The Stone Giant named Malachite has left the party’s camp. Druid Yorgenson Uberson immediately attends wounded canine Lörydyr, saving the mount’s life. Then Uberson and Cleric Kulich carefully remove barbed arrows wounding many of their friends.
Clearing their camp of the bodies, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn and his friends loot the corpses of valuables. The party takes 300 gold and 61 silver pieces, 12 assorted gems of approximately 50 gp value each, four Potions of Cure Light Wounds, and six Orckish Draughts.
There were six suits of masterwork chainmail and six masterwork chain shirts. Interest in these is mild. Elroy Wick would like the party to carry this haul of armor with them to civilization to sell, but Magnus is exceedingly concerned about weight capacity and will hear none of it. Yorgenson Uberson heaves all of it into the swift-flowing river to keep it from enemy hands.
There were six masterwork wooden shields, one of which Uberson keeps; 18 javelins, of which Corun Dum’man takes two; 12 daggers, three taken by Wick (“Notorious M.A.L.A.C.H.I.T.E”, “Archer Hater”, “Orc Lullaby”); three masterwork long swords, one taken by Druid Uberson; three masterwork battleaxes and six masterwork short swords; and six Composite Strength Short Bows, one taken by Magnus. All the rest winds up in the river, again Uberson’s answer to Magnus’s disdain for the gear.
The Orcs wore clan patches. Elroy Wick (with a Natural 20 rolled for Knowledge : Local for a total skill check of 25) knows that the symbol of a bloodied dagger is that of a gang affiliated with “The Fist”.
The fight against Orcs came at the end of second watch. Druidbarian Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn will take the last watch of the night. With his fearsome Owlbear-skull helm and his trusted ladder companion “Laddie”, Øskur will preside over a quiet stretch of darkness giving way to peaceful dawn.
The morning is grey and bleak. Low clouds shroud the valley. As the party starts their hike south, a misty, unpleasant rain settles upon them, making the morning a cold and miserable experience. Foraging by Yorgenson Uberson (Survival = 27), Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn (Survival = 31) and Elroy Wick (with a Natural 20 rolled for Survival for a total skill check of 24) yields enough for the entire group to eat.
The group is quiet today. The rain dampens their spirits. Three more clusters of ruined houses come and go. Where before there had been only grassland and shrub-brush, now there are groves of spindly fir trees. At one such copse of trees, the party stops in late evening and establishes a sheltered camp site. The shelter permits them to build a fire and dry their heavy winter clothes. The Druidbarian gives three Cure Minor Wounds heals to mildly injured party members.
Some time in the night, the rain stops and the wind sweeps away the clouds. The party is roused by the last watchman to a clear and warmer day. Free of the low clouds, the valley proves to be widening out. The snow-capped mountains have shrunk to tree-bearing foothills, veering widely off to the east and to the west. Ahead, beyond the hills, is open sky.
The party trades their cold-weather gear for their lighter traveler’s outfits, sure that the highland chills are a memory. The mood is better today. Following the river south, Armst and friends lose sight of the dwindling mountains by early afternoon. Distant behind them is the mountain range shadowing the northern horizon. Visible ahead are dense conifers; true wilderness forest at last.
Very soon the party catches sight of something – a walled town, on the other side of the river and perhaps a quarter-mile from the edge of the forest. It looks to be a human settlement, perhaps the size of Pine Cove. The party quickens their pace to reach it.
The haste is short-lived. Coming closer, Elroy, Øskur, Yorgenson, Armst, and Magnus feel their excitement fade. The settlement has been raided and destroyed. Its buildings are blackened frames, torched by fire and worn by weather. The gates are shattered, the paths weedy and disused. A road leads away from the settlement, ending at the river’s edge. The stone footings of a bridge remain, but the wood beams they support were burned away. The road resumes on the party’s side of the river, winding away to the west.
There are Orc tracks where the party stands; many lead south into the dense forest, other more recent tracks lead north. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn (Survival = 32) makes some sense of what he sees, conferring with silent Laddie as he reasons out where and when different Orc bands passed these parts.
The party wants to investigate the town, but the river is too swift to ford and far too deathly cold to swim. Magnus impatiently stalks off into the forest, axe in hand. His friends follow, and over the next two hours they select and fall four trees, thin trunks each about 20-25 feet tall. Limbing the branches, the group hauls these bare poles back to the bridge footings and lays the four trunks across to span the river. With sufficient care everyone easily passes the makeshift bridge.
The town is silent and spooky. Within its ruined palisade walls lean skeletons of a dozen houses, gutted by fire. No bodies or valuables show through the muck within. The collapsed great hall in the center of town offers a grim discovery – decomposed human remains under a rough blanket of cold ashes and charred wooden beams. Many people found their end here, locked inside and consumed by the fire that brought down the hall. The village is a graveyard.
The Warmage and Bard Search high and low, looking for hidden caches of food or supplies and finding none. Outside the walls, there is a road to the east, away from the river. A junction cuts south, into a deforested swath of wilderness.
One structure was damaged less than the rest. It will serve as shelter and hideout. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn takes only what gear he needs and goes out to hunt (Survival = 28). He fells no wild creatures but sets some promising traps. The group wants to rest longer than usual. They divide the evening, night, and morning between five watches. Those who sleep do so with unsettled dreams; those on watch cannot help but wonder about North Point.
Armst is on the fourth watch, an hour after dawn. He becomes aware of a sound (Listen = 21) – hoof beats. Riders approach on the road coming from the east. The Warmage quickly wakes the party. The Druidbarian helps Fighter Magnus into his armor.
Peeking out the ragged window holes of their shelter, Uberson (Spot = 26) and Armst (Spot = 21) spy eight riders headed straight for the town’s east gate. The riders appear to be human, lightly armored and carrying spears, mounted on leather-barded horses. Two riders bear a standard of red and black.
The mounted force draws closer, slowing from a gallop to a determined trot. Elroy Wick sneaks a look from his hiding place (with a Natural 20 rolled for Spot for a total skill check of 24) and sees the riders’ flag – black chevrons on a red field. The Bard recognizes this (Knowledge : Local = 17) as the house colors of a minor family in their home kingdom of KOHN. These should be friendly warriors. The party waits for the riders to draw closer.
FREDERICK (NPC), commander of the scouting company, suspected Orcs were picking over the remains of this dead town when he saw movement within the walls. When figures emerge from a house just inside the east gate, the scout captain and his men bring spears and wooden shields to bear with blinding speed. Their alarm is temporary. These are obviously not enemies; just weathered, tanned and sunburned, lean and hungry, heavily-encumbered travelers from points unknown. Frederick had not expect to find seven Humans, a Dwarf, and a Halfling and her riding-dog.
One human, obviously a Bard, offers a well-spoken greeting (Diplomacy = 26). Behind him is an armored Fighter, eyes surly, hand hovering near his Heavy Pick; a lanky, odd-looking spellcaster; a brawny man with an earthy look about him, a Druid no doubt; and some kind of barbarian, helmed with a magic creature’s skull and kitted out with a greatsword and a crude wooden ladder. In behind this party, barely even there, are a Cleric, a Dwarf Fighter, a Wizard, and a Halfling Rogue.
Elroy Wick is relieved to establish a friendly rapport with the scout captain and his cavalry. The riders stand down from alert. With a nod from their captain, two of the mounted warriors trot on into the village to secure the perimeter while the two groups negotiate a peace.
The Bard does his best to explain who he is, introduce his friends, and state their origin, adventure so far, and purpose. The scout captain is capable and well-seasoned. While maintaining awareness of his surroundings, Frederick makes a tactical assessment of these strangers. The party’s tale seems pretty incredible. Wick does not mind answering questions as skeptical Frederick tests their story.
Satisfied, the pragmatic scout captain suggests that Wick’s party come with him. The wilds are not safe, nor is this place. Along the way Frederick will explain what the travelers evidently do not know. Yorgenson Uberson and his friends gather their gear and follow the scouting party away from the dead town, back across their makeshift bridge and to the west.
Frederick is not a storyteller, so he begins the tale where it suits him. He knows of the settlement of North Point, having heard of it before the ice jam severed contact with the north.
When the ice jam came, it formed a massive frozen causeway across the strait. Seeing an opportunity for easy conquest, Kohn’s shrewd king raised an army from his subjects and those of his lords, and marched a fearsome force across the strait to attack the unsuspecting neighbouring kingdom of GIBBON.
At first the invasion was swift and decisive; Kohn took Gibbon by surprise and thrust deep into Gibbonese territory. But at the very gates of their capital city, the scattered forces of Gibbon rallied and held ground, breaking at last the momentum which pulled Frederick’s kingdom so close to victory.
What should have been an easy victory slowed to stalemate. Gibbon gathered its reserves and its patriotic vigor. Kohn lacked the resources and strategy to force a decisive battle. Gibbon pushed back, and for two years the struggle wore on…until finally, Kohn withdrew in a loss. Gibbon fortified its line at the ice bridge, and the Kohn’s ruler saw his once-mighty army slink back – depleted by war, underpaid and overtaxed, enraged at their sovereign’s folly.
Dissent and unrest spread like wildfire. Confidence in the royal family vanished. Revolution was at hand. The king was assassinated; the state dissolved, civil war broke out. Faction after faction laid claim to the throne. Eight temporary rulers rose and fell. Conflict and strife ravage the old kingdom.
Now, five years on, constant warfare divides the land by family factions; their armies and city-states squabble over what little remains of civilization. Frederick’s clan controls territory along the old northern border and some of the coastline far south of North Point.
Frederick and his men scout this region against Orc incursion. Coincident with the civil war and fall of the kingdom came the raids from four major armies of Orcs – “The Fist” being but one. The surprisingly well-equipped Orcs desired only to capitalize on the fall of the human kingdom. The Orcs came for destruction, chaos, plunder, and food.
These were the invaders who attacked and destroyed the walled riverside town a month ago. “The Fist” and other Orcs regularly violate these forests and despoil settlements further south. As they can, Frederick and his men try to hold the line in the north, against this constant flow of external enemies. It is an unwelcome distraction from faction warfare along hotly contested borders in the old kingdom’s heartlands.
Frederick breaks this grim news over the hour-and-a-half it takes to reach his hidden base camp. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn and his friends are stunned. They departed North Point in its time of crisis, risked their lives to cross the mountains, trekked harsh conditions and deadly glaciers, faced Grimlocks and Orc raiders and dwindling supplies – all this to reach Kohn and send its mighty army back home. Instead, they find their home kingdom is a fading memory. They left strife and discord, only to find worse.
The scout captain leads the somber party into his hidden forest base. Careful planning and camouflage have established a site protected from discovery. Men of all ages and experience attend their scouting mounts, fletch arrows and sharpen weapons, or keep watch from the trees.
Frederick does not intend to delay Yorgenson’s party on their journey. Within the hour, six scout riders will be setting out for the fortified city of TANNIS to collect supplies needed here. It is a three-day ride and sympathetic Frederick will lend the party mounts to speed their way. From there, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn and his associates are free to go about their business. The party is welcome to return to this hidden base and help slay wandering Orcs, if they find themselves without a purpose. The party takes a quick, hot meal with their new scout escorts, then mounts up and sets on their way.
Threading carefully through unbroken forest, they come to a road – really just a wide trail. Under the dense forest canopy they wind and dip for most of the day. Two scouts ride out ahead at all times, returning to swap places with their fellows.
An hour from stopping to make camp, these forward scouts return ahead of schedule. They have spotted danger. A mile ahead, roughly twenty Orcs are foraging in the underbrush. Standing policy is to engage and destroy Orcs when possible. The scouts believe that they and Magnus’s party can easily dispatch this enemy force. The Fighter and his fellows agree.
The group rides back to where the Orcs were spotted. The interlopers have moved on. One scout catches sign of their trail, leading off the main trail on an animal path. Following this track to the west, the group suddenly sees the Orcs, beating around in the bushes ahead, looking to scare up food. The scouts and Wick’s party have not been noticed.
Fast on the attack, the scouts waste no time. In two teams of three, Frederick’s mounted warriors draw weapons and spur their mounts into the thin forest ahead. Charging along the surprised Orcs’ flanks, the riders hack and slash along the enemy perimeter as they pass.
Armst casts Hail of Stone into the Orcs’ midst. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn bestows Ram’s Might upon himself. His hands take on a horned aspect and he gains +2 to Strength for the next few minutes. Magnus urges his mount to carry him closer to the band of Orcs. Elroy Wick rides to a fair-sized tree, well back from the Orcs’ chaotic cluster.
Three Orcs were slain on the scouts’ initial charge. Armst calls down another Hail of Stone. Magnus wings an arrow wide of his mark. The Druidbarian leaves Laddie to defend his mount, and advances on foot, greatsword ready. Yorgenson Uberson beefs up his power with Bull’s Strength, dismounting for melee combat.
Staying mounted, largely for the benefit of elevation to his acoustics, Elroy Wick belts out a memorable song (Perform : Sing = 25) with subtle harmonics of Inspire Courage and Inspirational Boost. Perhaps the scouts have 1d6 gold to donate, in the party’s stead, for this performance.
The Orcs collect their limited wits. A short and a lean Orc both charge horse-mounted Magnus. Two wild-looking Orcs find the Druidbarian unlikable and rush at him. Three Orcs, all varying degrees of Ugly, come at Druid Uberson as a team. All three defenders are hit.
Warmage Armst brings the rocks – Hail of Stone pelts Yorgenson’s foes, killing the moderately-ugly Orc. As if without concern, Magnus drops his bow and strikes the lean Orc with his Heavy Pick. At an expert nudge of his foot, Magnus’s horse kicks the same Orc in the face.
Røgnvaldurarsøn goes into a Rage, slashing one wild Orc. Uberson likes the balance of his new longsword; it cuts neatly into the least-ugly Orc he faces. Sliding off his horse, Wick draws his short sword “Homestead Avenger”. Magnus takes a hit, allows the short Orc to Critically Miss, and punishes him with a Pick strike. In a moment, the Fighter will kill that short Orc and then fatally Cleave the lean Orc.
First, Øskur ducks a wild Orc’s swing and cuts deep with his greatsword. To Armst both Orcs on Druid Yorgenson Uberson are equally ugly; but one is more injured and that is the one the Warmage kills with a paltry Ray of Frost. Another chance for the Druidbarian; Øskur swings all-out and beheads one of his wild-Orc foes.
Neither Uberson nor helpful Wick can land a blow against the penultimate-ugly Orc left on the Druid. Armst tries to help but cannot land a strike. The mounted scouts finished off all the other Orcs, and have dismounted to spear the fallen enemies and ensure none survived.
The Owlbear helm seems to smile; Røgnvaldurarsøn avoids his enemy’s thrust and counters with a fatal swipe of his gleaming bronze greatsword. Yorgenson Uberson misses with his blade, but Wick lands a full-damage hit with his short sword. Armst cannot finish the last Orc for the Bard, but the Druidbarian can. Øskur’s strength soars as he lands a Critical Hit and slays the last foe.
The battle is over. Quick, effective work. The Orcs are stripped of gear and treasure. 380 gold and 44 silver pieces; eight more gems of the usual quality. Daggers, of which Wick takes two – he names these “Orc Scout Killah” and “Luck of the Woods”. The Bard also takes a suit of scale-mail to sell for the party’s benefit in the city. The other suits of scale-mail are left behind, as are the heavy wooden shields and javelins. Magnus takes one of the masterwork battleaxes; Yorgenson takes the other seven, with an eye to profit from their sale.
There are Potions of Cure Light Wounds, and Orckish Draughts. Post-Rage Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn needs healing. He downs one Orckish Draught and makes the Fortitude save to recover health. He drinks a second but cannot stomach it – that one’s healing effect is only temporary.
The scouts don’t linger after combat. They call in the party and ride on. In an hour the group will stop for the night.
(end of the session)