Light from the mid-day sun streams through the collapsed roof of the tunnel. The party is at the foot of a natural ramp leading outside. Past this point, the tunnel continues into silent darkness.
Magnus is eager to continue exploring the tunnel. Elroy Wick would not mind, either. For reference, the Fighter and the Bard take a quick look above ground. Here they find forest; this tunnel entrance lies in the glen between two wooded hills. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn is now with them, accompanied by their old friend from North Point: ALINAR (played by B.P.), an Elf Ranger. How Alinar came to find his friends this far from Pine Cove is difficult to explain, so no-one tries.
With a Ranger added to the party and the role of tracker overfilled, Jorgen wishes the adventurers well and excuses himself to gladly get himself the Hells back to his village and away from this danger-prone group.
The party descends into the tunnel. Here Wick tries to make sense of the layout (with a natural 1 rolled for Knowledge : Dungeoneering for a total Skill Check of 5) but isn’t entirely sure if they are underground or not.
The party hears something (Listen DC = 15). Wick, Øskur, and Alinar hear a noise coming from further down the tunnel. They know it is not something small. It sounds like heavy footfalls, and a lot of them. The four adventurers quickly consider options. There is nowhere to Hide down here and to confront an unknown threat is unwise.
The noise grows louder. The party retreats up the dirt ramp and into the woods. About fifty feet from the tunnel entrance, they Hide in the greenery. Goa Finnbjorn and Corun Dum’man were outside, and Hide with their friends.
The sound gets much louder and more distinct. From the cave opening, three Orcs emerge. Then two more. Then four more. Then another five. Then six. Twenty Orcs in total, most armored in Hide, two in Scale Mail, and one in Breastplate. On their backs all carry crossbows, javelins, or halberds. Each has in hand an axe of some sort; battleaxe, great axe, Orc double-axe. This company is a small army in and of itself; clad in more metal than the adventurers have ever seen in their settlement.
The party huddles, hidden, knowing it is certain death should these Orcs discover them. But it is a sunny day and Orcs are sensitive to light; they squint and shield their eyes from the brightness. Alinar and Wick both speak Orckish; they hear the Orcs voicing their displeasure at being above ground during the day. A few Orcs grunt about the clearing to which they are headed, and what they might find there.
The leader in breastplate grumbles for the company to move, and the war band sets off to the west at a meandering pace. This is the direction from which the party came.
The adventurers stay hidden a long time before they feel it safe to break cover and move about. Goa will take the lead in the tunnel, with Alinar beside her. She Moves Silently with ease, scouting the dark tunnel and taking point for the party to follow safely. After twenty minutes of cautious advance, they see a light up ahead. It is another collapsed section, with a natural incline up to similar terrain as last time.
The tunnel continues, and so does the party. Alinar finds Small- and Medium-sized humanoid prints in the dirt tracked into the smooth stone floor from outside. The party makes a Listen check. They hear a rustling sound from down the tunnel, around a bend. Something was moving, and as the party heard the sound, the source heard the party and stopped in its tracks.
There are a tense few seconds as no-one dares breathe. Wick summons his guile and, in Orckish, challenges whoever is down the tunnel to identify itself.
An Orc answers with its name. Wick Senses Motive and knows the Orc is a bit puzzled. The Bard asks who is with him. The Orc replies with a single name. There are two of them, patrolling. The same Orc challenges Wick to identify himself. Wick desperately tries to come up with a ruse that will either send the patrol away or give his side the advantage in combat. He cannot think of anything. The Orcs advance around the bend and, realizing the deception, rush to attack.
If lost for words, Wick is at least quick to react. The Bard moves to one wall, rallying his friends with Inspire Courage and readying his crossbow. No-one noticed but Armst was in the group as well; the Warmage holds his action. Goa Finnbjorn sees an advantageous position at the roof of the tunnel. Boosting off an ally, the Halfling Rogue grabs hold of the rock ceiling and waits. Her ascent went unnoticed.
Alinar swiftly looses an arrow, hitting one of the Orcs. The two on patrol wear Hide armor and carry Orc double-axes. Corun brightens the battle by casting Light of Lunia on himself.
As the Orcs rush to melee range, the Halfling Rogue acts. Dagger ready, she drops from the roof onto one unsuspecting Orc. Her size and pleasant nature hide a ruthlessness; her Sneak Attack severely injures the enemy. The second Orc, in a full charge against the party, provides Goa an attack of opportunity. She lashes out but does not connect with her blade.
Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn dodges the Orc’s charge attack and returns a narrow miss. Magnus adjusts his position slightly and Power Attacks with his Heavy Pick. The damage would have killed a normal person, but this Orc is only wounded.
Wick continues to Inspire Courage, out of melee range. Alinar’s next arrow goes wide. Corun risks a ray from his Light of Lunia into the tight melee scrum, and hits his intended target. Goa makes a terrible go of her attack (with a natural 1 confirmed with another natural 1) and in return suffers an attack of opportunity.
One Orc misses Magnus. The other connects with the Barbarian. Armst lunges with his longspear but is parried by the Orc’s double-axe. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn gets hurt but doesn’t give any back.
Magnus intentionally puts himself in a risky flanked position between the two Orcs. He strikes one with a normal attack. Elroy Wick fires his crossbow and misses. Alinar did not draw his bow completely and, though he hit with a shaft, did only minimum damage to his target.
Wizard Corun ends his Light of Lunia spell by discharging his second ray; it hits and kills one of the Orcs. The remaining Orc and Armst exchange empty gestures. The Barbarian slips into decent position and connects for massive damage. Fighter Magnus closes the deal, killing the Orc. It was a brilliant effort by the Fighter in the last moments of the fight; Wick decides to compose an ode to his friend’s effort.
The dead are looted. Besides what gear was seen, the Orcs also carried six javelins and some gems. Wick’s assessment (with a natural 20 rolled for Appraise for a total Skill Check of 24) is spot-on. An Onyx (50 gp), a Moonstone (50 gp), and five average gems (10gp each). There were also two Potions. The Orc script translates to suggest that these are healing potions. Magnus drinks one. It tastes like death but he does not die, and it actually does heal some of his injuries.
Øskur takes the other potion to carry for later use. Alinar offers to drag the bodies outside and hide them. He needs to leave. Not long after he goes, Corun Dum’man and Goa Finnbjorn go outside to help him. This leaves only the Fighter, the Bard, the Warmage, and the Barbarian.
The party does an INT check. The Orcs are carrying race-specific double-axes, suggesting there is a forge generating these weapons. Wick thinks on this (Knowledge : Nature = 20) and realizes that of the four races they know to be active in this region -kobolds, goblins, orcs, and the ogre- none are skilled at forging tools or weapons. There must be a fifth race, someone or something that is supplying them with gear. The party keeps the double-axes to take back to the settlement.
The adventurers grow uneasy. It was not a long walk from the clearing to the first tunnel section, so presumably the Orc war band has already reached the dead worgs. It is likely they are now on their way back.
The party hurries through the next tunnel section. When they find another exit, they see that the tunnel dead-ends here. Above ground, they discover that they are only about a hundred yards from the base of a mountain and a sheer rock face. This cliff wall has many cave openings at ground level, most large enough for big creatures to enter.
Armst has a good idea – to hide out in the woods and observe this tunnel exit. When the party sees the Orc war band go past, they will know it is safe to retrace their steps.
Wick wonders aloud why such a large and well-armed company of Orcs was sent, in daylight, to investigate a place where three worgs, a handful of kobolds, and a few goblins were killed. Magnus vehemently denies any importance of the composition or intention of the war band. To his mind it is enough to know that they exist, that they pose a threat, and that the party should hunt and kill more goblins. No sooner has he said so than the Fighter steps in worg dung. Fresh worg dung.
The significance is immediate. There are worgs in this area, they are intelligent creatures, and can track scent with chilling precision. Hiding here or spending any time here is a terribly bad idea all of a sudden.
The party sets its course to the west, hiking into the forest in a looping curve that will keep them out of sight and earshot of the tunnel both above- and below-ground. Their destination is the clearing, where the orcs were headed. Wick is curious to see what they will find there now.
Along the way, the party hears a sound familiar to residents of their settlement – the screech of an Owlbear. It is moderately loud, suggesting it is close; and other sounds indicate it is in combat, possibly with a bear. The Bard thinks it would be a sight worthy of detailing in a story. No one else wants to get anywhere near that fight, for sake of their own safety. Wick will have to use his imagination.
Back at the clearing, the party finds nothing. Literally nothing; the goblin, kobold, and worg corpses are gone and there are no Orcs here. Nature will soon sweep up what little evidence was left.
Daylight is fading. The party pushes westward, settling down after two hours of urgent travel to camp the night in a relatively safe spot.
In the morning, many members of the group feel stronger, more skilled, and more capable. Last night was the first sleep since Level-up. Early this day, they reach Pine Cove.
The village’s mayor is no more excited to see the group than the other day. When shown the Orc double-axes, the mayor turns pale. He instructs the group to return with haste to North Point, and seek the counsel of the town’s Dwarves. They may know who or what could have made the Orcs’ weapons.
The party departs immediately. Elroy Wick senses his fellows’ concern at the situation, and livens their travel with amusing apocryphal tales (with a natural 20 rolled for Perform : Oratory for a total Skill Check of 32) of noteworthy village idiots.
Coming home to North Point, the group seeks out the few local Dwarves. One master smith, BJØRN (NPC), agrees to assess the double-axes. As he examines the forging, composition, and detail of the weapons, Wick tells him the story (Perform : Oratory = 25) of how they came to possess them.
BjØrn is amazed by these weapons. He points out various places on the blade and the shaft. These double-axes are unmistakably the work of a Huge-sized creature – a giant, and very likely a Cloud Giant based on what he sees of the forging and the style of craft. These weapons are of Masterwork quality, too – far better than the majority of the settlement’s arms. The Dwarf smith insists that he accompany the party to show Samuel and Rolofson this find.
At the main hall, it does not take the group long to be seen by Samuel and Rolofson. Explaining their experiences at Pine Cove, and with BjØrn’s expert opinion on these double-axes, the party convinces the leaders that a serious problem exists.
The chief and the governor are both equally troubled. They ask the party to remain in North Point until further notice. Something is obviously supplying the draconic races and Orcs with weapons, and that Something may well be a Cloud Giant. Why and to what end is anyone’s guess. This Cloud Giant may even be involved in the disappearance of the warriors’ expedition to the ice blockage.
(end of the session)