Middle Earth: Sunset of the Fourth Age

On the Inside Looking Out

Our heroes are inside of the castle with the Empress, trapped inside a ragingly swirling moat, separated from the Greenwood elven force camped nearby.

The first order of business was for Nwalme to give the Empress a report on what’s been going on since the last time he’s been able to communicate with her via Telepathy.

  • Nwalme wrested the Blue Wizard’s staff from him, nearly dying in process.
  • Among the staff’s abilities is the Toss spell, which can throw human-sized creatures around. The Empress expresses an interest in learning this spell.
  • A short way north of the castle, we discovered a group of hostile elves that he thinks are responsible for the strange behavior of the castle’s moat.
  • The events surrounding the Battle of the Shore, and the ships that broke off and sailed westward just before that battle commenced.
  • Intelligence we have gathered indicates that the hostile elven forces are amassing north of the castle, and that their leader and his lieutenant are also present there.

Once the debriefing was complete, the Empress formally inducted Bo into the Empress’ Guard. (Bo was more than happy to rub this fact into StrongWülf’s face.) Unfortunately, the Guard’s equipment stores and quartermasters are outside the castle with the bulk of her troops, so Bo cannot be issued standard equipment. Still, Bo was humbled and honored that the Empress knew of him and his exploits.

The Empress sends our heroes out to deal with the nearby elves who are controlling the moat.

With this clear mission, Araphor sent Stormdancer out to perform some new reconnaissance. The falcon’s sharp eyes quickly spot the enemy elves, despite them being mostly under tree cover. Their position affords them a line of sight to the castle, which appears to allow them to target the ritual magic that eight of them are performing. Eight more elves stand guard around them.

Beyond this encampment, Stormdancer also notices several scouting parties of elves, about 40 individuals in total, arranged in a rough arc through the foothills north of the castle.

Relaying this information to those inside the castle, the consensus is that these forces are in place to keep the Empress trapped at the castle. Unfortunately, there are only about 200 people within the fortress: garrison support, Empress’ retinue, counselors, and a handful of elven soldiers. Not the military forces needed to withstand a siege, even with the help of the elves encamped outside.

In the course of conversing further with the Empress, it becomes clear to Bo and other members of the group that there has been no communication from the runners that Guthwyn had sent. This does not bode well.

Bo was also worried about the Wizard’s staff being in the room where they’ve been talking about things that they don’t want overheard. But Nwalme had been keeping an eye on it to ensure that it hasn’t been glowing to indicate that a spell was in play.

Tired from traveling all night, our heroes get a few hours’ sleep.

When they wake up a bit more rested, if not totally recovered, the Empress looks grim. Her experiments have shown that Sauron was not completely destroyed at the end of the War of the Ring, as everyone had thought. What remains of him may be little more than a shadow — far less powerful magically, but still with all of his knowledge and experience.

Araphor doesn’t like this; he’s worried that this might mean that in his inchoate form he may now be able to possess others. The group suspects that he might be unable to amass much power, though, since he needs to keep his Nazgul powered and obedient. The Empress weighs in, saying that she felt that the essence of the being that is disrupting the communication between herself and Nwalme felt somehow subservient.

With this, Araphor recalls that the far East was where the elves first awoke. Among these hostile dark elves, therefore, there could well be ancient, powerful elves who were among the first – some 15,000 years old.

[StrongWülf peed himself in terror as this was explained to him.]

The Empress felt that Araphor’s theory is close and that she wants to work with Nwalme to get the party into the hostile elves’ midst to better find out what they can about the enemy’s plan. And that in the mean time, she needs to escape to join the bulk of her forces, rather than await the arrival of the enemy while she’s trapped here.

Unfortunately, the usual escape route from the castle — the sally port — is largely collapsed and muddy due to the wild moat. Few could make their way out that way.

So the party decides to stage a diversion, so that the Empress can escape to the main encampment to the southeast. The idea is to get teleported in to where the nearby magic ritual is being performed.

Everyone gets into a circle and readies themselves. Araphor uses Icy Weapon to frost his blade, and dons the Ring of Haste to speed up. Nwalme tries his best to explain what it is going to feel like, so that everyone will be better able to avoid disorientation and be able to react quickly.

The teleport was successful. Most of the party made their body sense rolls and weren’t stunned. They could react quickly. With the party prepared, the Empress and her mages wink the party over to the nearby forest.

Bo, Araphor and StrongWülf manage to keep their wits as they pop into the clearing, and were able to attack from surprise with devastating consequences. Guthwyn and Nwalme took a second, but joined in with a will. Everyone lays out an elf or two, blade and arrows singing through the air as Nwalme Tosses a few of them about. Araphor charges into the circle’s center, pressing forward to attack the mages.

This draws the mages’ fire, and they throw spell after spell at him: Water Jet and Ice Dagger.

[…to be continued]

Off to See the Empress (and Hopefully not the Wizard)
...although not without being tracked

Nwalme leveraged the power of ritual magic to cast a couple of healing spells on himself to recover from the horrific damage that he took fighting the Blue Wizard one-on-one. It was strange to see him do that with thirty-two willing helpers over ten minutes or so, but the results speak for themselves.

He also studied the new magical staff that he now controls.

Guthwyn and StrongWülf ensured that the army forces at the mouth of the river understood General Guthwyn’s orders to do the following:

  • Scuttle the boats to block the mouth of the river
  • March the prisoners and ex-slaves to the main encampment to see who can be trusted and incorporated into the Empire’s forces
  • Leave a squad at this location to control the area

After deciding that the enemy’s camp north of the eastern-most castle is probably where the invisible boats are going, our heroes head in that direction with a small rag-tag crew: the party, two Rohirrim, and a pair of hobbits. They set off over untamed lands, two and a half days of travel across rough and hilly terrain.

During this trip, Araphor was reunited with Stormdancer. Through conversations with the falcon, he learned that the elves at the site of the explosion were in still in disarray.

Also during this trip, Bo practiced with his new bow and new short sword as often as he could to become as proficient as possible in the short time that they had traveling.

At the end of the second day, the party was ten miles away from the castle and they made the decision to ride through the night. Around midnight, runes on the staff began to glow. The party prepared for the worst. StrongWülf was sure that the wizard was approaching and planned to kill them all. Nwalme cast History on the staff to try to understand what the glowing runes meant, and realized that unfortunately a spell was being cast from the staff. As he wasn’t doing it, that only left the wizard. Using Identity, he realized that the spell was a Seeker and assumed that the maia was trying to find them.

At this point, the party got close enough to see that the castle’s moat was now quickly moving around it, even flowing uphill at points. They surmised that that much water moving that unnaturally must mean that the wizard and his elves were behind it. Nwalme cast Seeker and found that the Empress was on top of the castle’s tower.

As the party watched, it was clear that the number of people atop the wall was dwindling, soldiers disappearing back into the castle. We rode closer, so that Nwalme could Teleport inside to get the staff to the Empress. He failed initially, but only partially so. He didn’t teleport to the Empress, but he did appear a half a mile away from the castle, deeper into the forest, within fifty yards of some dark elves performing a magic ritual. He used spells inherent in the staff to disrupt things briefly until he could Teleport to the Empress, completely draining the staff’s powerstone in the process.

While he was gone, the party met up with some of the elvish forces from the Greenwood that were camped at the castle. Guthwyn had the brilliant (actually brilliant — not just clever for Guthwyn) idea of using the bridge stones to cross the newly created moat. She set up one stone and had Araphor throw the other across the moat. When the bridge went up, the party found that the mystic bridges only worked over slowly moving water. The moat was moving too quickly. But soon, Nwalme’s disruption of the ritual slowed the water enough that a mystic bridge was enough to get Guthwyn, Bo, StrongWülf, and Araphor across, as well as a small patrol of six elves. Arod was the only horse able to cross with them.

The party’s old friend, Thaliondor* was there with the Empress’ guard. Behind them, the moat began to speed up again, leaving elves on both sides to try to build a normal bridge to cross in a more mundane way.

Battle of the Shore
"We shall fight on the beaches... we will never surrender."

Some sessions are just a continuation. This is one of those.

At the beginning of the session:

  • 5 boats with mutinies
  • 8 of the mages have arrows sticking out of them (including the Wizard)
  • 2 of the boats seem to have dead mages on them
  • The Blue Wizard seems to be critically injured (but we’re not sure how long that will last)

With Araphor unconscious, the fish are starting to disperse. But their natural wish to get away is now tempered by their individual self-interest, so they are moving slowly.

Guthwyn was very busy keeping the forces on track and continuing arrow volleys at the enemy longboats. She also shouted orders to the longboats, when the mutineers took control of them. Her quick thinking and their listening to her orders results in the mutineers using their newly controlled longboats to ram enemy boat.

StrongWülf, by his actions reminded the troops of some useful information, such as: longboats on fire aren’t pleasant places to be, screaming that you’re going to do something and then running toward the enemy makes you a target for enemy bowmen, and most importantly seeing something important and getting it to a mage is sometimes that best you can do when the enemies aren’t within battling distance.

Araphor dutifully continued to convert oxygen to carbon dioxide, as he struggled to recover enough to move after the incredible magic he’d been able to perform moments before.

Nwalme was daring. He teleported himself onto the longboat with the Wizard — repeatedly, where he attacked with surprise and used his Death Touch deftly. He also realized that if he got the wizard’s staff away from him, his power would be diminished. Sadly, it took multiple attempts, after being flung off the boat by the maia as well as taking massive injuries, but he was able to separate the Wizard from his staff before he and it went flying into the air with the sweep of the Wizard’s arm.

With some quick action from StrongWülf when the staff almost landed at his feet on the shore, the young guard ran it up to where Nwalme had landed broken and unconscious and stayed with him to guard him and keep him safe.

Bo continued to snipe at the Wizard, doing his best to keep him from being able to regain control of his forces. It sounded better in theory than in actuality, as it wasn’t able to keep the maia from casting spells to pin down Bo (relatively ineffectively) or to fling Nwalme away from him and the ship. But during the brief battle of the shore, Bo and the other bowmen were able to do horrendous damage to the mages on the boats and to the Wizard himself. In the end, he’s hit with the maia’s web spell (again) and all but spread-eagle and incapacitated on the ground.

The forces under Guthwyn’s control was remarkably successful. The yeomen archers sent volley after volley into the longboats, sowing confusion and discord. Under their sergeants orders, after they saw StrongWülf throwing a burning flask of oil ineffectively at the longboats far outside of his range, they used flaming arrows to try to destroy the boats. They also continued to pepper mages, the Wizard and the like.

The longboats had mages, dark elves, and probably controlled rowers. When the mages’ spells were disrupted, the rowers often started to mutiny. On some boats, these mutinies were successful. On others, not successful, but still they successfully distracted the elves and kept them from giving their full attention to the forces on the shore.

The Wizard fled. He teleported to the far shore of the river and hurried off to lick his wounds and recover.

The end result: 2 boats have surrendered; 7 boats are badly damaged, but have successfully retreated; 3 boats have sunk; 7 boats are captured — but 2 of them aren’t usable.

StrongWülf has taken an arrow or two for some minor damage.
Nwalme is seriously injured from the Wizard’s slamming him around – so much so he can’t heal himself.

Nwalme’s first impression of the staff was that it’s at least a ten point powerstone and the stone on top is a powerful and specialized powerstone as well. Araphor, finally conscious enough to move, performed First Aid on Nwalme to better help him avoid death.

So long and thanks for all the fish
Araphor, the codfather

The first thing our heroes do is to try to figure out their next move. There is vital information that needs to be given to the Empress and others, but how was the important question. Assumptions were made about the Great Leader™ (presumably Sauron in disguise) where he is and where the best place would be for us to be situated to try and deal with him. We realize that the information we’ve surmised is largely a death sentence from the leader of the dark elves, whether or not it’s actually Sauron.

Bo points out that it might be a good idea to have redundancy in our delivery, expecting that the Great Leader™ would do anything to keep his enemies from having our knowledge. He thinks that splitting up the hobsters to go to the next closest encampments to get the word out, as we head to the third closest encampment based on where we expect the Great Leader™ to be heading and where the Empress will want us to be. Nwalme thought that this would mean that we would need to go the mouth of the river. Araphor didn’t think that we should take the chance with General Guthwyn. If she were to be killed, it would dishearten the army. Having to worry about the morale of a greater army was new to us, as was the thought of keeping Guthwyn out of the middle of the fray.

As we continued to discuss our options, we traveled across the river, where we bumped into guardsmen that couldn’t wait to hop to Guthwyn’s orders. Surprising everyone that had known her well — and Bo — who hadn’t — Guthwyn embraced the full power of being the general and started giving orders. She had listened to the debate that had waged around her and forged her own stubborn way through the arguments and counter-arguments. She sent a pair of hobsters to their next communication station to get the information out in via that medium. She sent three guardsmen to ride as fast as they were able to the castle — they were to go straight to the Empress and tell her our news. That left our small group of irregulars (our heroes™) to go to the mouth of the river themselves with our smaller group: two hobsters, and two remaining guardsmen (Strongwulf and an unnamed female guardsman).

Three miles north (about 20 minutes of travel – which gives you some indication of the roads and how Arod could push us to travel on them), we got to the hobster communication station. They signal us to let us know that they’d heard the news that we had sent about the assault planned on the mouth of the river and toward the Empress’ castle. As of twenty minutes ago (the last communication along that stations), there was no word of any attack at the mouth of the river. It was all still and quiet. It was sunrise, about an hour from when Nwalme was scheduled to make his normal contact with the Empress.

At the designated time, he contacted her. Both Nwalme and the Empress realize that someone else is listening and as such, they’re circumspect in how they discuss the news of the enemy. Nwalme reported the numbers (20,000 elves; 500,000 orcs) and possible locations of the enemy troops, and also that one of the blue maia has died by our actions; the Empress wished that she had Wizards on her side. The listener made his appearance known with a chuckle and said that our information was better than he thought and that he’ll have to rectify that. When Nwalme gave the location of the troops that had teleported away, the voice says our information was too much better and the connection was severed. [The amount of magic and skill to do that must have been phenomenal.] Nwalme tried again and the ‘Empress’ asked what happened, but gave away the game with an unusual idiom, when the other magic user (presumably the Great Leader™) realized that the ruse was up, the connection is severed again and then used the connection to do damage directly to Nwalme. The true Empress contacted Nwalme and gave a quick message: defend the line, thanks for the warning, don’t contact us and prepare to disconnect quickly, if contacted. We realized that the telepathic communication channel (one of our greatest assets in the field) was now mostly useless.

Nwalme healed himself fully as we rested for a few minutes.

We continued on and catch the high ground as we approached. From our vantage point, we were able to see the enemy forces, using an unnatural mist to conceal an armada advancing on the village. As we’re pretty much on the front line – the villagers are largely long gone and it’s largely encampments with some villagers left to be part of the war effort – Guthwyn sends the unnamed guardsman riding like hell to the village to warn them, and use the communication point in town to get the word out. There ships are elvish longboats: we think there a couple of thousand people attacking (40-80 boats) – not sure how many of them are combatants versus rowers/slaves. We try to get an idea on how many might be spellcasters. As before with these group spells, there’s at least one spellcaster keeping the mist spell going and others feeding him/her energy.

Once again, we try to figure out what to do. We think there are 30 boats, but then they seem to have some of them fading away, as we watch. We’re not sure whether this is an illusion spell, or invisibility kicking in to hide them. This village is basically 100-150 people (two archer units: 50 together). The alarm goes off and the sentries realize that the armada is too big. It’s time to run — they give the signal to evacuate. But unfortunately, this means we can’t stop the elves from landing and must cede these two miles of coastline.

Araphor brought back up the idea of setting the forest on fire make a break and make it harder for the enemy elves to pass. Nwalme tried to cast See Secrets to figure out what’s going on. Araphor did his best to try to spot wakes and other options to tell what’s really going on with the boats. Guthwyn remembered that she has a Ring of See Invisible, which she gives to Bo. He looks out and can now see that there are 25 boats, and illusions of boats to make it seem that there are a lot more. (That means 25 w/ 20 people on them – so only 500 of so enemies to fight. 7 visible; 18 hidden)

It looks like the male maia is magically raising the mist from the front ship. It looks as though they’re bypassing the village and heading up the river. We realize that the earlier attack we’d seen before we crossed the river was to take out the defenses to make this attack possible. The Great Leader™ and his people know something about tactics and strategy.

From our vantage point, we can see the five invisible boats heading along the bank of the lake; and the remaining 13 started to fade into visibility to head up the river.

Araphor came up with a brilliant idea of summoning all the fish within ten miles of the fishing village, in order to really really muck up the armada’s attack. Nwalme will feed him fatigue to help him maintain the spell. While Guthwyn and Bo will try to get the archers in position to attack the elves. As soon as Bo sees the male maia become distracted, he is to shoot. That’s going to be the signal for all the archers to let fly to take out as many elves as they can.

As with many things, there is the plan, and there is the execution. Araphor’s plan executed brilliantly. In the first minute, the river stopped being smooth and there were a lot of fish agitating the water. In the second minute, the last three of the elves’ boats began slowing down significantly. In the third minute, all of the boats are slowed – the last five or six boats aren’t in control any more as the sheer number of the fish is making the water flow in the wrong direction. Halfway through the fourth minute, the male maia’s boat stops moving and he’s trying to figure things out. Two of the boats capsize. The maia was distracted. Nwalme failed his first attempt to share strength, but was able to still get enough energy to Araphor to keep the spell working through those critical first few minutes.

Seeing the male maia distracted, Bo aimed and let fly his arrow to critically hit the vitals of the male maia – severe damage to the vitals, bypassing armor. Once again, we forgot how bad it can be for a mage that’s channeling multiple spells and the energies of other magic users, when they take a great deal of damage while concentrating.

The five boats become visible. On five of the boats people stop rowing, and fighting breaks out as the slaves therein mutiny.

The other archers let fly. The elves are not happy as as the arrows hit their targets. On the lead ship, Bo hit the maia and someone else hit his elven spellcaster.

[NOTES from Pam on the first volley of shots. There were two archers aimed at each boat and the first 10 boats all have three aimed at them.]

Flying downhill, all snug in our handbasket

As Guthwyn leaned in to slice the throat of the female maia the sounds of the insects and birds of the plains fell silent. This was one of those moments that seemed to cause nature itself to pause. Guthwyn cut the throat of the maia and as her last breath fled from her, a bluish glowing mist rose up from the body and into the air. The silence stretched; the heroes stared. The mist flowed back toward the west, as though the maia’s spirit was reaching out to home and peace, but a breeze kicked up and the mist spread out, dissipating. A few seconds later, a cricket called, and then the symphony of nature resumed.

The consensus was that the dark elves were too dangerous. The party slit throats, except for a single prisoner under the watchful and wary eye of Bo, who delivered a punishing headblow each and every time the prisoner stirred and seemed like he might rise.

Nwalme-Anna and Araphor were too injured and too weary from their magical works to ride immediately, so the party was forced to put them in the cart with the prisoner and Bo on watch. Araphor was able to do first aid on Nwalme as they traveled.

Unsure which way to go, we made for the river, but the cart caused our heroes to have a nagging fear that they would be seen, they would be caught, and they didn’t need to imagine what their enemies would do to them.

After the first aid, Nwalme woke up and a few minutes rest was enough to get Araphor and Nwalme invigorated enough to ride on horseback under their own power. The party was able to ditch the cart and run off twelve exceedingly dim horses.

They made for a defensible location that Strongwülf knew about. There Nwalme was able to interrogate the prisoner. Nwalme’s well-known skill as the Grand Inquisitor was amply demonstrated – he was able to crack the prisoner’s resolve and a wealth of information flowed:

The prisoner was the equivalent of a colonel in the enemy forces, which meant that he had 1000 elves under his charge. (A half regiment.) His knowledge of the leadership was going to prove very useful for us. Unlike other dark elves we questioned, this prisoner was a true believer. There would be no reasoning with him and his knowledge was fought for.

At the sight of the ritual, we had been too late to stop the elves commander from going through the portal with 2,500 battle-hardened elvish troops. They were sent to the other side of the river near the castle where the Empress is currently going.

The other maia is alive and unhurt. He’s heading to a boat to cross the water and meet up with the other troops at the mouth of the river.

Speaking of the other troops: they have over 20,000 elvish troops (10 regiments, for those doing the math at home) and about a half a million orcish troops. The bulk of the orcs are still on this side of the river, bearing down on the water and the empress’s forces.

But while that is awful, that’s nothing compared to the leadership: 400 years ago their Supreme Leader went from being one of their greatest mages to someone indescribably powerful and much more ruthless and cruel. They don’t know what changed him, but they do know that their leader may be strong enough for them to conquer the West and take their rightful lands back from those that have stolen their birthright. The supreme leader has a trusted lieutenant: one of the greatest magic users that the elves have ever had. (And a magic user that specializes in spells that convince others and allow him to learn things that he would have no way of knowing.) The two leaders of the armies are always seen masked and they are always wearing grey/green robes.

Nwalme wracked his brain trying to think of anything that might have happened four hundred years ago that might have factored in or even caused the supreme leader to change, but there had been no sign of it in the west.

The enemies’ plan (at least as known by an underling like the prisoner) are to make their way west and reclaim their rightful inheritance, that had been denied them. They’ll cut off supplies, attack the Empress’ leadership, and coordinate with another attack battalion. Once the forces of the west have been defeated, they’ll give the mountains to the orcs — they so rightly deserve these for what they’ve endured — and then the dark elves will continue on to Valinor and their birthright.

Nwalme was able to cast telepathy upon the prisoner after he had been broken and ‘saw’ the elf’s memories: the supreme leader’s aura was off; it just wasn’t quite elvish. We’re thinking that this might be Sauron. The army leaders are definitely Nazghul.

At this point, Nwalme puts the prisoner to sleep and shared this information with the rest of the party. Once he’s rested from the spells he cast during the interrogation, he tries to reach out to the Empress, even though it is not the pre-arranged time. He fails, but feels a presence watching and paying attention to his attempts to communicate with the empress.

The party rode for the river, expecting hell to rain down upon them. They got to the river, they met up with the hobbits we left there. They shared that something must have happened at the mouth of the river, because there haven’t been any patrols since we left.

We know that elven forces are being sent from the Southern Greenwood as well as the Iron Mountains, but we’re not sure if the Empress was able to muster enough troops to be able to counter the dark elf forces in such a short time — the last three days.

One down...
...one to go

In the heat of battle…

Bo shoots at the wizard and hits. The maia is hurting, but maintains consciousness.
Araphor attacks and also hits.
Guthwyn attacks and hits the maia in the head.
Bad guy on cart disappeared into the cart.
Guard 1 near maia goes to swing at the maia, hit for a small amount of damage.
Guard 2 (under Bo’s direction) goes for the cart and attacks one of the bad guys still out; hits.
Blue wizard casts a spell, attempting to blow everyone away from her. [Note, last time the maia was “he” but someone got confused… Araphor, Guthwyn, and Guard 1 successfully stay alert and on their horses, but all move a few yards away and take some concussion damage. The maia moves away with great speed, attempting to escape.
E5 misses the guard.
E6 runs toward Bo.

Bo shoots E6 with a called shot to the vitals. E6 is hurt but not down.
Araphor’s superior riding skills allow him to overtake and attack and hit the maia again for significant damage.
Guthwyn’s even better riding skills also allow her to overtake the maia most handily. She swings again at the maia’s head, connecting resoundly.
The bad guy inside the cart emerges and heads toward Bo. Bo yells for help.
Guard 1 moves toward Bo.
Guard 2 disengages from the guy he was fighting (getting hit in the process) and moves toward E6 and attacks, hitting him.
Blue wizard cast another spell. A blue light surrounds Guthwyn and Araphor.
E5 tries to jump off the wagon but stumbles and falls, catching himself well enough to stand but do nothing else.
E6 disengages from Guard 2; Guard 2 swings and hit, doing decent damage.
E6 hits Bo, who tries but doesn’t dodge. [NOTE FOR JP: PICK SOME ARMOR! Why do you have only PD 1?! After this we assumed chain mail, PD 3 and DR 4]

Bo fast draws his short sword and attacks E6 – hitting VERY well! (critical success, double damage, rolled 11 – end result 27 pts of damage). E6 falls, unconscious or dead.
Araphor realizes his horse is moving very slowly; it feels as if he’s moving through jello honey. bq). [Chris: When did we come up against a Gelatinous Cube? Wrong world! ]
Araphor takes a moment to consider using a spell rather than an attack.
Guthwyn swings, but the maia dodges.
The spare elf dove under Guard 1’s horse in a beautiful acrobatic move, attacking as he moves — but does no significant damage.
Guard 1 attacks E5 and hits.
Guard 2 attacks and hits the spare elf, but not damage gets through.
Blue wizard appears to have healed herself.
E5 attacks Guard 1, who blocks.

Bo runs to attack the spare elf with his sword, but the elf acrobatically dodges.
Araphor casts Dehydrate on the blue wizard.
Guthwyn swings again and hits.
Spare elf swings at Bo, who parries.
Guard 1 attacks E5 and hits but no damage gets through.
Guard 2 attacks the spare elf, who attempts an acrobatic dodge but fails, taking significant damage and falling unconscious.
Blue Wizard does something but we don’t know what.
E5 attacks Guard 1, who dodges.

Bo runs to stab E5 and he falls.
Blue wizard’s spell goes off. The honey-air dissipates, but the blue wizard seems to have a blurry dome around her.
Araphor continues his spell for a second round.
Guthwyn tries to stab through the dome but despite a good attempt, cannot connect.
Guards 1 and 2 move toward the maia.

Araphor’s Dehydrate goes off — the spell on the water wizard does significant damage, stunning and confusing her as well as ruining her spell.
Bo sheaths his sword and prepares his bow.
Araphor begins casting another Dehydration.
Guthwyn directs Arod to rear kick the maia, which disrupts the shield but doesn’t hurt the maia.
Guard 1 hits the maia.
Guard 2 moves closer and begins to pull his bow out.
Blue wizard is recovering and has no action.

Bo moves closer.
Araphor continues casting.
Guthwyn turns Arod and stabs the maia, aiming for the head (and therefore the brain) – for significant damage, knocking her out.

Araphor’s spell does a bit more damage.

Guthwyn provides the killing blow on the unconscious maia, but we don’t know what this sets in motion…

Wearing Out Our Welcome
...yet again

Outstanding questions

  • Where were the troops being teleported to?
  • Did the maia – one of the Blue Wizards – survive the explosion?
  • And the most pressing question: how the hell are we going to get out of here and survive this?

Barely Controlled Chaos

We watch to find out the best way out of the area, expecting the hordes of Dark Elves to be upon us at any moment after we destroyed their ritual. Instead, they left in two groups. A larger group (70-100) rode toward the sea, while a smaller group (between 7 and 30) rode toward the south and the main lines. Our initial fears were that they were separating to better flank us.

Araphor used his Bird Control to conscript a bluebird (we cannot vouch for its parentage, but we were happy to see it) and cast Rider Within to get a bird’s eye view of the smaller group. Through its eyes, the source of confusion became clear. There were only four riders, a little over a dozen horses, and a covered wagon being pulled by six more horses.

As this seemed to be sufficiently interesting (and weakly defended), we decided to follow in hopes of getting answers to some of our unanswered questions. We were unable to catch up with them before sunset, but hoped that we might be able to close the distance when they stopped for the night. Unfortunately, as the darkness grew, they deployed devices that cast a blue light ahead of them, and they continued on.

At nightfall, Nwalme-Anna telepathically reached out to the Empress to fill her in on the explosion, the splitting of the dark elvish forces, and where we were heading.

Undaunted, we still closed the distance, not riding hard enough to be immediately taken as a threat. Instead we kept more of a deliberate pace, in the hope that we could possibly be considered a patrol in the same direction.

When we were close enough, the dark elves stopped and called out a greeting. Nwalme-Anna used his Gift of Tongues to grasp the dark elves’ language, as they speak a tongue unknown in the West. Nwalme was able to bluff the rider in the back and give the impression that we were just a patrol. He found that the wagon held wounded dark elves on the way to the field hospital. These elves don’t seem to know what happened; they seem to think it was a spell failure, not sabotage. Nwalme gestures to the rest of the party to slowly move up, and they do.

Once Araphor was close enough to be seen clearly in the light, the ruse was spotted and a mêlée ensued. Guthwyn displayed the impressive horsemanship for which she is renowned, lopping the head off of one of the dark elves as she rode for the head of their convoy. Once she’d circled around the front, she leaped from Arod onto the wagon and rushed across it to come down on the other side, throwing herself into combat. Bo was able to put an arrow into the eye of a raging dark elf intent on running him down. Nwalme teleported from horseback to take to the ground, the better to be able to use his patented Death Touch™ maneuver. Unfortunately, his ploy was thwarted by one of the injured elves
teleporting out of the covered wagon. The other Blue Wizard, that we had previously only heard about had taken the field and oddly, he teleported in exactly as Nwalme had just done. This lead our experienced mage to wonder if the maia could steal spells or copy those that were cast in his area. The wizard looked really the worse for wear from the explosion. But unfortunately, not so bad that Nwalme’s Death Touch™ was able to destroy him.

The surviving dark elves rallied, and some of the injured spilled out of the covered wagon and cast protections to keep the party from getting inside. Guthwyn’s personal guard weighed in along with the rest of the party on the he-maia and the dark elves. One telling moment about the power of the maia was that when one of Guthwyn’s personal guard ran the he wizard down, the horse could not, or would not, strike him. The horses’ hooves missed the maia completely as the animal ran over him. In the mêlée, Nwalme was battered unconscious, but his last thought before surrendering to darkness was to wonder why a wounded maia would be traveling south.

Repeated attacks on the wizard were enough to force him to flee. He teleported to the front of the caravan, away from where he had been attacked. Bo shouted out this new location and aimed an arrow. Guthwyn and Araphor turned their horses and charged after the wizard…

Meeting new friends, staying a spell... or disrupting one
Maia in the Middle

Nwalme continues to study the bridge stone to see what other spells he can find on it and to figure out how to use the spells that he found on there.

The first Analyze Magic lets Nwalme know about the following features:

  • it can detect all of the other stones from the stone (within a half a mile)
  • it can connect to another stone and create a 35’ of ‘bridge’ between two stones (within 500 yards)
  • the bridge section moves automatically from one end to the other (The bridge is enough to bring us 4 with our horses and 8 more. We have 5 guards for Guthwyn: 3 women/2 hobbits.)
  • it can disconnect from the other stone

We have four stones total at the moment. We don’t really want to cross at pre-determined location where the enemy is likely to be listening/watching.

Bo recommends using Stormdancer (sans stones) to do a recon flight and check the area before we go over, just to be sure that there aren’t any elves. Araphor sends her out scouting and soon we’re able to find a good secluded area on the curvy river about five miles up. The closest elf is 500 yards or so away, behind a slight rise.

At first light, we head out. Araphor uses Beast Speech to instruct Stormdancer on placing the stone, and she successfully does. Nwalme uses the stone to detect others, but only finds the one we placed nearby. He then connects to the stone, creating the moving “bridge”. Bo aims in the general direction of the guard, as they cross.

We cross without incident. Araphor wants to figure out our direction, get some cover, and then we can try to find the enemy army’s northern headquarters, which Nwalme saw in his mental interrogation of one of the enemy elves. We decide against taking out the nearby guard, to avoid alerting anyone to our presence sooner than we’d like.

To our north is a base camp, with about 500 troops; patrols are scattered throughout the rest of the area. We head east-by-northeast toward the headquarters, with Stormdancer scouting from the air to help us avoid patrols and camps. Stormdancer can see mounted troops heading toward HQ and some of their encampments, moving along paths/tracks to get there. Some of the encampments are Easterlings, elves, etc.

Each patrol is 5-6 humans with one elf. They aren’t wearing uniforms, but have some standard leather armor, clothing, etc. In order to appear as a patrol (except up close), we decided to reduce our numbers to six, and leave behind the hobbits. They plan to stay near our entry point for an hour or two just in case we need to escape much sooner than planned. They take a bridge stone so that they can get back.

Within a couple of hours – pausing to cache our bridge stones along the way – we get about two miles outside the headquarters. The HQ has four camps similar to the forward base by the river, surrounding a small town in the center, with beaten tracks connecting them to it. Stormdancer can spot a 1000-foot diameter ring in the dirt, centered on the town square.

Araphor and Stormdancer watch troops march in and set up in the middle of the ring – then vanish. Nwalme recognizes it as similar to the teleportation circle near Mount Doom through which several nazgul escape from us, in a encounter some time ago.

Araphor and Stormdancer get a really good look at the ritual and the location. There are two inner circles at the town square. One is of four pillars, between each path, with a staff-wielding elf at each path. The very center of the square contains an inlaid tile circle, upon which stands the maia, triggering the spells. We note that groups of 100 troup queue up on one of the paths into town, and are carefully kept outside the outer circle until each group is teleported away from the center.

There’s not much cover between the outer circle and the town. It would be impossible to cross while troops move constantly around the area. So we wait and watch, learning the patterns and numbers.

Over three hours, she can send 800 troops (600 in the first two hours; 200 in the last); then 3 hour rest and then she goes again.

As we watch, we discuss various ways to disrupt the teleporter, hopefully in a lasting way. By midafternoon, Nwalme educates the party on magical circles and their weaknesses and strengths. When we realize we can probably disrupt things by crossing the spell circles/domes with any object, a plan becomes clear: Araphor can find and control some birds, sending them flying into the spell dome at a key moment.

The party bides their time, and Araphor chances on a gaggle of three geese resting nearby. He successfully controls them, and sends them flying generally, but not directly, toward town, waiting for the right moment.

The troops come into the inner circle and start to set up. The elves on the outer circle do their ritual. The outer circle powers up, visibly glowing a slight orange. Several minutes later the second circle comes up.

Some elves look up at the birds, and become visibly agitated. They try to cast bird control to move the birds, but they’re too far away. The birds turn in, which agitates the elves even further. Bows are brought out and wiser mages stop them from doing that. They then shout to try to get the attention at the elves nearer town.

One elf in town gets his bow out and hits a goose; it drops from the air fairly quickly, dead. Araphor immediately sends the remaining birds diving at the center of the circle. Moving fast, they manage to avoid more arrows. The inner circle comes up, and a minute or so later the birds dive through it. Heat lightning from the circle blinds Stormdancer, and through him, Araphor, and Araphor loses the Rider Within link. Five seconds later, we hear thunder.

We can see smoke from the center of town, and cries going up. Some of the elves quickly send out patrols to find the culprit.

We ride hell for leather.

Ten minutes later, Araphor is able to re-connect with Stormdancer. She’s awake, on the ground under a bush and her senses are reduced to human levels. She can see that they’re pulling elf pieces, bodies, etc… and being stacked. She can’t see the center, but she can see the results. Pits are quickly being dug.

The elves have to know something happened magically, they’re coming looking.

A prairie isn’t the best terrain to evade people looking for you…

Old Friends, New Targets
The Dreorg-ining, this time it's personal

We find our heroes back at the northern secondary camp, questioning captured dark elves. Around this time, reinforcing Empress Guards show up, including Dreorg, with whom the party had worked with in the past.

We welcome Dreorg back and we all catch up. We fill him in on how badly things are piled against us. So we don’t go with “Gus”, the friendlier dark elf, and then move on to one of the angrier elves that we talked with last time. The most highest ranking of the captured elf, that we’ll now call Grumpy.

Nwalme does telepathy and his normal ungodly high interrogation, detect lies, etc…

When asked about the Maia’s plan, Grumpy tries to hide things by thinking about simple math tables. Nwalme uses his favorite pain spell to try to distract him, but unfortunately that doesn’t work. Instead, he had to resort to Mind Reading to do a deep delve.

The elf’s mind is very very organized, which is helpful. The best thoughts are that the maia is heading toward the empress or heading back across the sea to regroup. We think the empress would be surrounded by enough people to be safe, which makes us think the other way. (The maia talked about going after the empress as her ultimate goal after this worked. Unfortunately, this didn’t work. Her other plan was working a large spell to empower the elf brethren that would empower them, but that would come perilously close to turning them into orcs – which was why that wasn’t done originally.)

Araphor had seen the maia head more or less due north across the Sea of Rhun.

Thaliondor’s squad will take Gus (if he wants to go) and Grumpy across the Anduin. Gus is perfectly willing to go, but he’s unsure. (This is one of the core tenets that they have taught their whole lives.)

While that’s going on, Araphor recommends checking the shore line. Guthwyn is thinking about yelling loudly. Happily, she was outvoted. We weren’t able to get anything from the maia which would help Nwalme with his tracking spells.

We don’t know much about the spell, but assume that a high mana area will make it more feasible. The big assault was thrown back when the river cut them off.

Grumpy is getting better at noticing and trying to avoid Nwalme’s mind probe. His real name starts with O, and he’s hiding it well within his mind.

Gus doesn’t know much, but he does know where the army’s headquarters are: East from the pointy part of the W, and then down a bit. Where Araphor was hoping to head anyway.

We figure that heading there directly, we might be able to either catch up with her there or find her trail.

If we wait a day, we can have boats from the west coast. They’re already on their way.

There are a couple of people we can trust to be in charge while Guthwyn is gone. The Count of the Eastern Marches or the hobster that we’ve been traveling with. Anyone in charge will be leaning on the Count anyway, as Guthwyn has.

We leave the two of them in charge, as the Empress is due to arrive soon anyway.

We head to the town where we’ll meet the boats that are en route. We get there around nightfall.

At the usual time, we contact the Empress and bring her up to date and warn her of the threat. She’s happy with our plan to head to the army’s headquarters and try to find the maia there. She’s OK with the Thaliondor side trip. She’ll arrive at the camp in three days.

About a mile before the party reaches the village, Bo and Araphor notice something quiet and stealthy in the woods paralleling us.

Dreorg likes the idea of splitting into two groups and have the group not followed fall back and try to catch the follower. Araphor and Bo are the stealthy types, who try to be in a second group.

Araphor uses his Plant Sense and tracking skills, learning that it is human-sized and bipedal. It had started moving away when we stopped, and is going fairly quickly. He thinks this is an elf, armed with steel and probably a bow.

Bo cocks his bow and Araphor readies his spear as they follow the elf through the forest.

Once he got to the stream, we would probably have lost him, except Araphor is still able to track thanks to his plant sense.

Meanwhile, five minutes out of town, Dreorg and Guthwyn have a loud argument to try to draw the tracker(s) to them. They head into town, and Nwalme contacts the two hunters. Guthwyn busily tries to find ways to get involved in the hunt and is being rebuffed by Nwalme and her bodyguards. Alas, nothing she can do but wait.

In the forest, the target is 400 yards off and getting more distant. Keeping up with an elf is difficult.

Araphore & Bo head after the stealthy elf for a couple of miles. Another mile in, Araphor is able to spot some of our scouts. The elf we’re tracking knows which way to go through to avoid notice. We follow the elf to the river, but still don’t see the elf. We can hear our scouts. And spot a glow.

150’ away, a 5’-25’-wide deep blue glow is on the river. Bo cocks an arrow and tries to spot the elf. At 100’ or so away, they see the glow better, 10-15’ wide, extending from the bank into the river as though it’s creating a bridge.)

Bo lets fly an arrow at the half-seen elf crouching in semi-cover by the glowing translucent bridge. He hits her in the vitals, causing a muttered accented elvish curse.

An arrow flies back, stricking Bo in his unhelmeted head..

Bow fires again, missing by inches. He reloads and aims. He pulls back his mighty arm and drills one into the elf’s knee. She falls on her face as her leg is crippled, sinking into the water.

As Bo is firing, Araphor gives chase to the elf, bounding onto the bridge himself. He soon notices, however, that the bridge isn’t a single span across the water, but a moving platform that is making its way across to the other side. He decides to jump off into the river before the moving “bridge” strands him on the far side of the river with an elf he can’t catch running anyway.

Meanwhile, the scouting parties nearby have lit up their signal fires, having noticed the commotion. This causes Nwalme to get in touch telepathically with Araphor again to get an update, and learns of the injured enemy scout being carried his way by the river. He, Guthwyn, and Dreog muster some troops to get a handful of the village’s fishing boats out onto the river to try and catch the elf.

Bo heads forward to try and help Araphor and look to see if their quarry is visible. Together they head down the river toward, keeping and eye on (and pace with) the elf.

Guthwyn considers lighting up the river to search for the elf, but realizes that would be bad with an army on the other side. They instead set up fishing nets between the boats.

The elf is treading water, near the center of the river about 300’ off of the bank.

Nwalme magically create a shark warrior to go after the elf. A shark appears, falls in the water and swims after the elf. He has the shark keep the elf away from the shore and herd the elf toward us.

Bo happily fires off another arrow, which catches her in the head.

Dreorg aims and fires, but misses.

Nwalme’s mage sense starts tingling and can tell that someone is telepathically talking to the elf. He attempts to listen in. He has a crappy connection and can get pieces: The elf is making her final report: a bunch of empress’ guards are coming here, one is the leader; she didn’t make contact with any of her squad mates. The other caster realized that someone was breaking into the telepathy and cut it off.

The elves on the other side were the ones that cast the blue bridge.

The boat is closing on the shark and the elf. The elf is fighting against the shark that’s trying to herd her toward them. Nwalme tried to tell the shark to drag her toward them. He ends up having to use telepathy and finds out that the elf had drowned herself. He lets the spell go, and the shark disappears.

Now the enemy elves know we’re coming.

Nwalme heals up Bo.

We set up guards, alert the Empress, scouts go around and look. They find a blue quartz that looks like sapphire where the bridge went up. They sent out scouts up and down the river to search for the elves.

Nwalme casts History on the stone to try to find out more about how it was used and what the elf had done with it. The stone didn’t do much in the last week, it’s primary user was a fussy dark elf that kept her in a bag with 15 more like it. Four days ago it was placed in that spot. Two days ago, it made a bridge, and then again today.

Nwalme uses the stone to cast Seeker to try to find the other stones. He can sense two more that he knows exactly where, one more that he can sense more vaguely, and can vaguely sense the other every quarter mile or so along the river.

He senses a little more about the spells on the stone. He can study a bit more and analyze magic to better understand the stone and how to use it himself or at least — maybe — trigger it.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Maian
All wet...

When last we left our heroes: the maia had escaped. StormDancer (and Araphor) had spotted her, she is injured and gathering driftwood to put together a raft. We spent the fifteen minutes to get the mages back up to full, after communicating with the Empress.

The Maia is two hours of heavy riding away on the shore, putting together a raft. One dark elf dead, one unconscious dark elf, and guarded by two wounded hobsters and one not-so-wounded hobster to head back to the others. Nwalme heals up the hobsters to help make their trip safer.

We head the two hours to chase down the maia. The trip is relatively straightforward and not all that difficult. StormDancer is watching the maia building a boat. Even using driftwood, she was able to perform some woodshaping magic and the raft becomes more and more of a boat, planks, etc… About an hour out, she seems to detect us and she gestures. We notice an unfortunate result: the ground becomes more moist and the travel due to the increased muck more difficult. The two hour trip becomes three and she is able to build a sail boat and launch when we are three miles away. She makes good speed being able to control the water and the wind.

She gets away, leaving us heading after her. The ground doesn’t seem to be getting any worse than the swampy land we were dealing with. Araphor tries to keep Stormdancer watching to try to get an idea where she’s going but she’s moving much faster than he can fly. He’s good for sprints, but she’s keeping it up and he can’t.

We head back. When we get back, we find the prisoner securely trussed, gagged, unconscious and hooded.

(At the base, we do experience!) -——————

Last experience was 2/10/12

Post Experience -——————

Interrogation! Bo falls back and keeps an eye on the prisoner, as Nwalme does his thing with the prisoner. He is a powerful dark elf that hates Nwalme with a fiery passion because Nwalme sides with those that are keeping the elves from their birthright and are blocking them from their travels west. (It’s believed that the elves cannot come back after going West.)

The Vala (the gods) found the elves and welcomed them, getting them boats and helping them sail to the West. At various points on their journey various elves got off their journey and became green, gray, naldor, etc… elves. After the War of the Ring, it’s assumed that any elves can travel west.

The dark elves believe that they cannot make the final journey to the West, because they were left behind on purpose and could not come across. (Nwalme knows that the Vala gave a decree so that all elves can go.) The dark elves must have descended from elves that didn’t want to make the journey. The dark elves said that any elves that try to cross the Anduin (the great river of Middle Earth) come back dead or broken – clearly from the Vala. They haven’t tried this since just after the War of the Ring. But even then, they shouldn’t have come back dead or broken. Nwalme tries to understand if it’s really the Vala, rather than just the maia doing it and blaming the Vala for doing it. The dark elves believe the Vala are evil because they are denying the elves their birthright.

Their belief is more than they are in a world of pain and death that is always getting harder and the Vala is keeping them from gaining access to the promised land where their pain will be lessened.

The dark elves are trying to make the Middle Earth a better place to live by taking land and destroy those in their way.

Knowing that we have crossed the Anduin and recently, Nwalme offers to take the prisoner to cross the river. The prisoner needs to think on the offer – as he’s worried that we plan to kill him.

Talking amongst ourselves, we wonder if coming back broken meant that they were remade into orcs. (That was what was going on.)

Nwalme heads back to tell him a story (with illusions) to tell them the story of the lands of Mordor and Sauron. (The dark elves seem to think of him as a great leader that rebelled against the evil Vala but was corrupted in his struggles and fell into evil methods for honorable goals and then he was thoroughly corrupted.) He explains about Sauron and remaking elves into the orcs. The dark elves heard from the orcs that they were captured by the Vala or the people of the west such as Saruman that allied themselves with Sauron.

The dark elves seem to be at a distance from the history of Middle Earth with their eastern-centric view of it.

Araphor reminds us about the friendly orcs – the Yrrch – that we had met in the past up in the Ettenmoors. (Eric and Jp don’t remember this at all.) They were living in isolation.

Away from the prisoner, we wonder whether the dark elves will turn into orcs just from crossing the Anduin. We don’t know for sure, but we assume that the maia are deceiving the elves and we assume that they’re not on the side of angels since they didn’t take part in the War of the Ring.

We talk with the Empress. She can be at the front in three days. She thinks our priority should be finding the maia and taking them out. They are not the white Wizard and they have limitations. Guthwyn is more lippy with the Empress than usual. Nwalme also thinks that the dark elf crossing the Anduin could turn some of the elves. The Empress does think that it may be useful but worries that there’s not enough time. Guthwyn wonders if taking the dark elf to cross the Anduin may bring the maia to us, which Nwalme is starting to buy, but Bo and Araphor aren’t sure. The Empress pushes for us to use our pet elf to see if he knows where the maia is, or is headed.

Nwalme is going to talk with the friendly elf (we don’t think we have a name for this NPC – Chris likes ‘Gus’) to verify the Anduin story that we just heard from this dark elf. We wonder if the friendly elf would/could cross the Anduin without the level of guards that the chief dark elf would need.

The other option is to question strongly the chief dark elf for more information.


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