With the inn’s roof now ablaze, and the undead warriors forcing their way inside on the ground floor, the companions quickly find themselves fighting a losing battle. One-by-one they retreat upstairs, as the rafters catch fire and begin to collapse. Alberic, already exhausted from battling the relentless undead, gets knocked unconscious as a splintering timber crashes down and sends him sprawling.
With no way out, and all exits blocked, the companions have no choice but to surrender. Wilibald stubbornly refuses to give in, until the others are disarmed and threatened with death unless he surrenders too. Reluctantly he does so.
They find themselves chained up together with Aldor, Haleth, Geb and Rodwen, and most of townsfolk, passing traders and unfortunate travellers caught in the attack. Altogether, maybe a thousand are marched from the town, and taken East and South, driven by the warriors in red, whipped where necessary, but not needlessly cruel. Still, nearly half perish by the time they reach Mirkwood, and after passing through the Narrows of the Forest they are handed over to Orcs, who drive them deeper and further South.
All of this passes swiftly for the companions, seemingly without pause for breath or an opportunity to escape. The days are wearying marches, the nights cold and troubled, but all passes in what feels like a matter of minutes, but somehow feels like days have passed too. It is disorientating, and by the time they reach their destination– a fortress atop a hill, surrounded by dank marshland and a moat that they swear holds the faces of the dead– they are exhausted. Aldor in particular is suffering from the march and has a fever, a wracking cough and can barely stand without help.
The Company are taken into a tunnel, deep below the fortress, and are unceremoniously thrown into a pit of a cell, together with the feverish Aldor, terrified Geb, brave Haleth and depressed Rodwen.
At that moment, Gilthannas comes ‘awake’ and finds himself in their camp, his companions sleeping restlessly, while Irimë struggles with a dark shadow nearby. She turns to look at him, and her whisper carries to his ears:
“A spirit of despair – it has entrapped us all in sorcery! It will consume us if we cannot defeat it!”
Then Gilthannas falls face-first into the cold water that partially floods the cell; it stings his skin, and the others are with him, all unarmed, stripped to their base clothing, weary and troubled. He tells them what he saw, and they decide that this has to be a dream. But how do they escape it?
Time moves swiftly it seems, and to keep their spirits up they sing and attempt to escape (but to no avail; everything they try ends up a faliure). Alberic tends to Aldor, but only delays the inevitable: the old innkeeper dies in his sleep a few days later.
At one point, the door opens (coincidentally at the same time the companions try to ‘will’ it open), and a Woodmen brings in wholesome food and offers them a deal:
“There’s no need for you to suffer down here. The Master of this place has many Men in his service – aye, and Dwarves too, and other folk. Kneel to him, accept him as your lord, and you shall be given a place of honour in his service. Think on this offer, friends – it is better to live than to die, is it not?”
He tells them he will return in the morning, and when he does they refuse to join this ‘Master’: but Geb does, and no one dissuades him from going. They never see him again.
A day later, or perhaps several, it’s hard to tell, Orcs come and demand that one of them come with them as ‘sport’: Dafydd is picked out, but decides to try and escape: their attempt fails, but the Orcs grab Haleth and drag him away instead. A few hours later they return, and throw his dead body inside.
By now the companions are despairing, frustrated, miserable, and trying to figure out how to end the dream. Then they feel an unsettling presence fill the room, and the shadows grow darker. A humanoid figure, all Shadow and nothing more, manifests in the room and grabs Rodwen by the throat, lifting her high in the air. Dafydd and Gilthannas grab hold of her, and her form flickers: one moment she is a terrified Rodwen, the other a determined but weakening Irimë. The Shadowy spirit speaks to them, using the mouth of the dead child, Haleth:
“Do you know what the Noldor-witch has done? She dared not face me alone, so she dragged you into this dream to defend her. This has ever been the way of the High Elves – to use others as their pawns! They despise the race of Men, fearing your growing strength. They hate the Dwarves, and are jealous of your craft. Even their own kin they do not trust. I am more merciful than she. Leave her to her fate. Deny her, here and now, and you may awaken.”
They naturally refuse, and the darkness grows deeper and darker, until there is nothing but blackness. A light momentarily shines, but is quickly snuffed out.
Suddenly they awaken, as the light of dawn reaches over the ruins and shines upon their sleeping faces: they see a Shadow rise from the limp and prone body of Irimë, and disappear into the hills and gullies as the sun rises; but that sunlight is masked by a cloud, and a cold wind blows.
Hastily they rush to Irimë’s side, to find her barely breathing, no light in her cold eyes. Dafydd offers his life in exchange, but there is no one to make such a deal. They cradle her head as movement from the High Pass draws their attention: a party of Elves, led by a pair of Elf-lords arrive, and hurry over when they see Irimë lying on the ground. One of the Elf-lord’s examines her, and shakes his head:
“What has happened here?” he asks. “She still lives, but all her strength is gone from her.”
When the company explain the events of the dream, he nods in understanding.
“An evil spirit assailed her, and she was unable to defeat it. Her body is here, but her mind wanders a dark labyrinth and may never return. We shall take her to my father’s house, where she may find healing.”
He introduces himself and the other Elf-lord: they are the Sons of Elrond, and will take Irimë back to Rivendell, to see if their father can heal her. They agree to send word to the Company, but refuse their offer of help. They bid them farewell, and take Irimë away.
The companions are left alone on the pass, feeling as cold and grey as the morning. Dafydd believes they’ve been somehow betrayed by the Elves. The others are tired and frustrated as the seemingly impossible task of defending and saving the lost Elf-lady. They gather their gear and hike back along the road, taking care to avoid being seen by any Orcs about, but make it safely back to The Old Ford. There they rest for the better part of the day, and after a night amongst friends, they ponder on where to head next.
End of Session
XP Awarded: 2 each.