Leaving the Main Hall under orders to remain in North Point, the party has nowhere to be and nothing to do. Most of them go home for a rest. Elroy Wick hits up his usual sources (with a natural 20 rolled for Gather Information for a total Skill Check of 26) to catch the latest word on the street. Later he takes a gig at the town’s main tavern and entertains the crowd (Perform : Oratory = 28) with his and his friends’ adventure east of Pine Cove.
Another quiet night passes in North Point. Sunrise greets fishermen and farmers, and morning yields to sunny afternoon. Wick, Goa Finnbjorn, Magnus, Corun Dum’man and Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn meet in the town square after lunch. They have agreed to loiter near the Main Hall to stay close if and when the Chief or Governor decides to call on their services.
Unexpectedly, a palpable wave of excitement sweeps up from the direction of the water. Daily rituals are disrupted; people turn to look. Word passes at record speed – the second expedition has returned ! The men sent to search for the first expedition of warriors put into port minutes ago, and already news of their findings races ahead of them.
The first expedition’s boat was spotted, wrecked on the shoreline !
All twenty warriors were found dead, slaughtered to the last man !
Dead Orcs lay strewn about the site, sign of a pitched battle !
The ice jam has disappeared – the passage south is open again !
Close behind the gossip come the men themselves, clouded by an entourage of townsfolk pestering with questions. The warriors look tired, pale, worn out. They head directly for the Main Hall, and from all sides townsfolk pour from alleys and side streets to converge and hear news. Goa and her group are a step too late; they merge into the crowd but cannot get close to the warriors to ask their own questions.
The procession enters the Hall, and the building quickly fills up. The closest Magnus and his friends can get is inside the entrance hallway. A hush spreads as the leader of the expedition starts his story from the beginning. His tale includes all the pieces of the story heard as rumours out in the streets. It is a plain but informative telling; Wick would have told it differently but the Bard can forgive a Fighter’s lack of style.
The leader tells what he knows in about ten minutes. The crowd flutters between anxiety and curiosity. Before Rolofson or Chief Samuel have a chance to redirect, a commotion stirs outside the Main Hall. The party turns to look.
If Yorgenson Uberson were present, he would recognize the respected druid ILVA (NPC) immediately. Corun and Uberson’s other friends know of her, but only by name. The crowd parts before the druid, either in deference or in fear. Druid’s reputations frequently precede them.
Ilva’s expression is grim. She sweeps into the Main Hall, ignoring the villagers. By subtle motion or by implied invitation, the party falls in step behind her and make their way to the surprised warriors and Chief and the wary Governor.
The druid has no interest in formality. She gets to the point. The settlement is in grave danger. An army of Orcs builds a camp a few hours’ hike outside the village of Blueberry Hill. With them assemble scores of kobold, goblin, worg, and ogres. The settlement is about to be attacked, and it is decidedly outnumbered. The outer villages must be evacuated before this force strikes. The attack will come in a day, two days at most.
There is no debating the truth of this news; when Ilva makes herself seen in a settlement, it is for a good reason. The Hall erupts with shouting and despair. Rolofson tries to settle the crowd. Samuel’s interrogation is lost in the din. Ilva seems to care for the party’s questions – these she answers. The townsfolk quieting to hear her answers.
The druid followed the twenty Orcs the party had encountered at the tunnel, but she was not the one who killed the worgs. Nor was she the one to lurk near Pine Cove or leave tracks to be followed. She was responsible for killing the Owlbear heard by the party.
Most importantly, Ilva thinks the situation is being manipulated. She is certain that some external agent is stirring up strife between the Orcs and the settlement. The army is massing to strike Blueberry Hill because the Orcs were led to think that humans are on the offensive against them. The capable warriors of the expedition were not slain by a few measly Orcs, but made to look as if they were. Suggestion of subterfuge pales before the real threat of invasion. The audience is in a panic. Samuel quiets them; his wisdom always has a calming effect.
Rolofson speaks his mind. Decisive action is needed. The options are few. The population could flee to the caves or the Dwarves’ mines at Gold Mountain. They could take to sea, abandoning the settlement entirely and sailing back to the home kingdom. Or they can stay, and fight; defend from North Point and hold out against the Orc siege. It is this latter option he decides. Samuel knows better than to debate, and Ilva’s silence counts as assent.
Orders are immediate. Runners are dispatched to notify outlying settlements to evacuate and make for North Point’s safety. Request for assistance goes to the Dwarves at Gold Mountain. Townsfolk know their roles; to stock rations, stock the battlements with arrows and spears and javelins, prepare essential goods if needed for a retreat, and collect supplies from outside the walls.
Røgnvaldurarsøn and his party will take a letter from Rolofson to Jøhan in Pine Cove. It orders the evacuation of all residents and critical supplies that can be carried by boat, falling back to North Point. The group heads straight for the docks and commandeers a boat.
Conversation is understandably anxious on the trip. Putting in to Pine Cove late in the evening, the group disappoints Jøhan once again simply by being there. The mayor is distressed by the letter, but sets to work. He requests the party take watch on the walls, to free more hands to aid in the evacuation. As the sun sinks into the west, the danger grows.
The five adventurers take their place on watch. Pine Cove is guarded on three sides by a twelve-foot berm of earth with a low palisade wall on the top. The berm is a vertical wall on the outside and slopes into the village on the inside. Pine Cove’s west aspect is the inlet and open water beyond.
Late afternoon and magic-hour. Twilight approaches. Goa Finnbjorn Spots something moving at the treeline, 500 yards away. She tries to hear it (with a natural 20 rolled for Listen for a total Skill Check of 30) but the distance is too great. She, Magnus, Wick, and Øskur climb down off the wall and head in that direction. Corun stays behind.
At the area where the Halfling saw something, there are recent tracks from a Small-sized creature. Elroy Wick (with a natural 1 rolled for Survival for a total Skill Check of 5) sees nothing. The group returns to the wall. Wick and Goa climb back up; Magnus and Røgnvaldurarsøn will patrol at ground level, along the defenses’ perimeter.
Spot checks a few minutes later. Magnus and Finnbjorn notice something to the south. The Fighter takes off running in that direction. Spot checks again; Wizard Corun and Rogue Goa see that it is a kobold, sneaking low to the ground. The Halfling yells out her find to Magnus; exposed, the startled kobold flees back to the woods.
Spot and Listen checks. Everyone is now aware of movement in the growing twilight. In the dim light the party sees something moving in the trees due east. Øskur and Magnus climb up the wall and take a place up top.
A good choice – multiple shapes rush from the treeline. Twenty Orcs at first, then thirty or forty more close behind. Some carry crossbows, others axes. Four pairs of Orcs carry what appear to be crudely-made ladders, for scaling Pine Cove’s defenses. As a horde these creatures charge from the shadowy woods. Orc archers fire arrows and bolts, meaningless cover fire from such an inaccurate distance.
Goa hollers into the village for defenders with bows to haul their asses to the wall and help out. She gets results. Militiamen hustle to their places. Boats are leaving with evacuees on the other side of the village. Soon only defenders will remain.
Magnus isn’t interested in the pathetic smattering of arrows that strike the foot of the wall. He plants four javelins in the dirt beside him. Conveniently placed, they will help him kill four Orcs. Elroy Wick casts Inspirational Boost on himself, and then begins a loud and confident Inspire Courage song of war. The Boost spell enhances his song of Courage; his allies get +2 to hit and +2 to damage instead of the usual +1’s.
The Orc rush sweeps closer. Their archers fire a new volley, their shafts more dangerous at close range. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn is hit by one. A village defender’s arrow drops the lead Orc of a ladder team. His partner abandons the ladder and turns to retreat, to be shot down by Goa’s crossbow.
Wick scores a Critical Hit with his crossbow. Corun find an easy target with his. Two more Orcs abandon their ladder and retreat. A lucky Orc bolt strikes Goa, sheltered behind the slats of the wooden palisade fence.
The Orcs reach the wall. One ladder team has theirs erected against the battlement. The Barbarian decides to take a souvenir of this fight. Being close to the top of this ladder, Røgnvaldurarsøn grabs the top rung and barely wins a tug-of-war against the indignant Orc down below. Øskur pulls the ladder up and tosses it behind him.
The Halfling tags an Orc with a bolt. Magnus takes grim pity on the Orc whose ladder was stolen; he offers that Orc the pointy end of a swift javelin and that Orc dies from the gift. Wick, continuing his Inspire Courage, is distracted when shooting and his crossbow almost jams (with a natural 1 confirmed as a Normal Miss with a 21). Corun Dum’man Dazzles an Orc, who stumbles around.
The Orcs place two more ladders against the wall. A team of Orc archers stations itself away from the base of the wall and targets the defenders. Wick is hit. Other Orcs break right and head for the village’s north gate.
Røgnvaldurarsøn has a Barbarian’s eye for aesthetics and knows he needs a pair of ladders to complete a motif; he wins another Strength Check against an Orc and hauls up another ladder. This one he carelessly tosses atop the first. Magnus uproots a javelin and sends it screaming into a random Orc’s very soul (with a natural 20 confirmed with another natural 20), killing the Orc and the Orc’s soul. Wizard Corun barely avoids damaging his crossbow on a misfire (with a natural 1 offset by a natural 20).
More Orcs are Spotted emerging from the treeline to reinforce the first wave. Magnus shouts this news to the defending squads. Corun squints (with a natural 20 rolled for Spot for a total Skill Check of 23) and sees that any retreating Orcs are being killed by advancing Orcs.
Village archers stay on task, wearing down the invaders. Wick is hit again. One Orc makes it to the top of the other ladder; three arrows greet him and he falls to his death. Goa misses badly with her shot. Magnus goes three-for-three on his next javelin throw.
Two Orcs ascend the ladder. Øskur gets an Attack of Opportunity but misses with his Great Axe. The Barbarian is hit by a bolt. The other Orc is felled by defenders’ arrows. Røgnvaldurarsøn gets his chance and delivers a monster of a strike (with a natural 20 confirmed with another natural 20) on the second Orc to the tune of 46 points of damage. Even the Orc’s distant relatives feel that kind of hurt.
The battle is in full frenzy; deities of war have their banquet. Goa lands a solid Critical hit (with a natural 19 confirmed with a natural 20). She sees that Wick is hurting. She gets the Bard’s attention with a friendly punch to the knee, and slaps a potion of healing into his palm. Magnus misses with his last javelin – now it’s time for his Heavy Pick to have a go. Corun fires at and hits an Orc down at ground level. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn connects on an Attack of Opportunity when two more Orcs reach the top of the ladder.
Wick uses a pause in his Inspire Courage war song where a mandolin solo might fit nicely, and drinks the healing potion given him by the Rogue. Corun misses his shot. The two Orcs at the top of the ladder were permitted to keep their ground; they pull light shields and battle axes. Two more are on then climb behind them. The defenses are starting to waver.
The Barbarian kills on an Attack of Opportunity, then misses another. Goa heaves her pack to Magnus, telling her friend to hold her “purse”, and moves in closer to shoot. Magnus slings the Halfling’s bag over his shoulder and Power Attacks the second Orc to death.
Two more Orcs reach the top of the wall. There never seems to be an end to them. One is killed by an Attack of Opportunity as he climbs off the ladder. Still more follow behind him. Magnus recovers a javelin and sends it down the ladder into the skull of an Orc. This Orc falls and knocks down his allies. Øskur can’t get enough ladders, so he steals this one as well, adding it to the pile.
If the growing mass of Orcs at the base of the wall and chopping at the gate was not enough, now from the dark forest a new threat appears. Thirty Orcs, these heavily armed and armored in scale mail, march from the shadows. Behind them lurk larger, ominous shapes that yet bide their time. The Orcs fought until now were a skirmishing force, put forward to tire out the defenders. The heavy infantry approach now, neither the last nor the worst to come.
Corun Dum’man asks aloud if anyone else thinks they’ve had enough of this nonsense, then he turns and hustles down the embankment towards the village. He encourages his friends to follow. A Wizard knows when a fight is lost.
Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn takes another hit. The village defenders look over their shoulders for the signal to retreat. The armored Orcs are headed for the north gate. They are all armed with axes. The large shapes at the edge of blackness are Spotted again. They are coming closer. They are worgs.
The party’s tracker friend, Jorgen, runs halfway up the berm. The order to retreat has been given; the north and south gates are barely holding, and invaders are cresting the walls. The last of the civilian boats have cleared the inlet and rowed into open waters. Enough boats remain for their retreat.
The crush of Orc invaders is upon them. Wick sweeps up Goa and piggybacks her away from the lines. Øskur collects up his three ladders. He struggles to carry them all, but Magnus admires a fool’s errand and helps his friend lug the trophies through the abandoned alleys and past the vacant houses of this dead village.
The north gate bursts open, smashed by axes and brute force. Worgs charge into the town, mere seconds behind the last of the defenders still scrambling for the boats. Men aboard boats pull defenders into the hulls as they reach the docks. All moorings are cut and prows aimed to sea. Oars dip water and muscles strain to churn the brine. The party and all defenders had leapt aboard just in time. They watch anxiously as the distance from the docks grows by agonizing slow yards. The worgs skid to a halt at the water’s edge, denied any feast of abandoned man. The Orcs catch up to the worgs; denied combat or targets for their spears, they turn back to pillage. Torchlight and fire grow from their ransack. The boats clear the inlet and sight of the village is lost.
Darkness and cold replace the flush of battle and surge of adrenaline. The defenders and the party slump into stupor, unable to speak, able to do little more than stare off across the water. Behind them, an orange glow grows as Pine Cove recedes. Ahead, further up the coastline, spotters can mark the distant lanterns of the evacuee flotilla, spread out by wind and tide and strength of oarsmen. Indifferent to all, the stars above glitter and the moon rises.
The next morning, the party’s boat slides into North Point’s harbour. The inlet is a mess of boats, far more than usual for this port. Lacking enough dock, the boats are tied side-by as a patchwork raft of hull and mast. Refugees from Pine Cove and from Agda Falls pick their way across from their boats to the shore.
The group stays together as they climb across to shore and find a place to collect themselves. Familiar faces from other villages are here now, concerned and upset and worried. Houses and shops have their doors open to take in and supply all they can. Equipment and supplies from outside the town and brought from other villages is stacked anywhere there is room.
Word is coming around through channels official and unofficial. Blueberry Hill was over-run and burned down completely last night. Agda Falls received word in time to safely retreat to North Point. No people were lost but the fate of the village is not known. No word at all from Red Fjord. The Dwarves are coming from Gold Mountain to reinforce North Point. Ilva returned from scouting. She reports that only a splinter group from the Orc army hit Pine Cove. The main force drove into Blueberry Hill, and comes here next. Perhaps tonight, certainly the next night.
Goa, Corun, Elroy, Magnus, and Øskur huddle in shocked silence. They have no word on Kulich, Yorgenson Uberson, Gruunt, Armst, or Alinor. They need to find their friends, and find out how they can help.
(end of the session)
[Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn achieves Level 2]