ooc: Tim was not present for this session (sick)
The party [Torleik, Hrolfr, Creos, Cedrik, Ragnar] are on the east bank of the major river, across from Herdis, investigating an orc sighting.
Having made it across the river without being spotted, Torleik leaves the naval captain and seven seamen to defend the longboat, with orders to stand guard and be ready to cast off at a moment's notice. With the party and 13 Northmen, they depart.
The war band makes it to the woods facing them with no issues, and sneak/slink through the woods. Approaching a known clearing near the swamp, two alert orc sentries are spotted. One is reaching for a warhorn at his belt.
The party quickly reacts, and the sentries are cut down with arrows from several of the accompanying Northmen, Creos, and Torleik, barely killing the sentries before the alert is sounded. Within moments they are within sight of the clearing. What they see is... disturbing, even to Northmen.
An unnatural archway has been constructed in the clearing, made of tree limbs, vines, etc. Covering this arch are the body parts of many slaughtered Northmen, in particular their heads. At the center of the arch, at its base, is a pair of hands (also from Northmen). Framed between these hands is a mirror, which is studded with Christian symbols.
Through the archway can be heard... bells, which may resemble a ship or ships' bell. Also noticable is the smell of fish. Looking through the archway itself, vision is distorted, as if looking through heat waves in the summer sun. Clearly, this is a magical artifact of some power.
Torleik approaches the archway to investigate. As he nears, the heads mounted on the arch begin to sound in a very discordant manner, getting louder the closer he approaches. The sound being made is very disturbing to all who hear. Clearly, this noise will be heard by any orcs nearby.
After a quick, almost heated discussion, the party decides to torch the archway, destroying it. Torleik has two leather skins of lamp oil with him. He hands one to Hrolfr. They station themselves, each at one base of the arch. The noise is almost deafening. Simultaneously they pour oil onto the base, then light it on fire. Torleik uses a torch, provided by another Northman, while Hrolfr casts a quick Create Fire spell.
As the fire starts to take hold, the noise from the heads over the archway increases to an almost unbearable level. Irritated, Torleik takes out his hammer and takes aim at the mirror held at the base of the arch. As he starts his swing, Cedrik the cleric yells out, "NOOO! That's a priceless religious artifact!" Torleik manages (barely) to switch the aim of his attack, and misses the mirror. Cedrik rushes up, and works on the hands holding the object. He is obviously attempting to cut the mirror free, but having trouble doing so.
Meanwhile, the archway is in flames, and about to come down on them. Seeing this, Torleik pulls out his knife. Pushing Cedrik aside, Torleik takes two mighty hacks, cutting the mirror free. Cedrik grabs the mirror, and the trio rushes away from the archway as it begins to fall...
Knowing there may be orcs nearby (there IS a major orc army in the area, after all), Torleik rallies the group. They can now clearly hear the approach of a large group of orcs - probably a large portion of the orc army; it sounds as if hundreds of orcs are approaching.
The party cuts through the forest a bit, reaching the easier to cross open field, and sees no sign (yet!) of the orc army. It appears that some portion of the forest is still blocking clear sight lines to the army. They head across the fields towards the boat.
The group forms a loose wedge and heads towards the boat. Part way there, they stop for a moment to assess the situation. Someone (Creos?) notices sections of cut grass in this area. Looking ahead, he notices movement in the grass, between the party and the boat. The boat is still a long ways off. And the orc army is getting closer...
It's a trap! Torleik and the Northman leader re-form the troops into a classic tight Viking wedge (a form of shield-wall) and prepare to engage. Torleik decides it is best that the shield wall attempt to bash/force its way through the intervening orcs, and make for the ship as fast as possible once through the orcs. The 13 Northmen have formed the wall, with most of the party behind it (Torleik, Cedrik, Ragnar, Hrolfr).
The orcs, realizing they've been spotted, rise up (they are covered with cut grass as camoflage) and form their own shield wall, preparing for combat. There are approximately twice as many orcs than the party (35-40) that can be seen.
Creos kills one orc, with an arrow through its throat, before the combat starts. Then, being much, much faster than the rest of the party - or the orcs - he decides to run ahead to the ship, telling them to get ready to depart once the group is aboard.
Before the two opposing shield walls crash together, Creos runs around the orc group. As he does so, he is spotted (though he wasn't really trying to be stealthy). Rising up behind the orcs is a much larger orc. And he is riding what turns out to be a war-boar! A small chase ensues, as the war-boar riding orc leader attempts to cut Creos off. However, the war-boar isn't as fast as Creos, and can't get in front of him before Creos is well past the danger. Frustrated, the orc leader returns to assist the larger melee.
Meanwhile, the shield walls approach each other. As Creos slips past the orc leader, the two forces are one turn apart. The forces engage, with several rounds of pushing occuring. The Northmen manage to hold their line as they successfully push against the orc wall, knocking over and killing/trampling several orcs, though the orcs manage to fill in the gaps and maintain the integrity of their shield wall.
The war-boar riding orc leader charges back to join the battle. Rather than go around and hit the Northmen from the side or behind, he instead comes from behind his own line and goes THROUGH his own orcs! Doing this, he kills at least five of them, but also barrels over (killing) four Northmen. The orc wall has been attempting to envelop the Northmen as well, sending orcs around the edges of their wall. However, the party members have been covering the sides, preventing the orcs from surrounding them.
As the orc leader barrels through the shield walls at high speed, Ragnar turns to attack. Making a good, quick tactical decision, he targets the war-boar's unarmored leg, and sheers one off! (The war-boar was covered in makeshift plate armor, at least around it's upper torso). The boar tumbles behind the party line, with the orc leader spilling off. He roll several times, and manages to roll back onto his feet, hardly without pausing.
The orc shield wall is starting to come apart by this point, as the orc leader's attack has split it in two sections. The Northmen maintain discipline and maintain formation, while the orcs attempt to close their ranks. They have taken 40-50% casualties, it appears, by this point.
Meanwhile, Creos has approached the Northmen boat rapidly. His extremely fast approach doesn't frighten the Northmen defenders, as they've seen some of this odd being's capabilities. However, their response does NOT appear normal to Creos. Only one Northman on the ship is acknowledging his approach. Stopping away from the boat, Creos looks, and notices that most of the defenders are actually dead, their throats having been cut. They've been propped up on stakes to simulate being alive and alert! The long being on the boat appears human, but Creos notices orc-like features on his face. And this orc-human is pulling up a bow.
Creos reacts. Not having enough time to pull out his own bow, Creos runs to the boat and leaps up. Easily clearing the side, he attacks and skewers the orc deceiver before he has a chance to shoot. A quick examination after this proves the remaining Northmen are all dead. Seeing the main combat is nearly over, Creos begins ready the boat for launch - as much as he can, that is; Creos is no sailor.
Back at the main battle, the orc leader, now without a mount, approaches the rear of the Northmen shield wall, preparing to attack Torleik, the obvious and largest target. He and Torleik exchange one blow. The orc leader misses, while Torleik has scored a good hit, dropping the orc's hit points by half. The berserker, Ragner, has also turned to engage, and finishes the orc leader off with one more blow! The rune mage Hrolfr, casting a flame jet spell to assist against this dangerous orc, changes targets, and uses the spell to finish off the war-boar, which is still thrashing on the ground in pain.
Seeing their leader killed so easily, the remaining orcs begin to disperse. Besides, the orc army is only a few turns away, and it's numbers can finish off these pesky Northmen, right?
Torleik and the Northmen party hightail-it to the boat, barely getting there in front the orc army. The army reaches effective arrow range just as the Northmen party casts off from shore. A few rounds of arrows miss, some wildly, some falling close on the ship, but they manage to get the boat into the river and make it across a few minutes later. They return the boat, and the Northmen bodies of the sailors, to the boathouse.
Only FOUR Northmen, plus the eight Northmen sailors, were lost in this series of skirmishes, compared to at least 25-30 orcs, a war-boar, and the orc leader. And the Northmen have destroyed a powerful magical artifact, keeping it out of orc hands, and recovering a valuable religious artifact in the process.
This ends the session.