Session 9: Stiff-necked People

They woke up. The difficulties of the day before felt almost like a dream, but the evidence of their wounds assured them this was not the case. There was a brief repose in the camp, and some magical healing (especially for Jacopo and Gruff) before it was decided to tarry on. The camp was disassembled, the horses were mounted, and our would-be Pillarmen began their journey back to Argatha on horseback, wagon in tow.

Ever-worried about the condition of her spell book, Lena summoned Raphael to herself to discern its location. When the bird arrived in her presence, he revealed to her that after the party's defeat, he stashed the arcana in a tall tree hollow within the forest until further notice. When instructed to do so, Raphael went to retrieve it, but the book was dropped to the ground when he was summoned. The group allowed Raphael to lead them back, but the path turned further North than they had all expected--the forest had shifted southward yet again, and when they saw the town, the magical growth was upon its doorstep.

Raphael singled in on Lena's book, which had been dropped in a field. The spells were recovered. Well, most of them. A cursory inspection of the book revealed that it had seen better days--talon-holes in the leather-cover, sticks and leaves interwoven between the pages, a broken spine, and most threatening of all: a small worm-like creature that had made an appetizer of one of Lena's unidentified spells. Nothing could be done about this now; they traveled on.

Sklooh and Lena went into town and soon found that The Lazy Horse (which had become the Pillarmen's unofficial base of operations) was closed down and dark within. Egg-spiker and Igan brought up the rear, and once it was clear that the town around the east gate was abandoned, Eggsy called out for attention. It worked because soon two men, Busoni and Enkil, were coming to investigate what they assumed was the sound of Eggsy. After encountering Lena and Sklooh, grouping up the party, and getting past the original shock of the adventurer's survival, they explained the situation: following the capture and presumed death of Gruff and Jacopo, and after a group had been gathered for Exodus, the town decided to host an impromptu meeting this morning to discuss the fate of the town.

Our Pillarmen approached the staging area in the center of town where all people gawked and gasped. Igan took center stage, booting off a demagogue in the process, and he was joined by Gruff and Jacopo who then comforted their grieving wives. What began was a series of rousing speeches intermittently interrupted by hecklers for the concern of the town. Many rationales were discussed: the town couldn't uproot themselves, it was their home for generations, they could stay and fight, they could never survive in the wilderness, going east would take them into the realms of monsters and criminals, Varda isn't a threat to the normal people of Argatha, the outlaws should be sacrificed for the greater good, etc. Also rebutted: the Varda does not forgive, they cannot be reasoned with or defended against, you cannot replace your lives, the forest is encroaching, etc. (all accentuated with various magical feats and the intimidating presence of Sklooh).

In the end, the heroes decided to leave and let the townspeople decide what was best. Once Gruff and Jacopo, Kahymen, Enkil, and Busoni expressed their intention of following the party as honorary Pillarmen along with their families, an interest was sparked in the town and almost three-dozen converts were won over. Igan announced his intention to leave soon from the south gates, and all followers were instructed to gather what belongings they needed and meet them there. Once two hours had passed, a snag was met as about a dozen young men had apparently raided Grit's stables and stole his horses. Igan gritted his teeth at the delay but ultimately convinced the thieves to return the equines. With that, they were off.

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The travel began and the Pillarmen made proper introductions with all the men and families in their company. Sklooh brought up the rear to watch for enemies, Lena entertained the children (who were pulled in by Egg-spiker’s cart) with magic tricks, and Igan established himself as bona fide leader by mingling with the crowd. It wasn't long before all of the anxious travelers were relatively set at ease. The sun set, and camp was made for the night. Sharron, who had been dazed and distracted since the party's arrival in town, prepared dinner from rations and scavenged supplies. It seems the group had only enough food for a few days. Regardless, the camp was filled with merriment due to a once-serious training and sparring session quickly devolved into an all-out play-wrestle and brawling circle. Alliances were formed and broken, gut-punches were had, Rorich the undefeated pinned his metal up against Sklooh and Igan.

The night was laughter-filled. Igan approached Jacopo and gave him an introduction into religion. Sharron and Igan met that night for discussion, and she revealed that the peg-legged man was, in fact, her husband and that the party had made her a widow. There were a few emotional breakthroughs and fowl-ups, and an awkward stumble foreseen by Lena, but eventually all settled down and the adventurers, now numbered in dozens, all fell asleep.