Attack The Darkness

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.

xps_drowner_pack_by_tokami_fuko-d9kirq8.png

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.

Nazgul_fan_art_-_Danijel.jpg

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.

saruman_02.jpg

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

View
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.

View
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.

View
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

View
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.

View
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

View
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

View
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.

View
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…

View
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……

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.