Erned Stoutblade of Summit Hall recruited the characters for a seven-day trek to the farms to the northeast of the hills, where orc activity had been on the rise. Many of his fellow knights were on urgent business in Yartar, so he’d come to find “the finest blades I know of in the Valley.”
After a night spent restocking their supplies (and commissioning a few silver weapons from Feng the smith), they set out in one of Waelvur’s Wagons, donated to the cause. They had an uneventful trip, but arrived to the Anderil farm to find it in flames. Rollo rushed in to the burning home and rescued Selwyn, and then joined Dawnbringer in tracking down the four orcs that had torched the place. They put them all to the sword, rescuing two farmhands and the farmer’s pregnant wife, Maygan.
With their home in ruins, Selwyn suggested they make for the nearby Dellmon Ranch, where many of the area’s populace had been gathering, seeking safety in numbers. Erned suggested they accompany the folk, both to protect them on their journey and to use the Ranch as a base of operations, as it’d likely make a tempting target for the orcs.
When the party arrived, the desperate commoners were overjoyed to see them; the latest arrivals before them had spoken of a sizeable force of orc warriors approaching from further east. At best guess, they had less than a day before they reached the ranch.
The property had been shored up in recent days from the families’ hard work, adding 10’ spiked palisades between the trio of stout buildings (with heavy, barred, wooden gates), makeshift crenelations on the roofs, and a wide ditch lined with spikes to shore up the exposed eastern gate. They’d also boarded shut all the normal building doors facing the exterior of their new gated compound.
The defenders, totaling 46 in number:
- 2 figureheads (nobles) of the Dellmon family (Kerbin and his eldest son Perd), armed with rusted swords and armored with chestplates of metal scavenged from a wood-stove.
- 4 scouts handy with a longbow, including Marka (Perd’s wife) and Flameran: a halfling of the Emerald Enclave, who happened to be in the area.
- 7 guards with spears, armor, and shields, including two dwarven brothers who worked the ranch’s forge and Kerbin’s younger son Fyndrick.
- 12 commoners determined to defend their homes, even though they had even less fighting ability than the amateur defenders listed above. Half had taken up shortbows, and the rest were armed with a mix of handaxes, sickles, or spears.
- 20 noncombatants, mostly those who were too old, too young, too injured, or too sick to fight. Among them were Maygan and Selwyn, as well as Livi and Thrade (the young children of Perd and Marka).
- Dreena, middle child of the Dellmon family and a druid of modest talent. As the only spellcaster among the ranch folk, she alone showed real combat potential, but she sadly hadn’t yet mastered healing magic.
Joining them was Erned, a knight who seemed to roughly equal the four heroes of our story in terms of strength.
In the hours of the night that remained, the party took command of the Ranch’s defense strategy. They placed archers on every roof, secured the weak in the stone-walled forge building, and assembled melee fighters behind each gate. Candor emptied his bag of caltrops in front of the eastern gate, and a sack of ball bearings just behind. Dreena was put in the middle of the ‘courtyard’ with the instruction to use a spell of entangle on the eastern gate, if it gave. Two commoners were sent beyond the walls, one north and one south, to watch for flanking maneuvers.
Early in the morning, a few orc scouts were seen on a ridge to the east, and soon after the main raiding party arrived. Showing uncharacteristic coordination for a group of savages, they split into three groups and assembled on nearby ridges, each shy of 300 feet from the gates (at which point, the Ranch’s scouts came running back). Dawnbringer took the initiative and struck the northwest group with her arrows, and the orcs roared in fury, charging with primal speed.
Erned and Rollo attempted to get in a few free shots, but their ability was limited at range—though the knight of Summit Hall got lucky twice with his heavy crossbow. Even so, the raiders took minimal casualties before getting to the gates. From there, they spent three rounds hacking down the gates, during which time the archers and Candor started to thin their numbers. Tiberius picked the leader out of the crowd, and cast heat metal on his intimidating plate armor, dooming him to a swift end… or so she thought.
An orcish shaman broke from the group, and conjured a spiritual weapon inside the courtyard, though he had no success trying to injure the well-armored Erned. The plate-clad leader fled to the south, running until he outdistanced the range at which Tiberius could keep his spell up and running. Once his armor was no longer glowing hot, he returned to the fight, though quite injured.
When the gates came down, the defenders held fast, though a few initial casualties were felt from the wild swinging of their lethal greataxes. Dawnbringer had to split attention between the northwest and southwest breaches, but eventually Rollo came to help hold the floundering southwestern line. The eastern breach nearly boiled over with orcs, but a coordinated strike obliterated much of them. Several were brought low due to the combined damage of caltrops and a well-placed shatter by Tiberius, and Dreena held the rest with entangle.
A bear was seen charging into the remaining orcs, and Dawnbringer recognized it as the same black-furred ursine their party had rescued just before reaching Red Larch for the first time. It distracted the shaman long enough for Candor to bring him down with a trademark eldritch blast.
His comrades lying dead all around him, the plate-clad leader went after Tiberius with a vengeance, but was already too injured to get more than a blow or two in before he was struck down.
When the battle ended, the dead were counted, and ten farm-folk had given their lives, but with the orcs and their leader all dead, it would be many years before they had the numbers or the morale necessary to threaten the valley again.