Falco – 2948 TA – Spring
It was a pretty subdued winter after we made our way back from the high pass. Fortunately we didn’t have more troubles with Orc warbands, on the trip back or for the rest of the season, but our heart were heavy with failure once again, and Dog had been hit hardest of all.
We settled him in as best we could at the Inn, and tried to lighten up his mood as best we could – but whatever darkness had fallen over him had left him less than he once was, and it was all we could do to make him comfortable. Only sitting out by the porch with his dog seemed to bring back a faint spark in his eyes. Sometimes we would see him perk up and try to make words, but all that came out of his lips were strange sounds and gibberish, and our own words didn’t seem to register with him.
Winter turned into spring, and still we waited for him to come back to his senses. Khorum pounded away at the forge until there was hardly any piece of metal around the Inn he hadn’t straightened up or somehow tinkered with. Our new companion, Heva, took to ranging further and further around the Inn, looking for bandits, Orcs or other dangers. Even I, though I kept myself busy with my new crops and the thousand things that need doing around an Inn, started to feel that familiar itch – time was a wastin’, as my Da would have said.
If we couldn’t bring Dog back to normal for now, we could at least honor his promise to the Eagles for him, and go scout that place they warned us about, in the Marshes southwest of Trader’s Island. It was about time to resupply the Inn anyway, so we set off South by boat, stopping first at Trader’s Island for a bit of trading and gossip – and also to start building some contacts to distribute my new crop of pipe leaf, once it would be nice and dry in the Autumn.
The trading was fruitful, and I happened onto an old woman who was brewing what seemed like a very fine elexir indeed. Just one sip of it, and the sores I’d gotten from helping row the boat vanished in an instant. We could definitely use that on the road so I bought as many flasks as she could fill. We also heard an interesting rumor that some wild Hobbits lived further down the Anduin valley – although they tended to avoid the Big Folk and keep to themselves. I couldn’t quite reconcile the words “wild” and “hobbit” together, but this was worth investigating – I had thought Me and Dody’s family were the only ones of our folk around the Anduin.
We got ourselves ready to range further South but as we were packing our bags to leave, we were surprised to see Bill – the dog seemed to have tracked us down all the way downriver – and managed to catch up with us on an island, no less! He seemed rather pleased with himself too, and he was bearing a cryptic message to us. Through drawing a crude map with twigs and a few pointed barks, he made us understand that we needed to go Southeast to one of the woodsmen settlements lying that way. It might not be Rhosgobel he meant, but given that a Wizard who talks to animals is reputed to live there, it seemed a fairly safe bet.
We made our way there without too much trouble, and were surprised to find that the village was surrounded by no more than an average sized hedge in guise of defenses. Yet somehow we could not seem to get a glimpse over or through it, and the branches seemed to get thicker as we tried to peer in. We walked around it for a while before we found a way into the town.
Our first attempt to meet Radagast was… strange. We’d walked most of the way around the village and it didn’t seem that big even to me. Yet when we tried to venture into the smal clump of trees where his home was, we got lost for several hours and could only find our way out after nightfall. Apparently this is standard fare whenever he’s not ready to receive visitors. The next evening, a candle was lit to guide us inside the trees and we found our way without incident.
Radagast was… strange. Although there was a clever light shining in these brown eyes, they always seemed ever so slightly out of focus and he kept losing track of the conversation. He seemed wary, often looking over his shoulder especially upon mention of the Enemy. He explained to us that some evil was rising out of Gladden Fields, some piece in the Enemy’s plans out of an old fortress named Dwemerhorn. He intimated that we should investigate, but stealthily so as not to alert our foe. Khorum shrugged at that, but Radagast reiterated his warning and gifted us with small enchanted twigs, that he said would help us move unnoticed if we pinned them to our cloaks. He also recommended that we seek allies on our journey, especially at Mountain Hall, where the local woodsmen would sometimes range into the marshes.
So we ventured back out – another long journey but travel along that part of the Anduin vale is not especially arduous in the Spring. We we accompanied back to Trader’s Island by a young and exceedingly keen Woodswoman by the name of Banna. Apparently she shared Radagast’s gift of talking to animals. But she also talked to humans. A lot.
Back at Trader’s Island, we bade our farewells to Banna and headed West onto the mountain trail. The woodsmen in these parts were a different breed altogether from their eastern brothers – living on fish and goats, surrounding themselves in stone buildings and busy with mining and quarrying. In fact our Dwarf companion felt right at home. We were to speak to Hartfast, the chieftain of Mountain Hall, and although he seemed guarded at first, he was quick to realized what a boon an experienced Dwarf miner could be to advise his teams. In fact it seems he had a Dwarf adviser – the previous one had been none other than Vidor, Khorum and Bifur’s own father! Khorum of course perked up at that, and relentlessly questioned our host, but he had little new to tell us – Vidor had worked here for some months – then been captured in a goblin raid and taken in some dark tunnels.
Still, Khorum did his best to continue his father’s work, and for a few days he advised the city’s miners and guards – on how to reinforce their tunnels, but more importantly on how to prepare against new goblin raids. And sure enough, a raid came. One night, we had just settled down when a cry of alarm was heard. The goblins had attacked one of the gates – stabbing the guard and spoiling some supplies before retreating back into the night. The damage to the city was not substantial, but the poor guard had fallen into the river and was bleeding profusely from a goblin’s blade. Fortunately I was able to get rescue to him, and with a big gulp of that most useful brew I had acquired, the man’s bleeding soon stopped.
This finally let us earn Hartfast’s favor, and I had the privilege to being shown the town’s most guarded treasure – the Horn of Mountain Hall, which it was told, had the power to summon all friends of Mountain Hall, however far they may be, when the town was in grave danger. Hatrfast agreed to help us in our mission, by securing us the service of a guide – a man by the name of Marick the Trapper, who had often scouted the Gladden Fields and knew of that Dwemerhorn place we were looking for.
So once again, we set off for another journey, this time more arduous as we reached the outer edge of the swamps. Traveling through a swam was bad enough in normal time – but we soon started to feel the first sign of the Enemy’s presence, now familiar to us. The swamp turned darker – and we could feel many eyes upon us from within the cloying mists.