Though all of me wanted to pursue those goblins down the mines, and, if not find him alive, at least avenge him. Perhaps had it been a season or two ago, I could imagine a younger, less experienced dwarf would have done just very that. Yet, two adventuring seasons in a row of being made a captive, starved, and, at least in my own mind, slaughtered for sport, tends to wizen even people as stubborn as ours into caution. Though small goblins tend to live in large packs, and though our fellowship is battle hardened, we’re likely to be more capable in effecting a rescue rather than committing a suicide with the provision and assistance of a pack of guides and warriors into the mines.
Moreover, we had given our word to both the Great Eagle and the insane wizard, Radagast the Brown, that we’d look into this matter. Yet if they think we—or at least I—will only scout when the chance to end some orcs, goblins, and other vile creatures is afoot, then they don’t know very well the civic duties of being a Dwarf.
As we got closer to the marshes something seemed to be bothering our guide, Marrick. I’d noticed him rubbing his wrists nervously whenever talk inevitably arose around about what we would encounter in the foggy cursed swamp. A sign of some buried shame or guilt no doubt—and a habit I myself am not unfamiliar to. I decided to tell Falco, our resident jolly Hobbit and people-person, in the hopes that perhaps something could be done to ease the man’s conscience. As Heva, our newest companion, an oafishly big Beorning warrior-woman, would later scream something approximating this piece of wisdom at the poor guide: It is hard to trust someone to guide you through danger when it frightens him more than you do.
Falco sat with him a while smoking his infamous ‘last bit’ of pipe weep to calm the man down. He would later report to the party that Marrick had gotten taken prisoner once in the marshes. He’d luckily escape the clutches of whatever ‘things’ (he refused to speak of them) that had tortured him and killed several other rangers to boot. Thus began the antics of each member of the fellowship to fortify our guide’s courage. The unusually un-dour Hunter went fishing with him. Though that part of finding food had been successful, the resulting meal seemed not to sit right with the trapper, nevertheless, appetites all around seemed to be in the wane that night. (Note: While a fish’s scale may share the appearance of silver, they bear no resemblance in reactance to fire and hot coals.) As mentioned before, the oafishly big Beorning tried yelling at the poor man from her almost 7 foot vantage, which probably resulted in scarring the man even further. Finally, as all other methods seemed to move his spirit, I tried simply to talk to talk to the man upfront as a would a young Dwarf before his first battle. I promised that he would be under my protection, and he seemed to take heart in that and renewed the march to the marshes.
Personally, the episode brought memories back of those—still to this day I do not know if they truly existed or were part of the Lady Ireime’s nightmarish battle with the evil spirit—I had promised the same protection to at Dol Guldur; promised and failed.
Perhaps it was those bitter memories, or the thoughts of what the goblins could now be doing to father, the bitterness of two failed campaigns back to back, or even the depressing and monotonous country, but I had unusual trouble sleeping and nightmare of Elves singing, and for the first time since leaving Erebor, difficulty traveling to a place. Conditions worsen, and as, Marrick had warned us, the fog grew so thick that it was difficult to even see our own feet as we plodded through. Heva, given her considerable height, had the hardest time of it, almost falling into a hive of snakes face-first before her natural athleticism allowed her to twist mid-air and safely land a ways away. Misfortune morphed into luck; however, as in going after her, we noticed a strange opening set into the hill behind the concealment of vines and the snakes. Safely going around the obstacles, we entered a flooded tunnel, myself in the lead carrying young torch-bearing Master Falco as the waters rose above his stature.
A little distance in we turned left and came to a small pantry which settled the matter: this was the abandoned home of the Hobbits we had heard about who had settled in this area outside of the Shire. Certainly, a goblin would hang such a congenial sign as ‘Welcome Home’. Faded as it was, the place had certainly been abandoned for long enough that the residents were either dead or had no use for their possessions. We searched the place for useful items, and were certainly surprised to find enough treasure (and gold) for each of us. Falco, being the party expert on all things Hobbit, even found a special new pipe for his tobacco.
Our next significant encounter in the swamp came when we managed, somehow, through the blinding fog to spot a small creature sitting atop a hill alone. Hardly being able to see anything in front of us, it was all we could do to stay together without getting lost or stabbing each other by mistake. Falco climbed the small hill and made conversation with the creature, who, as we would later find out was a fellow Hobbit. From him we learned that some Evil had come and with it the corruption of these parts, driving vile creatures to capture a nearby tower.
Before we could, however, head over to investigate, we were attacked by a basilisk! Local folklore alluded to the existence of this mighty creature in these parts, but to actually see one was a dreadful sight. Nevertheless, the fellowship proved true, as all of us quickly landed solid blows with axe, sword, bow and spear! The beast fell; within mere minutes.
Alas, I caught its poisonous spittle that seeped through my shield while blocking for Hunter to get his shot. Luckily, the clever Falco used his knowledge of Herb Lore to find the right ingredients for an antidote, or I would have been a further liability to the party; something I’m more loath and loath to do to the fellowship.
Sufficiently recovered, we continued towards the Orc-blighted tower until we encountered figures in the distance. As we readied for battle, it was only through Hunter’s sharp eyes spotting mangled feet and arms that we avoided landing misplace blows upon escaping prisoners! Letting them pass to safety, we engaged the dreaded Orcs and Goblins, familiar enemies now to our battle-test company. Cutting, shooting, slashing, we defeated them all, soundly.
Now, we stand a distance away from the tower; weary of the certain Evil that lay within.