Birchburn the Innkeeper
While a portion of the party pulled the Butcher’s army away from the Sacred Grove, the remaining members returned to the druids to retrieve Akemi. Explaining to Nako and Solli the situation, they took the Princess and returned to the inn to repair their wagon.
Tzzird was surprised upon entering the inn to find that it was owned by her old mentor, Birchburn. Birchburn welcomed the party in and set one of his workers to fixing their wagon, while informing the party of the goings on. The High Priest had managed to drive the Shogun off of Higayashima, but now the Shogun was beginning to collect his vassals and form an army large enough for total conquest of Zhangdao, in the missing Prince Yuudai’s name.
As Birchburn and Tzzird discussed their mutual acquaintance, a few of the Butcher’s soldiers entered the inn, attempting to make trouble with the party. Fortunately, quick thinking and quicker spellcraft from Shiro was able to send them packing.
Before the party left, Birchburn offered a number of small gifts to them: a lantern which shed light only for the person holding it, a bottle of sake that would leave only the person who pours it completely unaffected, and reeds which befriend animals.
Upon leaving the inn to travel to the meeting point, the party realized they were being followed by the same thugs from before. While the soldiers were defeated, they party was slowed down, and on the horizon were ominous warhorns; the Butcher’s outriders.
Flames over the Bridge
Beginning to pick up speed as they moved down towards a chasm which marked the edge of the forest, the party was surrounded by the Butcher’s outriders. While Trogga held the wagon steady, spurring the ox who pulled it to move faster, Shiro and Ivellios set part of the forest alight to dissuade pursuit. WithFini and Tzzird riding alongside the wagon, the group approached a long bridge over the deep chasm.
As they reached the midpoint, Ivellios lit the bridge on fire, but some of the last parting shots from the outriders knocked Tzzird and Shiro to unconsciousness. Trogga ensured that Tzzird’s horse keep her conscious, while Fini leapt back into the wagon to help the others.
The bridge disintegrating under them, the wagon raced for the edge, tottering on the precipice. Barrels and boxes spilled out of the wagon into the rapids below, while Akemi and the unconscious Shiro began to slip out. With Fini helping Akemi out, Ivellios was able to grab Shiro and hold him inside the wagon until the panicked ox pulled it back to safety.
The two halves of the party met back up, with Huijin seeing the burning forest from across the bridge. Also visible was the Butcher, infuriated by his prey slipping away. Wheeling, the army began to make the long march to the next suitable crossing.
As they made their way towards the promise of safety at Strawhat’s monastery, the Temple of the Clear Stone, Huijin was forced to confront the pull between her duty to find the Sphere and protect the Princess, and her loyalty to her circle. For now, she continues to travel with the party.