Attack The Darkness

The Hobbit Who Cried Wolf
also introducing Brodomir


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.

The Galman Letters, II
To his nephew, Garth Dandywine of Laketown

Dearest nephew,

I hope that this letter finds you well. By now you’ve heard tale of the adventuring band hired by the Dwarfs of the Lonely Mountain on a task to open up the old road through the Mirkwood. It should not surprise you to learn that your favorite uncle has immersed himself in yet another misadventure with those erstwhile heroes known as the Seven.

The rumors are true, of course. The old road means to be opened by the coin of the Dwarves and the blood and sweat of the men that would earn it. Undoubtedly my expertise as a guide through the Mirkwood and my knowledge of the wildlife therein are all the reason those long-bearded miners felt I would excel as the leader of this merry band – well, not leader by name of course, much too proud those dour dwarfs – Khorum takes the title of honorary leader, but you and I both know that none than one of our blood could ever know the ins and outs of this wood.

We’ve made the journey from West to East and West again through the wood, at first a simple scouting excursion, merely highlighting areas of interest along the path (because though it is known as the Old Road, I can tell you first-hand that I’ve seen bigger roads behind the outhouses of the Prancing Pony). Once we had scouted out the likely areas, it was a short rest before we plunged back into those miserable woods to see what they might yet hide.

You would not believe me to tell it, but it’s true that we – in our very first outting – trundled upon a lair of one of Shelob’s children. Oh yes. As fat and furious as they come. It’s girth was so large that it looked the full portion of a thatched roof of an old mill which it had made it’s home. We came at it with fire and sword – to match its fang and venom. Twas a near thing. The small hobbit I have spoken of before, Falco, he fell and I swear before the stars that I thought he was dead. Khorum, stout and brave, almost fell to the same fate, were it not for the selfless bravery of your uncle I doubt that any of us would have walked away, I flung myself bodily into the bite that was destined for the lifeblood of that true dwarf.

What happened afterwards remains a blur, sufficed to say that Khorum saw the beast off – chasing it back into the forests to lick its wounds and nursed our wounds while he kept a sleepless watch for two days.

Listen to me now, young Garth, true friends are made of such stuff. You lay your life on the line for them, and they’ll return the favor a thousand times over. Never be afraid to raise up your shield for a friend- I hear that you’re becoming quite a promising prospect among the people of the Lake – but trust when I tell you, the best accolades come from your friends.

We also made encounters in an abandoned Dwarvish fortress, eerily devoid of its former owners – save for the bodies of the fallen. Dark work, that. It seems something drove the dwarf-folk into fighting amongst themselves… and when I tell you of the treasures that were laying hidden deep in that foul place, you might soon see why someone would turn against their own. The dragon-sickness, I have heard it called. Stay mindful that the glittering gold of the world never overcomes your own good sense.

That said… your uncle did not come out of the adventure a pauper by any means. The elven sword, “Ripta-naste” (I have been told it’s from the Quenyan dialect which means something akin to “slicer of webs”) has come to rest in my hands. This is a weapon with a purpose, I feel it’s soothing song and it’s deep hatred of those dark spiders of the mirkwood. This weapon – should I ever pass on – belongs to our family.

I see that Bifur is motioning that it’s my turn for watch, I hope that you’re in high spirits and good health. If you’re looking for honest work, contact our man in Dale and mention me by name. There’s plenty to do helping this road along.

With love and light,
Capt. Galman

The Galman Letters
To his nephew, Garth Dandywine of Laketown

To my most treasured nephew Garth,

I hope this letter finds you in good fortune and good health. You won’t believe how far afield I have found myself travelling ever since I have taken up with this merry band of wanderers that call themselves “The Seven.” In truth, I wonder at times where the name of the group has come from – in my travels and travails we’ve numbered as few as two and only on some rare occasion do we ever number more than five. It wasn’t until the first time I was invited back to their headquarters, the Easterly Inn, where I met the woodsman they called “Dog” and his shaggy beast named “Bill” that I even met the remaining members.

I tell you this, the Woodsmen are a hardy folk – prone to a sudden cheer and much bravado at times – but this Dog, he is a man changed by what he has seen. He smiles, sure enough, when the weather is fine and the music plays at the inn, his loyal hound curled up by his feet – ever faithful and watchful. But I’ve never seen another man with such a far-away look in his eyes – and such a sadness within.

The dwarf, Khorum, confided in me that Dog had never been the same ever since he witnessed some dark business that resulted in the near death of one of their allies, an elf maiden of ancient age and untold beauty. The darkness claimed some part of his will, some part of his heart that day. Said that the poor man – who was once the keenest eye in the party, would wander off on his own when he should have been keeping watch. Said that he retired to the inn, to linger close to friends and far from shadows – and to spare his party any danger he might lead them into.

Khorum, and his brother Bifur, are the very heart of our company. A dour bunch, at times to be sure, but a pair of more loyal, more steadfast friends and fearsome foes you’ll never meet anywhere on that Lake of yours. The three of us have endured so many trials together, I sometimes wonder if my beard will grow out and others will mistake me for one of their own – so tight is the bond of friendship we now share.

Their father, a stout dwarf named Vidor, had been taken captive by some foul orcish host and the brothers had been seeking out signs and clues as to where he had been taken ever since the end of the battle of the five armies. Dwarves might not move fast, but I tell you this much my dear nephew – if a pair of dwarfs seek you out, they will surely find you in due time. So it was, the brothers heard tale that their father yet lived – but as a slave deep in some mountain holdfast, being kept as a gladiator for the amusement of evil men and orcs alike.

Did they balk at the news? Did they run to recruit some army to assail the mountain? Nay, my nephew… they set to work, clever as anything, conspiring with their friend Falco (a hobbit, if you would believe) to pretend to be enslaved themselves – with yours truly and the halfling to pose as their erstwhile captors! You’d not credit it if you weren’t there – your uncle, playing the part of some northern slaver! But the guise worked and we were able to free that ungrateful dwarf after a harrowing series of close calls that I will not disturb you with in these missives, just be thankful that you will never know that sort of hardship in your life amongst the guild of Laketown.

It grows late and we dare not light a fire out here in the blasted wastes of the Withered Heath, so I shall continue when next I have the chance. Give Herrik and your mother my love and do me proud – when I next return I’ll want to hear that you’ve done well by them.

Wishing you all the comforts that I’m missing,
Your favorite uncle

Treachery at the Dale
or the hunt for Khorum's gold

Autumn 2950, Third Age. From the journal of the hobbit Falco, after several torn pages followed by the inscription “What happens in Gundabad stays in Gundabad”

It was a time for celebration and merriment, as the veterans of the Five Armies (the three on the winning side at least), sat down after the melee to soothe their bruises with some strong ale, and rather excellent pipe weed. I was doing a brisk business on the sidelines.

For once however, the Dwarf Khorum didn’t seem interested in either drink or food, a much different glint in his eye as the stewards brought up a heavy chest. I had a full purse myself from my various trade endeavors, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of envy as the Dwarf stepped up to claim his prize for winning the Great Melee. Both of us were so intent on the image of glittering gold coins in our mind that it took a moment to register when the lid popped open and a knot of writhing snakes emerged instead!

It was Bifur who was fastest to react, leaping to knock the steward out of the way and slam the lid on the chest. There was treachery afoot it and seemed the snakes were just the venomous cherry on top of a larger poisonous cake, for as if on cue the assembled guests at the feast started retching, moaning and clutching their throats in agony! I’m no great healer but I’ve spent a fair bit of time with Dog, who was – and I recognized the symptoms of Hemlock poisoning – not too often fatal, but those affected would be incapacitated for two weeks, or more if they weren’t treated with the proper herbs.

We questioned the steward and it turned out that the supervisor Lockstone had excused himself under pretext of unpacking things, while I went out to rouse a healer, the rest of the group tracked him down to the docks, and caught a glimpse of a boat leaving down the river. We quickly gave chase, with Galman at the helm, without lights of our own but trusting in our in his knowledge of his native lands and waterways.

Our captain was a skillful one indeed for we quickly caught up with the fleeing boat and sided up alongside. Three guards on board started aiming arrows at us the but the rapids made it hard to aim, and soon we were boarding their ship – that is to say, Khorum and Bifur were boarding and I was miscalculating the motion of the ship and just barely catching myself on the outside of their boat’s railing.

Implacable as ever, Khorum shrugged off a strike from a guard and quickly proceeded to aerate the man’s head. But the other guard pounced upon Khorum from behind and I had to throw myself forward to intercept the blow. After that, between two angry Dwarfs and Hunter’s bow, the fight was over in seconds, leaving Lockstone alone with his stolen chest.

The man’s eyes were feral, and there was some spidery countenance about him as he draped himself over his stolen riches. He tensed to spring off the boat but an angry warning from Bifur made him shrink back. Then the moonlight hit him from the right angle, and we recognized him as another shadowy figure, one we’d seen long before, at the Dwimmerhorn, conversing with that undead spirit that’s been pulling the strings from the shadows. Birgol, I think the scoundrel’s name was. If we caught him alive maybe we could unravel some of the mysteries shrouding the Enemy’s plans, as well as figure out what kind of threat exactly the Dale was under – but Khorum didn’t see it that way: The Dwarf had been stolen from and intended to get his due, and that thief’s head was now part of it!

With a roar of vengeance, Khorum swung his mattock at the thief, a tremendous blow! But fast on his feet again, his brother Bifur interposed himself and took the hit instead – the swing so powerful it catapulted him straight over the edge and into the water! I grabbed some rope and dove after the poor dwarf, to try and stop this from becoming a fratricide, while on the boat the scuffle degenerated into fisticuffs between the angry Dwarf and the thief, and not a terribly effectual one on either side.

Fortunately, Galman had the presence to steer us towards dry land, and once we had regained our footing I was able to rope in Lockstone and put an end to the struggle. Once he had access to his chest of gold, Khorum quickly lost interest in anything else. Questioning the scoundrel confirmed our fears: An army was marching from Dol Guldur onto the Dale, led by some figure called the Gibbet King. We quickly made our way back to town to report to King Bard.

When we arrived in town, Chaos gripped the streets, seeping from conflicting rumors about the poisoning and an oncoming army. Bard’s hall was quiet, and the Bowman King was grim – somehow of all the assembled heroes, only him, King Dain and our own group seemed to have avoided the poison. Our warning of an oncoming army did little to cheer him up, but he took out some maps and we set to study the situation.

If an army was marching from Dol Guldur, they’d either need to cross King Thranduil’s forest to the Southwest, or cross the Running River to our South. There were few fords through the river, and unpredictable at that but two hundred miles downriver, lay Stonecutter’s Bridge, of ancient construction and the only reliable passage for a large force. The Dale needed time, for its heroes to recover and for help to be dispatched from the Lonely Mountain, and from the Iron Hills further out. If a small force could somehow deny this bridge to the oncoming army or even just delay them for a time, this could make all the difference.

We were maybe not the great heroes the Dale needed in this desperate hour, but we were the only ones it had so we quickly set off aboard another boat. Before leaving the Dale however, I prepared a letter and package to be sent back to the Inn if I didn’t return.

Again trusting our Captain to guide us down the rapids, we made good time to Stonecutter’s Bridge, and reached the village just six days. As we approached the clump of stone houses, we were stricken with how similar it looked to a Beorning village we’d been though four years before. The dwarves and I shared a look – no words were needed – we didn’t know yet the people of this village, but we were determined that they wouldn’t share the same fate as the folks of Stony Ford, not while we still drew breath.

We made ourselves known to the village head a near-blind old man. He was no friend of King Bard, but we managed to convince him of the danger and he agreed to send his womenfolk and children upriver, while he and fifteen of his men stayed behind. Then Hunter and I snuck south of the river to scout, while Bifur took charge of organizing the city’s defenses – and covertly, of undermining the bridge’s central pillar as well.

Hunter and I quickly ran into the army’s own scouts – warg riders – just half a day out, although they didn’t engage us. To make our situation worse, we also found a very crossable ford just thirty miles downriver – probably not the army’s first choice, but if we just collapsed the bridge straight away it wouldn’t take them very long to circle around – we had to bait them in, then delay them as much as we could to buy time for the Dale. Worse, we’d soon have to worry about some of their faster troops circling around and attacking from the back while we were trying to hold the bridge. Still, we tried to make the best preparations possible in what little time we had.

The next morning, a group of goblins and wargs was massing on the other side of the river. A larger Orc advanced across the bridge, demanding we yield to his army. We asked him, none too politely, to come forward an pay the toll, but instead he raised his arm to order his minions to advance – then there was a thunk! and the Orc toppled forward – Hunter’s arrow had gone straight through his shield, upraised arm, and finally his face.

“You shall not pass!” muttered the tight-lipped ranger. But undeterred or perhaps not realizing yet what had happened, the goblin horde rushed forward. The Battle of the Bridge had begun.

In remembrance of a Heva
The First to fall

Carried high through the successes against the ancient evil that corrupted the Dimmerhorn – the heroes from the Easterly Inn (accompanied by the savage swamp hobbit, Flea and the man known as Lifstan) had to toil to bring home the treasures from that forsaken place. The fight against that dark wight was hard-fought, but knowing that the evil was – it not purged completely – definitely set back, helped lighten the mood as they had to creep back through swamp and field back to their homes.

Soon Autumn turned Winter – and the fellowship occupied itself in their own pursuits. Of note, Heva made quick friends with that swamp-footed hobbit, Flea, and the other newest member of the fellowship through their combined efforts at the Woodsmen’s games. The trio made their impression – for better or worse – in the games, but more importantly a bond was grown between them for their struggles.

Meanwhile work continued at the Inn, growing its base – expanding the fields around it – and making trade flow like the stories told by Falco by the fire with his pipe a piping.

But heroes may never be so rested or idle, it seemed, and soon enough dire news reached them of increasing aggression by oversized arachnids in the Mirkwood, this time attacking across a river that had previously been something of a border for them. Never ones to shy from lending a hand – the fellowship mounted an expedition to take the fight to the spiders of the Mirkwood, fighting a child of Shelob in the process!

The journey was long and full of perils – as were the fellowships previous treks through this toughest of woods – and took its toll on the spirit of the fellowship. So much so that when the battle against the spiders was finally joined, it was a task just to chase off the biggest of the threats.

Sadly, the bravest of the fellows – the warrioress known to her friends as Heva of Stony Ford – fell to the foul toxins of the spiderfoe as she bravely gave her life to save those of her friends. With the giant princess’ final gasping breath she was still cursing at the darkness that consumed her.

In the woods, miserable, weary, and surrounded by foes – our heroes have little time to mourn the loss of their companion…

Reconnaissance of Dwimmerhorn and the Folkmoot of the Woodsmen
The words of Khorum, son of Vidor, writing in the fortress of Dwimmerhorn as Bifur labors to destroy the stonework and trap some ancient evil below.

We talked with the escaped slave who had fled from the orcs of Dwimmerhorn and learned some very interesting information. It seems that our guide to Dwimmerhorn, Magrick, is actually tainted by the Shadow and he has been guiding people into the wilderness and delivering them into the hands of the enemy. Slave labor, or perhaps a food source, for the orcs.

The escaped slave, Lefstan, was keen to exact his revenge on his captors and Magrick so he equipped himself with some orcish weaponry and showed us a goat path up the mountain which he had used to escape. He said that it would lead us into the fortress of Dwimmerhorn safely and undetected.

It was not an easy climb though. Several times, members of the Fellowship, even the nimble Falco, slipped and fell dangerously back down the path, twisting ankles, bruising muscles and, most importantly, injuring their pride. After many hours, we reached the top of the trail to a small breach in the walls of the fortress upon Dwimmerhorn.

We needed our wits about us to remain undetected inside the fortress as we soon discovered that it was heavily populated with both orcs and humans working together. Humans are such weak-willed people and easily subverted to the Shadow. I was disheartened to see the alliance of Man and Orc on the mountain top.

Luckily, we had magical charms given to us by Radagast the Brown which aided us mightily in our reconnaissance mission. Any time that an enemy would get too close to us, birds and other animals would distract them so that we remained unseen.

We sneaked around the courtyard of fortress, keeping to the shadows of the walls. Tremendous noise was coming from the central building in the courtyard and we went over to have a listen. Foul orcs filled the building and they were complaining about the boredom of their posting here, how much they wanted to eat a hobbit, and other standard Orcish nonsense. If it weren’t for the critical nature of our secret reconnaissance, I would have enjoying feeding those Orcs to Mornrukh, my mattock. Alas, the mission required stealth and secrecy so I held down my bloodlust.

There were also three pits in the center of the courtyard where the orcs were keeping human slaves. Lefstan let us know that was where he had escaped from. We discussed the possibility of trying to free them but given their general ill health and the dangers to both us and the mission, we decided that returning for them later with an army was the best option.

We searched out two buildings before we declared the mission a success and we left the mountain top. The first was a building next to a temple. It was that building where I write these words now. There is a passageway leading down into the mountain and as we started our descent, I was overcome with a sense of dread and doom from some ancient evil within. Knowing that this foe was beyond us, I cautioned the fellowship to withdraw from that building lest we awaken whatever lay below. Realizing that I would not recommend withdrawal from an enemy lightly, the Fellowship heeded my warning and we left.

We then stealthily approached the temple, with both Bifur and Falco expertly leading the group from blind spot to nook and cranny. It was almost as if they were invisible, such was their skill in evading detection from the enemy. It was an evil looking black temple with large brass doors. The doors so big that Falco was convinced that oliphants must be inside. Of course, there were not and I suspect Falco was a bit disappointed.

We snuck into the temple and kept to the shadows. On the far end of it, we saw a shrine near a casket with green glowing chains in it. A Man and Orc were talking to each other and a long dead corpse in robes was between them on the floor. We approached silently; close enough to hear their words.

The Orc mentioned that the goblin tribes they had summoned to Dwimmerhorn were getting restless and needed battle. Any nearby villages are in imminent danger. Then, a shock; doubly so. The corpse itself started talking. Not only that but it was in the voice that was in my head during the ordeal of Dol Guldur. The voice that drove me to despair.

It said that the chains were a weapon of immense power but they were currently useless to them until they mastered the secrets of the chains. We would find out later from Radagast the Brown that the chains the corpse was referring to were the Chains of Fangorodin; an ancient artifact dating back to the First Wars which were used to chain and control dragons. If we had known that at the time, we probably would have tried to escape with them to keep them out of the Enemy’s hands but alas, we did not.

The Man and Orc were the only two people in the temple besides us and we were sorely tempted to butcher the two of them then and there but, again, the nature of the mission stayed our hands. We hid as they exited the temple after the corpse stopped talking. We approached the chains and they were difficult to get close to. A pain in my chest, as if my heart was ready to implode, grew the closer I got to it. Ancient artifact evil, indeed.

We left it behind and made a stealthy retreat from Dwimmerhorn. The reconnaissance mission perfectly executed, we traveled back to the Mountain Hall and told Hartfast what we discovered. Magrick was with the Mountain Men and whispering poison into Hartfast’s ears; no doubt telling him that us in the Fellowship were his enemies and not to be trusted. However, after a convincing speech from Falco, Hartfast saw the truth of Magrick’s darkness, threw him into the river and ordered his archers to shoot him dead. We grimly watched Magrick’s corpse, full of arrows, float away down the river. A deserved end for those who betray their own.

We feasted at the Mountain Hall with Hartfast and his Mountain Men that night. We explained the urgency of the danger of the orcs from Dwimmerhorn and he invited us to travel with him to the Folkmoot of the Woodsmen at Rhosgobel. There the Council of Woodsmen would decide what action was needed against Dwimmerhorn.

At the Folkmoot, we met many distinguished and lordly people, such as Ingermer, Head of the Woodlands, Firtwald the Runner, Amarleoad, Shield Maiden of the Black Tarn, Cywin the Generous and Boffry, son of Boffer. Bifur and myself fit right in. Radagast the Brown and Hartfast also in attendance, of course.

There were several proposals discussed at the Folkmoot with an additional surprise proposal which happened after uninvited guests on horseback arrived at the Moot. The riders were led by one called Mokdread of Tyrant’s Hill. He has another name and it shocked the Council. He is Ingold, the long last son of Ingermer, having at last returned. He brought “gifts” of decapitated orc heads to present to the Council. That increased his worth in my eyes immensely. Mokdread said that he and his riders have been battling orcs and keeping the lands of the Black Tarn safe and he demanded a seat on the Council for his efforts.

The other less surprising proposals included an attack on Dwimmerhorn that Mokdread insisted that he lead, a trade alliance proposed by Cywin the Generous with his people, an expansion of the villages around the Black Tarn proposed by Amarleoad and a survey of the Old Forest Road proposed by Boffry, sent by Dain II Ironfoot, the King under the Mountain.

This last proposal interested myself and Bifur the most as it was from one of our own and the intention of the survey is to see if the Old Forest Road can be reopened and trade allowed on that road thereby avoiding passage through the lands of the Elves of Mirkwood. Any chance to stick it to the elves needs to be explored and, of course, our father is still being held captive in Gundabad so the opportunity to increase our standing with Durin’s Folk and potentially raise an army to wipe out the Orcs of Gundabad and rescue our beloved father is essential.

All proposals passed with the Council though the inclusion of Mokdread on the Council wasn’t a sure thing but I added my voice in support of him. Wisely, the Council heeded my advice and the vote passed.

After the Moot, we wasted no time and the Fellowship returned to Dwimmerhorn with a small army of Mokdread’s riders. We were all eager to destroy orcish scum but, alas, in the time since we were there, the orcs had moved on. Dwimmerhorn was deserted. The human slaves in the pits were all dead and all signs of the Enemy gone. It is almost as if they knew we were coming and fled their inevitable destruction. A traitor amongst the members of the Folkmoot who tipped off the orcs, perhaps?

Mokdread declared the mission a success – “We came to clear out the orcs and they are cleared out so job done,” he said. I have yet to see him battle so he is still untested in my opinion. Mokdread and his riders then left Dwimmerhorn. The Fellowship remained and spent the time to search through the courtyard and buildings. In particular, the sense of Ancient Evil from below still persisted and Bifur insisted that he collapse the entrance to whatever lies below. So I’ve been writing these notes while Bifur is hard at work.

Wait. That feeling… it is getting stronger. It approaches……

Swamps and swampy Hobbits

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.

The Call of the Road

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.

The nightmare of Dol Guldur
Loss to the Shadow


The words of Khorum, son of Vidor, reflecting on the darkest of experiences – a nightmare of shadow.

Supposedly trapped hundreds of years in the past in one of Irime’s memories, the fellowship bravely defended the town and villagers of Hayquo against the bandits intent upon wholesale slaughter. It was foolhardy and suicidal to take on the odds that we did, especially since all those villagers and, indeed, the bandits, were centuries in their graves by our reckoning but heroes do as heroes do. We fought nobly and we fell. Perhaps our actions had some positive influence on the history to be… who’s the say?

Myself, Bifur and Dog awoke after the slaughter in chains. Bill had been eaten by the bandits and Falco, Hunter and Merrick were nowhere to be seen. Dead as well, I assumed. This began our descent into shadow and madness and things only got worse. The remnants of our fellowship along with some of the surviving villagers (Aldor the innkeeper, the kid Halif and the bard) were ruthlessly marched for weeks south. Hour after hour, day after day, bearing the weight of heavy chains and heavier hearts. The days blended into one as we lost all sense of time. Who knows how long we marched south but my best guess put it at 3 or 4 weeks until we came to the shadowy fortress of despair, Dol Guldur.

We were given no explanation why were there or what the orc guardians of that keep intended to do with us. Instead, we were thrown into the dankest of dungeons deep in the bowels of the mountain which was already occupied by a very sad lot of emaciated humans. A more hopeless bunch of people I have never seen. The orcs kept us locked up there for days and days which turned into weeks and weeks. Time became meaningless.

They fed us some horrid slop maybe once every 2 or 3 days… just enough to keep us alive. Aldor the innkeeper from Hayquo was in bad shape from long march and the inhumane conditions in the dungeon we were kept in. His life faded slowly, his coughs and wheezes annoying the other prisoners. I heard them whispering about putting him out of his misery so they could get some sleep. Dog and I did our best to tend to Aldor and keep him alive. Dog used his extensive knowledge of anatomy and medicine while I stayed near the other prisoners and made sure that they knew that Aldor was off limits.

As time went on, hopelessness and despair set in. It seemed that the orcs would keep us there until we died of old age. I began to lose myself… lose my memories and forget that this was just a dream (well, a nightmare, really). I forgot that Irime was out there somewhere needing our protection. Some nights I would awake holding on to the vaguest of dreams… dreams calling to me and telling me to hold on and to not give in to the despair. I tried but, ultimately, failed.

One day, instead of bringing in the usual slop into a trough to feed us with, the orcs accompanied by a human male (a servant of the Shadow called Anathas) brought in a table full of aromatic and delicious food. A banquet to our starving eyes and stomachs. Anathas said that we needed to only kneel to his Master and eat. We would be released from the hell we were in and raised high in the service of the Master. The taint of the Shadow emanated from that man; it was foul to look upon him.

I cannot say why but Dog’s mind broke at that point. He flew into a rage but did not direct it at Anathas. Instead, Dog attacked the weakest and most helpless person possible – the near death Aldor. Dog wrapped his hands around Aldor’s neck and squeezed with a ferocity only a man wrapped in madness could muster. The injustice of it all… the fact that Dog spent all his days in the dungeon tending to Aldor only to turn around and try to kill him enraged me. I lost control and charged Dog. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Dog, Aldor was already dead and that made me furious. I grabbed Dog’s head in my hands and bashed his head into the hard floor until he went limp. It was only pure luck that I had not killed him.

Anathas, as all shadow-serving cowards are, fled from the dungeon during that outburst of insanity but he did return another day with the same offering of food and bent knee. Dog was conscious but sullen by now. Actually, even to the present day, after we got out of that nightmare and it was revealed to be just that, Dog isn’t the same. He lost something of himself in the dungeons of Dol Guldur and it doesn’t appear that he will ever recover to his positive happy-go-lucky (though widely annoying) ways.

Anathas’s offer was accepted by the bard and he smugly bent the knee and left the cell. By now, this dream state had become reality and I vowed to see him dead. Bifur, Dog and myself stoutly refused. We would rather die than serve the Shadow. Some days later saw the end of the sons of Vidor. Bifur was taken out of the dungeon but I did not know why. Some part of my mind told me to resist, not give in to the obvious response of fighting and needlessly dying to try and prevent Bifur’s removal from the cell. I did nothing… just watched him leave. Irime’s voice was in my head…. “Don’t give up.”

Bifur was taken and thrown into a pit to single-handedly battle a troll. They tossed Bifur broken body and mashed skull back into the cell after the fight. Irime’s voice was lost and I fell fully into despair and loss. It was real and my brother was dead. Died for orcish amusement. The next time the door to the dungeon opened and they wanted to take the kid Halif for troll food, I just wanted an end to it all. I ran into the closest guard with fists pumping and only got off one punch before I was skewered dead on their spears.

I awoke. All of the Fellowship aside from Dog were stirring out of our slumber. Bifur was there, waking up too. Hope and relief flooding into me. But where was Dog? We heard his voice outside of the shelter we were sleeping in in song. Then the song apparently ended with Dog’s voice cracking as he was reduced to tears. We went outside to see Dog cradling the body of Irime on a nearby hill. Only Dog did not give into the despair of Dol Guldur so only he was awake to save Irime’s soul from the Shadow. He failed. Nay, we failed. The Fellowship failed as a whole but the burden was put squarely on Dog’s shoulders to save Irime. His failure and the experience of strangling Aldor to death turned Dog into a shell of a man today. You can see the void in his eyes now. The Shadow has much to answer for.

The elven cavalry arrived and examined Irime. She was not dead but her soul was entrapped by some foul Shadow magic. Perhaps, hopefully, the good magic of the elves can reverse her fate and her purity can return to the land once more. Middle Earth is weakened by her loss and the Shadow gets stronger for it. With Irime lost, the orcs retreated from the land as their misson was accomplished. Ours was not and failure is becoming much too common in our Fellowship. We returned to the inn… to reflect and weather out the rest of the winter.

Heva's Introduction
How the Five meet the Beorning Heva and make a new friend

  The winter felt especially harsh this season. The sting of the failures at Stony Ford and the passing of Irime the elf maiden into shadow bit harder with the miserable snow and wind. The worsening weather did little to encourage visitors to the Easterly Inn – and those few that did make their custom there were ill-inclined towards merriment or stayed much longer than it took for the conditions to abate long enough that they might continue their journeys.
  Khorum, that noted dwarf, took his evening meal in the commons as was his habit – a bowl of hearty stew, heavy with salted beef and broth, and a flagon of warm cider – powerful stuff to those without dwarven stomachs. Dog and Bill had taken up their seats near the hearth – Dog whittling absent-mindedly at a piece of wood, Bill snoozing noisily at his feet. Neither man nor dwarf spoke – the mood had been a dolorous one – leaving each to their own thoughts – and those had not been particularly good company, either.
  The night threatened to continue in such a manner until there came a thunderous pounding at the Inn’s door. The knocking was loud enough to wake even Dog from his mental wanderings – and the paintings on the walls shook with each hammering. Falco, who had just been on his way down the stairs, skittered towards the door in a flurry. “Is that a guest or an army with a ram?” The flustered hobbit reached the door and was about to turn the handle at the very moment when the portal slammed open with a final, powerful knock. Were Falco not Falco – and one of the most nimble dodgers this side of the mountains – he’d have become part of the wall decor, flattened by the heavy oaken door. As he recovered his wits, the small hobbit drew up a breath to half-welcome and half-reprimand this brutish newcomer to his inn.
  Standing there, half-covered in snow and draped in a heavy coat of wolf furs, loomed a giant figure. So tall, they had to stoop nearly bent double to enter the modest door of the Easterly Inn. Falco took three steps backwards so as to be able to take in the entirety of his newest guest. “Welcome to the Easterly Inn – I am Falco, formerly of the Shire – full partner to this establishment. Forgive the door – it thought you were an invading army.” The hobbit turned a nervous, but good-natured laugh at his own joke as a way of polite introduction. But such niceties were lost on his new guest, who doffed her heavy coats in an unceremonious and – notably to Falco – highly discourteous pile there at the door. A woman (for girls are so rarely nigh seven feet tall) with handsome features and all of the bearing of some tribal princess – her fair skin turned a rosy red with a mixture of frostbite and anger. Her form spoke of Beorning blood – ropey muscles and shoulders that could carry the weight of the world – but her hair was fair like that of some of the Woodsmen further to the north. She turned to the hobbit, her movements slow and deliberate as if some great predator that didn’t want to frighten a rabbit.
  “I come for the dwarf – Khorum – I hear he is called. He stays here at this inn, so it was told to me.”
  “Master Khorum? Oh! Yes, well – that’s him over there but why….” but the woman didn’t wait to hear what more Falco had to say. All in all, considered the hobbit, it seemed that it hadn’t been worth the effort of coming down the stairs in the first place. He busied himself trying to gather up the discarded furs – but when they proved to be too big to practically move, he gave up and went behind the bar.
  The giantess strode over to the small round table where Khorum was taking his quiet meal, in three strides she covered the distance – deliberate and sure. Her hands clinched in tight, ham-sized fists at her sides. She towered over the seated dwarf as he slowly masticated the stringy beef of the stew. “You are Khorum,” asked the woman.
  “Aye,” answered Khorum – not looking up from his meal.
  “Brother to Bifur, Son of Vidar? Sometimes friend to Beorn?”
  “Aye. And Aye again, lass.”
  “And you were there, at Stony Ford?”
  A moment of tense silence passed as the words hung heavily in the air. Bill whimpered from under Dog’s chair. Falco stopped polishing the mug he’d been cleaning behind the bar. Khorum’s face turned a deeper shade of somber – but he gave no answer.
  “You were all there,” the wild woman threw accusatory looks around the room at the three, but came again to focus on the dwarf, “But you were the one that swung the last blow. Admit it! You were the one that killed the King of the Forest! Answer me!”
  “Aye,” whispered Khorum in a voice free of boast or pride.

  The blow came out of nowhere and carried the impact of a charging bull. A great ham-fisted uppercut took the dwarf from his seat and sent him sprawling backwards out of his chair. In that moment Falco had produced a club from behind the bar and Dog was already reaching for the axe by the fireplace when the dwarf, rubbing his jaw shouted for them to stop.
  “None of that lads… I can fight my own battles,” Khorum drew himself up and looked at the large woman for the first time. His jaw ached – and fiercely – but not so much as his pride hurt for being caught by such a cheap blow.
  “Now listen here, Miss, I’ve never had need to strike a woman. But I reckon I could learn. Aye, I killed that bastard – and I spit on his crow-feasted corpse. What’s it to you? One of his murderous lot come for revenge, have ye? Well it’ll be hard earned!”
  And that’s when the hobnailed boot of Khorum crunched right into the shin of the giant woman’s right leg, sending her wobbling long enough for the crafty dwarf to deal a knife-handed blow to the back of her left knee. Dwarves have long fought foes taller than them – and the saying amongst them goes ‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall.’ As she crashed to the floor, though, she proved not to be just some dumb brute – and angled herself into a roll that had her back on her feet and charging down at the dwarf again. Scooping Khorum up as the heavy dwarf lord was little more than a child’s doll, the woman pressed the dwarf in a giant bear-hug. Khorum kicked and struggled but found his arms bound tightly in her steely grip, “I’m not one of the King’s folk -” she grumbled angrily but was stopped short in her speech by the dwarf applying his forehead to her nose.
  With an almighty clatter, the pair tumbled once more to the ground – the dwarf finding himself fortuitously on top of the pile. He shuddered at the though of being pinned beneath the angry woman – with all of her furious strength. “If yer not one of them – then why in the blazes did you come hunting me down for?” The dwarf poised, straddling the fallen giant – ready to strike should she struggle further.
  “The King of the Forest was mine,” snorted Heva – which was her name, though she hadn’t introduced herself as such just yet. The blood streamed readily from her nose, which was surely broken, stifling the speech somewhat.
  “What do you mean ‘yours’? Surely you’re not his widow!” the thought scared Khorum, for if she was his widow then he might have to fight for his life. He had heard of the rage of someone who had lost their love – and he had no want to taste any of that. His fears abated as she actually laughed, then coughed – the weight of the dwarf sitting on your chest will do that to even the strongest of lungs.
  “Married? Hah! No, you damned fool – he was mine – to kill! I should have avenged my family that night at Stony Ford, but YOU – you stole what was mine by right – the head of the King of the Forest!”
  “You’re from Stony Ford?” and with that Khorum understood – and quickly stood, composing himself and as the adrenaline of the rumble faded, his somber mood quickly took over his face once more. “I … we … I’m sorry, lass.”
  “Yes, I’ve heard of what happened – the fellowship of ‘The Five’ that was meant to help my people. Some have it in their minds that you failed – I have heard even Beorn himself was none too pleased with your doings…” She gave an overlong stare at Dog – who seemed to shrink at the look.
  “Some believe that we were better off without the help of your little company,” she drew herself up a little unsteadily – head still spinning from the encounter with the dwarf’s thick skull.
  “Oh yes, there’s even some that say that we ought to run you lot back to the Mirkwood and beyond…” she dabbed at her nose with a grimace.
  “Good luck there, Missy,” grumbled the dwarf – for though he was abashed from painful memories of that terrible night, dwarves are not known for ever giving up and running away from a fight.
  “I said some. But those that think so are fools, says I. And I am Heva, daughter of Belarn the Elder… first of the fallen of Stony Ford that night,” said Heva – finally introduced. “I say thank you – for those that walked away from Stony Ford alive have you lot to thank. But the head of the King of the Forest was mine – for he killed my father, and it was my right to avenge him. But now, that’s impossible.”
  The woman named Heva sat heavily on a large chair, the legs creaking noisily as she did. She seemed deflated, and somehow smaller than before. A girl, lost, alone. Khorum, still rubbing his jaw, approached.
  “I didn’t have much choice, lass. It was him or my friends that night. But, if you’ve a mind to rid the world of evil – why not turn those fierce arms of yours to protecting folk … instead of walloping people just trying to finish supper in peace?”
  She laughed, “No company is forming out of Stony Ford. My people are broken – and I have no friends there that I’d trust with my life who still live. And it’s fools work to go alone against the evil of the world.”
  The dwarf came up next to her, his mug in hand, “Who said ye had to do it alone?”


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