Slowly and steady, the caravan limps through House of Davis territory toward the city of Tannis. The three Gnome caravan-masters drive the carriages, barely concealing their impatience and their concern for the cargo. Magnus, Corun Dum’man, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn, and Eberk each take their turn walking, to free up a horse to replace a draft-horse lost in the fight with Ogres. Goa Finnbjorn keeps pace on Lörydyr. The eight surviving caravan guards casually rotate a loose perimeter around the convoy.
Coming around a bend in the road, no Spot check is needed to notice Elroy Wick. Furs and gaudy jewelry adorn Wick from head to toe, barely concealing the brilliance of what appears to be a solid-gold tailored suit of scale-mail. The outfit is an illusion, generated by Wick’s Rod of Splendor. Elroy joins his friends and the caravan. He cheerfully absorbs the guards’ bewilderment and his friends’ casual mockery.
The sun slides in a lazy arc down to a vibrant orange western sky. The land is low hills, forest, and pocket lakes thick with reeds and fallen trees. A clearing off the road offers space; the Gnomes turn the carriages into knee-high grass to stop for the night. Wick bestows a Cure Serious Wounds spell to Corun, and two Cure Moderate Wounds to Eberk. Øskur follows that with a Cure Light Wounds on the Dwarf, then Healthful Rest to speed the group’s healing overnight.
Between the guards and the party, there are adequate watches for the near-moonless night. Up out of the hidden marshy lowlands comes a distinct chill in the air, after midnight. Øskur, on watch, draws his various animal-hides tight around his shoulders. He is reminded that summer and its rare warmth are not endless. Autumn grows at the edges of dawn and dusk.
The group is unceremoniously woken up at the very crack of dawn by the caravan-masters. The Gnomes obsess over delivery schedules and outstanding contracts and insist on resuming travel. Neither the caravan guards nor Corun and his friends protest; money is money and the sooner the convoy makes Tannis, the sooner everyone gets paid.
Today Wick fancies silver-weave pants, a gem vest, purple velvet cape, and a rich Corinthian-leather sombrero. The Rod of Splendor makes it so. Goa knows she need only steal a single piece of the costume to make the entire illusion vanish, but her patience for Elroy’s whimsy still exceeds her annoyance at the spectacle.
A full, uninterrupted day of travel under warm midsummer skies. The heavy carriages creak and lurch along the uneven, rutted road, barely consuming the miles between Nowhere and Somewhere. Come dusk the procession stops in another meadow beside a stand of forest. Halfling Goa forages for mushrooms, digs some roots, and boils up a stew that makes even tough-guy Magnus crack a smile and offer a whistle of genuine appreciation.
Dusk darkens to night. Wizard Corun and Fighter Eberk change out of their traveling clothes and into the lighter armour each carries for night-time wear. The party rests beside one fire, the guards beside another; just far enough apart that their quiet conversations do not overlap. Elroy and Goa have first watch. Goa gently chops herbs with her magic short-sword “Dice”.
Their firelight plays over the rough wall of forest. Wick and Finnbjorn (Spot = 19, 18) don’t see anything of concern but Goa (Listen = 26) hears something. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn (Listen = 35) did, too. He was sleeping but awoke to the sound, as if by animal instinct. Wick (Listen = 15) disagrees that there was a noise.
But the Rogue and the Druidbarian of Many Forms did hear something in the still forest. Their hearts quicken. Goa (Listen = 30) identifies a rustling in the underbrush, uncomfortably close. She thinks she hears the metal-on-metal of armour. At the Rogue’s insistence, Elroy carefully wakes Eberk and Corun. Magnus is, as usual, slow to rise.
Sensing real danger in the woods, Corun Dum’man casts Invisibility on Goa. The Halfling (Listen = 35) now places movement dangerously nearby – just outside the firelight. Magnus doesn’t have time to suit up; he casts the Mage Armour spell stored in his Ring of Minor Spell Storing, and then sets a firm grip on his weapon. Corun gives himself Protection From Arrows. Eberk crouches low, ready for action. The guards at the other campfire have noticed the party’s preparations. With unexpected eagerness they take up arms and scatter to defensive cover. The Gnomes silently duck under the best-protected carriage.
Wick still doesn’t see anything. He feels left out. Annoyed, he draws dagger “Sorry 2 Wake U”, casts Light upon it, and throws it loosely in a direction of interest. As it should, this gets everything’s attention.
A wall of Orcs roars out of the shadows toward the camp. There are eight clad in chainmail, with battleaxe and shield, and four elite Orc fighters with Orc double-axes and breastplate armor. Close behind is a leader, in full plate and shield with a battleaxe. Lesser folk would be paralyzed with fear at this rushing onslaught.
Øskur toughens up with Barkskin, then Bull’s Strength. Light of Venya for Corun, as best-dressed Elroy Wick gives an extraordinary singing performance (Perform : Sing = 30), the kind worth 3d6 gold, and adds Inspire Courage and Inspirational Boost. The Light spell on Elroy’s dagger unexpectedly winks out. Crossbow bolts zip between the party members and their guard allies while the Orcs close in – snipers remain hidden in the woods.
The caravan guards hold position. Magnus activates another spell from his magic ring – Mirror Image. Now nine identical Magnuses square off to receive the incoming assailants. If a false Magnus is struck, the image shatters and the remainder continue the fight.
A scene of violence and carnage plays in the flicker of the two fire pits, as attackers and defenders suddenly clash. The invisible Halfling Rogue sneaks into prime position, revealing herself by attacking a chainmail Orc. Goa seeks a flanking position whenever possible; with assistance she will drop three of the thirteen Orcs in this fight.
Druidbarian of Many Forms Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn will tally two entirely on his own. In a Rage, he is a frightful collection of animal skins and greatsword, bent on killing. Orc crossbowmen merely fuel his fury; Orc warriors attempt to engage him only in two’s and three’s.
A battlefront forms through the camp, caravan guards and the party’s capable front-liners holding ground against the double-axe and battle-axe wielding Orcs. Off on the periphery, a pair of Orc spellcasters suddenly makes their presence felt – crisscrossing lines of Lightning Bolts surge through the caravan’s defenders, errantly shocking friend and foe alike.
Bard Elroy Wick and Wizard Corun Dum’man have taken supporting roles. Wick unloads his crossbow twice, then throws dagger “Sorry 2 Wake U 2”. He is not a fraction the threat to the Orcs as Magnus or Øskur, but Elroy’s singing is making a difference for his side. He must end his song and dispense critically-needed Cure Serious Wounds and Cure Light Wounds spells to Magnus and one of the caravan guards.
Wizard Corun Dum’man’s focus is dealing magical damage. He takes it upon himself to start a spellcasting duel, targeting what he expects are Orc Adepts. Scorching Ray, Ray of Light of Venya, and Force Orbs are his offensive offerings. Those, and a well-placed Lightning Bolt that kills one Orc and wounds several others; and a Lesser Orb of Sound to finish an Orc spellcaster.
The Orc warriors smash Magnus’s doppelgangers and warily fend off Øskur’s bloodlust. Unseen crossbow Orcs whittle down the health of the party and caravan guards. Eberk, quickly killing off an Orc, was badly wounded by the Lightning Bolts and now further hurt in melee. He must withdraw early from the fight, nearly crippled. He receives a Cure Moderate Wounds from one of the Gnomes when he takes shelter with them.
The guards, the Druidbarian of Many Forms, and Magnus maintain pressure and rack up the kills. The eight hired swords of the caravan, capable but not invulnerable, bear the brunt of the Orcs’ wrath. Half will fall by the Orcs’ axes.
The party capitalizes on the successive deaths of the second Orc spellcaster, and the Orcs’ leader by Øskur’s blade. Goa and her friends hack their way through the dwindling Orc assault unit. By now the Orc crossbowmen must have seen the tide turn, and have fled; no more stinging bolts surprise from the darkness. With momentum on their side, the last Orc is quickly dispatched by the defenders.
Elroy Wick quickly heals the caravan guards, and then his friends. By the firelight the group loots the Orcs of weapons and armor. As potions are found, they are consumed. The Orcs wore the Fist insignia that Goa and her friends have seen before; this was no random band of marauders. The guards venture to the edge of firelight to watch for a second wave of attackers that does not come.
The Gnomes emerge from their sheltered hiding spots, and appraise the armor and weapons collected as spoils. The 500-pound capacity of the party’s new Type II Bag of Holding will be filled with masterwork spears, Orc double-axes, chainmail, breastplates, a grimy suit of +1 Full Plate armor, and decent +1 Heavy Steel shield, as well as sixteen various healing potions not claimed by anyone.
An uneasy calm settles into the camp. With the front-line Orcs and their leader slain, and the caravan’s combat prowess proven, none believe that the Orc crossbowmen will return tonight. Watches remain alert, but the night ends with no further intrusion.
(end of the session)
(1) Image isolated from D&D Monster Manual, illustration on page 203.