Attack The Darkness

Aerandir, Spring 2961

What great fortune it was to run into a party of dwarves that helped carry our wounded away to safety as we headed towards the signs of treasure and mystery. Ginar and Khorum lead the way towards the gold they could smell. Luckily, we found out they weren’t leading us out afterall. However, with our wounded taken care of, we followed their lead towards whatever treasures might be ahead.

Our party arrived at a fork in the road breaking towards the left and the right. One slightly heading upwards and the other downwards. Khorum smelling a stronger scent of gold toward the upward path lead us towards what we hope was treasures. After ascending the corridor for a while, we arrived in a room that was trashed by the greedy dwarves that left with our wounded. Ripper scrounged around and was able to gather a few gold coins after looking around, but Jarwald found a secret compartment within the walls containing a sapphire ring. Immediately our two dwarves gravitated towards the ring, eager to buy it off of Jarwald. Jarwald sensed the price Ginar offered was quite low for the ring and held onto to it instead of giving it to either dwarf. I would have to agree with him because it’s a fact that dwarves are a little bit greedy and would try to turn a profit at every corner.

At the end of the room were two pillar inscribed with runes of a different language. Khorum went up to decipher the meaning, but was dumbfounded. Being the more intelligent being in the group, I took a stab at the inscriptions. I couldn’t understand why this Khorum had such a difficult time deciphering the inscription. It told us of a goblin king’s tomb that laid rest further within the corridor. We decided to head through the pillars. Upon passing the pillars, there was a dark energy that tried to overtake us, but we all were strong enough to push past the dark powers.

After pushing past the corridor, we arrived in a circular stairwell leading downwards. We carried on down the path, but just as we were about to make it to the last flights of stairs. Khorum activated a trap and almost killed the party. Heavy boulders fell and broke all the stairs within the stairwell. Luckily, everyone survived the trap and suffered no damage. Seeing that this was going to be our only way out, we sent Jarwald and Ripper back up to tie a rope so we could escape from danger quickly if need be.

Continuing forward we came into a small room with a small tomb at the back of the room. Oddly, the tomb was blank with no inscription. There was the stench of evil within this room. Khorum found no traps in the room, but he did discover a secret door at the back. We decided it was better to fully investigate the room before moving past the tomb. Khorum pushed open the tomb and we all prepared for the worst to come. As Khorum pushed open the tomb, two ghouls crawled out of the tomb and tried to attack us. Ginar sang and inspired us, while Khorum, Jarwald, and Ithildir struck at the ghouls. Khorums’ strike was so powerful, that one of the ghouls kept disappearing out of existence and reappearing. Finally Khorum struck true and a ghoul fell back never to stand again. Then, turning his attention to the second Jarwald and Khorum finished off the last ghoul.

After defeating the ghouls, we searched the insides of the tomb and to my surprised I found a belt of akallazur lying under. It was a spectacle to see the dwarves’ eyes glimmer, but they said nothing about it. Because of my discovery, Everyone became hopeful and search again to find treasures within the tomb. Ithildir spotted a ring in the corner of the tomb and kept it to himself. The ring made him slightly harder to find, but other than that we saw nothing special.

Since there was more treasures to be found behind a secret compartment, we moved through the room. We came upon another room with a large stone door. After opening up the door the stench of evil and blood filled our noses. I was struck with a sense of fear that overcame my senses. This room was had a narrow path in the middle leading to a rusted brass door. Beside the narrow path were bodies of goblins with throats slit as offering to some lord or god. Ithildir fired an arrow at the rust door and we just watched the arrow sink into the door like butter. Khorum tied a rope to the door and pulled. The door came off it’s hinges and a room filled with gold and another tomb of larger size appeared on the other side. I hesitantly followed the party through the sacrifice room towards the inner chamber. We all gatherered all the gold lying around quickly and looked around for more treasures within. I found a small crevice to the side with a tiny dark chest. I saw no use for it so I gave it to Khorum. Khorum opened the box revealing a ring made of interwoven spidersilk. It was the ring of eyes.

As, we were about to leave this horrid place, A roar came from the other room and the walls to one side of the room broke open. A large entity with a sword gleaming with poison appeared. The moment I saw the sword my blood froze. This was made to kill me. I could not stay here any longer, I must flee from this thing! Ginar was the first to rush out and get out of the scarifice room. I stumbled out of fear and Jarwald rushed past me. From behind we heard another roar, but it was from Khorum as anger overtook him. He struck out at Ripper, wounding him grieviously, as he ran past him. Then Ripper ran past me and towards Jarwald, whom at this moment stood still. But as Ripper ran towards Jarwald, He turned so quick with his spear and narrowly missed striking Ripper causing him to spiral towards the door. The Entity looked amused so he called off his 3 minions that appeared. It looked straight at me and a cold chill ran through my body making me gasp for air as I was filled with fear. Somehow I made it through this room and made it towards the door. Jarwald charged the entity with anger and struck it hard. Ginar saw her beloved broken and sung to break him out of his stupor. Khorum heard the melody of Ginar and broke out of his anger. Seeing the entity ahead Khorum rushed in and began striking the entity as well. Ithildir rushed after Khorum and struck at the entity as well. Khorum and Jarwald chipped away at the armor as ranged attacks seemed to do no damage to this heavily armored entity. Piece by piece, the armor tore away. Finally Khorum landed the final blow after breaking off all it’s armor and the entity was slain along with it’s minions.

However, just as the battle was coming to a close. my vision became narrow and dark. The next thing I knew was I had a pounding headache. I looked around to see the Khorum had smacked me in the back of the head and there was an arrow sticking out of the backside of Ripper. What have I done? I must have fallen into fear. But now is not the time to think about such things. We hurried out of the corridor towards the broken stairwell in order to escape from this evil. Ripper made the first ascent with no problems, but Ithildir went and broke the rope. Khorum had to climb up and fix the rope to himself for the rest of us to climb up.

We returned to the fork in the road and decided to head towars the other fork in the road to see what lied in that direction. We found only a boulder with a dead dwarf underneath and 3 gold coins lain in an exact pattern. Ithildir shot one of the coins out of plain and we heard the sound of something falling. Moments later, A large boulder of similar size to the other fell right in the exact spot.

We left the tunnel, but found out that we had left ithildir behind. After going back to the fork into the room with boulders. We found traces of ithildir heading his way back into the darkness. We lost him to the darkness. Oh, Ithildir, I know you are a wayward elf, but you and I are still elves. You will be missed. Find a way back to us if possible, but we cannot waste the time to find you. We have to go and take care of dog and Bill.

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The Hunt for Dog, Jarwald, Spring 2961 TA
Falling for it

Many thanks to my brother Jorad for telling a tale of adventure regarding my folly in trusting a “helpful stranger” and the exploits of Sigmund, Ginar, Ithildir, Khorum, and Riddler. He is a better writer than I but I feel it best to pen this particular tale myself. As my brother mentioned, I was carried off by eagles and only able to await for the arrival of my companions. Eagles make good company, as they are quiet and steadfast, but I have to admit I missed the cheerful singing of Ginar, the wisdom of Khorum, and the antics of Ithildir, who may be even crazier than I first imagined.

Before many days had past, however, I caught a glimse of the party coming my way, accompanied by Cruac. Anger burned in my veins and I charged headlong down the mountainside, and when I arrived he was long gone. I wanted sorely to track the backstabbing fiend, but Khorum reminded me of our greater purpose, to track down Dog and his dog. The party introduced me to a newcomer they had met along the way, unfortunately another elf, named Aerandir, an elf of Mirkwood. The new elf was a very clever sort and always alert, but seemed more skin and bone than muscle… time will tell if he can survive in the company of such warriors that I have joined.

The tracks clearly led to a vertical shaft, and we pressed on. We fastened a rope, and Ripper decided to go first and fell, injuring himself. Khorum followed after and fell on top of Ripper, almost killing the poor hobbit. Ithildir followed and also fell from the rope but landed like a cat. Khorum saw Dog, an injured fledgling eagle, and Bill the dog. All of them were half dead, and Dog’s right leg has mostly eaten by the eagle apparently. Suddenly, arrows peppered the top of the vertical shaft, hitting me in my back, and I knew immediately it was the fiend Cruac. Aerandir, who was up with me, had to take a look and was rewarded with an arrow in his shoulder as well. Seeing our bad situation, we both headed down the rope immediately. Unlike the others, we easily climbed down. One of Cruac’s men started to pull the rope in an attempt to strand us down the shaft, so I yanked furiously and he didn’t have the presence of mind to let go, so he fell down the shaft, landing heavily, and I took the opportunity to spear him through the chest immediately! Khorum informed me that we were supposed to talk to prisoners before killing them but his reasoning was lost on me. Ah well.

We pressed deeper into the tunnels, hoping to find another way out, carrying Dog, the eagle, and Bill. Khorum smelled gold so we were encouraged. Soon we found some cells containing a hobbit named Deagol, cousin of Riddler, and a feral Beorning, a shell of a man with sharpened fingernails. Khorum knocked him unconscious when we realized he was not listening to reason, so we had to carry two more. We moved on, but were attacked by a horde of goblins! Knorum and I killed six of the minions of evil, and all other party members slayed 5, but Ripper only managed to kill 3. As Ripper was collecting souvenirs, we were beset by another war party of goblins. Ripper shined this time, making a trick shot that killed two Goblins, an amazing double head shot. The rest of the party made short work of the group, forgetting to keep track of the kills this time, letting bloodlust overcome us as goblin gore spattered on our armor. I remember seeing Ithildir gleefully swinging his dwarven axe, decapitating two orcs with a single swing, Khorum swinging his powerful maddox with dark rage, smashing a rather large Goblin into a bloody mist, and Aerandir skillfully firing his bow while dancing out of the way of rusty swords swung wildly by battle crazed Goblins. When it was over, we nodded to each other in respect, and moved on.

We found another passage and once going down, found a group of dwarves laden with gold. They were very helpful and cheerful, since they had such a large amount of loot. They agreed to help us by carrying the wounded to the exit, and said that there was more gold and a great evil that they dared not face. This only seemed to encourage Khorum, but I sensed that there was a Barrows nearby. Heedless, we traveled onward, following the wise dwarf.

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Jorad, Spring 2961 TA

After the unfortunate events leading up to the death of Khalindor, Khorum the bold and Riddler the twice-riddled made their way to safety. Little is known what befell Cordak and Brodomir, the men of Gondor, but it is rumored that they may still live, slaving away in a deep mine.

Time past, and another winter, and the war with the Beornings and Viglunds folk continued without respite. Elves seem to be interested in watching but little else. When it seemed that the tide of the war had turned in the Beorning’s favor, they were ambushed by Trolls and Goblins, and had to retreat, saved only by Beorn’s keen senses. Facing another deadlock, Beorn left, and the Beornings argued among themselves about what to do next. The elders voted to stand on the defensive and wait for Beorn’s return, but some of the hotter headed warriors disagreed. Jarwald the spear was one such man.

Jarwald headed to the Easterly Inn, shared a pipe with some hobbits, and headed South alone, only to be harassed by a dog who laid sticks in his path and otherwise drove off all the game. Jarwald caught it with a toss of a stone and the creature finally ran off, and found a curious old greatspear with a chewed haft.

Khorum, now the Warleader of the Woodmen, met to decide how to spread out their forces, and met with Jarwald and his beautiful (by Dwarven standards) fiance unexpectedly, and without any hesitation, Ginar proceeded to heckle, barter, cajole, and persuade the fleet-of-foot dwarf to assist the Beornings in return for promised support in the future. Also strolling in with a large contingency of haughty elves was a lurker, a ner-do-well wayward Elf named Ithildir. The strange elf was singing a naughty tune to himself and carrying the axe of a dead dwarf, related to Khorum. Ginar was none too pleased and demanded the elf return the family heirloom, but Knorum would have none of it and soon the argument was over. Also, Sigmund, a superb Woodland tracker, joined the group, looking for adventure. He was in high spirits and his cur had healed from being knocked in a tree by a troll many months before.

The party headed out to the Easterly Inn and met a fat hobbit, Ginar’s supplier of pipe weed, and pressed him for information. Khorum prevailed upon the greedy hobbit and secured a room and board for the fellowship before heading out.

Furthermore, there was a riddle in the village left by some dog, and the party looked it over carefully. Apparently it was a message saying that “Dog” went to help the eagles 4 months ago and didn’t return. The party left immediately and was on the trail of the clever dog. After days of travelling, the fellowship, consisting of Sigmund, Ginar, Ithildir, Khorum, Riddler, and Jarwald, arrived at the Rushdown Forest. There, they found a curious cottage in the middle of the woods and approached. They found an old woman who was singing and stirring a cauldron. She invited them inside and soon they were haggling over herbs and potions, after finding that her name was Nab, known as the spinner. She had children working on preparing herbal remedies, and also let the fellowship know that the man known as Dog had been by and headed off, so the party headed out again in hopes to find him.

Soon they came upon a hunter by the name of Cruac, who said that he had seen the dog recently and could take them to the spot. They followed and found a jumble of sticks which were indecipherable. It was late so they made camp and took watches. Jarwald had the third watch, whereupon he saw Cruac approach and foolishly heeded Cruac’s invitation to go hunting, leaving his fellows asleep! As they were hunting, Jarwald started to get a feeling he was being stalked, and sure enough, he realized it was a trick! Jarwald snuck quickly into the bushes and lost the pursuers and Cruac likewise, doubling back towards the camp. He made haste to distance himself from the hunters, but they were hot on his trail. From above, Jarwald saw a majestic great Eagle soaring, and extended his arms! The mighty eagle bore Jarwald from the ground, drawing fire from several archers, who all missed by a wide margin. Jarwald gleefully soared through the air, pointing and speaking to the eagle, hoping the mighty bird would understand his intent to return to the camp and warn his companions.

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Khalindor's Noble Sacrifice (final)
Cordak, Spring 2956 TA

That night, an ill omen appeared, a ghastly, visible, tangible spirit of great power. The party awoke with the chill of dread permeating their bodies as the creature approached. Khalindor sought to kill the wraith, but Khorum and Brodomir bade him to stand back. So fierce was their argument that the fellows turned upon one another and fought. Khorum, enraged, smote Khalindor on his shield with a mighty blow, knocking him back, and did not appear to be offering any quarter! Brodomir struck Khorum’s maul from his hand at length, and Cordak retrieved it until Khorum composed himself. The spirit then conversed with the fellowship, telling them that he was cursed by Sauron and bound to the very same Black Troll, Mormog, that the fellowship had been hunting for many days. Khalindor in his wisdom, knew then that if he could defeat the enemy leader, the ancient elf would be free of her curse.

The party traveled then to the enemy camp and sent Riddler ahead to scout the area. Ah, if they had only known! But alas, Ridder found three trolls and the leader guarding a vast amount of treasure, and was spotted. Without fear, the brash hobbit let an arrow fly towards Mormog, who loosed a javelin with such speed and accuracy that has rarely been seen. The hobbit was struck and wounded! The party, seeing the scene below, charged in to rescue the hobbit, but he was struck by yet another javelin and fell unconscious, dying. Cordak squared off with the two headed clawed troll, known as an Etin, and struck him mightily but was caught in the beasts’s grasp. Likewise Khalindor, Khorum, and Brodomir fought massive opponents, dealing vicious and cunning blows, but alas it was certain that they could not win. Brodomir called for a retreat, but was unable to turn his back on his foe, and Cordak was clutched in the grip of the Etin. Khorum ruefully fled, grabbing the twice-speared body of Riddler, fleeing the battlefield. As victory was fading from their grasp, Khalindor, delirious from loss of blood, invoked a duel with the Black Troll, citing gibberish about an ancient castle and forefathers and nonsensical lore. Mormog grunted and accepted the duel, his massive blade at the ready, and he charged in confidently to fight the elven champion. Time and again, the elf struck true with his blade, and time and again the huge enemy shrugged off the blows, hatefully pouring all his fearsome strength into attacking the high elf. Over and over he battered Khalindor’s defenses until he bashed him down, and struck him low. Khalindor fell, and the hopes of the two men of Gondor fell with him as they watched in horror. Without hesitation, Mormog severed Khalindor’s head from his body and gleefully looted his corpse, taking a priceless treasure. It was a dark day in Rivendell.

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Khalindor's Last Duel
Cordak, Spring 2956 TA

In the troll-infested tunnels near Rivendell, two men of Gondor, Brodomir and Cordak, a Dwarf known as Khorum, and a hobbit known in these parts as Riddler the Ripper, planned how they would escape their dire situation. Khalindor meditated in his elven way without offering any suggestions. Brodomir had an idea involving some herbs and roasting a dead cow on a fire to draw out the Trolls and perhaps get them to eat and fall asleep. Once this feast was prepared, he began to sing to draw them in, as Cordak suggested that the party challenge the enemies who would come to a riddle-off. Riddler seemed pleased to do this as he was a clever little hobbit. Fortunately, the enemy party had a riddlemaster amongst them and he accepted the bold challenge, making the party swear to abide by the terms that the hobbit would be the meal of the trolls and the rest of the party would get a head start. At length, Riddler triumphed in the battle of wits and the party ran for it. After running for some time, Brodomir saw an ideal spot to set up an ambush, with high ground and a winding path, and even some boulders to roll down the path at their pursuers. The plan went well with Khorum rolling the boulders and the rest of the party firing volley after volley of arrows down on the oncoming evil men and a large troll named Gorzim. Riddler and Khalindor focused on slaying the evil men, and were quite effective. Soon the troll was upon the party and Brodomir, Khorum, and Cordak laid into him with their weapons. Cordak struck thrice, his last blow a wound. Brodomir and Khorum struck ghastly blows and the troll soon knew he was bested, his men all dead. The troll surrendered, promising to show the party where the Black Orc had gone and where he had stashed his treasure, so they all agreed to spare his life. Everything had gone well thus far… a pity that their luck was going to change very soon.

(to be continued… this is a work in progress, soon to be finished)

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The Harrying of Black Tarn

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.

Duskwater.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

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“I see I’ve made it in time” the wizard said, seeming pleased with himself.

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The Council of the North
as penned down by Brodomir

Laketown – Spring 2956

As my companions wander South to find adventure and riches, I’m stuck in bed recovering. Curse these healers, I told them I’m quite ready to get goi…

the following lines are smudged with specks of blood

All right, not quite, but give me a couple of days and for sure I will…

more blood stains

Well, this is just great, and my last good bit of parchment too. My Apologies Lord Steward, but this will have to do as my report.

I would report about our visit to Elrond and the wonders of the Last Homely Home, but Falco says we’re not supposed to talk about it. Some rule about “what happens in Rivendell”. Suffice to say that we went there and our companions had a variety of recovered items entrusted to Elrond. For some reason Khorum was much better company afterwards.

As we spent the winter at the, The Easterly Inn messengers came to announce that King Bard was calling another Council of the Northern leaders in the Spring. The meeting would be had at Laketown this time around, so as not to suggest that Bard puts himself above other leaders. Being the only man of Gondor around these parts, I was afforded an invitation as a special guest and observer.

The travel was blessedly free of skirmishes with spiders, or elves, and Khorum’s mattock did not bash any heads, for which the rest of us were all thankful. By the time we arrived some of the dignitaries were already occupying the various inns and the town was getting quite crowded. However we did manage to find rooms with one of Falco’s “business partners”, once the bales of weed had been moved away. Representatives of the various Woodsmen faction were already here, as well as from Erebor and even the Grey Mountains.

More unusual was the presence of an envoy from the Viglundings, and none other than Viglund’s daughter, Astrid. If you’ve not read about them yet, Viglund and his folk are Beorn’s estranged cousins, who live in the harsh lands of the northern Anduin Vale. They are a harsh people themselves, living near goblins and even trading with them, and that’s not nearly all of their unsavory customs.

Of Beorn himself, and his folk, there was not a peep. Maybe we should have gone down to meet him before we rode here. As for the Elves of Mirkwood, King Thranduil had not sent a large delegation this year, probably still offended at his trees being cut down, so apparently he had tasked our companion Eladren to represent him.

There were also a few other special guests like myself. One of such was Frah, probably the second strangest Dwarf I’ve ever met (Bifur does, and always will hold the crown there). He went by the name of Frah and he seemed to have adopted the manners, and clothing of the Mirwood elves over those of his people, which made for a peculiar sight indeed. Apparently he was here to solicit help and funding to explore some forgotten Dwarf stronghold in the mountains, as he’d happily explain to all who approached him.

Last but not least was Mogdred of Tyrant’s Hill, who I’d heard of from Falco. A dour fellow, we was even more straightforward about why he came here. He needed weapons and support to fight the Orcs of Dol Guldur, and he cared little about anyone else’s problems.
We tried to approach Astrid separately, but although she’d accept a drink readily enough, she remain tight-lipped about her agenda. She had much better manners than her companions, but hard eyes in a face sharp as a knife. I must say I didn’t really know what to make of her.

During one night at one of the city’s inns, while we were still trying to gleam tidings and rumors, but mostly just enjoying good ale, I suddenly felt a tingle up my spine. I turned back and across the tavern, there was a man in woodsman garb, staring at me with dark eyes. I tapped my drinking companion’s shoulder and asked him if he knew the man, but when I turned back he was nowhere to be seen. I asked around the tavern and a few people who had caught glimpse of the man had recognized him as Haldar, a woodsman hunter who had supposedly vanished into Mirkwood a few months back. Strange enough but try as I might there was no finding the man, so eventually I went back to my mug.

A couple days later, the new Master of Laketown, a plump man with funny hair and tiny, sausage-like fingers proclaimed the Council of the North open. A variety of issues were discussed, which I’ll arrange in a neat list for ease of reading.

  • King Bard started the discussion with matters innocuous enough: He planned to open more farmlands around the Dale, which nobody had any issue with.
  • Then came a much trickier issue. Following skirmishes in which Beorn’s peple had allegedly attacked Viglundings around the Forest Gate, Astrid sought a resolution against Beorn, to formally recognize her people’s right to occupy the Forest Gate. Apparently shed had been busy trying to convince the other leaders of her cause, and with Beorn not here to defend himself it seemed for a moment that she might get her way – the Master seemed undecided, but eventually both the Dwarves and Elves moved to quash the idea.
  • Next was the thorny issue of trade tariffs through the elf-path of Mirkwood. Predictably, everyone but Thranduil wanted those lowered, so poor Eladrin became a bit wild-eyed at the pressure and apparently wished he were back in the woods. The discussions were long and Mogdred started to grunt his impatience. Eventually the Elves gavein that they may lower the tariffs, if their other grievances regarding the cutting of trees were addressed.
  • The cutting of trees was next, and both Bard and the Master were very noncommital when it came to chopping fewer trees. The Master proposed a strange scheme in which his people would cut the trees, and make the Elves pay for them but nobody paid him much attention. The Elves were frustrated at this and vowed that the matter should be discussed further.
  • Next was an envoy from far away Dorwinion – a finely dressed man with a thin, waxed mustache and a extravagant feathered hat. He brought us the sad news that no wine would be forthcoming from his lands this year, as they had been hit by a plague from the South, and the once fertile wineyards had become barren. He implored our assistance to provide his lands with any kind of fertilizer to restore their soil – manure being the most obvious. Everyone was at a loss as how to carry manure to such distant lands, but I made a note to inform Falco, he fancied himself an expert in pig-shit, and he might well come up with one of his crazy business schemes.
  • Frah, who had been getting impatient, got to present his proposal for an expedition into the norther mounts, seeking a lost Dwarven city and its treasure. Strangely enough the Master was quite interested there, but the other leaders were mostly indifferent, so the good Dwarf was left with some fairly empty promises, and some jeers from his fellows from Erebor.
  • An envoy from Black Tarn informed us about increasing spider attacks in that area, and requested urgent help for their defense, as well as healers skilled in curing spider’s poison. The Elves agreed so send healers, while King Bard said he’d send what warriors he could spare, giving our assemble party a pointed glance.
  • FInally Mogdred, who was positively fuming at this point, got to make his case. He needed men and weapons to defend Southern Mirkwood from increasing Orc attacks out of Dol Guldur. He intimated that this was for everyone’s safety and offered no payment in return.
    The Dwarves had been angling to sell weapons from their forges, but the last bit cut them short. On my side, I’d been mulling over an idea and stepped up to speak.

“My Lords, Tyrant’s hill is far to the South from here, across arduous lands. My own Kingdom is not much farther a journey from there than the road here. It just so happens than our armories hold many more swords than we have warriors, so maybe we could start some for of trade with the Woodsmen.” This was well received and we agree to try and put a first caravan together as soon as possible – with your permission of course.

Bard didn’t have any warriors to commit to the area, but agreed to send some trusted observers (I wonder who that could be) to gauge the situation. His business done, Mogdred departed without further ado.

  • The last to speak was an envoy – or rather a refugee – from the East Bight. Apparently the ruler of that Woodsmen settlement, Ceowyn, had gone practically overnight from a fair and generous ruler, to an unhinged tyrant, and his people were being increasingly oppressed under his rule. I cut Bard short at this point and indicated that his “trusted observer” may find their way there in their travels.

The council was called to an end after that, and we headed out of the great hall. I happened to step outside just ahead of Bard and his wife, and my gaze was drawn up at a rooftop some distance away: a dark silhouette in what looked like elf garb – but something was off about that – was aiming a longbow at us. Whether at me, Bard or his wife I couldn’t know, but I had just the time to yell and jump in front of them before the archer let loose, unbelievably fast. They was an incredibly loud “thunk!”, then another and my shield arm, which I’d raised, wouldn’t budge from my chest any more. Then the world started spinning backwards, I heard my elf friend cry in pain near me, and I knew no more.

I’m afraid you’ll have to hear about the aftermath from my companions, as I was comatose for days under the healer’s ministrations. King Bard however sent his best healers and trusted guards to watch over me, and he is much indebted to Gondor for his and his wife safety – he has agreed to give us a full voice at future councils.

I must say I’ve been cared for well in Laketown, Falco even traveled to visit me, and is right now arranging the caravan that should bring you this letter – along with a few other items for trade.

Your humble servant, Brodomir.

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The Captain's watch is over
OR The saving and losing of Bifur

Six, they were. Six brave, stalwart souls marched through the shadows of the Mirkwood. Six folk who knew the dangers there before them – yet still they went. The woodsmen of Rhosgobel were in a dire way, and they knew no others would rise up to the task. Six, they were.

Khorum and Bifur, brothers and dwarfs alike. Brodomir, the gallant. Leaf, the young and wild. There was Eladrin – an Elf, no less. And at their lead was their captain. A brave and selfless man from Dale – the pride of the watch, enemy of the Enemy, and a Man amongst men. Galman.

The company set out to help the woodsmen, as so many had gone missing – lured off the safer paths of the Great Wood by fell voices and the dark allure of tainted treasures. The rivers were being overrun by monstrous spiders – the like of which few men have seen and survived to tell of it! The waters, so carefully watched over by the strange and beautiful waterwives* had been so tainted that it had even driven those poor, pure creatures mad – and set them murdering those who once they had protected.

Through many dangerous encounters, the company finally set foot within the cursed halls of some ancient evil. The burial chamber of some dark and ill-fated king of Numenor – the very stones vibrated with the stench of wickedness. There in the first chamber lurked an awful altar – draped in the skin of some man whose skin had been carved with some sinful skill as a map of the dreaded place they explored. Only Bifur, that most curious and lore-minded dwarf, was brave or foolish enough to approach the altar and procure the map – though it was in doing so that he started a chain of events that would reverberate through the company’s very souls.

Curious is the trap-maker’s art, that some should craft something that they will never witness the fruits of their labor. And devious was the minds at work in the construction of that tomb. The very walls seemed to watch those brave six – and viciously mock them by echoing loudly their every wail and scream as their resolve was tested. Again and again the tomb tried to claim the company amongst its dead. Again and again, they persevered.

Then came they to a chamber – ornate in its décor, holding fast six doors that opened into sepulchers. From them outpoured the undead host – one by one the dead were returned to rest, but the last went hard. Tooth and nail, blood and sweat – the battle was hard won, and even though the shadow’s servants were dispersed, their foul traces lingered in the souls of our heroes. Were it not for Galman’s guidance, surely the party would have turned then – seeking respite from their toils. But no, press on!

And they did. They pressed on deeper into the very belly of the tomb. Opening wide now into the final chambers – the last resting place of an evil so dark that I will leave it unnamed, dare I wake it once more onto Middle Earth.

Brave Khorum, so steeped in his hatred of the shadow that at times you’d think it was his only fuel, saw the evil resting there and met it face to face – a loud crack, ancient magics awakening, and a mattock furiously wielded into those red eyes in the darkness… the battle was joined!
The evil thing. The undead thing. That blasted wight, so terrible it’s red eyes – they seemed like burning stars. It’s wicked crown. It’s thirsting black blade. A terrible foe! With only a lifting of its grotesque hand, Leaf came tumbling to the floor as if it were Autumn – and Brodomir’s brave form slid to the ground without his usual dignity. Two fell, and four remained – urged on, always urging was the Captain.

Blades clashed, the brothers battled bravely – drawing the ire of the thing – they played such dangerous games. Time and again, the only thing between that wicked black blade and certain death was the Captain’s shield. Time and again, Bifur and Khorum whittled away at the ghostly thing while Eladrin, dearest bravest elf, sang elvish tunes of battle and hope – the only thing that kept the weariness of combat from dragging the company down.

Then, disaster – ever competitive, the brothers quarreled – and Bifur drew up his lordly face and began barking orders at his friends and ken, “Worthless, skill-less, utter fools and lackwits! Unworthy of my aid!” There was a fear in his voice, a terrible sadness, a horrible rage – the shadow had gripped his heart just when the company needed him most.
The ghastly thing cackled loudly then, knowing it was turning the tide – and even then it struck at the haughty dwarf, who would not lift an arm to save himself.

Know one thing about our Captain, if nothing else is true, he was a true friend. He saw the evil blade coming, arcing down towards his friend of years – even though that friend had turned their backs on him, he would not let his friend die. With a heroic surge, Galman through himself in the way of the strike – but this time it was not his shield that took it, but his neck.

Khorum, enraged by the death of his cherished friend and companion – found the strength for one more blow before he took the beast down, himself falling in the process – badly beaten, but still alive.

Treasures? Yes. There were many treasures there – but at what price, gold? The captain was dead – and so shaken by his shameful actions, Bifur saw fit to depart from the company – a broken dwarf, resigned to solitude, a self-proclaimed exile to walk the depths of Mirkwood alone.

So listen, friends and patrons of this fine inn. Listen and raise a glass to toast the life and death of the man that saw his friends leave that tomb alive. Learn from the bravery of that man of Dale and pray hope that you will have a friend as true as him when you need it the most.

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Journey to Black Tarn

Dear King Thranduil,

Forgive me my tardiness, much has happened in the time since I have last returned to your fair halls and I find that I have become overwhelmed by the events as so much has transpired. I fear that I am not competent enough to clearly transcribe them but I shall try nonetheless. Having left the domain of the dwarves, Erebor, we ventured through Mirkwood. The way was dark and gloomy and we were fortunate, though much to Khorum’s displeasure, to have met a group of 4 elves making a similar journey. We joined their party and yet although with our combined voices the song was not so joyful as the woods are so oppressive in their gloom. I fear thee is a lot of dark movement within the woods. Orcs move south towards Dol Guldur. What shadow lurks there sire? Dread fills my thoughts simply contemplating what shadowy malice stirs within those spires and I pray that my eyes never settle upon that place and its influence will once again depart from Mirkwood so that the woods may once again be filled with light.

Yet, I digress. We made our way south to Woodmen Town. Khoram has great renown there and was merrily greeted. Unfortunately, that greeting was not well spread and I am sad to report that my entry to his home was barred. Yet, no matter, I will change his opinion of elves. Leaf out new companion found a secret doorway which led to a beautiful garden. The garden belonged to Radagast. Sadly, Radagast was not home, but my wits abandoned me and still I ventured inside. I admit I could not repress the desire to enter such a fair place and wander among the glories of his garden. So fair was the song I sung as I was inspired by the beauty that surrounded me. Lost we became and time slipped by us (Capt. Galman, Leaf and I that is) so that once we exited the garden a number of days had passed. Upon doing so a foul omen descended, the skies became dark and ash fell upon the land. Khorum was convinced that it was our doing, yet I do not believe our entry into such a fair place could bring such doom upon the world. What shadow rests upon his shoulders that doom he sees in levity?

We learnt that two woodmen had ventured to Black Tarn as they had learnt of gold hidden within a cairn upon the shores of the lake. They had not returned and we were charged with their rescue. Though the distance is not great between the town and the lake the journey was arduous and took us a great deal longer as it was full of evil portents and great peril. We came upon a Great Orc and were forced into battle with it. It was a foul beast and a mighty adversary. It would have escaped, though barely if not for Bifur appearing at the most fortuitous moment and putting an end to it.

We resolved to move on although our injuries were great and our endurance very low. Upon attempting to cross back over the river we met a river maiden, Duskwater. The maiden was bedecked in a suit of armour woven from spider thread and Bifur was much intrigued by such marvelous craftsmanship. He became obsessed and determined to craft such a suit himself. We learnt from Duskwater of two sources of corruption within the woods: gold tainted by the shadow and Great Spiders, daughters of Ungoliant, stalking Mirkwood. We also learnt that Radagast had told Duskwater that an ancient evil has stirred within Dol Guldur (could this mean what I think it means? Is the sorcerer returned? I fear the answer is in the affirmative and dark times indeed are ahead). I had an intuition though that Duskwater is not being entirely truthful and she was holding something back. She did though inform us a safer passage across the river. Yet the news that there were several barrows in the area intrigued us so much that we felt that we had to investigate. Galman saw that something bad had happened to Duskwater and pressed her on this matter upon which we learnt some shocking news. The trauma of having the gold and its corrupting influence upon mortals had become too much for Duskwater and she was forced to drown a man overcome by the gold’s corruption.

After much discussion, we decided to investigate the gold and Duskwater determined to accompany us in our search. So we ventured forth. Galman while hunting heard cries for help. He immediately decided to run to assist whoever was in peril. Fortunately, due to my keen sense of hearing, I heard his movement and brought the companions to his aid. Upon sighting him again, I discovered that he had been lured into a trap by an illusion and he had got himself in a rather sticky situation. He had climbed up into a tree and was hacking away at some spider webs, which he had gotten himself caught up in. The trap had been set by Tyulqin, one of Shelob’s three offspring. Duskwater immediately retreated screaming something incomprehensible. Nevertheless, we did battle with the monstrosity. Bifur and Captain Galman did a great deal of damage and were able to drive Tyulqin off. Unfortunately, we were not able to slay the it, although Capt. Galman did not give up easily and chased after Tyulqin even though both he had become poisoned along with Leaf.

We were most fortuitous to meet Radagast, who had been searching for his rabbit companion, Penny. So joyful was I upon meeting such a wonderful and wise personage that I sung his praises. So enchanted was Radagast that he gifted my with Betsy, a most delightful bird, so that I might call upon him in a time of great need. Radagast informed us that Tyulqin had poisoned Duskwater and has her under its sway. He beseeched us to come find him so that we may assist him in slaying the spider and breaking its hold over Duskwater.

That is all the news I have for now. We have not yet returned to the Woodmen Town as we must still venture forth into the barrow as that is what we have come here to do and none of us have any desire to leave our task unfulfilled. What awaits us within? Nothing that we can’t handle together I am sure.

Faithfully yours,

Eladren

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The Hobbit Who Cried Wolf
also introducing Brodomir

11th_Adventure_trail.jpg

Laketown – Spring 2953

It had been a thoroughly shitty couple of seasons for Falco, and he needed a break. First a blight on the weed – A Blight! On the weed! – Unheard of in the Shire where they regularly got a couple crops a year from the fertile ground, and the worst kind of pests around were young Hobbits from neighboring hamlets. And then there had been the wolves. As if the weed-addicted one in the North weren’t bad enough, now he had to deal with a Werewolf in Mirkwood. One that just wouldn’t die, no matter how many times you killed it! No, clearly this was bad business and Falco needed to turn his mind to other things. Fortunately, the many taverns of Laketown were more than happy to provide distraction.

For this night’s entertainment, he had picked a venue named “_The Drowned Pickle_” His purse wasn’t as heavy as he’d like – The elves had been as stingy as Khorum always said! You’d think they could cough up a bit of coin for the return of a long lost heirloom, but no – they had been all sweet words and melancholic music, but in the end the company had limped home with naught but scars and bruises to show for their expedition. Fortunately, he at least had a fresh story to tell, and in his experience that kept the drinks flowing just as well as coin.

Sure enough, an hour later he was perched atop a table, wiping the foam of ale off his chin. “So Khorum had slain the beast right good the last time, skinned it and made a coat out of it even. You’d think it would have the decency to stay dead, right? But there it was again facing us, the very same creature: a wolf eight feet tall standing on its hind legs, its eyes red like embers and with a howl to put ice in the heart of the proudest warrior.

The beast was cunning too, for it sprung our own trap right back at us, and we had to hop over a pool of flaming oil to reach it, getting singed in the process. When it saw Khorum we knew it truly was the same beast, for it let out a howl full of vengeance and hatred, and leapt straight for him, biting and raking. It was all Galman and I could do to get our shields in the way, or it would have finished off the Dwarf before the fight even begun.

As it was, the fight was looking pretty dire as Khorum had taken a heavy blow in the first onslaught and could barely stand, and Galman and I were soon bleeding from many cuts too. We managed to take out the two smaller wolves, but the great beast kept eluding our blows. Our elf companion Alladrin shot a stream of arrow at it, but none could pierce its think hide. Khorum tried to charge at the monster again, but it flew straight over him, landing a good thirty paces away to rake at our archer, who fell back spraying bright elf blood into the clearing.”

Falco took a long pull from his tankard, drawing it out and letting the tension build up. “But drawing strength out of pure dwarven stubbornness, Khorum charged back and managed clip the beast with a mighty blow from his mattock, sending it reeling. Before it could recover, Galman dashed straight it, discarding his shield, and plunged his sword two handed deep into the creature’s exposed breast and slayed it”

“Slew” a voice said from the back of the room, slicing through the silence that had broken as the story reached its culmination. It came from a stranger dressed in black, sitting alone at the back. Falco ignored it.

“Slayed the beast right good, once more. To be sure we even burned the body until nothing but ash remained. But we could still feel it’s hateful spirit, hovering in the air around us. Be wary, traveler of Mirkwood, do not stray off the path for by now that cursed spirit may well have found a new body to inhabit, and it may be that the beast prowls once more the shadows of the forest, looking for its next victim and plotting its revenge.”

Falco hopped off the table – he planned to follow up with an encore of “My Brother has no Beard” to lighten the mood, but right now he needed a pee and a smoke.

When he stepped back in, he scanned the room (A difficult task when you’re smaller than the tables), but the only empty seats to be found were with the rude stranger from before. However, he could spot the telltale trail of smoke above the man’s head – maybe they could get along after all! But when he made his way around he stopped in dismay. The man had no pipe! Instead, on his lips hung a crude cylinder of parchment, which was lit at one end.
-“What in the name of sanity are you smoking, my good man?” Falco said as he hopped onto a chair to better look at the strange contraption.

-“That? Oh, Athelas, I ran out of good leaf a while ago, but I found a patch of this growing on the way here – it’s got a pretty potent kick but it’s not bad if you cut it with a few other herbs.

- Now what… I mean… Don’t your people use proper pipes where you’re from?

- Ah… well yes we do, although it’s not as common as it is in the North. I just dropped my old pipe while fording a river. But on the other hand, I had all those stacks of parchment the new Steward wanted me to deliver to the wild people in the North… I figure nobody would miss a few of those. Back home they say the Northmen can’t even read anyway. No offense to your people of course, sir Dwarf.

- Wait, what did you call me?

- Sir, or em.. lady? I’m afraid it’s the first time I actually meet one of your people… I was expecting more beard, but then I heard the song…

- Ah! This is pretty good. I’ve got to tell Khorum, apparently I make a better Dwarf than his brother does! But no sir, I’m no Dwarf at all. I’m a Hobbit of Shire, one of the Little Folk as the Big Folk call us. The name’s Falco.”

- “Hobbit… Shire…” the stranger took a long pull out of his strange roll. “You’re shitting me.”

- “I most certainly am not! And who are you to make such rude accusations?” Falco said, frowning as he examined the man’s strange tunic – on the black front was emblazoned a white tree, surmounted by seven stars.

- Ah, I am Brodomir, Herald of Gondor, such as it is. You must forgive my manners… it’s just that… I had always thought the Halfling to be the stuff of children’s tales and old prophecies. You know, when the Halfling comes, Isildur’s bane shall waken and all that. I never I’d come face to face with one… or, face to… you get me.

“Isil… what?” Falco thought. The man was stranger than just his clothes or accent. Must be that thing he smoked, not natural that was, although it did smell spicy and intriguing. But his black and silver tabard was of high quality and he was wearing shiny mail underneath – if the people of that Gondor place were that wealthy, it could be a market worth looking into.

- “Well sir Brodomir, allow me to educate you in the ways of the Shire then. This here is a proper smoking pipe, hand-carved at the Easterly Inn. And this here is the finest weed you’ll find this side of the misty mountains, from my own very exclusive stock, Falco said, a trace of bitterness in his voice.

-“Why thank you sir Hobbit!” Brodomir lit the pipe and took a few pulls. “This is mighty fine stuff for sure, I’ve not had the like in Gondor! Can I maybe offer you some of my own mix of herbs in return? Not nearly as smooth, but it helps me sleep at night – you know, forget some of the worse stuff you see on the road, you know?” he said as he handed out another one of his strange rolls.

Had Falco still been the same Hobbit he was in the Shire, he’d have refused in horror – but he’d had a few pints and was certainly intrigued by the exotic aroma. Besides, he surely didn’t lack for things he’d rather forget.

So he gingerly lit the roll off his pipe and took an experimental pull. He coughed most of it out and thought he’d seared his lungs from the inside for a moment.

-“Ack! Uh! This is pretty rough! Gallow-weed? And… Athelas you said?

- A few petals of simbelmynë too. Filched that when I was delivering missives in Rohan. They say it only grows on the burial mounds of their Kings.”

Falco felt the urge to giggle.

-“It’s um… different, for sure.”

- “Nothing as fine as this Shire leaf of yours, for sure, but it has its uses. If you think that’s strong you should try that thing they smoke in Far Harad. They say it makes their warriors forget pain and the fear of death.

- I… I think there’s a lot we need to talk about.” Falco muttered, his pupils starting to dilate.

That summer, Brodomir and Falco smoked just about every herb, leaf and weed to be found around Laketown, separately, in various combinations and using various experimental implements, saw a lot of things that weren’t there, tried to get the youths in town to partake, and were generally insufferable to anyone not as intoxicated as they were. The locals started dropping polite hints such as “Don’t you have an inn you should be running?”

Falco resolved to take a few years off the road to take better care of the weed fields – apparently things just didn’t work out when he wasn’t supervising every step – whereas Brodomir could do some Heralding around and promote his product across the country.

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