By late afternoon, towns people have begun to filter back to Oldhome. You are just waking up when the Inn’s owner, a short, slight man with a beaming smile seems absolutely thrilled that you’ve taken up residence at his Inn. He looks appalled when he realizes such heroes have been drinking his awful unfinished cider, and it’s only a moment later he comes wheeling in a fresh keg of proper quality. Grey is not about, but Stern reassures you he’s off on some matter of import and will join you all soon enough.
A night of drink and celebration begins, even as various attendants of state and various leaders of Shen Ling’s defense force find their way to town to meet with the Lord and dispense intelligence. Shen Ling, it turns out, does not have anything like a standing army. It’s heroes are comprised of militias which meet to train from time to time, bands of hunters who come from the same village, and a few formal posse’s that patrol the lands boundaries, and they are the closest thing Shen Ling has to a standing defense force. It is the very people of Shen Ling who rose up to do the fighting, no professional army, and it appears fighting is something they all know a little bit about.
All in all, Shen Ling’s government is strong in custom and ceremony, but lose and informal in its structure, more of an alliance of noble houses and independent settlements, all loosely unified under the Lord. It’s defenders are even less formal, each wearing the tokens that mark their village or the colors and Icons of their house. This diverse and segmented group have come together and successfully fought a guerrilla campaign to defend their homeland, as it has always been in Shen Ling when trouble came knocking, and they are a colorful bunch. Some of these bands are grim and shaken, others put on a noble air, not haughty, but acting as if they represent some far larger order than they do, and still others are rowdy and down-home, reminding you of the folk from Homestead.
They realize what you all have done, and it sets you apart. They fought this war, but only Caris and her band of mysterious heroes were able to finish it. They know, to varying degrees, and obscured by rumor, but none the less, they know you all stood up to the night walker where most of them have only spent the last weeks running from it. They know you freed the Unicorn, where they could not. These are nobles with some basic training in spell or blade, and citizen militia fighters, but you are mighty heroes among them, and you realize, amidst the low bows, nods of approval, and commemorations of praise cast your way, there is a separation, that natural separation between common folk and those of renown and destiny. All go out of their way to offer up thanks when they realize who you are, but they are coy, overly respectful, nervous in your presence. It is subtle, but more and more obvious as more arrive in the small town. You’ve seated yourselves at a huge table built around an indoor fire pit, though you have many visitors, none will sit with you. Finally, Loanbear, who has finished half the cider himself you think, makes a move. You realize you have never seen him in anything other than a state of fierce battle, woeful worry, or subdued awe…but now, as the sun sets, he is in rare form, or at least a form rare to you. He wonders why so many will come to your table yet none will stay very long or sit with your group. Finally he stands and shouts to the room, in a bellicose but playfully drunken tone,
“Enough Shen Ling people! No more greetings and praise to us if you will not drink with us! We did not come all this way not to make some friends! This is a big table we have here, you would do us the greatest thanks by keeping all these seats full and sharing drink with us!”
With that, the old priest and the grounds keeper from earlier take a seat at your table, and for the rest of the night, the ice is continually broken in all situations by Loanbear, with Stern and Hroth as his accomplices.
At some point there is a roaring applause that spreads through the room. Three figures stand at the door, the Lord of Shen Ling is dashing in laquered red plate armor and a Emerald green cloak. To his right, Oldbow, dressed in a regal outfit of the same green silk and cream colored linens, looking suave and dignified, his beard freshly trimmed. To his left, Grey stands, ominous in his broad brimmed hat, which he quickly removes with a fluid motion as he bows to acknowledge the praise of the room. The 3 are surrounded and the room breaks into an old Shen Ling song, one of solemn joy you wish you knew the words to. Then the chorus comes, “Heart is Homeland”, easy enough, and some of you join in. Grey is sort of stuck up there with the Lord and Oldbow, keeping a noble bearing, but to Stern,he looks like a social hostage, probably wanting to duck the lime light but knowing to do so would be unseemly. Finally the song ends and the crowd relents a bit. There is a simple clay up in his hands and just the slightest hint of a wobble, as Grey finally escapes the center of attention and takes an open seat next to Caris. He bids you good evening and there is no hint of his earlier mood apparent in his features.
It is a night of celebration, but for some, also a night morning, and still for others, there is much planning to be done. The 3 small Inn’s and the Saki house of Oldhome are alive with different groups of Shen Lings Defenders, mingling with flushed and ecstatic bar maids, dignified and pious priests, house diplomats and weapon-masters, craftsmen relieved their village still stands and that they can get back to life as usual, and even a few bands of entertainers who rushed this way all day to get a chance to be some of the first to perform for the Lord of Shen Ling after this great victory. There are poets looking for heroes to write of, storytellers looking for gossip and details of the final battles, and professional Heralds looking to learn the names and backgrounds of any who distinguished themselves in the final days of this war. The many gathered are in various states, some finely dressed and bathed, while others look gruff and fresh from hard work or battle. The dignified house scions clasp hands with the rowdy hunters who have been defending there estates. Elven mages trade rumors with Barkeeps. Priests give praise to Ehlonna and the ancestors as they throw back shots with the local carpenters guild and discuss the repairs to be done to the shrine.
All around you, tales are told, old alliances are reaffirmed through the retelling of shared battles, and new one’s cemented over drink. Reconstruction projects are planned, volunteers are gathered for scouting parties to go north, and apparently, it’s very clear that Grimeye’s horde has indeed shattered and made their break for the mountains. The Unicorn is back, and there have never been so many who have actually witnessed her. Everyone appears to feel the greatest danger is passed, and to believe wholeheartedly that no evil can enter Shen Ling’s Valley’s now…not with out attracting the immediate Ire of it’s territorial unicorn spirit. Everyone seems to have a story about spotting her.