After a pleasant night at the Inn, the party awoke and began to take care of a variety of mundane chores and errands. Iban and Cadwallider, however, decided to try to see the town’s mayor. After some discussion with his flunkies, they were escorted to the office of Salvor Hardin, the (apparently popular) mayor of Morsby. He was most interested in their reports of what the party had seen and of the potential threats to the town. He was already aware of the sharp rise of brigandage on the roads, but was unaware of the so-called Giant King and the organized nature of the threat. He confirmed what the party had heard from Nali previously — the locals did not fully trust the Dwarf kingdom, and there were many who felt the Dwarves were merely looking for an excuse to conquer the entire region. The mayor did not believe this, saying they could take it all with little trouble, if they truly wanted to. However, the mistrust was old and ingrained, and not easily swayed. Any sort of alliance or agreement with them was therefore problematic. As for Manston, he told them that they and Morsby were on good enough terms, as both were chief beneficiaries of the trade route. Still, there was little formal contact between them, as their territories did not abut one another. The mayor said he would be open to further visits from the party if they had news to impart. Before departing the town hall, Iban cast ESP and tried to sniff out any possible spies that might be lurking about — there were none detected.
Around luncheon, the party was back in the inn eating together when a large commotion broke out. Soon they learned that there had been a major caravan attack to the east — a few survivors had just arrived to pass the word. Nali the dwarf was among them, and told the party that a large force of Ogres, Orcs, and Bugbears had hit the large and well-defended caravan, quickly overcoming the guards. Only a few managed to escape the disaster. He was very pleased to see Thrir alive and took the time to quickly hear his tale, despite the rest of the excitement. The inn was in chaos at the news, but it was all noise and no action. A little while later, a second alarm was spread that a caravan to the West had also been attacked, this time by human brigands. The party debated riding out themselves to see what was going on, but eventually opted to allow Sir Rowan to ride out as a scout about a half mile from town to the east (the attack was 8 or 9 miles distant). Meanwhile, Nordak began to poke around the old tower on the low hill south of town, thinking it would be a good watch position.
Rowan soon returned with word that Bugbar skirmishers or scouts were prowling towards the town on either side of the road. He avoided engaging them and returned immediately. About this time, bells in the town began to ring — the mayor had called up the militia. Townsfolk ran hither and thither, their proficiency at a call-up clearly lacking. All was chaos and confusion. Rowan now rode west to scout a half mile or so to watch for an attack from that quarter (he did not find anything). To supplement the tower, now being manned by militia (and later Nordak), Iban cast invisibility on Parker, who then took a potion of flying and sped out to scout further out. Most of the militia was forming up (haphazardly) near the town hall on the western end of town. Aldeberon now took the four surviving caravan guards and brought them there as a small force of semi-regulars (they seemed happy to take orders, still being shaken up from their recent battles and in need of something to do). Most of the militia remained at the west end of town but a sizable detachment was sent to the eastern bridge over the dry spillway (Iban inquired as to the possibility of flooding the spillway, but the time and effort was prohibitive). Meanwhile, Aldeberon noted Nali making his way quickly to the Dwarven neighborhood of Morsby (such as it was).
From the tower roof, Nordak saw dust coming their way from the east (as well as distant smoke likely from the caravan). Parker soon returned to report that a force of four score monsters were approaching down the Dwarf Road towards the town from that direction. The western road was clear however. Most of the party now made their way to the eastern bridge defending the core of the town, along with more of the militia; a goodly number remained at the western end, supplemented by Havok and Rowan, on the chance that a surprise attack came from that direction. The party made their plans and took the front position along the bridge into town, as the militia drew up to either side, archers to the front, flanking the bridge and ready to oppose any crossing of the dry watershed. Soon, the enemy came into view – two-score Orcs followed by a score each of Bugbears then Ogres, with and a Hill Giant in apparent command at the rear. As they got closer, some Bugbears began to whip the Orcs ahead, driving them forward as the initial shock force; a few other Bugbears began to shoot arrows as they ran, though to minimal effect. The enemy clearly intended to rush the bridge.
As the enemy moved closer, the party and the militia archers began to fire into the charging mass, mainly against the leading Orcs, who began to fall in ones and twos as they charged. Iban dumped oil on the bridge and prepared to light it, just before blowing the Horn of Valhalla and summoning 9 Maerling warriors who now formed the first line of defense on the bridge. As the enemy closed for shock, two major things happened — first, Iban lit the oil and then cast Pyrotechnics to form a cloud of blinding, choking smoke across the bridge that caused the orcs to arrest their charge at the last minute, the ships of the bugbears notwithstanding. meanwhile, Cadwallider cast Fireball centered on the Hill Giant; he was badly burned but not slain, though a few Ogres were. A sleep spell followed this up, knocking ten Orcs down; Cadwallider’s wand of paralyzation managed to take an Ogre out, as well. By this point, the Orcs had been badly mauled; seeing opportunity, Iban had his Maerlings rush through the smoke to attack, and the Orcs broke, scattering in every direction. The Bugbears had lost control over their slave troops and had to face the party, even as arrows continued to pour into them from the militia. Rowan soon came from the other end of town to support the counterattack.
A general melee ensued, though the militia did not initially follow the party. The Hill Giant was already down from arrow and magic missiles, but the Ogres and Bugbears continued to fight. The party threw everything they ahd into the fight and, after a short but sharp fight, the surviving monsters broke and fled, to be pursued by the party. Sir Rowan rode a few down (aided by his warhorse), as the others continued to strike at the fleeing enemy. In the end, none was able to escape, though the party had taken the paralyzed Orc and the sleeping Orcs as prisoners. There had been nine militiamen slain, mainly from arrows,and eight of nine Maerlings in the melee) but none of the party was seriously hurt.
In the aftermath, Mayor Hardin made sure the party knew he was very grateful for their efforts to save the town. Indeed, it was clear the twon as a whole was quite grateful, as many had witnessed the battle. As for prisoners, the Orcs proved to know little and had little to say aside from their desire “to return ot the Spider Goddess.” Being mere slave troops, they were released and quickly scattered to follow the few others that managed to escape. The Ogre was interrogated more thoroughly. This had been a raid, he claimed, not an attempt at conquest. His band had been ordered to capture supplies and prisoners to take to the highlands for use by the Giant King; the surviving wagons and prisoners from the caravan were already on their way thence. He did not know of any further plans, being but a foot soldier. The Mayor soon after ordered his execution.
The party now returned to the inn to consider their next move. When asked, Nali told the party that he’d sent a raven message back to the kingdom to give news of the caravan attack and other enemy activity; in fact, he said, the Dwarves had many birds spying out the enemy’s movements. In light of the attack on Morsby, however, he intended to return to the Dwarf kingdom immediately with Thrir to make a report of all he’d learned in person. Information was still sorely lacking, he told the party, information on the numbers, movements, and intentions of the Giant King; clearly, however, events were accelerating. he asked the party to consider learning what they could of these matters and passing to him; yes, they would be rewarded, of course, though the friendship of the Dwarf Kingdom was of great value in and of itself, he pointed out. he would return to Morsby if he could, though the roads had now grown deadly and he would have to come by stealth. To aid him and Thrir, the spellcasters made both of the Dwarves invisible, which pleased them greatly, as it would make the journey infinitely safer. This done, they departed.
Following the caravan seemed a logical first step, but then Arduin interjected that he knew of a fortress in the highlands that was under the sway of the Giant King and might be a better location to gather information, rather than hope to find the captured caravan which already had a long head start on them. The Ranger knew of a secret approach tot he place, he said, that would allow the party to approach it unseen. This the party would consider as they rested and recovered from the Battle of Morsby…
– Experience: 1000 XP each (a somewhat rounded-up bonus included – Merry Christmas!)