The Darkening of Mirkwood

Hanar's Journal of Travel Entry 6
The Journey for Knowledge

A Letter:

 

To my dearest Sister,

 

This adventuring thing certainly is full of suprises, and I find myslef remaining away from home for longer than expected. The others and myself will be living with the Woodsmen at Woodland Hall, on the Southwestern edge of Mirkwood. The atmosphere is quite the contrast from our home of carved stone and anvil fires. Wood is their people's crafting material, which being so near the woods makes a certain amount of sense, though the smell is…I'm told fresh is the correct word, but I find its more a mix of sap, smoke…and wet dog. They have these mighty dogs that they train to assist them in hunts, keep watch, explore, and even just as imposing comrades. Though they certainly can be adorable at times. Strange though I haven't seen them walk on two legs like Beorn's dogs.

 

But I am getting beyond your interests here, but I'm sure my other tale is going to be more to your liking. Our first adventurous task was to assist the Legendary Balin and his two protégé on gauging how salvageable the old Dwarf Road through Mirkwood was. It was an arduous journey, the woods were haunting more often than enchanting, and we were beset by all manner of beast of flesh and even bark! Unfortunately, during an orc attack that we fought off inside an abandoned and shambling dwarf watchtower, the mighty dwarf protégés and brothers, Torrun and Barrak, fell while protecting Balin. The two were worthy of praise and honor, and they had earned this well before this journey. Unbeknownst to me until we bid Balin farewell as we journeyed back to the Woodland Hall, I saw Balin to the outskirts of our divergent paths. It was there he showed me the legacy of the brother's family, for in his hands was a Helm of Awe!

 

Even not being donned, it has a fire to it, you can feel the fierceness of all the dwarven fore bearers that came before, including the echoes of Barrak. Not only did it host such energy, but the craftsmanship shines upon those of the ancient days! The stories etched into its fierce draconic maw make we wonder if Barrak's ancestors took part in the Battle of Nirnaeth Arnoediad, standing alongside Lord Azaghâl against the fierce Glaurung! I was literally in awe of its make, that I swore I misheard Balin when he told me that he had decided to give such a legendary treasure to me. Even to this moment, I'm not sure I am the right dwarf to carry such a legacy, record it maybe…but bear it? Balin was so certain and I dare speak him no ill accidentally for my doubting of myself. But you just have to see it, its truly an honor for our family to continue its legacy.

 

Well, I must get back to the studying! It's proving difficult with all the new wonders I've seen on my journey, but I feel I am beginning to figure out the pieces to that rune I was working on before I left on this journey. Should I just be able to get it to ignite, it will no doubt be useful in such places as Mirkwood. I hope everything is well at home, let Veig and Idúnn know that I am well and in good company.

 

May your hammer always ring true,

 

Hanar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, our time with the Woodsmen was certainly an interesting experience. I was unused to not being pulled around to this or that, and was impressed to see the bonds that the Woodsmen all have for one another. It goes beyond being one people, there is the fire of kinship within each of their eyes, and even the most minor of grievances the people face as a group.

 

Woodmen of Wilderland: Hardy folk composed of families and greater clans. Survivors of many threats with the strength of their bonds of kinship with one another. Woman live up to the same standards as the men, expected to hunt and battle alongside their husbands and friends as they all fight for each other. Train large dogs that assist them in hunting, keeping watch, and more. I've been told that they are often assisted by Radagast the Brown, the Wizard!

 

It was certainly an eventful stay for my companions. Brunhild spent a lot of time training with her shield learning, it seems, to utilize it not only for defense, but Offense as well. Additionally, she seemed to join in some of the revelry of the songs and stories around her, you could see the ease wash over her.

 

Dorian had some unexpected visitors during our stay, cloaked individuals that share many looks to the man they sought, they delivered some impressive long, black-feathered arrows. I'm told that they are called Númenórean Arrows, and I'm sure with such a delivery system that there is a truly amazing story to their history, I will have to ask Dorian when we have time next. Addtionally, Dorian and Sassafras both joined the Woodsmen on a hunt, and they brought back a mighty, and delicious, boar together. Both seemed to learn much from the venture.

 

The hunt fit in well with Sassafras's training with the bow! Elrynn was able to show her some new tricks, but based on the gleam I saw on Sassafras's eyes, well besides the stars from being near Elrynn, the hobbit has a few new tricks all her own with that bow.

 

Besides the training sessions with Sassafras, both of them sharpening their skills with the weapon, Elrynn spend much of his time time wandering the hills and nearby trees with a mighty beat ringing from his lips. It seems he was working on a song of Victory to share with all of us in the company. From what I've heard it sounded like things were really coming along, and it will no doubt shake the bravery from our foes. Also, with the help of the Woodsmen, Elrynn had his buckler reinforced for better protection.

 

As for myself, I did much of the usual. Mostly locked myself to my books, the Woodsmen didn't seem the kind for physical copies of lore. I listened to their many tales, and have inscribed the ones that I could to the best of my abilities. Just, reading back, some of them seem to have lost the narrative flair that active storytelling exudes. I also managed to get the rune I was working on to finally glow with power, if only briefly. The only way to tell if the spell works, I suppose, is field testing it. I'm sure the others won't mind, as it promises us more constant travels and safer rests with no watch needed…well at least if there is a place to carve it…and if it works. Besides that, I have been adjusting to the wondrous gift that Balin bequeathed to me. The helm has a fierceness to it that I am unsure that I can reflect, not being a dwarven warrior. When no one was looking I would sneak into the pens and practice being ferocious with the dogs. They were nice enough to play along…I think. Though the animals seemed to notice the ridiculousness of the practice too. Just hope no one saw me, I can be quite sneaky when needed. Grr. At least I got some laughs out of it, and my caution has made me, at least I feel, a little bit better at reading people…and maybe even dogs.

 

Still all things come to an end eventually, and I'm sure the whole company was ready to get a move on. As if answering our wanderlust, a Raven of the Mountain found my ear. Its name was Holth, and it was a friend of Gloin. It flew all this way to tell us that Gloin wishes us to return to Lake-Town to meet with him, as he has received a letter from none other than King Bard, King of the Dale, and wishes to deliver it to us. After I thanked Holth and he flew away, I went to deliver the news to the rest of the Company.

 

With a new goal, we all said our farewells and bid Ingomer thanks for his hospitality before hitting the roads again. We decided not to venture along the Old Dwarf Road, the path still in too bad of condition to travel on with any speed or hint of safety. And so, we headed North past Mirkwood altogether and then around the forest to Lake-Town. While it was a longer journey, it was much safer and a lot faster when time is considered, and we arrived back to Lake-Town's sloshy embrace once more on September 28th.

 

After a quick stop to say hello to the Mercer family, who were gladdened at our safety, we proceded to visit Gloin's mansion. Seems Balin was excited to share tales of our journey, which is good news for us, as Gloin already seemed well informed in our ventures. Not only that, but Balin had retrieved the borrowed boat we had used and left our hidden treasure with Gloin, who handed it over along with paying us for our last venture to Gwaihir. After talks of the journey, Gloin told us that he believed that Balin had spoke of our tales to King Bard and is creating quite a reputation for us, as Gloin handed us a scroll sealed with the image of a thresh.

 

Dorian opened it and read it for us. It was a short and sweet message summoning our Company to King Bard's courts to speak with him of a matters of great importance! The company didn't seem the type to keep a King waiting, and all were for investigating the King's desires. Gloin asked us if we had been to the Dale recently, as well as if we had much knowledge on the place. Brunhild mentioned that she visited the Dale from time to time on business, but other than that it seems our Company's experience with the city was limited. Gloin, in good spirits, told us that should we need assistance journeying through the city, we could use his son Gimli as a guide. Dorian said that Gimli's assistance would be most generous. It will be nice to learn from another dwarf about the city.

 

After Gloin's welcoming meeting, and a few comments from the others of having a smell about me (maybe I was hanging with the dogs more than I thought?) we began to prepare for our venture to Dale. Gloin recommended that we take a boat as it would spare us the walk (which I'm sure our feet would thank us after our journey around Mirkwood) and reduce the travel time to less than a day. That seemed like a brilliant idea, and while most of us worked on renting a boat, Brunhild set out on discovering a buyer for the amulet she discovered inside the Troll's warren. While there wasn't currently a buyer in Lake-Town, Brunhild did discover that an elf named Lothiriel could be a potential buyer, and luckily for us she resided within Dale! So we all boarded our rented vessel and prepared for the journey Northward across the Celduin River

 

Around Mid-day we reached the Northern end of the Lake and were granted a breath-taking view of Erebor and the city of Dale that resided below the mountain's mighty gaze. And as the sun began to set we entered the outskirts of the Dale.

 

The city of Dale: Daale has been rebuilt mostly with the help of the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. Across the are over one hundred bell towers of differing sizes and shapes, some even looking rather exotic for the area, and others almost impossible to tell the builder's origins. The bells ring providing music or ringing the hours throughout the day. Brunhild tells me that they are called Merry Bells.

 

Merry Bells: Famous bells that ring throughout Dale's multitude of towers that are constructed as part of the noble's promise to build Dale to the sky.. Built as a compeittion between nobles of Dale to see who can be the best or biggest bell tower for a chance to serve as advisers to the King. Interesting way to choose who should give you advice.

 

Even as we only beginning to float into the port of Dale, it was easy to see it was busy…if not busier than Lake-Town. A Diverse display of boats fought with one another for entry, exit, or a place to rest its bows. Some boats have come the many reaches of Middle-Earth, and of which I am just now seeing for the first time. Many shops are built throughout the stone masonry of the city that incorporates the river as it flows its way around the town, stone bridges stretching to connect the separate pieces.

 

As we landed the ship, and began to disembark we noticed there was a dwarf waiting on the pier. Seeing us, he waved and approached. Gloin was right in that his picture wasn't up-to-date, as the prominent dwarf that stood before us was a much older version of Gloin's son. His name was Gimli and he seemed eager to assist us in finding our way around the vast city. Gimli informed us that, at this late hour, it would be unlikely for us to get an audience with King Bard, but with that in mind we were free to peruse the city at our leisure. Gimli was ready to advise us on the multitude of shops and services in the town, but couldn't host us for the night as his home was instead within the Erebor.

 

Dorian is the first to make a request, seeking a tavern to wet our whistles, I believe is how he put it, and preferably one with an Inn as well. Gimli offered a whole host of places in which we could go, but the one that captured Dorian's fancy, at least the first time, was the King's Crown Tavern & Inn.

 

King's Crown Tavern & Inn:Gimli informs us that it's a family run establishment with private drinking rooms, food offerings ranging from a simple cheese platter to seven course meals all served by enjoyable servers.

 

However, the place that the Company decides to head to first is instead the Laden Platter, I think Dorian was worried that the King's Crown Tavern & Inn may be a bit pricey for our Company. I was slightly disappointed at the time that we could have missed out on opportunity to sleep on a finer bed, the decision was made and Gimli weaved us through the streets of Dale.

 

Laden Platter: A place ran by an unlikely pair. A Human from the Eastern lands named Kimic Farstrider who is quite a storyteller, even if they are somewhat naughtier tales. Charismatic and always draws in a crowd. Farstrider's partner is the Dwarf named Ru'gen Stoneheir who seems to be competing with Bombur to be the fairest dwarf in all the land. With a jovial belly, Ru'gen makes quite the chief sitting in a throne-like chair within a cut counter to fit him.

 

The roads of dale seemed to all be paved with different stones, each with a varied color to denote the street one was currently on, with the streets named after the color. The way was illuminated by streetlamps, and was decorated by magnificent fountains that acented the sounds of the calm river floating visitors and goods through the canal. Crossing the river are dozens of stone bridges using double and sometimes triple arches. Some were wide enough only for people to walk across in a single file line, but others would allow much larger traffic and wagons to cross. Construction and improvements are still ongoing throughout the city, and the clanging of anvils and even the burst of explosions cam be heard coming from the direction of the Raven's Gate, which opens up to the path leading to Erebor. Echoing the beat of the anvil were the cries of the salesmen, with some shops being open all night long…though with the expected quieter calls. We pass what appears to be a woodworker's shop putting the finishing touches of a caravan together, and a warehouse that we could hear what sounded like an auction underway. Additionally, we pass The Nest which hosts the guard.

 

The Nest: A Strange looking officials building that serves as the home to the main guard of the town. It's a heavily reinforced keep named after the emblem of a thrush that all the guards wear. It's the largest of the guard keeps and patrols leave it in squads four men strong.

 

Finally, we arrive at the feast halls of the Laden Platter. Inside all visitors shared tables or a seat at the large bar that was located near the kitchen. A couple of large fires roar and illuminate the building as waiters carry orders around the floor and customers. Behind the counter one can see one of the proprietors, Farstrider, wearing a turbin, and talking to a number of patrons. Nearby in his throne-like chair Ru'gen was chopping vegetables for someones future meal.

 

We all sat down and called a waiter over for some drinks. The bar was serving a wide variety of beverages ranging from cheap, watered down ale to fancy, and expensive, wine. Brunhild orders some wine that Elrynn and her share. Sassafras and Dorian order themselves some beer and I just get some ale. Gimli orders himself a beer as well and tells us about the Drunken Stone, an event held at the Festival of the Five Armies, that is basically a drinking contest, of which Gimili plans on entering.

 

As for food, the menu was marked on a large chalkboard, with several erase-caused streaks showing that is changes as the seasons do. Dorian orders himself some fish and Sassafras orders some Perch. Brunhild, at the waiter's recommendation, ordrs some pheasant and turnips while Elrynn orders some elven greens. I keep thing simple with a fine cut of beef and, of course, some cram and butter to enjoy with it.

 

After we all enjoy our meal, we follow Dorian up to the bar where we listen with the crowd to some of Farstrider's tales, this particular one about a woman being seduced in Harad. Despite the stories content, Farstrider's smokey eyes could easily pull in any crowd, and his vibrant exuberance was enrapturing, he was quite the storyteller. Around 10 PM, we decide it's probably time to order our rooms, unfortunately for us, however, we were told a group of fifteen dwarfs had recently arrived and rented out the last few rooms. Needing a place to stay, the Company once again consulted with Gimli on finding a place to rest. The Starry Crown was brought up, but I mentioned that Dorian had already mentioned staying at the King's Crown Tavern and Inn, though this was purely me hinting that I'd prefer it to a less reputable place, and the company agreed.

 

The Starry Crown: a fairly rowdy place, but not anywhere near as ill-reputable as the Loused and Soused.

 

The King's Crown seems as nice as it was told to us, and, upon us purchasing our rooms (Brunhild and I being able to host the rest of the company) Gimli bid us his farewells before heading for his home in Erebor, telling us that he would return in the morning.. As we relaxed in the tavern, Dorian seemed to take an interest in the game of Chess that seemed to be played within. Seeing his interest, I offered to teach him how to play, with the caveat that I haven't played in some time. Dorian agreed and we played several matches together. I must admit I played maybe overly well on the first game, though Dorian was only learning so it doesn't say much to my skill. In fact, as Dorian got more and more a hang for the game, it seemed like I got sloppier and sloppier. I still won the next two matches, but Dorian was close and it was by no means the most beautiful of victories. Sassafras then offered to play, and she won that match. She, and I, were confident in her skills, though I think we were both getting tired as I'm sure it could've gone better for both of us. During all these chess-capades Elrynn and Brunhild practiced the song that Elrynn had written, too bad the chess victories weren't as exuberant as the song was.

 

Soon we all retired to our rooms, the ladies in theirs and the men in ours. Elrynn seemed preoccupied this particular evening, and seemed to be keeping his eye on the door as if waiting for someone to barge in. Dorian on the other seemed to believe that the bed should be shared, despite me calling it and was all too willing to share. The next morning, however, I've heard that I make quite the uncomfortable sleeping companion, which I'm unsure if that is a good thing or bad thing. The bed, however, was quite comfortable and much improvement over the dirt and mud of mirkwood and its swamp, and even the cots of the Woodsmen. I was ready for the day!

 

Gimli was already enjoying himself a nice beer in the tavern when we all awoke, he certainly is an early riser! Would probably make a great adventurer. We order a nice breakfast of gruel and biscuits, Brunhild receiving some honey to help her biscuits truly shine. I believe most of us had the tea. As we enjoyed the morning's meal, Gimli informed us that King Bard has been interviewing more than one group, and told us that we may have to prove ourselves in order to earn the task, Sassafras was shocked at the idea to be summoned all this way just for an interview for a job. Dorian found the situation interesting and, I'm surprised to say, said he was looking forward to the interview. I wasn't too sure of it, I'm good once I'm talking about topics that I'm knowledgeable about, but the politics of introduction seems silly, why not just a simple introduction and get to what everything is about instead of all the grandiose performance? Still, I felt confident in my companions of making a good impression, and maybe the Helm of Awe could make me appear more worthy of respect.

 

Brunhild asked Gimli if he had discovered what this was all for, but unfortunately Gimli was as informed as we were on that front. Still, we had an audience with the King to look forward to today, and much to do to prepare for it. Our first stop was to the bank, were we all deposited some, in my case all, of our collected treasures that we had gathered on the trip to the Aerie so it wouldn't weigh us down on our next journey, that was hopefully sometime soon. Then, we took Brunhild to sell her amulet at Lothiriel the Jeweller.

 

Lothiriel: A half-elven jeweller that works within the city of Dale. She has what appears to be a simple shop, but contains a vast array of jewelry displayed in glass fixtures all of which worth a pretty penny and only accessible to a wealthy buyer. I know not what the other half of her blood is, but she almost appears like it could be Dunedain.

 

Brunhild informs Lothiriel of how she obtained the wondrous amulet (from the warren of a troll), and with a obviously enamored listener Brunhild set the starting offer well above its worth (75 treasures). With her sales background, however, Brunhild was easily able to get a deal worth more than we believed the piece to be (55 treasures), but Lothiriel had to obtain the amount and told Brunhild to return by the end of the day and she would have the agreed amount. Brunhild thanked her and complimented Lothiriel's vast collection of beautiful jeweled pieces. As we were leaving, Dorian mentioned to Brunhild that she may want to keep the amulet as it could make a good bargaining chip in the Company's future (As Lothiriel mentioned King Thranduil as a prospective buyer). Brunhild told him that she would think of it.

 

With all the fun with money taken care of, we ask Gimli to guide us to the Royal Palace, it was time to seek an audience with the King. As we arrive at the Palace's gate, we are stopped by its guards who requested what our business was at the palace. Dorian was all to willing to procure our invitational letter form King Bard and present it to the pair. They seemed to look at it with an overly inquisitive gaze, my guess is they didn't know how to read, but they do let us pass telling us that they recognized the Seal.

 

King Bard's throne sat across the Palace's main chamber, engraved with the Emblem of the Black Arrow. The throne itself was a gift of the Elven King. Scattered about the room were the Nobleman of the court, all who seemed especially young for their positions, as most were warriors that fought alongside the King during the Battle of Five Armies. As we enter, we don't see any other groups awaiting the King's ear, at least it wasn't going to be a live competition I suppose. As we waited for our chance to see the King, Brunhild took a good look around at the faces of the King as well as the nobleman and was able to deduce some information. It seems Bard shows more respect to Valorous individuals more than those that show only Wisdom. Additionally, Bard prefers the intimacy of proper individual introductions as opposed to us being introduced as the Company as a whole. Soon after Brunhild divulged this information to us, was it our time to approach. As we did so, King Bard motioned at the other nobles and they all began to leave until there was only us and the King with his advisers. With his regal demeanor, King Bard asked why we were there…and it began…

 

King Bard: Formerly known as Bard the Bowman and once a man of Laketown. Utilizing the Black Arrow of legend, King Bard was the one who killed the dreaded Dragon Smaug and was one of the heroes of the Battle of Five Armies. It is said that a Thrush spoke to King Bard and told him of Smaug's weakpoint, and that is why it has become his symbol. A young King, but he is said to be fair in his judgments.

 

Brunhild opened up for the group, telling King Bard that Gloin presented us with the King's letter requesting our group to pay him a visit. She introduced us as the Company of Free Folk, and herself as Brunhild of Laketown, her parents being merchants there. Brunhild said that she was glad that the King was even aware of us, after Blain and Gloin had invited us to journey upon a dangerous road where we defeated mighty trolls and cruel bandits. Bruhild present that she hopes that the King can see our group potential and then motioned to Dorian to step forward and present himself, Brunhild's introduction seemingly being found favorable in the King's eye.

 

Dorian stepped forward and introduced himself politely and presented the King Guiná Dagnïr as the emblem of his family line and strength. However, despite Dorian's manners, the King seemed to have already looked onward towards myself. I was sure I was sweating under Barrak's helmet, but I pushed my feet forward, continuing Brunhild's tale of the dangerous road with those unmentioned, such as the mighty Huorn and the fateful orc battle that led to me also carrying the legacy of Torrun and Barrak, and their great strength, with me. The King seemed impressed with my tales, I wasn't expecting that.

 

Elrynn then stepped forward and introduced himself with great elegance, complimenting the King of his many good works, and was well received in the court. Sassafras, however, had seemingly vanished somewhere and avoided the conversation entirely.

 

With introductions out of the way, King Bard looked at Brunhild, Elrynn and myself (sorry Dorian), and asked of us why we think we can come into his service. After a pause, we were told what the service would be. It seems that The Black Arrow, while a treasure of the King's Family, was lost during the families greatest moment! King Bard wished that he had retrieved it that day, thus it wouldn't have been lost, but gains hope of the Arrow's discovery. A thief was recently caught who requested amelioration by telling the King that the Black Arrow was in the possession of the Old Master of Laketown who had fled with the money they were sent for the cities repair after Smaug's attack. King Bard looked at us and asked if we were to be the ones to recover the Black Arrow for him. King Bard continued, telling us that while the tales seem fanciful, he still holds to hope that it will be recovered. And, that, since the pickpocket had initially escaped with the Old Master, then perhaps the pickpocket would know where the Old Master went.

 

That is when I felt a tug on my back. It was none other than Sassafras who wanted to warn us that she had pieced together from the King's story that he did not suffer fools and we should be careful not to appear as one. I attempt to get a read on the King myself, perhaps to formulate a clue as to how to proceed, but the King was difficult for me to read, especially through this helmet, and I wasn't able to provide any additional insights.

 

Brunhild, however, immediately begins to sell the Company, detailing our diverse set of skills and our desire to assit the Crown with this task. Her words made King Bard nod as he glanced at us, seemingly impressed at our skill sets.

 

Elrynn presented the King with a song of our past victories against the dreaded orcs fighting by Balin's side. It was quite the inspiring tale, even without Elrynn adding embellishment to the tale and our deeds spoke loudly in the song impressing the King greatly.

 

I didn't even need to add anything as Brunhild and Elrynn had already managed to impress the King without me, and he told us that we had convinced him to allow us to do this monumental task for him. King Bard told us that he had spoken to many others, and yet we were the most convincing of being the ones for the task. The King told us that he would provide us with a writ to show that we are now woking for the crown as well as provide for us the needs of the journey. Dorian took the writ, as Bard continued, inviting us to also join him for dinner so that he can hear more of our adventurous tales. With this, we are dismissed and we all bow before the King before heading out. As we are leaving, the King's adviser stops us to inform us on when the dinner will be held, as well as to “advise” us that we should plan on dressing nicely. I'm sure at that moment, all eyes went on Dorian.

 

Outside Gimli awaited our arrival expectantly and asked if we had gotten the job. When we told him that we did, Gimli announced that it was time to celebrate and wanted us to all go out for a drink together, but Sassafras told him that we needed to go shopping instead as we were invited to join the King for Dinner. At that, Gimli informed us he knew just the place to get the fineray needed and guided us to Gellir's Garments.

 

On the jounrey to the tailor's place of business, I tried to convince Gimli to join us when we go to the King's feast, but Gimli decline telling me that it was our show and he would eventually get his time in the limelight. I was a bit disappointed as I know Gimli had what it took to be a great hero and I was hoping I could assist him in getting his big break. Perhaps next time.

 

Gellir's Garments was quite a nice establishment, and the tailor was excited to begin designs on outfits for the Royal Dinner. Well, until he discovered that it was going to happen this same day, which made him have to change plans and with the help of his assistance, they got Dorian's, Sassafras's, and Elrynn's measurements to begin to adjust already made pieces for the festivities. Dorain was even nice enough to pay, despite me being willing to do so, and withdrew some money from the bank to do so. Brunhild and I, however, already had some nice outfits from which to draw from and so we didn't need to add to Gellir's stressful patching.

 

While we waited for the clothes to be prepared, the Company decided that it would be best if we got right to work on the King's request and had Gimli guide us to the prison to speak with the pickpocket, Holgeir.

 

City of Dale Gaol: Located within the Harbor District, the Gaol within Dale is ran by a the lead jailor, a man named Mardil who served with King Bard in the Battle of Five Armies. Large building that could probably hold about one hundred people.

 

Holgeir: a pickpocket in his mid-thirties who looked much older than his age. His hair has already receded and turned grey and his face Is gaunt and drawn, representing a life begging on the streets.

 

Whe we arrived at the Gaol, the City Watch already seemed to be expecting us, before we can even pull out the writ (and I feel Dorian is quite skilled in quickly producing such documents as seen earlier), we were already waved in and being guided through the dark building. The stone was cold and moist and the journey through was filled with the moaning and complaining of the jails occupants, as well as with an occasional drunken song. We arrive at the door holding Holding Holgeir and the guard unlatches the door, telling us to knock when we wanted back out. I laughed a bit at the idea of the door holding us, knowing a spell that would unlatch it for us, but luckily I wouldn't be needing to demonstrate that ability in front of Holgeir. The man looked horrible for his age, even with him covering himself with his cowl. His clothes were raggity and torn and he had a creepy smile accented by yellow teeth.

 

Holgeir asked us to “please sit” though it was clear there was no way to accomadate that request, seeing as the cell barely had room for him and his chamber necessities, let alone us. This false hospitality seemed to bring a slight smile to the man though as Dorian asked him if he could ever get out of this cell. Holgeir told us that he was told that he could be pardoned if he provided enough information to guide us to King Bard's Black Arrow. Before he would tell us what he knew of the Black Arrow's current whereabouts, Holgeir asked for food of which Dorian supplied some rations(not that the prisoner was in any position to ask for anything, but Dorian seemed to have quite the heart to him).

 

With the food delivered , we were told an elaborate story of Holgeir's boss's greed. At first, as they fled with the gold promised to Laketown's recovery, they began heading to Grimar's Hall, but then, The Old Master suddenly turned East and began heading into the Wastes. Despite the complaining from those accompanying him, the old master refused to budge on his path. Soon, plans to ditch the Old Master and take the arrow began to be formulated, as well as plans to just kill the Old master. However, when an assassination plot was attempted, it was quickly stopped by the Old Master's bodyguard. With the plan stopped the group of men left the bodyguard and the Old Master, heading South were they headed Northwest towards the Grey Mountains. Holgeir believed that the Old Master was not in his right mind, for not only as the path foolish, but he often saw the Old Master holding the Black Arrow close to him and never letting it out of his sight.

 

Before they had left with the stolen treasures, Holgeir remembers the Old master seeking out and speaking to Trugdel, an old dwarven smith who had recently returned from the Iron Hills a week prior (at the time). Holgeir didn't know what the two of the spoke about, however. Elrynn asked where the dwarf could be found, and we were informed that Trugdel currently resided in Dale. We also learned the name of the Old Master's Bodyguard, Kodi who was apparently a Beorning.

 

When asked by Dorian, Holgeir was able to detail the path as best he could, showing us the jouney actoss the lake and then heading North towards the Wastes. After doing so, Holgeir asked if we would put in a good word for him. Droian asked Holgeir what he was good at, and was informed that Holgeir felt he was pretty good at tracking. Brunhild alos brought up that she has observed that pickpockets are often good about noticing qualities in people, and asked if Holgeir had noticed anything about Kodi or the Old Master. Holgeir told her that the Black Arrow changed the Old Master, if not everyone as well, as the Old Mster always held the Arrow tight and the others wanted it more than the treasure they were carrying with them. At this, Elrynn and Dorian promised to put in a good word for Holgeir should this information pay off. Brunhild and Sassafras deserned with their keen insights that Holgeir appeared to be desperate and truthful. Brunhild asked Holgeir if he knew anything about the way that they went, saying she knew little of the area herself. Holgeir told her that it was not a place anyone would want to journey as their si nothing to hunt, nothing to eat, the water is poisonous and the very land tries to trick you. And, at night, you can hear strange cries.

 

After gaining this information, Dorian offers Holgeir a whole turnip that Brunhild graciously cuts up for the pickpocket, not that he deserves it. As we leave, Brunhild mentions that gaining this information was seemingly to easy, and, perhaps, Holgeir has more motive than merely getting out of his cell. Still, it was time for us to follow our next lead, and the Company decided it would be best to seek out Trugdel. When we asked Gimli if he knew of Trugdel's residency Gimli did indeed know. Apparently, Trugdel lived in town and runs a shop called the Crooked Nail (weird name for a blacksmith, don't you want your nails to be straight?) on Anvil Street. However, Gimili has never dealt with Trugdel before, but assumed that he would be like any other Dwarf, rough around the edges but a good man.

 

As Gimli lead us towards Anvil Street, Brunhild inquired with Dorain if he knew of any influence of the Shadow on the arrow. Dorian, however, said that he hadn't heard anything about that.

 

Anvil Street was a bit different from the other streets, not being pieces together by colored stones. However, the ring of the anvil and hammer certainly signified enough that we were in the right place. Several houses and shops were scattered about and large number of them seemed to be hosted by Dwarfs. In fact, with the bellows billowing, the ringing of metal on metal, and tinkering of small tools almost echoed the sounds of the halls of Erebor.

 

Dorian did bring up the idea that we may need an appointment, and Gimli, while telling us that it can be sometimes hard to get an appointment, it might be possible with two dwarfs in the group. Sassafras brought up the writ to, and Dorian said that perhaps the mission for the King would be enough. As we arrived at the home of Trugdel we see a dwarf hard at work at his forge wearing only pants and boots; He was all sweaty and grimy. However, as we were about to approach, a teenage boy stepped in oru way. Dorian tried to weasle his way in saying something about a requisite for equipment, but the boy would not budge on setting up an appointment, the next available one wasn't going to be for nine days. With my Helm on and trying to keep up my confidence I pressed that the right now would be the perfect time and began to trek may way closer, slightly nudging the boy to demonstrate my desire to press through. It seemed to work as the boy got a little bit more skiddish and began to cave a bit, asking why were had come and we show the boy the writ from King Bard. The boy tries to tell us that the his dwarf teacher may be upset, and Dorian tried to ease the boys mind by telling him that could the meeting at least happen today, Though Brunhild was quick about cutting him off and pushing with the immediate meeting plan. The boy said he would check and went back to speak to Trugdel, and Sassafrass seemed to disappear again. We watch the boy who seemed a bit frantic talk to Trugdel and then begin working on stoking the fires as Trugdel struts over to us.

 

Dorian pushes me forward and I get right to business, a fact that pleased Trugdel, telling him that we are on a mission for King Bard and trying to discover where the Old Master went. He told us that the Old Master was asking about Zirak Kimber, an old Dwarven Fortress in the Grey Mountains on the Grey Hips. Something in the Old Master's manner, Trugdel told us, told him that the Old master was planning on heading there, even if he didn't say it. Brunhild asked what could be found at Zirak, and Trugdel was swift in tellign us Death! Trugdel told us that the ruins have long been abandoned and taken over by coal drakes, and that only the foolish would go there. And when we asked why the Old Mster would want to we were told that the Old Master didn't tell him even why he was investigating Zirak in the first place. Dorian asked if Trugdel had seen the Black Arrow on the Old Master, but we were told that he had not. And when asked when this conversation took place, we were told that it was around four years ago. Before we bid Trugdel our farewell, we got from him the basic instructions on how to get to Zirak Kimber and thanked him for his time.

 

Both Elrynn and myself have heard about Zirak Kimber, Elrynn hearing surprisingly more than myself (he is well knowledgeable in many subjects I wouldn't think of for an Elf). It was a place named after the peak that it lies on, with only a narrow road leading up to the gates of the watchtowers, It was, in fact, watchtowers made to keep watch on the Withered Keep and it was believed to have been attacked by Smaug before it could warn Erebor of the dragon's coming. Or, the alarm came much to late. Elrynn also knew that judging by the path to get to Zirak, that Holgeir's story seems correct.

 

Dorian shared that he feels that we all guessed that the Black Arrow, at one point, was embraced by the Shadow. Dorian told us that it wasn't always clear how the Shadow manifests itself, but it does so in places, people, and things. Dorian wasn't sure when or by what the arrow could've been embraced by the Shadow, suggesting that perhaps it was affected by the Old Master himself. Brunhild offered instead that it was changed while it was lodged in Smaug's chest. However, it did beg Dorian to question why the Old Master is or was driven or called to the North by the Black Arrow? Elrynn proposed that perhaps the Loremaster would know more.

 

Gimli, however, had his doubts, telling us that we might be disappointed in the “Loremaster.” While he is recognized for being the greatest master of language in the area, Gimli told us that the Loremaster has become somewhat senile in his old age. Though, of the multitude of languages that the loremaster could decipher both Black Speech and even Dwarven were apparently in his arsenal (how did he learn to translate Khuzdul? The Dwarfs themselves barely use it in front of any none-dwarfs! Now I was curious in this loremaster).

 

Caldon the Scholar: The residential Loremaster of the Dale known as the greatest local scholar of languages in the area of the Dale. Unfortunately, he has become somewhat senile in his venerable age and there is only a slight chance that he is fully lucid. However, it is said that while he is, he can fluently translate most known languages including Quenya, Sindarin, Dalish, Khuzdul, Adunaic, and even some Black Speech!

 

When we arrive at Caldon's abode, we are instead greeted by a middle-age man who wondered why we had come. After informing him of our intentions of speaking to Caldon, we are told that he is currently taking a nap and isn't available. We were told to return in two hours and perhaps Caldon would be able to speak with us then. It was currently around Noon and Dorian wanted to head, deciding he wants Fish Stew Gimli guids us into the Harbor district for some.

 

After a hearty meal and some exploring, we return as planned back to Caldon's home where we are invited in. The building smelled musty and of book mold (those poor books) and was also poorly lit. Several shelves of books and scrolls are scattered about and one measly candle attempts to fight the darkness back from the room. Caldon is a short man, and seemingly half-blind. The assistant tells Caldon that he has visitors and we are guided into the room. Caldon gets asks if it is true we have come from the King, and Elrynn tells him that we are and that we figured we start at the top in our information gathering. When Caldon asked if we needed a translation, Elrynn told him not at this time, and despite translation being Caldon's specialty we came to see if in his multitude of books he had any information on the Grey Mountains.

 

However, we learned very little from Caldon about the Grey Mountains, only that he believed that they were all abandoned since Smaug's arrival 150 years ago and no one has returned since. Caldon had no idea why anyone would want to go there and had no maps of that area, though did suggest checking with Erebor, if we could get in. Caldon told us that the dwarfs are secretive and would likely resist a meeting. I had my doubts on the meeting part, though I know all too well on the Dwarf's secrecy.

 

Caldin did know a little bit more on the Black Arrow, saying that it had been in King Bard's family for a long time and that it seemed fated that Bard used it to slay Smaug, as Gerion tried to use it to slay the dragon, but missed. Caldin informed us that no one really knows who crafted the Black Arrow, but he suspected it may be dwarven. However, before we could ask more questions, it seemed like the loremaster had fallen asleep. We thank the now sleeping man and saw ourselves out.

 

Still having some time to kill, we all begin to craft our travel plans, with the majority of us confident in the path we would have to take, though not necessarily in how well the journey would go. It would be thirty miles through the Upper Marches first, which is mostly farmland, going around the Lonely Mountain and then heading due North. As soon as we hit the waste we would have toughly thrity more miles of travel, but the conditions would deteriorate almost immediately. It would be rough road, but it would lead us to where we were told the assassination attempt on the Old Master was made. From there, we would need to head Northwest to the watchtower. Water would be scarce and what was there would be poisonous and there were certainly be almost no food. It would be colder conditions and very windy. It was sounding like a lovely journey. I was curious if by the end we all grow to miss even Mirkwood's cold embrace again.

 

Around 4 or 5 PM we return to Gellir's Garments to collect the outfits for Dorian, Elrynn, and Sassafras and Brunhild went to go sell her amulet. When Brunhild returned, she was quite richer with another fancy brooch that looked like a bird along with her. Brunhild was generous with the wealth and offered up a even split to us all, but I had to refuse the generous gift as I didn't really need it and it was her amulet that was sold so I felt she deserved the rewards that came with it. Brunhild accepted her money back. We get cleaned and dressed and head back to the palace. I once again try to get Gimli to join us, but he again declines and leaves us to the dinner and a pleasant night, bidding us farewell once again.

 

Within the Palace we are taken to a private dining chamber where we all sit at a large table. While we were located on the same half of the table as the King, we were still quite distant from him. We also learned the King Bard has no Queen at his side.

 

As we ate, King Bard requested tales of our journey to which Brunhild was more than happy to provide, but she embellished a bit making it all the better to tell. We were the stars of an entire portion of the evening. The food was most excellent as was the wine. In fact, some of the food was game hunted by the King himself! However, after the meal the King left early and we were guided to our own individual rooms. It was a very restful night…though it may be our last for awhile so I had to enjoy it as best as I could…though thoughts of the Wastes does keep one up.

 

The next morning we were served a wonderful breakfast, but the King was already out hunting and so we dined alone. As we prepared to leave, Dorian asked me if we should try Erebor to gather more information. I didn't see why not, and it would be good to see the great dwarven city a second time, especially if I got a chance to peruse its libraries! Dorian said it was a bold move, unconvinced it would work, I didn't understand why….

 

Until we weren't even permitted to enter the gates. We were told that they were under strict order to not let anyone in without King Dain's official invitation. Not even King Bard's writ could get me in alone. I was shocked at the ridiculousness of it all, but it seems Erebor was out of the question. But we still had our plan, and besides now all the knowledge lost in Zirak would be uncovered to me with no need to drag Erebor's politics into it. What an exciting prospect, and I want to share that knowledge!

 

Well….if we can get there even….Oh and we should probably find the Black Arrow too, I almost forgot!

View
Where Eagles Fly

After a very interesting stay at the enigmatic Beorn’s home, where the dogs served us dinner on two feet not four, and after Beorn had returned from a secretive evening, bearing a bag of orc helms that he used as our dining table centerpiece, a plan was made. Beorn assigned us a guide who himself was to make good with the King of Eagles. His name was Merovech . We were also provisioned with good food from Beorn’s stores for the final leg of our journey.

As we left the great pine palisade, Merovech told us to expect a three-day journey after crossing the river. Coming to a high place a little later, I noted brambles and fallen trees that could present a problem with the route Merovech was used to taking. On my word, we made a change that kept us on schedule. By the end of the day we reached Beorn’s men’s camp near the ford where they had already had a fire and were roasting some local fare. They generously invited us to take up forks! 

On what was agreed to be the 14th of June we survived a slippery crossing to the west side of the mighty Anduin. Then we began the trek through the lowest hills of the Misty Mountains towards the Eagles Eerie. As we made our way, the trees began to change from leafy elms and oaks to straight pines and as we went further up they began to shrink as the air thinned. 

The weather held but was cooling with blue skies when we reached what was known as the Western Middle Vales. We took the path that led into Eagles Vale. In this crevice, we discovered oaks and elms again but then had to begin the first of our steps of our ascent. Only a short way up we heard far above us a tinkling of stones and thought not much of it but then the sound became a clamour of cracks and thumps and the ground shook! Then the horizon became a wave of boulders and earth… an avalanche!

I moved for Sassafras but slipped, as did Sas! Like a darting brownie, Elryn spirited her out of the path of the breaking mountain! At the last minute, I rolled just behind a huge outcropping that saved me from an early grave! We all just escaped certain peril and then took time to collect ourselves and after another march, reached an alpine flat to make camp. 

Elryn, who seems to never tire, took his bow and made off to find foul or beast to sup. Shortly before he returned we saw a great Eagle start from the trees, angle up and swoop overhead. While not a giant eagle it was still several times that of normal eagles.

The next day we traveled much the same and came to another plateau around noon. This area however was much larger and had at one time a stone village of sorts. Now it was but ruins, but these ruins were odd in that the once protective walls appeared melted from a long time past. Myself and Hannar had a bad feeling about this place and I recommended to all that we move past it but Brunhild would not have it. She persisted in searching it, saying “This is why I am out here.” So Hannar and I took up positions at the perimeter. Nothing was found of interest within and no ill came to us.

Night came as we reached another suitable spot to camp. 

After a short trek the following morning, we spotted far up but within sight, a stark outcropping, like a great thorn sprouting from the mountain. This was the Eerie! Brunhild, from a vantaged position, picked a fair path for us, but which did included working through and up a narrow ravine. As we were finally escaping it’s deep shadow, at least a score of men wearing garb not so dissimilar to mine but bearing masks, marked us from behind rock and shrub. One scoundrel called down to us, “You’ll be leaving any coin you have with us if you mean to make your way any further.”

I was in no mood to let the Dwarf part with his coin as I know Dwarves value gold and silver like men value their freedom. To keep the peace I was willing to pay for us all if it be a fair toll. “And what is your price, Warden?” I asked.

“All that you have of course. All of you.”  He replied in a cock-sure manner, and just enough to bother me. I am not bothered oft by hill-bandits but this fellow had a way. Others in our party weighed in as well but I could not hear through my blood-filled ears. An arrow whizzed between us, but Elryn, quick as a March hare, sent an arrow true, hitting the man next to the speaker. A swarm of arrows took flight!

Mine found it’s mark then I charged upward over rock and briar with both hands on my forbearer’s blade. The fool swung and missed, I shouted to their leader, “Your deaths are not worth the gold you demand!” I then ran the man through that had failed so sadly against me, sending him rolling down the steep ravine.

Sassafras rarely missed! Hannar moved in and would slay men with every other swing! Elryn’s bow sang, his arrows whistled and his targets screamed! Brunhild moved with purpose, and landed many well placed blows. 

I slew two or three more and took a few blows. I am then caught in the knee, I wince and let out in pain, the leader pounces and deals me a grievous blow! My breath is caught and I steady myself for the next, but then the leader drops his sword, his expression gone and at my feet he falls dead in front of me. Standing in his place, looking at me is Brunhild, a wry smile and a welcome sight!

My vigor renewed, I prop myself up with Orion’s Flame on the fallen man and shout with the forbearance of my kin, “Death has found your leader and nigh, death is upon you!” As the echo still tumbled down the mountain, all had fled but one who dropped his weapon and took a knee. Answers were not on his tongue but neither were they in his clutch. We sent him away with only his sword.

Not long after cresting the next few ridges, we gained the base of the eerie.  There, we fell under the shadow of a great eagle we came to know as Landroval. He spoke in a noble tongue, and waited for introductions. We returned our salutations with names, surnames, deeds and purposes. Balin was struck with awe more than any of us and found it hard to speak thus. Landroval, seeming satisfied, took up Balin and took flight to the Eerie. 

Hours later as all the lands and sky seemed darkened by the wall of the Misty Mountains and the stars came out in droves, we lit a fire and I spoke of the breaking of the three early kingdoms in the North and of Arnor and the Rangers and of Angmar and orcs and our never ending vigilance against the growing powers from the east.

As the fire was dying and we began to welcome sleep, a great wind swept our camp as the stars were blotted out and our fire was blunted by Landovall’s great claw. Balin slides off the wondrous bird and the great eagle tells us that a number of his flock will land in Esgaroth at the anniversary of Smaug’s death and that we are done here and may leave. 

We spoke with Balin for a while after Landovall returned to the air and then we each found our way into restful dreams. In the morning, Balin explained that he would be taking another path back for his own reasons. And so we parted ways with kind words and another adventure tucked in our belts. 

View
May 23rd - June 12th

May 23rd

 

“Good morning!” said Bilbo. Gandalf looked at him from under the brim of his shady hat and replied. “What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or that you feel good this morning, or that it is a morning to be good on?”

 

It was definitely NOT a 'good morning' for some of the members of our troupe. I, myself, had somehow managed to sneak out of the hermit's 'natural cottage' and made my way through the forest in search of something. It did not take long for my keen eyes to spy the twinkle of some precious metal amongst the roots of a very large tree – a tree that bore the likeness of a man's face in its eldritch bark. But the gleaming trinket drew my attention more clearly, for I recognized the shape of the metal and the design of the gem-encrusted settings: it was a necklace most precious to King Thranduil! How it got there mattered not – all that mattered was that I needed to recover it and return it to him. And though I would have done such a thing simply out of loyalty to the Elvenking, I also knew that returning the treasure would very likely raise my standing in his eyes – a task that was normally very difficult, even for one of his son's closest friends.

 

I nimbly slipped between the roots, reaching and grasping for it, my fingertips once, and then twice just narrowly missing the smooth golden rings that formed the dainty wrist-chain. Little did I know that Dorion and Brunhild were not far away, also desperately seeking to retrieve some item of their own, forged in the haze of their own dreams that the three of us were trapped in. Only Sassafrass and Hanar were able to resist the call of dreams. The tree itself was a Huorn, a race of ancient, malevolent trees. Much like Ents, but with darker hearts. This particular one seemed intent on destroying us all, and feeding upon our fallen bodies.

 

Sassafras sank an arrow into the tree's trunk, fletching and all! Hanar tried to sing a song to awaken the three of us under the tree's spell, but it does not work. Sass, too, calls out to us, trying to awaken us from our sleep-walking, but to no avail. The Huorn's limbs whip about, grasping Dorion and smashing him into the ground. Likewise for Brunhild – and both of them, despite the wounds they suffered, remain enchanted. I am also lashed by the tree, but it is a cold slap of reality that wakes me from my drunken stupor. I slither out of the tree's hold on me and seek out Dorion, freeing him from the vines that had surrounded him. The ranger hefts his blade and takes a wide swing that strikes true – and the Huorn returns the favor, smashing the ranger into unconsciousness. Seeing him fall, I turn my attention to Brunhild and see that she, too, had succumbed, just as the tree had planned. I then hear a mighty growl as Hanar leaps at the tree, his mighty axe raised on high, and when he brings it down – the Huron is shattered and destroyed into splinters, black sap collecting on the ground like blood.

 

Having regained our senses, we see to our wounds and then search the area, finding a small bit of wealth amongst the creature's domain. No matter how hard we search, though, neither Dorion, Brunhild, nor I find the precious items we each swore we saw before. There would be no heoric return to the Woodland Realm for me as of yet.

 

We return then to the Hermit's home to finish our intended rest, and just before dawn the rain finally abates. In the morning, Dorion, Hanar and myself are still quite weary, but we set off anyway, deciding to stop by the remains of the Huorn one last time – for one last, desperate look for the trinkets we each had sought – and found nothing. When we finished searching, the Hermit arrived and approached Dorion, and offered him something. It is a superbly crafted axe-head, man-made of course, but still nonetheless impressive. As I looked upon it for a time, it struck a chord, allowing me to recall a story where a brave warrior wielded the axe 'Wolfbiter', a man who was the son of Ingomer and was lost. Could the Hermit actually BE Ingomer's lost son, Bargram? Perhaps if we pass through the Woodland Hall someday, we sill seek out Ingomer to return the axe and speak to him of the Hermit…

 

We decide to rest that night in the clearing where the Huron had fallen, in order to regain more of our strength. My companions drifted off to sleep to the sound of the flute as I played a lullaby or two in order to ward off any bitter dreams – or so I hoped. As I played and watched over them, I could not help but wonder about the Huron we had destroyed. How old was it? How many lifetimes had it seen and experienced? Some say that the oldest tress in Mirkwood have lived through multiple Ages of the world… had the Huorn been one of them? Brought low by axe, bow, and sword.

 

I also looked upon each of my companions as they slept and reflected upon them through my watch.

 

Dorion slept nearby, and perhaps I imagined it but I sensed some sort of unease about him, even as he slumbered. He is of the Dunedain and the rangers of the north, and for those reasons alone he already has much of my respect. I know of the tales surrounding his people, and I know how the rangers selflessly protect fairer folk from the shadows, always on the lookout for signs of the Enemy's return. So far, in the weeks we have been together, he has demonstrated a noble heart and a grim countenance, true to the nature of his people.

 

Hanar, the dwarf, is as enigmatic as they come. I have met dwarves before, of course, but Hanar is quite different. Where his people generally lust for gold, this one seems more interested in books and knowledge. This fact I find quite to my liking, and his inquisitiveness is ever-welcome. If ever he should journey to the Woodland Realm, perhaps these traits might gain him access where many dwarves would be turned away. So far, though, his battle-prowess matches the stories I have been told of dwarven skill in war. If this is an indication how a dwarven scholar fights, I almost tremble at the thought of the carnage a dwarven weapons-master could wreak!

 

Brunhild is everything I suspected she might be. I still see that small child of only a few years who would listen with rapt attention to my stories during previous visits to Esgaroth, and in a way, I was able to watch her grow up. But I saw it then – a yearning for something different than the life her parents had planned for her, and it is satisfying now to see her seeking her own road. Sure, she could have remained in Esgaroth, and her beauty would likely had have many of the young lads of Esgaroth competing for her favors. But so far, this life on the road seems far more fitting for her, and I will do my best to see that journey lasts more than a few months.

 

Sassafras, one of the small-folk, has been a breath of fresh air. Of all the peoples our party represents, hers is the one I have the least experience with, but the stories about them ring true so far. Robust, nimble, and quick with a caring hand, I swear she is as sure with a bow as I myself am. She seems to have taken a liking to me, much like a younger sister to an older brother I suppose, and if that keeps her mood sunny even in the darkest reaches of Mirkwood, then I shall not swear it off. Like Brunhild, Sass seeks adventure, and so shall she have it.

 

These companions I have traveled with for weeks, and have come to rely on them, even in matters of life and death as we have fought side-by-side together several times. Indeed, one might even say that we hold one another's lives in each other's hands. I doubt that they would be called 'Elf-Friend' by my own people as of yet, as we elves do not use the word 'friend' lightly. But for myself, I shall consider them thus until such a time that they give me reason not to.

 

My watch has ended, and I must meditate.

 

May 24th

 

We set off westward, believing that we are more than half-way to our destination. It is then that Balin, the dwarven hero of Erebor and the reason for our journey, proposes that we might indeed make for the Woodland Hall where Ingomer resides. We all readily agree, and set off. Travel is smoother now, and only a short time passes on our journey before we head south, the way Balin is sure will lead us to the realm of the Woodmen.

 

May 27th

 

Our only real moment of tension since leaving the Hermit behind us: Dorion is scouting and found himself amidst a den of wolves. He is careful, and only his woodland training allows him to escape with his life. Not only that, but his skill is such that he does not lead the pack directly back to us. Still, we move hastily on our way, content to leave the wolves to their business, as long as they leave us to ours….

 

May 30th

 

We enter the Western Eaves of Mirkwood. It is quite obvious, especially to me, as the trees are changing around us. Subtly, of course, but it is enough to be noticed, and to signal that the darker parts of the woods are behind us. We continue onward.

 

May 31st

 

We meet several sentinels as we near Woodland Hall. These guardian men are not intending to harass us, but rather simply protect their people from outsiders who might do them harm. After some short questions, we are allowed to pass unmolested, and continue on our way. Soon, we come to a clearing and actually see children playing, and I can sense a bit of relaxation amongst my companion in response to such a sight. Children frolicking as they were provided a sense of safety, and as such, we had less need to be constantly on-guard. The children played while also keeping an eye on large black pigs, livestock of the Woodmen no doubt. We garner a few inquisitive looks from the children, but for the most part they seem more attuned to their play.

 

An hour later, we come in sight of the Woodland Hall as it rises on a hill that has been largely cleared of trees. It is a beautifully contrasting sight – to one side the darkness of Mirkwood, and to the other, the shores of the Dusky River.

 

We soon gain entry, meeting no real resistance as we proceed. Sure, a few curious stares that are well-deserved, given the make-up of our odd troupe. We set our course for the very top of the hill and the massive longhouse built there, sure that is where we should inquire about Ingomer's whereabouts. It is a simpler matter than expected to meet the man, and we make our formal introduction. We then offer him the axe-head that was given to us by the Hermit, and the old man is obviously stricken by it, the significance of it readily apparent on his weathered face. We share the story of how we came by it, and Hanar displays the sketch he had made of the Hermit (and a skillful sketch, too!), and Ingomer admits that the man we met and know as the Hermit could indeed be Bargram, his son who was lost when he was very young. Dorion makes his case for Ingomer not to seek out his son, describing the Hermit's state of mind when last we met him, and we could see the conflict on the man's face. Crazy or not, I don't see how Ingormer will long resist the temptation to seek out this Hermit and meet his son again.

 

We are told that we are to stay for supper, and we join in with fevor. We share our own tales with him, seemingly providing some measure of entertainment in the process. After we've all had our fill, our host insists on rewarding us for the return of the axe-head 'Wolf-biter', and for the news of his long-lost son, and we are each rewarded with a small but noble amount of coin.

 

We are invited to stay for the night, and this we do, enjoying the respite from the darkness of the forest road behind us. The Woodmen are hospitable – though wary of us, being outsiders, but I do not take offense at that. It is a feeling that I have encountered in all of my travels, and I have long ago grown used to it.

 

June 1st

 

We depart, then, returning to our original task at hand, leaving the Woodland Hall behind us.

 

June 4th

 

We finally come to the definitive edge of Mirkwood, leaving it behind us as we enter the East Middle Vale, which affords us easier travel. These are rich, fertile lands. Sassafras tells me that we are closer to her home than ever before, while each step takes us farther and farther away from Brunhild's. It is a stark reminder of the differences that existed between the five of us, yet despite those differences we work together for a common cause. Though I have spent the vast majority of my time on the road alone, I find that I am quite enjoying this company.

 

June 7th

 

We are on the Old Road once more, heading west.

 

June 11th

 

As expected we have eventually reached the Anduin River. In Sindarin, Anduin means 'Long River', and it is said the true length of it is unknown. Some early scholars even proposed that the Anduin was endless, though I find that hard to believe.

 

We soon come to the Old Ford, where rests the remnants of an ancient dwarven bridge. Now there also rests a guard house of sorts, where men seek to collect a toll from those who would cross the river at this point. Given that the river was wide and strong both to the north and south as far as could be seen, this particular location was a prime location for such a business. Dorion introduces us to the men, and quickly we learn that a few coins will gain us safe passage. One of the men is named Merovech, and he looks powerful and wild, which makes sense, given that he is a Beorning. After he learns who we are, he offers to take us to Beorn's Hall, and we readily agree, given that the journey is only a half-day's trip.

 

We arrive at Beorn's right at sunset, and gain entrance to Beorn's walled compound. Inside, the place is abuzz with honey-bees and large dogs who greet us curiously. Brunhild offers the dogs some of her lembas bread crumbs, and the dogs seem all too happy to eat it. One of these dogs could easily serve as a pony for Sassafras! Soon we are ushered into the main hall where Beorn awaits, the massive man of legend. Standing nearly eight-feet tall, he is like a giant out of the legends! I find myself a bit in awe of his presence…. first, we get to travel with Balin son of Fundin, one of the heroes of Erebor. And now many weeks later, we meet Beorn, chief of the Beornings? This has been a fine, merry trip indeed – despite he occasional pot-hole in the road! Who will we meet next? Gandalf the Gray Traveler, perhaps?

 

Meeting us, though, Beorn wastes no time, inquiring about the events at Stony Ford the previous year. We make formal introductions, and Balin makes his acquaintance again with the big man. Balin also makes the suggestion that Beorn should send along one of his people with us to meet with the Windlord, Gwaihir. It sounds like a brilliant idea to the minds of my companions – but Beorn does not see much merit in the idea, and we find ourselves in a discussion of it all. The big man is not easily swayed, though Dorion does eventually produce some Athelas herb and offers it as a gift, which quickly catches Beorn's eye. How does the old Gondorian rhyme go?…

 

When the Black Breath blows

and death's shadow grows

and all lights pass,

come athelas! Come athelas!

Life to the dying

In the King's hand lying!

 

The rangers, just as my people, know the value in athelas, which most other folk consider a simple weed by the name Kingsfoil. But its very name gives away its true properties – athelas is Sindarin for 'helpful leaf', after all.

 

But I digress.

 

Beorn accepted the gift which seemed to soften his mood somewhat, and he moves to the subject of dinner. This, he said, would give him some more time to ponder our proposal to him.

 

During dinner, I recount the tales of our trip so far, especially the part about the battle at the old dwarven ruins at Amon Anaungrim. In turn, he tells us that the orcs in the south have become more active – and that, of course, sends a chill down our spines. Thankfully we are not headed south, but rather west. At that time, the side doors open and in walks many of the animals from Beorn's camp – including dogs who walk upright on their hind legs, carrying platters of food and for us to share! Mead, honeycakes, and fresh bread, all smelling quite delightful. After dinner we are offered beds in the Great Hall, and we readily accept. He declares that he is going for a stroll, and urges us to remain inside the compound. Just as he is about to exit the hall, Hanar ambushes the big man to once more put forth the proposal of Beorn sending an emissary with us to the Eyrie. Beorn seems unmoved by the gesture and heads out into the night.

 

We all begin to relax, now, full on mead, bread, and honeycakes. I produce my flute with plans to play some soothing music, but Sassafras has other ideas as she produces an instrument, and then Brunhild does as well, followed by Dorion and Hanar! It seems we have the makings of our own quintet! We make merry for a time, entertaining ourselves and the few Beornings who joined us for the meal, but in time the Beornings depart, and the room grows quieter. It is then that we hear distant monstrous growls, and I head out into the night and scale the building to the roof, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was making the noise. I see him, then, what could be none other than Beorn himself, in bear-form, fearsome and terrible in size and stature. I see him only for a few moments before he disappears into the surroundings, and I climb back down and head back inside to relay what I saw to my companions.

 

Sleep comes to those who need it quite easily that night, knowing that Beorn patrols the around outside the compound. Sassafras takes a bed nearest the one that I meditate upon. I offer her a brotherly smile and she seems quite amused by that. Perhaps next time I will gently recommend that she imbibes a smaller amount of mead.

 

June 12th

 

We awake in the morning to be greeted by a dozen or so dented orc helms – FRESHLY dented – resting on the massive table in Beorn's hall, along with breakfast. Beorn enters (back in his man-form, of course) and announces that after some thought – he agreed to send one of his own along with us. He chose Merovech to accompany us, and we are gladdened. We then prepare for the road ahead, and I eagerly look forward to meeting another personality of legend!

 

View
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

 

 

 

View
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.

 

View
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?

View
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

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.