As they party approached the Willow Men’s tollbooth, Molly and a group of the Iron Guard broke off from the group to scout the woods ahead. The rest of the party, plus Tabitha and two Iron Guard, continued on to the tollbooth. Two women and a lady dwarf sat around a table. Behind them, a giant redwood blocked the road. The path continued through a tunnel bore into the massive trunk, and deer antlers and intricate carvings adorned the tree’s ancient bark. Two Willow Men, armed with crossbows, stood to either side of the tree, while a hulking figure with a double handed battle axe blocked the way into the tree. From the redwood’s branches, a Halfling trained his crossbow down on the party. The Halfling extolled the virtues of the Willow Men band held for the common man, and Frank, bonding over his farming background, managed to talk his way into free passage past the toll. The rest of the party, however, needed more convincing. Raena challenged Oya, the lady dwarf, to the game of dice they were playing: gambling a conjured block of chocolate against free passage for the rest of the party. After winning best four out of nine, Raena earned passage for the party.
Continuing down the path, the party made it to the opening of the mine. Six Willow Men guarded the entrance to the mine, and as the party discussed the best way to sneak up on them, a sentry noted their presence. Running up the hill after them, he alerted the other Willow Men. Frank cast entangle on the group, ensnaring three of them. With the three entangled, the party made short work of the Willow Men. Walker shot two through the eye. Raena incinerated another with fire. Daerik stabbed one in the stomach. Soon, only a severely intoxicated man and a half-orc remained, both entangled in the vines. Frank stared into the eyes of the entangled half-orc and shared a moment – one that connected him to his orcish heritage, one that awoke deep memories from his childhood, and one that came to an abrupt halt as Daerik sprinted down the hill and lobbed off the half-orc’s head. A distraught Frank deducted five friendship points from Daerik as Fergus began to interrogate the remaining Willow Man. Through his slurred speech, the party gained a bit more information on Ronny, Billy, and the twenty or so Willow Men up to mysterious activity in the mine. Satisfied with his interrogation, Fergus knocked him unconscious.
They emptied the Willow Men’s inventories and donned their willow-branch capes before entering the mine. After a short walk into the darkness of the mine, they encountered a deep pit into the earth, with faint torchlight flickering from the bottom.