Since the entire party is on like 2 hit points and the enemies they're facing are similarly pathetic, I'm going to dispense with die rolls and fiat that they succeed, so that we can get on to the more interesting scenario which proceeds from this one.
With the party as severely battered as their last two battles have left them, their only hope of success is to strike before their opponents know they're present; fortunately, with the thick smoke fouling the eyes and noses of the six kobolds, and the two presiding cultists (a human and a dragonborn) both even more helpless, the trio have a golden opportunity to do just this. Lyle vanishes entirely into the smoke, and has no trouble slitting a couple of kobold throats before they can so much as choke out a cry of alarm; Mornok's more impetuous charge attracts the dragonborn's attention, but with only a vague idea of where his target is approaching from, the cultist impulsively decides to vomit a stream of acid in the wizard's general direction. And as luck would have it he not only misses by two full yards, but in the process incinerates another of the dragon-rats, whose anguished yelp immediately breaks the resolve of the remaining three, sending them screaming for the hills in every direction. "You idiot!" the human cultist howls at his counterpart, and he charges toward Mornok - right past an unseen Grimnir, who promptly kneecaps him and then steps on his neck. Left suddenly alone and with his natural defense wasted, the dragonborn cultist throws down his weapon and puts up his hands. "Goddess forfend me...I surrender," he says to the now-visible cleric.
The group can hear shouts of alarm from the horde at the temple's front gate, presumably because they noticed the commotion and spotted the fleeing kobolds. You have only seconds before reinforcements arrive, but luckily someone inside the beseiged temple has noticed; the stout wooden door which the villains were trying to burn through suddenly opens from within, and a woman in her nightclothes hisses "Quickly heroes, in here!" in a whisper that can barely be heard over the din.
Mornok slings his warhammer as quickly as he'd drawn it and grabs the dragonborn's wrist, wrenching it behind him just hard enough to let him know that he is no longer in charge of his own body. He orders the new prisoner to put his other arm behind his back and grabs it with his other hand, locking it in a similar position and crossing the other. Then, hearing the woman's voice he forcefully marches his prisoner through the door.
"Aye, we be in yer' debt m'lady, though we come t'help."
"Is the whole army or whatever it is still out there?" the woman asks, somewhat nonsensically since the sounds of the combatants rushing around and barking orders is still clearly audible. Frayed nerves are to be expected; you soon discover that there are more than two dozen people huddled in a chapel barely capable of housing them for the duration of a single service, and they've been besieged for close to an hour by now. You find that several people are distinctly ambivalent about leaving the short-term sanctuary, while many others are so frantic to get away that they're impossible to reason with, pacing like caged animals and seemingly on the verge of hurting themselves (or anyone else in arm's reach). A Persuasion roll at DC 15 will be required to get any one person to cooperate in any particular task you might suggest (such as watching over the captive so that Mornok doesn't have to keep holding him personally).
"There are a few less of them now, ma'am. We saw to that. Is anyone in charge here, maybe a priest? We need to figure how to get all of you out of here, and I need to check everyone in here against my list of missing people." Lyle glances around, noticing how many more people there are than he expected. In a quiet voice he whispers to Grimnir and Mornok "I'm not sure Brandobaris himself could sneak this many people back unnoticed. We're going to need amazing luck or a brilliant plan here, and it'd be better to have both."
"And it'll be even more difficult if they can't stay focused," he whispers back, indicating the frantically pacing villagers. "Idle hands make for mutinous acts. Let's get them occupied first."
Turning to the whole group, the sailor priest starts with a small introduction and then gives out some orders.
"My name is Grimnir Hammerdeep, and I am a priest. Together with my friends Mornok and Lyle here, we have come on behalf of the sheriff to get you to the keep. Now, we need everyone to work together for this to succeed, and I will therefore give everyone a task."
Not waiting for answers, he immediately asks three villagers to help Mornok with the prisoner, any sturdy looking people to scavenge the temple for makeshift weapons, and any halflings to discuss with Lyle the options of getting to the keep without being observed. Two more people are asked to watch the goings-on outside, and any remaining villagers are instructed to gather all water and liquids in the temple.
Then he turns to the woman who let them in, and asks quietly, "Are there any priests or healers that can tend to injuries? "
Not sure if my (low) Persuasion check can do all that, but I figured as a sailor Grimnir at least knows a bit about giving orders...
We could always use the help action to give advantage. Most mornok has less diplomacy skill than Grimnir does. I could always roll an intimidate check instead, the threat doesn't necessarily have to originate from him. Does Lyle want to 'help' grimnir?
Lyle looks through the church for anyone he knows, or halflings, or anyone who looks particularly likely to cause trouble with Grimnir's plans. He distributes his meager supply of sweets taken from Galena's table before all this mess started and says a few vague words of reassurance. A little food and a little encouragement is all Lyle needs in even the most trying times and he assumes those would work for most people too.
A lot of surly and ungrateful people fail to cooperate in your efforts, but you are eventually able both to complete a rough census of the crowd, matching a few names to the list Lyle was given, and to locate the temple's rather ineffectual deacon, a half-elf by the name of Aiden Moonfalcon. Looking at him you immediately get the distinct impression that he's eaten almost nothing but greens and beans his entire life. He clearly wants to get these people out of the temple and to somewhere safe, but he's far too polite and weak-willed to be capable of standing up to the loudest and most demanding half-dozen or so of the gathered folk. His job used to be just leading a group of middle-aged women in prayers of thanksgiving for a good harvest in the surrounding farms; now he's utterly out of his depth and can't think of much to do besides continue dressing the wounds of his flock, using a rapidly-depleting healer's kit since he's already totally exhausted his meager reserve of magical ability.
Lyle glances hopefully at the healer's kit. "I don't suppose you can do anything for us? We've had a bit of a journey getting here. A secret passage that leads out of the church would be nice too. Kidding, we haven't been that lucky." Lyle pauses for a moment to take a closer look at Aiden. Easily browbeaten, more concerned with being polite than his own well being, and ready to fold like last week's laundry. Gods, I've known grifters who would trade their own mothers to meet a mark like this. If I can trick him out of something as easily as I think, I bet I could con some self esteem into him. That'd be a real confidence trick!
Lyle snorts at his internal joke. "Sorry, it's a bit dusty in here. Look Aiden, we really need to get these people out of here but they don't seem likely to listen to us. What we need is someone they know as an authority figure. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people about town talk about how much they respect Aiden Moonfalcon, how he has such a commanding presence. It's just like farming, you've spent every day planting the seeds of your authority and now it's time to reap what you've sewn! Get up there and get them to listen to us!"
Lyle's relying on the classic trick of putting an idea in someone's head then talking too quickly for them to realize it wasn't their idea, and lying to Aiden about how much people respect him. Using my inspiration to roll with advantage _: 1D20+4 = +4 = 18 _: 1D20+4 = +4 = 11
Grimnir grimaces as many of the villagers ignore or defy his orders. At least they seem to listen somewhat to Lyle, and the clever halfling seems to have found someone they will be more likely to follow.
With a helpless shrug, the dwarf gives up his attempts to sway the crowd and instead focuses on a plan.
”Perhaps we can disguise a few villagers as cultists,” he suggests to Mornok hesitantly. ”And the rest their prisoners, heading to the fort to exchange for whatever they seek. Think that’ll work?”
Mornok had taken the chance to bind and muzzle their prisoner. Somehow ge felt the dragonborn would be safest in his direct custody. Not that he wouldn't happily bash the creature's head in himself, but he was a supporter of the law. If he could see to it this prisoner would live to see the noose.
"May'aps, but I'm thinkin' 'aving this many people movin' would draw the attention of this army's leaders. No way they'd not 'ave their own plans fer' these people."
I am of thoroughly mixed opinion as to how I should react to Lyle's trick. He's using his powers for good rather than evil, but I still have an extremely negative opinion of con-artistry as a technique, regardless of how it's being applied. If we were in my homebrew setting, I'd probably have supernatural forces discriminate against you for even attempting such a thing, but in Forgotten Realms I suspect that the equivalent supernatural forces would approve, although I don't know for sure. I'm really going to have to think about this, and I'm open to arguments being posted on the OOC thread as to how I should handle this.
The dragonborn is okay with having Mornok bind his hands behind him, but as he goes to fasten his jaws shut as well, he quickly interjects "I hope you realize that if I wanted to acid your face off, those wouldn't stop me from doing it. Anything you could do which would keep me from using my breath weapon would also keep me from breathing normally, so if you aren't willing to trust that I've surrendered, you might as well execute me."
I'm going to fudge things a bit and let you guys get a Short Rest in about 10 minutes. If anyone asks it was a minor miracle caused by Chauntea under these exact circumstances, which will not be repeated elsewhere.
Aiden seems to perk up a little at Lyle's little pep talk; he doesn't look like he's been entirely convinced, but it was good enough to snap him out of his funk, and he goes and starts taking charge of the listless people and getting them organized. The three of you are able to get a brief rest; you're able to round up some decent bread and cheese to fix yourself a small meal, bandage a few of your more serious wounds, and generally get your morale back together.
However in the course of this time, the besiegers are able to organize, and not only is there now a substantial gathering of kobolds and cultists at the back door again, but the much larger force at the front door has brought up some kind of battering ram, which is about to be deployed n order to bash their way into the sanctuary. The people have been gotten out of their panicked state, but they're about to fall apart again if the group can't get them out of here pretty quickly.
In the end Mornok DID muzzle the dragonborn, he left the lizard in the corner of the entryway facing said corner otherwise untouched with a note thanking him for the information and signed Mornok Stormhammer stuck to his back. In another room, he called his allies, including the pries to a meeting.
"We'd best leave soon, th' gate's not likely t' 'old up long. I say we go back th' way we come in. We'll 'ave t' bust through, but I've just enough magic now t' make a nice short work o' a pile o' them. After that th' cowards are sure t' run. Then we get these people runnin' straight fer' th' keep."
”Aye,” Grimnir agrees, ”Going now is the best chance we’ve got.”
The cleric feels immensely better after eating and drinking; what’s in that stuff? He feels guilty towards his goddess about taking so much of another deity’s bounty, but decides any penitence must come later. Now’s the time for action.
”A swift outbreak with all the firepower we have could take them by surprise. If everyone starts shooting or throwing as soon as we exit, we may appear more formidable than we are. And we head straight for the fort at full speed.”
He knows, but doesn’t say, that many villagers probably won’t make it. Instead, Grimnir smiles at the local priest as the story comes together in his head.
”My fellow clerics of the sea goddess will have captured or defeated the remaining cultists by now, judging by the storm outside. All we need to do is break through the crowd just outside, and most of those are just panicky kobolds.”