Days of bright glare off the ice field has obviously affected the party’s vision. The forest they initially saw in the valley below the broken foot of the glacier is actually just grassland. Off down the rolling highland slopes of this sheltered valley, a carpet of pale green scrub-grass welcomes Corun Dum’man, Elroy Wick, Goa Finnbjorn, and Magnus.
If not as good as forest, meadow is much better than ice. The party climbs down from the glacier and follows a gushing stream through the scree into temperate grasslands. They hike several hours, until evening comes. Behind them they see how much altitude they have lost.
A suitable campsite avails itself. Wizard Corun Dum’man is still obsessed with the Arcane wand looted from the Grimlocks. Sparing Elroy Wick for a change, Corun tries casting Fear on Goa’s dog companion Lörydyr. The Rogue’s pet innocently chews at its tail, unaffected.
Pondering over the wand as he lay in his bedroll, Corun is suddenly struck with the brilliance of insight (with a Natural 20 rolled for Spellcraft for a total check of 32) and figures out that the wand contains the spell Lesser Orb of Sound. The party has to shush Corun’s jubilant shouts of triumph.
Watches begin after the Wizard finally shuts up about his discovery and drifts off to sleep. On second watch, Magnus makes a Listen check. He hears something down slope; not close by, but not far enough away to allay concern. The Fighter plants some javelins ready in the rocky soil, should trouble come.
When standing guard after Magnus turns in, Elroy Wick hears nothing but the wind and the crackling fire. The Bard quietly tries out his newfound singing voice (Perform : Sing = 29) and gives his sleeping companions a memorable performance for which they really should pay him 1d6 gold.
Day Eight begins where an uneventful night left off. The group eats a sparse breakfast and continues the trek into the valley, following the cold stream from the now-distant glacier. Though warmer than the ice field and an easier hike, this valley is equally empty in its own way. Goa (Survival = 22) manages to spear a marmot. She delights in the options for how to cook it tonight.
Four hours later, at mid-day, there comes a surprise. The party Spots a rock wall, and a quarter-mile beyond it, a house and small out-building. The place is lifeless; the rock wall borders a grazing pasture that holds no sheep. The dwelling and storage hut are burned-out ruins.
The style and construction of this house are completely foreign to the party; there was nothing like it in North Point. Evidence suggests that this homestead was raided and torched. All that remains are mud-mortared stone walls and dirty cinders where the thatched roof and contents burned. This settlement was home to some sort of humanoids. Finding evidence of habitation so far into this mountain range from North Point is eerie and unexpected.
A Search check uncovers evidence of a struggle and combat here. Corun Dum’man casts Detect Undead, and is relieved to find no trace. Who or what lived here is not still here in any form. A Survival check locates a dozen sets of humanoid tracks, but does not identify what made them or to where they lead.
If there is a house here, there may be a village further south down the valley. Elroy Wick eyes the steep slopes (with a Natural 20 rolled for Spot for a total skill check of 24) but sees no sign of a cave mouth or other shelter. The group continues on their way.
Around 8pm, the party comes upon another pasture wall. There are two houses this time, a half-mile away. As they approach to investigate, the party makes Spot and Listen checks. Magnus and Corun notice something in their peripheral vision, to the right up the western slope of the valley. When they look, they don’t see anything. They keep a sharp watch on the same area for a minute. Nothing moves. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light.
As they reach the structures, the party makes Spot checks. Magnus alone sees a shape moving in the early twilight shadows away on the hillside. He cannot make out any detail of what it is.
There are two houses here, each with an out-building storehouse. As before, everything has been looted or burned, leaving no items of value. There are no bodies. Elroy Wick takes a close look at the house walls. Over time, moss and lichen had grown on the exterior. This growth is blackened up top where the roof burned. The Bard examines the charred area. Based on the re-growth of moss (Survival = 22), Wick estimates that this house was torched no sooner than two weeks ago, but not more than a month ago.
Magnus keeps watch over the pasture and valley slopes while Goa, Corun, and Elroy Search the area in and around the houses, and then Search again. Away from the ruined houses, Goa finds a spot where blood had pooled and then dried into the hard, bare earth. Corun locates tracks where something was dragged off. Raiders came here, looted, burned, and made off with something. The lack of bodies, both humanoid and animal, is noteworthy.
The Fighter calls his friends’ attention. They make Spot checks. Corun sees absolutely nothing. Goa and Elroy see what Magnus sees – a number of shapes are swarming at a spot on the west slope of the valley. The light is too weak for a positive identification, or a trustworthy sense of scale or distance. Whatever it is might be far enough away not to have noticed Magnus and his friends.
It is now half-past nine. Despite the movement on the valley slope, the group will spend the night here. Goa Finnbjorn does a Search of the larger of the two houses. Below the main floor she finds a root cellar. There is nothing left of value down there, but it is a good place to store their gear while they camp on the main floor.
The ruins make an odd camp site. Bright firelight reflects off the barren walls of what was someone’s home, but is now a blackened shell open to the sky. Wick ponders who lived here, and what happened to them.
The group wishes they could have come across some hidden provisions, but this place was thoroughly sacked. They fashion an evening meal of trail rations and spit-roasted marmot, then settle down to sleep. Corun climbs up to a comfortable perch on one of the house’s thick walls. From here he will take first watch. As the light seeps out of the valley, the Wizard sees no movement on the slopes. The wind hisses quietly in the grasses beyond the out-buildings.
An hour into his watch, Corun suddenly hears a noise very close by. Something made a sound outside the far wall of this ruined house. The Wizard carefully, quietly steps his way along the top of the wall to that side. To his horror, he sees a mysterious humanoid figure, hooded in a dark cloak, stealing up to the gaping front doorway of the house ! A short sword glints in the stranger’s belt; a long bow curves in his hand.
Corun Dum’man hollers in surprise, and casts Light of Mercuria on himself. He radiates a golden glow, for a moment the vision of a protecting angel. Elroy Wick (with a Natural 20 rolled for Listen for a total skill check of 24) awakes with a start at Corun’s shout. The Bard realizes there is danger and quickly wakes Magnus and Goa. The Rogue was happily snuggled with Lörydyr. The Fighter is angry to be woken up for combat, yet again.
The cloaked figure leaps back and fires an arrow into Corun. Goa snatches up her sling, Tumbles away from her bedroll to the gaping house doorway, and flings a bullet that misses. Magnus gathers up his javelins – he’ll kill whatever is outside and get back to the dream he was having.
The Wizard has a clear line on the shadowy assassin. He fires a ray from his Light of Mercuria spell; it misses. Immediately he fires his second one, ending the enchantment and darkening the fight. The ray hits for minimal damage.
Elroy Wick plans to be an active combatant. Poetics flying (Perform : Oratory = 24) the Bard draws his dagger and rushes to a safe spot on the inside of the doorway, Inspiring Courage all the while. Above him, Corun is hit again when the cloaked interloper draws back and looses another powerful arrow.
Goa slings, hitting this time though the lack of light makes her aim a best-guess. Magnus rushes outside, sighting their assailant for the first time and swiftly hurling a javelin into its shrouded face. The hooded assassin stumbles back, howling in pain.
The Wizard knows he is still a target. He casts Light on a stone in the wall just beside the doorway, and drops down into the house. Elroy Wick, eager to write himself some glory, grips his dagger tight and slips past Goa out of the house.
The attacker tosses aside his bow, drawing a sleek steel short sword and stabbing Magnus. From the shadows a second hooded, cloaked stranger dashes out to flank Magnus and thrusts the Fighter a moderate wound with a short sword. Goa draws her short sword and hacks away, catching only air.
Magnus has his Heavy Pick out and swinging before his javelins have hit the ground. The first assailant is struck and killed; the second attacker badly wounded on the Fighter’s swift Cleave. Corun casts Mage Armor on himself, getting ready to join the scrum. Elroy Wick flips around his dagger and throws it at the remaining stranger – he misses, and his blade tumbles somewhere into the darkness.
The second stranger retreats to darkness when Magnus and Wick fall back to defend the doorway with Goa. Magnus, injured, does not pursue the fleeing assassin.
The battle over, the Rogue helps the Fighter back into the camp to heal. Elroy Wick wants his dagger back. Looking into the darkness (Spot = 10) between their camp house and the other burned-out structure, Wick casts Light on Lörydyr to get a better view of the ground. He sees his dagger (Search = 23).
Unfortunately, the second assassin sees the Bard. Wick is ambushed with a deadly arrow that cuts his Hit Points in half. When Elroy takes another look (Spot = 22), he realizes the assassin had only fled to covering darkness several yards away.
The others hear Elroy’s shout. There is a window cut into the wall on that side; Goa jumps onto the open sill. She slings a hit against the stealthy sniper, but the assailant returns the favour with an arrow that hits her squarely. Corun readiest his crossbow and takes cover beside Goa’s window.
Magnus, still wounded, hurries back out to where his javelins lay scattered, picks one up and hurls the weapon to the assassin’s swift death.
There does not appear to be any more attackers waiting in the shadows. Magnus and Elroy pull back the hoods on their dead assailants. Orcs. On their arms, the group finds the same tattooed symbol, a black fist. Elroy Wick (Knowledge : Local = 24) recognizes this as the mark of an Orc clan known simply as “The Fist”. There are probably more of these Orcs in the area.
The dead are looted. The Orcs wore leather armor, carried +4 Strength composite bows and Masterwork short swords, and two potions each. One potion of Aid remains; the other had been consumed. There are two Potions of Light Healing. One Orc carried a Masterwork dagger, the other a regular dagger. All their weapons are steel. They also carried two gems each.
Goa and Wick agree to a weapons exchange. Goa takes the Orc’s Masterwork dagger; to her, it wields as a short sword. She gives her dagger to Wick, who names it “Goa’s Fury” in her honor. Elroy recovers his thrown dagger, to be known as “Family Heirloom”; and takes the second Orc dagger under the name of “Orcs’ Loss”. He now has three daggers for use as throwing weapons. As his main, Wick takes the remaining Masterwork short sword, naming it “Homestead Avenger”.
The best on hand at Healing, Goa attempts to safely remove the barbed arrows sticking out of her companions. Her efforts are clumsy, even with Elroy’s Immediate Assistance spells. Magnus, Wick, and Corun each take extra damage as the Rogue removes the arrows with no delicate a hand.
Two Orcs are dead. More may lurk in the shadows. Wick wonders if these Orc raiders may have carried off prisoners from these houses.
(end of the session)
[Magnus achieves Level 4]