The storm hits close to midday, turning the air chill and dark. The downpour rattles the leaves, and soon rills and streams from the rain are forming and gushing along the path, down the trees, dripping from the leaves and branches. The wind picks up, howling through the treetops, and dead branches are blown or washed loose, falling down to the ground. The ponies are skittish, Belgo looks scared, and everyone huddles in their cloaks and will soon be soaked if they don’t find shelter.
Thankfully, shelter is at hand: just off the main path, lies an old tree, hollow and huge. A tunnel leads inside, and a thin plume of woodsmoke issues forth. Suspecting trouble, Wilibald sneaks up and peers inside, finding little more than a bed of leaves, a campfire, and some dubious looking meat on a spit. There’s no one home, although whoever lives there can’t be far away. He tells the others and after announcing their honourable and unthreatening intentions (“We just seek shelter, and mean you no harm”, shouted out to the surrounding forest), they tie up the ponies and cover them as best as they can, and after leaving Wilibald on watch, hidden amongst the trees, the rest of the Company, Baldor, Belgo and the two Dwarves are crowd inside and warm themselves by the fire.
Not long after, the watchful Hobbit spies a figure approaching: an old man dressed in rags, carrying a crude spear; a hermit of sorts. He follows as the hermit slithers inside, and cries out in shock and alarm as he finds over half-a-dozen bedraggled strangers in his home. He initially threatens them with his spear, demanding to know who they are and why they invade his home, but soothing words from Dafydd settle him down, and when the companions dig out food and fresh water, the hermit is befriended. He has no name (“Don’t need one, do I? There’s only me here, no one else”), and talks about a rising Shadow in the woods; has a dislike of things ; and hides here, away from the darkness that he hears creeping about at night.
Dafydd introduces the companions, and also calls himself ‘Name-Giver’ and promptly gives the hermit a new name: Wood-Friend. This pleases the hermit, who then hands over a shard of metal to Alberic, saying that these things hold the darkness if kept for too long, and he has no need of this. Alberic sees runes and symbols carved on the shard, and recognises it as a piece of an axe, the famed Wolfbiter, which belonged to the son of a Woodman chieftain who lost it when he was taken by Orcs. Alberic accepts the gift and declares that he will try to have it reforged and made whole.
They spend the night, the storm passing around midnight, and in the morning (after trying and failing to persuade the hermit to join them), they leave the hollow tree and continue their journey.
The day wears on, warm and stuffy after the storm. The Company starts to feel drowsy after the morning, and Belgo complains about being hungry and tired. They refuse to stop, worried that something doesn’t quite feel right, and stop Belgo from wandering off as he mutters about hearing his mother calling him. Then Balin shouts out “Gloin, I can hear Gloin” and before anyone can stop him, the Dwarf is rushing through the trees. Oin, Alberic and Gilthannas give pursuit, Wilibald following stealthily, while Dafydd stays with the others.
Up ahead, several dozen yards off the path, they stumble upon a hole in the ground; an old well, just a ring of stones marking it as such, overgrown with vines and moss. Balin slips and tumbles, falling down into the hole with a yelp and a thud. He groans, and his pursuers race up, peering over to see the Dwarf lying on a ledge about ten feet down, stunned. Further below, the well ends in a mass of vines of roots, with the glitter of gold, silver and possibly gems in the detritus.
Then the vines unfurl and starts to reach out to where the Dwarf lies; more rise out of the shaft, and feel their way towards the others. Wilibald and Oin quickly pull out a rope and start tying it to a tree, while they call for Dafydd to hurry over to join them. The Barding reaches them just as Alberic and Gilthannas find themselves fighting off vines, and Wilibald climbs down to help Balin, Oin holding the rope, as another vine moves away from the fallen Dwarf and lashes out at the Hobbit.
The battle against the vine-lasher is a tough one. While Gilthannas pelts it with arrows from a safe distance, the others fend off lashing vines, get caught up and strangled, and while they manage to drag Balin out, Dafydd finds himself losing consciousness as the vine chokes him. Thankfully, Alberic manages to cut the vine, and after numerous blows and hacking at the plant, the vines retreat back into the well, slithering into the darkness long enough for Alberic to sling the Barding over his shoulder; they hurry back to where the others wait, and as soon as Dafydd regains consciousness, they head off down the path until they are a safe distance from the Thing in the Well; there they rest.
The Company spend a watchful night on the Elfpath, keeping guard in pairs. They head off at dawn, eager to leave the forest, and are almost out, when another night almost spells trouble: a day away from the Forest Gate, they are sleeping in a small clearing within sight of the path, Wilibald on guard, when hundreds of black butterflies swarm down from the trees, buzzing and humming a soothing lullaby that keeps everyone sleeping, and cause the Hobbit to drift off. They awake suddenly only when Popo swallows a butterfly and wakes up choking; the swarm, smothering the party and covering them head-to-foot take to the air and swiftly disappear into the trees, leaving them all feeling even more tired than before. Somewhat weary, they spend a restless night before breaking camp and heading off. The rest of the journey, on past the Forest Gate, skirting the Elfwood, and making their way to the friendly reception of the Easterly Inn is uneventful, and it is with a sense of relief that they take rooms at the inn and spend several nights resting.
Balin and Oin take their leave on the second day, heading off to complete their mission, gifting the companions with silver and their gratitude. Baldor and Belgo, now getting on again after Baldor’s memories return more or less complete, gladly pay the Company and are pleases when they suggest they all continue on to Woodland Hall, where the merchant is heading. There they can rest a while, and Alberic can see about getting the axe reforged.
On the morning of the fifth day at the inn (the 25th of Aston), after Agatha tells the Hobbits that if they are interested, some Shire Pipeweed will be coming in on the next caravan, the Company pack their bags, load the ponies, and head off towards Woodland Hall.
End of Session
XP Awarded: 2 each.
Treasure Gained: 3 each.