Cold and tired, the mercenary archers waiting outside Pine Cove nock arrows at the sound of commotion in the dark forest. Their alert is temporary; Fighter Magnus and his mounted regiment emerge into the pale moonlight and hail the bowmen. The archers gladly follow the triumphant cavalry through the main gate into town.
It is the middle of the night – a few hours before dawn. Riders dismount, hand off the reins to foot soldiers, and crowd around bonfires to thaw their frosted armor. Magnus circulates among them, praising their efforts in the raid. The Fighter has not slept since he cannot remember when; passing Druidbarian of Many Forms Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn, Magnus hits up his friend for a Lesser Restoration spell to dispel exhaustion.
Øskur and Elroy Wick spend the last of their spells on healing the wounded. Fortunately, no one is seriously hurt. Fading fast, tired Bard Wick wanders off to the nearest warm house and claims the first empty bed he finds. When Øskur has no magic left, he borrows a patch of floor beside a raging fireplace. One of the mercenaries, actually a Cleric of Pelor, steps up to offer healing. He introduces himself as JOHN (new character played by K.D.), and his assistance is most welcome. Magnus has just learned that druid Yorgenson Uberson and his dire badger companion have left Pine Cove to return to nature’s embrace (K.D. lost the only copy of Uberson’s character sheet).
It takes a while for all the post-raid excitement to die down. Once the horses are stabled and most of the mercenary company has found a place to crash, a watchful quiet settles over the town. Vigilant archers shiver on the ramparts; foot patrols pace the alleys and check on the ships. Ever present – alert Magnus. The Fighter shuns the urge to rest, making the rounds even as dawn turns the sky pink-orange.
An hour and a half into the morning – Cleric John, Elroy Wick, and Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn enjoy the extended rest afforded spellcasters. Magnus is the only party member who hears a disturbance at the main gate.
Heavy Pick at the ready, the Fighter is quickly on scene. He finds a host of mercenaries, guards of the morning’s watch, escorting -or shirking back in fear of- a tall, confident, very attractive female Druid. The newcomer barely seems aware of her reluctant entourage as she searches for someone of authority.
Magnus puts his weapon away, turns on the charm, and swaggers into the path of Ilva, Arch-Druid of the North Point region. The Fighter has not seen Ilva in months. For a brief moment the Druid does not recognize the battle-hardened warrior who greets her with familiarity. When she does, the slightest hint of a smile escapes her. Magnus notices, and grins. Addressing the crowd, the Fighter tells the mercenaries that he is acquainted with this stranger. Given the Fighter’s reputation, that does little to reassure any of them. Regardless, the hired swords melt back into their duties.
Magnus guides Ilva to Jonas and the Captains. Introductions seem pointless; Druids are unsocial on a good day, and Ilva shows no interest in learning who Cregg, Jonas, and Martin are. She gets right to the point, addressing Magnus and letting the other commanders listen in.
This army’s early-morning raid on the Orc camp was more successful than they realize. Ilva has word that the surviving Orcs have withdrawn several miles to a more defensible position. And the mercenaries’ arrival has ended the withering stalemate at Gold Mountain, where a force of three hundred Orcs and their Draconic allies held siege. Last night, human spies saw all but fifty of them march for the coast. It was then a simple matter for Gold Mountain’s soldiers to burst out from hidden tunnels and destroy those that stayed behind.
Druid Ilva brings a warning to the commanders of Pine Cove. The Orcs from Gold Mountain aim to unite with the camp raided this morning, and bring a five-hundred-strong army against the mercenary threat. Gold Mountain’s troops are on their way, but they will not get here before the Orcs do.
Magnus sets his clever tactical mind to planning. Pine Cove is not strong enough to stand against five hundred Orcs. Re-taking North Point would give the mercenary army a tremendous advantage over the enemy legion headed their way. Ilva is only peripherally aware of the Orc presence in North Point; therefore Magnus only knows that which Øskur saw and reported back. It’s not much to go on, but the Fighter will have to gamble on it.
The Fighter bids the Druid carry word to the commander of the Gold Mountain battalions: Forgo rendezvous at Pine Cove. Magnus will immediately move his mercenary army to North Point, attack, and recapture their home town – then meet Gold Mountain’s forces with the approaching Orc horde caught in the middle.
Druid Ilva agrees. Magnus ends the meeting and escorts her back to the main gate. The situation is changing too rapidly for the Druid to stay in one place too long. She is eager to leave. Before they part, Ilva tells Magnus one more thing – the mysterious lurker, some sort of shape-shifted creature that Magnus’s party hunted earlier this year, is still present in the area. And until now, it had taken an active role in preventing her from leading Gold Mountain’s forces out of hiding against its Orckish oppressors. The Fighter ponders this as the Druid vanishes back into the wilderness.
Magnus will need another Lesser Restoration – this has the feel of a long day ahead. He barks orders at every mercenary he sees, having Jonas and the Captains echo the same: Pack up everything to move at once. The Fighter finds and wakes his friends. Each gets a quick version of events before Magnus is out their door and rallying the troops.
Elroy Wick could do with a lot more sleep, but gets up nonetheless. Cleric John wants to make a good impression, and is packing up his gear before his eyes are fully open. Druidbarian of Many Forms Øskur is annoyed that he missed Ilva’s visit. And he doesn’t like that Magnus sounds to have been hitting on her.
Everything that the mercenaries carried in, they will carry out. The ships will stay, beached and tied fast – there simply isn’t time to sail up the coast. Horses are armoured and riders mounted in saddle; archers and foot soldiers form up in ranks outside the walls. Cregg and Martin direct their sergeants; Jonas and his contingent sweep the town for anything or anyone left behind. Wick’s Rod of Splendor kits him in fashionable riding attire; he, Cleric John, and Øskur, assemble with Magnus and “Lady”.
The better part of the day is spent in travel. Magnus cycles mounted scouts out ahead to watch for trouble. A few swift riders he tasks with investigating the hidden tunnel that leads from North Point. It will take them a while to make the round-trip. The company takes few rest-breaks. At dusk they are in sight of North Point.
The mercenary army covers in the dense pine forest while the party sneaks up for a closer look. Only a couple hundred yards away, their home town looks familiar, yet somehow alien. Firelight glows in the mist above the town; crude repairs show on the stacked-stone wall and the one gate visible from this approach. No watchmen or patrols are visible. The town feels within reach, almost welcoming on a frigid evening like this…but Wick and his friends know an evil nests within its walls.
Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn assumes the form of a snowy Owl. Taking to the cold, dark-blue sky, the Druidbarian of Many Forms glides over the town at a cautiously optimistic low altitude.
The alleys are less active than they were a couple days ago on his last visit. Øskur counts four sizeable bonfires at spacious intersections, a dozen Orcs resting by each one. Six Ogres aimlessly lumber about in the streets. There is no construction or sense of urgency as before. The invaders have settled in. A few Orcs keep watch along the wall; without torches they are barely visible.
Øskur casts Low-Light Vision. With eyesight enhanced, the Owlbarian locates the Main Hall in a dark, unoccupied section of town. To his surprise, the structure is completely destroyed. It comes as a shock to see the familiar building sundered.
Making a Spot check (with a Natural 1 rolled for a total skill check of 11), Øskur scans the dark side-streets but sees no one else. Turning attention back to the Orcs, the Owlbarian of This Form observes them for a while. They strike him as odd. For a motley collection of chaotic Orcs, these thugs are too…nonchalant…in their relaxation. Øskur gets the feeling that these Orc know they are being watched.
Looking closer (with a Natural 1 rolled for a total Spot check of 11), Øskur just barely notices one or two Orcs casting furtive glances up in his direction – yet they remain intentionally unresponsive. This behaviour (Sense Motive = 19) tells the Owlbarian that the enemy is making a definite effort to not let on that they see him. Øskur even catches (Spot = 25) an Orc reaching for a light crossbow, only to have a fellow Orc quietly stop him.
On silent wings, the Druidbarian of Currently-Owl Form speeds back to his friends and reports what he has seen. The Orcs are putting on an act, and Øskur cannot figure out why. Magnus is not the least suspicious of the party. These damnable Orcs are up to something…
The Fighter calls up the nine specialists. He gives them orders to infiltrate North Point and report back on the enemy. And as a critical secondary objective, open the nearest gate. The rangers-or-rogues don their wool caps, commando sweaters, and face-paint, and then slip off into the deepening darkness.
Captain Cregg sees to the readiness of his cavalry. Jonas and Captain Martin have their mercenary subordinates improve their concealment. There is no sign of activity for a long while. Røgnvaldurarsøn, Wick, and Magnus strain to see any action happening on or near the stacked-stone wall. Hunkered down out of sight, Cleric John knits a scarf or a sweater – evidently some hobby of his.
Without warning a half-hour after leaving, one of the specialists appears out of the shadows behind the party. Wick, startled, almost needs a Save against soiling himself. Being of the least seniority, this ranger-or-rogue was elected by the others to return and provide a ‘sit-rep’.
The specialists scaled the wall and “permanently immobilized” the scarce-few Orcs keeping watch nearby. Prowling the town, the agents located six houses where ten or twenty heavily-armed Orcs wait in ambush. Counting the Orcs feigning rest by the fires, there are about one hundred and fifty warriors, plus Ogres, waiting to oppose them. Opening the gate is agents’ next task. So far, the specialists have gone undetected.
This is all good news. Magnus signals for Cregg, Martin, and Jonas. The liberation of North Point begins now.
(end of the session)