The One Ring: The Darkening of Mirkwood

#15 - Escape From Dol Guldur
TA 2950

Having investigated Dol Guldur, we escape back across the causeway toward Fenbridge castle. Most of the way across the moat, we hear orcish alarm horns blowing and see archers lining up across the battlement. Radagast, who is with us, parts the murky waters of the moat and we leap off the causeway into the Bog of the Dead. Dead hands reach out from the muck and grasp at us, wounding Findegil.

We manage to make it to the margin of the forest and have to battle a couple of orcs on wargs, then begin a long chase through the southern reaches of Mirkwood toward Tyrant’s hill. We use fox tricks to double back and conceal our trail from pursuit and manage to gain some distance on our pursuers, but they catch up to us within sight of the southernmost settlement of the Woodmen. Brand blows the stolen orc horn to signal for help and we again find ourselves battling a foursome of orcs and wargs. Findegil is knocked down to 2 endurance, but Brand is super-effective with Anguirel. With more orcs approaching, the Mogdred’s men ride forth from Tyrant’s Hill and clash with the main body of orcs. We rest there for a few days then head north to Woodland Hall with Radagast.

Once there, we decide to look into the rumors of the Bloody Ghost that has been killing chickens and other small livestock in the Woodman settlements. We ask around and then find a likely farmer who will let us stake out his chicken coop for a few weeks at night in exchange for working for him during the day. Several nights of watching pass uneventfully, then one night when we are both asleep on watch, we hear a noise from the chicken coop.

Findegil approaches and opens the chicken house door. About half of the chickens are dead and blood is everywhere. Findegil can see nothing inside the chicken house. He calls for Brand who can barely make out a dark shape lurking near a corner. Findegil makes a blind leap to try to tackle whatever-it-is and it escapes through a hole in the side of the hen house. Findegil’s arm goes through the hole and his hand is badly bitten. Brand goes around the outside to catch whatever-it-is and can only hear muttering from whatever-it-is as it escapes into the darkness. “Cursesss, wicked humansss! Won’t even letss uss eat the nice chickensss, yess…”

Brand goes back to Dale for the winter of 2950-51 while Findegil spends his winter fellowship phase with the Woodmen in Woodland Hall.

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#14 - To The Gates of Shadow
TA 2950

The fellowship returns from their great battle near the ruins of Fornost to Rivendell for a year-end fellowship phase. We open Rivendell as a sanctuary and perform several undertakings. We hear news of a worsening conflict between the men of Dale and the elves of Mirkwood over the sacred grove of silver beeches, and continue to hear tales of the Bloody Ghost terrorizing the freeholders in Woodmen lands.

While in Rivendell, Elrond tells us of a messenger from Radagast the Brown asking us to meet him at the docks of Woodmen Town on midsummer’s day. After some debate, we decide to journey there first, then deal with the Bloody Ghost and have Brand and Denethor act as negotiators and emissaries if need be in the Silver Beeches conflict afterwards.

The journey is hard and wearing. Due to the odd mix of strengths and weaknesses we have in skills, Denethor served as the guide, with Brand as the Scout and Findegil as the Look-Out. No one was particularly good at their job, and we gained a lot of fatigue crossing the Misty Mountains and making our way down to Woodmen Town.

True to his word, Radagast met us at the docks, coming downstream in a strange boat. He said he needed to personally visit Dol Guldur to look for evidence of the return of The Necromancer there, and needed our assistance. Never being ones to turn down the chance to leap headfirst into a giant stinking pit of Shadow, we agreed. We went down to the south shore of the Black Tarn and then began to march south to Tyrant’s Hill. We stayed a few days with Mogdred and his men to recover Fatigue, then continued trekking through the stinking bogs to Dol Guldur.

Fenbridge Castle guards the causeway across the moat to Dol Guldur itself, and we knew that Fenbridge Castle was crawling with orcs. Our initial plan was for Brand to start a large fire somewhere north of Fenbridge to distract the orcs while we sneak around from the southwest onto the causeway. But the wood was too wet to light and we had to abandon plan A.

Plan B was to ambush an orc patrol and disguise ourselves as orcs with their gear. This worked better. We tracked one down, killing six orcs and stealing their raiment. Findegil posed the naked orcs to appear as though they were slain in mid-orgy. Then we snuck around to the causeway and walked across the causeway into Dol Guldur.

Radagast spent some time examining the Gates of Shadow, pleased that they remained open – a sign that The Necromancer had not returned. We then went into the keep itself. Radagast asked us to look for evidence in the High Keep, but to avoid The Stairs of Woe, The Undercroft, and The Tower of Spells where he was going alone.

In the High Keep, we found a slain orc and later a slain human. The evidence seemed to indicate that they fatally wounded each other in a fight. We found a lot of written volumes and a few pages of text that the human infiltrator had stuffed down a grating. And we all gained loads of Shadow points inside this awful place.

Radagast let us know that it is time to go and we leave, back across the causeway. Findegil, who managed to gain 10 Shadow points in 1 session, had a bout of madness coming in sight of Fenbridge Castle again, and flung off the foul orcish armor and clothing on the causeway.

We will resume next time with our daring escape from Dol Guldur.

Plan_A_-_Fenbridge_Castle.jpg

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#13 - The Last Stand of the Green Company
TA 2949

So we had just found a huge treasure hoard beneath the ruins of Fornost. Too much to easily carry. We were discussing our plans to go back to Bree and hire wagons and horses to haul it out when the Wights attacked. Both Brand and The Boarslayer fell, but Denethor was able to finish off the last Wight. We spent a day resting and healing in the creepy subterranean chamber, re-hid the treasure, and found our way out. The exit led us through a cave mouth, but we could hear the sounds of pursuit coming from behind us. We made it out of the cave into an ancient battlefield littered with bones, the orcs and men hot on our heels.

When we turned to face them, the ghostly host of the Green Company – Hobbit archers from the Shire that fought in the battle of Fornost a thousand years ago – appeared. The launched volleys of ghostly arrows at our enemies as we fought them. Brand was wounded and the Boarslayer fell, wounded a second time and reduced to zero endurance. The healing ministrations of Denethor and Brand were not enough. The GM even introduced a ranger that had been shadowing us, who joined after the battle to try to heal the Boarslayer, but Wulferd perished from his wounds.

He was buried beneath a great tree, and Denethor gave a beautiful eulogy. Findegal, the ranger, decided to help them report the orcish presence and help round up a band of warriors to drive them out in vengeance for Wulferd’s death.

The fellowship went to Bree and then on to Rivendell to ask Elrond for a company of elves. Bilbo and Lindir were there as well, and they showed Bilbo the proof of the existence of the Green Company. Elrond provided a band of five elves at a cost of half of the treasure in the hoard, and they hired five sturdy Bree men for a smaller cut of the treasure. The battle back at the mouth of the cave was fierce, but the forces of light prevailed against shadow. Brand and Findegal defeated the Great Orc that had killed Wulferd, and Denethor shot the last of the evil human enchanters that were allied with the orcs.

Treasure in hand, the company headed back to Rivendell for a year-end fellowship phase.

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#12 - Into The West
TA 2949

Having slain the white stag, we carry it back to the halls of Thranduil and celebrate the successful conclusion of the hunt. After a few days and some good-byes, we set off on the quest given to us by Bilbo – to find evidence that a company of Hobbit archers participated in the Battle of Fornost.

We traveled with a large caravan across Mirkwood along the elf-path – easy traveling for once – and arrived at The Easterly Inn, which is a sanctuary for our group. We did some catching up with Dindy and Dody Brandybuck and gorged ourselves on pancakes, then began to travel south to the Old Ford.

After a few days of travel, we spot a flock of crows circling something in the distance. Going closer to investigate, we find a boat peppered with orcish arrows cast onto the banks of the Anduin. In it are two dead men, wearing bear-shaped brooches. There are cut ropes in the bottom of the boat, and one of the swords is missing. It seems they may have been transporting a prisoner when they were ambushed by orcs. We take the brooches and continue southward.

At the Old Ford, we show the brooches to the ford-keepers. They confirm that the owners of such brooches are wardens of Beorn. We decide to backtrack to Beorn’s house and break the bad news to him. The slain men were indeed his wardens, and their prisoner was Oderic, a criminal. Beorn asks us to find Oderic and bring him back to the Carrock for justice.

We track Oderic with limited success. The information trail leads us to his home settlement of Stonybrook (?). There, the story is that Oderic slew the husband of his step-sister. We spend some time investigating and interviewing the residents of the hamlet, but our rolls go strongly against us and we can make very little headway. However, the bits we do piece together suggest that there may have been a lot of mitigating circumstances to the tragedy. We also fail horribly at picking up Oderic’s trail again.

In the end, we have to slink back to Beorn’s House and tell him the evidence we found and admit failure. Oderic is still out there, heading westward.

We travel on across the High Pass and continue to Bree, resting a night at the Prancing Pony. We then ride north to the North Downs and find the ruins of Fornost, aided by the map given to us by Bilbo Baggins. A few days of searching turns up some evidence that Hobbits were, in fact, present at the battle. There are several short-bows, a banner, an another map indicating tunnels beneath the city.

We find our way into the tunnels and search around, managing to scare away (i.e. fail to kill) a goblin footpad that is following us. Eventually, we find a great hall with a marble throne. A strange mosaic on a flagstone nearby draws our attention. We pry it up and see a treasure horde! Brand, who is afflicted by the Dragon-sickness, does a Scrooge McDuck and dives into the treasure. Wulferd finds a great blue-green axe head.

The horde consists of a substantial amount of treasure – too much to carry out without aid. Have our horses, tethered in the city above, been slain by goblins? And how many will we have to face before we can make it back out of these tunnels?

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#11 - The Great Northern Hunt
TA 2949

The Boarslayer and Denethor spent their year-end fellowship in the Halls of the Woodland Realm, Denethor’s home. Brand returned home to Dale to help his father. In the Spring, Brand joined the other two in the Woodland Realm for the great white stag hunt.

After several days of feasting, the characters had a rather unsatisfactory encounter with Ruithel, the Warden of the Woodland Realm when seeking advice about the customs and etiquette of the great hunt. She was quite abrupt and simply warned the PCs to stay out of her way. We did hear once again about the Woodland Elves displeasure that humans were cutting down trees in the eastern part of their realm. We may have to pick up on this hook at some point, just so we can quit hearing about it.

After this, the group had a chance to swap riddles and songs with the Hobbit himself, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. It was a jovial encounter and Bilbo gave us the gifts of a bag of Longbottom Leaf and a map of the North Downs, west of the Misty Mountains. Along with this gift was a quest to find any evidence whether a band of Hobbit archers had participated in the Battle of Fornost, some thousand years prior.

Not long after this, the hunt began. Different parties were released in waves, with Thranduil and Ruithel leading the first wave, and our little party released in a much later wave, fitting our lowly station. We endure a long series of travel checks and random checks that keep coming up empty for us, with the result that we spend several weeks wandering the forests without spotting any of our target game.

Finally, Denethor spots a deer-bed with a black stag standing near it. His Lore check gave him some reservations about shooting a black stag, and he decided to let it go. On investigating more closely, we discover a pit, clearly dug and not a natural feature. Brand spots something shiny in the bottom of the pit and climbs down in. It turns out to be Ruithel’s famous Bow of Sudden Fury. Clearly, the pit was a trap sprung some time ago, and equally evident, Ruithel was its victim.

The Boarslayer has hound sniff the bow and attempt to track the scent, but he merely goes to a nearby tree and starts to claw at it. We can see nothing unusual about the tree, but after a few moments, we hear a click from the other side and discover two dwarf brothers, Polin and Polman. They warn us that we are trespassing and to begone.

We begin to question them about the pit trap and whether they have Ruithel as a prisoner. They readily admit that they do, but refuse to turn her over to us. Apparently the two of them, along with Frar The Beardless (rendered Beardless by Ruithel herself!) are outcasts from their clan and have made a new home here in a tree in Mirkwood Forest.

Negotiations are lengthy and confusing as the two dwarfs are complete idiots and won’t take any independent action until Frar returns from business in a few weeks time. We finally convince them to release Ruithel to our custody in exchange for the pouch of Longbottom Leaf and allowing them to hold hostage the Bow of Sudden Fury as assurance of her return to them in four weeks time to face the justice meted out by Frar.

After securing her release, we go back to hunting. The Boarslayer makes a good hunting check to track the quarry, and Denethor spots the stag. Boarslayer attempts to creep closer but just misses the target on his stealth check. The stag leaps away, and Denethor and Boarslayer are each going to have one and only one shot at the hart.

Denethor (with 4 pips in Bows) misses. Boarslayer (with 2 pips in Spears) rolls 9-6-6 – a hit with an exceptional success delivering 11 damage. In addition, the 9 on the feat die meets the Edge for a spear, and the stag fails its protection test.

We gut the stag and prepare to return with it, victorious, to the Halls of the Woodland King.

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#10 - The Demon's Tower
TA 2948

Having received our quest from the talking squirrel sent by Radagast the Brown, we made some very heavy travel through some of the worst parts of Mirkwood, heading south from the East Bight. After about a week of hard travel and a long day of searching, we located the ancient armory of Denethor’s people, well hidden in the forest. Inside were racks of weapons, a small barracks, and a separate room for a one-time leader.

We all searched through the weapons, Denethor finding nothing interesting, and the Boarslayer merely replacing a long lost spear with a fine Elvish one. Brand, however, finds a strange black sword. During the fellowship phase at the end of the session, he learns that this is a First Age sword known as Anguirel.

In the private chamber, Denethor finds a chest containing a ring – a lesser ring of power (not one of the 3, 7, or 9) crafted by Elf smiths that gives him a bonus to Inspire and Awe checks and may have other abilities yet to be revealed.

At about that point, the Hill Troll that had been following us through the forest decides to come in. It was a ferocious battle, and for a few moments it looked like it could be the end of the campaign. Brand and Denethor each landed some crucial hits and The Boarslayer managed to disarm the creature, and we were finally able to destroy it after running it out of hate. However, it left Brand badly hurt (he was still recovering from a treated wound) and we had to hole up for 10 days in order to recover Endurance and fully heal.

Once healed, we went in search of Minas Raug, the Demon Tower. More hard travel, and Brand and The Boarslayer were ensorcelled by pretty dancing lights. Denethor had to survive the conversation encounter alone with Zimraphel, sorceress of the forest and student of the Necromancer. When the hundred or so orcs appeared along the battlements of the tower, we decided to run. After more tough travel, we made it back to East Bight, made our report to the talking squirrel, and had Carl Huffingtoe fix up our boots.

From there, we journeyed to Esgaroth. Brand returned to Dale, and Denethor and The Boarslayer spent the winter in the Halls of the Woodland King for our year-end fellowship phase, ending the year 2948, Third Age.

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#9 - The Folkmoot at Rhosgobel
TA 2948

Last time, we were deep within a goblin hole, attempting to rescue Dinodas Brandybuck. Having slain the goblins and done some light looting, we spent several hours getting back out of the tunnel network and managed to rejoin the caravan making its way through the High Pass of the Misty Mountains.

After many more days of travel, we finally arrived back at the Easterly Inn. Dinodas and Doty were reunited, though Doty made no mention of the promised payment for rescuing him. We spent several days there resting up and did a short fellowship phase to establish the Easterly Inn as a sanctuary for our group.

With Midsummer’s day fast approaching, we decided to journey back to Rhosgobel for the Woodman Folkmoot. The evening before the moot was spent in revelry and feasting and gathering rumors. Brand got drunk with Boarslayer’s uncle Many-Drinks, who told him the history of the Lamp of Balthi, a sacred artifact of Woodmen Town. Denethor learned of strange green fires in the East Bight. Beli spoke with Bofri, son of Bofur, who was attempting to assemble a party to scout the Old Forest Road in preparation for repairing and re-opening it as a safe passage through Mirkwood. There were also rumors that King Bard was smitten with a twerking trollop named Una, back in Dale.

The folkmoot was attended by a plurality of influential woodmen. Amaleoda the Eagle of Black Tarn was there to press her case for being recognized as a new woodmen settlement, and Ceawin the Generous was there to make a similar claim for Sunstead in the East Bight. Mogdred, the terrifying ruler of Tyrant’s Hill arrived and announced himself to be the long lost son of Ingomer Axebreaker, the respected elder woodsman of Woodland Hall. He wanted similar recognition for Tyrant’s Hill, though he radiates a strongly negative vibe.

In the end, all three proposals were accepted. We made plans to travel back across the Narrows of Mirkwood, marking a trail as we went. We escorted Amaleoda and her party to Black Tarn, then carried on with Ceawin and Bofri to Sunstead. Though biting black flies plagued us, Denethor’s keen eyes allowed us to avoid the attercops.

Once in Sunstead, we started digging into the reports of the strange green fires. They had been happening along a line, spaced about ten miles apart. We scouted where we thought the next one would be and found it. Cultists(?) of some sort were burning a live stag suspended over the enormous bonfire, chanting something about serving the Lady of the Tower, the Queen of the South. But part of their chant was also about keeping the shadow at bay. Brand was all for rushing in and attacking them. Boarslayer and Denethor, though disliking the torture of the stag, wanted to talk to them first and try to understand their agenda. Beli had no opinion. But Brand was persuasive so we jumped in and attacked them. Denethor shot the stag first, to end its suffering. After a few rounds of melee, the surviving cultists threw themselves into the fire. Boarslayer was wounded in the battle.

The fellowship returned to Sunstead to explain to Ceawin and the other locals what they found. We’re still unsure whether we did a good thing or a bad thing. While Boarslayer is convalescing, he is visited by a squirrel bearing a message from Radagast the Brown. In effect, we are to seek out Minas Raug, the Tower of the South, and observe it. Also, there is an abandoned hall of the Elves of Mirkwood in that direction that may provide us resources to fight the Shadow. It is magically concealed. We resolved to do this next time.

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#8 - A Taste For Killing
TA 2948

We had found Dindy Brandybuck and his caravan, preparing to hold off a goblin attack in the remains of an old fortification. We aided their defense and slew many goblins an orcs, but Dindy was captured.

We tracked him into a goblin tunnel, and foolishly, followed. After a long trek underground, we find him chained up in the goblin kitchen, miserably peeling potatoes and carrots and preparing a stew for the goblins. His chains are too stout to be broken, and the goblin leader has the key. We slay two drunken guards, and then two more goblins that come in asking how the stew is coming. The Boar-Slayer disguises himself as one of the guards and the group sneaks to the dining hall. Brand sneaks around behind the goblin leader while Boar-Slayer does a passable imitation of a goblin servant. He slops the stew onto the leader’s lap, creating a distraction while Brand filches the key from his pocket.

Then we decide to fight them anyway. Brand ganks the leader and hurls his chair into the crowd of diners. Beli kills many goblins with her mattock, and Denethor was completely on fire with his bow, dropping goblins and orcs with every shot. After a long battle, we wipe out the whole colony and loot their treasure pile. Denethor scores a nice bow of Elf make. We release Dindy and recover as much of his stuff as we can, and prepare to head back to the surface with all our goodies.

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#7 - The Easterly Inn
TA 2948

Boar-Slayer and Denethor each spent the winter at their respective homes. Denethor crafted a song to remove Shadow and bumped his travel skill. Boar-Slayer spent XP to boost his weapon skill (Training Montage!), spent treasure to increase his status among the Woodmen, and visited the Kingstone to recover some hope.

We had arranged to meet in the spring at the Easterly Inn, run by hobbits of the Brandybuck clan if rumors were to be believed. There, we heard rumors of Dalishmen cutting down silver beeches beloved by the elves of Mirkwood in the eastern reaches of the forest, a bloody ghost haunting the Woodmen settlements, and orcs and goblins raiding the High Pass through the Misty Mountains. The Innkeeper, Doty Brandybuck, also mentioned that his brother Dindy had not yet returned from a supply run to the Shire, and he was worried about him.

We decided to take the innkeeper’s mission and traveled (successfully!) to the Old Ford and up the pass into the Misty Mountains.

Camping one night in the ruins of an old town, we were attacked by a wight. It had grabbed Brand and buried him in the deep mud near the stream. Denethor and Boar-Slayer battled him off with weapons and then blazing brands from the campfire, and Boar-Slayer eventually managed to disarm him with his bearded axe. The wight fled into the forest and we rescued Brand.

A few days later, we encountered a wounded pony running loose. A goblin arrow pierced its flank. Further up the pass, we find a caravan group set up in a defensive position inside the ring of an old fort, bonfire blazing away in the middle. Dindy Brandybuck is among the men, and they tell tales of goblin harassment and a concentrated raid the night before.

We agree to help with their defense and take up positions within the ring.

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#6 - The Narrows of the Forest
TA 2947

Sadly, Andrew who played the effusive Carl Huffingtoe, our Hobbit mascot, moved to another city. In game, he found a cobbler to apprentice with in Sunstead in the East Bight and was able to fulfill his lifelong ambition to learn to make shoes for the Half-folk.

The rest of the group decided to return to Rhosgobel through The Narrows of Mirkwood, rather than taking the long way around the southern end of the forest. We anticipated that it would be shorter though more dangerous, and we were right. However, Denethor wanted to see the Black Tarn, so we obliged his curiosity.

During our journey, we had another run-in with six Attercops (giant spiders). We managed to defeat them, but The Boarslayer was poisoned and drastically weakened. Denethor and Brand found a sheltered glade to drag him to for rest and recovery, but The Boarslayer suffered a long fever-dream. A dead couple from old times was pointing to a glint on a hill, then we were riding a funeral boat across a black river, then we saw a cave in the hill that turned into a giant gnashing mouth. Inside the mouth was a deformed creature full of rage and anguish. The dead couple appeared again, tattered and weeping tears of blood, and pointed again at the hill. There were many rolls during this bizarre dream sequence, and at the end, The Boarslayer sang the couple a song of rest and eternal repose to put their disturbed souls to sleep.

Upon waking from the dream, The Boarslayer recognizes the dale they are in as the same landscape from his dream, though hundreds of years later. He tells Denethor and Brand about the dream and is able to point the way toward the hill. They see glyphs on the trees nearby that Denethor interprets as marks meaning “vengeance”.

As we get closer to the cave, we see tracks that are similar to troll tracks, only somewhat smaller. Also, signs of predation. We use our rope to set up a hidden trip-line between two trees. Denethor climbs a tree and readies his bow. Brand and The Boarslayer sneak up to the cave, with The Boarslayer taking up an ambush position outside, and Brand sneaking in. The troll spots him and rushes out after him. It’s a furious brawl. The troll lands a solid bite on The Boarslayer and chases Brand toward the trip-wire. Everyone manages to land some blows, and Denethor, after several missed shots, scores the critical wounding hit on the troll-creature after it trips over the wire. We finish it off with a coup de grace.

The cave contains the gnawed remnants of many people, among the troll filth. The Boarslayer recognizes parts of the raiment of the couple from his dreams among the broken bodies. We dig a mass grave and lay the people to proper rest, and The Boarslayer sings the same song over the grave that he sang in his dream. Then we loot the cave. There is a substantial amount of treasure in the cave, and Denethor finds a wondrous item – a Dwarf-made ring that gives him a bonus to Insight checks.

After another rest and several more days of travel, we make it to the Black Tarn, which turns out to be a completely wholesome lake. We gig for eels and have a light supper, then go to the new Woodman stead on its eastern shore. We tell the leader there of the Folkmoot, set for next Mid-Summers day in Rhosgobel, and finally return to Rhosgobel for another Year-End fellowship phase.

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