Middle Earth: Sunset of the Fourth Age

Session notes, 4/29/2011
raw, for now...

GURPS – 4/26/11

We left our heroes on the great river Anduin (and-o-win), chasing the count of the eastern marshes (a loyal retainer of the prince of rohan). He’s 20 minutes ahead of us. Stormdancer lost him when he went into an inn. (He’s been traveling with two retainers.) The seeker spell shows him still inside this inn.

We’re on a fast boat that we were able to use Chris’ magic to make faster. We’re trying to catch up to the boat. The empress’ advice was to get political help; we have a password that will make that possible.

The landing outside a village: a couple of inns, a couple of taverns, a customs house, a barracks — it’s a traffic point, and some warehouses slightly off the track. (A good place to fortify the area? Fortifications a littler further downstream. There used to be a crossing point farther down, but this built up and became the crossing point.)

We want to catch him and try to get a confession out of him, so that we can get proof of the prince’s guilt.

Three sailors just came out of the inn. Guthwyn heads to the stables with the horses. We head toward the inn. There’s a whole troop of 6-11 rohan riders on patrol are in the common room. The count and his flunkies went upstairs. Nawalme senses magic and it looks like he may have teleported out of the inn. He recasts Seeker to try to find the count – using the horse blanket again to find him. (The horse from the horse blanket is in the stable. The count is still within 50y.)

In the stable, Guthwyn sees the rohan horses and knows that there’s a lot of them in there. She’s doing the whole spear and magic helmet thing.

Araphor watches the front; Bo watches the back; Nawalme and Guthwyn climb to go to the window that Nawalme knows is where he saw magic energy.

Bo readies his bow, just in case. There is a stableboy watching what’s going on.

Guthwyn climbed up and opened the shutters on the second floor. She reached down to help Nawalme inside. They’re on the second floor and head into the hall and then make their way down the hall to the room in question. The door is locked and she unlocks the door. But there will be a little noise and it will take a bit. Though with Nawalme’s magic, she can do it silently. He readies strike blind on the curse missile wand; she draws a sword. They open the door and step into the large room. The room is empty.

Someone heard them and tells them to clear out; they’ll be leaving shortly. Guthwyn opens the door (trying not to block Nawalme’s aim). They see another room and the count is sitting at a table with paperwork and he’s holding something that’s glowing orangy-yellow. Nawalme fires off the spell and blinds the count.

“That must be Nawalme Ana,” he said as soon as he realized he was blinded. He seems relatively nonplussed about being blinded. He warns them not to let the glowing granite stone touch anything flammable. Nawalme thinks it looks similar to a teleportation/communication devices he’s seen before. Something came out before he shut down the artifact; it now looks like a bag of gold-ish. He said that his master – the prince – sent it to him to pay off debts.

The people downstairs are his retainers (he realizes that we have been the ones following him). And some countrymen from castle aroch b. He seems oddly cheerful at being arrested, because he might be safe from the prince and his perditions. They take him out the back (through the window and down the side). He’s a politician so unfortunately, Nawalme can’t tell for sure with just a detect lies skill.

Once Guthwyn ties the count’s hands and tried to remove his rings — one came off, but not his wedding ring; she started to search the room, looking over the papers, etc… Receipts: he paid 3 times as much for his boat then we did; reports, etc…

She doesn’t see any bags or scroll containers or anything that he might have used to carry the papers.

Nawalme casts aura to make sure that the count isn’t a mage.

They search the outer room/bedroom. There’s the saddle bag which contains more papers, a small bag of silver, a really nice knife and another of those magical thingys that seems to have broken into two pieces. They also find his boots, which they put on him. (They bring the count and his saddle bags.) They lower him with a rope to the ground.

He’s now on his horse; we’re all together and getting ready to ride once we know where we’re going. Bo recommends against riding into Rohan and heading back toward the Empress and Thaliandor. Head downriver and interrogate him, said Araphor.

The boat is pre-hired for Empress’ use which makes it cheaper for us to hire him. The plan is to go back to the boat and go down the river; let Nawalme do his private stuff while we’re on the boat and away from people. One of the crewman is away; getting breakfast for the captain — he should be back shortly. They quickly put the count in the closed deck house, so that Nawalme can get to work interrogating him. The rest of us work to get the boat underway.

Eric’s got the best notes:

King of Rohan – addict
prince1 (useless), prince2 (golden boy) – addict, prince3 (evil)
each marsh has a count (governors)
each count has 3-5 baronets (specific castles, specific duties)

The plot: king and prince’s roles clear; we think the count is the political operators (one of the most able in the kingdom); he has been facilitating/managing the drug trade for weapons on this side and coordinating with the chatelaine (chamberlain, castle’s controller/admin). He’s the person running the operation. How much duress he’s under is different than what he may want us to believe.

Nawalme questions the count about the prince, the drugs and the king. Prince Eroed (prince3) wants to be the king, but knows that if he just offs his family he won’t get to keep the throne. Nobody in the court wants Prince Ayor (prince1) to be king; including Prince Ayor – the brilliant botanist. Prince (prince2) would make a fine king, but Eroed won’t let that happen. So he wants the king to die and prince2 to be so disgraced so that no one will accept him. There were drugs involved and the count wishes that they had never done it. Prince Arad, his assassin (tall blond leader/rapist), and the count’s brother-in-law (the baronet that hangs with Eroed). He says that he’s innocent – even under compel truth spells.

His version is that he was trying to help his brother-in-law and keep him from exposing himself and hurting the count’s sister. There was this scheme that the assassin had made – some deal – the count knew a dyer (at Castle B) that could make the drugs. He does the books now and again – much less since his wife was killed at Eroed’s orders. He children are all fostered with Eroed.

His question: “how fast can you get to Eroed’s castle?” He wants to save his kids.

The weapon’s deal… They’ve been selling the orc’s flawed weapons that will rust through over a couple of years in the elements. The weapons are going to the north; the east is chaotic and something’s going on there. About 10 years back, the town along the border started growing and they stopped making war as casually as they had been. (Could there be a controlling force?) Just last year, the petty king called to try to get help with a threat to the east; he wanted asylum. (Something REALLY REALLY bad is going on.)

We thought the drugs were under his control. We thought he was doing the paperwork and the dying operation; he knew all the pieces and we thought he was running it.

His story is that he’s just facilitating things and made the introductions.

The king of rohan knows but doesn’t seem to care. The problem according to the count is that Eroed might be the best of the worst choices available. He doesn’t think he’d be able to solve the problem; just that he’d do better than most. He has a lot of backing from a lot of the nobility. He doesn’t think any of the nobles can pull it together enough to do better.

Nawalme is sure that the count is a masterful politician; he’s sure that he’s probably lied to them as close to the edge of the compel truth as he can get. The only people that have gotten off the drugs were people that hadn’t taken it much or long; others have died.

Ayor may or may not have studied the plant that the drugs are derived from. He claims that he doesn’t know who developed the process. He says that he shouldn’t say who that was.

(The plants are grown in the north by the orcs; the seeds are traded for weapons; the dyer processes them into the drugs.)

The scenario may have been that Ayor developed the drugs for his own use, not really seeing the consequences, but Ereod found out and saw the use of it. The count says it doesn’t seem to be his style, but he was smart enough and could have been tricked into doing it.

Nawalme thinks that Neutralize Poison might be a solution to the issue. As well as Relieve and Cure Addiction.

The count was sorry to hear about Rene’s death.

The crewman returns, we head downriver, while we continue to question the count.

If we’re going into Rohan, we’re going to want to disrupt the drug network. It has a brutal and a deadly withdrawal, which means that no drugs equals civil war and the deaths of a lot of nobility.

The count thinks: count of northern marches, 2-3 of his baronets, 1 duke, most of prince2 & king’s retainers. More than half of the nobility that isn’t tied to prince3 and eastern marches.

If Ayor has a cure, he hasn’t used it on his father.

One of the Eroed’s retainer’s is a mage that created the magic item. (Megan and Eric have the name; I didn’t catch it: Alphrazam?) Eroed met him 7 years ago; he’s a mage, anger issues, good friends with the assassin. He can put anything that’s fits through the hole.

He lets us know where the drug refineries are. Possibly use hobsters to get them out?

The count would love to go back to Rohan and free his children and make them safe. Rohan needs to be safe from the bigger threat from the East – which we don’t know for sure.

Where is Thaliandor?

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Session notes 1/7/2011
raw

We find the group having just subdued the group of men who were involved with the suspicious activities around Beorngard the past few years.

“The Party” currently consists of Nwalme Anna, Araphor, Guthwyn, and Barforth the Bowman – who, with a name like Barforth, just likes to be called “Bowman” or “The Bowman” or even “Hey You!” – anything but “Barforth”

They are accompanied by Captain Thaliandor (Valar help us) and a squad of “Empress Guards in Training”

Their prisoners consist of:

4 teamsters who seem to be relatively local and were handling a wagon filled with bags of seeds
4 teamsters who are definitely not local and speak with that distinct accent of Rohan and were handling a wagon filled with various weapons and armor.
2 soldiers who could be from Rohan but are pretty quiet – one because he’s wounded, the other because he doesn’t seem to say anything.
And two men who appear to be 2 of the 4 leaders of this group (a 3rd leader was killed in the combat)

o Medium-level Retainer to Prince of Rohan (Recognized by Guthwyn)
o [I CAN’T RECALL THE DETAILS HERE] – but I think is’s a retainer to the Count of the Eastern Marches

3rd Prince of Rohan has been facilitating weapons for drugs trade with the orcs of the far north. The orcs grow the drugs – which are shipped as seeds and exchange them for weapons of a higher quality than they can normally manufacture.

The drug is a liquid that:
a. Has an effect much like alcohol without the hangover
b. One can learn to “sober up” and very quickly overcome the effects if one concentrates
c. Is dangerously and quickly addictive. So much so that stopping the drug has proven fatal in a number of cases

The King of Rohan has been addicted to it. The 1st Prince is working against the 3rd Prince.
The 2nd Prince also seems to take the drug, but he’s more interested in his scientific research than running the country

The 3rd Prince has cultivated a loyal following along the eastern provinces of Rohan such that the Rohan leaders loyal to the Empire are afraid that the 3rd Prince could bring in large armies from the east if provoked.

There are two castles in the main part of Rohan whose castellans/stewards are also in the pocket of the 3rd prince. One castle (“B”) is the primary destination for the raw seeds for the drug – and is where this shipment of seeds was headed. The Steward there runs an operation to refine the seeds into the drug. He seems to be holding the processing method as a closely guarded secret. The other castle (“A”) is well known as having the best armory in Rohan and manufactures some of the best human-made weaponry in the known world.

The 4th leader of the group – the Count of the Eastern Marches – has fled south along the main road – leaving just before twilight of the night of the attack.

Using Stormdancer and other tracking spells, the Party has tracked him fairly successfully. They got close at one inn along the way, but the Count was able to extend his lead a bit and managed to hire a river barge heading south on the Great River Anduin.

The Party has hired a barge of their own – managing to hire a very experienced Captain who claims to have the best barge on that part of the river – having an apparent edge of about 2 knots over the Count’s barge. Araphor has managed to improve that edge even more with is current spells, so that the Party’s barge is traveling 5 knots faster than their quarry.

We left the game with the Party closing in on the Count who is approaching the most trafficked crossing point between the western and eastern parts of the Empire.

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Game Synopsis 10/9/2009
raw

Our heroes left Rivendell with the supply train heading east, and
camped with them the first night. The 2.5 days getting over the
mountain pass was uneventful. (It’s not clear to me whether we were
still with the supply train or just a small contingent…) They
decided to go into the town to cross the Anduin River, rather than
going for the out-of-the-way ferry upstream.

In the town, the Prince who resides there was polite but not taking
pains to occupy the heroes (which was fine with them). A couple of
things came out fairly quickly, from taking with people in the town:

  • The king of the elves of Mirkwood has always been quick to turn
    cranky, but lately it appears he’s getting cranky more and more often.
  • There have been a marked increase in visitors: dwarves, elves,
    humans. This isn’t quite explicable, because apart from the World’s
    Greatest Honey (we had some, it’s true!) there’s nothing to bring
    tourists here over other areas that are close by. (For example, better
    hunting in Mirkwood Forest…) The town has become the out-of-the-way
    meeting place, apparently, for those who want to meet where no one
    else will notice the meeting.
  • Some Rohirim, from the cadet line (minor nobles), have become
    frequent visitors.

The last was intriguing, and the heroes followed up, visiting the
villa on the “suburban outskirts” where they lodged.

In talking with one particularly loose-lipped servant, the heroes
discovered that the person the bowman (JP) saw with the emblem of
Rohan was Eothyn. He was a bit standoffish, even from his fellows, and
he always stayed in a room in a different wing — the most defensible
room in the villa, actually, with a large window.

The heroes investigated the room. Nwalme-Anna (Eric) cast History on
the large window to see what had transpired in the last month. No one
else had stayed there in that time. When Eothyn was there, though, he
spent a lot of time looking out that window, and left the room by the
window
several times. The bowman (JP) looked out and saw mostly the
river and some fields, plus a few farmhouses.

He also saw a little girl making mudpies in the street — a girl whom
he had seen at the Prince’s palace, and then again while we were
talking to the servant. She appeared to be watching us, but very
surreptitiously. While Nwalme rested from the spell (it had a high
energy cost), Guthwyn (Megan) went out to get the girl while Araphor
(Chris) stood watch via a Rider Within spell with Stormrider. The girl
saw Guthwyn coming, and nonchalantly left. Guthwyn’s efforts to track
her were unsuccessful, so Araphor went to try. He also was
unsuccessful (rolled a 17).

Rested, Nwalme joined the group and cast a Seeker spell using the
mudpies as something connected to the girl. She was very close, but in
a nearby building — and undoubtedly saw them look to the building, so
she was on the move again.

With the aid of the Seeker, Nwalme cast a Trace spell to follow the
girl. Strangely, it seemed to not be as precise as usual, but was
adequate to allow them to follow her to the crowded (and covered, thus
foiling Stormrider’s keen eye) market square. She eventually left with
a family that clearly knew her but was not her own family.

She and the boy in the family played as they headed to the bridge, and
eventually climbed onto the bridge wall. Someone nudged her, and she
fell into the river. Momentary panic occurred, and one of the bridge
guards shed his armor and dove in after her — but then immediately
swam back out, as she had turned into a turtle. (We had been informed
earlier that the Bjorn (sp?) nobels had shapeshifting abilities, and
while most were woodland mammals like bear and fox, turtle was a known
option.)

She climbed out the other side, but the Track spell was still working.
(Nwalme can maintain it indefinitely.) When the session ended, she was
in a nondescript building next to a jeweler’s shop.

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Rivendell Reclaimed
tying up loose ends and picking up a new thread

Over the course of several days, Nwalme-Anna (Eric) interviewed and
interrogated several of the orc prisoners in the camp, and spoke with
many of the residents of Rivendell. In no particular order, these are
some of the things he discovered:

  • The king orc (whom we killed) was talking with others, including
    both humans and elves, and appeared to be taken direction from them.
  • In general, these visitors came from points East, even beyond Rohan
    and Mordor.
  • One of the humans appeared to be from Rohan.
  • The Empress recognized the human, but couldn’t place him. This
    suggests a minor personage, possibly a member of a higher official’s
    entourage.
  • The friendly frost giant (Feloc the Younger) is willing to be an ambassador to start
    some kind of diplomatic work between the frost giants and the Empire.
  • One of the residents (the bowman) seemed to have precognitive powers
    — or maybe not. While he had told people that the seige was going to
    break soon, and he was correct, he was not employing magical (or
    apparently any deliberate) means to make that determination. He’s
    convinced he can read omens, but Nwalme seems fairly certain that he’s
    just gotten lucky enough to believe it.
  • However, the bowman does have extraordinary eyesight and excellent
    bow skills, which would be helpful.
  • And even more helpful, he’s seen the Rohirim (sp?) first hand. So
    the company is taking him with them.
  • Nwalme now has a list of names of the orcs who may know who the
    people visiting were, but finding them would require going into orc
    territory.
  • He also has a list of human names. This is the thing I can’t recall,
    who those humans were…
  • Ultimately in seemed that the company should head East into Rohan,
    and then on to points east should it seem reasonable. The question is
    still open as to how to do this stealthily — or even IF they should
    attempt to be stealthy.
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The Death of a Hero

No notes exist from this sad session. Rene dies from a spear through the eye.

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Doom Approaches for One Of Us
(Rene)

Met Frost-Giant with OCD/Neatness disorder (Feloc the Younger?) who was trying to hide from his army when they left and hoping to stay in a nice safe spot somewhere.

Using the intellegnce from the giant, the team decided to try to relieve the seige of the tower.

When you get there, it appears that the senior frost-magic-using giant is doing something inside a protective circle.

The rat-attack didn’t seem to work, as they could not get past the circle.

We left the session with the party getting ready to grind into the orcs and giants who are protecting the magic-user and also attempt to get the magic user to stop his assault on the tower.

Sorry I didn’t do this earlier. Hopefully I’ve included all the major
points, though I feel like I missed an option that we had discussed…

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You Sneaky Rat
...a wealth of information from different sources

We rejoin our heroes just south of Rivendell, recovering from a battle with an orc patrol.

Nwalme uses his healing magicks to get everyone back on their feet. The party backtracks from the battle site, then circles around toward the cave entrance to the secret tunnel that leads under the river and into the city of Rivendell.

While making their way through the woods, Nwalme accidentally makes a loud noise and the patrolling orcs start to converge toward the party. However, our heroes manage to find the tunnel entrance and duck inside before they’re discovered. Since the cave was well-concealed, the party decides that they don’t need to spend any time covering it up further. They proceed down the tunnel.

A little way in it opens into a modest-sized cavern. There they find a cache of a few weapons, some sleeping and camping gear, and some preserved food. The party rests, Nwalme performing some final healing and recovering energy.

While on watch, Guthwyn hears a sound down the main passage, in the direction they’re heading.. The group investigates very cautiously, and picks up the voice of an elvish child. Feeling safe enough, they continue on into the next cavern, and there meet an elf woman with two children.

Although somewhat alarmed at first by the sight of Dreorg and Rene, the livery of the Empress Guard, plus the sight of a fellow elf (Nwalme), puts the elven woman at ease. She relates what she knows of recent events. While her husband and two eldest sons were summoned to defend the Citadel, she and the children hid in their basement. The kids watched the town being sacked from the cellar window, and recount seeing orcs, giants, and something else – part orc, part human – that seemed like a leader. The older brother counted 631 orcs and 14 frost giants, and thought that there was some sort of headquarters in a certain part of the city based on their comings and goings.

After four days in the basement, the family ran out of food. They made a run to a ruined barracks of the third company of the city militia guard, where the other end of this tunnel lies hidden. They’ve been living down here for three days, on preserved rations cached in the tunnel.

Thanking the family for their information, he party proceeds to the end of the tunnel. Just outside the door, Nwalme attempts to make telepathic contact with the captain of the citadel, but fails. He then tries to make contact with the elven woman’s husband and succeeds. The husband is in great pain; he is very badly injured and expects to die within the next few hours.

Nwalme reached out with his Telepathy again, to bring his wife into the connection. He gives them time to talk, and to say goodbye. Once they’ve had a chance to bid each other farewell, he continues to query the man for information. He learns:

* The citadel is commanded by a militia corporal who had been promoted only two weeks ago
* The secret sortie tunnel entrance from the citadel into the city has been collapsed
* The secret escape tunnel into the foothills is still open, but the other end is in an area that’s getting patrolled very heavily by the orcish army
* There are only 23 soldiers left in the citadel
* Both of the couple’s sons were killed in an attack yesterday, when the man was wounded

Nwalme against used his Telepathy to contact the army. He was informed that the they would be attacking tomorrow at dawn and the team should harry the enemy command headquarters as much as possible.

After some discussion, they arrive upon a plan. Araphor casts Control Mammal on a nearby group of rats, followed by a Rider Within to see through one of them. Nwalme uses Lend Strength to help him maintain the control for as long as possible.

The dozens of rats quickly make their way to the enemy headquarters. Araphor sends most of them scurrying off to gnaw away bowstrings, bottoms of bags, horse hobbles, and the like.

But the rat through whom Araphor can see has a special mission. It slips into the command tent, to see what can be learned therein. Gaining entrance, it spies a group poring over maps upon a table, arguing. The group consists of two orcs, a frost giant (who barely fits in the tent), and the half-orc-something described by the elven boy. The half-orc is clearly in charge, by his tone. And he is oddly equipped: two scimitars carried at his side, but he keeps a wizard’s staff close at hand as well.

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Back In The Saddle Again
...to retake Rivendell!

The Empress has regained her throne, thanks to the work of our heroes. The Usurper is in chains in the imperial dungeons, never again to see the light of day. Four mens’ Rings of Power have been destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, and only two (known) remain. Order within the capital of Isengard is quickly reestablished, but it will take some months to restore the greatly diminished Empress Guard to its former size. Recruiting and training are going on constantly, keeping everyone busy.

As the Guard rebuilds, word comes down from Rivendell. A force of unknown size, made up of orcs and frost giants, has overrun the elven city! It takes a week or two to muster forces, and the Empress dispatches about 3000 soldiers north to deal with the threat. They’ve brought along ballistae in addition to the standard armaments, to help retake the city.

The army travels up through Hollin along the Loudwater river, near the western edge of the Misty Mountains. They halt about ten miles south of Rivendell, just past the Ford of Bruinen where the western road reaches, and the team moves ahead to scout out the city. Given who they are, they consider themselves a Reconnaissance in Force.

As they close on Rivendell, Araphor sends up Stormdancer and gets a birds-eye view of of the city.

There are about 300 orcs and a few frost giants stationed around Rivendell’s Citadel, which is on the north cliff of the valley on the out-skirts of the city. They appear to be besieging the Citadel, though there’s no evidence that there’s actually anyone inside it.

There are a couple of buildings burning in the city, and a lot of older destruction. It appears that a large number of orcs and frost giants are in the town partying and destroying things.

Two detachments, each of about 200 orcs and six or seven Frost Giants, are stationed across both roads leading out of the city. One guards the northeast road into the mountain pass, while the other watches over the road from which the Empress’ force approaches.

Nwalme uses his Telepathy to inform the army of the situation in Rivendell.

Since Nwalme lived there for many years, he knows of a tunnel that leads into town from the south side of the river, and a possible ford a half-mile to the east. The team decides to try for the tunnel.

They leave their horses with Arod and head into the wooded hills south of the river, in search of the tunnel entrance.

On their way, they make just enough noise to draw the attention of a troop of two dozen orcs, who attack their small scouting party.

Rene is badly wounded at the outset and things don’t look so great. Dreorg, on the right, holds his own against three orcs. Guthwyn, in the center, avenges Rene by going after his attacker, and pushes back two other wounded orcs. Araphor is flanked on the left, and accidentally drops his sword.

Araphor desperately attempts to grapple one of the orcs’s halberds, and somehow succeeds brilliantly. In the end, the disarmed orc is left stunned on the ground, and Araphor finds himself with a halberd perfectly placed to impale another orc attacking him from his other flank.

At the same time, Nwalme Strikes Blind another orc on the right, while Guthwyn wounds and knocks out another of the orcs who was attacking Araphor. The right flank had gone from overwhelmed to completely under control in a single round!

The battle ends with the second rank of orcs- (including one struck blind and an ice-mage wounded by Araphor’s longbow – turning and fleeing, followed closely by two more orcs from the front line. Ten orcs are left on the field and quickly dispatched by the party, they fail to surrender.

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The Usurper Defeated
...but bigger problems are revealed

We rejoin our heroes, their liege, and her retinue atop a mountain deep in Mordor, embroiled in battle.

A Ring-wraith throwing fireballs is in the base of the nearby tower, and the four soldiers who have breached the gate there enter after him.

Along the path threading by it, a pair of soldiers assaults the ruined building opposite, attempting to root out the sniper within. One stands in the building’s entrance, firing his crossbow into the ruins; the other tries to peer through the flames which Smial’s Molotov started.

On the raised and cobbled platform, Guthwyn and Thaliondor* square off against the formerly dead lieutenant (“FDL”), while Rene, Alfirin, and another female soldier continue to battle with the blinded Nazgul. Rene’s fighting ability has become seriously impaired, however, as the Nazgul has Dazed him. Nwalme, the Empress, Araphor, and Smial meanwhile make their way along the path to the platform.

Nwalme is close enough to note that Rene has been Dazed, and so casts Spasm on Rene’s backside to snap him out of it. (Rene maintains bowel control.) Once Rene is awakened, Nwalme turns back to heal the soldier who had been blown away from the tower by a fireball.

The platform fight has a few frustrating rounds for our heroes. Guthwyn cannot seem to land a blow on the FDL for all his parrying, and Thaliondor ends up switching to his heavy flail in order to get past the FDL’s armor when he does hit. The Nazgul, meanwhile, has created some sort of force field around himself. While Alfirin and Rene are trying to target the Black Rider’s ring hand, they notice their weapons stopping short a few inches before coming into contact with their victim.

The Ring-wraith attempts to escape while his shield protects him,and Rene slams him – or rather, tries to. He connects with the Nazgul, but fails to knock him down. While the female soldier continues her assault on the Black Rider, Rene suddenly changes course. He hands his anti-Nazgul sword to Alfirin, and turns away to run back to the Empress.

Off near the tower, Nwalme performs a perfect Healing on the fallen soldier, who quite literally springs to his feet. Inside the tower, the battle rages on, and a large flash of a fireball is visible through the arrow slits and breached door at its base. Two soldiers, their clothes smoking and flaming, emerge and make their way around the path toward the platform.

The fight with the FDL takes a turn for the worse, as well, as he strikes Guthwyn hard, causing her to drop her weapon. Meanwhile, Rene swiftly approaches the Empress, who has just reached the platform with Araphor. Araphor takes note of the odd behavior from Rene, and protects the Empress by tackling her, landing atop her to shield her from Rene’s blades.

Alfirin manages to ready the anti-Nazgul sword after somehow awkwardly holding both it and her normal sword in the same hand for a split second. Guthwyn also manages to recover and ready her weapon. She strikes at the FDL, crippling his weapon hand with a well-placed blow. The FDL immediately retaliates by punching her solidly in the face with his off hand.

Rene, meanwhile, attacks the fallen Empress, his choices limited by the fact that Araphor is covering most of her with his body. He makes a deeply biting sweep of the Empress’s legs, in what might well have been a fatal stroke if a more vital target had been reachable.

Off by the tower, the Nazgul within emerges, and tosses a fireball at Nwalme, hitting him squarely. The Black Rider then turns and launches itself off a 120-foot sheer cliff, picks itself up at the bottom, and starts running away.

From within the ruined building, a crossbow bolt comes whistling out of the flames at the soldiers, but does not hit anyone.

Araphor cries out that Rene has been enchanted, and the Empress must be defended from him. Suddenly, Smial comes barreling up the stairs to the platform, and slams into Rene, knocking him down.

Back on the center of the platform, Alfirin cleaves off the blinded Nazgul’s ring hand. With an unearthly scream, the Ring-wraith collapses – and Rene is released from its hold. Rene immediately calls out for Nwalme to heal the Empress, and tries to crawl away from Smial.

Alfirin continues to hack at the Nazgul until it stops moving, deflating into a pile of tattered black clothes. While she does, Smial tries to disarm Rene by kicking at his sword arm. Rene, trying to keep his sword in hand, parries with the flat of its blade, all the while trying to convince Smial that he is no longer under the control of the Ring-wraith.

The FDL, meanwhile, desperately grapples Guthwyn’s sword arm, preventing her from attacking him further. Smial turns away from Rene, and sends a crossbow bolt singing into the FDL’s chest, knocking him unconscious.

Araphor arises to turn his attention to the FDL, but finds him unconscious in Guthwyn’s arms, and declines to attack. While the Empress heals herself, Alfirin secretly pockets the Ring of Power from the fallen Nazgul.

The two men who had been assaulting the ruined building emerge from it, a captive in tow. They cry out that the have captured the Usurper, and the Empress turns and heads down along the path to join them.

Guthwyn slits the FDL’s throat, and drops him to the ground. Smial immediately grabs the man’s ring hand, which having been nearly separated from his arm by Guthwyn’s blade, comes off.

As the Empress goes to confront the villain, Araphor plants himselfat the top of the stairs to the platform, and insists on accounting for the Rings of Power from the fallen foes. Smial clearly has the one from the FDL, but the one from the deflated Ring-wraith has not been revealed. Nwalme, having arrived at the platform, uses his Truthsayer spell on the three who had been fighting the Nazgul, starting with Rene. Once Rene has been cleared, he tries to go after the Usurper, but Araphor continues to deny him egress from the platform until the remaining Ring is brought to light.

Nwalme soon discovers that Alfirin has the Ring, but that she will not willingly give it up. He calls upon the Empress for help, and she forces Alfirin to drop the Ring, so that Smial can take it up.

Once the Rings are accounted for, everyone goes to the captive Usurper, to begin questioning him. Rene is most eager to help with any persuasion, but Nwalme has it well in hand.

The Usurper relates the story of the recovery of six of the nine Rings of Power belonging to humans. More importantly – and more surprisingly – he reveals that Sauron has managed to manifest once again, although in a considerably weaker state than he was in the days before Aragorn claimed the throne of Gondor. Thus the Mouth of the High King is actually the Mouth of Sauron. While he wears no Ring of Power, he is a powerful wielder of magicks, particularly necromancy. He and the Nazgul who escaped via the portal have rejoined Sauron in his lair somewhere in the distant east.
-—-

At this time, the party can account for the six remaining Rings of Power as follows:

Four in Smial’s bag, from:
  • Braga the Artificer ( see log #1, “The story so far…” )
  • Thaliondor/FDL ( see “Thaliondor, One-Handed” 2000-11-17 )
  • the Witch-Queen of Angmar ( see log #1 )
  • the Nazgul that was just defeated on the mountaintop

It is assumed that while in Mordor, the party will cast these four Rings into Mt. Doom.

  • One on the Black Rider who just jumped off the cliff and escaped
  • One on the Ring-wraith who just escaped through the portal
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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.

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