Saturday, March 14, 2015

Continuing Defense of Herdis - Day Three, Part Two

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.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Continuing Defense of Herdis - Day Three, Part One

ooc: These notes are an overview, not a session play-by-play...

ooc: Note that Jeff was not present for this session.

The previous evening, after defeating forays by large numbers of orcs, the defenders of Herdis had posted  twelve (12) night scouts to watch for possible enemy action. At approximately 5 am, only TWO of these scouts returned to the town's walls - and one had a broken leg. The cleric, Cedrik, tended to his injuries.

During the next several hours the defenders watch the Orc army attempting, and for the most part failing, to cross the smaller river bordering Herdis in two separate attempts, both of which were out of bow range of the defenders. The orcs attempted to place eight separate bridges across this river. The orcs were pathetic in their crossing attempts. Eight bridges (probably built to serve as both bridge and ladders for scaling the town's walls) were used. Three were destroyed by their efforts, two being destroyed and dislodged when the orcs dropped a large battering ram into the river. This battering ram was soon stuck in the muddy river bottom a ways downstream. The remaining bridges were left in place by the orcs, to allow the rest of their army to cross, though slowly.

The orcs did manage to get several groups across the river, though in small numbers. Rather than grouping for a massed attack, these orcs came at the town walls in groups of about 100 or so. Three waves of orcs rushed the walls. Lacking ladders, their attempted 'barrel-of-monkeys' approach failed each time, and they were easy pickings for the defenders on top of the walls.

During the middle of this third attack wave, the cleric Cedrik spotted a strange sight; he notices a group of flying orcs, grouped in a ring and wearing feathers! He sees them heading for the sacred tree in the center of Herdis. These orcs are also lugging a circular object, who's purpose is unknown. However, it looks nefarious. Fortunately, Cedrik noticed this sneak attack just in time, allowing the town's remaining archers to take the orcs out with a well-aimed volley of arrows. Because of their heavy load, the orcs are sitting ducks (almost literally!) and easily taken down. Once the carried ring crashes into the town, it is quickly destroyed.

Until around mid-morning, a total of eight orc waves have attempted to storm the walls. Each is beaten back with heavy orc losses, and minimal casualties for the defenders.

Continuing Defense of Herdis - Day Three (Continued)
ooc: all five players were present for this session!

It is mid-morning in the embattled northern town of Herdis. Eight waves of orcs, and one sneak attack, have been repulsed by the valiant defenders of Herdis.

At this point a massive storm is beginning to brew over the center of the town. Creos, with his excellent vision, has spotted a small group of Orcs near a swamp, across the smaller river near the town. To his vision, they appear to be engaged in ritual magic. Are they the cause or source of this storm? Creos informs Torleik, heir and representative of the Northmen King, of his findings. And though he seems to detest magic, Creos heads out to investigate.

Creos makes a stealthy approach to the smaller river, easily avoiding any orc sentries (the brewing storm is very distracting!), and makes it across the river, which is not too difficult for him. Spotting where his target is, Creos is within bow range of them. However the wind has been steadily increasing, and is now strong enough to make a shot from this location very difficult, at best. Using the intervening swamp for cover, along with the storm, Creos sneaks across the swamp, and still is unseen; the brewing storm is very distracting! Once he is much closer, Creos determines that the orc shaman (or whatever he is) isn't calling or causing the storm; he appears to be very frustrated, and it soon seems this orc was attempting to stop the storm (and failing). It appears likely to Creos the storm was actually interfering with the orc shaman's efforts, based on the orcs rage.

Creos also determines that getting an arrow shot off against the orc is nearly impossible - the wind from this new storm has really increased - so he returns across the swamp, then back to the river, remaining undetected (as far as he can tell) the entire way. Fearing the increasing storm, Creos makes a herculean leap across the river, covering a full one-sixth of the river's width (25 feet!), then swimming through rough, choppy waters the rest of the way. Once on land again, he runs straight to the city walls (which seems suicidal, when you consider the storm center is directly over the town). Still running, he vaults the wall in one leap (a twelve-foot high wall on an eight-foot earthen berm...), and safely returns to Herdis.

Meanwhile, this storm has been brewing and increasing in intensity; it spans the horizon, covering the entire visible sky! The ferocious winds rip off parts of one long hall, injuring several people inside (but no deaths), and causes other minor structural damage in the town.

This storm (which is definitely not a normal storm!) finally crashes, sending a spiralling black cloud into Herdis, touching ground in the central grove, near the sacred oak tree. The storm dissipates very quickly after this apparently-magical tornado touches the ground.

Where this tornado hit lays a single individual, a human male. He is barely conscious, dripping wet (soaked), and covered in seaweed (!) and bloody gore. He is dressed similar to the Norsemen present, though in a differing manner, and he is clutching a vicious-looking, well-used two-handed axe.

This new individual, Ragnar, is a human male, a Viking from the original Earth, originally from Norway or Sweden around the year 850-900 CE. Only one person present is able to speak his language, though it is a much-older (original) variation of the region's Norse tongue, the rune mage Hrolfr, who is also from that region of old Earth, but from a slightly older time period (around 800 CE). Over the remainder of the day, Hrolfr shows this newly-summoned character around the town, explains the military situation, etc. Ragnar the berserker (for that is what he is) finds himself trapped in this new world, having been summoned/brought here by some magical force. He is a skilled fighter, and is also well-trained in the martial arts (warfare, siege works, etc), having travelled extensively across old Earth. Seeing few other options, this berserker offers his sword to the commander Torleik, at least for the duration of this military campaign.

The orc army near Herdis has already been decimated by this point. The storm's appearance has (at least temporarily) demoralized them, and there are no more attacks on this day. The remainder on this side of the river are scattered, but cannot get across; the storm has destroyed what was left of their bridges! Torleik leads a cavalry sortie, and drives the orcs back towards Herdis, where the defenders easily pick them off with arrow barrages.

The Defense of Herdis appears to be over, at least for the moment. Torleik's father, leading his army, is due sometime in the following day or two.

However, the defenders notice what appears to be a lot of activity in or behind the swamps located across the larger river (on the east side of Herdis).

Torleik, Creos, Hrolfr, and Ragnar, accompanied by 13 other Northmen, make their way slightly south of Herdis. There, they convince a sea captain to launch a boat with a crew, so the party can investigate what is occurring on the east bank. The captain agrees, and with seven other sailors gets a long-boat launched. The group quickly crosses the river. Torleik and crew head out through the forest and to the swamps.

Arriving through the woods, the party first kills several alert orc sentries, barely in time to avoid their alerting other orcs in the area.

At this point the session ends.