9th Wedmath, 2947 (Summer)
During the night Ceawin regales the companions with the joys of living in the East Bight, telling them how the land is rich and fertile, and how uniting his people with the Woodmen on the other side of Mirkwood would benefit everyone. They are thanked by the East Bighters for their help, and in the morning they head back to the settlement where they are treated to a feast and are welcome guests in Ceawin’s Hall.
While there, Wilibald makes a few contacts for the Hobbits burgeoning trade enterprise, and they discuss the possibility of opening up a trade route through the Narrows of the Forest, and how they can benefit from that. Ceawin asks if they would put in a good word for him and his people at the Moot next summer, and the companions agree.
The next morning they head back into the Narrows, finding an old trail to follow, and travel back to Rhosgobel. Along the way, as the Summer days draw to an end, and the first signs of Autumn are visible, they find themselves travelling through a portion of the forest where ancient ruins peek from the undergrowth, signs of days long past. Crows lurk here and fill the sky with their black wings and caws, scaring away prey when Gilthannas goes out hunting. The crows and the ruins wear heavy on the companions, and they are fairly miserable by the time they leave the Narrows behind and eventually reach Rhosgobel.
Back safe, they cheer themselves up with drink and food, before Radagast comes to find them. They deliver Ceawin’s reply, and the Wizard hands them over some coins left by the Elders to reward them for their help. Also, he tells them that he has found the probable location of the final piece of Wolfbiter. According to his Eyes and Ears, the last piece was in possession of an Orc, last sighted in the area of Western Mirkwood where White Statues can be found. He gives them directions, and after spending a few days to rest and recover from their journey through the Narrows, they head off along the edge of the forest, up to Old Forest Road, as Autumn falls.
After a week of pleasant travel, they turn off and start down the old Dwarf-road, over the overgrown path, leading their ponies. It is slow-going, as the terrain is tricky and they have to backtrack and find new paths when the trees get too thick or the ponies can’t walk further; along the way, Dafydd scouts out a potential campsite: a ruined farmstead all but consumed by the forest. He approaches it carefully, seeing if it is safe to shelter in, but there is a Darkness to the ruins and a deep sense of foreboding. He turns away, and they find another, safer, place to camp.
After a week’s travel, the leaves beginning to fall around them as the days grow slowly shorter, Gilthannas ends up trying to catch a particularly cunning deer that keeps eluding him. Elven pride gets the better of him, and he pursues it for most of the day, tiring and still failing to catch it. Eventually he gives up and returns to the others, and they have to do with hard biscuits for their evening meal.
Soon they reach the spot where they turn North; into the deep forest, now searching for the White Statues, which are meant to be a couple of days journey into the trees. After a day of hiking, dragging their ponies along narrow game trails, a voice calls out to them from ahead:
“Hail strangers, what brings you deep into the forest?”
A Man steps out, a Woodman, dressed in hunting gear, but not hostile. He introduces himself as Geirbald, an outlaw who lives in the forest with his men. They talk and are pleasant enough, and the companions invite him to camp with them and exchange news. He agrees, and they make camp together. After they tell him where they are going, he offers to send a guide with them, if they will help him out by keeping an eye out for one of his men who has gone missing near the statues. They agree, and he whistles loudly, drawing another Woodman from the trees. He introduces him as Holdwine, one of his outlaws. He’ll guide them to the statues and wait for their return, hoping that they will come back out with the missing man or at least some news of him (his name, Geirbald tells them, is Erland).
The next day they head off with Holdwine, and before the sun sets they come across a life-like statue of a noble-looking woman, standing serenely and looking out into the forest. Holdwine goes no further, telling them that he believes it to be a haunted place. They make camp outside the area after a preliminary search reveals more and more statues scattered throughout the trees, all life-like, some serene, others frozen in terror or posed to fight something unseen. The area is eerily quiet and unsettling. Alberic can’t find any sign of an Orc or Wolfbiter, nor tracks to follow, and as the sun sets and the forest grows darker, they camp for the night.
In the morning, in the grey dimness of the forest, they begin to explore and search. Statue after statue they examine, looking for any sign of the missing piece, Orc or Erland. They find nothing at first, and as the day wears on and afternoon draws on, Dafydd stumbles upon a low mound with a cave leading inside, a sloping passage descending into darkness. From below he can hear the sound of something snoring or breathing heavily, and a musky smell wafts from inside, accompanied by the trickling sound of water, perhaps a small underground stream.
And outside the cave mouth is the statue of an Orc, posed in terror, arms raised as if warding something off. His hand is shaped as if holding something and a finger is missing, broken free; he held something, and someone (or thing) broke it free.
Popo Took volunteers to sneak inside and investigate: he stealthily slips inside, finding first a cave with two lizard-creatures chained to the wall of a cave, both seemingly asleep and snoring; then a passage leading to a larger cavern, where water flows into a pool, another passage looks blocked by rubble, and a ridge up to a shallower cave: inside there, are half-a-dozen Goblins, an Orc amongst them, sleeping on furs. A large sack rests by them, open with a few coins spilling out. A fire burns low, roasted boar sizzling on a spit. As Popo looks about, seeing more statues strewn around the cave, the Orc comes awake and staggers to his feet, and starts to rouse the others.
Quickly, Popo sneaks back to the others, managing to get back out without being spotted, and reports all that he has seen.
End of Session
XP awarded: 1 each.