The One Ring: The Nameless Fellowship

The Watch on the Heath: Part 1
Session 59

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8th Afteryule, 2950 (Winter)

The company of the Fellowship of the New Alliance trek along the foothills of the Grey Mountains, climbing up snowy slopes of scree and boulders. Soon they have to leave their mules behind, and pushing on into a cold wind, they reach a shadowy gorge pitted with caves.

Throughout the past week, Dafydd Ap Alfred has grown miserable and depressed, the uncertainty of what lies ahead worrying his spirit, and the desolation of the land making every footstep seem pointless. When he sees the gorge, and the trail leading through it and up the slopes of the mountain, he decides that enough is enough, and if they’re going to do this, they’d better get a move on. He storms ahead, heedless of the danger, and the rest of the company hurry after him.

Too late. The noise of their passage rouses something from its sleep. With a terrible roar, a giant, ten foot tall monster of white shaggy fur, sharp teeth and rage-filled eyes, bursts forth from the cave between Dafydd and the others. Such is the size and ferocity of the beast, that it sends Galia into a panic, and she turns and flees, vanishing in the shadows of the gorge, quickly lost from sight.

The creature, a terrible Snow-troll that Witherfinger warned them off, grabs Alberic and seizes him in its mighty fist, crushing the breath from his body. It bites into his shoulder, and only the Woodman’s coat of mail protects him from a savage wound. Dafydd and Storr wade in, spear thrusting and sword cutting, digging deep into its hide; Gilthannas sends an arrow into its gut.

As Alberic tries to take a breath, Dafydd jabs its arm, and the creature releases Alberic. Storr attacks its flank, his sword spilling blood. Another arrow flies through the air, ricocheting off its hide. It turns to face the Barding, and grabs him, crushing him in its grip and lifting him to his mouth: it takes a bite, and again, only his armour saves Dafydd from a mortal wound. Alberic swings his axe, and it cuts deep, and the creature stumbles, its breath laboured, blood flowing from numerous cuts.

Then the Elf sends a final, deadly arrow into its eye: with a sigh, the Snow-troll collapses, dead.

They have little chance to recover. All around them the sound of sleeping trolls stirring. As quietly and as quickly as they can manage, they wind their up through the gorge, keeping an eye and ear out for Galia (but alas, there is no sign of her), and leave the gorge behind without waking any more trolls.

They find a sheltered spot to camp, and spend a cold, but surprisingly restful night on the slope of the mountain.

11th Afteryule, 2950

The company hikes up the slope of the mountain, and soon they see the watchtower on the peak, smoke and lights coming from the windows.

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Huddling behind some boulders, they decide to send Gilthannas ahead to scout out the area. Before he heads off, a shade of an old Northman appears before them: it is the old Master of Lake-town, and he has a cryptic warning for them:

“They took my treasure, my share of gold thrice- cursed. They brought it all here, my coins, my cups, my strings of rings.”

“Thrice-cursed, I call it. First, it made the Dwarves greedy and drew their doom upon their heads. Then, it consumed Smaug the Dreadful and made him weak. Finally, it made me blind to the joys of life, and turned me into an oath-breaker.”

“Now my graven silver and carven gold will be offered to the plunderer, the slithering death. A precious lure to call him, an iron trap to chain him, and then unleash him upon the North. My betrayal is complete. I already feel his cold breath blowing from the North. Here he comes!”

With his last words, the shade raises an emaciated arm and points a finger towards the Withered Heath – there, a faint plume of dust can now be seen. Judging from the distance, whatever is causing the disturbance must be very large, and it is advancing at great speed.

He fades away and Gilthannas, with his keen-eyes sees that the plume of dust and ash is a wingless dragon, heading towards the mountain. They decide to wait to see what happens when the dragon comes, after sending one of their ravens to warn the Dwarves…

…and as they settle in for the night, taking care to conceal themselves in a gully off the trail leading to the watchtower, they hear the sound of rocks being crushed, and smell a terrible stink that makes their eyes water. Out of the night, the dragon suddenly looms!

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It demands to know what they are doing there, why they are here, and what is it that draws it to the watchtower from across the Withered Heath.

They tell it the truth, and notice that it is wearing an old iron collar. Gilthannas figures out how to remove it, and with Storr’s help, the collar is broken. Surprisingly, they manage to convince the dragon– Raenar, the greatest of all Cold-drakes, the Dragon-king, the plunderer of a hundred Dwarf-halls, the slayer of Kings, the Great Worm of the Frozen Waste, the Scourge of the North– that the Orcs and whoever is leading them have lain a trap for him. Raenar suggests an alliance, and commands them to go to the watchtower and distract the enemy, and to look for his arrival at dawn. He will teach whoever is up there not to mess with a dragon.

The great worm slithers away, leaving the company not only alive, but in an alliance with a dragon!

End of Session

XP Awarded:1 each.

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The Crossings of Celduin: Part 5
Session 58

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As Gilthannas turns his aim towards the Gibbet King, he is stricken with terror that drains him of hope. It is a struggle to string the arrow and let it loose, but he does so anyhow, forcing his muscles to obey. Galia follows his lead, her own terror threatening to overcome her. Their arrows plunge into the corpse the spirit has inhabited, while the Orcs close ranks. The wagon pulling the caged corpse starts to move towards the fiercest battle, where King Bard himself wields a sword that gleams in the torchlight.

Dafydd Ap Alfred struggles past the terror that seizes him, moving in with his spear heavy in his hands. He parries a blow from an Orc, leaving it open to Storr’s sword; his blade cuts deep, and the Orc falls. Alberic, keeping the terror at bay for the moment, wields his axe, knocking an Orc back, dodging a counterstrike that bruises his leg.

Their attack distracts the Gibbet King from his goal: the corpse turns a bony finger on the Elves, but they resist. Then, with a well-aimed shot, Gilthannas decapitates the Gibbet King!

A shadowy figure rises from the corpse with a ear-splitting screech. It disappears into the night, heading North. The Orcs reel from the scream, their terror-driven rage suddenly squashed: they falter, the King’s army pushes forward, and the Orcs either turn to flee or are cut down where they stand, stunned. The heroes seize the advantage, cutting down the Orcs closest to them, sending the others fleeing into the night.

The battle is won!

Aftermath

It takes two weeks for the army to return victorious to Dale. The heroes learn that the townsfolk they evacuated had all but perished at the hands of the Orcs as they advanced along the river. King Bard’s army suffered greatly, but the Orcs were all but slain, the few survivors routed. Unfortunately, it seems that the spirit of the Gibbet King escaped, and no one knows where it went.

At Dale they bid farewell to Gerold, but Galia and Storr remain with the Company. They are tended to by healers from Rhosgobel and Elves from the Woodland Realm, and are restored to full health. They have earned the King’s gratitude and he gifts them with gold and gems.

Two days later, on the eve of the New Year, they are sought out by Ori, and brought before King Dain and Munin, Keeper of the Records. The Dwarven King tells them why he has sent for them:

“Last year, we received the visit of a merchant from Lake-town. He bore letters of introduction from the Master of Esgaroth, and presented himself by the name of Lockmand.”
“He had a treasure to trade with us, a shield that once belonged to Thrór, the grandfather of Thorin Oakenshield. The shield had passed from Thrór to his son Thráin, and it was believed lost since when Thráin disappeared in Mirkwood one hundred years ago. Lockmand claimed to have bought the shield in a market in the far south.”

“In exchange for the shield, Lockmand wanted payment in gold, and a fair price was arranged. He also asked, as a favour, for a look in our records. He claimed to be a buyer and seller of treasures and relics, and he hoped that the old books might contain information useful to him. But we do not let foreigners easily in our Chamber of Records, and we deliberated for some time before finally refusing his request.”

Then Munin takes up the tale:

“One night, I was awoken by strange sounds coming from the Hall of Mazarbul. I descended to investigate, and whatever-it-was fled before I could see it. I searched the vaults, but found nothing amiss, and then I soon forgot the matter.”

At this point, Munin hangs his head in shame.

“The truth is that I was not diligent enough. One book was out of place, and I did not notice. It was only when news reached the Mountain of Lockmand’s treachery in Dale that I recognised the name and made a fuller search of the vault, and found out what happened.”

Munin takes a large metal-bound book out of a case and places it carefully on the table. The book is obviously old, but the dry air of vaults has preserved the parchment almost perfectly. The record-keeper handles the pages carefully.

“This book is one of a great many similar records detailing the building of the works and fortifications of the Kingdom under the Mountain. This particular volume describes a watchtower that our folk built in the Grey Mountains to the north. Its purpose was to keep a watch on the Withered Heath, and send a warning south would one of the great worms that lived there threaten to cross the mountains.”

“No Dwarf living today knows if the watchtower was attacked by Smaug before he came to Erebor, or if the warning came too late. In any event, as far we can tell, the watchtower has been deserted for many decades.”

Munin shows the company the book. Lockmand cut a page out of it. From its placement in the book, it was likely a map of the watchtower. King Dáin concludes:

“We do not know why this merchant seeks an abandoned watchtower. We don’t even know if Lockmand’s theft has anything to do with the recent attack on Dale. But I sent a raven north to look for and investigate the watchtower, and the bird has not returned. I worry that danger still hangs over Dale and the Mountain.”

The companions agree to check out the watchtower, and spend the night gathering supplies and helping Munin locate the watchtower on the maps. Once they have figured out it rests high on the peak of the Zirakinbar mountain, they rest for the night. In the morning they head off out of the recently opened North Door, and take their first steps, accompanied by mules laden with supplies, onto the trackless Wastes and into the cold, wintry North.

Into the new year (2950) they travel, across wasteland of tumbled rocks and canyons, holding their cloaks tight against the chilled winds. The wastes are soul-numbing, barren, desolate, draining. The journey weighs heavy on the Company, and even the potent brew of hagweed tea that Alberic makes every day, doesn’t alleviate their woes. Soon, Galia, Storr, and Dafydd are feeling pretty miserable.

On their fifth day out they come across a stagnant pool, where a withered, tree-like, old woman sits with her feet in the water. Odd, afraid of Orcs and fire, she is politely addressed and talked to, and they learn that Orcs passed by days ago, carrying a giant chain that reeked of dark magic. They convince the woman, Witherfinger as she calls herself, to point them in the direction of the Orcs. They give her some food, and she warns them of the canyons ahead, where Snow Trolls lurk and sleep in caves. “Stay downwind” she warns them.

They bid her farewell, and cross the last stretch of the Wastes, and are soon treading the foothills of the Grey Mountains.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 4 each.

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The Crossings of Celduin: Part 4
Session 57

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12th Foreyule, 2949 (Winter)

The calm before the storm.

As dawn breaks the companions decide that it is time to leave. They spend the morning tending to the wounded, but one soldier- Beoric- lives dying, struck by a poisoned Goblin arrow. His wife grieves by his side, but they convince her to take her husband with the evacuees even though it will kill him off quicker. They organise the remaining townsfolk, who board the rafts and set off up the river, to join the rest of the townsfolk a few miles along, in their makeshift camp in a copse of sheltering willows.

In the afternoon, with the Orc army visible on the horizon, smoke from numerous fires darkening the sky, the six companions ride off North, abandoning the town. A day’s travel finds them meeting up with King Bard and his army: Bardings, Men of Lake-town, Elves, Dwarves, even some Woodmen and Beornings. A sizeable force, but still outnumbered by the Orcs. The King takes counsel from them and is heartened to hear that they have delayed the enemy, long enough for the King to gather what men he could. They advise making a stand, and the King agrees. He tells them that their role in this is over, but if they wish, they can stand with him and fight. They agree, and the six companions take their place amongst the ranks of the army, waiting for the Orcs.

Scouts report back: the Orcs and their Wolves have crossed the river, and seem to be urged on by some unseen terror. The enemy are recklessly advancing, not bothering to scout ahead or plan, and by nightfall the Orcs are there.

On the night of the 13th Foreyule, as the sun sets behind the mountains, the two armies clash with the cacophony of war: Orcs and Goblins surge into the spot where the six companions hold the line, arrows and spears fly, an Orc falls dead to Galia’s bow; another to Gilthannas arrows; Dafydd Ap Alfred and Gerold wade into their midst, spearing and cutting down more Orcs; more fall to the Elves bows.

Gerold becomes frenzied, but his lack of armour and reckless behaviour does him no good in the heat of battle. Soon he is stumbling to his knees, is knocked back by an Orc’s curved blade, and then takes a blow to the head, and falls to the muddied ground!

An Orc spear sails through the air, impaling Galia in the side. She pulls it free, and ignoring the pain, continues firing into the mass of Orcs.

Alberic and Storr stand back-to-back, cutting down Orcs that are swarming over them; all seem driven, some look terrified, all push forward, outnumbering the remaining companions. Spears jab and swords slice, coats of mail deflect blows, Orcs are knocked back, but more take their place. The companions feel the weariness of battle descend, and then the heroes surge forward as the swarming Orcs suddenly lessen; more Orcs fall, Goblin Archers are struck down by arrows…

…and then a creaking, groaning sound. A wagon, pulled by large black horses, comes into view behind the line of Orcs. In the wagon is a gibbet, the corpse of Beoric standing inside, its eyes filled with a baleful light that the companions recognise. The creature speaks:

“Fools! Your time is at an end, the Gibbet King is here!”

The corpse points a bony finger at Storr, who feels a chill creep through his bones. A moment of sheer terror passes over him, but he shrugs it off; an Orc takes advantage of the lull to press his advantage, battering at Storr’s shield.

Dafydd leaps over the bodies of the fallen, stabbing an Orc as he does so, reaching the clearing around the wagon. He thrusts his spear at the Gibbet King, sending skin and rotting flesh scattering. The corpse stares at him: its eyes seem to swell, taking up his entire world, and Dafydd shakes his head to clear it, bewildered and opening himself to attack. A sword swings high, but his helm deflects it with a resounding clang.

Alberic follows his friend, knocking an Orc aside as he too heads for the Gibbet King, swinging his axe and smashing over the side of the Gibbet. The creature points at the Woodman, and he is momentarily frozen in place!

The remaining Orcs surge forward: one falls to Storr’s blade; another falls to its death as Alberic decapitates it. Dafydd, still stunned and vulnerable, finds himself surrounded by Orcs: they pummel him, and only his coat of mail prevents him from falling.

The Gibbet King turns its attention to the Elves: a bony finger points at Gilthannas, but the Elf is strong in spirit, and simply pulls back his bow, ready to let fly with another deadly arrow…

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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The Crossings of Celduin: Part 3
Session 56

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9th to 11th Foreyule, 2949 (Winter)

The morning is grey, a gusty wind bringing an icy chill to the town. Gilthannas and Galia head off over the river, to scout out the enemy. Meanwhile, Storr supervises the craftsmen in repairing the rusted gate of the tollbridge, while Alberic helps with the evacuation of the town. The Master of the town, trying to help, just keeps getting in the way and making things difficult, so Dafydd spends his time keeping the old man talking, diverting him from the preparations.

Rafts are constructed, and men get to work on the bridge: hammers and chisels, mattocks and pike-axes are swung at the weaker central pillar of the bridge, aiming to collapse it before the army of Orcs and their allies reach the town.

Before the fall of night, the two Elves report back: there are hundreds of Orcs, Wargs and perhaps other larger creatures in their midst, marching straight towards the town. They are, at best, two days away.

The second morning is wet: rain pours down, whipped about by a strong cold wind from the North. Clouds cover the sky, and the day is little better than twilight. Work continues on the bridge, while everyone else (the companions plus the twenty men and women who are left to fight, the rest having been evacuated several miles downstream in a copse of tall trees) gets to work setting up palisades along the bank of the river. By nightfall the barricades are in place, and the bridge collapses into the cold river with a tremendous splash.

The third morning is clearer, the rain stopped, the wind cold but less blustery; the calm before the storm. Torches are laid along the opposite bank, the town itself is rendered dark, and a covered pit is dug in the road just before the now-ruined bridge. The companions and the dozen men who are equipped and truly capable of fighting take their places behind the palisades, with the two Elves in the upper floor of the gatehouse, peering through the arrow-slits.

Night falls, and the scouts of the enemy approach in the darkness, slowly revealed in the light of the torches are a dozen or so Orcs and Wargs, with a large Orc leading them. The Orcs blunder into the pit: two Orcs and a wolf fall to their death on sharpened spikes; and before the others can react, the companions and their allies let loose with arrows and spears: the lead Orc and the leading Wolf fall dead, pinned by arrows. The rest of the Orcs and Wolves flee into the darkness.

There is only a few hours of respire, before the vanguard of the enemy reaches the bank: a dozen Goblin Archers, and a large Hill-troll that wastes no time wading into the river, covered by the arrows of the Goblins. The companions and their allies are resting, but Gilthannas spots the approaching troll as it enters the dwindling torchlight and welcomes it with an arrow in its chest. He sounds the alarm, and immediately he is joined by his friends, as they fire arrows and hurl spears at the wading monster, ignoring the Goblins for the moment.

One Goblin Archer considers himself the greatest of Goblin Archers, and proves it by sending arrow after arrow at Dafydd, whose mail armour protects him from being wounded, but barely softens the blows. The Barding is soon wearied. Others behind the palisade feel the sting of the arrows too, but they too concentrate their fire at the troll.

The troll makes it to the shore, and starts wading through the thick mud, but by now it is covered in arrows, its steps are slow and uncertain. It lifts its head to let loose a great roar, or a shout to challenge its foes, but before it utters a sound, it is silenced when Dafydd places an arrow in its eye. The great monster falls dead, showering the defenders in cold, sticky mud.

Everyone turns their attention to the Goblins, even as the Goblins turn to flee: half of them perish as they turn tail, the others run off into the dark.

And as the heroes catch their breath, the first rays of dawn cast their light over the battlefield, and a new day breaks.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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The Crossings of Celduin: Part 2
Session 55

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1st to 9th Foreyule, 2949 (Winter)

On fast horses the six companions speed off into the first flakes of snow as Winter comes to Wilderland. As they race along the river, bypassing Lake-town, they get wind of Lockmand, but rather than track him down, they decide to continue on, as time is of the essence, and any delay could prove disastrous.

For five days they gallop as fast and for as long as they can, leaving the King’s men and spare horses behind at strategic spots to allow a swifter return. At one point during their journey they spot large Gore Crows swarming overhead, looking as is they searching for something. There are more swarms in the distance, and when one comes close to the Company, the crows suddenly scatter, cawing loudly as they disappear into the sky.

It snows briefly, rains a lot, and muddies the ground. Alberic manages to guide them past the worse spots, but his horse stumbles at one spot and it is only the Woodman’s quick thinking and superb healing skills that prevent it from going lame.

One night, after they have reached the River Running past the marches they have skirted around, their horses are spooked at night when the crows try to scare the horses away. Dafydd Ap Alfred manages to calm the horses and shoo the birds away.

A couple of days out from the bridge that crosses the Celduin, Dafydd (on guard duty whilst they camp) spots a scouting party of Orcs and Wargs. He alerts the others and they move their horses away, trying to hide in the dark as the Enemy approaches. Their ambush fails, and battle is joined. An opening volley kills off two of the advancing Orcs before they can lift their weapons, and three more falls to axes and arrows as they clash over the campsite.

A warg leaps over the battle, aiming straight for the two elves. Gilthannas shoots it out of the air, the wild wolf dead before it hits the cold, frosty ground. Galia takes out the last Orc, leaving only a few wargs to contend with. These prove more capable, but while they weary some of their opponents, they are cut down swiftly, leaving the camp a mess and the ground bloodied.

The following day, they arrive at the bridge.

A small town has been built around the large stone bridge that spans the river. They encounter the townsfolk and are taken to the Master of the town, an old grumpy man called Eric Son of Erland. He is reluctant to believe them at first, but they manage to persuade him that a great army of Orcs is heading their way, and that they will slaughter the townsfolk if something isn’t done. He musters what few fighting men they have (20 in all) as well as skilled craftsmen and a couple of able smiths, and gives command of the town’s defences to the Company.

They settle down for the night, making plans, and in the morning, start to put those plans into action.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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The Crossings of Celduin: Part 1
Session 54

king-bard.png h3. 27-30 Blotmath, 2949

It is the annual Gathering of Five Armies, and Dale is bustling with festivities. The three companions, now calling themselves The Fellowship of the New Alliance are in town to enjoy the festival. They join the crowds, checking out the entertainment, partaking of the food and drink, pulling their cloaks around them as the first winds of Winter blow through the valley. The Opening Ceremony is but a few hours away, and to pass the time the three friends enjoy the downtime.

Dafydd Ap Alfred takes part in a riddle contest, doing reasonably well before some gruff old sea-dog beats him with some seafaring riddle that the Barding has never heard of. Gilthannas tries his luck with a few games of chance, managing to gain a few coins along the way; but it is Alberic who finds short-term fame when he takes part in a singing contest and gets invited to sing at the masked ball taking place that night.

The festival kicks off with a splendid firework display that lights the sky and even manages to illuminate the Lonely Mountain. None other than Gandalf is setting them off, and during a lull, he approaches the Company and takes them aside, quizzing them about the spirit and Orcs that have recently been encountering. After talking to the Brown Wizard, Gandalf thinks he does more about the foe that seems to be plaguing Wilderland.

“Many years ago I myself dared to pass the doors of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur for the second time, to secretly explore his ways," says Gandalf. "What I discovered in that occasion is not a matter that I will discuss here, but suffice it to say that I found the place to be even darker and oppressive than before. It seemed to me that a new power had allied itself with the Necromancer, and ruled the deeper pits of Dol Guldur.

“It was there that I found Thráin, the father of Thorin Oakenshield, wandering witless and near death in the blackest dungeons. I came too late, and he died before I could help him, but with his last words he uttered the name of his gaoler and tormentor: the Gibbet King.

“I fled that accursed place before the Necromancer could spy my presence, but I knew that my visit didn’t go unnoticed. I felt the eyes of that dreadful lord of prisons upon me. The Gibbet King saw me, but seemed content to let me go.”

He asks them to keep an eye out for trouble, and to get word back to him if they can. Meanwhile, he is off to visit the leaders of the land, to see what else is going on.

A masked ball follows the fireworks, and the three companions relax long into the evening.

Towards the end of the evening, Lockmand the merchant clambers onto the stage to address the crowd.

“People of Dale! Tomorrow, there will be a great contest of arms! Swords! Spears! Archery! Let us gather all the defenders of the North, and see which of them is the greatest! In honour of this fine Gathering of Five Armies I shall give a prize to the victor! Behold!”

He gestures to two of his servants, who drag a huge iron- bound chest onto the stage. Lockmand throws the lid back. Gold and gems spill from the chest, which is crammed with treasure. “For Wilderland!” shouts Lockmand. “For the Free Folk of the North!”

The next day, the companions take part in the contests. Dafydd Ap Alfred and Alberic take part in all three, the contest of Archery, of Strength, and of Horsemanship. Gilthannas just takes part in the first two. All of them manage to get through to the final rounds, but are beaten by others. Still, they get a few good cheers and applause as a result of their reputation that has grown over the last few months. Then, the following day, marking the end of the festival, the Grand Melee takes place; to be followed by a great feast for all participants and every hero, adventurers, soldier and mercenary in the land. Everyone is invited, and the food and drink are to be amongst the best that Wilderland has to offer.

Gilthannas, Alberic and Dafydd enter the Grand Melee, and prove themselves worthy warriors. But others are stronger or quicker, and one-by-one the companions are eliminated. Alberic falls within the first few rounds, Gilthannas soon after, but Dafydd manages to get to the final contestants, before he decides to charge straight at a large Beorining called Gerold and gets sent flying into the river.

Battered and bruised, they join the others at the feast and enjoy the food and drink, the music and merriment. As the feast draws on, Lockmand arrives on stage, wearing the same outfit and mask as he did as the ball. It seems he has lost his voice, and mimes giving out the prizes for those who won the contests. When it comes to the winner of the Grand Melee Elstan, First Captain of Dale, the chest of gold and gems turns out to be full of snakes, which attack the masked merchant and slither off into the crowd. The snakes bite a few, the merchant turns out to be a jester in disguise, and then everyone at the feast starts feeling the effects of poison: the food and wine are doused with debilitating poison!

The heroes, affected but tough enough not to fully succumb to the poison, assist those who take a bad turn, and when King Bard hears of the trouble and sends servants and others to help, they do their best to support their most recent patron. They learn from the jester that Lockmand paid him to ‘play a trick’ on the winners, but that this wasn’t part of the plan. They rush off to try and confront him, but when they track him down, he is on a boat sailing down the river. They land a few arrows, but the river is fast flowing and the traitorous merchant escapes.

Over the course of the night Alberic manages to purge the three of them of the poison, but there are too few healers and herbs to tend to all the men and women at the feast. While there were no deaths, virtually everyone is debilitated or incapacitated. This becomes worrying when a raven flies in, perches above the square and announces a doom on the land:

“Harken, men of Dale! Harken, folk of the Mountain! A terrible army approaches. Orcs and Goblins, with Wild Wolves to ride upon, coming with great speed up from the south. They ride for Dale!”

Word reaches the King, and he assembles a hasty council. The heroes, being one of the few who are able, and also as vassals (more or less) to the King since he became their patron, are invited to give counsel.

King Bard addresses those present:

“Lockmand’s treachery has blunted the spear of the forces of Dale. The greater portion of our strength is lost until the poisoned warriors recover. And when they do, it will be too late.”
“The power of the Orcs of the North was broken at the Battle of Five Armies, but Wilderland is still stiff with Wolves, Orcs, and creatures of the worst description. It must be assumed that we face a powerful army.

“The enemy’s outriders will be here soon. Dale has the strength to resist a siege, but if we retreat behind its stone walls, then the farmlands and outlying villages – not to mention Lake-town – will be vulnerable to attack.

“We must resolve what to do with the remaining time. There are two concerns at hand – stopping the enemy, and preparing Dale for war, even in the lack of its best defenders.“

The Fellowship of the New Alliance counsel for the King to evacuate Lake-town and the farmsteads and villages, bringing them all to Dale, and to gather the rest of the harvest as quickly as possible, to hold up in the town while reinforcements arrive from the Elves and Dwarves, and whatever able-bodied Men can be mustered. The King agrees, but needs time to organise such activity: he needs heroes to delay the Enemy for as long as possible. The best place to do this, is the bridge at the Crossings of Celduin, where an army can cross the river easily. A handful of warriors could hold that bridge against an otherwise overwhelming force, for a time at least. The King stresses that he does not consider this to be a suicide mission, merely a delaying tactic, allowing him time to gather whatever force-of-arms and reinforcements he can, and to evacuate vulnerable people to Dale before the Enemy reaches them.

Naturally enough, the three companions are volunteered. They are to be joined by Galia, the Elf-maid who won the archery contest, and the Beorning, Georld, who won the contest of strength. Their old friend Storr comes forth to offer his services too.

The King gives them fast horses, and sends servants with additional servants after them; three sets of fresh horses will be place along their route, allowing for a swifter return.

The six warriors ride off, heading South to the Crossings of Celduin, as the first snows of Winter drift over the land.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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Making Friends
Session 53

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Leaping out of the heaps of leaves six giant Hunter Spiders ambush the three companions. Warned by Dafydd Ap Alfred, they manage to let loose a flurry of arrows, taking out one of the Spiders at it leaps to attack; then they find themselves surrounded, fending off the sharp beaks of the venomous arachnids.

Alberic cuts the legs from one, leaving it open to a killing shot by Gilthannas, whiel Dafydd trades blows with another, eventually gaining the upper hand and impaling the beast. He and Alberic take out a couple more, then shift position to let the Elf let fly with more arrows. The final Spiders fell to their blows, and with a final swing of his axe, Alberic takes out the last one.

They leave the area, make camp, and spend the next six days travelling out of Mirkwood and through the Long Marshes, reaching Lake-town on midsummer’s day; just in time to meet Frar of the Greydelve at the inn.

The travel-stained, haunted-eyed, grouchy Dwarf has been waiting for them, and thanks them for their help with his kinsmen, Polin and Pomin. The companions explain that they are interested in helping his cause, reclaiming the ancient Dwarf-home of Greydelve. and may be able to bend the ear of the King Under the Mountain. They persuade him to gather his kin, as many as he can convince, and bring them to one place, to prove to the King that he has a following and that they cannot just be ignored. Frar agrees, and decides to set off straight away. He’ll return with news before Winter falls, and will meet them again on the festival of Dragontide, a few months away.

They agree, and decide to go further with their original plan. They take off on a long journey, travelling back down to the Woodmen, via the Woodland Realm, then back up to Dale and Erebor, spreading their wealth and building on their reputation, establishing themselves as worthy adventurers willing and able to work with the leaders of Wilderland. They manage to convince all the leaders of the realms to be their patrons, and get them to agree to establishing a holding on the border of the Old Forest Road, just down from The Old Ford. There they’ll set up an outpost, manned and commanded by one of each culture: Dwarves, Elves, Woodmen, Beornings and Bardings. Representatives of the Five Armies.

Dafydd Ap Alfred is nominated as the representative of the Bardings, while Alberic is the spokesman for the Woodmen. Gilthannas acts the King’s Man for the Elves, and Bofri for the Dwarves (also agrees to use the outpost as the base for his project to re-open the Old Forest Road). Beorn agrees to send a representative as soon as the outpost is built, and in the meantime sends men and supplies to help.

Despite their good standing, and wise and persusaive words, none of the leaders agree to lend aid to Frar and his kin. There are no armies strong enough to spare the men, and few are willing to risk the lives of their countrymen in what looks like a fool’s errand.

1st Blothmath, 2949 (Autumn)

The three companions return to Lake-town, in time to participate in Dragontide. They give Frar the bad news, but suggest that he brings his kin to their new holding, for next Spring, and he agrees. If nothing else, the trek to the mountains will be easier from there.

The companions take part in the archery contest, each getting through the Wreath and Wand shots, but only the Elf scores highly: in fact, he outshines all the other contestants and wins through to the Ring Shot round. There he narrowly gets through the first round, and the second, and on the third round, cheered on by his comrades, he beast the other competitors and successfully wins the contest! He is awarded a gold replica of the Black Arrow and is cheered by the crowds.

In the aftermath, the three companions are invited to a feast and festival at the end of the month, and take some time out to rest and relax while they can.

End of Session

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Legend of Mor'du: Part 2
Session 52

Burial_Mound-exterior.jpg

17th Forelithe, 2949 (Summer)

As they squat down amongst the looming trees that cloak the slopes of the Mountains of Mirkwood a plan is hatched. They gather fallen branches of roughly the same size, straight, still sturdy, and head off immediately to the clearing where the black beast known as Mor’du lies asleep in the remains of an old barrow. Under the faint moonlight filtering through the foliage of the trees, visible only due to the clearing the barrow resides in, they see a tall yet narrow entrance leading inside: a squeeze for th beast, which surely gives them an advantage.

There are standing stones surrounding the hillock, one tumbled to the ground. While Gilthannas stands guard, Dafydd Ap Alfred quietly lays down the branches to use as rollers for the obelisks, which Alberic and Grimgar stand ready to push over. Their plan: shove the stone over, push it along the rollers, partially block the entrance to the lair, long enough for them to pelt the beats with arrows and hopefully destroy the amulet, robbing the great Mor’du of its power and immortality.

Their plan is a success! The stone falls with a thud, waking the bear inside, but the stone rolls along, blocks the entrance, and when Mor’du arrives at the stone, it is delayed long enough for Alberic and Gilthannas to send arrows in, shattering the amulet in a flash of fierce white light. The bear is enraged, shoves the stone aside, and climbs out, rearing over everyone. Grimgar leaps in, his great long spear stabbing out. His spear nicks and bruises, but for the most part it slides off the beast’s thick hide, doing little more then making it mad. But the distraction helps, and the others move in, jabbing with spear, swinging with Wolfbiter, peppering it with arrows.

But felling the beast is not easy: Dafydd is clawed, mauled, bitten, and almost goes down. Weary, he staggers to his feet, attacking its flank as Alberic moves in, swinging his axe; the Woodman is knocked back, his mail barely holding the deadly claws at bay; the one-handed berserker fights fiercely, shaking off rending claws and snapping claws; while the Elf stands back, shooting arrow after arrow, cutting the beast and bleeding it bit-by-bit.

Mor’du is soon weary, huffing and puffing as it slashes and snaps, but the loss of its amulet and the lifting of the curse has done its worse: a final arrow from Gilthannas takes the beast in the eye, and with a mournful howl, the black beast falls to the forest floor with a mighty crash; dead!

There is much rejoicing, and the beast is skinned, teeth taken, the barrow looted of anything of value, and the four hunters retreat into the barrow, sealing themselves in with the bear’s carcass and resting for the rest of the night. In the morning they bid farewell to Grimgar, who heads off to the West, leaving the three remaining members of the Company to the long journey back to Lake-town, which they hope to reach before mid-summer, to meet the Dwarf Chieftain of the Greydelve.

A week later they are in the eaves of the forest, a few days out from the marshes, when Dafydd, scouting ahead, spots unusual mounds of leaves ahead. He hesitates, wondering what they are, and the others come up behind him.

Suddenly, the leaves move, and monstrous spiders leap forth to attack!

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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Legend of Mor'du: Part 1
Session 51

mountainsofmirkwood.jpg Accompanying Gloin to the Lonely Mountain, the Company are left outside for close to an hour whilst the Dwarf nips inside to speak to the King. When he returns it is with good news: in exchange for the location of the bronze globe that they found, they are permitted access to the Chamber of Mazarbul Under Erebor, where Munin the Keeper of Records will help them with their quest. They agree, and tell Gloin that Storr will be able to guide them to the ruins.

Inside the chamber they spend most of the day searching the records, until Gilthannas comes across a book of curses. In its pages are reference to Mor’du and a cursed amulet that is the source of its power and immortality. They record it on parchment and after bidding farewell to the Dwarves, they head out and spend the night in Dale. The next day they meet up with Grimgar and tell him everything they have learned.

The Curse of Mor’du

The manuscript was a book of curses, and as an example of turning one’s rage against themselves, the legend of Mor’du is given was told. It tells how an amulet is used to grant the wearer the strength of ten men, but if used in rage and for nothing just or noble, each use changes the user until they become a great bear, full of rage, their own identity driven out. Immortality is granted, at the cost of eternal suffering. To break the curse is to also remove the power, and is a simple matter of shattering the amulet. If this is done to Mor’du, then its immortality is removed; however, the curse has lain long upon it, and its strength does not ebb immediately; it takes a week to lose its great strength, reducing it to merely a dangerous black bear.

Going on a Bear Hunt

Grimgar is delighted and, over the course of an evening drinking, somehow manages to convince the others to join him in his hunt for the Black Beast; he knows where it has made its lair, and is convinced he can end the threat it poses once and for all.

They spend the next day gathering supplies and preparing for their journey, down to the Mountains of Mirkwood, where the beast’s lair lies. They purchase some strong nets, rations for the journey, and plenty of arrows.

It is at this point that Wilibald Took bids them farewell, hopefully only temporarily, as he heads off to the Easterly Inn to meet up with Popo Took and see to their growing business.

The three remaining companions, Alberic, Dafydd Ap Alfred and the Elf Gilthannas take off with Grimgar, the Beorning acting as guide.

They spend a week travelling back through the Long Marshes, then enter the dark depths of Mirkwood, as the first days of summer warm their backs, leaving the sunlight behind. For half-a-dozen days they hike through the thick forest and along the foothills of the Mountains of Mirkwood, until Grimgar draws them to a halt. He tells them that they are close, little more than a mile away. He leads them cautiously to the clearing where the beast lairs, the sky peeking through the canopy and revealing a star-lit night. They see a low hill, standing stones, and the entrance to some ancient barrow. They retreat and make camp at a safe distance, and as they settle down for the evening, plans are made…

End of Session

Current date: 17th Forelithe, 2949

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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Secrets of the Long Marshes: Part 4
Session 50

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While Gilthannas stays with Alberic, keeping him warm and doing his best to stop the Woodman’s blood from flowing from his wounds, the others head out in search of treasure and anything that might be of help tending to Alberic.

Storr loots the nest of the Marsh-Dwellers, finding a few coins and small trinkets of value. Dafydd and Wilibald fetch the locked chest from the room that was sealed. The Hobbit manages to pick the lock, and inside are more coins and gemstones. Wilibald pockets a lovely looking brilliant cut ruby that sits inside a fine mesh-cage of mithril, ready to be fastened to a necklace or chain. There is nothing else of value or use that they can find.

Leaving Storr to look after Alberic, the other companions head back down to the cave via the entry hall. While passing through the broken pillars, Gilthannas takes a look at the shattered-face statue that stands in an alcove shrouded in thick shadows. The air around it is cold, and a chill runs through him as he looks at the statue of a richly attired man, his face broken. A chill settles over the Elf, and he backs away, unsettled by the shadows that cling to the alcove.

Down to the cave they go, where the Orcs were slain and the bronze globe stood. They are surprised to find the bodies are missing, and Gilthannas spots a trail of blood swirling through the rising water: the trail leads up the rock ledge opposite, and the glimpse of an Orc hand can be seen peeking over the edge. Along the other ledge, a pool of still, black water stands. The cave feels chilled, and a sense of unease fills the chamber.

Deciding that there is no chance they could ever move the globe, the companions agree to leave it be and get out of the ruins. They craft a makeshift stretcher for Alberic and carefully hoist him up into the cold, misty night. They find a sheltered dell to make camp, fetch the two Orc-horses from where they are grazing nearby (Gilthannas uses his Elvenness to force them to obey) and make Alberic as comfortable as possible. They rest for the night.

11th Thrimidge, 2949

Alberic survives the night! His fever breaks thanks to the tender care of Gilthannas, and using the last of the Mirkwood Cordial that Radagast gave them the Woodman regains consciousness. Although wounded and weary, he is strong enough to mount one of the horses and travel. They slowly make their way through the marshes, avoiding potentially dangerous paths, and after more than a week hiking through the marshes and along the river, they safely return to Lake-town and find a place to stay.

Fellowship Phase

The Company bids farewell to Storr, and spend over a week recuperating. During that time they shop at the Market-pool, go hunting for herbs, and Alberic recovers from his wounds. Then, one night, they are all sitting at a table enjoying a round of ale, when a large Beorning approached them, enquiring if they are the warriors who faced Mor’du and lived to tell the tale. He tells them his name is Grimgar, who has been hunting the great bear for several years and has discovered that the beast is cursed. He believes the secret to breaking that curse, and therefore making Mor’du vulnerable and no longer immortal, lies in the ancient records of the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. He wants their help getting that information.

The Company agrees, so long as there is no violence or subterfuge involved. They agree to ask their Dwarf friends and get him the information he needs. The next day they head off to visit Gloin and convince him to write a letter to introduce them to the Keeper of Records. He even agrees to go with them, to help get them inside without any trouble.

They pack their gear and head off to the mountain, to visit the Keeper of Records, and perhaps arrange a meeting with the King as well.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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