The foray into the spur valley came to nothing. Druidbarian Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn sets off into the main valley to hunt for food. Fighter Magnus is setting up camp when Goa Finnbjorn, Corun Dum’man, and Elroy Wick arrive. The four party members catch up on the events of their day.
The night passes uneventfully. Most of the next day is travel, again northward along the western slope of the valley that would eventually lead the party back to the glacier they traversed weeks ago. At mid-afternoon, a Spot check. Goa (Spot = 24) misses what Magnus (with a Natural 20 rolled for Spot for a total skill check of 29) easily noticed – up on the valley wall, there is a structure built of stone.
Pointing it out to the others, Magnus leads his friends up the slope. It takes fifteen minutes to ascend the rocky hillside and get there. The formation turns out to be an abandoned watch-post. Stacked stones once formed a defensive wall as tall as Halfling Goa; now, most of the rocks have toppled from wind and weather. Perhaps sixty or seventy feet in diameter, this site could have sheltered two dozen Medium-sized humanoids while they spied on the valley.
Built several years ago from the look of it, only the month-old ashes in a fire pit suggest any recent use. Corun and Wick (Taking 20 on a Search check) spend an hour combing over minute details but generate no information. The party decides to use the watch-post as shelter for the night.
The following morning, the group comes upon a familiar place – the empty, ruined mustering grounds of the Orc army. On the left, leading west, a wide trail snakes up to a pass, switchbacking up the steep valley wall. Corun (Survival = 22) and Elroy Wick (Survival = 18) dismount and take a close look at the trail. The army that used this road passed it only once. More recently, smaller groups of Medium-sized humanoids have come and gone. And with them, four-legged creatures – Worgs or dire wolves – and Large-sized humanoids. Elroy (Knowledge : Nature = 19) cannot tell what kind of Large creatures left these particular footprints.
Curious about this pass on their original journey southward, the party now suspects that it leads to the Orcs’ home base. As the party rides the rocky trail, they make a series of Spot checks. Magnus and Goa (Spot = 23, 23) see nothing. A few minutes later, Magnus (Spot = 24) remains unimpressed by the barren, rocky heights.
Reaching a straight stretch of road that climbs almost due west, Goa and Magnus (Spot = 29, 29) are suddenly aware of a threat. Three hundred linear feet distant, and about fifty feet up the rough slope that faces them, is a stacked-stone bunker not unlike the one that hosted the party’s camp last night. Something about it gives the Rogue and the Fighter pause.
Wizard Corun Dum’man casts Clairvoyance, placing the spell’s sensor-orb directly over the bunker. Through the spell, Corun observes three Orcs huddled behind the defensive wall, squinting in the bright daylight in the party’s general direction. Goa (Hide = 20) instinctively ducks down into Magnus’s backpack.
The bunker guards the road to the pass – there is no way to avoid confrontation. Bard Elroy Wick commences an extraordinary speech (Perform : Oratory = 34) about overcoming the challenges of elevation and distance in the defeat of one’s foes. Inspire Courage and Inspirational Boost will no doubt help in that regard, and 3d6 gold will pay for it.
Magnus rides forward fifty feet, not sure if the hidden Orcs have spotted his group. Goa remains in hiding. Corun casts Protection From Arrows on himself.
Without warning, Magnus and Elroy Wick are skewered by bolts from heavy-crossbows. The missiles have come from their left-hand side, not from the bunker up ahead. Rattled, Wick advances thirty feet and looks around (Spot = 15) but marks no snipers on the barren slopes above him. Magnus glances quickly (Spot = 19) but also fails to locate the source.
It is Goa, emerging from hiding, who catches sight of a second stone bunker. It is hidden sixty feet up the slope on the group’s left. The Rogue dutifully calls it out. Corun girds up with Mage Armour then rides to Wick’s position.
Another rain of bolts against the vulnerable riders. Magnus and his horse are shot; so too is Wizard Corun, though his Protection spell slows the incoming bolt and reduces its damage to a trivial grazing wound.
Elroy Wick slams back a Potion of Cure Light Wounds, spurring his mount ahead a double-move to close on the first bunker. Magnus still doesn’t see the second emplacement Goa identified; he rides to the edge of the trail. Goa (Spot = 31) has a line of sight on three Orcs in the second bunker as they ready to pop up for another shot. She loads her crossbow and waits for that to happen. Corun, resolved to follow Wick against the first bunker, casts Light of Venya on himself.
Both bunkers of Orcs open fire again, exposing their positions to the party. The Bard, the glowing Wizard and his non-glowing horse, and the Fighter, catch painful heavy-crossbow bolts. Goa squeezes off a shot at one Orc’s head and hits her target.
The battle is thus arranged : Elroy Wick and Corun Dum’man advance on the first bunker while Magnus and Goa deal with the second bunker. Keeping up his speech if only for the benefit of himself and the Wizard, Wick dismounts and hustles to the base of the hill. Crossbow steady, he holds his fire until the regular intervals when the Orcs break cover to fire their own volleys. Well behind Elroy, Corun dismounts and blasts both Rays of Venya against his enemies.
Back at the second bunker, Goa fires from horseback when a target presents itself. Magnus stumbles his way up the rough slope, working toward the bunker’s low perimeter-wall. Soon the Fighter is within melee range, huddled below the defenders’ wall. Goa dismounts and weaves her way up to Magnus’s position.
Elroy’s bolts hit their target less than half the time; the Bard is better with words and song than light-crossbows. Corun tags one of their three Orc opponents with a Scorching Ray. Then the Wizard renews Light of Venya, using a Ray of Venya to take down one Orc. The second Ray clips another defender.
Up against the bunker, Magnus stands up and makes a single attack with his Heavy Pick. Fleet-foot Goa has reached her friend’s position, and draws her short-sword. The Orcs hack uselessly with halberds. Magnus unleashes a full attack – killing one Orc and wounding another on his Cleave attack. Goa makes an impressive leap (Jump = 22 vs. DC = 20) onto the wall, stabbing the Orc just Cleaved. Magnus makes another full attack but misses, as he climbs onto the stacked stones. His Rogue Halfling friend easily Tumbles past the wounded Orc and, from a flanking position, lands a gruesome Sneak Attack.
Bard Wick has been hit several times by the two surviving Orc archers in the first bunker. Ending his speech, Wick casts Cure Moderate Wounds to prevent an untimely death by the very next heavy-bolt to come his way. Elroy and Corun redouble their efforts on the pair of Orcs. Corun’s crossbow sends a Critical Hit to kill one of the Orcs.
Now inside the second bunker, Magnus engages at close quarters. The wounded Orc is quickly killed; the Fighter turns his Cleave on this watch-post’s last defender. This wounded halberdier deals Magnus a serious blow. Repeating a good strategy, Goa dives (with a Natural 20 rolled for Tumble for a total skill check of 32) past the Orc. She comes up with blade in hand – her Sneak Attack, well-aimed, kills.
The bunker is theirs. Magnus takes up a discarded, loaded heavy crossbow and fires a seemingly wild, very long-distance bolt that finds the Orc in the far bunker.
It is only a matter of time now. Elroy’s crossbow shots are getting more accurate simply by luck and chance. Every other round, Magnus manages to reload a captured heavy-crossbow and send another missile into the holdout defender.
Goa abandons the captured watch-post, sliding down the hill as fast as her feet can carry her to “borrow” Magnus’s mount and dash for the first bunker. The Halfling’s effort is for naught. Elroy’s very next crossbow shot does the trick, catching the last Orc in the neck and toppling it for good.
The battle ended, the party pauses a moment to catch their breath. Spoils of war are gathered from both bunkers and assessed on the road, between the two conquered positions. Six masterwork chain-shirts; six masterwork heavy crossbows and 150 bolts; fourteen gems of standard quality, 200 gold and 33 silver pieces. There were six daggers and as many halberds, which will be left behind. And another find among the dead – a dozen Orckish Draught healing potions. Magnus, badly wounded during this fight, looks on these with resignation. He will need to suffer a few of them.
(end of the session)