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Into the Depths
Having been knocked unconscious during our struggle to secure the inn, I cannot recount quite what happened until I awoke some time later in chains.

From Drogo’s account, he, the Hound, and Durim, along with the townsfolk in the inn and Rodwin, did their best to stave off the battering of the dead-faced soldiers, but eventually they broke in from the front, rear, and balcony. The soldiers surrounded us, forcing the furious Durim to surrender his axe. They chained us and most of the townspeople together at the wrists and necks.

In the oblivion of unconsciousness I believed I awoke in the late evening. The ruins of Haycomb surrounded me, and Irimë stood before me, contending with the inky shadow that had washed over us before. Her face was the picture of grim determination, but the shadow pulsed and writhed about her as she struggled. Once again my senses fled and darkness overtook me.

When next I awoke I was chained along with all the others, aching and weary. During our own struggles, Drogo had done what little he could to treat my wounds. The red armored soldiers strode through the town, looking for more villagers and chaining the stragglers. Any who resisted were slaughtered in turn. Strangely, those soldiers who had the appearance of corpses were no longer walking amongst us. We sat unmolested for a night and most of the next day. Aldor, Haeleth, Geb and Rodwin were all chained near us. When I mentioned that in my dream I had seen Irimë, Durim grumbled once again about elven magic, but would hear no more of it.

Eventually, the soldiers forced us all to our feet and we began to march south. Their whips cracked in our ears. For all of us weary folk, the march was exhausting. We walked for days. As people stumbled and fell, they were unchained and kicked aside. Aldor, who was old and not well to begin with, soon began coughing and stumbling. Durim did his best to keep our spirits up, but Geb interrupted, whining about how difficult the marching was. After many days of marching, crossing the Alduin and Gladden Fields, we faced the foreboding darkness of the Mirkwood.

Another troop of soldiers marched toward us, from the depths of the forest. In the evening gloom it took some time to see that they were not human soldiers, but orcs. Our captors showed no concern, and when the orc column met us, we were handed over to them with no further ado. The orcs led us further south before turning east, toward the forest. Over the trees we could see a shadowy, tall hilltop, wreathed in smoke and clouds. Dark writhing shapes could sometimes be seen flitting about within the gloomy clouds. The sight struck fear in our hearts as the orcs turned us toward it and into the darkest path we’d ever trod through the Mirkwood.

Trudging through the dark was even more difficult, and while our human captors had treated us mostly with indifference, the orcs prodded us cruelly. When anyone fell, they were promptly killed and dragged away, orcs cheering viciously for another meal. We were led to a dark hole at the base of the hill, and driven inside. The tunnel narrow tunnel led us deep into the mountain. In the dark, I was able to wriggle my hands free from my shackles, and feigning a stumble, picked up a rock. I desperately hoped for an opportunity to sneak away, or free my friends, but none came.

The orcs led us over rough bridges spanning pits of fire, forges, scenes of torture and horror. We were completely surrounded by orcs. Into a torchlit hall we were pushed, freed from our bondage, and shoved into an unlit cell. Our only luck was that we were not split up. Aldor, Haeleth, Geb, and Rodwin were locked into the cell with us. Aldor’s cough had turned to a dry hacking, and I did my best to make him comfortable so that he could rest and hopefully regain his strength.

Many hours passed in that dark hole, perhaps many days. Every now and then the door would swing open and an orc would toss in a basket of moldy bread scraps and a small skin of water. Aldor’s ragged breathing echoed in the darkness until it eventually stopped. Geb, who always scrambled first to the food, sulked and whined. We were all weary to the bone. The cell in which we were locked held no comfort. A shallow pool of caustic water sat in the middle, and the walls were hewn from rough stone, leaving not a single smooth spot to lean against. The darkness permeated all. Only the thinnest line of torchlight leaked in around the solid wooden door. Faint, shrill screams could be heard echoing some distance away. Durim asked Rodwin what she thought might happen.

“I suppose they will either turn us into those walking corpses, to do their bidding. Save that, we will all die and be tossed into orc cookpots.” Disheartened, we stopped talking. More time passed and eventually Aldor’s wheezing ceased. Drogo sang a terribly depressing song and we all felt very sad for the old man.

After another day or so, the door swung open again. This time, the figure of a man stood in the doorway, holding a tray from which wafted the most delicious smells of food. After nearly stumbling over Aldor’s body near the doorway, he backed out again. Moments later, orcs dragged away the corpse and the man entered once again with the food. As he offered up the tray, we scrambled to devour the steaming meat, bread, and fresh fruit. It was the most delicious meal I’d ever tasted.

As we ate, the man spoke. “Weary travelers, my name is Anater. I live here in the wood. I see you are enjoying this fine food. There is no need for you to suffer down here in the dark. Many men, dwarves, and others are in the service of my master, and live in the woods above. If you kneel to him, you may go.” After we’d cleared the tray, he gathered it and left us alone.

“We ought to do like he says,” said Geb with a belch. “I don’t want to stay down here.”

“You fool!” cried Durim. “His master is a foul sorcerer, master of the orcs who’ve held us down here. You cannot trust him.”

“I’m just being practical. We’ll all die down here. What does it matter? I’ll serve whoever.”

Drogo piped up from his seat in the darkness, and told Geb the tale of Feanor, son of Finwe, who was corrupted by the lustre of the Silmarils. Geb saw the danger of corruption and agreed not to swear fealty to this dark “master” above. When Anater returned, we all declined his offer, and he left us alone in the dark once again.

Time passed; perhaps another day. Our stomachs growled again and when the sound of boot steps clapped through the corridor, we anxiously awaited our next meal. The door swung open, and an orc grabbed Durim, who happened to be nearest the door. “The boys need some sport. You’re coming with me.” Durim, who had my rock still in his hand, lunged and bashed the rock into the skull of the orc. The beast staggered under the blow, grabbed Durim’s neck and roared into his face. The orcs behind him had drawn swords. “Stand down, lads. I’ll be all right. This one’s going to the pit.” Swinging a bag over Durim’s head, they dragged him out and banged the door shut behind him.

After an hour or so, orcs returned, flinging an unconscious Durim into a heap in the corner of our cell. One pointed at Haeleth, “You’re next, boy.” Haeleth began to weep quietly, and I tried to inspire him with a story, but he pushed me away with a sob.

Another day or so passed. Durim awoke, and told us his tale. He had faced a troll in some sort of arena, unarmed. It was a miracle he survived at all.

Disheartened, but determined to change our circumstances somehow, I sat near the door to wait for it to open again. When it did, I slipped out during the commotion of the orcs grabbing at a struggling Haeleth and snuck down the corridor. It was lined with closed doors, presumably cells like ours. Down a few turns I passed into a large cavern, full of pits of fire, forges, and corners where orcs whipped slaves to fuel their fires. Screams and grunts echoed through the air. In an abandoned corner, I found a rusty sword and picked it up. I tried to find my way back through the twisting corridors to our cell, though it took quite some time, for all the doors looked alike. I soon saw an orc standing guard outside a door, and thought it might be the cell holding my companions.

In my haste and desperation, I snuck up and attacked the orc guard. The rusty blade glanced off his thick hide, and he thrust his spear at me. I managed to dodge the blow, and hit him true, in the leg. He bellowed a loud alarm, and stabbed me in return. My next blow struck him in the neck and he tumbled to the floor. I could hear the boot steps coming down the hall as I slipped the key ring from his belt and slid back into the shadows up the hall. I knelt in hiding near some other doors as the orcs investigated their fallen comrade, arguing loudly and pushing one another. In the noise, I tried the keys in the door behind me, and after a few tries, one turned in the lock and I swung the door open. I whispered to the folk within that they may be able to get out if they were quiet and snuck across to the next door.

A man ran out of the cell, not at all quietly, and the orcs pursued him around the corner. I rushed back to our door and unlocked it. The screams of the man told of his fate, and the orcs returned just as I swung the door open. Haeleth’s lifeless body had been flung into the foul puddle of water and filth, but I had only noted that sad fact for but a moment when an eerie green light surrounded Rodwin, forming into the shape of a man next to her. A voice rung out from the darkness.

“Do you know what the Noldor witch has done? She could not face me alone, so she brought you here to do the work. She sacrificed you for her own sake.” Rodwin’s face flickered to that of Irimë’s as the green light undulated sickly around her. The body of Haeleth twitched and dragged itself to its feet, in a mockery of life. Its arms hung limply at its sides and its face writhed in a mask of hatred. Terrified, I swung my sword at the boy, and though my blow met flesh he did not react in pain.

I suddenly realized that this creature might hold some knowledge of how to defeat the evil that had brought us here, and to free my friends. I dropped the sword and knelt in submission. “I submit, my lord. Tell me your secrets!”

The green light surged as the Hound lunged for the fallen blade. He buried the blade in Haeleth’s neck with a growl. Durim’s shout rang out, “I would gladly die for fair Irimë!” as he ran into the corridor to face the orcs, Drogo at his heals. The shadowy figure grabbed me and drew me closer to it.

“So be it, share her fate!” shouted the voice. “Despair!”

A dark shadow swept over all of us, and we awoke to find ourselves in the High Pass among the ruins of Haycomb. Irimë lay near us on the ground. Her skin was pale and bloodless, eyes staring blankly into the sky. Durim shook her, but she did not respond. The Hound, after looking her over, said that her body was unharmed, but her spirit was gone.

We sat numbly, wearied from the strange ordeal. Soon a body of elves approached. The elf lord at their head was clad in bright, shining mail. He saw that Irimë was badly hurt and asked us for our tale. With halting speech, Drogo related our terrible story. The elf lords introduced themselves, as Elodon and Elohir, sons of Elrond. They carried Irimë to a horse and departed to take her to Rivendell.

Left with nothing to do but go home, we started off with heavy hearts. We followed the path out of the High Pass, remembering how we had walked this same trail last in chains. We did not begin to shake the dark feeling until we reached the Old Ford and turned north toward home.
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Feb 28 2013 from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Returning to Haycomb
The cold mountain wind whistled through the branches of the huge nest we awoke in. Perched near us was an enormous eagle, pruning its feathers and eyeing us warily. Looking over the edge of the nest, I could see that we were atop a high mountain peak. The foothills and river valley stretched out far below, the dark expanse of the Mirkwood on the eastern horizon. Though all of our party were in the nest, the Hound still lay wounded, though he had regained consciousness. Hurriedly, I treated his wound as best I could.

A sudden gust and loud flapping signaled the arrival of another huge eagle, this greater than the last. A golden crown circled his head.

“Greetings, Lady” he said to Irimë.

“I thank you for heeding my prayers,” she replied.

“It was a grave thing indeed, to see you there in such peril. It is a wonder you all managed to survive. During your rescue my chieftan, Gaerthon, was badly wounded. We have been disturbed much lately by dark powers in the Anduin vales. Something creeps forth from south of the Gladden.”

Durim asked the eagle lord if we might see to the wounded eagle, as repayment for our rescue. “I suppose, if you have a healer among you, it would not hurt to try. Though his wounds are dire.”

The Hound and I, clutched gently by the talons of two eagles, were lifted to another eyrie where the wounded bird lay. Working together, we attempted to remove the spear that had pierced his breast. But after the Hound removed the weapon and I inspected the wound, I could see that a foul poison had taken hold deep in his flesh. The eagle shuddered under my hands as his life left him.

With heavy hearts we were carried back to the other nest. Irimë suggested we take advantage of our safe haven to rest and care for our own wounds. We heartily agreed and settled down to do just that. The following day the eagles allowed us to climb atop them, and carried us down to a familiar place in the High Pass: the ruins of the town we had passed on our first crossing. Durim hesitated, recalling the wraith that had attacked us on our earlier visit, but Irimë insisted it was the place where the sons of Elrond would be meeting her.

In her soft and wistful way, she recalled that she had visited this town in its prime. The town had been called Haycomb, and a great market had drawn visitors from distant lands. Darkness befell the town, she said, and it was long since abandoned.

I asked her why the orcs had been hunting her. She replied that there were forces of darkness that feed upon sorrow. “The forces of shadow want to destroy my kind, though I know not their reasons,” she said solemnly.

We waited there in the ruins for some time. Drogo readied dinner while Durim studied the stonework and the Hound and I kept a wary eye out for trouble. Irimë wandered about the ruins, humming quietly to herself and looking sad. Though dusk was gathering around us, a soft glow reflected off Irimë.

A strange, oily chill traveled over my skin and I knew something was wrong. I hopped up, startled, and looked toward Irimë. An inky shadow surrounded her, and she looked at it with fear and surprise. I ran toward her, the Hound and Canna at my side. I only made it a few steps toward her before the strange shadow had enveloped her completely, her face aghast. The darkness swept toward us and washed over us.

~~ ~~~ ~~ ~~~ ~~

Sitting up, we saw that the dusk that had surrounded us before the strange shadow overtook us had been replaced by bright, mid-day sun. The ruins where Irimë had been standing were now a bustling town, with rooftops peeking out over a high wooden wall and the sounds of commerce drifting through the open gates.

Irimë was nowhere to be seen.

Picking ourselves up, we felt strangely refreshed, as if we’d had weeks of rest. Curiously, we wandered into the village. Men and women carried about their lives and business, children scampered about the streets in play. The people here were fair-haired, much like the Woodmen, and all about us were the trappings of horses: many stables, leather-workers, farriers, and the like.

A group of children gathered around us, commenting happily on our size. Drogo introduced himself, and the Hound asked one of the older children if he’d seen a lady elf about town. The child thought for a moment and then said, “Oh, yes! I saw a lady elf at the ale house. At the Fallen Goat! I’ll take you there!”

We followed the boy to the Fallen Goat, as he chattered excitedly to the Hound. “My name’s Haeleth, sir. Do you need a squire? My father’s the captain of the guard, I know all about squiring. He’s been gone for a while. He went with south with the Alderman and the others. I could help you out, if you need a squire. Sharpen your axe, saddle your horse… do you have a horse? That’s an awful big dog! Does she bite? I could feed her and brush her, too, if you needed me to. I’d have to ask father, of course, but I’m sure he’d say ‘yes.’ He’s always saying I need to find something to keep myself busy. I sure wish he’d come back soon. Ah, here we are, the Fallen Goat!”

We approached a sturdy building, with a sign above the door depicting a goat tumbling off a mountainside. Through the doorway brought us into a room with a few tables, a warmly burning fireplace, and a bar at the far end of the room. A man idly strumming a lute sat with his feet propped at a table near the fireplace, and a hooded figure sat at the bar.

Durim and the Hound walked to the bar and were warmly welcomed by the bartender. I asked him for a mug of ale, and he mentioned seeing a group of hobbits not long ago. The Hound addressed the hooded figure, and as she turned to face him, we could see that it was indeed a lady elf. She introduced herself as Rodwin, and when asked if she knew of Irimë, she said she did not.

The barkeep, Aldor told us quite a bit about the town, Haycomb. The local lord, Heäfod had gone south with the Alderman, Captain of the Guard, and a company of soldiers. There had been dark tidings from somewhere in the southern Mirkwood, tales of sorcery and evil. The Hound asked Rodwin if she knew what year it was, but she did not know how men keep reckoning of the years.

I spoke briefly with Geb, the man strumming the lute, and gave him a coin to sing. After his song, his leering innuendos put me off talking to him anymore. Gathering among ourselves, we discussed the strange situation in which we now found ourselves. Durim felt pessimistic about the town, and worried about the tale Irimë had told of it.

Haleth, who’d been loitering around the doorway, gave a sudden shout. The Alderman and company had returned to town. Drogo flung the door open, but an enormous crowd of people were already gathered and pressed against the building. Only I was small enough to squeeze through the crowd. The column of troops was led by a man in armor atop a painted gold wagon. Following the local soldiers was another company of soldiers in strange red armor. I had an immediate aversion to the soldiers and a deep sense of dread. I dashed back to the alehouse just as the Alderman shouted his return and the soldiers began to attack the townsfolk.

Drogo slammed the door behind me and barricaded it. Aldor led Durim upstairs to a balcony to overlook the square. Durim leapt from the balcony into the fray below, in a desperate attempt to defend the folk being massacred. Aldor told us there was a back door, and the three of us ran toward it, but found only more soldiers outside. The Hound attacked and we could that the faces under their helms were like those of corpses, withered and dead. I ran back to the hearth to grab a flaming log from the fire, and holding it gingerly, I swung it at the soldiers.

Outside Durim fought furiously, the dead-like soldiers barely slowed by his blows. Durim chopped the wheel from a wagon, sending it toppling onto the soldiers he faced, allowing him momentary escape. He ran around the back of the alehouse to where we were fighting with more soldiers.

We managed to fend them off just enough for Durim to get back into the building. “We need to leave now!” Durim cried. But we could see no means of escaping this terrible nightmare.
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Feb 21 2013 from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Epic × 2!
The Lady Irimë
We rested briefly at the Easterly Inn, enjoying the Shire beer and friendly faces of my family and the occasional traveler. The battle had taken its toll on me, and when asked to join Uncle Dindy on a journey to the Shire, I could not have accepted more readily. We joined a small caravan of men travelling over the Mountains of Mist, hoping that a larger group would not be as easy targets to the orcs and goblins. Our journeys there and back were uneventful; our time in the Shire restful and reinvigorating. It was good to be back. I spent much time relating stories from across the land.

Uncle and I returned to the Easterly Inn as summer drew to a close. My friends had once again gathered there. Durim had traveled to his home in Erebor over the summer. As tale had spread there of his accomplishments and heroism, he was presented with the Shield of Borin, his great- great-grandfather who was brother to Dain, the last King of Durin's Folk. He spent some time at the forge with his cousin Thrim's apprentice, a young Barding from Dale.

The days were growing shorter and the air cooler, and one day a Beorning man arrived at the inn. He had a message for us from Grimbeorn himself. He introduced himself as Hildebald, and told us that Grimbeorn asked that we investigate tales of orc sightings in the northern Mirkwood. Durim asked Hildebald how things fared over the summer in Beorning. The people had rebuilt Bowen’s Field, but Stonyford remained abandoned and pillaged. They had not discovered from whence the bandits had come, and with the death of Valter they had all but disappeared. We agreed to head up to the Mirkwood to look for signs or tales of orcs and return to report as soon as we could.

We set out in the morning, after second breakfast, heading north through the valley of the great river. After traveling for four days, we reached the Forest Gate. Mirkwood loomed, dark and wild, some distance to the east. Though the afternoon was turning to evening, the Hound insisted that we begin to hunt for orc signs. Canna led the Hound to the forest edge, where they found large boot tracks near a small stream. A large party had recently passed, the Hound told us. Drogo searched nearby and found small trees that had been hacked to bits, for no apparent reason.

As we studied the trees and discussed our next step, we suddenly became aware that we were not alone. Looking about, it was clear to us that we were, in fact, surrounded by nearly a dozen elves. Arrows nocked and bows drawn, the gazed at us with wary eyes.

Durim found his voice first, and gave a rousing introduction, explaining that we were seeking signs of orcs in this region. The elves did not seem impressed, and did not lower their bows. One stepped forward, “Yes. Orcs. Well, we’ve also been hunting orcs. And they’ve been hunting us.” He then questioned us about the land west of the Mirkwood. He asked after the condition of the roads and if we’d come across any trouble. Durim asked why they might step out of their mirky home and head into the valley.

“Powerful orcs from Mordor have come out of the heart of Mirkwood. We shall not allow them to live,” spoke the elf.

As he spoke, my attention was drawn by some movement in the shadows over his shoulder. From the edge of the wood stepped two more elves: a woman, clad in shimmering silver and white, and a man in the deep greens of the forest. They conferred in hushed tones, and I caught only hints of a musical language I had not heard before. The Lady’s gaze bore into me, as if she were looking through me. After a moment, the elf lord nodded to his companion and moved toward our group. His step was more graceful than that of even the elves who had us surrounded, not a leaf or blade of grass was disturbed by his passing. Above his shoulders rose the bone-handled hilts of two swords, and an elegantly carved bow of dark wood.

“I am Legolas of the Woodland Realm. I greet you in peace.”

The four of us were so befuddled by his sudden appearance that we made utter fools of ourselves, trying to introduce ourselves in turn. Legolas turned back to the lady behind him with a questioning glance, and she nodded solemnly.

“As Galion has said, there are orcs in this land that must be found and dealt with. The Lady Irimë requests that you escort her west, to the High Pass in the Hithaeglir. The Lady travels to Imlardis, in the hidden valley, known to you as Rivendell. Elrond will send a party to meet you in the High Pass to take the Lady there. Her safety is of utmost importance. We will continue to hunt these orcs and the Lady will accompany you southward. Do you accept?”

Durim replied, “Why has the lady chosen us? Though we are friendly and sympathetic to your cause, we are unknown to you, and you to us.”

“I do not know why the Lady asks for your escort. However she insists, and we must see to this orc intrusion. You will go in the morning.”

“Ah, well, we have other obligations that we must attend to. I’m not certain that we….” Durim began.

“The Lady insists that she accompany you, and that you take her to the High Pass. You will go in the morning,” Legolas repeated.

Cowed, we finally accepted the task and the elves led us through the wood to a moonlit clearing. A table at the center of the clearing was covered with all sorts of delicate food and the elves invited us to sit and dine. During the meal, Durim stood to recite a poem he’d been composing. It was not well received, and the elves looked at him in silence until he sat down in embarrassment.

I asked the fellow next to me how many orcs were nearby. He told me that Legolas believed the orc band to be stragglers from the Battle of Five Armies. The havoc and destruction they spread through the Mirkwood needs stopping, and Legolas is anxious to be about the task.

After we’d had our fill, we settled down to rest. The elves struck up a lovely, haunting song and I quickly drifted to sleep. We awoke to daylight filtering softly through the heavy boughs of the Mirkwood. The glade was quiet, but for the chirping of birds. The elves had disappeared, all but Lady Irimë. Now she was clad in the hushed greens and browns of travel wear. Delicate silver bracelets adorned her wrists, and a brightly sparkling silver ring flashed on her hand. Approaching her, I introduced myself.

“Lady Irimë, I am Poppy Brandybuck, a hobbit of the Shire. Very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Ah, it has been quite some time since I met with one of the periando. Your people are always full of surprises. I thank you for accepting my company as we travel to the west.” Her voice was soft and sorrowful, and as she spoke her gaze drifted from my face to some distance behind me.

“I cannot help but wonder, my Lady, why you’ve chosen to travel with us at all.”

“I cannot say more than that I see about you images of greatness and tragedy. Our fates are intertwined.”

“Hm, ah yes. Well, be that as it may, I must tell you that we are already on an errand and we must stop at the House of Beorn on our way south to the Forest Road. It should not take us more than a day or so, but we have an obligation that we must meet. You see, he is the one who asked us to travel here to see about the orcs in these parts, and we must tell him that the tales were right, and that Legolas and the others are on their trail.”

“Who is Beorn?” asked the Lady.

“He is the leader of the men who live in the area near the Old Forest Road, between the Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. He is a man of noble spirit, and a fierce warrior. We fought at his side in the springtime, at the Battle of Bowen’s Field, to protect the peaceful village folk from a large band of raiders and wicked men. He does what he can to keep the land free and safe for travel.”

“I have known men like Beorn in the past. Long ago were days when man and elf lived alongside each other in peace. Though I fear that traveling to his house may take us farther from the path than you suspect.”

My companions then introduced themselves to Irimë, in turn, and we gathered our things and set out. As we stepped out of the shade of the wood we found ourselves on familiar ground, for but a short walk south brought us right to the Old Forest Road. Somehow, during the previous evening or night, we had traveled the distance of a three or four day walk. Stunned, it took us a moment to get our bearings, but the Hound was certain that we were indeed on the Old Forest Road and should continue west to the Old Ford. We would not be able to reach Beorn’s House without adding another two or three days on to our journey. Durim, muttering under his breath about elf magic, agreed that we must carry on.

We walked for two days to reach the Old Ford. Irimë was mostly quiet during our journey, though she would occasionally speak softly of the history of the land. Upon reaching the Old Ford, she recalled the bridge that once spanned the Anduin, built by dwarves. She spoke of great armies that once crossed the bridge, led by Gil-galad with his glittering spear. Later that evening, Irimë sang a sorrowful song of lost Beleriand, which sank beneath the waves.

We crossed the river, and walked for two more days through the valley toward the foothills of the mountains. Looking behind us at one point, I saw the glimmer of several camp fires at some distance. Irimë did not give any clue as to who might follow us, but the lights put us all on edge.

Further into the pass we climbed. The Hound spotted a band of orcs on the trail, and Drogo found a path around them. The craggy road, littered with broken paving stones, did not offer much in the way of cover, and as we snuck around them we realized that there were orcs behind us as well as ahead of us.

Durim hurriedly sought out higher ground, and we climbed to a rocky precipice. Durim and the Hound took the front line to block the narrow ledge, and Drogo and I took up the rear, with Lady Irimë behind us.

The orcs had found our trail and followed us to the bluff, nearly fifty in total. Behind us, Irimë began singing in a high, keening tone. Her song was full of grief and bitterness. The orcs began to howl with rage to drown out her voice. A large orc pushed to the front of the pack, shouting, “Give us the elf and the rest of you can go.”

The Hound growled in response, lifting Wolfbiter in challenge.

“The Naugrim will never falter against the Shadow!” cried Durim.

“Then tonight we dine well!” the orc shouted as he charged. As the orc horde washed over us, Irimë lifted her hand, her glittering ring shining as brightly as the sun for a moment. The orcs shrank back with hesitation, but as the light dimmed they rushed at us once more.

The fight was short and bloody. Though our blades and arrows felled a few of our enemies, we were soon overcome. The Hound was badly wounded during the fight, and soon I was knocked unconscious.
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Feb 14 2013 from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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The Battle of Bowen's Field
Dawn broke to the bustling sounds of Beornings readying themselves for their journey to battle. Grimbeorn, son of Beorn, stood in the center of the yard, shouting orders in his booming voice. “Ready yourselves, kinsmen! We ride to battle!”

Feeling somewhat restless ourselves, and wanting to assist these fine folk in defending the villagers, Durim, The Hound, Drogo and I decided it would be best to ride along and lend our limited knowledge and talents. There were about thirty Beorning men in the column heading south, amongst them Wiliferd, the young warrior of Stonyford, and Helmgut, Oderic’s father. Helmgut clutched his wineskin tightly, and as we marched toward danger it never seemed to leave his side.

Grimbeorn called Durim to his tent as camp settled at the end of the first day’s march. “Though I do not know you or your companions, my father has advised me to use your knowledge and talents on this quest. But let it be known, our goal on this mission is first to defend any villagers, to take this Valter the Bloody, dead or alive, and to capture Oderic alive, that he may be judged at the Carrock of Beorn.”

“Then this is a noble quest,” Durim replied somberly. “We shall aid you in whatever way we can. The encampment was a grim sight, full of warriors, with many good folk captured and enslaved. We would gladly rid the land of this Valter, and see justice done.”



The following morning, The Hound scouted ahead of the column, all but disappearing in the tall grass ahead of us. On the horizon ahead appeared a dark, oddly shaped cloud. It grew quickly, undulating in the sky. Soon it was close enough to see that the cloud was in fact a great flock of black birds. Fear grew in our hearts as the flock swooped low over our heads, sending men, hobbits, and dwarf diving to the ground and running in fear. As they passed over our band, Grimbeorn stood and bellowed, “Fear not Beornings! We must be brave in the face of dark omens. We march!”

Though clearly shaken, we gathered ourselves and braced our spirits, marching south once again. The Hound, Canna fast at his heels, met us along the way. “Those black birds,” he said to Grimbeorn, “they were the Crebain, servants of the Shadow. Used as spies by dark forces. I sense something foul afoot. We should be wary.”

“Indeed,” said Grimbeorn, “your scouting and knowledge of these things is useful. I would ask that you continue, and send back tidings of any signs of trouble you might see. I will send out scouts of my own as well, but your keen eyes may see what others miss.”

On the third day, I joined The Hound on his scouting mission. We crept through the tall grass and soon came upon signs that a large party had passed this way. The trodden grass belied a large force of men, who had been heading north, but turned at the crossroad and marched east, toward the dark forest Mirkwood. I scurried back to Grimbeorn and made my report.

Gathering Durim and a few of the Beorning warriors around him, Grimbeorn quickly scanned the map he pulled from his pack. “It is well done that you found these tracks. It appears that they are heading toward Bowen’s Field, a small hamlet to the east. We must hurry, for the people there have no defenses.” Standing, Grimbeorn called out, “We march with haste, kinsmen!” and the Beorning party settled into a quick jog. Shouldering my own gear, it was all I could do to keep up.

Shortly we smelled smoke on the air and came upon a farm, the house set afire and the animals slaughtered in the field. Fixed to the side of the barn, in a grisly display, was poor Geral the farmer, studded with arrows. Geral’s dead eyes stared out of a face twisted in fear.

Grimbeorn’s countenance changed from determination to anger, as he rushed over the next ridge with the Beorning company at his back. Hearing shouts and the clanging of metal, we steeled ourselves for the fight. Durim charged ahead, in the midst of Beorning warriors, his axe gripped tightly in his fists. Drogo held back with several other archers. The Hound and I skirted to the side, looking for villagers in need of help. The battle was a frenzy of shouting, smoke and the clash of metal. We faced nearly fifty raiders, who were well warned by the battle cries of the charging Beornings. Wiliferd, his face painted with fear, held his sword white-knuckled as he faced his first foes. Helmgut clutched his own two-handed axe with practiced ease, and as he took down his first enemy the haze seemed to clear from his eyes and he stood taller, rushing into the thick of battle.



The sounds of children crying perked my ears as the Hound and I rounded a corner to see a family huddled against the side of a burning barn. Seeing the defenseless family clutching each other in fear, two of the bandits sought to claim their lives. The Hound and I attacked. Canna growled and snapped at the bandits while I stepped between them and the family. “Run!” I cried to them, “back that way! Run to safety.”

“Ah, little girl!” growled one of the bandits. “I’ll take that tiny sword ye got and stick ye with it!” He swiped at me as I rolled to the side and my short sword slashed out, cutting into his leg. He fell to the ground with a cry and I jumped up, smashing the hilt of my blade into his face. He went out. The second bandit, struggling against Canna’s fierce bites, stumbled and fell to his knees in the dirt. The Hound knocked him out as well, and we turned to the trembling villagers. “Run, I said! Don’t just huddle here and die! Save your children.”

They nodded, their fear fading. Clutching at their children, they ran to safety behind the band of Beorning warriors. In the village’s center, Durim flung himself between Grimbeorn and three bandits. Lunging from one to the next, he took their blows valiantly, defending Grimbeorn so that he could lead his men. Beornings surrounded the group, and with great shouts they smashed against their foes. Grimbeorn nodded thanks to Durim and bellowed another rallying cry, his axe held high.

Though the course of the battle bode well for the Beornings, we wearied under the vicious attacks of the raiders. From the rear, Drogo and the other archers’ arrows rained into the battlefield, striking the bandits and slowing them.

The Hound, snarling in fury, faced a small band of raiders. As he raised Wolfbiter to strike, the men quailed in fear and broke, running for the distant tree line. I snuck through the village, flitting from shadow to shadow, seeking out Oderic. I saw him, fending off two Beorning warriors. He fought with grace, and while he parried their blows easily, he did not strike to hit them in return.

“Oderic!” I cried to him. “Surrender and throw down your sword. This is not the way! Your father is on the battle field. Will you let him see his son die like a coward, rather than face Beorn’s justice like a man?”

The tide of the battle had turned, however, and the Beorning band was flagging. The Hound was struck a nasty blow and fell to the ground. Durim, who had suffered much in his defense of Grimbeorn, also fell. Drogo ran to his side to prevent further attack on his fallen comrade. A commotion began near the rear of the field, and a grim chant started up amongst the Beorning warriors, growing louder with each shout: “Beorn. Beorn. Beorn! BEORN!”

His claws a blur, Beorn took to the battlefield in the form of an enormous black bear, tearing through the bandit raiders like nothing I’d ever seen. He flew through his foes, and the battle broke as men began to flee in fear. The Hound and Durim, regaining consciousness and finding their feet, noted Valter, Oderic and two other bandit men running off the field. We pursued, shouting for aid.

As we caught up to them, the miscreants turned to face us with their weapons at the ready. Tears streaked down Oderic’s dirty face. Valter laughed menacingly, his face awash with arrogance.

“Oderic, son of Helmgut!” shouted Durim. “Now is the time to prove if your heart is noble or corrupt!” Oderic faltered, his arms dropped to his sides in defeat. His sword, which had been swung with skill, slipped from his grasp and stuck quivering in the dirt at his feet. With a strangled gasp, Oderic looked down at himself in surprise as the blade of his companion’s spear jutted through his chest, thrust from behind his back. “What have I done?” Oderic gurgled as his life’s blood spilled from the wound.

“Coward,” muttered the bandit, leaving the spear jutting from Oderic as he drew another blade.

“Faron, kill the dwarf. You, take the hobbits,” Valter ordered with a laugh. The bandits lunged. Durim reacted quickly, burying his axe in the belly of the one called Faron, who crumpled to the ground in a heap. Valter’s sword flashed in an attack on the Hound, hitting him and knocking him to one knee. Durim’s axe whirred through the air, bashing into the head of the third villain, who collapsed in the dirt with a grunt. Valter, facing the four of us alone, swung once more at The Hound, who fell to the blow. In desperation, I hurled myself at Valter’s feet, allowing Durim to strike, but Valter deflected the blow easily. Valter, laughing, kicked me to the side and I blacked out.

Though I came to moments later, I was too dazed to get to my feet. Drogo had drawn his sword and hurled himself between Durim and Valter, but was tossed aside as I had been. Durim, with a mighty shout, swung his axe high and smashed the flat of the blade against his head. Valter’s knees buckled and he fell to the ground, unconscious.

Quiet fell around us, as our fight was the last of the battle. The Beornings were tending to the wounded and securing the villagers. We tended to ourselves and Grimbeorn tied Valter, hand and foot.

Durim searched through Valter’s belongings, uncovering a cloth sack out of which tumbled a withered human head. The gray skin pulled tightly over bone belied a long dead relic. A rusted iron band circled its crown. Durim nudged it over to The Hound with a booted foot. “What do you suppose this is, friend?”

The Hound shook the last daze from his eyes and looked over the ghastly thing at his feet. “I’ve heard of such a thing. Some dark force has enchanted this, to carry his orders over great distance. It is an evil thing, and should be destroyed.”

Striding up, Grimbeorn agreed. “Indeed, it is a treacherous thing. Do what you must to see it destroyed.” With one blow from Wolfbiter, the head crumbled into dust.

Durim, turning to Grimbeorn, spoke. “I am sorry that we could not recover Oderic alive. It seemed as though he might surrender, but these criminals stabbed him in the back.”

“Friend dwarf, this battle was well fought. Perhaps Oderic found the justice he deserved, after all. We shall take this Valter back to the Carrock where he will meet his doom.”

As we worked our way through the town, looking for villagers and wounded warriors we came upon Wiliferd, whose tunic was soaked in the blood of his enemies. The fear had left him, and he strode through the camp as if hunting for more foes. In a mill near the center of town we found a mother and her two small children kneeling over the body of Helmgut. They told us how he died, defending them to his last breath from three bandits. Calling for assistance, we collected him to be buried with a hero’s honors.

Once the dead were buried and the villagers secure, our band made its way back to the House of Beorn. There, we feasted once again in celebration of our victory, toasting the honored dead. Grimbeorn gave us each a small pouch of silver as a reward for hunting down Oderic. For his valor on the battlefield, he awarded Durim with a bejeweled axe belt. Ava, having heard a tale of my rescuing the villagers, rewarded me with another hefty purse of coin. That evening was spent with rousing songs, and tales regaled of the Battle of Bowen’s Field, and in the morning our small party departed for the Easterly Inn to rest.
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Feb 07 2013 from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Epic × 2!
Beorn's Quest (part two)
Since we had followed Oderic's tracks to the village, we decided to talk to the people he might have returned to to see if he was still hiding somewhere nearby. When we entered Helmgut's hovel and tried to extract any details from him, he was despondent and lost in drink, so we left. Then we asked around where we might find Brunhild, Rathfic's wife, and were directed to the burial mounds outside town where she crouched in silent vigil.



Poppy gained her confidence and the girl admitted that Oderic had visited her a few days ago, and told her of his flight from the orcs. She attested that Oderic had killed Rathfic by accident, and that Rathfic had been the one to draw the knife while the two men argued. Durim argued that by evading Beorn's justice, the man had all but damned himself, but if he could be returned to the Carrock to face justice, he just might be spared.

The brash young man had reportedly left to head west, across the river, and so that is where our trail led next. One of the boats had been stolen; we found it abandoned on the opposite shore, a few miles downstream.

The Hound tracked him relentlessly, until we found ourselves near the Gladden Fields, and woods where wicked men were said to live. At the remains of a camp, we found splinters of a broken shield and the riven haft of a spear. The Hound determined that one man had been set upon by many and a struggle had ensued--apparently, our quarry had been snared by someone else!

It was easier to follow the trail of many men, which had headed directly into the woods. The Hound, followed by the sneaky hobbits, crept into the forest to scout ahead. After a few minutes, Durim followed, noting a wisp of smoke on the horizon that suggested an encampment might be found nearby.

Poppy and Drogo soon outdistanced the Hound, who was being more cautious. The hobbits were trying so hard to remain quiet they forgot to listen, and didn't noticed a group of sentries until they were nearly on top of them! Four men of dangerous countenance were stalking carefully through the wood, one of whom glimpsed the hobbits out of the corner of his eye and quickly looked toward them. Poppy disappeared into the underbrush and Drogo froze, relatively unobscured on a deer-path. Poppy threw a rock, distracting the men enough for Drogo to crawl away, but alerting them that something was amiss.

Drogo retreated far enough to come across the Hound, and explained the situation in a whisper. As they wondered whether to wait it out (gleaning some information by watching them) or try to go around, Poppy recklessly threw a rock at them, capturing their full attention. The Hound stepped up boldly and charged into battle with Canna at his side.

Two men armed with bows aimed for the hobbits while The Hound threatened the others with his steel. Durim came running, having heard the commotion, and immediately hit the dirt as an arrow sailed past him. He stood and faced his attacker, trying to rally his companions, but the battle was almost won already; the Poppy and the Hound had dealt with their men and Drogo fired an arrow through the neck of one of the archers, killing him instantly. The fourth man tried to flee but was run down by Canna and The Hound.

When the three surviving men had been restrained, we considered our options. It could be hours before our prisoners woke to be interrogated, and by then their camp might notice their disappearance. So the Hound decided to scout further, followed again by Poppy (to his chagrin), while Durim and Drogo sat quietly in the wood, awaiting the inevitable sounds of battle.

The Hound made his way to the wicked men's camp, and was surprised to see that it was even larger than the village of Stonyford. The camp consisted of perhaps a hundred people, including women and children, many of whom were clearly slaves. So the men were slavers who had been press-ganging innocent people! That seemed to explain what had happened to Oderic. But as he scanned the encampment from the vantage point of a tall tree at the outskirts of the clearing, the Hound saw a young man who must be Oderic, sword in hand, consulting with the apparent leader of the bandits! Stunned by this revelation, but only just, the woodman made a quick estimate of how many armed men there were in the camp (approximately 40!) and returned to the others to share what he had learned.

Durim supposed Oderic had impressed the slavers with his steel--overlooking that the young man might have been in league with them for months. Regardless, a frontal assault would be suicide, and it was clear that there was no easy way to sneak into the encampment and confront the boy, and no guarantee he would leave peaceably if we were to somehow manage it.

When the captured sentries awoke, we got what we could from them. They knew Oderic but didn't trust him. Their leader, a fearsome man named Valter the Bloody, apparently had been learning what he could about Oderic's home. Our captives didn't know what their next raid target was, but it sounded like they were getting ready to set out the next morning.

It appeared that Stonyford was in danger! We set out quickly, and kept a hurried pace to get to the village as soon as we could. We told them of the danger to the town, and implored them to leave, and come with us to the safety of Beorn's house. Helmgut refused to leave until The Hound, with shadow in his heart, threatened to feed the old man to his dog, piece by piece. By the end of the morning the townsfolk had gathered what they could and had started the slow trek to Beorn's house. And none to soon--on the morning of the second day, a column of smoke rose behind them, portending the destruction of the village. Durim likened it to the plight of the Dwarves of Erebor, and as such, lightened the spirits of many of the villagers; for Beorn would surely rout the bandits, and there would be no dragon awaiting them when they returned home.

After a few more days we arrived at Beorn's house with our refugees in tow. Hearing of the bandit army, Beorn became fierce, and not many hours later a fighting force began to assemble. "We ride out in the morning! To Battle!"
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Jan 31 2013 from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Tags: bandits , Beorn
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The One Ring (1st)
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