Middle Earth: Sunset of the Fourth Age

The Heat Of Battle
Fireballs, Molotovs, and one glowing red eye...

We rejoin our heroes and their liege in the land of Mordor, standing on a flattened hilltop on the plain, having just arrived through a magical gateway near Isengard. The group immediately fans out, Alfirin, Guthwyn, and Thaliondor* joining the other soldiers in the Empress’ retinue as scouts. Araphor sends up Stormdancer to reconnoiter around the nearby mountain, atop which the party spots several buildings.

As they prepare to head to the mountaintop, it is suggested to the Empress that if she knows any way of bolstering peoples’ resistance to mind control – given the recent Dazing of the party by the Content Not Found: mouth-of-the-usurper – she would be well advised to do so. She casts Strengthen Will on a handful of people, including the captain of her personal guard and Rene. The spell on Rene misfires, however, and its benefits are accidentally given instead to Araphor.

The group quickly makes it way up the switchback trail to the top of the mountain. There they are greeted by a small cadre of armed men, who are clearly quite afraid. Their glances shift constantly between the party and a small tower which rises above the path behind them. The party orders their surrender, and they do, some quickly, others with a bit of hesitation.

As the last weapon falls from their grasp, a fireball comes flying down toward them, striking one of them squarely and catching a few others. Araphor mercifully creates water to quench them, and they scatter.

By this time, Araphor has a better understanding of the events unfolding on the mountaintop, thanks to Stormdancer’s eyes overhead. He informs the group of the lay of the land. The path the party is on branches – one fork quickly sloping up to the base of the tower, the other winding its way between the tower’s small plateau and a similar one topped by a ruined building. It leads higher up, toward a larger level area. Men in black are emerging from the ruined building, and another stands at the edge of the level area, his hands making complex arcane motions over a large red eye which is formed in cobblestones there.

The Empress sends the captain of her personal guard and four soldiers to secure the tower, and heads along the winding path with the rest of the party – the way being led by Guthwyn, Alfirin, Thaliondor, and Rene. Araphor opts to stay close h the Empress, keeping her apprised of the situation as it evolves. Nwalme sticks with them as well, readying a Curse Missile of Strike Blind.

The men in black coming from the ruined building quickly make their way along the winding path, and the party notes a sudden glow coming from the level area ahead. From high above, Stormdancer sees the red eye in the cobblestones glowing brightly. The men from he building run for the glow, disappearing into it one by one as they each reach it.

The squad attacking the tower is bombarded with fireballs from a man in black atop it, but a few of them shrug them off. One is knocked over, but quickly recovers. Smial hangs back a little, preparing some Molotov cocktails to aid in the assault once the others reach the gate at the base of the tower. The mage atop the tower takes another opportunistic shot with his fireballs, and sends one right for Araphor and the Empress, who are distracted. Araphor is hit squarely, nearly blown off his feet, and the Empress pulls him into the shelter of the plateau to heal him.

The others making their way up the path note that one of the last men to emerge from the ruined building ducks back inside of it, but they charge on through toward the platform and its glowing eye. Thaliondor reaches the platform first, and smites the Nazgul (as is now apparent) whose arcane motions are maintaining the glowing gateway. It closes suddenly, darkening the platform. The person who was trying to enter it – the Formerly Dead Lieutenant (FDL) – stumbles. Guthwyn, Rene, and Alfirin reach the platform shortly thereafter, and Nwalme starts to catch up, having been urged onward by the Empress. He hurls his Curse Missile at the Nazgul, and hits it squarely blinding it. The three fighters engage the Ring-wraith, all of them smiting the blinded thing – Rene especially mightily, with the anti-Nazgul blade.

A shriek tears through the air from the Ring-wraith atop the tower – a sound that can only be from a Black Rider. One of soldiers attacking the tower, a female master archer, has scored a solid hit on it. The Nazgul and she trade missiles (fireballs vs. arrows) as the rest of the squad makes its way to the gate at the tower’s base and begin to breach it. Smial decides to bring his cocktails to the other path, and starts scurrying to catch up with the Empress.

As Smial nears Her Majesty, a bolt comes whistling out of the ruined building, striking the Empress in the head! She nearly collapses,and Araphor drags her into the shelter of the plateaus around the path. Smial prepares one of his Molotovs to throw, and a soldier waves for him to give her one, as she has a clear shot into the ruin. Smial, knowing well his own throwing skill, lobs his Molotov in a perfect arc, landing it right in the area where the sniper was, and flames instantly spring up.

As the Empress groggily heals herself, the fight on the platform begins to grow more interesting as the FDL turns to join the fray, coming to the aid of the blinded Nazgul. Thaliondor turns to him on, confident he can do better against this foe than he can against a full Ring-wraith.

The Nazgul at the tower has disappeared from the top, and is now at the breached gate at the tower’s base, fending off the squad with fireballs. One of the soldiers is blown back, limp, off of the tower’s plateau, and the others charge into the tower.

One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor
...not when there's a teleportation gate handy

Everyone moved out of the range of the scorpio bolts. Smial went back within range to retrieve his knife.

Nwalme healed all those needing healing, and once he had rested our intrepid heroes went into the woods looking for the entrance to the escape tunnel.

Just before heading into the woods, a bright light was seen through the windows of one of the tower rooms.

After finding the tunnel in a cave in the woods, Nwalme performed a History on the door. He discovered that the door was alarmed, but the alarm only went off when the door is opened from the outside.

Araphor* tried his Body of Water trick to get to the other side of the door, but the door was 99.99% water-tight. It would have taken him several hours to drip through the door.

Smial took a closer look at the door and figured out how the alarm mechanism worked. Armed with that knowledge and his prodigious strength, Thaliondor* was able to open the door without setting it off.

The party then carefully made its down the corridor. It ended at the bottom of a well, which they stealthily climbed, only to find that the keep was now empty.

Smial opened the gate to let in the squad of soldiers. Rene made sure that the scorpios were no longer pointed toward friendly soldiers.

Guthwyn then tried to unlock the door to the keep, unsuccessfully. Luckily Rene was nearby and was able to open it. Rene then repeated re-aiming the scorpios on the top of the keep, while the others explored. The only thing of interest they found was a circle of a red-brown material (clearly, blood) drawn on the floor, with several large candles around its edge.

Nwalme uses Mage Sight to see that the circle is still magical, and the magic has a vile feel to it.

Nwalme performed a History on this room and determined that the circle was used as a portal for the Usurper and his men to get away. Casting a Seeker with the some of the blood on the floor, Nwalme was able to determine that the Mouth of the Usurper (High King) was about 800 miles away.

Guthwyn and Thaliondor prepare to use to use the dread portal, but before they get too far along the Empress’ retinue arrives. Nwalme uses Telepathy to talk to her privately. She says to not do anything until she gets up into the keep.

She soon arrives with an additional squad of ten or so soldiers, including several women and a couple of hobbits. She then asks if everyone is ready to go with her to take care of the Usurper. Her aide is pleased when several of our heroes express displeasure at the thought of her putting herself into the reach of the Usurper once more.

She very firmly insists on taking care of the Usurper once and for all.

The party activates and passes through the gateway, and finds itself in the ruins of an ancient tower in Mordor. Those with magical abilities find that the mana levels are ultra high. The party spreads out, looking for the trail of the evil-doers.

The Hunters Become The Hunted
...and a perfidious parley

We rejoin our heroes in the servants’ quarters of the imperial palace, discussing the situation with Enderian.

Alfirin and others check the “PalaceCam” scroll, finding that the rooms are even more empty than the last time they checked. The Throne Room is bereft of any guards, the room behind it has no more of the Usurper’s things, and the Empress’ chamber looks like it’s been tossed.

Meanwhile, Araphor and Nwalme-Anna talk with Enderian about the goings-on at the Palace. He apparently has only recently returned from an appointment to deal with the tunnel that leads out of the city to the north. But the ones he was supposed to have met, the ones who knew the details about the tunnel, never showed. He has very little information on the most recent events in the Palace as a result, but does indicate that the Usurper relocated from the rooms shown on the PalaceCam to the major-domo’s apartments. He also mentions that the number of Usurper’s troops within the city have been diminishing rapidly, and those that remain seem to be growing more and more panicky as the days go by.

The party and Enderian then set off for the major-domos’ apartments, making their way through the administrative offices of the palace. To the surprise of everyone, especially Enderian, the offices are vacant – not a single bureaucrat or soldier is anywhere in sight. They decide to check in on the Throne Room and behind it, as it’s on their way. The room behind the throne has several empty wine and beer casks, and a pile of dirty cups in one of the corners. Moving to the Throne Room, they find it almost completely abandoned. A single guard stands at the front door, but fails to notice the group. Alfirin, Thaliondor and Guthwyn approach him, only to find that he’s fast asleep. From the smell of him and the various fluids soiling his clothes, it’s clear to them that he’s sleeping off a night of heavy drinking. Thaliondor and Guthwyn take his arms and start to drag him toward the rest of the group, who are approaching.

As they do, the man awakens with a start, shaking free one arm from Thaliondor’s grasp and nimbly regaining his feet. He looks around, asking what’s going on. Nwalme approaches, dropping his disguise spells, and tells the soldier to be quiet – which he promptly does. Thaliandur takes his arm once again, and as Araphor looks around outside the main door, Nwalme begins to question him about his duties and the events of the previous night.

He explains that he and his unit have been with the High King’s (Usurper’s) armies for years, and his unit has been together even longer. They were assigned to guard the Throne Room, but someone brought in casks and flagons, and they got to drinking. He wouldn’t leave his post, though others weren’t quite so diligent. Guthwyn seems incredulous that someone would be drinking on duty while on such an important guard duty, but it’s clear to Araphor that he’s just a low-ranking mercenary. Nwalme offers to let him go, provided he leave the city, and Smial suggests he take the postern gate. He accepts the offer, and sets off in search of the rest of his unit while the party continues on to the major-domo’s apartments.

Along the way, they find signs of looting just about everywhere. Tapestries have been pulled down, some even stripped of their gold threads. Floor tiles are missing, presumably where they contained precious metals. The Usurper has abandoned the Palace. They get to the major-domo’s room, finding it similarly empty of valuables.

Nwalme casts a Seeker to find the Usurper, using the bed to help attune his magicks. He locates the man outside the city, a few miles to the southeast. Araphor prods Nwalme to report this to the Empress immediately, which he does. She orders him to give chase while she sends a patrol from her forces to help, and to maintain thrice-daily contact.

The party leaves the palace, noting the scarcity of guards. They easily avoid what few remain as most are either sleeping, eating, or otherwise distracted with looting.

They make their way south to the postern gate, where they find a sizable crowd gathered, clamoring to exit the city. Two armed men, apparently mercenaries, keep everyone back, calling them cowards and telling them to return to their duties.

Guthwyn and Alfirin call out, “Stand aside, in the name of the Empress!” The group takes out and dons their winged helmets, readying their weapons as the crowds begin to scatter. Nwalme begins to tell the two mercenaries that they have two choices – leave the city, never to return, or die – but they’re off through the gate before he can even finish the sentence.

At the gate, Enderian takes his leave of the party, offering to remain and do what he can to speed the city’s fall and recovery by the Empress’ forces. Our heroes exit the city, Guthwyn calling up Arod and the rest of the group’s horses, Stormdancer gliding through the air above. The party mounts up, and Araphor casts Rider Within on the bird, sending him up to spot the Usurper’s men. Through the bird’s keen eyes, he spots them about ten miles distan: seven riders, the three leading the group dressed all in black, on black steeds. Only a couple of miles away is a patrol of twenty men, apparently those sent by the Empress. The party rides to the patrol, and all of them ride hard after the Usurper and his men, Araphor keeping them on track using Stormdancer’s eyes overhead.

It soon becomes clear that the Usurper’s party is outpacing the group by a fair margin, and as the horses tire the group finds a village in which to spend the night. The next morning Araphor sends up Stormdancer again, using his eyes to spot the Usurper’s party some thirty miles ahead, nearing a spur of the southern mountain range. They continue to follow as the Usurper’s party disappears into an out of the way keep in the mountains. They contact the Empress for further orders, and are told to keep watch on the keep. She is sending reinforcements, which should arrive the next day.

The group settles a little ways off from the keep where they can watch its main gate. Nwalme casts a few Divinations, to locate the Usurper (in a dark room nearby), all the exits from the keep (the main gate and a secret tunnel in the well), and the exit from that tunnel (up in the mountains somewhere). Alfirin, Thaliondor, and some of the members of the patrol take this time scout out the surrounding terrain.

As the party regroups to set off for the secret tunnel exit in the mountains, a man on horseback emerges from the front gate of the keep and approaches them. He rides up to the party, who greet him warily -more than one drawn weapon, and grumbling from Guthwyn and Alfirin which Araphor tries to quell somewhat. The man ignores most of the group, and speaks only to Nwalme. He introduces himself as the Mouth of the High King, and attempts to tempt Nwalme to join the Usurper’s forces, within. Meanwhile, he secretly casts a Mass Daze over the rest of the party, catching them all, as well as a few members of the patrol – except for Smial. Smial reacts by drawing his crossbow and firing a bolt into the man’s shoulder.

Nwalme, of course, has not been idle, either. While one of his attempted spells against the man fails, he succeeds in creating a Strike Blind curse to use on him. When hit with the curse, however, the man resists.

As Smial re-readies his crossbow, he finds it suddenly bursting into flame, and he drops it. He then turns to the closest party member, Guthwyn, and gives her a smack to stir her from the Daze spell. Guthwyn follows suit and awakens Alfirin. Before either of them can do anything more, however, scorpio bolts rain down upon them from the keep. One bounces off of Alfirin, but the other seriously injures her. Guthwyn is hit with one, as well, but it fails to slow her down. She moves to attack the Mouth of the High King (MotHK), who has turned to flee.

Nwalme, nearly exhausted from spellcasting, falls back. Alfirin does likewise, but takes a moment to awaken Araphor and Rene. They both set off after the MotHK, Araphor ordering Stormdancer to attack as well. Guthwyn, in the mean time, manages to get in several solid hits on the envoy, but fails to hinder him. Smial even throws a knife into his horse’s hindquarters, but it isn’t enough to slow him.

As the MotHK approaches the keep’s gate, three men in black on horseback emerge. Wary of the potential presence of Nazgul, Guthwyn and the rest of the man’s pursuers break off the chase. As their quarry re-enters the keep, however, they realize that the men in black do not possess the palpable dread aura of Black Riders…

Back To The Palace Again
Ooh! Look at us!

We rejoin most of our heroes resting and recuperating with the Ents in the shelter of Fangorn Forest. Smial, in particular, is treated by both Nwalme-Anna and the Ents to repair the ravages of his imprisonment. As a result, he is now stronger than ever (+1 ST).

Several days go by, and a messenger arrives in Fangorn. The siege of Isengard has begun, and the party has been summoned to appear before the Empress and King Beren in her army’s encampment outside the city. They quickly pack up and make their way to their liege.

Upon arrival, both the Empress and King Beren rise, honoring the group. When the party begins to kneel before their liege, the Empress urges them to remain standing. She thanks them for their bravery in her rescue from the Usurper’s clutches, and declares that they need never bow to her nor to anyone that owes fealty to her. The group is of course honored, but also know that this means that still more dangerous duties lie ahead.

They ask how they can serve their Empress, and she smiles, inviting them back to the planning chamber of her tent (which is scry-guarded), along with King Beren. She also invites along Alfirin, who had accompanied the army from Fornost and has been serving as one of the Empress’ bodyguards since her escape. She and the rest of the group exchange some quick greetings, and the planning commences.

The army is set to attack the city shortly after daybreak two days hence. Since everyone present is now aware that the Usurper can track the party, she charges them with creating a diversion for this attack. They are to enter the city approximately an hour before the attack commences, and try to evade capture, serving to draw the attention of the Usurper and his men. Their secondary objective is to bring in the Usurper, preferably alive enough so that she and Nwalme can extract a few answers from him.

The group has some time to prepare, and most merely continue their regular regimens of combat training, animal care, and other routines. Smial and Nwalme visit the medical facilities in the camp, Nwalme to lend assistance (none is necessary), and Smial to obtain a drug for his special poison dagger – one that will quickly and effectively knock someone out. He manages to find a nurse who can produce such a serum – two types, in fact. Smial opts for the one whose effectiveness is more certain, but whose risk of killing the victim is higher.

Nwalme also uses the two days to attempt some Divination. The first day, he finds that there is a Nazgul at the main gate into the city (at the moment of his Divination). The second day, he learns that the total number of Nazgul in existence is currently
between three and four…

The group also makes contact with the “hobsters” who have been their allies within Isengard. They agree to unlock the postern gate of the city at the appropriate time, and create a diversion to make it easier for the party to enter. The party also takes a few minutes to check the “PalaceCam” scroll, finding the rooms to be mostly empty – a few guards left in the throne room. There is still evidence of the Usurper’s presence in the private chamber behind the throne.

There’s a last-minute debate about attire to wear, Guthwyn insists that we need to dress like the Usurper’s men to blend in. After some discussion, it’s clear that blending in will not require specific uniforms. There are enough bands of different types within the city that another one won’t draw any attention, unless that other one wears the livery of the Empress Guard. So the group stows their winged helms (to Thaliondor’s* in absentia dismay), and Nwalme casts illusions on both himself and Smial so that they appear human.

Now established, the party leaves camp and reaches the postern gate at the given time – and find it locked. They wait a minute or two, listening to the sounds of guards within the city raising the alarm about a fire somewhere not too distant. The gate remains locked, however, and at that point Araphor turns Smial into water, so that he can slip under the door and see about opening it from the inside.

Smial oozes under the door and looks up to see the back of a guard. The guard is holding his throat with one hand, while trying to fight off two hobbits. Still in puddle form, Smial opts only to ooze under the man’s feet. The guard doesn’t last long, and as he falls to the ground it becomes clear that his throat had been cut, and he hadn’t quite succumbed yet.

Smial flows off a little ways to wait for the spell to end as the two hobbits move to open the gate. Once they do, Araphor releases his spell; Smial returns to his normal form, and the party enters the city.

They confer with the hobbits briefly, learning the best street to take toward the Palace, quickly being marching in that direction. The hobbits head off in the direction of the fire to put an end to it before there’s further injury to anyone.

The group marches easily up the street, unchallenged. They spot a few groups of soldiers moving along parallel streets, one a company of about a hundred, but they pass without incident.

As they draw closer to the Palace and the wall to the Old City, the group briefly discusses how best to try and enter the Palace. Smial suggests they can bluff their way past the main gate, but Guthwyn’s suggestion of the servants’ gate meets with more approval. The party heads toward the gate to the Old City , wherein the servants’ gate to the Palace lies, and spends a few minutes reconnoitering.

They see three groups of soldiers pass, ranging in size from a company of about a hundred to a patrol of only four soldiers. All of them, however, are headed out of the Old City. They wait a few minutes to see if this trend changes, while discussing their story for the gate – that they’re returning to report on the fire near the city wall.

They approach the gate, Nwalme in the lead. He’s stopped by the guard, but the guard seems to readily accept their story, and lets the group pass. The party doesn’t get very far, however, when Nwalme spots someone out of the corner of his eye: someone on a side street reacted as if they recognized the party, quickly ducking out of sight. Nwalme quietly lets the group know they’ve been spotted, but they continue on their course, as they’re still being watched by the guards at the gate.

As they reach the servants’ gate, it becomes apparent to several of them that they’re being followed. When they enter the gate, Reneand Smial slip off to ambush their tail, while the rest of the party proceeds to the guard house. There are two guards present; one is asleep, the other is eating dinner.

Rene, meanwhile, has snuck up on the man following the group, and recognizes him as Enderian, a bureaucrat from the Palace with a reputation as being a decent fellow. Rene comes up behind him, placing a blade to his throat, and asks him to profess his allegiance. The man whispers, “The Empress has already escaped, you don’t need to be here.” Rene replies simply, “We know.” The man seems surprised by this, then asks Rene to follow him. Rene takes him to Nwalme, who quickly confirms his allegiance as being to Empress Ethurien. Nwalme also recognizes the man as someone with a reputation for overconfidence in most of his abilities, but a real gift for getting things done in a bureaucracy. The party and Enderian head for a quiet place to talk.

As they pass the open doorway of the guard room, one of the guards challenges them. Enderian responds by upbraiding him for eating on duty, and he backs down. The party passes into the servants’ quarters. They seem fairly empty. There they begin to discuss their mission and the next steps to take…

Escaping The Palace Again
...with no hobbit left behind!

We rejoin our harried heroes (and their new ally, a Rohirrim guardsman) in the tower of the imperial palace in Isengard. Thaliondor is badly injured, and Nwalme-Anna is exhausted. The remainder of the party is tired, but ambulatory.

Araphor suggests that there’s one Ring-bearing lieutenant whose whereabouts is not quite accounted for, and has Guthwyn wear the Ring of See Invisible, taking it from Nwalme. She points out that the anti-Nazgul sword would be handy in such a case, as well, and Araphor takes it from Thaliondor, trading swords temporarily.

Guthwyn takes her crossbow in hand and leads the way down into the next level, finding a large storage area. Looking around, she spies the trapdoor leading down to the level below. Araphor suggests a destructive search (sticking swords in things), to speed things up, and they quickly go through the room before proceeding downward, Guthwyn continuing to lead.

The next level contains the prison and its cell, and is lit by several braziers. No one appears to be about, and one of the four cell doors is wide open. Guthwyn calls out for Smial, but gets no response. They peer into the open cell, and see what appears to be a dead human body, half in shadow. Araphor grabs a torch and tells Guthwyn to cover him as he explores into the cell. As he enters, he hears Smial muttering and grumbling about taking so damn long.

Smial emerges from the cell, pausing to kick the corpse, muttering another epithet. It’s apparent he’s been in captivity some time – he’s thinner than anyone’s ever seen him. He explains that the guard had come in to kill him, but he managed to grab the man’s belt knife and dispatch him before he could even swing his sword.

The three head back up, Guthwyn at point and Araphor taking up the rear. Smial pauses briefly in the storeroom to grab a loaf of bread. They rejoin the rest of the party. Waiting for Nwalme to continue his rest, they talk with Smial about his imprisonment, where the other prisoners went, and other details. Guthwyn voices a suspicion that he may not be the true Smial, to which he responds with a string of insults, including the suggestion that she consult her horse. (This strikes everyone as proof enough of his identity.)

After a few more minutes, the party moves on. The antechamber is empty, and they prepare to cross the courtyard to the storehouse in which they can escape to Orthanc. The guard who joined them leads the way, walking alone to the building and opening the door, pausing to reassure the gate guards on his way. He holds it open, and signals for the party to proceed. They run for it, Smial well in the lead), as the gate guards yell for them to halt. Thaliondor trips up, falling flat on his face, but Araphor helps him back onto his feet and they race on.

At the storehouse door, Guthwyn turns to provide a covering shot with her crossbow, and everyone makes it inside, barring the door behind them. They quickly make their way to the secret stone door, moving aside a large crate to access it, and speed along the passage into the maze beneath Orthanc, finally coming to the main doors of the tower, which are locked and barred from the outside.

Nwalme and Araphor prepare their spells (illusions and Shape Plant), and the party makes their way back to the forest in much the same manner as they approached the tower, weeks ago. They encounter no guards. It would seem that they are busy elsewhere, especially considering the fires which seem to be growing out of control within the city, clearly visible from the heights here.

Not long after entering the forest, they are greeted by Arod and the horses and ponies. They recover their equipment, saddle up the steeds, and head deeper into the woods, for Fangorn.

They reach Fangorn Forest proper shortly, and all seems quiet at first. But soon they espy a reptilian flying beast overhead, circling the area. Perched upon its back is a rider the Nazgul who has been hounding them all day. It quickly zeroes in on the party, and dives at them. It belches a fireball straight at them, and everyone dives from horseback to hit the ground. Nwalme gets caught, but the fireball explodes relatively harmlessly overhead, its heat washing harmlessly over the party. Not quite so harmlessly, though, several branches fall down from the forest canopy overhead, damaging several people and mounts.

The party picks themselves up as the Black Rider steers to the ground. His reptilian steed catches its wings in the trees, and it falls the last twenty feet to the ground. The Nazgul, however, manages a spectacular acrobatic leap from its back to land safely. Rene, who has taken a moment or two to grab from Thaliondor the Ring of Haste, faces off against him, his blades flying furiously. Araphor grabs his spear and Guthwyn her sword, both of them closing in, while Nwalme casts a Strike Blind into his curse missile wand.

Rene lands several blows, some of them exceptionally damaging, and the Ring-wraith lands a solid counter-blow. Meanwhile, Araphor and Guthwyn move into range. The next round finds Rene on the defensive, reeling a bit from the blow he received, but the Nazgul is in even worse shape. Araphor strikes with his spear twice at the Nazgul’s head, hitting him solidly both times, but doing little damage. Guthwyn also connects with her blade, hurting him somewhat.

The sounds of approaching Ents fill the air as the fight continues. Rene lands another blow, and the Nazgul decides to acrobatically leap away. As he does, Araphor and Guthwyn land more blows, and he lands badly. Reaching a hand into his tunic, he vanishes from sight. Rene asks Guthwyn if he’s invisible, but she responds in the negative – the Ringwraith has vanished once again. Its mount, however, is not quite so lucky. Just as it recovers from its harsh landing, it is dragged by the tail into the brush, the Ents making quick work of it.

After a long day (and night), the party rests, safely in the company of the Ents.

More Stand In Our Way
...and manage to slow us down quite a bit

We rejoin our harried heroes in the imperial apartments, in the chamber of the ladies-in-waiting. They await a broom with which to sweep away the caltrops which line the “secret” passage that has its entrance here, while the strong (and flirtatious) serving maid literally sits on the Usurper’s spy among them.

The leader of the ladies returns quickly with a broom, which Araphor takes, thanking her graciously. He heads into the passage and begins quickly and thoroughly sweeping a path down its center. The rest of the party follows. Thaliondor brings up the rear, pausing to respond to a comment from the flirt with a smile and wink.

At some point, the caltrops peter out, leaving the center of the passage free to traverse. The party trots along it quickly. Eventually Araphor’s sharp eyes catch the beginning of another stretch of caltrops which signal the approach of the far end of the corridor, and he resumes sweeping a path. They reach the end, Rene taking the lead and rushing up the ladder-stair to push up the trapdoor exit.

As his arms rise above the floor with the trapdoor, a sword swings at them, crippling his right arm and sending him falling back down into the arms of Guthwyn, who manages to brace him somewhat. Araphor begins casting a spell, while Rene moves out of the way to have Nwalme heal his arm. Guthwyn moves up the ladder, and Thaliondor begins aiming at the trapdoor with his beloved crossbow, waiting for a shot.

As Araphor’s Dehydrate spell resolves, Guthwyn charges up through the trapdoor, shield up. She clears the trapdoor quickly, finding a rather ill-looking guard standing nearby, and another guard a little further off. Thaliondor fires a bolt, taking the second guard in the throat, and he collapses. She dispatches the ill guard quickly, and calls down for the rest of the party to join her. They all quickly ascend.

The group consults briefly on how to approach, discussing the layout of the tower they’re about to enter, knowing that the imperial dungeon lies beneath it. After mapping out a strategy, Thaliondor and Guthwyn open the doors leading into its main floor.

Immediately, a volley of crossbow bolts flies at them, downing Guthwyn. As the party moves into the chamber, they find themselves up against eight of the Usurper’s Guard, two with long pikes, the remaining six with crossbows. Three of the latter drop their bows to draw swords and prepare shields, while the other three begin reloading.

Thaliondor fires his crossbow at one of the pikemen, hitting him solidly, but not taking him down. Rene moves into the chamber, trying to get within the range of the pikes, acrobatically dodging a thrust by one of them. Araphor moves in as well, as Nwalme pauses to heal and revive Guthwyn. Rene wades into battle, felling a swordsman quickly. The uninjured pikeman tries to skewer Nwalme, but loses control of his weapon, sending it flying across the room to crash into the wall next to Araphor, who narrowly dodges it. The unarmed pikeman steps back, hands up in resignation as the fight rages on.

Thaliondor reloads his crossbow as Araphor strikes at a swordsman, crippling his leg and sending him to the ground. As Thaliondor fires, taking out a crossbowman who has reloaded, he calls for their surrender. In response, a pikeman skewers him solidly, knocking him back and unconscious. Rene, meanwhile, faces off against a second swordsman, felling him quickly before turning his attention to the pikeman.

Araphor turns to find a crossbowman aiming at him at point-blank range, and he swings his blade hard at the man. The guardsman falls, but not before firing his bolt solidly into Araphor’s chest. Fortunately, his mithril armor absorbs the blow, as well as one from the swordsman who strikes him in the back. Meanwhile, Rene swings at the pikeman that hit Thaliondor, but the man dives acrobatically away, dodging the blade.

Araphor spins around, striking the swordsman behind him incredibly well, causing him to drop his weapon, stunned. At this point Guthwyn rejoins the fray, hitting him as well and sending him to the ground.

The acrobat pikeman rolls and picks up a loaded crossbow from the floor, which he fires at Rene. Rene dodges the bolt, leaping over to thrust both his blades into the man, who falls limp to the floor. The remaining guardsmen call for quarter.

The pikeman who lost control of his weapon, the only unscathed guard, seems only too happy to cooperate. Unlike his fellow Rohirrim stationed here, he apparently has no fondness for the Third Prince of Rohan. He provides Guthwyn with information on the guards in the tower: there are but two left on the roof, and one in the dungeon. He also warns that we should bar the door, as they will expect reinforcements at some point. As they talk, Nwalme revives Thaliondor, but barely.

The group hammers out a plan: leaving Nwalme and Thaliondur here to rest along with Rene and the unscathed guard, Guthwyn and Araphor will head downstairs. They intend to call back if they run into trouble in the barracks below, but otherwise expect to return quickly with Smial.

Back To The Palace!
Do NOT get in our way

We find our heroes on the run in the city of Isengard, sheltered by the hobbit underground in a not-quite-so-safe house, weary and hurt. They pause here to recover their strength and question their prisoner, the recently Ring-wearing and less-recently-dead lieutenant.

Nwalme-Anna leads the interrogation, using his magicks to ensure they get the truth from the prisoner. The rest of the party assists as they see fit. While Rene is extremely curious to find out about his survival, Araphor instead focuses on the survival of the party, insisting we first determine how we are being tracked. The prisoner’s information is somewhat helpful in regard to the tracking; he knows it’s some sort of box device in which an item attuned to the party, but not a specific individual, is placed. This convinces the party that they have no choice but to keep moving, as there is no one place they can be safe. The information regarding his death is less than useful, as he wasn’t alive to witness his revival; he can only say that he was told he wasn’t actually dead.

Nwalme and Araphor also take time to rest and recover their strength, Araphor attempting to keep the priorities in mind: mobility first, then full recovery. Araphor also takes a few moments to talk to Rene and encourage him to give the anti-Nazgul sword over to Thaliondor, to keep our opponents guessing. Surprisingly, he agrees readily, and swaps this sword for Thaliondor’s.

While they rest, a messenger arrives to inform them that they’ve discovered someone watching the house. They go send people to dispatch him, but fail in the attempt, and he escapes. As a sizable force of guards (both “Empress” and city) are getting close, the party chooses this time to move on. But the situation leads Araphor to suggest we send eyes to watch the movements of the guard forces, since they appear to be sending larger and larger forces after the party.

At the next stop, they pause to consider their next move. Reports come in of a fairly large force moving out, as well as a smaller group that’s very close – a group that includes the Nazgul. Thaliondor points out that we may want to try turning and attacking this smaller group if we can get two steps ahead instead of one. But as more reports come in, it strikes everyone (especially Thaliondor, who has been promoting this for some time) that the time may be right to return to the Palace and rescue Smial. As more reports come in about the size and composition of the forces being sent into the streets after them, including what may be the Usurper himself, it becomes clearer that this is the course of action to take. The hobbits with them also decide that it’s time to start a riot, and several of them disappear to put that into motion. Leaving the prisoner in the care of the hobbits, the party then sneaks off to the inn at which they surfaced when escaping the Palace a few weeks ago.

At the inn, they note smoke rising off across the city before they are quickly ushered inside by the proprietor, who is visibly (and understandably) nervous. Inside, they are surprised to find a very satisfied hobbit with a group of strangers… strangers who in size, build, and general appearance resemble the exact makeup of the party!

The hobbit leading our group congratulates him, and everyone goes over the plan: The faux party will attempt to lead the guards on a chase, taking them slightly off the true path (but not so far as to be obvious). They also will take the formerly dead lieutenant with them. In the mean time, the party heads into the secret tunnel, bringing a couple of hobbits with them to assist with any secret doors and such they may encounter. The objectives are discussed, and the primary one settled upon: rescue Smial, and escape the city.

The group makes its way through the tree-crypt and passage, reaching the sealed secret door without incident. Araphor casts Shape Plant and makes sure that the door is not barred. The group bursts in, surprising two guards, and Rene dispatches them swiftly, downing them in as many rounds, one dead, one on his back on the floor, unarmed.

The disarmed guard yells for help, but Thaliondor moves and kicks him solidly in the head, rendering him unconscious. They move onward, opening the flimsy new door to check for further guards, but find none. Thaliondor rushes forward, as Rene volunteers to bring up the rear. Araphor points out that this is ridiculous – the party needs to move fast, and Rene has just shown that he is quick and effective on point. Rene reluctantly agrees, and joins Guthwyn and Thaliondor in the antechambers, making their way into the rotunda, while Araphor and Nwalme follow close behind.

Thaliondor reaches the balcony quickly, and spots two guards at the base of the far staircase. One guard turns to run for help, and Thaliondor shoots him squarely in the back with his crossbow. Meanwhile the other guard charges up the stairs, sword in hand. Guthwyn soon after enters the hall, and runs to attack this guard, while Thaliondor reloads. As Guthwyn engages the closing guard, Thaliondor takes aim and shoots the fleeing guard squarely in the head, felling him quickly.

The guard fighting Guthwyn takes a few solid hits himself. Between that and seeing his comrade fall, he decides to run for help. He turns and runs back down the stairs, just as Rene enters the chamber. Seeing the guard about to escape, Rene vaults over the balcony rail smoothly. Twisting and rolling in midair, he lands on his feet, swords drawn, facing the fleeing foe. As the guard reaches him, Rene furiously attacks, thrusting his blade squarely through the guard’s eye, bringing him to an abrupt halt.

Guthwyn, still in close pursuit, takes no chances and swings her own blade, nearly eviscerating the man. The guard’s corpse collapses to the floor, and as the two of them pull back and clean their blades, Thaliondor runs by them in the direction of ladies-in-waiting chamber and its secret passage, Araphor and Nwalme close on his heels.

Thaliondor is greeted at the door by a serving maid, who recognizes him and welcomes him in with a smile and wink – while suddenly thrusting an arm out throttle one of the ladies in waiting, pinning her to a nearby wall. Thaliondor smiles and winks back, thanking her as the rest of the party bustles in from the hallway. They find the no-longer-very-secret-at-all door, and Rene leads the way, stepping into the passage.

He steps back quickly, however, his sharp eye and quick reflexes not entirely saving him from stepping on one of the numerous large caltrops that litter the passage floor. Upon seeing this, Rene readies his cloak to try and use it to create a path, while Araphor asks one of the ladies if there might be a broom handy. She rushes off to fetch one, and the party waits tensely…

Thaliondor, One-Handed

We find our heroes once again fighting inside a burning building. Near the back door, the formerly dead lieutenant defends himself from Guthwyn, who is intent on seeing him dead despite his surrender. Thaliondor is attempting to wear the Ring he has been handed, while Rene is trying to prevent him from doing so.

A hobbit stands near Guthwyn, trying to get her to stop attacking, and Nwalme-Anna, looking rather fatigued, is walking toward the group. In the front of the main room, the badly injured Araphor slowly makes his way toward the front door and the Ice Slick just inside it.

The lieutenant lands a solid blow on Guthwyn, forcing her to pause and defend herself for a round, giving the hobbit a chance to convince her to stop her attacks. She does so, the breather allowing her blood-lust to sufficiently fade. She orders the lieutenant to relinquish his weapon, but he refuses to do so while she has hers. She lowers hers, convincing him to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Thaliondor remains intent on wearing the Ring, and does so, vanishing. Rene, seeing no other way to stop him, swings his sword at Thaliondor’s hand, nearly severing it from the wrist despite being invisible once again. At the same time, Nwalme leaps on to Thaliondor’s back, grappling with him. Thaliondor moves to slam him back against a nearby wall, but not very successfully, still reeling a bit in pain as his hand hangs by a few tendons. Rene uses Nwalme’s presence as a guide to take another swing at Thaliondor, while Nwalme reminds him verbally of the Empress’ orders, and commands him to remove the Ring.

Thaliondor responds, “I can’t.” Nwalme slips off his back and moves to cast a Minor Healing on him. As he re-attaches the hand this way, he slips the Ring off of Thaliondor’s finger, making him visible once more.

At the front of the common room, Araphor pauses to cast Destroy Water, clearing the Ice Slick so that the party can easily make their escape. He joins several hobbits out in the street, followed shortly by the rest of the group, the captured lieutenant in tow. Not long after their exit, the back room is seen to be engulfed in flames.

The hobbits help the party limp a few blocks until a cart picks them up. They are transported to another house, one that’s not quite so “safe”.

Game Synopsis, 10/20/2000

We find our heroes in a third hobster safehouse, with a group of faux Empress guards fast approaching their position. The party lies in wait, ready to strike rather than run.

Araphor casts an Ice Slick, creating the ice just inside the unlocked front door. A hobbit is posted to be responsible for closing the door as necessary. Meanwhile, Nwalme-Anna establishes illusions covering the upper floor’s windows and the back door (which is also heavily bolted and secured). The party then gets into position: Thaliondor and Guthwyn opposite the door, crossbow and bow at the ready; Rene and Araphor to either side of the door, swords drawn; Nwalme just to one side of and behind the archers, fingers itching. Hobbit crossbowmen are posted at all upstairs windows.

Soon enough, the guardsmen with their two dread lieutenants arrive. One lieutenant pounds on the door, yelling, “Open in the name of the Empress!”. The party silently waits a moment or two, and the guardsmen burst in through the unlocked door. The first slides a bit on the ice, but keeps his feet, ending up just on the other side of the slick. The second is not so fortunate, and ends up on his back on the ice. The third to enter is one of the lieutenants. He manages to keep his feet and remains standing on the ice, over the fallen guardsman.

The party reacts swiftly. With two strokes each, Araphor fells the first guard, while Rene severs the lieutenant’s sword arm at the elbow. Thaliondor and Guthwyn place a pair of missiles solidly into the lieutenant’s chest as well, sending him falling back out the door. Nwalme takes a moment to charge up his wand with a Strike Blind curse, even as three guards in the street fall dead to the ground, quarrels through their foreheads courtesy of the hobbits on the upper floor.

The upper hand is short-lived, however, as Rene suddenly slumps to the ground, blood spurting from his side. Araphor and Guthwyn (now armed with sword rather than bow) rush to his side. Araphor escapes the grappling attempt of the downed guard and recovers the anti-Nazgul sword from the ground, taking a blow from the invisible attacker in the process. Meanwhile Guthwyn swings into air, managing to connect with something that parries her blow, and calling for Nwalme to “light him up” as they had done with the barrow-wight weeks ago. Nwalme proceeds to create an illusion around the invisible attacker, and Guthwyn has at him with a will. The assailant, however, is more interested in Araphor and strikes him a couple more times, sending the ranger reeling across the room, struggling to stay both conscious and alive. Thaliondor and the hobbit, meanwhile, dispatch the last guardsman inside, shutting the door and leaving no hostiles other than the invisible one in the room.

In the background, muffled shouts of “Open in the name of the Empress” are heard from the rear, and there are reports of the building being set ablaze back there, but the party is absorbed by the threat in their midst, paying it little attention.

Guthwyn and the mostly-invisible foe continue to square off as Nwalme moves to heal Araphor. More guards push the front door open, despite the hobbit’s efforts to jam it, but Thaliondor downs one and sends the rest scurrying with a well-placed blow and a loudly-voiced threat.

He does, in the process, note something odd about the other lieutenant… how he looks like the “dead” lieutenant, but not quite exactly… and [I think] this lieutenant somehow ends up falling over to the ground, without any help from Thaliondor…)

The mostly-invisible man leaps over Rene’s body to stand on the lower part of the staircase, continuing to battle Guthwyn. Behind her, Rene rises to his feet, somewhat restored by Nwalme’s healing magicks. A hobbit descends the stairs, announcing that there are no more targets visible outside. Then he notices Guthwyn fighting an odd smoky wisp, and she shouts to him that there’s a Nazgul in front of him.

Before the hobbit can do much more than gawk, the wraithlike foe realizes that the battle is no longer in his favor, and turns, fleeing toward the back of the building. Thaliondor and Guthwyn quickly pursue him, Rene pausing only to fetch the anti-Nazgul sword from Araphor on his way to join them. They reach him as he is halfway through unbolting the back (very warm) door. They lay into him, but he surprises them by voicing his surrender. Thaliondor demands he give up the Ring he is obviously wearing. The foe further surprises everyone by doing so, saying “You take it, brother” as he hands it over to Thaliondor. As he becomes fully visible, they recognize him as the “dead” lieutenant.

Guthwyn, caught up in battle, ignores his surrender, and he defends himself, having failed to give up his sword along with the Ring. Rene, shocked to see the dead lieutenant, but even more shocked to see the Ring put into Thaliondor’s hands, smacks at said hands with the flat of his blade. Thaliondor fades from view for a split second before the smack of the blade forces the Ring back off of his finger, but not out of his grasp…

Hunted, But Forewarned
a tricky surgery, and laying an ambush

Our heroes find themselves recuperating in one of the hobsters’ safe houses in a seedy section of the city of Isengard. Nwalme-Anna completely heals Rene of his chest wound, briefly putting an end to the chill of it.

Nwalme manages to determine that the Nazgul’s blade left a shard in Rene, which is working its way to his heart over time. Further, it can only be properly removed by someone of royal or imperial lineage. With that in mind, he and Araphor send for a surgeon, so that between the three of them it can safely be taken from Rene’s body.

The surgery goes smoothly at first, the surgeon exposing the shard for Araphor to pluck free. He does so but, being unprepared for the unnatural feel of the shard, he quickly lets it slip from his grasp. The sliver lands in the surgeon’s hand, digging in a bit. The physician maintains his composure, however, and Araphor pulls the shard free. Bringing it into direct sunlight, it bursts into cold green flame in his hand, disappearing quickly.

During the surgery, Thaliondor watches the PalaceCam scroll, along with Guthwyn. They note the Usurper and the obviously wounded Ring-wraith arguing, as well as the presence of two lieutenant “Empress Guards”.

Shortly after the surgery, a pounding on the front door sends the party rushing out the back, off to another safe house while some of the hobsters stall. In the new safe house, they get a report: roughly thirty “Empress Guard” had arrived, including two particularly intimidating lieutenants.

Araphor points out that it’s probably not coincidence that the Usurper captured two rings, and that there are now two new menacing leaders of the guards. Guthwyn and the rest of the party agree, and realize they need to stop these men – not only as probable Ring-wearers, but also that they continue to dog the party even to the new safe house. The party receives word that the group that “visited” their first sanctuary is now rapidly approaching their current one.

With a mere five minutes before the cadre of guards arrive, they begin to plan an ambush. Thaliondor points out that they’ve got to bottleneck through the doors, so that the guards’ numbers are not a great advantage; plans begin to evolve around that. Nwalme suggests hiding the back door via illusion, and Araphor points out that we might be better served by hiding the upper front windows, for hobbit snipers. Araphor also suggests laying down an Ice Slick just inside the door, to make anyone coming in particularly vulnerable.

A rough plan hammered out, they prepare to put it into practice.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.