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 - Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Epic × 2!