The One Ring: The Nameless Fellowship

Those That Tarry No Longer: Part 2
Session 40

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6th Halimath, evening, 2948 (Autumn)

The Orcs press their attack, arrows flying through the darkness, Uruks and mountain Orcs clambering over the rocks, and their leader shoving his way forward, twirling a jar of some foul-smelling concoction that the companions can smell from the hilltop. The jar shimmers with a heat haze, but no fire flickers forth. And above their heads, something flies through the night, wings beating, terrible screeches shredding the night; even the Orcs and Goblins look up, worried.

The companions seize the opportunity of that hesitation, driving back the Orcs: Wilibald and Dafydd taking out an Uruk each, sword and spear cutting them down; Gilthannas drops an archer with a well-aimed arrow, sending the Goblin crashing into the midst of its kin below. Alberic drives an Orc back by slamming his axe against its shield, and Popo keeps an Orc at bay as it tries to break past him to get to Irimë, who is still standing there, looking up into the sky.

The two Hobbits move back to shield the Elf, and they raise their voice in song, joined by Irimë’s sweet voice, and the sound of their combined song fills the hearts of their allies with renewed hope: they stand taller, parrying blows against them, driving the Orcs back a few paces. Alberic takes down an Uruk, cutting its legs from underneath it. The Orc leader stops and raises his arm to hurl it at the Company, but a well-placed shot from Gilthannas sends it flying back into the massed Orcs, setting several alight.

Then suddenly, from the sky, huge dark winged creatures drop from the night sky: Eagles! One sweeps down and lifts Irimë into the sky; others grab Orcs, rending them apart, sending them hurling to the rocks below; an Eagle grabs each of the companions, lifting them away. Wilibald is last, and as the eagle lifts him up, the Orc leader lets loose an arrow that takes the eagle in the chest. But despite this wound, the Eagle struggles into the air, and soon the Orcs and the hilltop are left behind.

The Eagles fly them to a wide ledge somewhere in the mountains. Then a giant Eagle, with a wingspan of 100-feet or more, swoops down out of the sky. It lands with a thud that shakes the ledge, and speaks first to Irimë:

“We heard your song on the wind, but it was the light that guided us to you. Long has there been friendship between your kind and mine, and we came when we were needed.”

The Eagle then turns to the companions and asks: “Gaerthor, one of my chieftains, was grievously wounded as he rescued you from the Orcs. Tell me, whose lives did he buy with his courage?”

They introduce themselves in a roundabout way, trying the patience of this Lord of Eagles. In the end he allows them a night of uninterrupted rest, and says them that he’ll ensure they are safe to continue their journey. His Eagles will even drop off near the
High Pass. He flies off, and the Company settle down for the night.

8th Halimath

After being dropped off by the Eagles, the Company travel to the ruins that lie at the foot of the pass. The Company have been here before, about a year ago, when they went looking for the missing Hobbit and his caravan. They fought a wight there, and it is with wariness that they approach the ruins.

“I have been here before. This was Haycombe, the trader’s town leading to the Cirith Forn en Andrath. It was built by Middle-Men with golden hair who traded over the Mountains. They were a kind folk. They held a market here, and my kin from Lindon would come sometimes, and we would dance in the snow. The Men would laugh to see us run," says Irimë.

“They are gone, now. Some went South, with a brave chieftain called Eorl. Others stayed, until the shadow in the forest reached out and destroyed them. Treachery brought the enemy into the town, his horrors took the people here as slaves, and then there was no more laughter in the pass.”

She goes on to say that this is where the Lords of Rivendell will come to meet them. They will camp here. The companions set guards, camping in a place amongst the ruins that offer them the best protection.

While the two Hobbits are on watch, and Irimë walks nearby, gazing at the ruins as if seeing them in some other time, Popo spots something moving towards them: a shadow, vaguely humanoid, moving swiftly. It heads straight to Irimë, and as it grows nearer, a sudden darkness falls on the Hobbits, and before they can do anything, the shadow reaches Irimë, embraces her, and then everything falls into darkness!

Sometime Later

The Company awakens in a field, by an old farmhouse, in the morning, to the sound of horses and wagons, laughter and voices. They find a town before them, on the ruins where they moved amongst in the night. A large town, full of life, with yellow-haired men on horses, traders coming to market, and a bunch of children looking at them over the low wall. There is no sign of Irimë.

“What’re doing, sleeping outside in this field?” asks one of the boys. “There’s a perfectly good inn just off the market square.”

The companions, confused and wondering just what the hell is going on, follow the boy into the town as he offers to show them the way to the inn. He introduces himself as Haleth, the son of the local guard’s captain. His father is returning soon with the Alderman, he tells them, as he leads them to the inn. Inside there are a few men, and an Elven woman in the corner, looking somewhat out of place. They pass the market, where a crowd is forming by the main road, eager and excited about something.

Inside the inn, they meet Aldor, the old greybeard they runs the inn, and Geb, a minstrel looking to make some money: for a few coins he tells them that it is the year 2460, and that the Alderman of the town with his guards went South to see if the Evil has returned to the forest. He is on the road now, returning from the South with news. The Elf in the corner, he tells them, is called Rowden, from Mirkwood. An envoy from the King.

The noise of the crowd outside grows louder: the Alderman and his men have returned. Haleth leads the companions upstairs, to look out of the window to see the crowd below. Further up the road comes a golden wagon, with the Alderman standing atop it. His men and strange warriors in red-garb flank and follow him. They reach the crowd and it parts around them. A few onlookers watch on, their faces turning serious, then confused, then fearful…

The Alderman – a tall man, wearing an exceptionally fine torc of gold and well-made armour – stands and raises his hands. “People of Haycombe! People of the North!” he announces. “Your true lord has returned!”

And then the killing begins.

His guards lift their heads, drawing swords, revealing pale dead skin and dead eyes: with their undead claws they tear into the crowd, rending flesh; others move towards the inn; and the red-garbed warriors suddenly charge into the midst of the crowd as well, cutting people down with long picks and axes; others too turn to the inn, especially when Dafydd, Popo and Gilthannas pepper them with arrows, taking two of the warriors out. The others race downstairs, helping Aldor, Geb, Haleth and Rowden barricade the doors: the undead warriors claw at the windows and doors, breaking into the inn; Wilibald manages to force them back, hacking off an arm in the process, but them keep standing and keep coming. He breaks off and rushes to the hearth, grabbing a lit piece of wood. Alberic hacks away at an undead warrior, but gets too close and is clawed across the mail coat he wears, tearing rings away. Dafydd races downstairs to help, joining in the battle below.

Upstairs Popo and Gilthannas take down another red-garbed warrior, and then see others moving in, torches blazing in their hands, and tracing arcs of fire across the street as they hurl the burning torches onto the roof of the inn: the fire catches and the inn starts to burn!

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Those Who Tarry No Longer: Part 1
Session 39

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After spending the rest of summer at Beorn’s House recovering from their recent ordeal, with most of the companions still miserable from a near defeat, the Company decide to head East in search of new, and perhaps more profitable, adventure. Whilst staying at Beorn’s, Gilthannas learnt that there was a ancient ruined tower not far from some old barrows close to the Old Forest Road, where it enters the gloom of Mirkwood. They also want to head to Erebor, so that Wilibald can learn more about his cursed shield.

They head off on the 1st of Halimath, with the leaves starting to fall and change colour as Autumn draws in. With clouds scudding across the pale blue sky, they hike across the fields until they reach the eaves of the forest, then make their way along the border towards the old road.

Three pleasantly uneventful days later they are passing under the canopy of the forest, when an Elf they recognise, Galion former cup-bearer to the Elven King and who they encountered whilst searching for the Dwarves in the Long Marshes steps out of the trees and hails them. He spots Dafydd and speaks directly to the Barding, having bonded over their short journey in the marshes. Both Popo and Gilthannas notice that there are other Elves in the trees, armed warriors keeping watch.

He speaks to them briefly, asking how the road West is, whether they’ve seen any Orcs about, and mentions that they– himself and the Elves he is with– are being harried by Orcs, and not just any old Orcs, but Mordor-orcs. As he speaks, Alberic spots two more Elves moving towards them: these are brighter, more solid, noble Elves, a Lord and Lady by their bearing. The Elf-lord wears well-kept hunter’s garb, while the Lady wears shimmering white and cloud-grey silks and silver armbands. They exchange words, too quiet even for Gilthannas to hear, and as Galion finishes exchanging news, the Elf-lord steps forward:

“Greeting! I am Legolas, son of Thranduil. This is the Lady Irimë, of the House of Gil-Galad. The lady is journeying West, to the High Pass. It was our errand to take her there, but these Orcs must be driven from our land.” He pauses and glances at the veiled woman, then goes on. “The lady has requested that you bring her the rest of the way.”

Naturally they agree, and are soon walking into the evening with a large company of Elves. They dine with them under a canopy of oaks, in a clearing laid with white silks, lanterns and enough food to satisfy even the Hobbits. They spend a restful evening listening to songs and tales, and sleep soundly that night.

In the morning all of the Elves except Irimë have gone, and the Company finds they’ve somehow travelled in the night, and awake under the shadow of a tall oak. Irimë is now dressed in simple travelling gear, a deep hood hiding her features. She patiently waits for them to ready for the journey, and as a chill wind blows in from the North, they head off along the fields, joining the Old Forest Road and head West, towards their frequent stopping point of The Old Ford.

During their travels, the Lady Irimë speaks of the past, again and again and again. It is as if all she can see is what once lay on the land centuries ago: she speaks of the bridge that once crossed the ford, of the Green Wood as it was before the Shadow fall upon it, of the strange small folk that once dwelt in burrows along the banks of the river, and of the Enemy that drove many from the lands. She never smiles, always looks a little sad, and spends her nights singing tales of the past. She is beyond beautiful, with sad eyes, and a far-seeing gaze.

Wilibald manages to almost make her smile when he teaches her a Hobbit pipe-smoking song, and she in turn teaches him an Elvish song about long-lost Beleriand.

After leaving the Old Ford behind, the Company soon become aware that they are being followed: Alberic scouts ahead, and finds a war-band of Orcs on their trail, hunting them. More are spied ahead, but further afield, possibly not hunting them. They leave the path and move off into the rolling hills as they draw closer to the foothills of the Misty Mountains.

About a day out from the mountains, where the ruins of a town lie before the entrance to the High Pass, as night draws in, these Orcs are suddenly much nearer and swiftly closing! In less than an hour they’ll be upon the Company: they spy a rocky hill nearby, defensible, steep slopes, and close enough that they’ll reach it before the Orcs do.

Hurrying across the rough terrain, the Company lead their ponies and Irimë up the slope, collecting bits of firewood as they go. At the top they surround the ponies and Elf-lady, set a fire, and prepare to fight.

Orcs swarm over the hills, surrounding the rocky hill. The Company are easily outnumbered twenty-to-one. As they gather, Irimë begins to sing, an Elvish song that sounds far too like a funeral dirge. The Orcs howl and scream, clash their swords and spears against their shields in an effort to drown our her words, but they fail. As her singing softens, becomes more like a chant on the wind, a large Orc steps forward, just out of bow range, and calls out to them: “Give us the Elf woman, and the rest of you can go free!”

“No! Leave now and you’ll live. Come at us, and you’ll die by sword, and spear, and axe,” say the Company.

“Good! Then tonight we shall dine on your flesh!” And with that, the Orcs charge!

Irimë raises her hand, and from the jewel of the ring she wears a bright light blooms, as if a star had uncloaked itself. The blaze dismays the Orcs. Some turn and flee, and those in the lead must raise their shields to shade their eyes from the Elf- light.

Taking advantage of their hesitation, the Company let loose a flurry of arrows, taking out an archer on a hill, peppering others; an archer retaliates, its arrow thudding heavily into Alberic’s mail, winding him.

Then the Orcs recover and are on them! Black uruk Orcs, smaller Goblins, and Orc soldiers clash with the companions. Gilthannas stands before Irimë, shooting at the Goblin archers shooting from the darkness. He takes one out, but an arrow nicks him, tracing a red line across his cheek. Alberic parries and swings, taking out an Orc, while Dafydd and Popo exchange blows with Orcs, forcing their foes back, but feeling the strain of the battle as they defend the hill.

Then a lone Goblin worms its way through the ranks and somehow manages to squeeze past, leaping up to attack Gilthannas with a jagged knife dripping with poison. The Elf sidesteps the blow as he lets loose another arrow, but then finds himself face-to-face with a Goblin and has to draw his own dagger.

And while all of this is going on, Irimë keeps on singing her Elvish chant, until suddenly her words falter and stop. She looks up at the cloudy night sky, eyes searching the darkness. Somewhere above there is a terrible screech.

And then the Orcs surge forward, their leader urging them on, as he starts his own approach, shoving aside his smaller brethren as he enters the battle…

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Family: Part 3
Session 38

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30th Afterlithe, 2948

After a short rest through what remains of the night, the Company and their entourage of freed thralls head off on the journey back to Beorn’s House. Despite being slowed down by most of them being weary and close to exhaustion, along with several children and an old man, they decide to push on as fast and as far as they can, undertaking a forced march to reach safety as quickly as possible.

Over the course of the next couple of days they travel far, cutting across the hills and rugged grasslands, reaching the fields leading up to the Forest Gate; it is not long into that journey that they realise that they are being hunted: the baying of hounds, scouts spied at a distance, campfires at night, all indicate that they are being followed.

Alberic and Gilthannas do their best to cover their tracks, but that proves difficult, and despite their best efforts, the hunters continue to track them, slowly gaining ground. Once past the borders that mark Beorn’s land, Alberic finds that his boots are leaving no tracks, and that other tracks close to his are also fading away; Gilthannas covers the rest, and soon they seem to be putting more distance between their hunters, and a day or so later, there is no sign of their pursuers.

The Company does not let up on the pace, and continue hurrying along, resting infrequently and only for short periods; the travel begins to take its toil and their pace slows, and with almost everyone weary and footsore, they are but a day from Beorn’s House, when a hunting horn sounds, accompanied by the baying of hounds and a cry of “There they are!”

The hunters have found them!

Immediately, the Company send Beran and Roderic off with their families and other freed slaves, sending them off to Beorn’s House for safety and to send for help. The five companions then unsling their shields, ready their weapons and with their backs to a group of sturdy oaks, they stand their ground as a dozen men mount a hill, spot them, and begin to advance.

The two Hobbits disappear into the long grasses, vanishing from sight; archers on both sides send a flurry of arrows at one another; one of the hunters falls down, the others raise their shields; arrows nick Alberic, another bruises Gilthannas, and a third cuts a deep line across Dafydd’s arm.

The hunter’s leader, a large man wielding a great axe, charges towards them, so the three visible Companions concentrate their fire, sending more arrows towards him: the large man staggers, then falls, dead. Some of his warriors falter, and then flee as suddenly Popo pops up and shoots one. Four flee, but the rest charge into the midst of the Company, swords and axes swinging!

In seconds Dafydd finds himself battered and beaten, ducking one swing of a sword, only to catch the haft of an axe to the side of his head; the Barding falls down, unconscious!

Gilthannas is knocked back, winded by an axe blow that thankfully didn’t draw blood. The situation looking hopeless and the Company outnumbered, the Elf feels almost helpless as he parries another blow.

Willibald leaps out of the grass, catching a hunter by surprise, jabbing him in the foot with his King’s Blade. He finds himself fighting alongside with Alberic as the two hack and stab at the enemy; then the Woodman is beaten back, an axe blow sending him backwards, and an arrow slices across his arm. Blood splatters the ground. The pair retaliate, taking out a hunter each, while Popo wounds one too, and Gilthannas backs off, the numbers now more even, and starts firing arrows into the midst of their foes.

One of the hunter’s swings at the Elf as he moves, but Willibald dives in the way: but the dive is mistimed, and the axe bites deep, wounding the Hobbit as he crashes to the ground, struggling back to his feet in time to block an arrow with his shield as it speeds towards the wearied, miserable Elf.

Then Alberic falls. Blood leaks from under his helm, and Gilthannas tries to move to shield him from the hounds that are darting in and out, nipping at their heels. An arrow flies out of nowhere, an archer using the fallen comrades as a distraction: the Elf falls to his knees, then blacks out, falling in a slump to the bloodied ground. Wilibald leaps up, stabbing at the archer’s ankles, drawing the few foes that remain towards him.

The two Hobbits stand back-to-back, swords and shields flashing in the waning light. Wilibald is staggered as he is knocked back by a ringing blow from an axe; but he raises his shield as he falls to his knees, parrying another blow, taking a couple of arrows on his shield. He catches his breath and stands, taking a hunter in the knee, his brother smashing the hilt of his sword into the hunter’s head, sending the man crashing to the ground.

Two hunters remaining, they circle the Hobbits, cursing and shouting, demanding their surrender. Popo takes a blow, the force of it sending him to his knees and reopening his wound. He staggers to his feet, barely able to stand, distracting them as Wilibald tries to rouse the others…

…at first his voice falters, then– as Popo parries blow after blow, managing to hold his own despite the larger and more able fighters– the Hobbit suddenly finds his voice and begins to sing:

From the Anduin vales
Strongmen from the woods
Spirit of the nature
One part of their essence

Hate against the orcs
Running in their veins
The anger that grows
In the form of the bear

Living lives of their own
Caring not the outside world
Great secret they hide
Shape changers, the Beoning tribe

Hate against the orcs
Running in their veins
The anger that grows
In the form of the bear
Beware their claws
Sharp teeth and deadly jaws
You have no chance
To fight with the Beorning

Creatures of darkness
The poison of the earth
Remember your strength
The mark of the bear

The mark of the bear
Huge part of their soul
Cherish the life
Yavanna’s child

It works! Perhaps some ancient magic fills his words, or perhaps his companions simply want him to stop, Dafydd Alberic and Gilthannas find themselves waking to the sound of the Hobbit singing and the ring of steel against steel.

Aghast at the sudden rising of the companions, the two remaining hunters start to back away; but it is too late: Alberic finds the strength to lift his axe, and Wolfbiter comes down hard, sending a hunter to his knees; Popo finishes him out with a thrust of his sword. The other hunter backs away, reeling from a jab of Dafydd’s spear, his helm ringing as an arrow from Gilthannas ricochets off, and then Alberic swings his axe, and the last man falls to the floor.

Surrounded by a dozen bodies and a few barking dogs, the Company– almost dead on their feet, several of them bleeding– catch their breath before they limp off to the safety of Beron’s House, happy to be alive.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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Family: Part 2
Session 37

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29th Afterlithe, 2948 (Summer)

Abandoning their camp in the sheltered dell, the Company blindfold and separate their prisoners, leading them off into the hills and woods, and tying them to a tree or bush. Once the prisoners are all gone, the companions and Roderic and Beran break camp, and decide to take on the people of Raven’s Bluff that same night.

Leading their ponies, the Company heads down the slope, keeping the ridge and trees between them and the village, and make their way close to the settlement, following the stream up to a clump of nearby trees. They send the two Hobbits ahead, Wilibald and Popo Took disappearing into the tall grass along the bank, unseen by the few sentries watching the night. The others, despite trying to sneak, are spotted and are challenged as they approach the trees:

“Halt! Who goes there? What do strangers want at this dark of night?”

The companions ignore them, and move into the trees, tying the ponies to the branches and readying their weapons. Another voice calls out, this one gruff and full of threat:

“Strangers! Show and announce yourselves, or you face the wrath of Grimbar the Butcher!”

In answer, Alberic, Dafydd, Gilthannas, Roderic and Beran charge towards the South-gate. Meanwhile, the two Hobbits have reached the palisade wall, and while Popo skirts it and moves towards the gate to join the others, Wilibald crawls under the gap where the stream runs through and sneaks into the village. There he sees only a few men, some atop the bluff, others by the gates, most of the villagers crowding into the Thane’s house. He sees a larger man, taller than any he has seen before, standing by the South-gate, and hurries towards him; the Hobbit is tasked with opening the gate for the others, so he hurries as he hears a shout for help, and sees one of the guards atop the walkway by the gate hurl his spear… and moments later that guard staggers back as several arrows smack into his chest, sending him tumbling dead to the ground.

Wilibald finds that he can’t get to the gate without being seen, and as he ponders what to do, suddenly Dafydd and Alberic vault over the wall, and jump down to engage the large man wielding a long spear: taking advantage of the distraction, he runs over to the gate, throws the bolt and pulls it open. Roderic and Beran pile in, Popo close behind, The Elf stands back, bow out, sighting along an arrow at two archers standing on the bluff and letting loose their own arrows!

Roderic recognises the hulk as Maracar, the Thane’s chief warrior who is also married to Beran’s sister. Maracar is big and strong, and even when he is pummelled and cut, jabbed and arrow after arrow thuds into his toros, legs and arms, he still manages to keep to his feet, albeit weary and struggling to stand: but stand he does, and he smacks Dafydd around the head, wearying the Barding as he finds arrows flying his way. Alberic heroically takes an arrow for Dafydd; Wilibald catches a couple on his Dwarven-shield, but then other guards arrive, thrusting spears and swinging axes. More arrows fly through the air, grazing and bouncing off mail.

Popo takes a spear thrust to the side and staggers back, wounded. His brother joins him, and they force the villager back, giving Gilthannas room to shoot an arrow into his heart: the man falls down dead, right under Maracar’s feet. The big man stumbles, and then falls dead, as Alberic’s axe, Wolfbiter decapitates him with a mighty swing!

Then Grimbar the Butcher joins the battle, swinging his great axe as the archers on the bluff continue to send arrows flying in. Everyone turns their attention on the Thane, and batter, bash, cut and impale: the Thane is bloodied, wearied, and finds himself on the receiving end of Alberic’s axe, and falls dead to the ground.

Then an arrow flies through the air, and although it is but a glancing blow, Dafydd staggers back from the stinging pain and bashes him head agains the gate post, and falls down, unconscious. Gilthannas, weary from shooting and dodging arrows, sends a couple more arrows towards the archers on the bluff. They take the hint, and flee, heading out of the village and to the North.

Before anything else happens, Roderic and Beran race over to the Thane’s house and by a mixture of persuasion and threats, free the slaves: Roderic’s wife and daughter, Beran’s sister (with her 2-year old child, Maracar’s son), and three other slaves who were taken in raids. The Company hurry them all out of the village and head off into the night, collecting their ponies on the way. Dafydd is roused by the Staunching Song of Alberic, and helps the wounded Popo to one of the ponies. They travel for a few hours, deeper into the night, and find a place to make camp.

They settle down, and wait for the dawn.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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Family: Part 1
Session 36

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23rd Afterlithe, 2948 (Summer)

The Company arrive at the House of Beorn as evening draws in, escorting a pair of former thralls that they captured during their first adventure retrieving the stolen Sickle of the Full Moon. These are Roderic and Beran, thralls who were working for Viglund and his men, forced to steal the sickle or watch their families suffer.

Nearly two years have passed since that day, and in that time the two men have paid off their debt to the people of Stonyford and requested an audience with Beorn. As Thanes of Beorn, the Company have been asked by Ava to escort the two men to see their leader.

At Beorn’s house they join him and his men for the evening feasts, sharing gossip, drinking and singing, and enjoying the longer summer days. There is a sense of peace and joy about the past week, with no sign of Orcs or bandits to trouble anyone. Even their journey from Stonyford was without incident.

As the farmers, herdsmen and guards leave for the night, Beorn ushers the companions and former thralls outside to the porch, where he tells the Company that Roderic and Beran have asked for his help freeing their families from enslavement. He has agreed and wants the companions to go with them and to come back with their families.

That night they talk to the men, asking them questions about the village where they came from, its defences and layout. They tell them what they can, although whatever they know is two years past.

● Roderic and his family lived and served the thane of the village,Thane Grimbar the Butcher.
● Beran lived under the roof of Maracar, one of Thane Grimbar’s warriors. His sister (Avina) is wedded to the same man, and Beran had to suffer the humiliation of serving them both and
watching his sister wed and tolerate Maracar’s affections.
● The village is surrounded by a simple earthen rampart with a gate, patrolled and guarded by a pair
of men at all times. They have a couple of hounds and several geese that act as guard dogs too.
● There are a dozen men that can fight, although only half are warriors.

The village, Raven’s Bluff is five days from Beorn’s, two days past the Elfwood, close to the river along the ridges and hills of that region. That length of land is under the rule of Viglund and while Beorn wants them to free the slaves, he also wants them to try and avoid killing anyone if they can… although he will understand if they have no choice.

They set out the next day, travelling easily through the Free Lands of the region, stopping for the night at the Easterly Inn before skirting the woods and heading off towards Raven’s Bluff. Here the land rises in green valleys and snaking ridges, dotted with trees and strange pinnacles of rocks. It is simply enough for the Company to make their way unseen to a high ridge overlooking the village, and they make camp in the shelter of tall trees. They disguise Roderic and Beran, with deep hoods and crude masks, in case anyone sees and recognises them, then spy on the village in the shelter of the valley.

Their plan is simple: draw out as many of the warriors from the village as they can, then… well, then they’ll see. First, they light a fire, bright and easily seen from the village. While Roderic and Beran keep out of sight, Dafydd Ap Alfred and Alberic pretend to be the soul inhabitants of the camp along with their two ponies, whilst Popo Took and Wilibald Took hide away in some nearby bushes, and Gilthannas hides behind the trees, keeping a keen-eye on the approach from the village.

As night deepens, three men leave Raven’s Bluff and make their way up the ridge, cautiously but open, and as they approach the fire they call out, asking to share the camp. They come forward into the light, armed but not threatening. They talk, trying to learn what they can from each other, but no one is willing to give anything up, and the men from the village start subtly threatening Alberic and Dafydd, telling them that this land is ruled by Viglund and that strangers are not always welcomed, unless they have business or have come to trade. Dafydd doesn’t take kindly to that and, seizing his spear, leaps to his feet and threatens them in return.

The three men start to back away, weapons out, but before they get anywhere, Dafydd leaps forward and thrusts his spear into one of the men’s chest, killing him swiftly. The others surrender when Alberic waves his axe about, and the others reveal themselves. The remaining two men are taken captive, bound and gagged. Leaving Roderic and Beran to guard them, the others discuss their next step, and decide to repeat it the next night, but in a different location.

In the morning they bury the body under stones and earth, then break camp and escort their prisoners further along the ridge, and set up a new camp. That night they light a new fire and move into the same positions as last night, with the prisoners watched over by the two former villagers. Deeper into the night, Gilthannas and Popo, with their keen-eyes, spot four more men sneaking up to the camp. They quickly tell the others, and all hide away amongst the trees and bushes, leaving blankets over packs to create fake sleepers by the fire.

As the four men approach the camp, the companions leap out and surround them, and Dafydd convinces them to lower their weapons. They take the men prisoner too, and once they are gagged and bound and moved out of the way, the companions settle down for the night, and ponder their next move.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Servant of Tyrant's Hill
Session 35

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8th Afterlithe, 2948

The Company arrive back at Rhosgobel with their prisoner in tow, one of the Servants of Tyrant’s Hill, a man called Baldac. He has been quiet throughout the three-day journey and smiles as they approach the gates.

They are stopped at the gate by the Woodmen on guard, who are wary of letting them in with a prisoner in custody. They send for Iwald, the chieftain of this settlement, and he refuses to let them inside, saying that they’re bringing nothing but trouble to his gates and they have no desire to make things worse with Mogdred by taking a prisoner in for interrogation. If the Company want to deal with this prisoner, then they are on their own. He closes the gates to them, and tells them they’re welcome back when they’ve ditched their prisoner.

Not particularly happy with the turn of events, they are discussing whether to head off to one of the other Woodmen settlements instead, when another Woodman approaches them. He informs them that his name is Barac and that although they may not recognise him he fought with them at the Battle of Stonyford. He heard them talking and believes that the Woodmen need to know what threat Mogdred poses, so he offers them the use of his hunting hut a couple of miles into the forest, on the condition that they tell him whatever they discover so that he can feed it into conversations with his kin. That way the Woodmen will know what is going on, even if their chief isn’t interested. The companions agree and escort their prisoner to the hut, and leaving him inside while they plan the interrogation.

Their conversation goes back and forth, from violent threats and actual torture, to more gentle persuasion and just letting him go; they even discuss whether to let him go after they’ve learnt what they can, or just kill him. In the end Dafydd Ap Alfred goes in, while the others wait outside. Gilthannas and Popo Took stand guard, making sure they are not disturbed.

Inside the hut Dafydd does his best to appear intimidating, but his soft voice and words are more persusaive that threatening, and actually end up convincing Baldac that it is in his best interest to talk. By the time the Barding swaps places with Alberic, Baldac is happy to tell them what he knows in exchange for his freedom.

Seeing the wisdom in answering their questions, Baldac tells the companions that Tyrant’s Hill is a well-stocked fortress with over a hundred warriors, three dozen warhounds and two dozen warhorses. They are well-armed, trained soldiers who have spent the past few years defending the borders against Orcs and other foul creatures. In exchange for this information, he wants his freedom and to be allowed to return to his home, The Toft . If allowed to do so, he also tells them that Mogdred has a ‘pet’ troll that he keeps in the cellars.

Satisfied that he has told them what he can, they take him back towards Rhosgobel and let him go. Then, after informing Barac what they learnt, they decide to leave the Woodmen to their fate and head off on their own journey, looking for something more adventurous and profitable than acting as guards and scouts for the ungrateful Woodmen (as they see it).

They head off due West, to the Great River where the Gladden Fields sits on the opposite side. In the distance they spy a great rock rising out of the marshes, which tempts them but for now they pass on, following the river North, briefly stopping at the island further upstream where the River-folk trade; they exchange news, and all seems quiet of late. The River-folk tell them something about the large rock they saw: the Dwimmerhorn, a place of evil said to have once held a temple dedicated to the Necromancer of old. No one goes there and it is a refuge for Orcs and other foul beasts.

They continue on, and several days later arrive safely at Stonyford where they rest in the Thane’s Hall, their very own dwelling.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Baldac of Tyrant's Hill
Session 34

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1st Afterlithe, 2948 (Summer)

As the moot draws to a close and the various traders, representatives and envoys return to their homes, the Company takes it upon themselves to head through the Narrows of the Forest into Southern Mirkwood, to scout out the threat posed by Tyrant’s Hill.

They set off on a fine sunny morning, the long days of Summer ahead, and track the horses that Mogdred and his men rode in on, travelling along the Western edge of the forest until the horse prints disappear into the Narrows. Alberic lets his boots guide him to a sheltered dell a mile inside the forest, a defensible and comfortable spot to make camp. The night is uneventful and in the morning they follow old gaming trails that the horses took, making slow progress as they follow the tracks, sometimes losing them amidst the overgrown thickets and carpets of ivy and brambles. Soon they find themselves moving deeper into the South of the forest, the trees now black firs with thick canopies that block out the light. The mirk is deeper here, the shadows darker, and there is a staleness to the air.

Scouting a short distance ahead, Dafydd spots several Men approaching; all armed with swords and bows, one leading with a hound sniffing at the ground. They bear the markings of Tyrant’s Hill: a silhouette of a dragon coiled around a tower. The Barding slips back to warn the others, and they try to hide in the foliage. Both Hobbits disappear, fading into the dark; the Elf clambers up a tree, whilst the Woodmen and Barding simply duck behind the black trunks of trees.

Intend on ambushing the Men, neither Alberic nor Gilthannas realise that they are exposed, until a shout goes out and the Men appear ahead, spreading out as they realise something is amiss.

Dafydd Ap Alfred lets loose with an arrow, his unprovoked attack catching the leader of the Men in the arm; another arrow flies from the Elf’s bow, glancing off the leader’s mail. They cry out, a warning to each other, and a call to arms, and with swords draw the Men charge! Their leader lets loose his hound, while he takes up his own bow and lets loose an arrow at the Elf in the tree, striking his arm and almost knocking him from the branches.

Suddenly, Wilibald Took springs up out of nowhere, his brother Popo Took close behind, their King’s Blades striking at the man as he struggles to bring his sword up to defend himself: the man’s hound leaps at the Hobbits, but is cut down by Wilibald’s blade. Behind them, Dafydd and one of the Servants of Tyrant’s Hill clash, the Barding’s spear clashing against his opponent’s sword. Another charges at Alberic, who swings his axe high, decapitating him with the vicious blade of Wolfbiter.

The leader parries a blow from Popo, then bashes him on the head, and kicks the Hobbit in the chest, winding him. The Hobbit jabs with his own blade, and the small sword slips through the leader’s mail, piercing his heart and ending his life.

The other Servants jab and cut, driving Dafydd back with a series of blows; his mail keeps the blades from wounding him, but he is quickly worn out from the effort of parrying their blows. Another slips past, catching Alberic a glancing blow with his sword. That Servant suddenly staggers and falls as Gilthannas shoots him from above, then slips down from the tree. Dafydd rallies and thrusts with his spear, taking out another of the Men. One turns tail and flees, swiftly vanishing into the forest. The last Servants tries to follow, but finds his way cut off by the Hobbits.

“Surrender,” says Dafydd, trying his best to persuade the Servant to throw down his sword. The Man shakes his head: “Never!” He hurls himself at the Barding, but is knocked back by an arrow from Gilthannas, a kick from Alberic, and a shove from behind by Popo. The man trips over a root and crashes to the ground, his head striking the earth with enough force to knock him out cold.

The companions quickly grab some rope and tie him up. They pick him up and move away, seeking a safe place to camp. They decide to abandon scouting out Tyrant’s Hill and head back to Rhosgobel instead, with their prisoner in tow.

Three days later, pulling their laconic prisoner (whose name is Baldac) behind them, they arrive safely back at the settlement. Over those days their prisoner barely said a word, but now, he looks up at the hedge and the warriors guarding the gate, and smiles a cruel smile.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Folk-moot at Rhogobel
Session 33

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27th Forelithe, 2948

Three days before the midsummer Folk-moot at Rhosgobel the Company arrive safely at the settlement escorting the two Dwarves, Bofri and Regin (now with a wooden peg-leg). They immediately head off to see Radagast and find him having tea with another bearded old man, this one dressed in grey and sporting a blue hat. His keen eyes blaze above a busy beard, and he sizes the companions up as they pretty much barge in and pluck a mummified head out of their bag.

The grey man is introduce as Gandalf, the Grey Pilgrim, and a fellow Wizard and friend of Radagast. The name is familiar to some, but they know little about him. He, however, has been told all about them, and is fairly impressed by what he has heard. He’s only visiting, passing through on his way North, but is most interested in the mummified head they brought in.

The two Wizards confer as they prod and poke at the head, and reach a conclusion fairly quickly: this head has been subjected to foul sorcery, dark magic not seen in the land for many years. Whatever enchantment lay upon it has now gone, but Radagast will examine it further to see what link it may have to the recent happenings with the Orcs and outlaws.

In the meantime, Radagast wants the Company to attend the Folk-moot on his behalf, and sway the minds of the Woodmen to walk down the correct path in whatever decisions they have to make. He won’t elaborate further, merely saying if they follow their hearts they’ll know what to do. He also tells them that Ceawin the Generous is already here and has been asked for them. He shoos them out, turning his back on them as he and Gandalf continue with their tea and examining the mummified head.

Ceawin is housed in a guest hall, and welcomes the companions as they arrive. He is most pleased to see them, and wants them to put in a good word with the elders at the moot. He wants to unite his followers with the Woodmen, for mutual trade and exchange of knowledge. Dafydd Ap Alfred, Alberic and Wilibald Took convince him that mutual protection would also be a good incentive, and he agrees.

On the day of the moot, midsummer, mid-year, amidst a mix of festivities and trade, the elders discuss many mundane matters– trade, rumours, arming against raiding Orcs that are becoming a nuisance again– before moving on to more important matters.

Bofri makes a few deals with the Woodmen, asking for their help and support in re-opening the Old Forest Road and makes the offer to the Company as well. It is an ambitious endeavour, one that will take many years, but if successful it will make trade between East and West much easier.

Then the moot truly begins, with Amaleoda, Shieldmaiden of the Black Tarn up first: she announces that the people of Black Tarn wish to build a settlement on the North shore, raising a Hall where the river joins the lake, and welcomes any Woodmen who would settle there. Their harvests have been good of late, the fish in the lake are plentiful, and pestilent fogs from the South of Mirkwood have gone. It is a good time to build.

Next up, is Ceawin, and he speaks of the kin of the Woodmen in the East Bight, where the soil is fertile, and trade with Dale, Lake-town and Dorwinnion is within reach. They are already building a settlement there, and want nothing more than to be counted amongst the Woodmen, uniting together to share knowledge, skills and offer each other protection.

Ingomer Axebreaker, respected elder of the Woodmen, calls for silence as the Woodmen discuss the two offers, and raises his hand to call for a vote. But before he calls out, there is sound of a hunting horn, and cries from the gates. A bird flies down to Radagast, twittering about strangers at the gates. The elders, warriors, and of course the Company head to the gates to find a dozen riders approaching: they are well-armed, foreboding, and their weapons look well-made and well-used. Two large sacks hang from two horses.

“Only Woodmen and their friends are welcome here,” declares Ingomer.

The stranger removes his helm. “But I am a Woodman, by blood and birth. Don’t you recognise me? You called me Ingold, your son, though men now call me Mogdred.” Shaken, Ingomer sits down.

Mogdred address the crowd. “For many years, I was a slave in the dungeons of the Necromancer! Now I am lord of the place you call the Tyrant’s Hill, and I command many men.” He points his sword at Amaleoda. “You and yours would be long dead if it were not for our protection. Darkness returns to the forest, had you but eyes to see it. There are Orcs in Fenbridge, and shadows stir in Dol Guldur.”

A warrior in the crowd wants to know what Mogdred asks of this folk-moot. He responds with scorn, “A seat in the councils of the Woodmen, tribute from the Black Tarn, wives for my warriors, gold from the mountains. That stranger -” he points at Ceawin the Generous, “offered you trinkets and sweetcakes. My offer is of a more practical sort.”

His two followers up-end the sacks they brought with them. Dozens of Orc-heads tumble from them. “What say you?” he demands arrogantly. (Darkening of Mirkwood, page 15-16).

Always vocal, the companions make it known to all that these men are not to be trusted, that they attacked them and come from a place called Tyrant’s Hill. Not a name that conjures up friendship and alliances. The Woodmen are inclined to agree, but a vote is still called for.

Mogdred warns them that to reject his offer is asking for trouble, and threatens the Company. He also throws a bag of gold at his (allged) father’s feet: “Weregild to have Dagmar released”. Reluctantly they agree.

As the Woodmen discuss how to vote, the companions move amongst them, offering suggestions and advice, gently swaying opinion but generally just reinforcing what the Woodmen are already considering.

The vote is called: the Woodmen accept the proposals of both Amaleoda and Ceawin, and reject that of Mogdred. The Lord of Tyrant’s Hill and his Servants storm out, warning that they have not heard the last of him. He rides off with his men, and the Woodmen feel a chill as he leaves.

The following day, after bidding farewell to Ceawin and Amaleoda, the Company decide that they need to scout out Tyrant’s Hill to learn the level of threat it poses. They gather their gear and after planning their journey, they head South in search of their new enemy.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Against the Odds
Session 32

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The situation looks bleak. On all side there are Orcs and Goblins, the largest Orc standing over the slumped body of the Dwarf, the others all crowding around the companions; they in turn stand back-to-back, defending as best they can against overwhelming odds, Popo Took unconscious at their feet, his brother cut-off from the others, facing off against a pair of Orcs and their chief.

The Orcs surge forward, the smaller Goblins darting in with their stone spears; one falls as Gilthannas intercepts those attacking Dafydd Ap Alfred, cutting a Goblin down as it tries to jab the Barding with its spear. But one gets past, its spear digging into Dafydd’s ribs, nearly shredding his mail coat; in return the Goblin receives a whack to the head as Dafydd swings his spear, catching the foul creature a glancing blow that sends it staggering back a few steps. The act, however, pushes Dafydd too far, and his breathing grows laboured as he wearily tries to parry the blows of his relentless enemies.

Alberic, still going strong, pushes back agains the Orcs, swinging the mighty Wolfbiter two-handed, taking out two Goblins at once, their heads rolling across the ground. Another Goblin jabs its spear at Dafydd, the stone head glinting in the weak light, but the Elf dives in front, taking the blow, bruising ribs but preventing any further harm to the weakening Barding. Wilibald Took ducks a sword, his cap deflecting what otherwise might have been a mortal blow. The Hobbit rallies, slashing across the Goblin’s chest, drawing blood and causing the Goblin to rear back in surprise.

Alberic draws on his inner reserves, hoping to live to fight another day, and despite being weary he swings his axe low, cutting the legs out from under an Orc, who crashes dead to the floor. Dafydd, weary, wounded and barely standing, thrusts his spear with all his remaining strength, and a Goblin screeches in pain and then falls, dead. Another Goblin leaps over its fallen comrades, its spear stabbing with horrible strength against Gilthannas; the Elf is knocked back, winded and stunned.

Alberic and Dafydd, back-to-back and propping each other up, swings and stab, taking out another two of the foul creatures, and ahead of them, Wilibald jabs at the Orc chief, catching it by surprise as his King’s Blade digs into the Orc’s fleshy leg.

And suddenly, the companions are no longer quite so outnumbered, and the odds turn in their favour. Blocking the path to the Elf, the others grit their teeth and hack and slash; one Goblin falls, then another, and the chief staggers as an arrow strikes home; Gilthannas stands at the back, the way clear, his Woodland Bow in his hands, and another arrow already to fly.

Alberic takes a glancing blow to his helm, and retaliates with a weakened blow that sends the Goblin staggering backwards; then that Goblin simply turns and runs, disappearing into the forest. The chief Orc takes another arrow to his chest, and seeing the other Goblin flee, decides to follow the creature’s example and shoves the unconscious Dwarf at the Hobbit, then dashes into the trees and is quickly gone.

The last Goblins swiftly fall to the axe and spear, leaving the cramped clearing clear. Somewhere nearby there is a loud roar, as of some great beast, followed by a scream that is swiftly cut-off.

Alberic quickly bends over the unconscious Hobbit, singing an ancient song of healing to awaken Popo. Wilibald wakes up the Dwarf, who thankfully comes round and is uninjured. He and Gilthannas haul him to his feet, and as Alberic helps the wounded Dafydd, they hastily leave the area, travelling as far as they can before they settle down for an uneasy sleep, guards rotated throughout the night.

Nothing attacks or disturbs them in the night, and as the dawn breaks and the darkness of Mirkwood lightens a little, Alberic staunches Dafydd’s wound with a mixture of song and herbs, and with his wound treated, they hurry off through the forest. As they make their way through the dense forest, the Dwarf- Bofri- explains what happened: they were looking at the Old Forest Road, on their way to the Woodmen’s Moot, when they were attacked by a great black bear, which the companions believed to be Mor’du; then the beast ran into some Orcs, who fled, drawing the bear off, leaving him behind. The Orcs captured him, and used his as bait when they realised they were being followed by the Company. He is extremely thankful to have been rescued, and asks if they would be willing to escort himself and Regin to the Moot. They agree, and the next few days are spent travelling back to The Old Ford.

During the last stretch of their journey, Popo, on look-out duty, spies the glint of gold caught in a thin beam of sunlight that has crept through the foliage. The gold spills out of a leather bag, its strap still hanging from a low branch. He draws closer, but upon seeing a couple of bloodied teeth amongst the coins, decides to leave it well alone as a feeling of unease creeps over him.

They leave the forest and their spirits lift as they follow the old path towards the ford. Gilthannas, out hunting, comes across a ruined farmstead that shows signs of Orcs having attacked it. There are no signs of life, and the scene, whilst disturbing, is nothing compared to what the Elf has seen in his long life. He carries on, catching some wild pheasants for the evening meal.

Eventually, on the eve of the 11th Forelithe, they arrive back at The Old Ford and the Dwarves are reunited. In the morning they bid farewell to Gelvira Pot-stirrer and the Beornings who guard the ford, and spend several days walking at a pleasantly slow pace to Woodland Hall, where they spend over a week tending to their wounds, joining in songs and drinking, reflecting on the last few weeks, and discussing the future.

When they are all rested, the two Dwarves join the Company as they head off towards Rhosgobel, for the mid-year Summer Moot, where they are all expected.

End of Session & Fellowship Phase

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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Orcs, Goblins & Bears! Oh my!
Session 31

Mirkwood.jpg

27th Thirmidge, 2948 (Spring’s End)

After leaving the H ouse of Beorn with the mummified head taken from Valter the Bloody, heading back to consult with Radagast, the Company spends the night at The Old Ford, guests of Gelvira Pot-stirrer in her Hall of Crossing; a frequently visited hall whenever they pass this way. They are hailed by the Beornings present, some of whom they fought with at the Battle of Stonyford, and ushered into the hall. There, they are presented to a wounded Dwarf, missing a leg and badly mauled.

Gelvira is tending him and the Dwarf wakes soon after they arrive. He was found bleeding along the Old Forest Road, where it cut through a pasture of one of the farmsteads. It looked like he had dragged his way along the road for hours, leaving a bloody trail behind him. The Beornings were about to send for Beorn, but as the companions are now Thanes of his, they are asked to find out what’s going on instead.

As the Dwarf comes round, he is questioned. His name is Regin, and he was journeying with several other Dwarves, the leader of which was Bofri, son of Bofur. They had stopped off to investigate the state of the Old Forest Road before carrying on to the Woodmen’s Moot at midsummer. They came across some Orc tracks and were debating whether to leave or go hunting Orcs, when a giant black bear– its hide bristling with broken weapons– burst from the trees and attacked them. Regin was knocked down, mauled, his leg cleaved from his body, and left for dead. He saw Bofri fall and before he lost conscious he saw the bear dragging him away. The other two Dwarves fell too, but he did not see their fate. He begs the companions to find out what has happened to his friends, and they agree to investigate; although none want to face the beast known as Mor’du again, if the giant bear is the same creature that attacked them nearly two years ago.

The next morning they pack their ponies and head off, hiking along the ancient road, into the thickets and crowded interior of Mirkwood. After spending most of the day searching, they come across the place where the bear attacked: two dismembered Dwarves lie scattered amongst the trees, thick with buzzing black flies. A clear trail of broken branches, churned earth, and bear-prints leads deeper into the forest, drag marks following in its wake. Worryingly, there are also more recent Orc footprints, seemingly following the bear. Maybe a dozen in all.

They spend an uneasy night camped in and up the trees, but nothing disturbs them in the night, except for a deep throated roar that fades away quickly. The silence that follows is soon filled with the creak of the trees and rustle of the foliage.

Another day of exploring and searching finds the Company moving deeper North into the forest, away from the overgrown road. They come across signs of a battle, with Orc blood sticky on the trees and ground, and the two sets of prints separating. The drag marks now follow with the Orcs, so the Company sets out after them, moving away from the direction the bear took. As the darkness of the forest deepens the keen-eyes of Gilthannas spots a body ahead, slumped against a tree at the edge of a small, cramped clearing. No sooner has he alerted the others, a yell rises from the darkness and with a roar and a clash of spears and swords, more than a dozen Orcs and Forest Goblins explode out of the trees; a larger Orc moves out to stand before the slumped figure, pulling its head back to reveal the bearded face of an unconscious Dwarf, battered but alive. The Orc ducks arrows sent sailing his way by Popo and Alberic, dodging the missiles with snake-like speed. The large Orc sends it spear hurling towards the Woodman, who is struck a glancing blow, but whose armour thankfully prevents the blade from cutting into his flesh.

The Orcs, surrounding the Company and outnumbering them three-to-one, clash in the middle of the clearing, the companions back-to-back as they fight for their lives. Wilibald, having ducked out of sight as the Orcs rushed in, pops up by the captive Dwarf, activating his Rune-scored shield as he whacks an Orc on the back of the legs as it rushes past him.

Dafydd, Alberic and Popo find themselves pressed close together as the Orcs jab away with spears and slash with their bent-swords; two strike Dafydd and Popo, winding blows that their armour turns away. The Barding retaliates with a well-placed jab, sending an Orc falling to the ground clutching its bleeding guts; Alberic nearly cuts another in half with Wolf-Biter, and Wilibald’s King’s Blade digs deep into the black heart of another.

Gilthannas finds himself defending with nothing more than a dagger, so it is no surprise when a Goblin’s spear gets past his parrying and sends the Elf staggering back with the horrible strength of the blow. Dafydd finds himself momentarily alone as the Elf staggers, and tries to block a heavy thrust of a spear: he fails, catching his foot on a raised root, and cries out in pain as the spear’s broad head cuts through his armour and scores red across his chest. Weary, Dafydd parries another blow, and looks for an opening.

And then Popo suddenly goes down as a pair of Goblins batter him senseless with the shafts if their spears. The Hobbit falls to the ground, losing consciousness as the Goblins swarm over him, heading straight for the Elf…

End of Session

XP Awarded: none yet, in midst of a fight for survival!

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