The Darkening of Mirkwood

Sassy's Diary: May 3rd - May 22nd

MAY 3rd: Every visible enemy was down, but still my hackles were raised. We knew there were still enemy archers in the ruins and we could sense shadows of more foes moving in the trees surrounding our clearing.

A dozen enemies moved in to further engage us. I admit I was frightened when a goblin rushed at me, a painted red eye on his forehead.

Brunhild was fiercely shaking the confidence of those before her. I stabbed the goblin in front of me and he fell off the cliff. Elrynn was…singing? And yet…this elven song gave me courage and strength. The battle raged on, minor scratches and wounds but no serious injuries as Elrynn's songs of courage and bravery kept us on our feet, well, except for our dwarven scholar.

In the end it was Dorion who took the killing blow on their leader. I stayed with Hanar to apply bandages and leeches (not that they did much good) as Dorion ran around to the other side of the hill to search for our dwarven friends.

There he found only Balin left standing. Barrak and Torrun were dead as were a circle of orcs around them. In sadness we covered them in stone, and then dragged the orc and goblin bodies into a pile to burn them.

I must admit here, that in the heat of the battle, Elrynn seemed even more handsome than he already is as most pretty elves are, but I don't know, perhaps it was his strength that shone through with his battle songs. I was just so in awe of his presence that I cannot help that my eyes keep drifting to him and I feel compelled to be near him.

We found a cave that night and camped. Balin was unaware of any red-eye orc clans. He did expect that their leader was so difficult to take down due to his superior armor guarding him from much injury except for punctures to any vital organs. Speaking of being unaware, I am hopeful that Elrynn is unaware of how my eyes keep drifting to him. I would be immensely embarrassed.

MAY 18TH: We set out today to rainy weather and continued on for three days until we were stopped by the sound of a flute playing merrily. It was an elven hunting party. Elrynn spoke elvish to them. He's so smart and worldly. And dreamy. And he knows the elven Prince?!? He introduced us to Prince Legolas! Elrynn knows EVERYBODY!! I hope I didn't make an idiot of myself.

The elves shared their deer they had killed and cooked, and they left us late that afternoon, gifting us with a few days meat and a bottle of their wonderful elven wine. I can't believe Elrynn knows such important people, he's so amazing! We continued our travel that day for a few hours before we made camp.

MAY 22nd: It was midday when the weather suddenly turned more foul than usual. The sky hidden by the canopy of trees over us turned black as night as thunder rumbled. The rain came down so heavy it ran in rivulets down the tree trunks and gathered into small streams in our path making travel more and more difficult. We realized we couldn't continuing traveling any further today that we needed to find shelter from this deluge immediately.

Were it not for the lightening strikes giving enough light to see, Hanar and I would not have seen the giant hollow tree with inviting smoke drifting from it. We found an entrance nearly hidden between two huge roots and entered a small tunnel into a living space inside the hollow tree.

The walls were made of the tree's trunk and had furs hung on the walls hiding carvings of undead looking creatures. The ceiling above us showed that the roof was made of thatch and bark. Though a fire inside a circle of stones in the middle of the room was lit and cooking meat, the owner of this little home was not here. Nevertheless, it was warm and dry and we needed shelter so we all came inside.

When the owner arrived, he was a very smelly male human, skinny and scarred, bearing the marks of long years in shackles. He was a bit touched in the head and couldn't remember his own name but he didn't throw us out into the storm and for that I was grateful as I hunkered down for a little rest beside Elrynn before it would be my turn for taking watch.

Elrynn woke me for my watch and I couldn't help but notice the color of his eyes. I smiled at him as he settled down to sleep and then I took my turn taking wa…..zzzzzz

 

 

 

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Mud and Orc Blood

Wool is an excellent choice for travelling through muddy terrain.  It naturally resists dirt and is easy to clean with lukewarm water.  Just be mindful that it should be shaped to the size you want while it dries, which around here, is going to take several weeks. 

12th of April

Sassafras made us breakfast while I cleaned the mud off my clothes.  We debated how to manage our treasure.  I kept the amulet around my neck, but the others opted to hide their loot nearby.   We were leaving the River Running and no longer needed the boat for travel.  Hanar performed some dwarven ritual to hide the boat and the treasures buried underneath it.      

Hoisting our packs on our back, we walked through the Long Marshes in the direction of the Old Forest Road.  It rained more often than not.  Despite the dreary weather, we saw animals now and then, so we didn't take much notice of the crows at first.  They seemed to be watching us, silent and creepy.  These were not normal crows.  They were slightly larger and their black feathers had a greenish hue.  And silent?  They never cawed.  Elrynn believes them to be Gore-crows.  Legend has it these Gore-crows are servitors of the Marsh Dwellers.  It's been a long time since any free folk has reported seeing one of these Marsh Dwellers, and they may have passed into history. 

Other than the unsettling stare of the crows, the day passed without incident.  Elrynn went off to hunt while the rest of us made camp.  Sassafras built a smoky fire, try to keep the vexing bugs off of us.  Elrynn returned empty-handed from the hunt, so cram for supper. 

As we sat around the fire, Balin pulled out an ornate box.  It contained the gift from Dain, King Under the Mountain, to Gwaihir the Windlord, King of the Eagles.  We all watched with rapt attention.  Balin opened the box to reveal a rolled parchment, tied with braided gold thread.  Next to the parchment was a clear-coloured gem of great brilliance.  It reflected the firelight through its many facets, creating the illusion that we sat among stars.

A Gore-crow swooped into our camp.  Dorion and I paused to assess the situation.  Hanar was busy sketching the gem in his notebook.  Elrynn and Sassy drew their bows.  The bird exploded into a cloud of black-green feathers as Elrynn's arrow pierced it through.  Dorion let out a harrumph.    Elrynn explained that the crow was going to steal the gem, and he prevented the theft of one of the greatest treasures any of us had seen.  Dorion then launched to a boorish lecture about treadling lightly and something else and more.  I don't remember really.  We all stopped listening after a few words.

When he finally stopped his tirade, Dorion brooded while giving Elrynn a cold shoulder.  An unspoken war began.  Elrynn pulled out his flute (not a euphemism) and played a cheerful tune.  I don't know elven music, but this tune was upbeat enough to please any hobbit of the Shire.  There is no tangible measure to compare gaiety vs. gloom, but my vote is on the elf.  I'm not sure if it is over or if we are in a cold war.

13th of April

We finally arrive at the beginning of the Old Forest Road.  Hanar told us it is also known as Men-i-Naugrim (or Way of the Dwarves in Sindarin), as the Dwarves constructed it Ages ago.  The Old Forest Road spans hundreds of miles.  At present it is overgrown with grass and weeds.  Trees have encroached at the edges.  The canopy of trees so completely covered the road that it choked out nearly all of the light.    Despite it being late morning, the path was as dark as dusk. 

14th to 19th of April 

Rain.  Rain.  Rain.  Rain.  The air is stale as if I am suffocating.  At night the forest is so dark it is as if I have no eyes at all.  When the rain lessens, we hear howling from the Mirkwood Mountains to the north.  I hate this place.

20th of April

Slow advancement, only 30 or 40 miles progressed.  I was a sourpuss as bad as Dorion.  Then he led us to a meadow where beams of sunlight brightened the land, and a kaleidoscope of butterflies flitted happily up and down the shafts of light.  This lightened our mood considerably. 

With reluctance, we left this oasis and continued on our trek.  Perhaps the lack of fresh air had me hallucinating, but at times, the knots in the trees were like eyes watching us.  The streams here are black, and even the rainwater is murky before it reaches the ground.

21st of April to sometime in May

To lift our spirits, we shared personal stories by the fire at night.  At least we did at first.  After a few days, we were all fatigued and we sat and stared at the campfire in silence.  This cursed place weighs on both body and soul.  I can feel the Shadow encroaching on my mind.

Mid-May (ask Hanar about the date, he records everything)

We were trudging along when we heard grunts coming from the woods on the north side of the road.  The sounds of branches snapping and thudding footfalls informed us that whatever it was, it was coming towards us and fast.  Orcs!  We disappeared into the woods on the south side of the road and waited for the orcs to appear.  One of them was bigger than the others and was shouting out insults and orders. 

We got in a surprise volley before they had a chance to react.  Elrynn and Sassafras were rearward with their bows.  Dorion took on the largest orc while I rushed up to the nearest one.  The big orc slashed Dorion, who rolled back to reduce the impact of the blow.  Hanar chopped down an orc or two while keeping a protective eye on Dorion.  The whole thing was over in less than a minute. 

My heavens, orcs are wretched.  Their black blood has left permanent stains on my cloak.  They had nothing of value, no food, and only light armour.  A scouting party, perhaps?  We were still searching the nasty carnage when we heard a horn trumpet from the north.

We made a hasty attempt to hide the messy orc bodies, dragging them into the forest and leaving them hidden behind tree trunks.  Then Balin took charge and led us running to the west.  I got a stitch in my side, but we kept moving.  Balin paused briefly and blew a whistle that made no sound.  A raven arrived, landing on a branch in front of Balin.

He asked the where the closest hideout was.  It told him something, and then he resumed the run to the west.  At one point, the raven stopped and circled at the side of the road.  We ran off the road at that point.  We struggled through briars before we came upon ruins of Dwarven construction.  We decided to defend at the crumbling tower at the top of the hill, using the upper hand to our advantage. 

Two dozen orcs encroached on us.  Our first volley took out an orc before they were able to reach us.  Their archers used the lower ruins as cover while they launched arrows at us.  Several more rushed up to us, and our higher position proved quite favourable.  Sass and Elrynn stood behind us, sometimes killing the orc in front of us before they had a chance to attack.  Then an orc broke through the lines and engaged them in melee. 

The foolish orcs who fought us in close combat fell one after the other.  There are still orc archers in the lower ruins.  Plus, several somethings are lurking at the edge of the field.  I am straining my eyes but cannot make out what they are, but they do seem to be moving closer.

 

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Hanar's Journal of Travel
The Journey for Knowledge

I'm not entirely sure what inspired me to wander the roads and meet with the other heroes of the Stoney Fields. However, something on that first journey has my feet, no, rather my mind itching for what lies along and beyond the road. These discoveries I shall place into this tome to mark what I learn and forge a path for others who hunt for knowledge!

 

The time of the meeting seemed to arrive quickly, It felt like I barely had time to piece together the crumbling runes I discovered in an abandoned crevasse of one of the ancient mansions. It should help me hide my valuable, more likely my tome, from those that would seek to take it from me. Can't be too careful out on the road, especially since my first trek out featured a theft.

 

We were to meet at a tavern within Lake-Town, I know only little of the place, but at least I know it resides near the Kingdom Under the Mountain, so at least the path was mapped out well. I also decided to avoid the path through Mirkwood, which only made the journey take longer but I was told it was much safer, especially with the Old Forest Road basically impossible to trek.

 

After a long journey, I rested within the Lonely Mountain before finishing my journey at Lake-Town, aptly named for a city built on a lake. I was curious if the Lake hides any secrets beneath its depths like back at Nogrod, but I had work to do.

 

Esgaroth upon the Long Lake [Lake-Town]: A settlement built entirely out of wood that stands upon wooden pillars sunk into the bed of the Long Lake. It was once destroyed by the Fell Dragon Smaug, but has been rebuilt seemingly with the help of the elves (though some dwarf works make an appearance). It is separated into seven districts: 1) Artisans' District; 2) Elven Quarter; 3) Gatehouse and Bridge Defenses; 4) Merchants' District; 5) Residential District; 6) Shipyards' District; 7) Town Hall's Quarter. I feel a few facts should be noted. The “Elven” quarter is also where fellow dwarfs tend to reside. Residential District isn't the only district in which people reside, as the “nobles” of the town reside within the Town Hall's Quarter. The town hosts over one thousand denizens and is presided over by the Master of Lake-Town the position is filled by a man named Braga.

 

Seems I was the second to last one to arrive, but at least I arrived on time, per the scheduled meeting of Spring 3956 during the Celebration of the Gathering of the Five Armies. I didn't seem too late, with Dorian seemingly wandering in right after me. The Tavern was rather nice, at least that is what I am told, to be fair I haven't been to…well any. It was filled with all sorts of people, elves, dwarfs, and men. Vistors from far and wide, such as men from Dorwinion (I am told they craft some of the finest wine that is a favorite to Dwarfs under the Mountain and even Thranduil). Seems people are wary of travelers, as few approached the Dorwinion's though I certainly wanted to speak to them. Though, I think I may have overdressed in Herja's armor, as besides those I was meeting, there were few others in fine armor.

 

As the bard began strumming a new song on his lute, Brunhilde order the finest ale for our table and Dorian took a seat. Dorian seemed as melancholy as ever, but he seemed to lead the discussion, asking everyone what they had been up to over the past six months since we last saw each other. Dorian was also carrying an extra accessory, a sword to be particular. It appeared to be well crafted, yet not of Elvish or Dwarf make. Its name is Guina Dagnir [Undead's Bane I believe, in Sindarin, though my Sindarin is a bit rusty.]

 

Guiná Dagnïr A sword passed down from Father to Father within Dorian's family. Forged in lands outside our own (and not by elves or dwarfs), the blade earned its honor before breaking on the Bridge of Tharbad during the Flood of 28. Believed to have been lost forever until reforged by the elves of Rivendell, it was once again passed down into Dorian's brave hands. According to Elrynn [A Mirkwood Elf], such blades are a good omen.

 

Seeing us all gathered, the tavern keeper, a human named Karl, brings over the drinks. The man makes pleasant conversation, though most of his focus seems to be on Brunhild, though I am assuming it's because he knows her. Brunhild introduces us to Karl when he asks, and mentions that we all first met in Stoney Forge during the celebrations of the harvest. Elrin mentions that we were gathering to shate stories and reconvene, but Brunhild seemed to have broader thoughts, hinting at a chance to adventure. At this thought, Karl mentioned that some Dwarfs were looking for some adventurers, but it wasn't just any dwarf, rather it was Gloin! One of the heroes that rescued the Kingdom Under the Mountain from the grip of Smaug.

 

Gloin son of Groin: Official representative of King under the Mountain in Esgaroth and one of the original thirteen dwarfs that sought to reclaim the Lonely Mountain! Hero of both the Battle of Azanulbizar and Battle of Five Armies! Has a son named Gimli, and is the brother of Óin. Balin and Dwalin sons of Fundin are his Cousins. Lives in the Town Hall District.

 

Brunhild and Karl both mentioned how wealthy Gloin is (loaded I believe was Karl's exact wording, which he apologized for). Of course, Gloin's wealth is well earned and deserved! Brunhild mentioned that Karl knows everything, which made Karl blush as he left. Knowing everything sounds like a a mighty gift, perhaps I should schedule an interview? Not that I was going to have much time. Dorian said that the man seemed like a nice enough sort. Karl also seemed to be a bowman of some sort, having a might greatbow that resided upon the mantle with an accompanying quiver of arrows. Apparently, it was used during the celebrations of the Day of the Black Arrow.

 

Day of the Black Arrow: Held during the Day of Dragontide (near the end of the Harvest), hosts a bowing contest.

 

The question was then risen if we were going to do this, which the others seemed assured of it (and it surely would be an honor working for such a fine dwarf), then we would need a name. Not sure exactly what that does, I supposed the heroes of the Lonely Mountain were known as Thorin and Company. Dorian seemed chagrin to accept a name to avoid the dangers that fame brings, but the others were sure that it would bring respect to our humble, I suppose, perhaps, forming is a better word for our “organization.” At Dorian's resistance, I chuckled that he should be the headliner for our group and be the most famous! Dorian's Rangers! I thought that name was great, and it certainly made Dorian squirm. However, the Brunhild had an idea that the others felt was more appropriate, Company of Free Folk. Dorian still insisted that the group should delay its name [or perhaps he wanted it to be more of an award, which makes sense], but the others were set and I really didn't mind. If anything it gives me something to record (though I need to remember the Ranger name…).

 

After the naming, Dorian began investigating the events of the last six months, wondering what we had all been up to. Dorian started with me, as if my studies would be unexpected. He eyed my book, and seemed to fill in the blanks himself…or he saw me write about Dorian's Rangers. Dorian moved on to Elrynn next, who said he visited the Sentinel Oak as well as feasted with his family and friends in the great clearing.

 

The Sentinel Oak: A Great and Mighty Tree that rules all of the other trees within the Forest of Mirkwood. It is a boon to visit it and pay homage and respect to it.

 

Elrynn reflected the questioning back at Dorian, who made it sound like his world was teetering on the brink. Describing the friends lost from orcs, trolls, wolves, and even flooding. Though for his primary activity, besides dealing with such losses, was to visit the graves of his family. Those of his mother, father, great grandfather, and great great grandfather. Giving respect to family is important, it's just too bad it seems his visit home aren't too jovial. Though, Dorian did find some solace collecting Athelas.

 

Athelas: More commonly known as Kingsfoil, it is a herb that has healing properties (according to Dorian).

 

Dorian next asked Sassafras about her activities, which apparently involved dealing with a goblin problem that seems to constantly plague the Gladden Fields. Sassafras also was searching for information on his lost father and childhood friend who disappeared recently while on a hunting trip, taken by goblins four years ago. While no evidence was discovered, she still has hope that they will be found, as do I. Other than that, Sassafras said there isn't much to do at her home that is near the Misty Mountains, as her sister trains under their mother. So, Sassafras said she felt it was time to find her own place. I do hope her father and friend can be found.

 

Last, was our host Brunhild who said she primarily was focused on assisting her parents with their textile business. Elrynn presumed that listening to stories was another objective, and Brunhild agreed. Lots of knowledge to be held in such things, so a worthy pastime. Brunhild also visited the Dale a few times and was searching for information on her missing brother, who apparently had a night of drunken revelry several years ago before never being seen again. Brunhild seeks to, if time is to be found, possibly find her brother and received a small nugget of information from her visit to the Dale. I hope it was a useful one.

 

I do seem to go under the radar even here, as Elrynn then asked what had kept me busy. Perhaps he thought I'd be up to something more exciting? As someone who seems to wander, I am not too surprised at his lack of enthusiasm for my business in the libraries back home, but they are truly a marvelous adventure. As is piecing together another once forgotten old spell of our people. Still, I am nothing if not willing to share information, so I informed Elrynn again. Dorian chimed it that he too had an appreciation for lost lore, as every piece of information is valuable in the North. As it is everywhere, just some people don't realize it which is one of the reasons why it can fade into the darkness. I would enjoy swapping information with Dorian, after all I know little of things like Athelas, and it sounds like it could be handy information to have.

 

With formalities and re-introductions aside, Brunhild asked if we should beseech a meeting with Gloin, Elrynn even suggested that we may require a appointment to meet with such an important figure. Brunhild wasn't sure, but said that we could discover when we arrived. However, as the important of introductions were being brought up, and Dorain eyed from it, Dorian's new sword, Guiná Dagnïr, was brought up and Dorian filled us in on his obtaining of it. Learning of its reforging from his great grandfather before he died, and that Dorian's uncle had it, waiting for Dorian's hand. For, it was Dorian's time to wander and do good deeds for the fair folk, Guiná Dagnïr to assist him.

 

So with the measuring of swords finished, Brunhilde led us out of the tavern and to the bustling market within the Town Hall District. We arrived by crossing a bridge stairway into the risen district. The biggest thing to note of this wealthy district is that its rise over the rest of the city actually makes it much dryer than the rest of the town (which is rather moist due to its place right above the lake). Additionally, everyone here (the area hosting a large variety of the free folk) were wearing much neater and fanciful clothes that note the place's wealthier inhabitants. Even the messengers and pages were dressed to match.

 

Brunhild guided us through the district to the home of Gloin, a large mansion-like building that, while made of wood, was accented by dwarvish ironwork and elaborate decorations. Its Two large, double doors opened up into a lavish antechamber decorated with nice artwork and fabulous hanging lamps. Not long after our entry, were we greeted by Gloin who came from the nearby room. Gloin has such a powerful presence to him and carried a pipe in his hand. Gloin mentioned his disbelief in us having an appointment, but recognized Brunhild as the Mercer Girl. Apparently Gloin often works with Brunhild's father. When Brunhild introduced us as prospective adventurers, Gloin was willing to put off his visit to the pub and see if we were capable for his task. Apparently, the other prospects weren't seen as worthy enough (apparently someone kept getting underfoot or something).

 

We were taken into the room that Gloin had first exited, which is a large and fancy office worthy of Gloin. The room had the most exquisite view of the Lonely Mountain as well as adorned with more paintings and valuables as well as a picture of Gloin's wife and child, Gimli. Gloin offers us chairs and it was time to more properly introduce ourselves. I have to be honest, formalities aren't really my affair. I may note the proper techniques in my book, well at least hope to detail some, I really prefer just to start talking if necessary. Which, I guess, can rub people the wrong way. Well, I better begin my transcripts…

 

Dorian introduces himself as a bastion in the hills. Greetings, Gloin son of Groin, I am Dorian I am from the lands across from the Misty Mountains. I am counted as those who wander in the North. East of the Gulf of Lune. We stand as a Bastion against the shadow in terms of battling orcs, hill trolls, and evil men. I, and my family, and my Banner house, as it is called their, O'brianhave stood with the Dunedain since the eighth chieftain. It is a pleasure to be in your service, one who is so well known as one of the original group that went to Erebor and took part in the slaying of the Dragon. Gloin didn't seem too impressed, or perhaps felt it wasn't heartfelt. But Dorian was told that his story was quite enough.

 

The only thing I was armed with was my own pride in the Dwarfs, a pride in which I was certain Gloin shared. I focused less on myself and focused more on Gloin's accomplishments than myself. Gloin asked me how my father was, so things seemed to be going well. Apparently, he hasn't spoken to my father in some time, but last time my father expressed concern over me. I believe Wimp was the descriptive word. Made sense, from my Father's point of view, Herja was the one who wielded the axe in the family…so to speak. Gloin thought my joke was good. Seems it worked out.

 

Sassafras introduced herself merely as a simple healer from the Gladden Fields. Gloin brought up that she seemed rather tall for a Hobbit, but seemed to miss the first time that she was from the Gladden Fields asking what part of the Shire she was from. Gloin didn't know that there were hobbits located in the fields (I didn't even know at first). Sass mentioned that her height is probably descended from relative that was from the Shire that descended from the Took Family, a family that Gloin was familiar with, mentioning that it is good to be a Took for an adventurer. However, after this conversation, Gloin seemed to lose her in the conversation.

 

Elrynn began in Sindarin, I believe the phrase was Mae govannen… I believe that it means well met. He expressed the honor it was to meet Gloin as well as spoke of some of the songs that are sung about him in Mirkwood about his endeavor years ago. And bowed. Surprisingly, Gloin seemed rather impressed. Well, I was surprised anyways.

 

Brunhild went last speaking of our diversity and wide set of skills believing they would give us an advantage in the venture. Additionally, she spoke of her Parent's adventurous past and now that Laketown had been rebuilt, with her help, she seeks to extend her family's tradition. Gloin agreed that we appeared to be good candidates, and began to divulge to us the task.

 

It appears that Gloin's cousin, Balin son of Fundin, has left the Lonely Mountain with two companions. He is meant to personally deliver a letter, a formal invitation from King Dain Ironfoot, to the Lord of the Eagles, Gwaihir for the coming Gathering of Five Armies. An important meeting to be held at Erebor. Balin and his compatriots plan to go south along the Running River on order of the King Dain and King Bard to investigate the conditions of the Old Forest Road [Also known as Men-i-Naugrim or Dwarf-Road in Sindarin] and possibly traverse it now that the threat of goblins have been greatly reduced. Gloin warned us that the land that we would be traveling is perilous. Not much is now known about Men-i-Naugrim, and even with the departure of the Necromancer from Dol Guldur in the South of Mirkwood, many dangerous and foul creatures may still stalk this land. Though I had a feeling he wasn't telling us everything, but Gloin did provide us with a map of the proposed way.

 

Gwaihir Lord of Eagles: Also known as Gwaihir the Windlord, he is the greatest of the Great Eagles.

 

Gloin did mention that the fact we had all come from different folks is a good thing, as we'd each get a chance to represent each of them to Gwaihir. Additionally, Gloin told us that he would get us papers that would allow us to borrow boats from the Lake Men so that we can cross the long lake the safest way. However, after that we would have to go on foot. Additionally, he would provide enough money to supply us with cram for a few weeks for the journey. Yum Cram, though the others seemed unconvinced of its usefulness wanting “berries” and “nuts” sounds more like they want the runs on this journey rather than food. Cram is reliable and sturdy! Like dwarfs!

 

Cram: A biscuit-like food made by the Men of Esgaroth and Dale, which they share with the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. It is very nutritious, and used for sustenance on long journeys. Some say it isn't flavorful.

 

If we accept this venture, we were to meet Balin and his companions Barrak and Torrun (brothers) at the Red Dragon Inn and journey with them on this quest. We are told Balin is cordial wit hall people… within reason. Gloin offered us treasure as a reward, enough to make the trip worth it, and the others seemed ready to sign up. So it seemed like it was a done deal.

 

The finishing point of this venture would be the Aerie, and Gloin has already pieced together a contract for those seeking to assisting in Balin's quest, which it seems was us. I was quickly handed the contract, the others seemed afraid of it, and made sure it was all good before we all signed it, Sassafrass signing with just a ₰ (An S with a line through it). With the contract sealed, we were provided several gold pieces each in which to supply ourselves with food for the journey as well as given the documents to procure the boats, which was also given to me. With all the formalities out of the way, we were sent along by Gloin onto our next journey.

 

Brunhild knew of the Red Dragon Inn and so she was able to guide us their easily, it was more of a Sailor tavern than Carl's tavern we were in previously. Investigating within the Inn, we spot a table with three dwarfs enjoying some drinks. Balin was easily recognizable with his sword with the clubbed end at his side. The other two looked much rougher than Balin, but can be presumably predicted to be Barrak (the rougher looking of the two) and Torrun, both of whom had axes.

 

When we introduced ourselves, Balin seemed pleased that Gloin had finally found some people for this endeavor to further assist him and his proteges. Brunhild introduced us all, my home came into question, and when I corrected him politely calling him sir, Balin seemed displeased at that thought. My bad for calling him a sir (telling me he still works). He does admire the history and tradition from the Blue Mountains, but was more disappointed in my lack of interest in crafting. Balin knows of the Dunedain, but it had been awhile since he had seen one. Balin asked Elrynn if he is friends with King Thranduil, and Elrynn said that the King may know his name. Balin asked if Thranduil is a bit of a snot, but Elrynn say that he could at least say Thranduil's son did not follow that description (Legolas is the name of Thranduil's son). Balin also noted Sassafrass being a bit off for a Hobbit, but had heard of the Hobbits of the Gladden Fields and felt it was good to have a Hobbit in the group.

 

With introductions out of the way, Balin informed us that his companions and himself were getting ready for bed soon, but that we would head out tomorrow. Additionally, Balin reminded us to gear up for the journey. Dorian asked if a Pack animal would be a worthy investment, but Balin said it probably would only slow us down since we would probably have to hack and cut our way through the path.

 

After gathering ourselves some delicious Cram, it is was getting rather late. Brunhild offered to open up her home for us to stay in for the evening. It was located within the Town Hall Quarter (seems the textile business was good). Perhaps the most important facet of the There, we are introduced to the Mercer Family.

 

Gerold and Etta Mercer: Brunhild's parents and former adventurers that reside within Laketown's Town Hall Quarter. They run a profitable textile business.

 

Gertrude Mercer: Brunhild's younger cousin, wishes she was an adventurer too.

 

The Mercer family invited us to a nice dinner, where were were served by the family's several servants. Despite the air of nobility, the Mercer's seemed pretty relaxed hosts, and didn't seem to mind all the different cultural quirks the group presented. Gertrude seemed entertained by asking Dorian a ton of questions of random things. Odd, maybe she thought my giant Tome was merely a diary?

 

At the end of dinner Dorian went out for a pleasant smoke, of which Mr. Mercer also partook. During this time, Elrynn felt inspired to play a song on his flute. Dorian took this time to ask me about my ax and the dwarf runes it bears. Don't tell anyone, but I filled him in on them not that they really hid any secrets besides the letters. I also told him it was good walking stick. Dorian also asked about Elrynn's bow, to which he mentioned that they are crafted from classic elvish craft, but were in no way extraordinary (beyond the already great work of Elvish smiths). At this point, Elrynn's flute playing inspired Dorian to join in with his recorder and asks everyone to join in. So I pulled out my Harp and started learning a new song. Seeing the support, Elrynn entered the building and pulled everyone out to join in the festivities as he began to dance. Surprisingly, Dorian even smiled a few times, truly remarkable. After a fun evening, we all headed to bed.

 

It was an uneventful night, and we all awaken at dawn. The Mercer's servants had prepared tea for us to enjoy before we left to meet back up with Balin, who was smoking and already prepared to leave when we arrived. Despite the the day only just beginning the town already seems to be teeming with activities. Watchmen are doing their rounds with their buckets and ropes as well as the horn they carry to call for assistance.

 

Balin made sure we were prepared, and warned us to not eat anything strange in the woods (and to not it goblins and the likes, though why would you do that?). Brunhild and Balin also warned of giant spiders, some had even almost eaten Balin on his journey with Thorin and Company, and said he was saved by a Hobbit, believe it or not. Well, we had a Hobbit so that surely will help. With the threat of a story looming, however, Barrak and Torrun pushed us out the door to the harbor.

 

At the shipyard, we collect up the boat that we will be borrowing for our journey and I hand over the papers we received from Gloin. It was a small (well in boat-size) rowboat with a single sail at its center. The front appears to have been carved in the shape of a bird, a swan to be precise, and it seemed to be an older used ship with a rounded bottom. Balin, Barrak, Torrun, and myself immediately went to help row the ship (with little to no breeze it was going to be necessary). Dorian and Elrynn also assisted in the rowing as Brunhild took control of the helm. A Fog had fallen upon the lake, leaving a thick veil over the lake, so Brunhild lit a lantern and placed it on the end of the boat so the others on the lake could see us.

 

We travel by boat for the first two days, of which passed uneventfully. The lake was about forty miles long, so it took us some time, but we did eventualyl reach the South end of the Lake at the Stairs of Gurien.

 

Stairs of Gurien- A path in which boats are carried to bypass the waterfalls of the River Running. The Lake Men work her and assist with the boat transportation.

 

It is late afternoon when we arrive, and Balin suggests that we camp here for the night and travel on with the morning, before he went to negotiate the boat transportation with the Lake Men. It appears that Balin knows quite a lot about driving a hard bargain, but they seem to reach an agreement that includes us camping within reach of the Lake Men's shacks (of which there were around 15). That night, we were introduced to a man named Neurlf.

 

Neurlf: An old Lake man that is missing his teeth, mostly blind and has a poor gait. However, he is known to be quite a storyteller and told us a Rhyme he had learned about the Marshes and Gallow Weed.

 

Gallow Weed: “If you go south of the marshes take heed, travel lightly and be wary of Gallow Weed.” Turns out Gallow Weed is a dangerouis plant that lives in trees. It has the ability to catch people and hang them in the tree's bows.

 

The evening goes by pleasantly, as we slept to the delicate sound of the crickets chirping. The next day, the Lake-men get to work on our boat earlier and take the ships down to the lower level of the waterfall and into the Running River. Following this river, we would soon arrive at the Long Marshes.

 

As we approached the Marshes, a flat and thinning path was soon consumed by a dense fog and silence. We had to slow from our fast pace through the winding paths when more obstacles popped up against us like brambles and other hidden plants and rocks. Brunhild guided us true, and we made out way though. Dorian was keeping watch, and with the help of my curiosity (and belief I saw something, which is difficult with the walls of the ship and my size), noticed that we were being followed swiftly by a band of elves that bore their bows. Dorian warns Elrynn in Silvan before telling Balin who was concerned. At his concern, Elrynn offered to speak to them, and called out in Silvan for them to approach and talk.

 

Out of the bordering marshes, twelve mirkwood elves appeared, bows out yet not drawn. One Elrynn recognized, a fellow named Galion.

 

Galion: A Mirkwood elf that was once a Butler for King Thranduil, but fell into disfavor as Thorin and Company escaped by stealing his keys. Now, Galion keeps watch of the edge of Mirkwood for threats to the forest Realm. Values Valor more than Wisdom and isn't a fan of Dwarfs and Hobbits due to their causing of his disfavor. Seems even more bitter than other Mirkwood Elves.

 

Elrynn introduces himself courteous, using his exceptional merriness to assist him, which Galion accepted. Dorian used his Lordly bearing and Silvan knowledge to impress Galion. Brunhild introduced herself, and even though things seemed shaky her hope and belief in herself impressed Galion. The rest of us tried to appear as un-present as possible.

 

Galion asked what we were doing here, and Elrynn told him that we were planning on traveling the Old Road to see its current state and availability for travel before going to the Aerie and meeting with Gwaihir as a unified front. Brunhild added that she would like to open up the Old Road for future trade. Galion seemed pacified as long as we didn't damage anything, like cutting down any trees, they could let us go. However, they do warn about something dangerous lurking in the Marsh, though they were not certain of what it is. Brunhild asked about Gallow Weed and that is when we learned of its choking hazard. At this, they let us go before fading into the fog. Dorian questioned Elrynn if we would be running into more like Galion, and Elrynn told him that word travels fast in the woods and we should not be hampered further on our journey by them.

 

The rest of the journey of the day was quiet and as night began to fall Sassafras and I set out to find a safe, and hopefully dry place to rest. After scouting ahead for a time, we find a spot that would be suitable for our needs, and mostly dry. We head back and guide our friends over to set up camp and tie up our boat. As we were preparing camp, Elrynn tells me that Hanar means brother in Sindarin, neat. I wonder if the Dwarfs know that. Being near the woods also inspires Elrynn to play a song, but the other deem it to be too dangerous to risk. As we prepare for bed a slight drizzle began to fall as we planned out a watch schedule. First would be Elrynn, then Sassafras, then Brunhild, then myself, and finishing with Dorian.

 

Elrynn said that his watch was uneventful, but Sassafras said that she saw the same dancing blue lights that I saw later. Sassafras's instinct was to question Elrynn, waking him again, but he didn't recognize them. The lights, according to Sassafras were almost beckoning her to follow, but she does not. Brunhild has a uneventful watch,ignoring the lights, and then I am awoken. Fascinated by the lights, I was surprised no one else had investigated them yet. Brunhild cautioned against it as she went to sleep, but I had to know what they were and are doing! I didn't want to leave the group unattended so I woke Dorian early and explained my intent to investigate the lights, however (once more awake) he was steadfast in telling me I shouldn't . In our argument Balin awoke and he too was curious and offered to go with me. At that, Dorian said that he would go instead (probably to not bother our host) and I excitedly grab my ax as Dorian prepares a torch for us.

 

The mud was thick and up to our boots as we pushed ourselves through reeds on our journey towards the lights. They slowly drifted us onward until we arrived at a sunken log that seemed to be sinking into the murk. The lights were dancing around this log excitedly. We push forward, and as we arrive Dorian and I notice beyond the log are two large red eyes grimacing at us. In a moment of movement the water fluctuates as the log is pushed aside and a large creature rises from the water. The creature is troll sized, and in fact looks like a Troll. A Stone Troll to be precise, but something was wrong with this one. It tried to speak, but no words came out and its body was covered in mold and mud. Dorian and I were more than ready for a Troll and Dorian lands a nice blow and I crash into it with my ax, injuring it deeply. It picks up the log and tries to hit me, but it would have to be faster to hit a dwarf! The other soon joined us, they must of heard the screeches of pain from the creature who stood no chance! We all bombard the creature, myself landing another vicious blow that it barely recovers from, but it was unable to survive the arrow from Sassafras that sticks right in its eye! The others land powerful blows as well and the Mold Troll falls! No one was even injured, and they were worried this would be trouble.

 

I looked around for the lights, but they seem to have disappeared. Disappointing for me. Dorian examined the Mold Troll [That's my name for it, at least for now] and says that it could have come from deeper in Mirkwood and be the creature we were warned about. Sassafras mentioned that the creature was probably made sick from being in the Marsh too long, something called Marsh Sickness. Dorian wondered if it had a cave or something and we all begin looking around, better to find more of the creature before they grab us! Elrynn was the one who discovered the steps leading out of the sludge, we followed him and we were guided to a cave. Inside the cave was not another troll, but rather a small horde of treasures! Brunhild even found a fascinating amulet. It was a ruby that when near fire-light would glimmer that gleamed even after the fire was removed. It was attached on what appeared to be an Elven crafted golden chain. When Brunhild put it on, she said that it felt heavier than it should, and her face almost seemed to fade into sadness for a bit before coming back. Strange… Wonder what it is?

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The Darkening of Stoney Ford
The Cold Goblin

There is little glory to be gained as a Ranger of the North, as our valour cannot be rewarded with honour, and our deeds are seldom sung. The memory of our noble heritage is preserved in Rivendell, where our long strife against the Shadow is remembered and recorded. Since the days of our last King, the sons of the chieftains of the Dúnedain have been fostered in the house of Elrond, and it is there, in Imladris, that the heirlooms of their lost kingdom are treasured.

It is the Third Age of men in Middle Earth. I find myself the other side of a duty fulfilled to the north of where I now continue this journal. As I was to make my sojourn west, back to Eridor across the Misty Mountains the Foresight of my Kindred was laid upon me again as it has been not a few times before.

In my vision I saw the Beorning village. I then saw a shadow like a dark feathered thing alight on a figure surrounded by other smaller dark figures. The figure touched one of the onlookers and that one with a handful others bent south towards the Beorning gathering and I sensed malice and greed. I somehow knew I must intervene or there would be much suffering in these lands like a drought or famine.

I have wandered south now a few days and crossed the mighty Anduin by my own means and have arrived mid-day in the village I had seen in my mind. It is called Stoney Ford and it is the first day before their Harvest Festival they celebrate annually in honor of the Death of Samaug. 

It is a simple hunting village of huts and lately of tents from visitors from far afield including a well attended group from Esgaroth on the Lake. Those who live here live in the protective shadow of Beorn the Shape Changer and Hero of the Battle of Five Armies. These men are tall, strong, hairy but gregarious with all who come in peace it seems. 

As I walked in the lee shadows I manage to overhear a few important details of the event and the course of the next few days. First there is to be games of skill and cunning but not just for sport. There are rewards for winners from out of town, but to the final victor who is also a Beorning they would take ownership of a local artifact of power and of great consequence, a harvesting tool called Beorn’s Sickle. An item blessed with the power said to make fallow fields fertile!

The grand prized would be awarded by the Marshal of the Festival who as is by custom the the previous years winner. In this case I hear it is a man named Tarbold. I also note three other names of importance: The Thain, Ava who is the daughter of Heartwolf the old. And I hear of Wilfred who leads the defense of Stoney Ford.
 
Finally I hear that Beorn himself would come from his mighty Carrock and pay respect and oversee the awarding of the blessed sickle the last day of the festival.  I am then told it would be well to choose a shelter for the night where I can also store my things in case I might wish to join in the challenges. I don’t have time for games but perhaps spending time in the close company of others may shed more light on the coming darkness.

Entering, I see three persons. A wood elf, a dwarf and a Halfling clearly not from the Shire, she’s different, more wild, trim and beaming with an adventurous spirit. I move past the others to the far end in a nice corner where I stow my great bow, quiver and other items out of sight. I then pull out my pipe. It is good to sit. 

There are greetings and I am asked for a name, I give my elven name, Edrahil meaning Forest Light for I am used to the custom of my people and rarely give my birth name to travelers. This is done so as to not draw attention or fame where it is not necessary. 

I learn the names and a little about each of those I will be trusting while I sleep. The Elf Elryn, is from Mirkwood. Little surprise as he has the look and stature of that of a Wood Elf rather than those who dwell or would come from Rivendell. To protect himself or others he carries with him a bow fitting his culture and a blade. He presents himself as an agreeable sort.

Then there is the Dwarf from the Ered Luin Mountains (Blue Mountains) no less. Mountains I see from my homeland on clear days, rising in the west as a promise to hinder the waters of Great Belegaer from drowning the land as they once did in ages past. At first this is hard to glean for this Dwarf keeps his nose and eyes between old pages in an old and large tome. 

I push as to what has brought him here and he tells of a gift he carries for Beorn himself. He tells me he is at my service and that he is Hanar, the son of Veig. He is shorter than typical Dwarves, has a shock of silver from his lower lip that runs through his red beard. He is in mail, helmed and when sitting is dwarfed by the height of his own axe! 

Then there is the animated Sassafras as I am told without reservation. Bright eyes gleam from under a tumble of golden curls, barely held at bay by a crown of fresh picked flowers. Her smile is so genuine none could accuse her of ever having had a bad day. She speaks endlessly of her home, her Matriarch, her Papa, corny Folksy Riddles and eating fish in and around the Gladden Fields. Why she is here? Maybe the fish.

Before bed there is fellowship among all the comers and the resident Beorning. The Thain is nowhere to be found but I do find Wilfred whom I tell as little as I may of my vision should he think me odd but make it clear that he and his men should be extra vigilant this eve and over the time of festival. He gives my word some measure but I decide I will watch until midnight anyway. Elryn, who reacted soberly to my words of dread accompanied me. 

The night passed without event as did the next day but for the events of the day. I think the Ale was extra strong as I found myself take it part in… every event. I am glad to be far from home. One event at least I did well in. Folks were to coerce the mighty Shurrak, an old beast with great horns and an unsettling demeanor. 

I looked into it’s wrinkle shrouded face and I used my cloak to unsteady the creature. It worked after a time and it backed into it’s pen. And no surprise to me was that the only other challenger to rebuff Shurrak was Elryn and the applause was equally thunderous. 

Other games included running an obstacle strewn track while keeping a torch lit, singing, riddles and more. We learned unsurprisingly that Sassafras has a lovely voice and a keen knack for riddles!

On the second evening just after one of the events a scream was heard across the village from Torbald’s tent as it turned out. We gather with others to see what looks like a short tussle between a Beorning and a now clearly deceased goblin. Talbor is dazed from a knock on the head and there is a woman present as well, the one who screamed. 

After questioning and investigating we believe the fellow named Rathwulf  who claimed to have killed the goblin is lying. His story was that a handful of goblins attacked an awake and upright Torbald, knocking him in the head, then taking Beorn’s Sickle and fleeing. 

A few clear problems with Rathwulf’s account rendered it clearly unbelievable. First, the body of the wretched goblin was cold when we got there as Sassafras was quick to check for signs of life. She is clearly gifted in the art of healing. Second, The goblin was too short to have clubbed Torbald and there are simply no tracks inside or out. Finally Torbald, who granted, was still dazed from the attack nor the woman, Aethal, had seen one thing to corroborate any of what Rathwulf said.

At this point in the story we were surrounded by the many native Beorning and other guests that were not strangers here. We clearly were and we clearly had no authority or credentials. For these reasons we were careful not to point to damning a finger at what seemed clearly to us to be one of their own. We then suggest waiting for the Thain is the only next best move.

We slip away from the crowd but keep a careful eye on the three, especially Rathwulf and wait for word of the Thain’s return. She does return a few hours later and after a private conversation with each of the witnesses, she sends for Elryn, Hanar, Sassafras and myself. 

We listen carefully as she revealed that Rathwulf was not a member of the village and that he had been promised a share of a reward from a fellow working for someone else they both knew of. This other fellow had help and they are the ones who fled now over an hour ago north. 

We left immediately to catch up. We moved quickly through that night and the next few days. The stocky Dwarf showed no signs of slowing day after day, and he carries so much! And little Sassafras, her energy was boundless. Even while resting she stays alert and sings to herself, looks at bugs, the sky, counts stars… just happy to be alive. 

Elryn, does not surprise me from all I have heard of his people. I feel confident in his abilities and intent so far. He seems careful and thoughtful. 

It is on the forth evening that we catch sight of the thieves. We see one who seems to be in charge, this is easy to tell as the other five or so are bound in shackles, chained to one another! We move on them from our vantage point, trying to surprise them. This is not to be.

The Dwarf, even if he stood still his nose whistles past his nose hairs and the same breathing lifts and shifts his clanking mail and tin cups and pots and extra bars of silver or picks and shovels and is that cowbell I heard? I am confident he is a trader without a wagon. It matters little however. The fight got on as they loosed a few arrows. 

I cannot remember each tit for tat but I do remember Elryn’s arrows were a great disappointment to those who caught them. I remember the Dwarf having a bit of hard time in the tangle of chained men when swinging his axe wide but for those he hit their struggles ended abruptly. And Sassafras? She sent swarms of happy little arrows singing and landing true. More than a few of these unfortunates were found dead with her halfling ‘needles’ sticking out all over.

For myself, my blade, forged in Arnor by ancestors I never knew struck in truth and sober judgement. This blade in my hands fell half of those we fought and only one required a second address. Before he knew it the man that was leading this miserable lot realized he was beaten, and to live he should give up. We set upon him with pointy swords and pointier questions. 

We learned that he a simple sell-sword named Cenric hired by one called Yog the Wicked who serves a noted Viglanding Warlord they call Viglund. Viglund believes himself to be the law unto himself and believes culling weakness in the lands about him is his duty. He uses slaves of any sort, including goblins making them his thralls that kill and die at his whim . 

Viglund as strange as it seems is said to be Beorn’s brother! Perhaps just a rumor but many believe it. The two have great enmity for each other and each other’s ways. Their differences and the distaste for each other is said to have risen following the War of the Carrock after Beorn took on some of the Viglanding escapees. Viglund has since declared those liberated as wild beasts.

And so it was that with Yog’s servant, dressed in his own shackles and Beorn’s Sickle expropriated, we found our way back without incident to Stoney Ford. Beorn came and went but we handed his blessed sickle over to the Thane along with some important documents from Hanar, who is the son of Vieg by the way. We each graciously received a special blessing from the Thane who has such authority and power in this region to do so. 

As I close this chapter, I am struck with a sense of genuine accomplishment and a solemn feeling of camaraderie that I did not expect to find so far from my homeland. I will miss this region and these companions as I make my way north and west back again to my own land beyond the Misty Mountains.

Dorion

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