For a moment, everything is very still. Winter’s heavy darkness is consumes the last of the light. Only the pulsating orange of fire-light off the low mist and smoke over North Point gives the surrounding fields and forest any definition. Two hundred yards of snow and brown tufts of grass dimly glow between the death-still pine forest hiding the party’s mercenary army, and the stacked-stone barrier wall of North Point. Except for the mist, the world appears eternally frozen in place.
Then there is movement across the pallid no-man’s land. Shadowy figures sprint from the treeline across the dull white tundra toward the town. These are the boldest of the archers, in motion the instant they heard the order. The crunch of snow under their boots quietly grinds against the silence. The swift shapes vanish at the base of the wall, only to re-appear in silhouette at its crest.
Magnus, Elroy Wick, Cleric John, Eberk, and Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn strike out across the brittle ground toward their home. The party moves as a team, setting Dwarf Eberk’s pace as their own. Running astride and behind them, more archers and now some foot soldiers who accepted their cue to advance. Far back in the trees, Captain Cregg and his cavalry hold, waiting the signal.
There is only the whisper of snow packed underfoot, the creak and rattle of armor, and grunts of exertion from the dozens of men and women making a bold, guilty dash for the looming dark mass of the perimeter wall. At any moment a shattering shout of alarm might rise from some Orc on the watch, one missed by the specialists when they cleansed the rampart of observers.
The party slides to an ungraceful halt below the ten-foot-high wall. Stout Dwarf Eberk doesn’t plan his route of ascent, effortlessly scaling the obstacle (succeeding on both Climb checks). Fighter Magnus makes an impressive leap (Jump = 33) and catches the top edge of the wall, then easily pulls himself up.
Cleric John, over-confident, scrambles halfway up (success on his first Climb check) and then loses his footing (failed his second Climb check) and falls awkwardly to the snow. Elroy Wick doesn’t even get started; the Bard-Cleric cannot locate a hold (failed his first Climb check). When Øskur has his trusted ladder friend Laddie deployed and stable, Wick and Cleric John follow the Druidbarian of Many Forms the easy way up.
Getting his bearings atop of the wall, Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn is surprised to find this a section of North Point that he and his friends defended against the Orc invaders, so very long ago. Øskur (Spot = 21) and Magnus (Spot = 26) don’t see anything down the shadowy leeward slope into town. Dwarf Eberk’s Darkvision (Spot = 20) picks out a pair of bodies crumpled against the nearest house. Eberk cannot tell if the corpses are Orc or human.
So far, the mercenaries appear to have snuck in undetected. More and more archers scale the wall and form up with fellows already in position, bows at the ready. About forty hold the line – a few more join the ranks every minute. Eberk keeps watch on the approaches to the slope from the alleys. Fighter Magnus unpacks coils of hemp rope, ties each to sturdy posts and drops the lines down to a growing crowd of mercs below.
A Spot check – everyone in the party except Cleric John sees movement between the ruined houses. A second later, shouting in Orckish. The element of surprise is gone. Almost at an instant, there are gangs of armed Orcs charging through the streets toward the invaders.
Druidbarian of Many Forms Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn thinks quickly. He casts Snake’s Swiftness, Mass to grant all the archers an immediate action. Dozens of bowmen suddenly have the initiative to loose a flurry of arrows against the oncoming horde. Considering his crafty selection of Druid spells, Øskur chooses Giant’s Wrath. For several rounds, all pebbles he throws at an enemy become boulders the instant they leave his hand. This batters several Orcs, and kills a couple more. Later in the fight, Røgnvaldurarsøn boosts himself with Bull’s Strength and wades into melee.
Dwarven Defender Eberk revels in his confluence of perfect opportunities. Positioning himself at a tactically ideal spot before one chorus of mercenary archers, the Dwarf Paragon intercepts any Orcs trying to rush the bowmen. Eberk’s hate for Orcs and his related love of Power Attacking shines gloriously this night. His Waraxe drinks deep of sickening Orc blood.
The Orc ranks fill, but the mercenary numbers keep pace. Quickly the one contingent of archers swells and splits into two triple-deep platoons of professional, deadly-accurate marksmen. As foot soldiers overcome the wall, they heed Captain Martin’s orders and form up into phalanx-style ranks between the archers and the creeping wave of Orcs. Mercs with short-swords lock shields with the fighter to their left while spearmen shelter in behind, lances ready to strike.
Cleric John hopes to impress Magnus. John first casts Bless, granting a +1 Morale bonus to all allies within range. Then he fires his crossbow once into a line of Orcs cautiously approaching from a second direction. Two mercenary skirmishers break off to open the nearby gate. Cleric John courageously decides to follow, and helps throw open the wide, heavy wood doors and signal to the pitch-black treeline with torches. The Cleric has certainly won Fighter Magnus’s admiration with his heroism. The clash of battle rouses John from his reverie; he charges into the thick of the fighting and dishes out two Searing Light spells – only to be wounded by an Ogre’s spiky club and have his Cure Moderate Wounds casting fail.
While the battle grows more intense behind him, Magnus focuses on helping archers and foot soldiers make their ascent on the wall. He is too busy to notice Cleric John’s efforts. When all but a few mercenaries have made it up, the Fighter turns his attention to the fray. He finds two companies of archers, one fronted by Eberk, safely behind shield-walls of footmen. Closing in are gangs of Orcs clustered around towering, brutish Ogres. The two sides are evenly matched; the air is thick with arrows. Magnus pulls his Heavy Pick and charges to the fore of the second mercenary division, alternately attacking in close range and hurling javelins when more distant targets avail themselves.
When the Orcs first appeared, Bard-Cleric Elroy Wick cast Entropic Shield on himself. This would ward off at least two Orc arrows in the fight. An Extraordinary singing performance (Perform : Sing = 32) from the Bard, with Inspire Courage and Inspirational Boost, imposes a +2 Morale bonus over Cleric John’s Bless spell. At a safe distance behind the front line, Wick targets Orc archers as they poke out from shelter behind houses and Ogres. Unfortunately, several arrows bypass his spell’s protection; Wick drops back from combat and casts Cure Moderate Wounds.
More than forty well-armed Orcs, clustered around three fearsome Ogres, suddenly swell by thirty more and another Ogre – with additional Orc archers in support. North Point’s evil garrison presses the mercenary army at its point of invasion, but Martin and Magnus are wise in their dispensation of force. Dozens of human archers target the Ogres first, whittling down these massive destroyers such that the party and the more courageous mercenaries can close and engage for hard-fought kills.
Orc warriors are not spared the sword or quick shaft of the spearmen – when they challenge the disciplined shield walls of the footmen, they are slashed and stabbed back on every attempt. Magnus and Martin urge the soldiers forward, cautiously and with judicious tactical consideration. The archers puncture Orc front-liners, and human swordsmen inch forward into the gaps.
Then the cavalry arrives, led by Captain Cregg in brilliant armor, pouring in through the opened gate. Rogue Goa Finnbjorn and Wizard Corun Dum’man arrive on Magnus’s horse, “Lady”. Pounding hoofs thunder on the cobblestone; swords and spears flash in the ruddy light of battle. The Orcs are driven back, and the battle edges into the town.
Wick, Cleric John, and Øskur regretfully withdraw from combat as this second phase of action begins. Devastating warmage Armst makes his appearance. His blistering Fire spells; the immutable flow of cavalry through the alleys; brilliant Magnus and calculating Martin; bloodlusting Eberk; lethal Corun; wily Goa; mercenary archers and fighters emboldened by a surge of success – all these converge to overwhelm the Orc defenders.
With heavy-infantry Ogres singled out and slain and their overall numbers devastated by the humans’ push into the heart of North Point, about forty or fifty remaining Orcs give up hope and flee out the wrecked north gate of the town, into the frigid winter night. Disorganized searches of houses and the ruins dissolve the tight-knit ranks of fighters as they expose and slay any lingering Orcs.
The specialists, and evidence of their dark deeds, reveal themselves as the battle winds down into an organized clean-up operation. Archers reposition along the walls to set a watch; gates are shut and secured. Orc bodies are looted first for gruesome-yet-effective Orckish Draughts and other healing potions, then for treasures and valuables.
Eventually, Magnus, Armst, Eberk, Goa, Corun, and the rest of the party find each other and get a sense of what just happened. Then Martin, Cregg, and Jonas report in – thirteen mercenaries were killed in the fight; two-thirds of the Orc garrison is dead, with the rest in flight. And most importantly, North Point is theirs.
(end of the session)
(1) Image isolated from D&D Monster Manual, illustration on page 203.
(2) Image isolated from D&D Monster Manual, illustration on page 199.