A Matter of Trade – The Silken Thread

The loss of the mule has made the mulemaster Gulstaff even glummer, if such a thing were possible, this does not help the mood in the party I can tell you. Even with the advantage of elven eyesight the gloom is hard to penetrate and the strain of constantly keeping watch is beginning to strain even Gerran’s optimism. Fryancryn chats easily with those who are nearby and I enjoy his company. He is clearly a man of the road and it is the journey more than the trade he lives for. We exchange tales of travels around the fringes of the Great Wood. It seems he has not met many of the First born and to have three, even if one is only a half blood, for company peaks his interest. I, of course, deflect much of his interest in me and my comings and goings, instead focussing his attention on the Noldo, Talaras and his reasons for wandering so far from the Havens.

Uphead a glimmer across the path catches my attention and I call for a halt. It is clear that there is some kind of silken thread stretched across the South Road. While giant spiders are rare, they are know to live in the depths of the dark heart of the forest and are hunted mercilessly by my fellow wood elves. I advise caution and scan the area for any further sign of the foul beasts but all seems quiet.

My plea for caution and care goes unheeded as Gerran strides manfully towards one of the great silver threads strung across the road. Behind him scuttles Talaras, bow drawn looking far more cautious but none the less too close to use the bow should Gerran be attacked. I pause for a moment, unsure whether to stay with Fryancryn and the mules or to cover the other two guards. I opt to follow at a distance comfortable for the range of my bow.

There is a faint sound of something passing through the air near the pair up front but I do not understand its importance until Talaras yells ambush. He does so as six misbegotten orcs slip from their hiding places in the thick rose thorns that line the path. There are four between Talaras and myself and two more beyond him unseen by Gerran. I let my arrow fly with a cry of warning; darting sideways Talaras looses his bow but both flights miss their mark. The warning is enough though to allow Gerran to turn and defend himself.

Too quick the foe is upon me. I have no time to pay heed to how my companions fare as I am forced to hurriedly defend myself against two orcs. The first lashes a lucky blow beneath the guarded of twirling quarterstaff, my calf is slashed and I am badly bruised by a heavy handed blow from the flat of the blade. I go down on one knee and fear it will be over soon. The sight would be comical if I were not so injured as I watch the other orc drop its blade but I am busy parrying the attack of the first. A second flurry of blows smash the the sweeping guard of my quarterstaff and the world goes black.

I awaken and the pain in my calf sears straight to my vocal chords in a cry of anguish. I bite down hard not wanting to alert any enemies nearby but it seems that they have fled. There is only my companions and I still here but a distinct lack of slain foes to suggest that the others were not any more successful that I. Gerran has an arrow shaft protruding from his leg which Talaras is currently trying to remove and staunch the bleeding. It seems that outnumbered the pair retreated scooping up my fallen body as they passed. Fortunately, a bruise to the lower leg and the concern over Gerrans wound has meant they have not checked me thoroughly and discovered my secret. Of Fryancryn and Gulstaff there is not a sign also, it must be said, of the mule with all the food supplies. However, we do have plenty of grain and weapons on the remaining mules.

We are making plans to dump some of the grain to free up two mules for Gerran and I to ride when we hear some muffled groaning from the depths of the rose thorn thicket. If it wasn’t so pitiful we would be really worried, not to mention in deep trouble given the wounds taken. But is turns out to be Fryancryn dragging Gulstaff through a hidden passage among the bushes. He tells us he and the mule man had pursued the orcs but were overcome and he is little pleased with the realisation that two thirds of his grain will need to be dumped to let his guards make it to Buhr Widufiras.

Then again, as I said, he is more about the travel and adventure than making the largest profit and travellers in peril can’t be choosers. So we limp on towards the Buhr a few days further along the road. I would attempt to forage some herbs and berries to supplement our scant supplies but I cannot limp for long enough to be successful. I am concerned also by the bold presence of orcs on the South Road.

We meet a pair of woodman travelling the road. They appear to be some form of patrol and escort us to the Buhr in safety. By careful questioning, I discover that they are worried for a missing scout called Windlore, who is a bit a totemic hero among the Woodman of Buhr Widufiras. The presence of the orcs on the South Road has also caused some concern, not least since, though they appear inept, they have caused more havoc on the roads than the normal pattern of raids by orcs.

At Buhr Widufiras we take the time to rest. Fryancryn bids us farewell as he plans to move on with a new cargo and, I believe, he is only to happy to be rid of such an inept set of guards. Harsh if you think about the number of foes encountered in the ambush. It would have needed two or three times as many fighters to protect the mules in such a limited space. Still there it is and he does at least pay us a half of the original fee. I spend most of mine hospital fees and a pack of herbs that will aid recovery in any future combat.

There is now the matter of these orcs and who controls them. I look for a way to get the message to my master but there appears to be no fellow traveller to carry a coded message and I cannot afford to travel far from Buhr Widufiras without attracting attention. There will be nothing for it but to return to where the grain has been stashed and explore the tunnels through the rose thorns. I’m sure my companions will be looking to transport the grain back to the buhr but unless they plan to carry it on their backs I doubt they will see coin from Fryancryn’s cargo, even if the woodland creatures have left the sacks undisturbed.

A matter of trade – Wumbahad

Burgh Ailgra is pretty much a one horse town and that horse is dead. The Wumbahud is where most of the merchants preparing to pass through Mirkwood and onto Buhr Widfurias gather. No such luck at the moment. Looks like I missed them and my chance of being able to scout the south road without travelling alone. The bar room is empty save for three of us. One looks like he is known locally by Tostig, the inn keeper. Dark hair and grey eyes mark him out as a Noldo, which is strange given the down at heel look and that he seems to live near here. There seems to be something strange about this one and a story that would interest my Lord. A Noldo abroad so far suggests something is afoot.

Then there is the dark-haired, half-elf who entered long after I’d arrived. Mistook me for a boy and headed straight for the bar all burly and manly. Seeking to dull his senses in ale and talk proudly of his prowess in arms to any (Tostig) that will listen. By the time ten minutes have passed he has revealed his given name to all in the room, Gerran, and I am sure if it wasn’t for the arrival of the merchant, every detail of his life within the half hour.

Thankfully, we were all saved by the arrival of a rather flashy merchant by the name of Fryancryn. Cherry travelling cloak and clothes appearing to dazzle the other occupants of the inn but I’m not fooled I can see the frayed edges beneath the mud and road dust. Says he is late on the road and looking to hire some guards for security on his final leg to Buhr Widfurias. Gerran of course is first to proclaim his fitness to role, gesturing at the pair of short swords strapped to his side and ensuring that all look at his shiny mail coat. I am beginning to wonder if he has the wit to do more than show off. Soon the Noldo – Talaras – has expressed his interest after a healthy nod from Tostig and so I know that I have a good chance of travelling with this caravan without having to resort to anything that might get me noticed. I gracefully unwind from my place in the corner and offer my eyes to the party but perhaps it is the bow that tips the balance in taking such a callow looking youth with them.

Overnight, I check on Fryancryn and his cargo; he has a mule man, slow, sullen and bullnecked man who seems more at home with the beasts he looks after than company. The goods appear to be just as he says a supply of grain and a few iron weapons.

The morning is a good day to start travelling. The mule train is led by Fryancryn with Gulstaff (the mule man) in the middle. I let the gaudy Gerran take up the vanguard and the Noldo with mace and shield seems best suited to guarding the rear, which is just as I need it to be. I travel towards the middle roving up and down the train keeping a weather eye on the surroundings. The journey to ….is uneventful and from there we enter under the eaves of the Mirkwood.

Once this Southern wood was full of light and shade. Ents and Entwives cared for the trees and the creatures that dwelt there. Now the trees grow too close and cut the light on the south road until it is almost permanently twilight. Thorns clamour in the spaces between the trees seeking to choke the remaining light. My Lord’s fear that things are amiss in the Southern Marches of Thranduil. We travel a few days and during each night I am worried by nocturnal visitations. Nothing more than the glimpse of eyes in the undergrowth but I feel we are being trailed by more than just a natural nightly visitor.

On the second day, we are halted by a tree fallen across the path. I’m worried, the tree is large and we can’t get the mules over such and obstacle. The undergrowth is thick and I can’t even worm through a gap. This could have been an ambush site. The tree looks like it has been felled. There has been no storm to bring down such a large and healthy tree. However, not much is going to get through and if they are in the trees our only hope is to run. Gerran decides to show off and wave his two swords about, blunting them on the thick undergrowth in the process. It is fortunate that the Noldo discovers some loew aglor and the blades are resharpened. Some hours later, a section of the tree has been hacked clear and the mules are able to pull the block clear.

Another night and the eyes are back, this time though they are bolder and the wolves attack in the early hours when Gerran and I are on watch. The lump takes a nasty gash to his cheek but I am too quick for them and from a vantage point in the trees rain arrows at the retreating beasts. Soon they are among the mules and it needs the strength of Talaras to drive off the wolves. Meanwhile, Gerran continues to attack the bushes before realising that his target is at the rear and provide support to the flying mace but not before one of the mules is injured beyond saving.

Taure Rana

A bit of a change in tone. I’m taking a break from running the game. Firstly, so I can avoid GM burnout. Second, so that I can work on the next section of the story arc, which was getting a bit last minute. Finally, it gives the other players who have all been GMs a chance to remember what its like on the other side of the screen. So within these posts I’m going to write a personal diary from my character in the game.

Meet Taure Rana (Bre: Wood Wanderer) a Silvan elf of Mirkwood. Dressed in typical elven traveller gear the youthful (for an elf) mopes around the fringes of civilisation like a hormonally challenged teenager; not here to do any work, but they are here to keep an eye on what is going on around the fringes of Mirkwood for their master.