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Laid low their towers and houses frail

Continued from...

In the cold winter evening, we came cautiously down the old road that runs across the marshy land of Raku.  Snow was lying on the ground and the wind cut fiercely.  The journey was long, but fortunately uneventful.  Here we are one evening, all huddled around a fire.

Finally, one cold evening, we came to something that wasn't just boggy open land. Just on the edge of sight, we could see a glint of water reflecting the grey sky, and silhouetted against the shining water, we saw the shape of many low wooden buildings.   There was no cover at all, only the road leading on down to the water.   And there were an awful lot of buildings.

We took a look at ourselves, and concluded that some of us were rather more conspicuous than others.  In particular, the tall swift elven horses, and Sirithglor with her golden hair and shiny slippers were not going to pass for anything but Elf, even to a lookout who wasn't trying very hard on a cold winter's night.    We therefore divided forces.  Sirithglor devised a disguise for the rest of us, based on an idea she got from Lúthien  She made us look like a troop of orcs returning to base.  She herself stayed with the horses.

So we crept closer, quietly and cautiously, and we saw....
In the middle of the mere were the dark roofs and towers of a sunken city.  Intriguing.

But first, we had to deal with the wooden huts around the edge.   Our disguise made this easy.  We opened the door of the first building and went in.  Inside were loathesome goblins, playing a hideous game they called Stupid Frog, which involved... well, shall we just say that it involved live frogs and an iron spike.  The orcs barely had time to look up from their game of Stupid Frog before Thorofin was on them.  He finished the game  and I think we can agree he won.

We moved silently from hut to hut, clearing out each in turn.  We had just finished the last one, when there was movement out over the lake.  A strange menacing flying beast, larger than a human being, emerged from a tower far out in the lake, stretched its wings and flew off.   It gave our guide Gyula a nasty fit of the terrors, which is no doubt one reason that he became even more insolent and annoying than usual.

It was time to turn our attention to the lake, before the flying thing returned.

Unfortunately, the only way to get out to the tower was using some very small coracles.  Coracles are not a dignified form of transport, but we managed somehow, and what's more, we managed to knock out the orcs on top of the tower without them ringing the bell for help, which is quite an achievement for an attack via orc-coracle.   We saved one orc to interrogate.  He wasn't very bright, but even a stupid orc knows who his bosses are.

This one told us that he reported to a chief orc named Nurclamac, who was subordinate to a Great Wolf named Carangamp.   The flying thing that we had seen from shore was named Gulavar, and the flooded city had once been named Rhest.   There was also some confused plan involving a Big Black, involving an invasion of Urd - but the orc seemed unclear on who Big Black was, or when he might return.  Orc-information has its limits.   We gave the orc a swift death as a thank you for being so helpful. I imagine the local frogs were delighted.

From the tower, the other building that looked to be inhabited was a large rectangular building, which we dubbed the Town Hall.  Since we had now cleared out all the watchers, we sent a coracle back to collect Sirithglor.  This proved to be a mistake, although probably not as big a mistake as leaving her there would have been.

In the town hall, we found the orc known as Nurclamac, but he didn't have much to add to the information we already had, although he did tell us that Rhest had been inhabited by the orcs for around two hundred years. It can't really be said we gave Nurclamac a swift death, since Thorofin put his eyes out, but needs must.

The town hall was a curious affair : it appeared to be an old dwarf-building, still in surprisingly good order,  with decoration still visible on the walls.  There was even an old tapestry, showing an image that could just about be made out, an image of a dragon, being driven off by an army of dwarves and also taller people who seemed from their gear to be Elves.  We found a small box too, clearly of elf-make though not a design we recognised, and some small sacks of gold.  Gyula's greedy eyes lit up and he grabbed one, although the rest of us felt that heavy gold was not the reason we had come to this place, and let it lie where it was.

A great hole had been ripped through the floors, going down into the darkness.   Strangely, it was not filled with water, and examining it closely, I could see that the entire place was being held together and watertight by the power of some dark will.   But there was no sound or movement , so we resolved to explore further.   Unfortunately I twisted an ankle climbing down into that unpleasant place, but it did not slow me down too much.

In the depths of the place, we found a long chamber, lit with a sickly yellow light, in which lay a pool, surrounded by sculptures depicting wolves.  Submerged in the pool was a giant dead cat.  I shot it, just to make sure, and it bled a little, but when we pulled it out (very carefully not touching the foul water) it was clearly dead.   We could make nothing of this.  It did not look good.

Exploring further, we found a horrifyingly twisted leafless tree, growing in a dark underground room.  Before it were seven orc-corpses, with the roots woven into their parched corpses as if the tree had been feeding on them.  The Sindarin elf, examining this, determined that the tree had once been a holly tree.  I have a bad feeling about this.

Finally, underneath it all, we found a great black dungeon, where a huge black throne stood before a hideous sculpture whose mouth formed a great balcony.  The arms of the chair were marked with incised channels, and examining this, I could see what they were for.  They were designed for holding sets of Rings of Power : Seven and Nine, and the workmanship of the entire thing looked extremely familiar.  This entire place had been occupied by Sauron himself.

Before the throne, a set of stairs went downwards between two statues, which depicted Balrogs.    Thorofin wanted to go down the steps between the statues, but we overruled him.  A troll on a bridge is one thing, but there could be anything sleeping here.   We left the place in something of a hurry.

Back at the top, looking nervously down at what lay below the lake, and up at the skies, we resolved to try to break the spell that held the place together against the water.   In this, we were only partially successful.  Water came flooding into the upper levels, but the spell held and we could feel it still darkly holding together the evil far beneath our feet.

Things were not going well. Back on the shore, we found that the horses had been attacked by wolves, and tragically, all of them had been killed: a sad end for beasts who had travelled so far with us.   We would have to walk back to Urd.   Thrandin suggested that we spend the night in the orc-huts by the lake, but the rest of the party vetoed this on the grounds that anyone could creep up on us if we were inside, and also that no Elf willing spends the night in an orc-hut.

At this point, Thorofin, who runs swiftly, decided to run ahead of us and fetch some fresh horses.  This was probably a mistake, but unfortunately as Thorofin runs so fast, by the time we had realised this it was far too late to point it out to him.

As the rest of us were walking through the night, we were attacked by wolves.  We killed four of them without too much difficulty, but then more wolves came at us, six huge pale wolves, with an uncanny air about them.  They were not true wolves, but skin-changers in wolf form.

At this point, it would have been very helpful if the mighty Elf warrior had still been close at hand.  My bow is a good weapon, but it's little use when a wolf is leaping right at your back, and poor Sirithglor's bow and shiny slippers are little help in combat.  I threw one of my Noldorin balls of light into the air.  These are generally used as lanterns, but they do have a 'light flash' mode that can be activated in emergency.  The flash of light discouraged a couple of the beasts, but the rest closed in around us.

One of the wolves hit me so hard that I fell to the ground, unable to move.  Thrandin and the Urdish Man, Gyula, fought on, back to back, and Thrandin heroically rescued Sirithglor with a great swing of his war-hammer, which saved her just before the teeth closed.

 Gyula fought mightily that night, and slew three of the skin-changers as well as one natural wolf.  We would certainly all have ended in a wolf's belly without him, and I was forced to forgive him for his many ignorant remarks: I suppose they were only to be expected from such a barbarian.

There still seems to be a lot of plot left. More here!


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
27th May, 2016 17:35 (UTC)
The pictures are all great, but I particularly like the picture around the fire.

Stupid frog! I tried to fit a reference to it into Gyula's epic poem, but it didn't seem to fit the idiom. It needs to be produced as a tie-in game - though perhaps with something else standing in for the live frogs. Green wet sponges? Green quoits decorated with frogs?

In the "record it in the LJ post or we'll forget it next year" vein, I'll add this. In the warg fight, Thrandin also gave such an awesome pep talk that he inspired Sirithglor to find the strength to utter a word of command telling the remaining wolves to flee (or stand immobile; I can't remember which.) When I asked if I could make a stirring speech that transferred my unused hero point to someone who'd used all theirs up, I never expected the GM to say yes. So I need it in writing, just so it gets remembered next year. :-D
27th May, 2016 23:46 (UTC)
Oh, drattit! I just knew that Angruin was going to leave out Sirithglor's achievements again. I was trying hard not to let him, but he's gone and done it anyway. He would.

The Single Transferrable Hero Point is an awfully useful idea, we definitely need to hang onto it.
27th May, 2016 19:02 (UTC)
Aw, cliffhanger!
I like the night-and-fire picture most.
When you write "Rhest", how it's supposed to be pronounced? If I remember correctly my "philological studies" of 20 years ago, Tolkien meant his rh and hr as "r in whisper". Is this the case?
"It can't really be said we gave Nurclamac a swift death, since Thorofin put his eyes out" - (puzzled: ) why? I mean, for what purpose?
27th May, 2016 21:38 (UTC)
GM here:

Yes, I think so. Like the Welsh 'rh' sound in, for example, Rhosllanerchrugog, which is near where I grew up. Tolkien uses the same sound in 'Rhovanion' and 'Rhun'.
27th May, 2016 23:54 (UTC)
I *think* that Nurclamac, being a bit tougher / brighter than the first orc we caught, was refusing to tell us anything, and Thorofin was persuading him. It was all a bit disturbing.

The cliffhanger is a bit of a big one because we got a bit scared of Sauron and decided not to go back to Rhest right away. But Sauron is definitely out there somewhere... eeek!
28th May, 2016 07:03 (UTC)
I think the eyes got put by chance as part of the battle. Thorofin made a very good hit, and rolled "head" on the dice that randomly determined which body part was hit. Technically this should probably have killed him, but we'd said we wanted him to keep him alive for questioning, so this was changed to something dreadful but not quite fatal.

I was playing the character who did the questioning (the dwarf, Thrandin) and by the time I arrived on the scene, the orc was already eyeless. This was unfortunate, since my normal approach was to say quite reasonably (I had awesome powers of persuasion), "look, you're doomed, anyway. Tell us everything you know, and we'll make sure your death is painless and swift." His existing battle wounds made this approach rather more challenging in his case.
30th May, 2016 08:51 (UTC)
Oh, that warriors! Never think of the poor questioner, do they?
27th May, 2016 19:32 (UTC)
I love the light in that first picture - it reminds me a bit of the people who say that they make sculptures by taking away all the bits that shouldn't be there.
27th May, 2016 23:55 (UTC)
I like making that sort of sculpture, too!
27th May, 2016 21:50 (UTC)
Love the artwork.
27th May, 2016 23:55 (UTC)
29th May, 2016 09:07 (UTC)
a hideous game they called Stupid Frog, which involved... well, shall we just say that it involved live frogs and an iron spike.
unnnnnnnnng... *horrid flashbacks to fainting in school biology lessons* Very good concise name for it though. Thorofin, Stupid Frog World Grand Master!

Your renditions of water and darkness are lovely, v. beautiful and clear.

Coracles make me think of Narnia and Reepicheep and The Voyage of the Dawntreader. And orc-coracles, say that ten times while knocking back a half of lager and black!

Honestly though, how is Big Black involved? Seriously, if Steve Albini is massing with the forces of evil... no, he did that a long time ago. has anyone ever seen him in the same room as Sauron? I'll sign up for the other side myself.

Thorofin does come across as a bit of a div. Is he meant to be?
29th May, 2016 14:58 (UTC)
:-ooo Steve Albini.

Chainmailmaiden who plays Thorofin has said that she thinks he might be just a little bit thick.

Angruin, however, feels a bit guilty about Thorofin, as Thorofin's family comes from the faction that didn't swear any particularly stupid oaths and got attacked and slaughtered by the faction that Angruin belonged to.

Angruin likes to give Thorofin lots of credit for his undeniable fighting prowess, and excuses any mistakes on the grounds that he is very young. (Thorofin's mistakes are nothing like as big as Angruin's...)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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