The One Ring: Fellowship of the New Alliance

Buried Secrets
Session 67

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Midyear’s Day, 2950 (Summer)

Accompanying Radagast, the three companions take a lovely boat shaped like a swan down the river to The Black Tarn, where they stop and wait for the Brown Wizard as he ascends a hill and speaks to the eldest of the River-Maidens. He looks troubled when he returns.

“It is as I feared,” he says. “There have been stirring in the South of the forest these past few weeks, and how much that is to do with ”/wikis/mogdred" class=“wiki-page-link”> Mogdred and his men, or this Sorceress you nearly encountered, I don’t know. We’ll need to head to Dol Guldur and see if there is anything lurking there."

They head off, travelling across the Narrows of the Forest and skirting the land firmly under control of Tyrant’s Hill and into the twisted, gloom-ridden depths of Southern Mirkwood. It takes them ten days to reach the Fens that surround the ancient Elven ruin, and the gloom is upon them, the fog thick, mists of foul smells and deep shadows making it difficult to see far. Looming in the distance, a silhouette in the weak sunlight, the Brown Wizard points out the Fenbridge Castle, a fortress of Orcs. They avoid the bridges and islands that lead to the castle, and Alberic leads them safely through the marshes, taking their time, moving with as much stealth as they can. Three days it takes them, following a long route around the marshes, but eventually the ruins come into view. There is a haunting beauty to the former stronghold, much of its Elven design still plain to see. Marred by Orc-work. They camp outside, no fire, guards set and spend a cold night starting at shadows.

The following day, the sun all but hidden by the gloom and mists, they begin to explore the ruins. They cross the moat by the bridge, weapons ready, Radagast keeping alert for anything Evil stirring. Gilthannas looks about with his Keen-eyes, but sees nothing, and hears nothing other than the wind, There is no wildlife here. Passing through the gatehouse they find signs of occupation, but nothing recent, They press on, following the inner wall around to the inner gate, passing into the walls of the keeps, around to the gardens.

There they pause before the statues that watch them with dark eyes. It takes an effort of will to pass, but all do so without incident. Radagast sends the three companions into the High Keep, while he keeps watch.

Inside, Dafydd comes across a dead Orc, stabbed in the guts, only a few days old. The blade is Elven-made, from the Woodland Realm. They press on, looking for any signs of Evil or any documents, maps, anything that might tell them if there is something they should worry about. After a couple of hours they come across a heavy iron door, partially hacked apart, a lock freshly picked (days ago at most). Beyond are corridors with cells, dungeons, and a library hastily abandoned, manuscripts and scrolls scattered and trodden on. They gather what seems useful and intact, and while doing so spot a side room, which they discover another dead body inside. This is a Man from Lake-town, a gaping wound in his side, fingers outstretch to a grill in the floor. He’s been dead a couple of days. Aside from a few coins, which are the sort minted in the Woodland Realm, there is nothing much on him.

Down the grill, however, are blood-stained documents hastily rammed down out of sight. These turn out to be accurate (within a few weeks) documents and maps of the Woodland Realm, its military strength, passages in and out, all highly detailed.

They take the documents and head back outside, showing them to Radagast. “It looks like we have a spy or traitor in the Woodland Realm,” he says. “We’d best take these back with us”.

They leave immediately, taking their time to cross the fens and forest, and safely arrive at Rhosgobel a couple of weeks later. There Radagast heads them the documents, and asks them to take charge of them. He’s meant to be more an advisor and lore-master than getting directly involved, especially when it comes to the Elves, so he passes on the responsibility of what to do with them, to the Company.

Taking the documents, the companions rest up, then head off to their new holding on the edge of the forest, where their new home on the Old Forest Road awaits them.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

Current Date: 27 Afterlithe, 2950, Summer.

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Demon in the Tower: Part 5
Session 66

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The three companions and the rescued Elves decide to split the party: Gilthannas will head off to look for the others (Niping, Storr and Grimgar), while the others head out of the forest, heading South East until they are free of Mirkwood, then following the forest North to the East Bight where they’ll wait for the others.

They leave immediately, and Gilthannas heads back to the tower, following what he believes is the course of the stream they followed, using his memory of their twists and turns to cross the forest until the clearing comes into view. He then spends most of the day tracking down his allies, keeping out of sight of the additional guards on the walls. He finds them, just in time, as they were foolishly planning on a rescue mission. They pack their gear and begin the long journey to leave the forest.

It takes ten days for Alberic and Dafydd Ap Alfred and the Elves to leave the forest, a journey surprisingly uneventful. With help from the herbal teas Alberic manages to brew, by the time they enter the plains they are actually all rested and feeling pretty good, even the Elves. They head North, through rain and mud, taking their time to find a suitable path through the mire after several days of heavy rain. Less than a week and they arrive at the Hall of Ceawin, where they are welcomed. A few hours later, Gilthannas and the others arrive as well, weary but otherwise unharmed. They managed to come of the forest a few miles further up and, despite the rain and some tricky trails, they caught up to the others pretty quickly.

A couple of days at rest, then through the Narrows of the Forest and on to the Black Tarn, where they encounter Woodmen caught in webs and being harassed by giant Spiders. They lend a hand, shooting arrows into the trees, scaring the Spiders away. They help the Woodmen get free of the webs, bid them farewell, and a few days later everyone arrives safely back at Rhosgobel.

That night, Radagast calls the companions to him and they fill him in on what happened. He tells them that he has been consulting with Gandalf and they want to see if there are any other ‘surprises’ lurking in the depths of the forest. Any more spirits or Evil minions trying to fill the boots of the Necromancer.

Simply put, he wants them to accompany him to Dol Guldur. He asks them to meet him on Midyear’s Day, and they’ll travel together to the ruins to investigate and see if there is any Evil still lurking there or Evil Plans afoot.

They have a few days to rest and recover, but their allies are weary and in need of a much longer rest, and elect to stay in the town while they companions head off with the Brown Wizard. Haldir and the five surviving Elves bid farewell and return to the Woodland Realm.

The success of their mission and their safe return inspires renewed confidence in both Gilthannas and Dafydd Ap Alfred, while Alberic spends some time helping Radagast brew some more Mirkwood Cordial to take with them.

Midyear’s Day approaches, and the companions travel with the Wizard to The Black Tarn.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 3 each.

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Demon in the Tower: Part 4
Session 65

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As the company retreat back through the tunnels, the Orcs ahead follow cautiously, offering them a chance to surrender, so long as they give up the Elves. They ignore the Orcs and head up a tunnel that they hadn’t been before, coming to the other stairs leading to the dungeons above. Up there they hear the sound of more Orcs and Men hacking away at the door they blocked.

An idea comes to them: they hurry up the stairs, then back down the stairs they originally went down, hoping to confuse the Orcs following them. Back in the warrens, Gilthannas and Haldir are sent scouting ahead, whilst the others wait. The sound of the door being smashed open follows as soon as the two Elves leave, and the rest of the company ready their bows.

Haldir and Gilthannas turn the corner, and run straight into a trio of Orcs: the brothers strike fast, killing one of the Orcs before they have a chance to react and calling out a warning to the others. The other Elves advance, Alberic and Dafydd bringing up the rear; and as the other Elves reach the crossroads, more Orcs rush them from the darkness. At the same time, the sound of reinforcements coming down the stairs can be heard.

The Elves engage the Orcs as Alberic and Dafydd fire into the melee, taking down an Orc. One of the Elves staggers back from a deep cut from an Orc’s sword, and Haldir takes a blow to the head, bloodying his brow. Another three Orcs fall to the swords of the Elves, and the three companions take out one each, thinning their foes… and just in time, as six more Orcs and six more Evil Men race down the stairs. The Elves fell the Orcs fighting them, and the five of them and Alberic and Dafydd move around the corner, out of sight of the bowmen; but a few arrows fly just before they disappear, and Dafydd is winded when one hits him in the chest, his leather corselet deflecting a piercing blow.

They meet up with Haldir and Gilthannas, retreating as more Orcs emerge from the tunnels, and despite a few more Orcs falling to the ground bloodied and dead, their numbers are far greater. Alberic stands back, defending his allies as they manage to retreat further down the tunnels, felling an Orc long enough to follow. But then they run into more Orcs and are forced to fight. Gilthannas sends arrows flying, as does his brother and an Elf, their deadly aim taking Orc after Orc out; Dafydd leaps forward, impaling another; Alberic joins them in time to see a Man leading some of the Orcs and bowmen, and with a quick shot, sends him staggering back, long enough for Dafydd to fire an arrow into his chest, felling him. Elves and Orcs clash, Orcs fall back; Alberic decapitates an Orc with a single strike; Dafydd exchanges arrows with a bowman, and is the victor.

There is a moment when no enemy are engaged, although more Orcs and Evil Men are close at hand. Taking advantage, the companions and their allies, some wounded, all weary, beat a hasty retreat, heading south through the warrens, down into darkened tunnels, past caves used as store rooms, towards the sound of running water. They are a matter of feet, of steps ahead of the Orcs and Men, moments from being caught.

They emerge into a cavern partially filled with water, a stream leading away into darkness, another narrow tunnel sloping up. Orcs are coming from there and from behind; so, with little choice other than stand and fight, they wade into the water and squeeze into the tunnel the stream is coming from. The last of them slips through just as the Orcs arrive and start to follow.

For the next mile or so, wading and occasionally swimming through the stream, they struggle up the stream, gaining ground on the Orcs following them, grunting and cursing as they do. Twice Alberic, leading the company, finds himself fighting off giant rats that are living in the tunnels; the last time, one manages to dig its teeth into his chest, winding him, then knocking him down into the tunnel, where he hits his head and slumps unconscious. Only Haldir’s quick reflexes catch him before he is submerged, and the Elf behind manages to reach forward and impale the rat before it does any more damage.

They carry Alberic the rest of the way, but manage to leave the Orcs behind. They slip out of the tunnel, into the forest, where it is still dark, and out into a pool of stinking water that snakes away into the depths of the forest. Wasting no time, they hurry off into the trees, putting as much distance between themselves and the tunnel as they can before they need to rest.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

Elves freed: 5 Elves plus Haldir.

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The Demon in the Tower: Part 3
Session 64

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The undead warriors turn on their former allies, driven by a need to kill all living things. The three companions back off, and as Alberic and Gilthannasfire arrows into the midst of the warriors, Dafydd Ap Alfred checks the cells and finds them locked. He returns to the others as the last of the Men fall to the claws of the undead, who then charge at the three. The living and the dead clash, but the living win out, defeating the warriors just in the nick of time: as from the doorway where the two Orcs fled, the sound of more Orcs can be heard, and somewhere above, the sound of a hunting horn sounds.

Rushing to the open door, Dafydd and Gilthannas pull it shut and hold it tight, while Alberic heads off looking for the keys to the cells. The Orcs on the other side start pulling at the door, but for a short while the two companions hold it shut, giving Alberic the time he needs to find the keys hanging off an Orc’s belt in the guard room. He starts opening cells by the corridor where the fight took place, but those cells turn out to be empty.

Then, before he can go off to check the rest, the Orcs manage to pull the door open, and a dozen Orcs rush to the doorway, only to be blocked by Dafydd and his spear. One is impaled as it tries to push forward, and two behind it fall to the Elf’s arrows. Then the Barding swaps places with Alberic, and Dafydd takes the keys and goes looking for cells to unlock, while Alberic and Gilthannas hold the doorway, felling Orcs and fend off their blows.

Dafydd finds an Elf, then another, then he finds Haldir and frees them all, convincing them of his friendship and sending them off to join the others, arming themselves with the Orc weapons and Men’s bows. They join the battle, albeit weary and in need of healing. They send arrows flying into the midst of the Orcs and more fall.

As the last Orc falls, Dafydd hears the sound of axes against wood and rushes upstairs to see the door being hacked apart. They have a matter of minutes before more Orcs are through. He and the Elves free the rest, and with seven Elves and Haldir, he leads them back to Alberic and Gilthannas. They drag benches into the room where the Orcs came from, where stairs lead below. They barricade the door as best they can and head down into the warrens below, taking torches with them.

Below the tunnels twist and turn, and as they come to a crossroads, they are suddenly ambushed by two-dozen Orcs who swarm them from all sides: one Orc knocks Dafydd Ap Alfred back, but he manages to stab one through the heart as he staggers to his feet. Another Orc falls to an Elf’s arrow, another to Haldir’s blow; more fall to Gilthannas’ bow and Dafydd’s spear, arrows fly, but a couple of the Elves are taken down, and everyone is feeling the strain of the fight.

Holding together, the allies manage to retreat back into the tunnel they came from, the Orcs close on their heels…

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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The Demon in the Tower: Part 2
Session 63

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As dusk lengthens into night, Grimgar, Storr and Niping find themselves being hunted through the thick forest. Their pursuers, a mix of Orcs and Men, know the surrounding forest well and easily pick up their tracks, and soon they are closing on the three allies. They stand their ground, and in the initial clash with the enemy one Orc is impaled on Grimgar’s great spear, and another two fall to the Dwarf’s mattock and the sword of Storr.

The fight is brief but savage, and all but one of the enemy are slain. One man flees back to the tower, but the Dwarf, Beorning and Lake-towner are weary and retreat further into the forest seeking a better place to hide.

Meanwhile, back at the tower, the three companions, unaware of their allies plight, venture out of the parlour and onto a balcony that overlooks the ground floor and main entrance. Two armed Men stand guard below, stairs curving down to meet them. Another set of stairs leads up, and Gilthannas quickly scouts ahead, finding a corridor and large set of doors, but no signs of life. They decide to had down instead, and ambush the two Men from the balcony, ending their lives with well-placed arrows.

They locate a door and stairs leading down, tuck the two bodies out of sight, lock the door behind them, and descend into the dungeons of the tower. They spy iron doors that are likely cells, hear voices nearby and scout out a guard room in the middle of the cells. While Alberic stands guard in the corridor, Dafydd Ap Alfred and Gilthannas surprise the Orc guards, taking them out swiftly; but not swift enough, as they cry out in alarm and their cries are heard, not to mention the sound of a frantic fight. From further down the corridors Orcs and Men arrive, led by a Man and a large Orc who are obviously in charge. One of the Men knocks one another door as they pass, and someone inside opens the door.

The companions are both skilled and lucky, sending arrows into their foes before they can advance: the large Orc leader is felled by an arrow between the eyes, a perfectly aimed shot from Dafydd; the leader of the Men follows him down, as Gilthannas sends an arrow deep into his heart. Another staggers under an arrow from Alberic, and the Elf finishes him off.

But now the Men retaliate: several charge towards Alberic, others fire arrows in his direction. He is knocked back, stunned, and an Evil Man pushes past him intent on getting the Elf. That Elf just cuts him down. On the opposite side of the dungeon, the Orcs facing Dafydd turn and flee, and he heads up to join his friends. He sees the Orcs throw open a door, revealing stairs heading down, and the Orcs disappeared out of sight.

From the opening door an old man and four undead warriors come forth. The old man barely has a chance to assess the situation when Dafydd takes him out with an arrow to the chest. The warriors advance regardless, but the fight is firmly going the companions’ way… for now.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 2 each.

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The Demon in the Tower: Part 1
Session 62

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25th Aston, 2950 (Spring)

After spending a few days at Rhosgobel, waiting to see Radagast, the four companions are reunited with Grimgar, who is now acting as thane of Beorn and trading honey for medicinal herbs, and a representative from the Grey Mountain Dwarves, Niping the Proud. He is acting as an ambassador to the Woodmen, but with a background of wandering as a trader, he is looking for opportunities to make friends and gain favours. While resting, Storr finally gets through his depression and finds life to be lovely again.

One morning at Rhosgobel the Company learn from a recently returned Radagast that one of the Elves ( Tawar by name) that accompanied Haldir has been found, near-death stumbling about in the forest. Upon waking he asked for Gilthannas, and has word of his elder brother.

When they last saw Haldir, back in the Spring of 2948, after the battle at Woodland Hall, he had set out to investigate rumours of a Sorceress occupying Demon’s Tower , at the southern edge of the forest. On their journey there they spied on Mogdred and his men, skirted the borders of the Fen Marshes, and fought Orcs and Spiders that they came across.

When they reached the tower they had barely begun to scout out the area when a sizeable force of Orcs and Men ambushed them, killing many Elves, but capturing most. Those they captured were taken down into the dungeons beneath the tower and thrown into cells, kept there for weeks, given just enough to keep them alive. Haldir kept their spirits up, but one-by-one the Elves were taken away, upstairs to see the Sorceress. None returned. Despite the temptation to end their lives, Haldir remained convinced that an opportunity to escape would present itself, and his men were loyal enough to stay with him, even though they were weary and suffering.

One day, when their jailers came for another Elf, they made their move: for some weeks the Elves had been clawing at the bars, weakening them enough for some of the Elves to break free. These Elves fought the Orcs, but they were too weak to do more than delay the inevitable: but they were able to distract them long enough for Tawar to escape, on Haldir’s orders, and he fled through the tunnels, managing to evade the Orcs and Evil Men long enough to reach the courtyard. There he raced past the great tree that stood in the yard (a diseased willow, stained black) and evaded blows and arrows long enough to scale the walls and leap to the ground below. Tawar took an arrow in his shoulder as he leapt, broke a leg when he crashed to the ground, but kept conscious through sheer force of will and disappeared into the forest.

He has spent weeks making his way to Rhosgobel, slowed by his wounds, wearied and unarmed. He avoided capture only by hiding and waiting out his pursuers; came close to death when he stumbled into a nest of Spiders, but managed to fight them off with nothing more than a heavy branch. Nearly broken, poisoned, his wounds infected and slowing him greatly, he eventually made it to the river before he collapsed and was found by the Woodmen.

Tawar begs the companions to help his kin, to rescue them from the clutches of the Orcs and this Sorceress. He doesn’t know how long they have left, as there were only a dozen Elves left when he escaped. They were being taken away one at a time every week or two, so time is of the essence.

He knows no more, and in the night, his wounds too grave, he passes peacefully in his sleep.

Naturally, Gilthannas wants to rescue his brother and fellow Elves, and the others agree. Radagast tells them he can help, first by giving them some of his mirkwood cordial, but also by brewing up a concoction using some of Gilthannas’ blood, which will act as a guide to where Haldir is imprisoned. This brew the Wizard pours into a glass vial, worn on a leather throng around the Elf’s neck. It glows whenever it points to his brother, and will glow brighter the closer they get. The companions are joined once again by Storr, but also by Grimgar and Niping, both eager to do good deeds; Grimgar owes them, and Niping is hoping they will owe him.

That night they plan their route and decide to cut across the Narrows of the Forest to the Hall of Ceawin the Generous, then skirt the forest until they are in line with where Haldir can be found: then they’ll cut through the twisted, tangled mess of Southern Mirkwood and locate the tower known as Minas Raug. Once they get there, they’ll figure out the rest.

They set off early next morning, six companions of the New Alliance, crossing the sparser forest between Rhosgobel and The Black Tarn, taking three days to travel to the Narrows. The going is easy enough and without trouble. From there they head off East, towards the East Bight, taking 11 days through the twisted thickets and trails, avoiding any signs of bandits from Tyrant’s Hill. When they reach the Hall of Ceawin, they are welcomed as friends and rest for the night. The next day, refreshed and with suitable rations, they skirt the edge of the forest, travelling easily across the grass wild lands, without incident or meeting a soul. Six days later the concoction points straight West, and they decide now is the time to enter the forest, and spend the next 13 days struggling through the thick, tangled, dark intense forest. There are no signs of life, no trails or paths to follow, nothing to hunt, little to drink. The journey is tiring, and the weight of the forest is felt as the glowing brew gets brighter and brighter.

On the 13th day Gilthannas is certain they are near. Scouting ahead, Alberic and himself locate the tower of Minas Raug just after nightfall. A stone tower topped by iron spikes and stained glass, surrounded by a wall with numerous towers, patrolled by Orcs and Men. The concoction points directly at it, and glows now as bright as a candle. They find a sheltered spot to spend the night, set guards, and sleep restlessly.

In the morning Gilthannas and Dafydd Ap Alfred scout out the area, looking for possible ways in other than the main gateway. They find only windows in the tall tower, some of which are large enough to fit through, if someone can climb up the wall of the tower. Fortunately, the stone blocks it is made from have seams that would handholds for a climber, although the ascent would be hard. They return to the others and decide that the windows offer the best chance to get inside. They wait until dusk, move around to the North side of the tower, where the view from the walls is limited, and make their move.

First, Gilthannas sneaks across, followed by Dafydd. As soon as the Barding is there, the Elf climbs up to the window, making the ascent look easy. He listens at the window, hears nothing, sees no lights or movement, and manages to open the latch using his knife. Inside is a parlour of rich fabric and expensive furniture, a single door leading out. It is empty of life. He ties off a rope on a heavy table, lowers it down and signals Dafydd to follow. They wave to the others, hiding in the forest, and as the Barding begins to climb, Alberic makes his way across the clearing, up the slope of the hill, to the tower wall without being seen. He too climbs the rope and joins his friends in the parlour.

Then Grimgar starts across. For someone use to hunting, he is surprisingly clumsy and manages to kick stones and stumble as he scrambles up the hill. He knows he has been seen as arrows start flying towards him: one strikes him with enough force to wind him, and he staggers back down the hill, retreating to the forest and the others, not wanting to draw attention to those already inside.

In the courtyard there are cries of alarm, shouts for guards, and a voice calls out: “Don’t forget: if there are any Elves, don’t kill them, don’t eat them, and bring them back alive!”

End of Session

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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The Watch on the Heath: Part 3
Session 61

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The weary Company make their way down the mountain and across the Wastes, skirting around the lairs of the Snow-trolls, and travelling without incident back to Erebor. They are met by Ori and an entourage of Dwarves who spied them from afar, having also received the ravens that they sent bearing messages.

King Dain is glad to hear that the Gibbet King is destroyed, less so that a dragon now holds the watchtower. Regardless, the immediate danger is over, and a great victory against the Shadow has been achieved. The King holds a feast in their honour, as does King Bard when they return to Dale for the rest of winter, and tell him about all that transpired.

Over the weeks of Winter, Storr retreats into drink and easy companionship, but it does little to lessen the burden that weighs in his soul. Alberic sheds the burden the corrupted lands North of Erebor had on his spirit through song and good company, and spends time exploring the Long Marshes collecting herbs. He sends his armour to the Dwarves of Anvil Way in Dale, and their cunning craft eases the burden of his coat of mail. Dafydd Ap Alfred spends some time relaxing in song and drink, but still carries the weight of the past few weeks and can’t help but feel resentment towards those who seem happier and carefree. Together with Storr he swears loyalty to the King’s Men, and spends some time training with the King’s soldiers. Gilthannas, meanwhile, takes time to sing tales of Elven lore, to ease the pains of being so close to mortality, and facing off against a fearsome dragon born of the Enemy. He also pays a visit to Anvil Way, and the Dwarves work on his bow, increasing its prowess.

As the snows thaw and the frost gradually disappears from the land, Spring arrives in Wilderland and Gandalf comes to pay them a brief visit. He thanks them for ridding the land of the Gibbet King, and asks them to check in on Radagast, as the Brown Wizard will have need of their help come Summer. He bids them farewell, and says no doubt they will meet again.

Storr agrees to accompany them to Rhosgobel, believing that healing skills of the Wizard can help ease some of the Shadow that has him miserable and sleepless nights plagues by nightmares. The Company hire a boat and sail off along the River Running, through the marshes and disembark on the edge of forest. They travel South, keeping to the forest edge, picking their way through ancient ruins as they cross into the East Bight and head to the Hall of Ceawin, where Ceawin the Generous welcomes them to his settlement. They learn that although the settlement prospers, trade along the Narrows of the Forest is troublesome thanks to the bandits from Tyrant’s Hill.

The following day, resupplied by Ceawin for their journey West, the four adventurers head off along the pathways of the Narrows, without incident, and arrive safely at Rhosgobel a couple of weeks later.

End of Session

Current Date: 17th Astron, Spring, 2950.

XP Awarded: 1 each.

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The Watch on the Heath: Part 2
Session 60

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The Company huddle amongst the boulders at the foot of the path that zig-zags up to the watchtower. It is less than an hour until dawn, a glimmer of day break on the horizon. They have spent the night planning and decided on a frontal approach, intending on drawing out the enemy and give the great dragon Raenar the distraction it wants.

They sneak up to half-way, ducking below some boulders. They call out, pretend there are more of them than there are, but nothing rears its head or comes out. Storr thinks he can hear the sound of the dragon slithering and climbing, which prompts the companions to proceed to the entrance: there double-doors stand ajar and all is dark inside. They cautiously enter the entry hall, spotting a large block of stone suspended from the ceiling, and darkness inside. Gilthannas can see something large moving in the shadows, and can hear movement, clink of armour and swords.

Then suddenly a huge figure charges forward, grabbing something from the chamber ahead and a stone throne hurtles through the air, shattering amongst the party: Gilthannas leaps back, avoiding the debris, but the others are not so lucky and are pelted by stones.

A huge cave-troll follows it, roaring as it charges the momentarily stunned companions. The Elf gets in a couple of arrows before it reaches them. They stab at it with spears, slash with swords and axes, send arrows into its thick hide. From above, Goblin Archers scramble into view, shooting arrows at the fighters. Dafydd Ap Alfred drops his spear and shield and takes out his bow, backing off from the fight with the troll. He shoots a Goblin off the ceiling, as does Gilthannas. Storr and Alberic keep the troll engaged, blocking the passage: behind the troll several Orcs clash their swords against their shields, bellowing curses and obscenities, as they eagerly await the chance to attack.

The troll, despite its size and ferocity, finds it impossible to land a blow. It is quickly wearied, cut, bled, and a final arrow from Dafydd’s Great Bow fells the beast. The Orcs climb over the corpse and dive into the battle: Storr and Alberic keep them busy, as Dafydd and Gilthannas drop the remaining Goblins with their bows and arrows.

Storr staggers back as an Orc kicks him viciously. Another slashes Alberic’s arm, drawing blood. He bashes his attacker with his shield, knocking him off balance and allowing Gilthannas to place an arrow in his chest; the Orc falls dead. Dafydd picks up his shield and spear and wades into the fight, but he is struck by the flat of an Orc’s blade, knocking him senseless. Another Orc follows this with a mighty strike from the hilt of its sword, and the Barding falls down, unconscious.

His companions rally to him: another Orc dies, then another, in rapid succession, and the last Orc falls to an arrow from the Elf’s Woodland Bow.

In the aftermath Alberic staunches Dafydd’s cuts with a rousing song, bringing him back to consciousness. Gilthannas bandages Alberic’s arm, treating his wound. The Elf and Storr take a few minutes to catch their breath.

Overhead, they hear the dragon arrive: claws tearing at stone, a thunderous voice, and another voice in reply, one that sounds familiar. Then the dragon’s voice falters and weakens. The four companions spot a stairwell and hurry up to find a chamber with corridors opening up onto the large windows they saw outside. In the centre of the chamber is a huge bonfire, and a caged holding the corpse of none other than Galia; a corpse possessed by the Gibbet King! Across from him/her is Raenar, head bow and shaking as it trying to remove a bad thought. The Gibbet King is uttering arcane words, bending the dragon to its will.

Nine Black Orcs from Mordor stand guard, two holding a vast and heavy chain. They are moving towards the dragon.

Everyone takes up their bows and send a flurry of arrows into the Gibbet King: their arrows dig deep, disrupting his chanting. The dragon roars with gratitude and moves to attack his would-be jailor. The Uruks turn their attention to the companions, all but the ones carrying the chain. They charge, and are stopped by Storr and Alberic, blocking the tunnel to allow Dafydd and Gilthannas to continue shooting. They smash the corpse, allowing the dragon to breath its poisonous fumes on the exiting spirit. The Orcs crash into Storr and Alberic. Storr is knocked back, and then down, but before they can turn their attention to the others, the dragon breathes on the spirit once more…

…and destroys the Gibbet King!

The spirit screams and practically explodes: the Orcs are shocked, and flee, leaving the companions all alone with the dragon.

It thanks them, and claims the watchtower and whatever gold is here as his own. It then tells the companions to leave, while it is feeling gracious. But, it warns them, do not return here, for it will spell your doom.

Hurriedly, carrying Storr between them, they exit the watchtower and make their way to a sheltered crevice to address their injuries.

End of Session

XP Awarded: 3 each.

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The Watch on the Heath: Part 1
Session 59

snow-troll.png

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.

watchtower-exterior.png

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

gibbet-king.png

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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