Magnus, Kulich, Elroy Wick, Goa Finnbjorn, and Corun Dum’man have left the forested northern boundary of former Kohn lands. Away to the north rise imposing, snow-capped mountains. East and west as far as the eye can see, barren foothills undulate off into a warm summer day. The party needs to stop and think, ponder a few lingering questions, and decide how to proceed with Lieutenant Richard’s mission. Goa supposes it would not kill them to have lunch, either.
While trying to enjoy dry trail rations, Elroy Wick points out that they have fought two different Magical beasts in as many days. He wonders if the Chimera and the Winter Wolves might be the product of a villainous spellcaster’s experiments. Wizard Corun assures him (Knowledge : Arcana = 24) that Magical beasts are common in this region, and have been for centuries. Their innate resistances and unusual properties allow Winter Wolves and Chimeræ, plus a host of other Magical creatures likely to roam here, to adapt more readily to this harsh northern environment.
Magnus thinks it would be wise to find Stone Giants and work with them against the Orcs. Corun’s (Knowledge : Nature = 23) considerable wealth of information includes surprisingly little about Stone Giant societies or their natural habitat. He has no idea how to locate any. If the Wizard comes up short in that field, he can at least cast Identify – the ring Magnus took from a Winter Wolf is a Ring of Improved Jumping.
A party of social equals with no designated leader, Kulich’s group struggles for the better part of an hour to develop a viable mission plan. Elroy Wick is focused on the big picture. He believes there is a major evil at work : a Cloud Giant or a master sorcerer, or both in opposition to each other. Wick argues that the organization of Orc and draconic armies, the ice-bridge, and unfortunate circumstances befallen Kohn, are all related to a power struggle of the highest order. The party needs to work towards exposing this.
Magnus, on the other hand, dismisses the Bard’s ideas as desultory. The Fighter proudly produces the map obtained from Harold at King’s Cross. This, Magnus insists, has all the answers. All the party need do is back-track the Orcs’ invasion route to their origin. For as simple as Magnus makes it sound, the Fighter declines to expand on his plan, or say what the party should do if they happen to find an underground base of a few thousand Orcs somewhere deep in a valley north of here.
Corun Dum’man listens carefully to both sides of the debate. Goa and Kulich remain aloof. In the end, compromise is met. Elroy Wick accepts Magnus’s short-term plan. The group will ride east from here, searching for abandoned encampments, sacked Human settlements, or broad swathes of tracks – anything that would indicate the passage of an Orc army from the multitude of canyons, gorges, or broad valleys that crease the foothills down from the mountains.
For an hour the party scouts east, leaving unexplored the majority of glens that open from the highlands. Many are too narrow, or dead-end a short distance in, or show no signs of transit. Passing one such mundane valley, Goa Finnbjorn (Spot = 28) catches an unusual shape at its far end. The object is stationary, and not a natural formation.
The group detours into the wide, shallow valley. Cautiously, they ride up on the location of Goa’s find. The site is a level area, where one crudely-built wooden cabin remains of many that used to stand. Nothing lives here any more; if once a village of sixteen buildings, years of abandonment and weather have reduced the place to jumbles of sun-bleached grey wood, and weeds. The surviving cabin is barely standing, poorly constructed of split wood and stripped branches, its roof intact but porous. It is big enough to house six people. No trinkets remain from the previous inhabitants.
Corun Dum’man takes his time (Taking 20 on a Search check for a total skill check of 26) and carefully sifts a cold, dead fire pit and surrounding refuse. The Wizard catalogs (with a Natural 20 rolled for Knowledge : Nature for a total skill check of 26) a diverse collection of mammal bones: rabbit, bear, deer – and human. A Heal check by Kulich (Heal = 17) confirms that the Human bones were crudely cut and gnawed upon. So this was not a Human settlement, unless they were cannibals.
Removed from the village site, Magnus finds cairns covering more remains – the bones of Orcs. These were interred, not eaten. The group concludes that there was a primitive tribe of Orcs living here until perhaps five or six years ago. Then they abandoned this site for some reason.
Investigating this settlement took up much of the afternoon. The day has slipped by the party’s notice. Corun suggests the party stay here tonight, and take advantage of the shelter offered by this worn cabin, such as it is. The group secures their horses behind the hut, makes a fire, and settles in. Corun casts Alarm on the doorway. Kulich intends to sleep the night through; others divide up the watches. The Wizard takes first watch.
Corun (Listen = 19) quietly ponders the hut and tries to guess why the Orcs emigrated. As he makes a close study (Listen = 9) of the cabin’s construction, Wizard Corun happens to glance out the doorway (Spot = 12) but marks nothing unusual in the twilight. A minute later, when oblivious Corun (Listen = 11) takes an interest in the door frame, the Wizard (Spot = 12) is horrified to see thee Worgs creeping up on the hut ! Riding each of the black-furred Worgs is a Goblin. The Goblins wear breastplates, carry battleaxes on their hip and lances in hand. Each has a heavy wooden shield.
Corun shouts his surprise. All his friends wake in a panic. First to act, Goa Finnbjorn grabs her short-sword and dives at a hole in the crude log-pile wall (Escape Artist = 9). Unfortunately, she gets stuck halfway through. Corun casts Mage Armour on Magnus; the Fighter again finds himself woken from sleep by an enemy incursion.
Their stealth broken, the Goblins urge their mounts to attack. A scarred Worg bolts past the wedged Halfling Goa, its nasty Goblin rider striking the Rogue with his lance. A swift Worg lowers its head and, at the urging of its crazy Goblin pilot, rams the cabin at full force. The hut shudders dangerously but does not collapse. The force of the blow jostles Goa (Reflex save = 19) and the Halfling pops free of her entrapment, landing outside the structure. The largest Worg and its ugly commander trot a bit closer, watching the mayhem.
Kulich is not going to stick around and get smothered by rotten wood; the Cleric hustles out the doorway, casting Protection From Evil on himself. Elroy Wick takes up “Homestead Avenger” and finds an enjoyable tune worth 1d10 silver (Perform : Sing = 17) to carry Inspire Courage and Inspirational Boost. Magnus has his Heavy Pick and a line on the swift Worg – the Fighter charges the beast but misses on his swing. Recovered from her mishap, Goa slings a bullet wide of the nasty Goblin. Corun hits that rider’s mount with a Scorching Ray, blasted through a crack in the jumbled wood wall.
Coming about, the scarred Worg bears down on Goa, biting her as its nasty Goblin rider spears the Halfling again with his lance. The Rogue has suffered far too much damage – she falls comatose. The largest Worg makes for Kulich but the ride-by attack is unsuccessful. The swift Worg snaps fruitlessly at Magnus; its crazy Goblin rider tosses his lance and hits instead with his battleaxe.
Elroy Wick rushes out to support Goa Finnbjorn. The Bard finds the Rogue slumped against the cabin. Unconscious, the Rogue bleeds. Magnus punctures the swift Worg. Seeing an opportunity, Corun Dum’man quickly reaches through the cabin wall and successfully (Reflex check = 14) pulls Goa back into the structure without causing her further injury.
Deprived of a tasty Halfling snack, both the scarred and the large Worg strafe Elroy Wick but only the ugly Goblin rider scores a hit. The swift Worg and its nasty rider pummel Magnus, and the Fighter finds himself tripped down to rocky soil. Kulich smashes the swift Worg.
These enemies are too mobile. Elroy Wick gets wise and steels himself to deliver a punishing strike the next time a Worg charges him. On the other side of the wobbly cabin, Mage Armour’d Magnus finds it a simple task to roll backwards and stand up, clear of retribution from the swift Worg leering at him. Of its own accord, Goa’s bleeding stops and she stabilizes. Worried Corun feeds a Potion of Cure Light Wounds into her.
The scarred Worg is the only enemy to come at Wick this time; the rider misses with a lance but the Bard’s careful timing delivers a solid slash along the Worg’s midsection as it passes. The large Worg and its commander set sights on Magnus and bash the Fighter with bite and lance. The crazy Goblin chops Kulich. The Cleric really wants that Goblin dead. For now Kulich connects against the Worg, bloodying it.
Wick is clear of immediate threats. He downs a Potion of Cure Light Wounds. Magnus cracks the ugly Goblin’s shield. Inside the hut, Goa rises unsteadily to her feet, feeling her strength return. Wizard Corun makes sure she is okay, then casts Mirror Image on himself. Five identical Corun Dum’mans step away from the real one, and the true Wizard is lost among his doppelgangers.
Elroy Wick and Magnus can’t dodge their respective antagonists. The crazy Goblin Critically Misses Kulich (with a Natural 1 confirmed with another Natural 1) but it’s Worg Critically Hits (with a Natural 20 confirmed with another Natural 20). Kulich is tripped up but still conscious. He immediately crawls away and energizes himself with Cure Moderate Wounds. Wick heals himself with the same spell, having to end his enjoyable song to do so. The effects of his music will last another half-minute.
Magnus very nearly kills the ugly Goblin with a thunderous blow. Poking her head out the lopsided cabin’s doorway, Goa kills Magnus’s Goblin with a precise shot from her sling. The Corun Dum’mans, all six of them, pull their Wands of Lesser Orb of Sound and kill the swift Worg with six Orbs, though only one Orb was actually real.
The nasty Goblin sees the fight is lost. Abandoning his allies, the Goblin and his scarred Worg retreat. The large Worg, riderless, lunges at Magnus but misses. The crazy Goblin is without a mount – he rushes the Coruns and chops one in half. The image blinks out of existence. Five Wizards remain to taunt the draconic foe. Kulich Critically Misses (with a Natural 1 confirmed with a 17) the crazy Goblin, who Critically Misses on an Attack of Opportunity.
The Bard and the Fighter position to flank the riderless large Worg, striking or barely missing the creature. The Worg sinks teeth into Wick but the Bard (with a Natural 20 rolled for Strength check for a total of 22) is not thrashed off his feet. Magnus gets the kill when he delivers a powerful pick strike.
Goa and the Coruns likewise team up against the crazy Goblin. The Wizards’ wild swings with their quarterstaves provide the Rogue all the flanking sneak-attack opportunity she needs. The crazy Goblin is cruelly backstabbed by the Halfling. It decides to withdraw and flee at top speed.
Magnus gives chase, commanding the Goblin to stop. It ignores him. Goa is more convincing; she beans the Goblin’s skull with a sling bullet and the enemy tumbles. Magnus drags the Goblin back to the cabin, binding the creature with rope. The Goblin is dying until the Rogue (Heal = 21) expertly stabilizes it. Elroy Wick casts Cure Moderate Wounds on Magnus, and Kulich heals up Goa with the same.
Just to be sure, Magnus coup-de-graces the two fallen Worgs and the slain Goblin. The third Worg and its rider are long gone. Among the spoils of battle, the group finds two 50-gp value gems, which Corun takes; two Small-sized daggers that Goa adds to her armaments; two Potions of Cure Light Wounds and two Potions of Cure Moderate Wounds. 70-gp and 10-sp go into Party Treasure.
Half-healed and exhausted from the fight, the party has no choice but to spend the night here in the hazardous cabin.
(end of the session)