Govadmiluin Sarianu

​So here they were in northern Rhudaur. Further north, Mhulo could make out the Ettenmoors, and the Coldfells to his east. Memories returning, he lifted his armored gauntlet to rest on his chest plate, still feeling the Orcish sword that had somehow penetrated his defenses that day, tearing into the upper torso near his shoulder. Aiwendil, the Brown Wizard, had worked miraculously to mend his ailments, and here Mhulo stood this eve- awaiting the company of Men that sought him.

Though the sun was still setting, the moon was already visible in the eastern skies. Amber and violet hues danced across the heavens, and pinholes of light that were the stars had just begun to make their nightly appearance. Soft, warm winds lifted the limbs of the scattered woodlands surrounding Mhulo and company, creating a distant rustle that reminded the dwarves of an ocean break.

The rock formation they inhabited was an arch of stone, and steps had been carved onto the ascending sides that led to the flat platform at its apex- which is where Mhulo took his watch. Patches of green weeds and sparse grass sprouted here and there through the cracks in the mineral, as father time had settled the conglomeration into the soft dirt. Govadmiluin Sarianu was its namesake, Mhulo believed. The letter he had received from the Gondorians, delivered to him by Cooper the Dunedain Ranger, had stated as much.

For the time being, it seemed as if the letter was accurate- Thalrir, the newest member of their battle company, keenly spotted a throng of armored figures eastward making their way to the stone arch, and gave alert. Soon enough, the Tree of Gondor could be seen enameled across the broad shields of the foremost warriors as they made their approach. Mhulo counted nine men, one of them mounted, and two of them were carrying what looked to be a heavy crate between them- his heart skipped a beat.

So it was true…Torvim shall be pleased indeed.

From the throng of visitors came a deep voice, and Mhulo discovered it belonged to the mounted warrior Ondoher, their leader as described in the letter.

“To be sure, I did not believe you’d have arrived so soon Master Dwarf. It is good to see friends in these cursed parts indeed!” exclaimed the man, dismounting his steed.

“We Dwarves are natural sprinters, dangerous over short distances! A few breaks were had along the way, however.” chimed Duk. Some chuckles rumbled through Mhulo’s company at the jest.

“Well met, Gondorian.” Came Mhulo’s meted reply, hand on his sword belt. “It seems we have crossed paths most fortunately. If all you say is true, you and your men have done a favor large to the folk of Durin’s lineage.”

The Gondorians approached, and the setting sun gave a muted glow to the steel they bore across their engraved bosoms. A few were covered by cloaks, rangers perhaps? Nasek leapt his goat down from the steps onto the rocky dirt below and dismounted, his mount’s hooves *clopping*. Ondoher’s mouth gaped briefly at the sight of such an animal, incredulous, but was shortly able to compose himself.

Two of the men ascended the rocky base and laid the Dwarven chest beneath the bridge. Mhulo descended the stairs of the archway to lay eyes on the contents of the chest.

“It was most favorable that my Lord Beren got word of it!” stated Ondoher. “Assuredly, we would be more than happy to pass on these relics to you folk of the Iron Hills. They are of gorgeous make, indeed, even more beautiful than we could have ever guessed in the South. We’ve had such little dealings with Dwarves ourselves, forgive our manner.”

“Aye, and for good reason, meaning no offence. Our people are most solitary. Now, our Loremaster sent us leagues from home for such a gift. Let’s see what that gift be…”

Duk and Dolvin followed Mhulo, shields slung, and even Nasek’s curiosity could not be sated. Speaking in Khuzdul, the three quietly and excitedly conversed as their leader opened the crate, and removed the contents within. Nasek’s war goat bleated, hopping back up the archway to feed on a patch of green leaf.

“By the beards of the Old…” whispered Mhulo.

A cloak of impeccable make fell like water over Mhulo’s armored hands. A brilliant blue the color of the Great Sea shimmered and shone, the cloth soft as a newborn calf. Furs lined the rim and shoulders of the cape, but all such features were simple compared to what appeared suddenly on the back-

As Mhulo stood to measure the cloak, holding it out before him, there shone a beam of starlight from the skies lighting up the cloth and showing its true nature. Silver lines grew along its face, crawling and curving until the final embroidery was revealed- a vast and intricate family tree that went all the way back to a single name at the top.

“Durin the Deathless!” exclaimed Dolvin. “Aye these Gondorians deserve a round of ale on our coin, at least. Kingly make, suppose it could be from the reign of Brilo the Blue?”

Nearly breathless from wonder, Mhulo took great care and handed the cloth to Duk, who stood motionless and quiet, seemingly afraid he would scare the cloak away simply by looking at it. Mhulo reached further into the chest and withdrew the final contents.

A set of three bound, leather tomes revealed themselves, plated in dark iron and bejeweled with dazzling sapphires in the spines. Shining Dwarvish runes framed the bound books, and they were all locked.

“Indeed, these are work for the Loremaster.” Mhulo said softly.

Placing his hand on the front of the first reader, Mhulo closed his eyes and meditated shortly. After a minute or two, when the Men of the West begun to murmur in the background, Ondoher silenced them curtly, and Mhulo finished his musings. Nasek had climbed back to the stairs of the bridge, shouting in Khuzdul, as his goat was curiously approaching the Gondorian warhorse, causing a ruckus. Nasek wrestled his goat away from the bystanders and remounted.

“Ondoher, my friend, wordless I stand.” Mhulo spoke as he approached the man.

Mhulo reached out to Ondoher and together the leaders clasped forearms, a show of solidarity and brotherhood.

“Indebted to your cause, we Dwarves of Durin be, leader of these free folk. These gifts will further enrich our history and culture, cementing an alliance between our people. Where we failed in our mission to retrieve these artifacts of old, you were victorious. How would you have us repay such a gift?” Offered Mhulo.

With a wide wave of his arm, Ondoher motioned towards one of his men.

“Mablung! Quick, lad.”

The warrior stepped forward, spear in one hand, shield in the other.

“This is the man to whom you owe gratitude, Master Dwarf. He went to grievous lengths to retrieve what you sought, and here we stand. He was mighty valorous in fighting off many a servant of evil, and to that end, he is your hero.” praised Ondoher. “Otherwise, simply provide what aid you can to our Northern kin.”

Mhulo looked over the boy (compared to the Dwarves, he was young at least).

“Ne’er a finer example of bravery in the face of such adversity, I’m sure.” beamed Mhulo. “Mablung, a noble name indeed. You are forever welcome in the halls of our people young pup. Mead or meat, gold or glory- If you seek it, I will lay myself down to ensure you have it. Nasek! To me! Reach into that saddle bag of yours, I wish to reward this man in the moment”

The war goat bleated as Nasek spurred it forward, still munching on some grass it had found earlier. Mablung stood tall, chest out- he was clearly flushed, but proud he was indeed. Mhulo reached into the saddle bag and pulled out a scabbard, flourishing the fine blade then sheathed it.

“Here my boy. This is no broad sword by your folks standards, but the smiths at home in the Iron Hills rival all those across the land. This should be by your side for as long as you wish, a reminder of how you’ve done us a great service. A good short sword it will make for you.” offered Mhulo.

Mablung bowed and took the sword graciously, with a smile as wide as the River Running.
“Many thanks, my lord.” replied Mablung.

“Songs will be sung of you Mablung. You are a hero to our people.” ended Mhulo.

And with that, the Dwarves of Mhulo’s company and the Men of Gondor set watch as their leaders pulled together privately. Gaieties aside, plans needed made, for there were evil winds stirring behind every hill and every bush.

The Govadmiluin Sarianu- Brigade of the White City

The chest that the Men of Minas Tirith had found contained items the like of which  they had never expected to see. The halls of the Descendants of Numenor had not been graced by that of the Sons of Durin as long as any of them could remember, nor did any of them know a time when Dwarves had graced the land of Gondor with their presence. The moonlight shone as they beheld the master craftsmanship of the ancient dwarves.

Ondoher reached in and with a bit of a struggle was able to pullout a large bundle of blue cloth. A soft, rich material  of blue, the make of which had not been seen in the lands of Men. With the bundle removed from the chest, the moonlight was able to shine down more directly, and that is when the true dwarfish nature was reveled.

“Bless me,” declared Hurin. “Is that Ithildin magic?”

“I don’t know of any other type of magic that could be similar,” replied Turgon.

The men of Minas Tirith gawked as the moonlight revealed an elaborate embroidery of a family tree, detailing a vast family tree that went all the way back to a single name.

“ That is none other than Durin the Deathless, or I’m a Dwarf!” said Ondoher. “The dwarves of the Iron Hills would definitely be remiss not want this cloth alone!”

Ondoher then gently removed the wrapping and laid it aside with the greatest of care. Beneath the covering, he found a hefty tome, bound I metal plated leather. He had never seen Dwarvish designs so intricate, even in the oldest history books of the White Tower. The designs were inlaid into the iron plates, detailing stories that he did not recognize. In the spines were set Sapphires that even in their age were stunning to behold in the light. On the front of the Tome were set clearly and neatly written Dwarvish runes, that appeared to shimmer. There were 3 tomes total, all appearing in the same fashion.

Ondoher attempted to open it, but they were securely locked, each with their own runes that appeared to glow brighter when he attempt to open them was made.

“These were clearly made to be opened exclusively by dwarf-kind,” said Turin. “They are a very reclusive folk, dwarves. They never teach their own language to any but their own kin, and I heard they don’t even use their real names with those outside of their own kind!“

“Aye,” chimed in Arveleg. ”I’d want to keep to myself too with women like theirs!” The others began to chuckle, they were cut off quickly…

“Enough!” declared Ondoher. “If we are to secure these dwarves as allies, then they must be treated with utmost respect! You can shall show treat them as you would the Steward himself!”

“Yes, sir!” Came their reply.

Ondoher sat down and wrote out a detailed letter of the circumstances  under which the tomes had been found. He did not go into detail of the items found, for fear of an interception. He then detailed a location that he knew of, a stone formation like a bridge in northern Rhudaur, just south of the Ettenmoors; a well known spot for the emissaries of Arnor to meet with the Middle men of Rhudaur in ages past, known as Govadmiluin Sarianu.  It was there that the arrangements would be made. The young noble sealed the letter with the seal of Minas Tirith.

Ondoher brought it to Hurin. “This land is full of danger, but this letter is important. Your first task as Ranger is to take this and get it to a local Dunedain outpost not far from here and have them send it as quickly as possible to this dwarf leader of the Iron Hills, Mhulo.”

“Aye, sir!”

So it was with this letter that Hurin went off on his first mission alone since his new title as a Ranger. He got himself lost once or twice, but before long, he delivered the message and returned to his brothers in arms.

Ondoher and his men made their way north with the dwarf tomes in tow. They kept out of site of the main roads, but traveled along them, with nothing to report other than the odd traveler here and there. They arrived at the  Govadmiluin Sarianu and found that the dwarves were already arrived. There stood at the top of the bridge a hardy Dwarf with a mattock, followed by two crossbow dwarves, vigilantly scouting about.

Ondoher rode up to the stair, hailing the dwarves as friends to prevent confusion. “To be sure, I was not sure you would have arrived at all! It is good to see friends in these parts!”

“Well, met Gondorian. It seems we have crossed paths most fortunately. It seems you have done a favor large to the Folk of Durin’s lineage.”

Turgon and Turin laid the chest beneath the bridge.

“It was most fortunate that my Lord Beren got word of it! We assuredly would be more than happy to pass on these relics to the folk of the Iron hills. They are of gorgeous make, even more beautiful than we could have guessed in the South. We have little dealings with the dwarven folk ourselves.”

Mhulo began to come down the stairs to see the relic. As he did so, Ondoher watched as a dwarf dismounted not a horse, but a goat! With the biggest horns he had ever seen. Ondoher let his mouth hang for a moment, but a dwarf with a crossbow gave him an odd look, so he immediately shifted his focus back to the task at hand. Two other dwarves approached the chest, clearly eager to see the artifacts of their elder-kin.

“Aye and for good reason, meaning no offense. Our people are most solitary. Our Loremaster, Torvim the Old, sent us leagues from home for such a gift. Now let’s see what gift that be…”

The goat bleated as it hopped up on the stone bridge, finding a good patch of grass.  This still amazed Ondoher, but he had to focus.

“By the beards of the Old…” They pored over the contents of the chest . The dwarves explained how the cloak belonged to one of the Dwarven kings of old, and the Tomes were unknown to any of them. They began murmuring amongst each other in Khuzdul. “Indeed this is work for the Loremaster.” said Mhulo to his companions.

Suddenly, the Goat was getting close to Ondoher and his horse. The horse began to bray and huff and shift around. The rider of the Wargoat began shouting in Khuzdul as he wrangled the goat back to the bottom of the Govadmiluin Sarianu’s  steps. This shook the dwarves from their conversation with eachother in Dwarf speech.

Mhulo finally climbed up and spoke again. “Indebted to your cause, we folk of Durin be, Ondoher, leader of these free folk. These gifts further enrich our history and our culture, and cement an alliance between our people. How would you have us repay such an offering?”

“We only ask that you provide as much aide as you can to our Northern Kin,” replied Ondoher. “But there a many plans to take into consideration, to be sure.” Ondoher and Mhulo brought their voices down low and began speaking of where this alliance could lead.

As Ondoher and Mhulo spoke, The men kept their eyes peeled. The Dwarves of the Iron Hills also looked out It was nearing sunset, and who knew what enemies could be lurking.

They looked here and there, but none could really see anything. The sun had just set, but the moon could still be seen. Mablung casually glanced off to the right, and there he thought he saw a glint in the bushes. He rushed forward. As he did so, arrows began to fly from the multiple sides of the camp.

“Ambush!” Mablung cried! “Now for Gondor! For the Iron Hills!” as he gave this cry, Mablung was swarmed by many Easterlings, and he was quickly dispatched. Ondoher looked quickly over in the direction of the Mablung. “Form up Men! Spears behind! Team with our allies,” he ordered. He turned to Mhulo. “Those are the Easterlings we faced some time ago. They must d wish to see me dead!” he remarked as he rode is horse down the steps of the bridge.

“Well, they won’t have you as long as you have us around. Form up with Nasek . The two of you can ride them down together!”

Ondoher quickly formed up behind the heavily armored goat rider and hey awaited the enemy’s approach. Similarly, the dwarves and Men of the White City came together and formed shield walls as best they could. The Men of Minas Tirith were amazed to see the dwarves of the Iron Hills form up so easily, and with such tight formations. “Not even a mouse could find its way between them!” noted Malbeth, getting as close as he could. He stood himself near a ledge, awaiting the what ever enemies may approach.

Turgon and Hurin quickly set themselves in a position to fire at the enemy Goblins that began to approach on the opposite side of the raised rock.

One goblin made its way to the hill and climbed up to charge Malbeth, But the man quickly fought him off and shoved him back with his shield. As he went to strike, the Goblin ducked out of the way, but its foot slipped on the edge of the cleft and it fell to its doom, and didn’t rise during the battle.

On the southern side of the bridge, Mhulo and the hard mattock-armed dwarves made their stand with Turin ,Thorondir and Hirgon. They met the front line of Easterling’s block of soldiers, while Nasek and his mighty goat  prepared to charge. Before Ondoher could lead up behind him, an Easterling warrior woman shot at ondoher, but struck his horse down. Ondoher fell to the ground, but his armor took the brunt of the hit.

As he stood up, beneath the bridge, Ondoher saw that Hurin had fired many shot. “Hurin, your bow is needed to the South! Fire at that archer! “ Hurin Quickly passed around to assist as best he could.

It was then that you could hear a loud guttural sound from the distance, and Turgon shouted, “I see you mean to be a pin cushion!” With that, the a goblin archer captain fell.

Ondoher heard an arrow whizzing from behind and threw his shield up and nearly was struck by it, but fate smiled him as the arrow was inches away from his face through the shield.

Ondoher got in behind his men who were facing the Rhûnish leaders. “Do not let them in men! For Gondor! For the Iron Hills!” With that, the dwarves and men of Gondor were able to charge in to the enemy and the Easterlings could not move before they were charged by the wall of White Tree and Dwarven Heraldry. “Down Ondoher! “ cried Turin. “That archer has it out for you and you are no use to us dead!” He knocked back an Easterling captain, fighting beside Mhulo, who was wielding his mattock deftly to fight off the attack.

As Ondoher laid himself down, attempting to get himself behind his shield, He looked out at and gazed directly back into the Easterling woman’s helmet in the moonlight, but by then it was too late. Time appeared to slow as the arrow made its way to him and struck him in the shoulder. It knocked his head back and he struck his head on the stone bridge’s base, and he heard no more.

Turin was about to strike out against the enemy, but they immediately began to retreat. “Get those cowards!” The Dwarves and Men were ready, but suddenly the Easterlings had picked up Mablung. They held a knife to his throat and began backing away. “Stop! Let them be. They have done their damage this day,” said Turgon, coming up behind. “We must find him another time. He is out brother, but we do not want to doom him for the sake of avenging Ondoher. “

The Easterlings slipped silently into the night. Meanwhile, the Goblins had done their job, distracting the northern side, so they left when they heard that all was clear.

Quickly, Turgon and Turin approached their leader, and sat him up. Turin held is bracers beneath Ondoher’s mouth, and it began to fog from his breath. “Strength of the Valar, he is alive,” he sighed in relief.

“We thank you for your strength of arms, Master Mhulo,” Turgon aid turning to the dwarf leader. “Your folk are as hardy as it is said!”

Before the dwarf could respond, the gallop of a single rider could be heard. Up rode a ranger, Numenorean features to be sure. “Mae Govannen, mellon nin!” It was an elf ranger. “I was seeking Ondoher, a lieutenant of Gondor, when I heard your skirmish occur. Is everyone all right? Anyone hurt?”

“Mae govannen!” replied Turgon. “Yes. Ondoher, the man you seek, is injured. He needs a healer and quick.”

“Well, it is in a fortuitous moment that I have come. Here, take my horse, Amroth.” the elf dismounted. “He knows the way to where we wish to take your company! There is a small fortress of the Dúnedain that needs your help, and they could definitely provide assistance for your current situation. I can lead the remainder of your company there myself.”

“I will go,” said Turin. Turin mounted immediately. They helped Ondoher onto the horse as best they could and they rode off.

Turgon thanked the dwarves for their service in defending their Lieutenant, and they followed the elf into the wilderness.

*************

Ondoher woke to find himself on a well stuffed straw mattress near the foot of a ruined watch tower. There were men  of unfamiliar clothing and features around him, but they certainly did not appear hostile. “This must be a fortress of the rangers of the North,” he thought. He sat himself up in the bed. “Ah! Bless me! It’s good to see you up and moving, sir,” came the familiar voice of Turin. He was sitting in a box nearby, carving a stick with a small knife. “You’ve missed a bit, Ondoher, my lad.”

“Pray tell, what would that be?” Came his response.

“Well, to begin, your leg has been mended. These northern men of Numenorean blood have some decent skill with healing, and were able to mend your wounds . You should be able to jump and leap with the best of them even now! I suspect it’s their connection to elves what makes them so good.”

Ondoher moved his leg and found that it did not catch so much when he bent it.

” Also, they have given me a horse And a keen lance. I shall indeed make use of them quite soon! Your horse Also has been seen to, and is good as new! He just needed a rest and some good healing hands is all.”

Ondoher stood to his feet. He managed to make his way to a nearby bucket of water. As he ladled himself a drink, he pressed further, “And what of the others? How do they fair?”

“Turgon has failed very well! He felt his marksman ship was lacking in the last battle, being limited by unsteady hands when moving. He continues o practice now, and he is  getting to where he prefers moving to shoot!”

Ondoher looked around. Many rangers of the North he saw. It did not take long for him to pick out his companions in the crowd.

Turgon was with several other bowmen, honing his skills and moving as he shot. Hurin was discussing Ranger tactics with the northerner nearby. Thorondir and Arveleg were speaking with the men from Arnor, having a laugh about something indistinguishable from here. Hirgon and Malbeth sparred with each other. But where was Mablung?

“Turin,” the young lieutenant began, looking frantically to and fro to find the Heavy Hand.  “What happened to Mablung? Where is he? What did they do to him!?” His voice escalated as he came close and grabbed Turin by his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. “Where… is he?”

“They took him,” said Turgon approaching, having set his bow aside as heard his leader about. “Those filthy worshippers of the dark lord took him. They used him as a human shield to get away once they did their dirty work.” He spat.

“Then we must retrieve him! Who knows what they have done to him!” Ondoher turned to go get his horse, but Turin laid his hand on his shoulder. “No. they wouldn’t let us leave if we wanted to. They, and therefore we also, are preparing for a siege. The enemy is days away from here, but they need us to shore up this fortress to prepare its defenses. There are relics here that must be preserved.”

“That’s right, and we must assist out northern kin,” said a familiar voice. A voice that Ondoher had not heard in many a month.

“Cousin Ostoher! What in all of Middle-Earth are you doing here?” Ondoher greeted his ranger garb clad kinsman with a long  embrace.

“To come  save your sorry hide, it would seem,” retorted the Ranger. “Lord Beren sent us North with the intent of shoring up a few paces here and there, and then we are to return home when those places have been secured.”

Ostoher had come with a few good men. Two Rangers flanked him, and they were followed by two knights of Minas Tirith  leading their horses. Their retinue also included a guard of the Citadel and two others.

Ondoher would recognize those helmets anywhere. Their white seabird plumage could be seen a mile off. “Truly your errand must be one that our Lord deems a high priority if he sends the Guards of the Fountain!” Ondoher recognized  that these elites were meant only for the business of the King. They only answer to the King himself, yet there had not been any king in a good many years… too long…

“Indeed he did think that,” replied Ostoher. “We are meant to be an elite task force to get work done as quickly as possible, and the. To return. And so, here we be, little cousin.”

“I am grateful to see you, but I still wish to address my missing companion,” Ondoher declared, turning to his remaining men still of afar. “Men of the white city, come hither! We must deal with our loss quickly!”

Hurin came up with Thorondir and Arveleg, while Hirgon and Malbeth come from the other direction.

“What was it that you saw when this happened? Where did they take him?”

No sooner had he asked this question did a blaring horn come from the North, then another in the South, and then another in the West.  Ondoher rushed quickly to his horse and mounted it and saw that in the distance he could see hordes of Haradrim approaching from both sides of the open stone walls. Then he looked elsewhere and saw swarms of the giant orcs he had seen not so long ago fighting for the dwarf relics.

Suddenly a call went up within the camp, “To arms! To arms! Bows at the ready!”

A battle was joined, and the Brigade of the White City was at the center of it all….

Flight From the Troll Shaws

A great host of orcs and goblins have come down from the mountains and caught the free peoples unawares. They seek to venture further west and rain havoc on the innocent. The rangers have long held secret bases through which they have staged their opposition. The sudden attack has caught them by surprise and they must abandon their holds east of the Hoarwell. They have no time to prepare, but will try to take as much as they can with them. Will your battle company help them escape with their ancient treasures, or will you claim them for your dark masters?

This battle will be fought between at least two good and two evil battle companies. Each player will add up their battle company’s score along with any extra troops or heroes they take with them for this battle. The total for each Battle Company and additional troops shall not exceed 300 points. If a player has a battle company that itself is worth more than 300 points he or she is unable to take any additional troops or heroes.

For each pair of good and evil battle companies there will be one objective. Each objective represents the ancient relics that the free peoples are trying to move to safety. Each objective counts as a heavy object. The objective of the good battle companies is to get the relics off the board from any table edge. The evil objective is to seize the relics. The game ends either when all of the objectives have been taken off the table, or evil is in possession of all the objectives.

The battlefield should represent what you want a ranger sanctuary to look like; however It should be a defensible position. In this case, the center of the board will have a tower on a hill surrounded by crumbling stone fences. Inside the tower is each of the objectives. The good forces will deploy within the perimeter of the stone fences, whilst the evil forces will deploy at least 8 inches away from the fence line.

Starting on the 10th turn before priority has been rolled, any warrior lost by the evil forces may return from a random board edge using the reinforcement rules.

 

 

Reward Table

 

6 Numenorean Steel Bow: this is a long bow that is strength 4 (10 points)

5 Numenorean Eket: gives the user an additional attack (does not count toward character’s attacks) (15 points)

4 Armor of Westernesse: very heavy armor (+3 to defense) (10 points)

3 War Horn of the West: This counts as both a rallying horn and a war drum (15 points)

2 Lucky Brooch: this is a lucky talisman that also gives the user +1 fate and can allow a hero to go over the maximum of 3) (15)

1 D3 influence points

Halls of Gold

That lovely amber liquid, how it called his name. The sweet, yet bitter taste of the golden brew that relaxed his muscles, and slowed his speech. Yet- it took his mind away from the horrors of fortnights past, and that was what Duk needed.

The shaking in his hands was now gone, thanks to Drorber’s ale in his Halls of Gold, but the dread memories flashed anew across his mind. Despite the hearty gaieties echoing round the alehouse, Duk’s recollections sprang forth to his forethought.

How their party had stumbled upon Mirkwood yet again was a complete mystery- and thinking of how it was possible drove them all to near madness. They had been involved fighting a rogue band of Uruk-Hai on the southron edges of the Trollshaws, near some dense forests, when, alas, they were beaten back. As Mhulo had called a retreat into the trees, everything changed.

Darkness enveloped them all, and the forest closed in unnaturally around them. The sky was hid from their eyes, and malicious whispers fluttered through the grasping branches. Their injuries slowed them, and after what seemed like ages upon ages, they came to a halt in an empty, grassy clearing.

Duk remembered no more past that moment, save for the sound that still haunted his sleep- the desperate screams emanating from his brother Dolvin. As surely as his memory escaped him, Duk eventually found his way out of that cursed wood, panting and covered in silky, sticky webs.

Thereafter he was visited by stark, isolated recollections of the soft voices of the Elvish folk, and knew then that he and his kin had been rescued from the malign forces of the forest realm by the Mirkwood Patrols.

After a brief encounter in which Thoif took down an Orc named Iggy, the dwarven clan found their way out of that forest and back into the mountains to the west. To this moment they had been led, dining in the halls of the Misty Mountains, amongst their kin in the ale markets of the Stone district.

Dolvin sat beside him feasting, drum of foul in one hand, pint in the other. Thoif was across the small table chewing on a smoking pipe, resting silently, and re-stringing his new dwarven bow he’d won in the markets of the Iron district (a hearty challenger believed himself keener with an arrow, and lost his weapon in the gamble to show for it). Nasek, the war goat rider, was off snoring in the corner, feet propped and helm covering his closed eyes. The fiery Kemlek had been long lost to the drinking games he hosted in the nearby breweries, though he was bound to turn up passed out on his featherbed back in their quarters in the wee hours of twilight.

Earlier in the eve, Mhulo had disappeared and then arrived again with something of a surprise. Torvim, Mhulo’s uncle and Loremaster of the Iron Hills, had seen fit to send relief aid to their company. With two others by his side, Mhulo returned to the company in good spirits and introduced their new friends.

A hardy Dwarf called Khain, a renowned spear-wielder in the ranks of Iron Hills, pledged his sword and honor to their quests. His green eyes stood out brilliantly to his orange beard, much like Kemlek’s own. The brothers welcomed this Dwarf especially, as another shield would prove vital if their missions were to succeed. The other was born by the name of Thalrir, and he bore a crossbow much alike Thoif’s own “Iggy’s Demise”.

In all, these dwarves were welcomed as brothers. As their meals wrapped up and the alehouse emptied, Kemlek stumbled in drunkenly only to pass out at the feet of Mhulo, grumbling about spiders and goats. Behind him slipped a tall, cloaked figure who stepped up to their circle, and pulled down his hood. He wore a dark brown leather jerkin, plain and unassuming. Clearly a traveler, his black boots were dirty and wet- much to the annoyance of Drorber, having tracked prints everywhere in his recently cleaned pub. His sandy hair fell shoulder-length, and his brown eyes were tired and low. The dwarves were silenced, curious as to the advance of the stranger, especially a human man here amidst the halls of Dwarven stone.

“Name’s Cooper, and I’ve not much time. Which of you gentle lads is Mhulor? Mewlen? Ah, I can’t possibly get it remembered. Apologies…”

“Mhulo, sir. And you’ve business with me then, ay?” Replied Duk’s friend.

“Indeed. I’m of the Dunedain, ranger and watcher of the wild lands that lay outside of your cozy halls. A message needs read m’lord, if you will.” He handed Mhulo a folded letter, with a wax seal the color of cream.

“Aye, we know of your lot.” Replied Mhulo as he took the offering. “This is the seal of the White City, Dunedain.” Stated Mhulo curiously. “What do the Lords of Minas Tirith have to peddle with the likes of us?”

“Surely you will find out. This is news only for the eyes of Dwarf-folk, of import most definite. What I do know is that I was to give you this, and bid you well in your missions amongst this land. Servants of the Dark Lord most foul have been ruthlessly invading once peaceful cities. Some even whisper of sightings of Men of the East roaming and pillaging. To our misfortune, I can attest to these atrocities.”

With a swoop of his cloak, which revealed a sword belt nestled on his waist, the Ranger revealed another token he bore. With a muted *clunk*, a golden helmet rested on the round table before the dwarves.

Its features were sleek, slits for the eyes that reminded Mhulo of a hawk. Plating ran down the face of the helm, covering the mouth, and had mail covering where the throat would be. Metal spurs that looked like the ears of some evil bat protruded from the crown, displaying workmanship more than mere Orcish slap-work.

“Men of the East indeed, Cooper. May your eyes be keen and your sword swifter, Ranger.” Mhulo replied respectfully.
The Dunedain lifted the helm, and took his leave, cloak swirling as he briskly left the now vacant alehouse.
Duk finished the remainder of his brew, and thought hard about what he just witnessed. If Easterlings were raiding into their lands, the Iron Hills would be first to know. Back home, his lands and family were likely fighting these beasts, and here they were in these parts too? Dark times indeed, for these were omens of powers not seen in many years.

Duk had never expected to be right in the middle of it.

Elves! Haarith and the Scorpion’s sting

With a way-point taken from the squat sons of Durin, Haarith and his men had taken a huge step towards creating great trade relations with the Orcs of the Misty Mountains. Once the dwarves fled, Haarith and his men established a perimeter and held their positions.

Their orders were to await the arrival of a band of orcs who would take control of the camp from there. They waited a week, until a decent crowd of Goblins, including the one with the message before, who would be taking refuge for now.

“I will pray to the ancestors that you do not forget who it was that took this land for your masters, imp,” Haarith snapped at the tiny goblin atop the warg. Then, He gestured to a large building, on which the sign of the scorpion of Abrakhan had been scrawled in purple and gold paint. “But my spear-brother Yazan does not trust the ancestors that much.”

“You cur!” The goblin dismounted, more or less falling on his face. How he has taken a leadership position if any kind could not be imagined. “You insult me and my master by leaving this here! We know who to pay when the time comes. You’ll get your gold in the south. But now you have made this ruin an obvious sign of the Harad having been here. Any passers by will see it. Makes it an obvious  target for…”

Haarith stepped to the goblin with frightening speed, his new poisoned spear to the throat of the runt, interrupting him. “Maybe that will be all the more reason for you and your kin to keep a better eye out for it this time rather than falling to dwarfs axes.”

Bakr and Abaan came to back their leader, but again Yazvan intervened. “We’ve cleared the land and claimed it in our own way. If your masters can’t deal with a little flair, they can take that up with The Golden King. This is our culture and we will do as we please at victory.”

“Ugh… fair enough.” spat the goblin. “Here’s more orders. Deliver this  to our kin in the east, in the southern forests of the Great forest near Dol Guldur. The map will tell you where to go.”

Haarith took the map. “We can find the way. ” With that, Haarith mounted his new horse and he and his men went down the road. Their message was meant to be delivered as soon as possible. It was given to Bakr for safe keeping as they traveled the road. And it was during this journey that the Scorpion’s Sting came upon their next battle.

It was near a small stream that Harad warriors came across a small band of High Elves… fully armored… they could see it in their eyes they were in need of the same type of speed that was needed by the Harad. A messenger was on its way to someone with a letter of great import. The Haradrim quickly formed up and stood their ground, firing at the one archer of the enemy. These prim and proper elves could not be brought down by arrows. Multiple volleys did nothing. So it was that Haarith could not wait any more. He charged in with his mount and with that he was ready to ride down this archer. His men stayed back to be able to take some shots at the enemy. It was then that the elves charged the hasty lieutenant of Harad, surrounding him and his horse.

Haarith was ready, though… but  it was then that his brashness was met with a fateful moment. Na’Man saw a chance to bring down the elf scum and shot his bow… but a sudden slip of the finger lead to a shot going right through the arm of Haarith’s left arm… and he fell from his horse, and the horse fled. Na’Man saw his leader fall in horror. He would get the lash for that…

This was the beginning of the end of battle. Bakr and Abaan and the rest charged in … Bakr stayed in the back, knowing his message was more important than his leader’s life.

One by one, the rest of them succumbed to the the enemy until only Bakr and Na’man were left… but the message had to be delivered. Bakr and Na’man retreated as quickly as they could, being chased by the fleet feet of the Elves behind them. They ran and ran and finally dove into the river beside them and were swept down-stream. The swift river would nearly drown them, but it sped them away so the elves could not give chase.

Bakr and Na’man eventually made their way near the battle field, where they met their limping and bleeding friends. When the Haradrim finally made their way to a cave in the Misty Mountains, They tended their wounds. Haarith could barely use this arm, and so they slung it.

When they had all sat themselves down to rest, Haarith finally spoke his mind. “Your incompetence today cannot be over stated!” he shouted. “And you!” He turned to Na’man. “Your shotty bow work could have killed me! I hope you are prepared to deal with the consequences!” Haarith unstrung his bow, now useless to him with a wounded arm. “Bakr, Abaan. Bind him.” They used the bow string to tie his hands to a tree. Haarith manically began stripping the armor and clothes from his back. The horn, ivory and sinew of the Haradrim Bow whistled as the wounded leader beat the bare back of his underling. Once. Twice. Seven times. Ten times. Fifteen. Twenty. Twenty-five. With one more mighty THWACK! the bow was shattered. The young warrior’s back was bleeding profusely. But no tears came from the perpetrator. This was not the time to show weakness. The warriors of Harad do no show fear. They have no other option but to take their beatings.

“Let that be a lesson to the rest of you.” Haarith was seething. The incompetence! The utter stupidity! The only man it seems he could count on was Bakr. “I hope you will learn from this… failure.” And so he stormed off to be alone.

Haarith was livid. What would he tell the masters back home? Fortunately the message was still in their possession, anything less than victory is a loss in the eyes of the Golden King of Abrakhan, and  “We need more men. I won’t be much use with one arm, mounted or no! and we still must deliver this message to the Orcs of Dol Guldur.” He contemplated for over an hour , always coming back to what sort of punishment could be received from his masters on his return. But he also came back to another thought. “We need more men.”

Then he made quick letter in the language of his people. He went back to his men. “Stay here, Mumak, dung. I will return. Bakr, you take the lead.” At this Abaan eyed his rival up and down.

With that, Haarith mounted up and rode back to the Way point from which they came. After a few hours ride, he saw the orcs, lounging about. “So this how they repay our labor to return this place to them,” he thought. “Vermin. A drunken, slothful recline, as if after a hard slog. Meanwhile, we find ourselves against an enemy we barely know!“ But he kept his mouth shut for the moment. Yazan’s wisdom had taught him at least some things.

“Welcome back, Southron!” said the stunted Goblin, feeding his warg. “What happened to you?” he croaked, seeing the arm wound. then he began trembling and pulled his knife, realizing that this could mean a fight nearby. “Where are your men? are there more out there?”

“It doesn’t matter. The elven filth are gone. I bring a message to be sent to my masters in Abrakhan. Can you get it there?”

“Yes i can. What is it for?”

“That is for me to know, alone.”

“Very well. We’ll send it as quick as we can. No promises,” he said as he turned to hand the message to a warg-mounted courier. “They way south is crawling with Whiteskins, both horse lords and the bastards with the Tree. Are you sure there’s no more elves about?”

When he turned back, Haarith had already mounted and was riding away, and shouted, “It may be that they are! It would be good for you to keep a look out!”

As he rode away, in the distance he heard a faint, ”You Oliphaunt riding rats are such bastards!”

Through Spiders and Darkness

Wailing, screaming and whimpering echoed throughout the eastern foothills of the Misty Mountains. The captured goblin was not one to suffer silently, as he made his pain known to all that could hear him. The company feared that the cacophonous wailing would draw all of the enemies east of the Misty Mountains to them. They tried beating him, but he only yelled more. They tried ignoring him, but he only called them by name. In a final attempt at silencing Gitnick, Corunir gave him food and loosened his bonds. Surprising this worked, but Brognir was not happy that the wants of an evil creature had been appeased. Gitnick transformed from a whimpering pitiful creature, to a servile simpleton.

During this transformation, Gitnick repaid his captors for their mercy by giving them what they wanted. He began talking about a small unknown trail upon the edge of Mirkwood. He claimed that it would lead to the dark masters that were driving the orcs to the mountains.

It took them two weeks to travel from the Misty Mountains to Mirkwood, however they did not yet enter, for the trail was further south. As they made their way south along the forests edge, the trees began to grow closer and closer together. Then when it seemed as if each tree was choking the other, a small partition appeared. The darkness of the path made it stand out amongst the many trees. Each member of the company entered the dark path one by one as it was not large enough to allow them to walk abreast one another.

As they made their way through the trail a sense of dread crept up upon the company. It became darker and darker as they proceeded through. Gitnick, who had almost constantly made noise since his capture, was now quite. He began to say “It won’t be long until we meet the dark ones, they lie further down the path”. Brognir then took his spear to Gitnick’s throat , threatening him with death, and said “If you betray us, you betray your own life”. Gitnick replied “Me only showing nice rangers what they asked for, I no trick you. Me too dumb for that”. Brognir was however not convinced and made it his personal mission to make sure that the captive did nothing outside of his sight. That night they found a small clearing and made camp.

Many hours went by underneath the darkness of the trees, but none could really tell when the night ended and the day began. When each had their rest they began treading down the path once more. Before long the path became cluttered with thick webs that could barely be cut through. When the webs became so thick that they could scarcely make their way through, Gitnick started yelling hysterically. Brognir tried to silence him, but before he could do anything large dark skittering shapes could be seen amongst the trees. Arrows sung forth from the rangers as they huddled together in a defensive circle. Large spiders hungry for fresh meet had the company. The spiders skittering between the trees made them hard to hit, and their ghoulish appearance made the hearts of the ranger’s race in terror. They began shooting their sticky webs incapacitating some of the rangers, but each of them fought on stabbing and slashing at the dark shapes as they lunged into the melee. Whenever a spider fell, another took its place. They would have to escape if they were to get out alive. One by one some of the rangers fell to the sticky embrace of the webs. The situation was looking dim, but out of nowhere arrows came out of the darkness pierced the spiders.

Out of the darkness stepped a group of elves dressed in greens and browns. Each of them had a bow in their hands and a dagger at their side. As happy as the rangers were to see the elves, they did not appear so joyful. The elves looked upon them with disdain and clearly thought them fools for having needed rescuing. The elves said nothing, but pointed further down the path, seemingly knowing what the company sought.

The engagement with the spiders and the visitation of the elves was so quick and chaotic that No one individual could really know everything that was going on. After all was said and done Gitnick could not be found, and had presumably escaped. Brognir felt personally responsible as he took the task upon himself to do correctly. He cursed himself and the slippery goblin, but could not allow himself to be overcome with guilt. Despite his failing, he pressed on as the company made its way down the path once again.

So far the path had been dark due to the closeness of the trees, but now the trees themselves were different. They were gnarled, withered, and diseased specimens that somehow produced an even thicker layer of canopy. The degree of their sickliness became more pronounced as they made their way further and further into the darkness. When the trees became so sickly that none believed they still lived, a lone dark tower atop a bald hill could begin to be seen in the distance. Dark pillars of smoke, and moving throngs of small shapes could be seen emanating from the foreboding structure. The company stealthily made their way to the dark tower, creeping as quietly as possible. As they got closer, the shapes began to sharpen and turned into orcs, goblins and even swarthy looking men. Before the great host, was a group of nine darkly clad figures, all clad in the heaviest of armor. Where there should have been a face, there was nothing but a terrifying empty void that seemed to be sucking the light in from around it. They turned to the massed throngs and spoke in the blackest of tongues, and in response the masses rose up their blades and spilt their own blood for their new masters. In turn, each of the nine had a pouch that they gave to the leaders of the eclectic assembly. What the rangers could not understand in speech they could in action. These terrible figures were promising more than a simple pouch of gold, this was just a taste of what is to come. Quickly Tarandir had the company retreat and make their way back to the tower. The captain must know of the evil in Mirkwood.

The Dwarf Ruins- Brigade of the White City

Ondoher had finally recovered from his injuries from the fight against the men of the East. Ondoher sat and thought long about what had transpired, and knew that his rash behavior had caused the loss. He forced his men to run too hard, and that lead to their exhaustion. He charged in without thinking of the consequences of fighting an enemy with pikes. He was made a fool, and for what? The chance to regain his honor? It was now that a change would need to be made if he was to forge ahead with this endeavor.

He got up and began stretching his legs. He surveyed his men and the damage that had been taken. Poor Turin. He thought of him as a brother, and now his brother was laid on the ground with a serious wound in his hip. He continued to find his choices going awry. To the detriment of his own men, he had taken on a battle-hardened enemy that was not forgiving. It was a hard notion to deal with.

Battle-Hardened enemies, those Easterlings. What were they doing this far West? They have no lands under their control further than the Brownlands. The treachery that Beren, the son of Lord Elgamoth, Steward of Gondor, had sent this company to investigate and help defend against must have run deeper than the lord had guessed. this was no mere rabble of orcs and Goblins. This must have some sort of organization to it. War parties gathering. But who could coerce the the Dark Lord worshippers to leave their lands?

After having lingered in his thoughts, he saw that Mablung had returned from scouting about. But he was not Alone. There was another warrior Minas Tirith, but younger than Mablung. Ondoher looked in his eyes and recognized a young recruit that he knew from years gone by. He had seen about the barracks here and there, but did not know him by name. But there was no way that Lord Beren could have sent out another man for assistance so quickly. What was he doing here?

“Mablung! Your joining our party has come at a most pivotal moment. I was rash and it lead to our men being injured, and my friend Turin will likely never be the same. And in this hour, you come to our rescue, even as we lie helpless on the battle field. You have guarded us well.” Ondoher said these words, and then offered his hand in gratitude, which Mablung took with grace. He bowed his head in humility to his commander. Ondoher continued. “And it appears you have been given assistance…” He looked the new comer in the eye, showing no emotion. “Lord Beren had not mentioned any additional assistance was coming in his letter. Though we can be glad for a strong arm, if strong his arm be.” Ondoher turned, with wry smile, and took a drink from a bucket nearby.

“Um, Yes, sir,” said Malbeth. “Sorry for the confusion, sir! I was a bit behind Mablung, here. I do hope that my tardiness will not be punished too severely.” Mablung looked at his long-time friend, as if to say “Are you mad!?” Malbeth gave a hard elbow into his comrade’s ribs as Ondoher turned back to face them.

“Uh, of course, sir. How could I be so foolish?” Mablung asked frantically. “I should have made mention of him before, Lieutenant. “

“Interesting,” replied Ondoher. He would continue his little game. “Why would Lord Beren forget to mention that a second man was coming? He is not an unintelligent man. I would say he is one of the smarter men i have known. It is not like him to omit such details.”

He looked back at Malbeth. His face showed no sign of wavering from his story. Mablung, however appeared to be quite nervous. “Well, I am happy to have you in spite of the circumstance.” the lieutenant said, finally. “You were here when we needed you, and when Mablung needed you. For that I commend you.” Ondoher laid himself back down on a bed roll. “We need the men, and he does not have evil intent, I am sure,” he thought.

The rest of the men continued to recover. Arveleg would not be able to fight any time soon, and Turin… his would would heal, but it could wind up affecting him for his life. When they all were able to sit up on their own and converse without wheezing or hurting, Ondoher spoke to the lot of them.

“As your commander, I must beg your forgiveness. It was rash of me to take you all out so quickly. When we came to the Eastlerings in the field, we were already all exhausted and it lead to our defeat. Fortunately, Mablung was able to get us out alive, and relatively unscathed. I must also express my indebtedness to you all.  In spite of my reckless behavior, you all fought bravely to the end of the battle.”

“I pledge to you all that the leadership of this company will not continue to ask for your lives to be thrown away needlessly, especially if they are not willing to do so themselves. This is what separates us from the hordes of darkness.” There were cheers of “Here, here!” from the company.

Suddenly, the sound of a galloping horse approached. Those who were able girted themselves quickly, but it was not needed. “I seem to be here in the nick of time, sir!” He said as he dismounted, seeing his brothers-in arms bandaged and bruised. Arveleg, barely able to stand, sat up and said, “Well it is about time! You missed out on all the action, just to show up conveniently right after it ended!” The men cackled.  “I am confident you never took that sword to the gut.  Hirgon, the fearless one, indeed! You probably saw those goblin rats and feigned the wound to avoid battle!”

“Well, if you weren’t already half dead, I’d clock you, trickster,” retorted Hirgon. At this they all called out, but in more hushed tones. Hirgon once charged and vanquished  a wild Warg on his own with no gear, so his doughty nature was usually never questioned, even in jest.

Arveleg laughed, and then wheezed. “Someone must be irritable because he’s saddle soar!”

“Enough of this,” said Ondoher, calmly. “It is time we all knew the plan. Lord Beren sent word with Mablung when he first came to us of a dwarf relic of great import. Some dwarves from the Iron Hills appear to be seeking out that device, and we have the intelligence needed to retrieve it.”

“Iron Hills Dwarves,” remarked, Mablung. “I have heard tales of their armies. Rank upon rank of heavily armored phalanxes of the hard Dwarf Folk. Their skill is legendary, and their ferocity more so. I hear they have dwarf magic that even prevents arrows from even hitting them!”

“Aye! And Uh ‘ear theirrr wuhmen have the mo’ beautiful beards!” Arveleg chimed in in the most atrocious dwarf accent.

They burst out in hooting and howling, the wounded man trying to make his hands into a beard while he batted his lashes. Ondoher rolled his eyes, but you could see a smile cross his face. After the laughter died down Ondoher spoke again. “With this information, we must find the land on which this dwarf relic can be found and find it before the enemy takes it into its own hoards. Lord Beren marked it on this map, here. He said that some farm had scorched and a dwarf settlement’s bones were revealed beneath.”

“What are we even looking for, Sir?” asked Malbeth. “I have never seen a single thing in my life made by dwarves. How do I know what it is if I see it?“

“Well, as with many dwarves artifacts, and even with their common objects,” Turgon spoke up. “it will be likely very easy to tell that it is of dwarfish make, especially in comparison to what buildings of Men are near. The woodsmen and farmers nearby will likely be Middle-men. You should not be struggling to tell the difference.”

Hirgon stood up. “That is good enough for me,” he said. “ What shall we do with the horse, sir? And what of Arveleg and Turin?”

“Don’t worry about me! Just set me up in a hole in the ground and I’ll lie in wait for the enemy!” He Went to take a stab at the air with his arm, but he began coughing.

Turin finally spoke. “I will wait with him. Leave the horse. Should we need to escape, we can ride it. I at least have the strength to fight should we be found. My wound is not yet ready to let me go off to an all out skirmish, though.”

“Then it is settled,” declared Ondoher.  “We shall go forth to the land and begin our search.”

So the company made their way many leagues to the immediate west of the Misty Mountains. When they arrived at the location on the map, it took some time for them to find a place as described by their lord. Then, they saw it. On the edge of this land were 2 groupings of thick woods, but you could see that there once were dwarf foundations set here on the edge of the thickets. Indeed, these foundations were strong, but you could see places where possible dwarf valuables might have been stored.

That is when they saw them: some of the biggest orcs Ondoher had ever seen in his entire life. It would be a race to see who could find the artifact of the folk of Durin first, and who would leave with it.

“Quickly!” Ondoher cried. “Form up, men!” Ondoher and Malbeth formed the front of the shield wall, with Mablung and Hirgon and their spears behind.

Meanwhile, Turgon took Hurin and formed their own archer line. “With haste,” said Hurin. ”They are using the wood for cover!” A few of the large orcs drew into the wooded areas, while one ran off to the fat left flank, and the another orc and a companion flanked to the right.

The men of Gondor’s shield wall made it to an object in the middle of the battle field, but Ondoher quickly realized that it was nothing of value. Seeing this, they chose to peel away to the right flank. They charged to the next item that appeared to be what they might be looking for.

They got close, but Ondoher saw that this may end up being a diversion from the truth Relic.  He let the enemy take it first. As he did so, he looked and saw an orc even bigger than the others. He was dripping with blood from the helm he wore, and he bore a large sword. This thing was ready for battle, and would not be an easy kill.

Meanwhile, Hurin and Turgon fired at the enemy hiding in the woods. Turgon missed wide, but it was Hurin who kept hitting on target, but the thick armor of these orcs would not be sundered so easily. They continue to fire as Ondoher and the shield wall approached another item.

It was then that the Orc picked up the the chest. the creature opened it, and found what it was that he was searching for, and began to turn off to run, but the chest was slowing him down. Ondoher saw this, and immediately charged into the foe, and Mablung assisted him with his spear. The fight was evenly matched, but Ondoher suddenly shoved the orc back and struck him down with mighty blow.

The bigger orc suddenly whipped himself into a frenzy, and darted for the chest, and picked it up, and began to run off with it, but it slowed him down too much. Ondoher and Mablung charged the berserker and were assisted by the mighty spear of Hirgon, who struck the killing blow to lay this mighty orc low.

With great speed, a new wall was formed, but this one was to stand in the way of arrow fire from the orc bowman. Mablung slung his shield and spear to his back and picked up the chest, running off toward where the enemy had come from, with Ondoher, Hirgon and Malbeth forming up at his side.

Turgon and Hurin saw that their companions had the item they needed, so it was then that they charged the orcs in the brambles, seeing their bows were not effective, especially when the orcs began heading towards their comrade. Turgon slew the enemy leader with a great blow to the head, and then charged in to help Hurin fight off another orc. This one was able to fight the two of them off. The orc bowman shot at the shield wall as it charged off at a slow pace. “Steady men! Don’t falter! We can still win the…Agh! “ Ondoher was interrupted by an arrow through his knee. He immediately fell to the ground. “Forge ahead, men! We must retrieve this for our allies!”

At this, Hurin and Turgon continued to fight, Hurin slaying an orc, but as their friends continued off into the distance, they were over run and knocked unconscious and could remember no more.

The men of Gondor were able to slay a few more orcs, until finally, Mablung was able to flee the field. His valor had won him the day.

Once the battle had subsided, the comrades were able to come together. The Company brought their prize back to the camp where they left Turin and Arveleg.

Turgon and Hurin survived the ordeal with relatively no serious damage to show for it. The leg wound Ondoher received would slow him down, but with the Horse promised him by his Lord and benefactor, this would hinder him little on the battle field from now on.

Turgon, however, had learned from his experience. His devotion to the whole of his company and for his People shined through today, being willing to take on many for the sake of the White City. Ondoher also learned from the skirmish. His strength was not what it should be, so he began training to increase his strength.

Hurin had been through much. Ondoher knew it would please him greatly to join the ranks of the rangers of Ithilien, so he sent a letter back as swiftly as possible to Minas Tirith with a strong recommendation for him to join their ranks. “I think, Hurin, it would be beneficial to us all for you to drop the Armor of the white city for some Ranger gear.”

“Yes sir!” He quickly dropped his armor and took the facade of a ranger. The lighter armor made it easier to fight, and easier to shoot. Ondoher could see the light in his eyes, gladly taking on the ranger role of the crew.

“And Mablung,” Ondoher said. “Tales of your deed shall be sung by that of the dwarves for many years to come.”

“That is not what one thinks when they say that tales will be sung of you, but i will gladly welcome a stiff dwarf ale if they are willing to buy!” responded Mablung.

With that, the company laughed, again. They were in good spirits after their victory and remained rather merry.

With this victory came The promise of additional support. Yet another Spearman was sent by Beren to get their assistance, named Thorondir. The company had grown to quite the skirmishing force. They were now ready for whatever it was that they may face.

At the coming of Thorondir, it suddenly dawned on Ondoher: they had not even opened the chest with the prize they sought. What was this great dwarven artifact they were charged with retrieving? Ondoher opened the chest, his company gathered around him. Then, they saw it. They were all shocked and amazed to see the object inside….

To be Continued…

Drunken Ambush

The fires had long died out and the sound of content snoring rose through the night air.  The embers of the fire cast a very small bit of reddish light over the slumbering orcs, who had made it to the edge of Mirkwood after surviving the ambush of the spiders.

Creeping stealthily away from the camp, Iggy Yellowmug grasped a tankard of black syrupy grog and slurped it down happily.  He hated the forest, hated the smells, and hated the spiders, but the first real victory that his companions had achieved had brightened his foul mood considerably.

Padding next to him, the cowardly scout Lister looked about nervously.  He was picking at the crud and dirt under his blackened finger nails with an iron dagger, and his warg growled with annoyance at not being able to rest.

“Snaga is growing more powerful.”  Iggy remarked, tossing the now-empty tankard to the side and wiping his mouth with the back of a dirty arm.  “Pretty soon he’ll have us grovelin in the muck and cleanin up his bidness.”  The orc let out a loud belch that echoed through the night.

“Shut your pie hole idiot, we may be out of the depths of that Mirkwood, but them spiders is still lurkin about and we aint no match for…” Lister’s statement was cut abrupt by the emergence of a stranger that seemingly stepped out of the blackness of the night.

Clad in a black cape that shrouded a fully armored body and a crowning helm that added another six inches of height, the man cut a powerful figure.  Lister immediately drew his blade and his warg prepared to charge the lone warrior, while Iggy stared dumbfounded in his drunken stupor.

“Sheathe your weapon, tool of the master.  I have been sent by the dark one to guide your leader and your company back to the road of the righteous.  Your failures will be righted.”  The man said.

“I must be dreamin.  There’s a bloke in the forest tryin to tell us what is ‘appenin?”  Iggy said, reaching for his blade, but finding nothing as he had forgotten his weapon back at the camp some distance away.

“The master sent you you say?”  Lister said, partial fear creeping into his voice.  His mount continued to growl in a low perfunctory manner.  “‘ow do we know this aint some kind of trick?  That you aint one of them rangers?”

The man grinned behind his iron helm, and drew a wicked blade of steel the like fashioned in the furnaces of Angmar.  A Black Numenorean, and foot-soldier of the Witch King.

“Together we will accomplish a great many things.”  The man said through clenched teeth.  “I am Gorn.  Gorn the Black.  My blade is at your leader Snaga’s service.  He has been chosen by our master and your loyalty must be absolute.”  The clanking sound of his plate armor was soft, as if suppressed by leathers or sorcery.

The two orcs looked at each other for a moment, aware that the man had overheard their conversation concerning Snaga moments before.

A branch snapped out in the darkness, and a voice called out full of scorn.

“What do we have here?  Are we interruptin’ an orcish weddin’!  Well bless your heart, I am having a score to settle with your kind tonight and look who happens upon our path!  Look sharp lads!  We got ourselves some orc filth to kill!”

The voice belonged to a stout dwarf who stepped out from the trees.  Several more accompanied, two holding crossbows.  Both were aimed at Iggy’s head.

Lister made a whining noise as he clicked his tongue in command to his warg, preparing to flee for his life.  Only Gorn appeared unconcerned, deftly swinging his sword in great arcs and turning to face the dwarf company, who gave pause at the man’s display for a moment.

It is a wise person that exercises caution when a Black Numenorean appears arrayed for war before you, as any old wife will tell her children and their children’s children.

Mission:  Rescue

Synopsis:  The dwarf force stumbled upon Iggy’s drunken nighttime walk and is tasked with killing the orc hero.  He is accompanied by two other models (Lister and Gorn the Black).  Mr. Slave and the other orcs will arrive across the table and enter on turn one, but the dwarfs deploy 18″ into the table… putting them almost into direct contact with Iggy.

Victory Conditions:  The dwarfs must slay Iggy.  The orcs must reduce the dwarfs down to below 50% and keep Iggy alive.

Initiative:  The dwarfs always start out with priority.

Jon would be commanding his dwarf company after losing the Mirkwood scenario.   He would have seven dwarfs as one was injured from the battle with the spiders still.

Mr. Slave’s force had just come off of a victory against the spiders of Mirkwood and were at twelve strong, seven of which are now heroes!  The point discrepancy would give the dwarfs two re-rolls and two bonus influence points.

The game begins with the dwarf leader Mhulo calling for a heroic march and burning a might point.  This would let the dwarfs move forward an extra 3″ and the ram rider (in this picture on the larger base… Jon’s models haven’t arrived from Nottingham yet) an extra 5″.

Iggy and Lister both retreat back as fast as they can, with Lister shielding Iggy and Gorn posted in front with the hopes of his Terror kicking in and stopping a charge or two.

Mr. Slave and his forces arrive and begin the long march foward.  Slave is calling out to Iggy to move faster and join the orc formation so that they can drive the sodding orcs off, while Blish the assassin and the orc bowman Tasty position themselves on an elevated position to try and provide some supporting fire.

Blish and Tasty loose their arrows at the ram rider, but a sweet sweet pair of snake eyes see both black arrows streak off into the woods far off from their target.

Iggy and Gorn reach the main orc line, while Lister peels off to the flank, outside of the ram rider’s range but enough to threaten the flank.

Unfortunately, a dwarf with a crossbow had taken up position in the tree 20″ away.  The dwarf hero Thoif grinned to himself and squeezed the firing lever on his weapon.  The bolt sprang out, and a “5” was rolled to hit (good).  The In-The-Way roll for Gorn the Black was passed with a “4”.  All that was left was the wound, as Iggy had no fate point.

A “6” was tossed.

Iggy dropped to the ground, squealing in pain as the bolt buried itself in his ass cheek.  The dwarfs laughed loud and were filled with mirth as they blended back into the night.  Victory was theirs.

Mr. Slave walked over to the wailing Iggy and looked down at him with contempt.  The twin ghost-lights that shone in Slave’s eyes terrified all that looked upon him, and Iggy’s heart clenched at his leader’s look of scorn.

“Failure you are.  You will carry the drum Iggy Yellow Mug.”  Mr. Slave’s boot lashed out, catching Iggy in the face and knocking the orc warrior unconscious.

End Result:  Dwarf Victory

Upgrades and Post-Battle:  Thoif the dwarven hero leveled and received Steady Aim.  Additionally, Jon bought him a dwarf bow to benefit this new skill and a concealing cloak.   The dwarf leader Mhulo spent influence on an healing herb.

Mr. Slave’s force didn’t receive much at all.  Nothing leveled up.  The influence was spent on buying a war drum which Iggy Yellow Mug will now carry (and a model must be painted in his honor… and the orc in question will indeed have a yellow face).

With that, Mr. Slave’s February battles come to an end and we look to March and the end of Part I of the campaign which happens to lie during Adepticon at our Campaign Day.

 

The Black Death- A Grand Crusade Story

 

The Black Death

The great palace on the Throne World of Crimea is filled with the energy of life, but not the same life you or I would think of.  Starting in the air plague drones and their nurgling counterparts buzz through the air followed by huge swarms of rot flies and clouds of pure pestilence and stench.  The world rotates at just the perfect speed as to ensure half of the planet is light all of the time and half is dark.    Daemons go back and forth across the threshold of light and darkness as if it doesn’t exist, but the millions of cultists, zombies, and slave alike won’t venture near the border.  Plague Marines stand guard at each of the entrances to the Palace. Every once and a while releasing streams of bile purification onto groups of cultists and/or slaves as they pass by.  Cackling and watching as they transform into nothing but zombies within minutes of the deluge.

Within the walls of the Palace Nurglings move about creating daemon havoc throughout the halls and otherwise empty Palace rooms.  Setting each other ablaze in toxic filth, fighting and clawing, and just a quickly laughing uncontrollably.  The Chaos inside is the worst torture you could imagine.  One where the torturers find pure joy in their work.  As you make your way into the inner sanctums off the palace the Nurglings abate and the order one would expect from 10,000 plus years of warfare sets in from the Plague Marines.  This leads into the center throne room, where a gigantic Daemon Prince broods over a throne and a map of the galaxies within his control.  The Daemon’s name is lost to the ages, and he is now referred to as only the Black Death.  It’s believed that this name comes from some ancient Terran history and this Daemon Prince is in fact some derivation of a soul that was once mortal from Tera prior to being part of Dusk Raiders and then Typhus’s own Grave Warden Terminators during the Horus Heresy.

The name is very fitting as the Black Death doesn’t take over world the same way most other Chaos Space Marine warlord’s do.   Himself and a select group of would be world conqueror’s infiltrate shipping vessels bound for new and developing worlds. By the time the ship reaches its port it is always fully given over to the plague god.  As the souls inside pour out they start the process that within days to weeks will usually encompass the entire world.  The Black Death uses Papa Nurgle’s favor to its fullest often only fighting small battles to take of enormously prosperous worlds.  The citizens of those worlds having two choices; bending the knee and joining the cults of the black death or becoming one of the mindless zombie swarms carrying his plagues across the face of their home world.

The map in front of the Black Death glows with trophies of his world’s conquered.  The Fortress world of Devastation one of the brightest trophies on the map is his most recent conquest.  Somewhat smaller but still outshining the others is the Forge World of Torment.  These two worlds surrounding by a Death World with no name, an Agri-World of Abundance, a Shrine World renamed The Fall, and a Quest World referred to as The Salted World.  It’s clear the dark lord is contemplating his next conquest, and possibly what it could mean to his larger goals.

Within the circles of his Plague Marine followers all whisper about the goals of his many larger goals.  The one rumor that stands out the most is that this whole conquest is an effort to prove to his former Captain Typhus that his former Terran status doesn’t take away from his favor with Father Nurgle.  Similar rumors exist in smaller volume that he is still trying to win favor with Mortarion.  The one truth is that his favor with Grandfather can’t be denied.  His Daemonhood alone being enough, but the way the plague flows when he hits a new world can only be compared to Typhus Grandfather’s Herald himself.  The Black Death only has one more map in his throne room and that is Tera.  His lust for worlds that may lead him to this place to take on the false Emperor is directly tied to whatever it is the Black Death is trying to prove.

Chapter 1:

The Black Death has chosen his favored Plague Marines to join him in his next round of conquests.  As befitting his team, he will have volumes of plague spitting weapons, as to ensure that the plague his follows spreads makes as much contact as quickly as possible.  He also brings two marines with flails, as to help their ability to ensure they can spread death and pestilence to as many individuals, as possible.  The final member of this quest is always a Plague Marine leader with power fist.  If the Black Death isn’t close there will always need to be a method of tearing down any barrier.  The rest of their army will be created once they hit the next port.

The Black Death has a secondary support team that he hasn’t shared with any of his followers.  They will be coming from the Forge World of Torment, and may only be seen in the worst of circumstances or the greatest opportunity to get closer to the Emperor of Mankind.  The real question is can his weapons of plague and pestilence be enough to overwhelm who is likely waiting for him in the warp.  Will the False Emperor hear the prayers of his followers that slave on the worlds of the Black Death and send his own to take down the Dark Lord of Pestilence?   Would the golden warriors of the emperor be enough to bring down the Black Death, or will the Black Death be able to overwhelm them in droves of zombies and cultists?  Is the favor of Grandfather enough to overcome the desires of the Emperor?

Chapter 2

The Black Death emerged from the warp on the Death World of Feces.  This Death World is overcome with excrement from the giant slug like creatures that inhabit the planet.  The slugs will eat anything and everything they come into contact with almost instantly turning that into waste. The Imperium had realized that these slugs represent a particular type of execution for Heretics, and have operated this Death World as an execution planet for centuries now.  The Black Death knew of a particular Heretical marine who was wearing a suite of armor when he was executed that drew him to this world.  This armor carried the faith of Grandfather Nurgle providing the bearer with an ability to not only shrug off the most violent of attacks but also to spew Grandfather’s favor back on the enemies of the wearer, many times turning them instantly into the wearers legions of Poxwalker zombies.  As the Black Death had slowly grown his territory and favor since his days as a Human helping to spread the Black Plague on Terra ages ago, he continued to pursue this new relic.

His movements were no longer completely in the shadows, and the Emperor was able to catch a glimpse of this ferocious traitor has he landed on Feces.  The Emperor had known the former sole of this Human, had tracked down his work thousands of years ago has he helped to spread the Black Plague.  This was one of the oldest of all traitors, as this time represented the rise of the Chaos God known as Grandfather Nurgle and this traitorous servant must die.  The Emperor was able to see and realize the history of this Daemonic Prince all at once. He was able to see that this traitor would later infiltrate the ranks and receive the gene seed of this Dusk Raiders.  He would then move onto the ranks of the Death Guard as Mortarion became their Primarch, and then serve in the 1st Company under glorious Capitain Typhon.  This traitor had been the designs of Grandfather Nurgle all along, and potentially helped to spread the corruption that would eventually turn Typhon to Typhus and bring the peril of the entire Death Guard legion.  The Custodes were dispatched immediately.

This Black Death may have always been in Grandfather Nurgle’s favor, but he had never compared to Typhus and Mortarion.  He was a member of their Death Guard, and even have thousands of years of service to Grandfather he was still beneath them.  It created a desire to carry their favor, his job was to bring them to Grandfather, and once that happened it never ended.  It was a fascination of proving that he belonged in Grandfather’s favor to them.  Little did he know that a battle was coming on this world of Feces, that would grab the attention of at least one of these glorious leaders.

The Black Death almost immediately started to break open the Heretical Death Camps the Imperium was operating turning the recently freed prisoners into his cultists, and creating an uprising across the planet that would enable him to wade through the mountains of excrement on Feces for the armor with Grandfather’s favor.  Many of those cultists choking and drowning to death in the rivers of excrement, and becoming zombies further turning the planet to Grandfather’s favor.  Then the warriors in gold appeared.  It’s as if they knew exactly where the Black Death would be, it’s as if they could see all of his moves in the warp, it’s as if they were three steps ahead of him.  However, the Black Death new this for what it was, his opportunity to prove his was one of the greatest warriors in Grandfather’s army.  The two sides clashes almost immediately the Golden warriors having to wade through newly freed heretical prisoners driven by Grandfather’s new freedom to gain revenge for their death sentences. This was almost futile for them, but as the Custodes killed them in droves they weren’t actually dying they were creating an entirely new force of Poxwalker zombies that they would have to wade through once they finished off the cultists.  Would this stream of corruption ever end?  The Black death unleashed his secret weapons.  These disgusting tanks of vile ooze were his most recent development and his Forge World did not disappoint.  The pounded the Custodes from behind the legions of zombies.  The Custodes were extremely resilient, but were breaking underneath the weight of the never-ending stream of zombies.  The Black Death was slipping and sliding in and out of the Warp attacking where and when he wanted, but taking damage from the ferocious warriors each step of the way.  He only needed to create a diversion long enough to for his never-ending stream of new freed prisoner cultists to find the armor.   His was nearing the end of this existence when they finally did. He took to the warp knowing that as his disappeared so would the final remnants of the Custodes.

As he re-emerged from the warp on a near-by mining world he looked back through the eyes of his zombies and realized that his Poxwalker zombies were able to overwhelm the Emperors guardians and take the Death World prison planet over, effectively adding this now useless pile of poop to his planetary conquests.  By silencing the Custodes they were also able to effectively keep the Emperor from being able to track the Black Death’s next movements.  His armor acquired he would wait on this mining world and heal before his next steps would be taken.

Chapter 3

Little did the Black Death know but his refuge mining world, was not as isolated as he had thought.  While he had started to create a cultist uprising to take the planet his was no ready for the Ork incursion that would meet him head on so early in his uprising.  The Orks were able to smash into his forces and kill his cultists before his plague was able to take hold enough to turn them to zombies.  Only the few zombies that followed him in the warp would make it to this planet, and they would need more time to develop into a force that would eventually be able to take the planet.  The Black Death jumped immediately into the battle newly invigorated by his new armor, and collapsed the Ork forces from the top down.  This newly capable warrior was finally strong enough to draw the attention of Typhus his former captain from a far with this battle.  This ferocious showing of strength would not only gain Typhus attention, but draw the Contagion Lord to his eventually location.

Chapter 4.

Typhus wanted to test his new toy and sent word via nurgling emissaries to the Black Death that a Dark Angel force on a near-by AgriWorld being fed from the fertilizer of his recently conquered planet of Feces was holding something insanely valuable.   The Black Death stowed upon a fertilizer ship to make his drop on the Dark Angels in an attempt to gain whatever it was that Typhus coveted so dearly.  Unfortunately, the warp is a fickle thing, and the Dark Angels seemed to have known about his presence almost as soon as he made land fall on their AgriWorld.  It’s known within the warp they are traitors, could it be that they have the favor of one of the Chaos gods themselves.

Regardless the Black Death knew this needed to be done quickly and he would have to get to this coveted item before he could take the entire planet.  Unfortunately, his haste cost him most of the forces that he brought to this challenge and left him with only he sweltering Poxwalker zombie force that was the remnant of the forces he brought with him.   He left them contained waiting for just the right moment to let the Dark Angels walk into his last trap.  The Dark Angels were clearly in the belief that his forces had something important to them, could this be Luther pulling strings?  Or is this their lord and master the Lion getting his information from the dark gods?  Regardless they committed the whole of their forces as they always do to taking this one bastion of zombie power.  The minute they breached the doors they were overwhelmed by a zombie surge that had been building within the ruined fortress since the Black Death had arrived.  The Black Death escaped through the warp to allow for the zombies to take care of the Dark Angels before returning to retrieve his prize.  To his delight the unleashed zombie plague had not only overwhelmed the Dark Angels but shortly thereafter been able to overwhelm the largest majority of the AgriWorld.

The Black Death reported his success back to Typhus immediately.  Typhus was so pleased he made the command decision to move Terminus Est to the Black Death’s throne world of Crimea and promised to share the next steps of his grand plan once he arrived!

Siren Call

A tale of ancient magicks and fierce rivalries

​Dolvin spun his heel into the dirt, and out of reflex his broad shield raised defensively as he listened again for that old familiar sound. His brother Duk, Mhulo’s right hand, sheathed his short sword and made eye contact- they nodded grimly. Their sparring session was over, but it was only to welcome the rush of real conflict: today, once again, they would dance with death.

Bark erupted from the tree next to Dolvin, and he shielded his face from the wooden shrapnel. He had known right- the sound of arrows loosed from their bows, and the sharp *WHIZZ* as they took flight towards their intended target. They had been spotted, but the dwarves knew not from where. The arrow that had impacted against the tree found its rest next to Duk’s foot- an oily black shaft thick as an iron rod, fletched with the bloody feathers of some ill-fated foul.

“Kemlek!” the brothers shouted together.

Per the snores still emanating from the Kemlek’s full beard, it seemed he had not been stirred quite yet, despite his shouting kin. The damned dwarf could sleep through anything, barring perhaps a kick to the gut.

​“UP! YOU BLOODY LOG, THERE’S ORC TER BE FIGHTIN’” Dolvin belted, and accentuated his alert with a swift kick to the sleeping dwarf’s side.

“AYE, I been dreamin’ o’ it, fer certain!” Came Kemlek’s rumblings. He had muttered more than that, but neither Duk nor Dolvin had the time to coax sense out of the groggy, and potentially drunk, fighter- all they needed was his mattock and his violent companionship.

Keeping low to the ground, the dwarves quickly found some shelter behind a section of downed trees. Behind them, Mhulo rounded the statue from where he had been honing his weapon and called out to the others.

“Any o’ you lot seen Thoif? Last I saw he was out on his watch!”
Another arrow whizzed past Kemlek’s tree, and rustled the bushes near where their camp lay.

“No sight o’ ‘im since he took his rounds.” Replied Duk. “We could use that bow o’ his ‘bout now.”

Dolvin cursed their fates. Why couldn’t these foul creatures come out and fight them face to face like a true warrior! He lifted his shield once more and peered out towards the direction the arrows had come from. Then all was revealed to him.

On the open hill to their direct west, a small Uruk-hai conclave gathered at its apex, hastily fortifying their overlook with anything they could grab with their greasy black and red hands. Their leader was a monstrous foe, towering and clad in the crude but effective metal plate oft boasted by their kind. An Uruk sword he clasped in one hand, a spiked shield in the other. Archers loosed more arrows towards the dwarves, but they skittered off of tree trunks and disappeared into the dirt before them.

“Oi! Mhulo! To the Northwest, on the rocks. He’s low!” called out Duk in hushed tones.

Dolvin adjusted his eyesight, and saw exactly what his brother spoke of- Thoif had found a vantage point atop a rocky outcropping over-looking the Uruk defenses. He lay prone, neatly tucked onto the rocks, his dark armor acting as a disguise against the dark granite.

“That’s it then, lads. Thoif has the make of it. On his mark, we act as one and charge into their formation. Duk and Dolvin to the fore- hoist thy shields high, and level thy war spears low.” Mhulo ordered.

“Fighting uphill, sir? With what army?” contended Duk.

“They may outnumber us, but it is not enough for them old friend. Do not doubt Thoif’s aim, for they shall outnumber us even less when battle is met.” Explained Mhulo. “Kemlek, trail low behind the shield wall and break loose once we join the fray. The cursed orc sport archers of their own, and we’d all be worse off without your ire in combat.”

​“Bugger the dirty orc archers! ‘Ave ‘em throw down those twig shooters and draw sword to fight me t’my face!” Exclaimed Kemlek. With that he brandished his mattock, gripping the leather tight and firm, and he crouched low, stance ready to run uphill.

Dolvin fixed his eyes back to Thoif, and in an instant he saw the signal they were all waiting for. Thoif let loose the first bolt, and its course stayed true, streaking down to punch a hole in the chest plate of the Uruk nearest the edge of their makeshift holdfast. Remarkably, a second bolt plummeted into the midst of the screaming throng, bringing down a scout clad in greasy brown and black leather- all before the minions of the Dark Lord knew what was happening. Thoif was surely earning his reputation as a marksman, and Dolvin thanked Durin that he was present to aid them.

Mhulo rose to full height, pointed forth his mattock to the confused crowd of rowdy Uruk, and turned to the others.

“NOW! For Durin and the Iron Hills! BARUK KHAZAD!!” bellowed Mhulo, charging up the hill to take advantage of the confusion.

His brothers in arms followed suit. Kemlek roared his approval and echoed Mhulo’s own battle cry. To their east, Dolvin spotted another Dwarf assaulting the hillside, lengthy, razor sharp war spear thrust forward in advance. Nasek had returned? Without his war goat? Curious indeed, but Dolvin cared not where his help arrived from- so long as it arrived.

Dolvin and Duk exchanged one final glance as they advanced, sharing a wordless bond.

“’Til the end, brother.”

….


The Dwarves of the Iron Hills tasted defeat that day. Whatever malevolent force guided the hands of the enemy was keen and precise. Whilst the hardy dwarven armor bore by Mhulo’s company stood hard against the meager arrows of the enemy, in fierce combat the Uruk’s numbers overwhelmed them, and they were forced to retreat into the forest.

For leagues the dwarves fell back, they could not afford to be caught by the enemy. Kemlek bore Mhulo’s weight- his chest wound had reopened in the battle with the ferocious leader of the Uruk-hai. Nasek had been courageous and unrelenting with his war spear, but had been surrounded and taken down with a wound to his leg. Dolvin was able to intervene in time for the Uruk to take flight, their leader ushering them elsewhere.

The forest continued to close in, becoming denser by the minute. Preternatural darkness started to fall in around the weary coterie. Finally after what seemed like hours, Dolvin pushed into a small clearing, Nasek in arm.

A small cottage stuck out amidst the vast labyrinth of wood and darkness. Its dim lights flickered through the windows, candles lit in observance of some sort of religious ceremony, or perhaps merely to see- Dolvin cared not, he could only guess. There remained no visual sign of occupation in the small farm, but a soft, sweet lullaby floated through the air. The feeling of belonging, of being loved, of being safe from harm. The sweet, sweet song- it warmed them all.
The others stopped to catch their breaths, and to rest their injuries. Dolvin lowered Nasek to the tall grass as he collapsed of weariness, ready to rest. Mhulo was given rest by a fallen tree covered in spongy moss. Kemlek was covered in blood.

The dwarves needed the help of the farmers, so Dolvin decided to ask for it. His armor jangled as he moved his impossibly heavy legs, and everything seemed so slow. His body needed to shut down, to rest. To find the peace he and his kin so desired, he had to open that wooden cottage door. He stepped onto the wooden door front, raised his mailed fist, and knocked.

But he didn’t knock.

There was no door.

There was no cottage.

There was no light.

Everything faded into a mist, and reality itself crumbled around Dolvin’s eyes-leaving him desolate in complete darkness. He was scared, for the first time in his life. A warrior of near unmatched martial prowess, reduced to emotion and desperation.

​Dolvin turned back to where the others were, only to find that there was no one.

“What foul sorcery…” he muttered, breathless.

Dolvin fell to his knees, consciousness escaping his overworked mind and body. As his head fell to the grass, his senses caught one last fleeting sound. The sound was laced with a malice that dripped through his ears, ageless in its eternal hatred, burning the very inside of his head. Dolvin screamed, but there was no noise.

“Welcome to Mirkwood, my friend.”