Brodomir, 2956 TA
Have I really not written in this thing since I left Laketown? It has been so long I don’t even know where to start. I’d have to write something about that nasty business in the East Bight with Ceowyn, but I really should leave that to Khorum – it would feel too much like ratting him out, just to write the account in this diary.
Mirkwood and its spiders it is then… but before that, I need to mention the events at Black Tarn for we met some most important characters there.
So, after the inhabitants of Black Tarn took some time to gather their belongings, we set off on a convoy through the narrows of Mirkwood, in order to take them safely to the nearest Woodsmen settlements. They bid their farewells to the other group, those who had chosen to migrate North to the Dale and leave the evils of Mirkwood behind forever, then it was time to get going.
Even though this journey was shorter in miles than many we have made through Mirkwood, it was no less arduous, for what little path there was was scantly trodden, and the woods no less dark. Our traveling companions were heavily laden, many distraught at abandoning their home, so we made slow and gloomy going, and were all thoroughly depressed by the time we reached the shore of the Black Tarn.
There, the few more adventurous fellows who had decided to make for Tyrant’s Hill and help protect their people left us to head South, and the rest of us continued onward. We plodded on but soon Khorum spotted the telltale trail of goblins, a medium sized band it looked like. He perked up at that – although the rest of us did not: the tracks were headed straight for the village.
We marched more quickly after that, and managed to catch up with the goblins, which promptly fell victim to an acute case of Mattock-to-the-face. Weary, dirtied and battered we made our way into the village only to find out that the residents looked no better than we. Apparently they had been harassed by goblin raids every night for weeks. Some kind of filthy invasive algae had also been choking up the lake and waterways, making fishing and even travel on the river impossible. They were on their last legs and seriously considering abandoning the village at that point.
Fortunately the party we intercepted must have been the main raiding force for that night, as no more goblins were spotted by the sentries and we and the villagers were able to get some much-needed rest. The next day feeling somewhat refreshed, we set out to shore up the village’s defenses. Unfortunately a fortress the place was not, and by evening we had made little progress.
As the sun started to set an unexpected visitor entered the village: A woman, naked and with her hair dripping – quite a vision she was – but her eyes had a haunted look. She waved away a villager who tried to offer her clothes, and in a soft voice that somehow carried to the back of the crowd she introduced herself as the River Maiden Duskwater, and bid us all leave the village and follow her to safety without tarrying, for a great threat was coming for us. She was quite vague on where exactly “safety” was and the nature of the threat, but somehow mesmerized by her voice, we were all inclined to believe her. When pressed on what the threat was she simply pointed South. The villagers muttered to themselves and made signs to ward off evil. All knew what place she was pointing at, and none of us wanted to name it.
“Dol Guldur eh?” Khorum grunted. “And what kind of creature exactly is coming from Dol Guldur?” he insisted, drawing out the words.
That seemed to break a spell. “Don’t… don’t t-trust a word she.. says!” Allandren croaked out, seeming to force the words out of his throat. “The… ack! The Enemy got to her! She’s been… corrupted!” And with a strangled scream he drew his sword and rushed at her. But his swing hit only water… and in an eyeblink there was only a puddle where duskwater had stood.
We stood in stunned silence, blinking away the remains of her enchantment. While she had been talking the night had fallen in full, and an ominous silence had taken over the woods. Just as we started to regain our wits, the silence was broken by the shrieks of goblins charging out of the woods, coming at us from all side.
I tried to gather the villagers into a defensive circle with the children and the elderly in the middle, while Khorum and the others charged straight at the goblins. Khalindor clambered on top of a building to get a better vantage point.
With no easy targets and a furious Dwarf scything them like wheat at the harvest, the Goblins quickly fell back into the woods, although they took longer to break than we’d have expected from the cowardly creatures. When the fighting was done, the only wounded in the party was Khalindor, who’d fallen from his building. He did spot one worrisome tidbit in his fall, however. One villager had gotten isolated from the others by the docks, and while everyone else was busy fighting the goblins, a couple of figures surged out of the water and dragged him in before he had time to utter a scream.
We chose to try and track these river creatures. They seemed humanoid in shape, although covered in weed and slime. Whatever they were, they might lead us to whatever was driving the goblins to attack the village, or even to the source of the river’s plague.
The next day Riddler spotted a vaguely humanoid trail and we set out South. We walked for most of the day before finally finding the creature’s lair. For a moment we thought Riddler might have tracked a giant beaver instead, for the trail led into a large pond of water, dammed on one side by a collection of fallen trees, with a mound at the center.
Not wanting to fight whatever laid inside in it’s own element, we decided to attack the dam first, to try and drain the pond. It took us some hours but finally the murky water started flowing. Without so much as a warning ripple, eight figures emerged from the water to try and grab us. We were expecting an attack but were taken aback by their horrifying stench, our war cries dying in our throats.
They came swinging at us with wicked claws and we barely held them back with shield and spear. Khorum took a hit and even the stoic dwarf gasped at the pain, the beast’s claws coming back red with blood – this was an enemy a good deal more dangerous than goblins. We redoubled our attacks decided to take them down before they could inflict more damage, and fortunately managed to come to Khorum’s aid before the things could swarm him. Soon enough all that was left were ugly-looking corpses, and their persistent stench.
The threat was dealt with, but night was upon us and we were no closer to finding the source of the Goblin attacks. We started to head back to Black Tarn, but then we felt it.
What exactly we sensed, words fail me to describe. It was as if the woods had suddenly been plunge in the midst of the harshest winter – and I felt an icy hand grab inside my chest and squeeze. My eyes searched the darkness but could see nothing – and yet the feeling of a malevolent presence, just in front of us, grew overwhelming. I tried to say something, to shake from my torpor but I couldn’t move a muscle.
Only Khalindor, ancient and wise, had managed to keep his wits together. He started to chant something in Elvish, an incantation, or a prayer maybe. Then our Enemy was revealed, and I wished he hadn’t.
A battle of wills then seemed to go between the robed, spectral figure and the High Elf. The figure raised a hand and snarled something we couldn’t understand. The Elf paled but stood firm. The figure didn’t seem to move but suddenly it was upon the Elf, sword held high in skeletal fingers. It struck one blow, then another and the elf recoiled but caught them on his shield each time. Then a last blow sent him sprawling back, shield dented and barely conscious.
Desperation must have helped then, for our Woodsman companion let out a scream then, breaking the paralysis and rushing at the figure. But his swing struck only wind and he passed through our enemy, now insubstantial as mist. All color fled his face and without so much as a whimper he fell to the ground, limp.
The rest of us could do nothing but stare at our death. The figure made no move towards us but in the woods we caught a glimpse of a pair of red eyes. Then another. Then it was dozens, all around us.
Then we could see no more, for a blinding light had enveloped the woods. All around us we heard hateful screams, and a blood-curdling shriek from the robed figure. By the time our vision returned a lone figure stood in front of us.
“I see I’ve made it in time” the wizard said, seeming pleased with himself.