Smoke on the Horizon
Traveling North the party come across a town in distress. A small fire has taken hold near their village, which for Mirkwood is on surprisingly dry land and at risk of truly going up in a wild fire. The party enter to find the villagers have already formed bucket chains and are tackling the fire under the supervision of their chieftain.
Eager to help, Berwin offers up her steed to carry water to the front while Daeron is ready to just jump in. However as they talk to the chieftain a female member of the villain comes running out, having realised her children aren’t within the safety of the village. With the fire raging she fears the worst.
Heading out into the burning forest they search for the two missing children. Durin calls upon his familiar, the Raven ‘Shadow’. While he goes off to search by air they continue on foot to look for clothes. By happen chance they find a few tracks that leads them to where two backpacks belonging to the children have been left, but no sign of the children. Shadow returns and says he’s found a dog stuck amidst the fire. Knowing the children had gone out with the families faithful hound they go after it hoping the dog would know where they are.
However the task of saving the hound is no easy task. It is caught in a small clearing where the fire has taken hold. In the end it took the combined efforts of both Berwin and Dareon to get the hound free. Happily the creature did then help to find the children, taking them to a big tree that is currently safe from the fire. With a small nook at the base of it the hound barks on out and everyone expects to see the children, but they do not. Checking out there is every sign that the children had taken refuge here. But another set of tracks is found and it would seem that the children were taken away by someone.
With no leads left to follow, and the sound of a horn bellowing from the village for them to return they abandon the search. Though when they return, as if by a miracle the children are already there. The Chieftain explained that a large figure, covered in a black cowl to hide his face just laid the children out and fled before anyone could say anything. Still everyone is eternally grateful to the party for what they did and what they tried to do. The mother welcomes them all into her hut to rest and recover before traveling again. With most of the part weary, they are more than happy for this.
An almost supernatural storm closes on the group. Lightning streaks across the sky, thunder booms and they are pelted with rain. Desperately needing shelter they come across a huge tree and taking inspiration from the children they see it as the one bit of shelter that would likely not get blown over by the storm.
However from the smell it is clear something else uses the hollow under the tree. But while there is a smell, there is no actual occupant. Getting in they try to dry off, but it’s then that they notice on the inside someone has crudely drawn depictions of horrible scary faces, faces in torment and faces of people who are very angry. There were also markings, strange symbols, which Daeron realised were the lettering of the dark language. On edge the party carefully watches for the occupant of the hollow to return. For the better or worse the storm ended before that happened and they were able to pass on.
The Last Leg
Nearly out of the woods, the mountains of the North are now so very close. However it is on this last day that a dark malaise falls over the group. There is a buzzing in their ears like flies are all around them. A laziness creeps up from the ground into their legs. Daeron talks with Baldor, trying to distract themselves from this unnatural feeling, and Durin joins in as well. But then they look around and notice something most unpleasant, Berwin and Belgo are no where to be seen and they aren’t exactly sure when last they were together. They are left with no doubt that something must have lured them off the path, as Berwin had left behind her horse, something she would never do.
Back tracking down the path they are lucky and spot the disturbance of where they left the path and crossed into the low brush. Rushing on ahead they soon catch up to their companions and find a most horrendous sight. Between a copse of trees was a hole into the ground, a well of sorts, of which crawling on out of it was a mass of tendrils. Thick and jagged muscle, knotted together to make long appendages that almost resembled rose vines. The creature had the both of them, who were unconscious and seemingly embracing the creatures hold of them.
Naturally Daeron and During launched to the rescue of their friends. Though what was more surprising was the deft hand-work of Baldor. He slipped Thorondir’s sword from it’s sheath before even he could and charged on forward. It was a close won victory, but with Baldor hacking away to free Belgo, the impressive axe work of Durin and the arrows of Daeron, the creature was forced to flee, seeming to abandon it’s tendril like appendages and whatever was the source of the creature fleeing into a network of tunnels.
The two ensorcelled comrades soon recovered, and from the pit that the creature was in, much treasure was found. It would seem that the ‘Thing in the Well’ had been there for a long time, luring all manner of people down into the depths.
The Journeys End
Free from the forest of Mirkwood the great expanse of the North lays ahead of them.A great plain with the forest river cutting through and the Grey Mountains looming over it all. The huge mountain range spreads before them, along with in the distance can be seen the peak of Kanduras, it’s peak shrouded in what looks like a storm, the flash of lightning occasionally seen within it.
The Barge Way
Marbelain is in sight, but there is something wrong. The groups first stop is to the small barge community that resides at the edge of the forest river. It could be seen that everyone who lived there was out. Three small families, one of which was a family of hobbits, and a lone guardsman who wore chain-mail and a brilliant blue cape.
Meeting with the guardsman who identified himself as Alaric a member of the Cerulean Guard, he explains that everyone is out because something weird has happened. A barge was finally returned up the Greylin, the first merchant the town has had in months. Getting off with a cart he had gone up to the gates of Marbelain and entered on in. Now the gates have been closed, and the Hobbit father of the family was sure he sure people going up the mountain pass to the High Cage.
Alaric can’t leave his post. If something has happened and miscreants are around, he can’t abandon the three families he is sworn to protect. Initially he didn’t trust the party either, however Daeron reminding him he is a member of the Elder, persuaded him that men and elves must come to trust each other. Agreeing to that he asked if they (except Baldor and Belgo) would go to Marbelain and see what the fuss is about.
They made their way to the bridge and crossed to the halfway point where there was the Keep of Dragon Fell. Heading on up into it they find the guard station, door unlocked and the two guardsmen inside and slumped over the table, two empty goblets, a full one and a half drunk bottle of wine. Daeron had a smell and with his knowledge of medicine realised that they had been poisoned but were still alive. Berwin rode back to Barge Way with the two poisoned guards and got them some help, then charged his horse on back to catch up to the others who were nearly to Marbelain.
Marbelain is 15 miles away, most of the town not visible to the horizon, but the mountains that circle them are, along with the Tower of Cinder and The High Cage are. The people now stood about are concerned. A number of barges have come up stream, but they don’t look like ones their used to seeing. Now the gates have closed (which is strange for the time of day).
Gates to Marbelain
The gate was still closed as they arrived, but calling on out they get the attention of the sole guardsman who is up there. Another member of the Cerulean guard, who goes by the name of Reinald. He briefly explains that they have been attacked by an unknown assailant, but not knowing the group he doesn’t know if their involved. At which point Berwin presented Alaric’s helm, which had been given to her when she took the two guardsman back. Knowing Alaric wouldn’t hand over his helm without good reason, he chooses to trust them, explaining what has happened.
The trader came up the path with his cart and was eagerly welcomed. But the moment he placed one foot inside Marbelain a great mist rose from his feet like it was the most natural thing to do. It spread on out through every alley and street in the town. Then from the cart corpses began to get on up and soon infested the town. The mist covering their movements it started a panic in the town. The guard are now occupied trying to deal with the undead incursion. Reinald was with the guard captain trying to put down the undead who kept getting back up again till they started burning the bodies. However realizing this could spill on out of the town to the farmland, or more of the man’s associated by turn up, he volunteered to go on his own to close the gate.
Agreeing to work with the group, Reinald told them he would open the gate, but to be ready to fight, as some of the undead had followed him on back to the gates. The group ready, he opened up the gate and let them fight the two raised corpses. Joining them, they then made their way to the mountain pass, believing that is where the ‘man’ had gone. As they made their way up the pass, Reinald talked about what he thought the ‘man’ might be after. At the top of the mountain pass are two towers, the HIgh Cage which is the towns prison, and connected to it by a skybridge, the Tower of Cinder. He explained that Celeborn gave to Fram at the founding of the city, a phial of light from the blue star Luinil. The blue flame helped to cast back the cold from Forodwaith and allowed the city to prosper. Member of the Cerulean guard make their pledges in front of it when they swear to defend the town, hence the blue capes.h1. Up to the tower
The path is long and they make their way up is as fast as they can. Getting near the top they spy a figure making his way across the bridge. Shortly after they encountered three more of the risen dead, which together with Reinald they put down. Just as they entered into the High Cage, two more figures went running across the bridge.
Inside the High Cage they found two more guardsmen having been poisoned. Reinald unsure whether to take the men back down to town or stay and fight with the others, looks to Daeron for guidance. Daeron, having weighed up the situation told Reinald to get his men back down to town and to an apothecary. It left just the four group members to go up and face whatever was on the bridge.
Finally catching up to his strange ‘man’, they see him to be a figure clad in black leather armor, his flesh pale white and his face showing much scarring and strange disfigurement. Daeron recognised him as a servant of the enemy, a most foul servant, one who had given himself totally. He was a black Numenorean, and great enough to already be engaged with two opponents. The guard captain was with a High Elf and not faring two well. As the group charge over the guard captain was bashed into submission by the black Numenorean’s mace. Shortly after the Elf took a blow, knocking him off his feet and over the edge of the bridge where he was lost from sight.
Now left to stand before this foe along, the black Numenorean turned his attention to them. Everyone knew this was a foe they couldn’t take, even at full strength it would be no mean feat, but now with half of them battered and weary from such a long journey, it was hopeless. Speaking to them in a low guttural voice, the black Numenorean spoke to them.
_“So young you all are and so much you could become, it is unfair that you should end here, but life… simply… is unfair and I know… only cruelty”
Then a strange power fell upon the group and their adversary. A red hue was cast upon the bridge, as if the sun no longer shone white light, but instead red. This crimson haze was then met by something coming up behind the party. A silhouette was cast over them of a figure on a horse. They could feel the breath of the horse on their backs, as it snorted and bayed. No one dared to turn around to face it, but the black Numenorean was clearly looking at whatever was behind them. Seemingly a mixture of angry and confused by it’s presence, he spoke to it, saying:
“Bane of Rhudaur consign yourself to memory"
A hiss came from the figure that cast the silhouette over them, before speaking in the black tongue.
“Na Makrig Kalkurt Urgl Mart”
“… when next we meet I will not be so moved by your presence”
With that the black Numenoreaon pulled his cloak around himself and in a burst of black feathers became a flock of crows that caw madly and swept away mockingly. The red haze receded, the silhouette with it. At that, Berwin turned pale white and started to drop, caught quickly by Daeron.
A Reward and a Responsibility
The firekeeper came from the Tower of Cinder and walked over to the group. He immediately recognized the affliction of Berwin and had the others bring her into the tower. Before the guard captain could join them, the firekeeper told him this was not for him and closed the door.
Explaining to the party the importance of the light of Luinil, he also explained how the Cerulean guard made their vows and bathed in the light of the star. For what they had done, he offered to let them make the same vows and bask in Luinils light.
The choice was there’s to make.