Our budding Bounders are taking their ease in the Midnight Rooster at Wibblesham when they are summoned urgently to the nearby village of Crissingham. The breathless messenger explains that two of its citizens have been mysteriously turned to stone and that Mayor Twofoot wishes the support of the Sherriffs to investigate. Spurred on Alvi, Aelfric and Brega are soon at the village Grange where most of the villagers have gathered in a worried mob around the Mayor. It appears that another four villagers have been turned to stone. Mobbed in a chorus of voices some fear a fearsome monster, others a snake or perhaps some kind of bat or miniature dragon. The midwife reports seeing a chicken in the window of a building near where one of the victims were turned to stone.
Reflecting on the information Aelfric remembers the tales of his Granny about a fearsome creature of sorcery called a Cockatrice. A mixture of chicken, snake and bat that could turn a man to stone with its beady gaze. Once these were released by evil sorcerers to terrorise villages back before the men from the West Isle came to the shores of Middle Earth. Armed with this mythical knowledge, the party cautiously enter the Market Square to investigate. With a “cluck cluck” leading them on, with the exception of Alvi, they take precautionary action by hiding in the nearest house. There is a moment of embarrassment and then a plan is hatched. Soon the Cockatrice is spotted with the chance of surprise. Brega immediately launches a Shock Bolt at the monster and alerts it to their presence. Unfortunately, both Aelfric and Brega are immediately turned to stone by the Cockatrice’s beady gaze. Luckily, Alvi holds her nerve long enough to launch into a soothing tune that sends the capricious chicken to sleep, at which point she dispatches it before it can reawaken.
Alvi attempts to revive her companions but they appear to be immune to any method of revival that she has at her disposal. Bravely, she explores further to check if this was the only Cockatrice. At the statues of Pancho and Sago Foxburr (the first two victims) she finds the remains of an oily, iridescent eggshell in the hen coop but no more. Reassured she returns to the Grange to inform the Mayor that the problem has been solved. The villagers though are uncertain and decide to wait out the night at the Grange.
During the evening Alvi has a strange conversation with a sandy-haired hobbit called Latana. She admits to feeling guilty as she was the one who gave Pancho the egg (the boy loves chickens). She hints that she did not acquire the egg by legal means and it may have come from a tower in the nearby Red Hills across the Brandywine.
Soon Pancho and Sago are found alive and unfrozen and this is swiftly followed by other villagers until finally Aelfric and Brega are also fully mobile again. Alvi shares her findings with her companions as the village begins to return to normal. They decide that Latana and her role in discovering needs investigating further.
Having saved the Polliwot hobbits and the local Eriadorians from the Orc raiding party the thrown together band of heroes feted and weighed down by as much victuals as can be spared consider where to travel next. Pick, Billwise and Dagaard, already feeling obligation to the memory of Limolas, wish to travel back to Caras Celairnen to deliver the recovered crystal to Mithparvandir. Ydal and Denig lacking horses and any definite destination join them.
Mysteriously, Mithparvandir is no longer at his lodgings in the Causeway district. Windows and doors boarded, it appears that the scholar has not been in his lodgings for many weeks. The party decide to find lodgings in an out of the way inn where Denig’s stone features will attract less attention. They end up at the Captain’s Daughter in the Shore District where Hrothgar is used to strange adventurers.
After a few days of welcome idleness, the party is visited by Mithparvandir who is looking travel weary and strained. It turns out that he has come for more than the crystal recovered from Elvellon manor. He has discovered the location of a second crystal in the long deserted lands of Hollin. However, he clearly fears other forces are searching and tells the party that they should have little contact so that the watchers will be unaware of the connection.
More concerned about her missing Mearas and its lack of return, Ydal sets off alone to search for her missing horse. The remaining adventurers, gather supplies for the road and set out along the East road for the bridge over the Hoarwell where they plan to head south into Hollin. The journey is relatively uneventful apart from a poor attempt at highway robbery that left the remaining miscreants running for the hills.
The party travel on into the haunted lands of Hollin, dogged by the sense that they are being watched. Each day there seems to be a crow somewhere in the sky on a nearby holly tree. Yet, aside from this, they travel to the site of the Villa of Casaredhel without incident.
The ruins of the villa lie in a valley which helpfully supplies the party with a vantage point to survey the lie of the land. Deciding it is relatively safe, Billwise sets out to scout the ruins. He notes the passage of some large creature from a small out building where a natural cave leads underground and calls the rest of the party to investigate. They are unable to determine what type of creature but are unwilling to enter into its den to discover its nature. Instead, assuming it is nocturnal, they investigate the ruins and discover two potential entrances that lead to under the villa. The first is clearly a trap door built for easy access to whatever lies below and the second is a small gap in the hypocaust that would allow a very tight crawl without armour.
After Billwise has crawled some way through the latter and discovered that this route leads to the lair of the beast, the adventurers choose the trapdoor and the stairs down. They cautiously enter and explore a small work room complex which has been emptied many centuries ago. All that remains are a few forgotten scraps of parchment with Dwarvish runes and Tengwar script. The Dwarves easily decipher the runes which appear to be part of a text on a weapon forged to defeat the dragons of the first age that used the heart of a dragon. Should the weapon be discovered and broken then the dragon would be released. The Tengwar is just gibberish and they decide to wait and find a translator later.
In the main workroom there are three levers by an iron door. Fearing a trap but also thinking that they open the doors, Denig tries each lever in turn. No disaster befalls the adventurers and finally they push on opening the doors that lead to the forge room. It is here that they discover another crawl space that leads to the beast’s lair. Careful searching also reveals a secret room in which a casket sits on a pedestal. Denig uses a series of intuitions to determine the nature of the rooms traps and finding that removing the casket will result in the deaths of all the party advises that taking it and running is not an option. They party spend much time debating how to defeat the trap and after a very slow lock pick and an ingenious use of an axe to prevent the exit of a trap dart confirm the presence of the crystal in the casket. Again Denig intuits that removing the crystal would result in everyone’s deaths as the ceiling collapses in workroom. Much discussion revolves around replacing weights and and bracing until the party realise that there is a way out of the room without being crushed by rocks. Only it also involves the beast in the lair, which most suspect is a troll.
Billwise is dispatched through the narrow tunnel to confirm this. Unfortunately, he also disturbs the troll in its sleep and a failing arm crushes a hobbit toe. The hobbit yelps in pain awakening the troll and although Billwise escapes safely the troll is now aware of strangers. The troll, is also very keen for a bit of dwarf pie as pickings have got a bit lean in recent years. Not being keen on fighting the troll underground the adventurers agree to go outside and wait for the sun to set and the troll to emerge.
So as the valley is cast into shadow, our worthy heroes confront the enraged troll as it emerges from lair. Denig fires a flaming arrow which seems only to make the troll angrier and Billwise leaps from behind to attack from behind with little effect. Meanwhile, the dwarves close with the colossal foe and Pick leaping high slams his war hammer into the troll’s sternum driving bone splinters into its heart. The troll reels backwards almost crushing Billwise as it does so. Having anticipated a mighty battle the rest of the party look a little crest-fallen: although are also relieved.
After rooting through the troll lair and recovering a few items, the adventurers prepare to remove the crystal from the secret room. At the last minute Pick realises they had not thought through how the hobbit was going to climb up to crawl way entrance in the forge room. A hasty escape route built out of ramps from old bookcases and all is ready. Billwise retrieves the crystal without incident apart from the ceiling collapsing where expected.
The adventurers then spend the next day investigating the ruins and obelisk in the wood in case they have missed something but are unable to discover any other hidden passages. With nothing left to loot and feeling rather out of pocket on this quest they set off back towards the Last Bridge. They have travelled a few days onto the Ettenmoors, again with the crows shadowing their journey, when they are attacked by a band of Orcs. The Orcs attack with savagery clearly bent on recovering the crystal. Most of the party are asleep and slow to rouse putting them on the back foot. Both Dagaard and Pick are significantly wounded being hard pressed on all sides. Billwise attempts to draw off an Orc by running away, a tactic that proves ineffective, forcing Billwise to seek a rear advantage in close combat. The stone-skinned Denig battles with magical energies but only gains a small advantage before being forced back into a defensive stance. Soon though the Dwarven hammers are hitting their marks and orcs fall until none stand.
Pick and Dagaard’s wounds are healed by Denig, and the untouched Billwise removes the orc bodies. The adventurers are a little concerned about the nature of the attack and puzzled at how the orcs knew they had a crystal and why they would want it. However, they are soon back at the Last Bridge Inn and such musing can be done at leisure and in safety.
Rewards and Reputation
Billwise gains a satchel of a long forgotten explorer containing a +10 OB dagger, +5 Pick Lock kit, a map of the villa somewhere and a leather pouch with 50TP. Denig receives Time’s Arrow (+20OB sends target back 10 secs in time) and a Rune of Restoration. Pick has gained the monicker of Troll Slayer amongst the party.
The party spend time planning when and how to ambush a few patrols in the hope of reducing the number of orcs in the war band, They set out to prepare to ambush a patrol using the sunken road. As Billwise has shown himself to be very fleet of foot and stealthy, the party decide to use him as an advanced scout. This proves to be fortunate as he is able to alert the party to a patrol before they encounter it. Hoping to use surprise, the adventurers improvise a hasty plan. The dwarves stand out in the open, to tempt the orcs into rushing them, whilst the others hide using the ample forest cover. This proves a disaster with the ambush discovered before the trap could be sprung. Fortunately, the dwarves mighty war-hammers inflict punishing damage and soon the small patrol of orcs is dispatched.
While the party hide the bodies, Billwise scouts towards the sunken road and discovers a lack of patrols. He reports this back to the others and Denig suggests that this is because it was a bright day and patrols might be less frequent. He goes on to suggest that they use the time to scout the camp with more detail as he thinks that the Orcs will be less alert at this time of day.
So it is that, with the rest of the party nearby, Billwise stealthily approaches the ruined manor. He finds no sentries and after a quick survey reports back to the others. Who, after a discussion, decide that Billwise should sneak in and kill any sleeping orcs that might be inside. To aid him Ydal casts a Prayer of Quiet on the young hobbit, allowing him to go about his deadly business without a sound being heard.
All goes well as Billwise slips into the darkened building, enveloped in silence he attempts to dispatch the first of the sleeping forms, but killing is a messy business and if you are a hobbit it becomes more difficult when the first blow is not a killing one. Although willing, it becomes clear that Billwise lacks the skill for a quick kill but with a brief struggle he dispatches his first foe aided by the blessing of silence. He swiftly moves on to the next sleeping orc and again struggles for a quick kill. This time the struggle allows the orc to escape outside the bubble of silence that surrounds Billwise. The cry alerts the other occupants of the ruined building and also his waiting companions.
Hearing the cry, everyone, except Denig, rushes into the building to assist Billwise. Ydal rushes to aid Billwise and Pick rushes to prevent an orc Shaman from entering from another room. Dagaard guards the door ready to assist Denig who keeps watch for guards from the main camp below. Suddenly, beside Billwise, the corpse of dead orc drags itself upright, clumsily gripping its scimitar, still congealing blood oozing from it wounds. Dagaard quickly rushes in to protect the vulnerable hobbit’s flank. A second shaman has joined the battle and his invocations look set to make a quick battle last longer than expected reanimating the dead. Fortunately, the undead orc and his more live companion are dispatched and the first shaman (an apprentice) at the door looks set to be pressed by weight of numbers.
Outside, Denig, seeing no immediate threat from sentries, prepares the ritual of golden slumber and makes his way into the ruins. In the ruins, the shaman invokes a spirit of calm over the party and they are unable to undertake any aggressive act. The two shaman make for the exit only to meet Denig coming the other way. Denig releases his prayer but the apprentice resists and slashes at Denig’s stone skin with his scimitar. Denig holds the door whilst his companions try to figure away to aid Denig. Meanwhile the shaman, continues to build invocations against Denig, despite Billwise’s attempt to use the area of silence around him to prevent the prayers. Denig resists each attempt to unleash Dark Forces on him and battles the apprentice. Ydal throws up a wall of silence around the room to prevent the camp from hearing the sounds of fighting and blesses Denig to aid him in his lone stand.
Ingeniously, Denig calls on his tribal gods for a bolt of lightning to strike his opponent, but all that is granted is a mild electric shock. The shaman continues to lash out at the stone man with dark energies. Alone and with no help Denig it looks like all is lost. However, thanks to the doorway and his stone skin he defeats both the apprentice and the Shaman.
During this time, unable to act aggressively the rest of the party take on different tasks. Dagaard and Billwise investigate a barred door way from which whimpering is coming. Pick investigates the room the Shaman and apprentice came from rooting around for treasure. In the barricaded room, Billwise and Dagaard discover that the source of whimpering is a small child, no doubt saved as a tasty morsel. Billwise, not much larger than the child, reassures the traumatised soul.
Meanwhile, Pick discovers some treasure including bags with runes of screaming. Which he sets off. Unfortunately, he is outside the quietened room and the noise is heard by the sentries in the camp below, a fact made apparent by the sudden sounds of disturbed orcs from the camp below. The party flee carrying the child, but not before a note written in Elvish with a distinct hand and ink is recovered from the shaman along with his staff. They struggle to move quickly through the woods but the sunlight appears to be on their side and there is no sign of pursuit although a hideous din is heard from the camp.
Back at the Periwott smial, the party assess their options. Fearing that their trail may be followed, Denig attempts to cover the trail and lay false route, while Billwise scouts for potential pursuit, of which he sees no sign.
Back at the smial, the child is reunited with her mother amidst many tears. The night passes without incident. In the morning, the party decide to investigate the effect of their recent raid and find lack of patrols. Curious, they return to camp with Billwise as scout and discover some dead orcs who were not killed by them. Most of the party are confused by this and fear some new opponent able to slaughter orcs at will. However, Denig tells party that it is because the war band were leaderless and turned of each other to decide leadership. He goes on to tell them that eventually a leader was decided and they have either left or gone on to do what ever it was they were here for. Denig thinks that this is the the former as the orcs are far from the usual places they would normally inhabit.
Neffin wood, now free of orcs, is home again to the Periwott hobbits, who offer sanctuary to the rescued prisoners. The rescued villagers work with the hobbits to gather food and a new community is founded. During this time our heroes rest and recover and discuss the next steps. Although the hobbits can supply a few simple supplies it is clear that the adventurers will need to re-provision with gear suitable for adventuring. Pick, Dagaard and Billwise are all keen to find Jeremiah who they left with the cart and the plundered loot from the ruins of Elvellon manor. They also invite Ydal and Denig to join them as they believe that they could be helpful in any other explorations that are given to them by Mithparvandir.
Rewards and Reputation
A staff x2 PP multiplier, a note with a distinct style of writing and ink. The gratitude of the Periwotts and local villagers mean that should they need somewhere to stay the characters will always be welcome. Local tales will always be told of how the heroes took on a much larger force and vanquished them saving the woods.
Our plucky deputies having discharged their duties with admirable aplomb are retained by Mally Nation as deputy shirriffs (it has been pointed out that they should officially be called Bounders, but I suspect that in the early days of the Shire this formal arrangement has not been organised). Taking their rest in the Midnight Rooster in Wibbleham they are interrupted by a young Dunlending lad seeking sherriffs to come quickly to a hold nearby where members of the family are engaged in a deadly stand-off. Duly prompted the deputies set off to discharge their duty.
At the clan hold, they find a family at war over who poisoned the clan lord’s favoured hunting hound. Family rivalries have risen to the surfaced and been amplified by other family quarrels as the extended family have been invited for a wedding the previous day. So it is that Brega, Alvi and Aelfric walk into a silent hold with three large houses full to bursting of drink-fuelled warriors barely held in check by the desire not to be the first seriously injured in any scuffle.
Having made sure that everyone is aware that the law-keepers have arrived, the party set about interviewing the quarrelling family members. The discover the clan lord Arthfael, in a sombre mood, mourning his dead hound. The chieftan is unwilling to take any decisions and has, in essence, abdicated control of his hold and lands. His new wife Blejan informs the party of how two of the daughters, Nuallan and Fedelmid virtually ruined her wedding party with their constant harping. She accuses both of being evil scheming witches who are just the sort of women to poison the hound in order that their husband could seize control. The youngest daughter, Maella, appears almost as heartbroken as her father and agrees that both sisters could be responsible but admits in private that Blejan has never liked her new husband’s love of hunting.
None the wiser as to the cause of the dog’s poisoner, save that it must have happened during the wedding feast, the investigators move onto question the occupants of Aedan and Nuallan’s house. Aelfric, deciding that a forceful police presence is required muscles his way into the house almost causing the occupying warriors to divert their pent up aggression on himself and his fellow lawmen. Aelfric discovers from Aedan that Brennus, the husband of Fedelmid, the middle daughter, was seen sneaking out with a plate of meat during the wedding banquet. Alvi and Brega question Nuallan and are also led to believe that the fault may lie with this couple. At this point a shout goes up and Aelfric is forced to intervene between two warriors about to attack a goat-herder out to care for his flock. Returning the goat-herder to safety Aelfric discovers that both of the two elder daughters and their husbands could have been stirring up trouble at the wedding.
The tyro detectives move on to the third house where Brennus and Fedelmid along with relatives who have taken their side in the argument have barricaded themselves. Brennus makes no bones to Aelfric about how Aedan throws his weight about the hold as if he were lord. When questioned about the meat he explains that he has a soft spot for his dogs and often feeds them tidbits from the table. Under questioning from Brega, Fedelmid waspishly complains about her treatment at her elder sister’s hands and how the new wife, Blejan, is an arch manipulator who surely should be considered as the culprit.
During this time, a small altercation breaks out when some of the younger members of the family break out into the square. With much bravado, both sides face each other off, more bravado than intent until one strikes out at an opponent and in error strikes another. The Shirriffs are quickly on the scene. Alvi charming the main protagonist to sleep with her sweet music and Aelfric and Brega separating the remaining foes. Alvi again employs her smooth tongue to convince the warring youths to return back to their halls.
Faced with a range of opinions but very little evidence the three shirriffs examine the kennel where the hound was kept. Discovery of a poisonous blue flower amongst the straw bedding leads the three to question the master of the hounds. He reveals that he is the one who collects the bedding for the dogs and that he changed the bedding in the kennel. Further careful investigation reveals that the servant did not understand the nature of the flowers and that this was all a terrible mistake.
Gathering the reluctant principals back in the main hall the deputy shirriffs explain their findings and forcefully point out that any misdemeanours between family members will be dealt with severely. Satisfied that the situation is resolved Alvi, Aelfric and Brega return to Wibblesham
In the cool autumn air, Brega walked towards the Midnight Rooster, the only lodgings in the small town of Wibblesham. Her dark robe was muddy from six months of wandering. Weighed down by her pack and pans, she leaned on her intricately carved staff and paused taking in the mix of overground houses and round doors set into the hillside.
As she neared the inn, her thoughtful hazel eyes noticed a familiar figure stood with an unknown companion on the wooden boards that kept customer’s feet dry when entering the Midnight Rooster. Hailing Aelfric, whom she had grown up in the same village with before they had both been forced on the road half a year ago, she quickened her pace to the door. Soon Aelfric had introduced Brega to his companion who he had travelled with from Tharbad. Alvi, a red-headed bard, was one of those women who made a room light up when she entered. So it was not long before the three sat with a the remains of a supper before them; Brega and Alvi swapping stories; Alvi playing a quiet tune to entertain the tavern’s other patrons.
Come the morning, the three are sat breaking fast together when they are approached by a hobbit wearing a blue goose feather in her hat. She introduces herself as Shirriff Mally Nation. She has been granted leave by the village moot to recruit additional shirriffs to help with shepherding of refugees to safe areas. The village of Wibbleham is not rich but can cover the cost of board and food while they are shirriffs. Seeing a chance to save coin and have a place to rest for a while they work, the adventurers agree.
The first task is to escort a group of refugees to a safe ravine because Shirriff Mally believes that there is a risk of Corn-skin fever, a deadly disease, amongst the refugees. Guiding the emaciated refugees along the road to the new campsite, the party notice one particularly healthy Dunlending. He protests vociferously about the treatment of his people and they are being prevented from moving on. However, Alvi talks eloquently to the unhappy, hungry and weary people about how they are going to be looked after if they follow to the camp and without fuss they refugees move to the prepared quarantine campsite in a narrow ravine.
The adventurers are tasked with guarding the refugees and bringing food to the camp. Brega uses her skill in cooking to create warm hearty food for the refugees and earns favour with the refugees. Still, there is the odd attempt by one or two refugees to escape and find extra food or perhaps somewhere else to live in peace. None get far and Aelfric proves himself to be a capable athlete in chasing down the errant refugees.
Whilst resting in the Midnight Rooster the adventurers hear of talk from some of the local farmers of the theft of livestock. Mally not having spare shirriffs to dispatch to investigate sends Alvi, Brega and Aelfric. At each farm, the tale is the same: they believe that the refugees have taken the lamb or calf that has been stolen. Yet at one farm a clue is discovered, young Semmi Midtoe looks uncomfortable when his family are questioned about the missing lamb. Alvi and Aelfric eventually manage to win his trust and he reveals that it was his pet lamb that was stolen by Betwin Proudfoot. Which is strange because Betwin was buried yesterday.
Confused but unconvinced by the youngster’s description of the deceased hobbit stealing a lamb, the party return to the Midnight Rooster for the night. During the evening, an irate hobbit, Marco Chubb, interrupts their rest demanding that the shirriffs investigate the cruel practical joke that had been played on his daughter Daisy. He tells of how some cruel prankster, pretended to be the recently departed uncle Clarfew and leered through the window at poor young Daisy, quite distressing the hobbitling. Initially, the recently conscripted shirriffs are unwilling to investigate immediately yet after much pleading they eventually agree.
At the Chubb farm, Aelfric finds signs of an intruder but the party are unable to track the intruder. However, they discover that Grandmother Minna has also seen her son playing with the family cat that day. She is most distressed that no-one had told her of Clarfew’s death. This and the presence of the remains of said family cat cause the shirriffs to question the Chubb family further. In doing so they discover that Uncle Clarfew had in fact been secretly trading with the refugee camp and had also contracted corn skin fever. Faced with two recently departed hobbits, the shirriffs soon discover that two more “associates” of Clarfew had recently died and been buried quickly in the village graveyard. With this new information, the deputy shirriffs set off for the graveyard.
In the dark it proves hard to find more than four graves with recently disturbed earth; returning at first light the investigators find a trail leading from the graves into the wood. In the depths of the woods in a small dell Brega, Alvi, Alefric and Mally discover the source of the livestock losses in the form of four hobbit ghouls. Trapping them in the hidden lair it is only a matter of time before Aelfric Smithson with the aid of Alvi Craigsdottir have dispatched the evil but ineffectual undead. Thinking about the refugee camp it becomes clear to Brega that Firdok, the rather healthy and vocal refugee, may also be infected with the corn skin sickness. She explains this to her companions and they plan to capture Firdok without causing risk to the remain refugees.
With a cauldron of stew, the shirriffs return to the camp and without causing alarm to manage to convince Firdok through Alvi’s clever words to come with them to see the new site of the refugees’ village. Before Firdok has time to realise the deception, Aelfric strikes him from behind stuns him to the floor. Fearing that Firdok may recover quickly, Alvi plays her flute and causes Firdok to fall into a deep sleep. Soon Firdok is bound and secured in the village gaol. The town mayor and Shirriff Mally are extremely grateful to the adventurers and promise to hold a trial to determine what to do with Firdok, who is clearly a ghoul but equally has continued to try and support his family and tribe of refugees.
Just a postscript on this adventurer log. This was the first game my family had chosen to play and that in itself was a strange experience given that previously they had shown no desire to play when invited. The start was rather awkward as it often is with new players trying to get over the self-consciousness of playing for the first time. However, I also had to deal with the scepticism of “this won’t be fun and will be weird” and it also being my wife and kids at the table, who it must be said found it tricky to deal with the change in roles and dynamics (as did I). Eventually, once we had got past the embarrassment and also the realisation that it was up to them as players to direct the story, it turned into quite a good game. I am not sure how often they will play or if they will join the main campaign, but at least they enjoyed it and we didn’t end up with one big argument.
As with most councils of war, the subject of leadership and planning reared its ugly head. Denig, the stone man, counselled that he and Ydal should scout the area to assess the location of the Orcs camp. Billwise and Pencho disagreed complaining that the Big People were as noisy as Dwarves in chainmail. Although Pick and Dagaard did not express much of an opinion, it was Pick who swung the vote of all the adventurers towards Billwise’s plan and grudgingly, the stone man was forced to agree.
After a second breakfast, Billwise and Pencho stealthily set off into the woods. Billwise is shown how a Hobbit could move undetected by others through the wood and notice large patches of sunlight where the pursuit of Orcs could be hindered. Following a sunken road, they find an abandoned ruin which appears to be occupied by two Orcish shamans. Below, in a dark defile, a large number of Orc voice can be heard, indicating the main body of the force is larger than the number of adventurers and Hobbits. During their time scouting the area, a cloaked figure, who carries a distinctive pipeweed odour, arrives and converses in Morbeth with the Orcs. Billwise and Pencho, not speaking the language, understand none of this but do catch a few words spoken. They continue their scouting, noting the small patrols of Orcs moving through the wood and a set of riverside huts in which prisoners appear to be kept.
Back at the smial, the scouts inform the council of what they have discovered. The adventurers all agreed that the first task is to free the prisoners, who are probably being kept as a food store. With two Hobbit guides, the adventurers travel through the woods to the riverside without any untoward events unfolding.
Near to the huts, the party formulate a plan. Denig insists that he and Ydal can pacify up to ten Orcs and insists that they are the only ones to enter the camp and that the rest attack any fleeing Orcs first. The Dwarves are unconcerned so long as Orcs are killed and Billwise prefers to wait and see what unfurls before to committing to combat.
As Denig and Ydal move towards the hut where the Orcs appear to be sheltering from the day, they are surprised by a hidden sentry. Ydal attempts to cast her Calm spell but is unable and so retreats. Denig charges to the door of the hut and cast his Calm spell on the occupants of the room. Immediately, one of the occupants relaxes into a calmed state. Unfortunately, the other five are very much active and with a sentry charging, he looks to be very much in trouble.
Realising his only hope is to hold the doorway until help arrives, Denig chooses to engage one Orc in the doorway and ignore the sentry. Ydal shoots wide in haste and the Dwarves rush in, whilst Billwise seeks an opponent to shoot. Soon the sentry is felled by Dagaard but the remaining Orcs seek to escape through the flimsy rear wall. Denig is driven back by the Orc’s charge but both appear evenly matched. At the rear of the hut, both Dwarves engage the remaining Orcs, war hammers breaking bone like winter twigs. At the front, Billwise races through the trees and with element of surprise dispatches the Orc fighting Denig with a thrust through its backbone sending it reeling back into the hut. Unfortunately, the act also disarms Billwise. Fortunately, there are no more foes.
After freeing the captives, the valiant heroes and the weary, starved prisoners return to the smail where the immediate concern is where to house and feed the extra mouths. This is closely followed by decisions about how to remove the Orcs from the woods!
In the gloom of a dry but underground space, the heroes awaken, bound and unable to recall much more than their own name. Gradually, they begin to recognise their companions around them but are unable to communicate in more than their first language, an advantage for both dwarves but not for the other occupants of the room. Soon it becomes clear to everyone in the room that although they are with companions that they have travelled with there are others in the room. To make things clearer one group decide to cast light spells which although successful, result in the loss of magical abilities for one of them. Each adventurer although bound tightly appeared to have their basic combat equipment.
Eventually, the adventurers’ ability with language is restored and Billwise, Dagaard and Pick free themselves. They are confronted by the sight of a dark-haired female adventurer and a short stone-troll still bound on the floor. Uncertain of the nature of the troll whom they understand to be called Denig and the raven-haired woman known as Ydal, Pick opts for leaving them bound whilst Billwise examines the door to facilitate an exit from the room. At that moment, the door opens.
Pick, Dagaard and Billwise, being the only adventurers freed, readied their weapons. A small round head poked around the door and gave a squeak of shock before retreating rapidly. Unfortunately, the door swung shut preventing the three freed prisoners a chance to escape. Quick thinking Billwise thrusts his dagger into the door to act as a handle, that it succeeded surprised all present but the result was to no avail as the door was latched on the outside.
The nascent party have only a short time of introductions and tentative trust before the captors return, though captors they are not. Indeed, the small group of Hobbits that wait outside of the cellar door turn out to be the saviours of the fallen adventurers, who were in danger of being consumed by a party of raiding Orcs. It appears the Orcs have encamped in Neffwin wood for a reason, according to the elder clan leader Isundras Kettle. He adds, between naps, small bits of knowledge he has gained from living in the Misty Mountains during his youth. More pressing is the discovery of the smial’s backdoor by a band of Orcs searching for the purloiners of their latest food supply.
Naturally, the adventurers all decide that they should help their rescuers but with two different parties of adventurers, there was a small amount of tension over planning a sortie to displace the invaders. Alongside this is the reluctance of the leader of the Hobbit men, one Pencho Goodspear, to engage in direct combat. Luckily, it is Billwise who both parties listen to as the Hobbit expert and so it is that under a stealthy but slightly inefficient fire of slingshots the Orcs are defeated. Mostly, it must be said, under the hammers of the Dwarves, but Denig’s stone skin dented more than a few Orc blades. In the woods, the remaining Orcs are ambushed by the Hobbits.
The heroes and Hobbits gather in council within the smial, food, of course, is provided. The Hobbits explain that they have recently travelled from the Ettenmoors after hearing of the new land granted by the Big King of the lake and have recently made Neffinwood their home. Between naps, Isundras tells the party that he feels that no Orc would travel this far from the safety of the Wilds of the Ettenmoors without purpose. From this Pick, Dagaard and Billwise draw conclusions that these are of the same party encountered in the Weathertops, a fact that they do not share with Denig and Ydal. There is much discussion, with Pencho again making it clear he will not risk his hunters in direct battle. Speaking for the women, Fairly Goodnough counsels hiding or leaving, but in private, to Pick, insists that the adventurers exterminate the vermin who have invaded their new home.