Man to help the little guys, he led the life of a simple farmer. In a round of good cop/bad cop interrogations, Daerik and Frank extracted from Morc the location of Ronny the Bear’s hideout in the mines, and the paths to get there. Frank then chattered away with Morc in broken orcish to learn more about his heritage. Morc explained to Frank that he most likely descended from the Gray Orcs. After the interrogation, the party argued over whether to kill Morc or let him live. During the ensuing debate, Morc snuck off and sprinted away down the path.
Then, Lord Brekton and his retinue of Iron Guard arrived. Ever the consummate politician, Lord Brekton flattered the party, and recruited them to rid his city of Ronny the Bear and his bandits. The Lord brought them back to Brekton, where he provided for them with only the highest-class of lodgings. Bessie feasted on lemon-grass timothy hay and cucumber water in a posh stable, while the rest of the party proceeded to get drunk in a pompous cocktail lounge. Fergus, already several mugs of whiskey in, began to project his racism on others, while Walker drunkenly hit on Lily, the Halfling barmaid (“Say, what’s a Halfling like you doing in a bar like this?”). The party’s slurred revelry offended the sensibilities of the pretentious patrons, all drinking classy martinis of blue snuff on their way through a city-wide juice cleanse. By the end of the night, only the party and Lily remained. Frank awarded all present three friendship points before they created a pillow fort and passed out on the lounge floor for the night.
The next day, the party gathered and made their way down the path toward the mines and Ronny’s bandits. Molly led at the fore while Fergus and Walker, nursing hangovers, fell to the rear. In the distance, they could spy a wooden toll bridge, manned by several of the Willow Men.