So we had won the help of a mighty Numenorean army, and the time had come to attack Angren!
Here are the mightly forces of Prince Fealasse rallying against the mighty cliff-fortress that is the only entrance to the mountain-fenced land of Angren. We had been repeatedly told how useless, ugly and generally incompetent Fealasse was, but if he really is that useless, then he has some pretty good subordinates. Either that, or Prince Fealasse is in fact one of these secretly-very-competent people who go around looking useless until the crisis comes, when suddenly they show their true talents.
And here is the war getting started, with the Numenorean trebuchets wheeling into action against the war-Oliphaunts of Angren.
Things were not going well for Angren, and they brought out their reinforcements, regiments of orcs, wolfriders and trolls. If we had any doubt that they were the bad guys, this confirmed it.
Here's a mighty work of dwarven craftsmanship created by Thrandin, I think while they were all relaxing by the Lake of Then:
So, while the Numenoreans were fighting their way through the vast defenses of Angren, we were coming up behind them, using our Thennish guide Banick, to guide us through the Mines of Mount Maal, and the Secret Map of Mount Tinang to take them by surprise.
Here's the Secret Map:
But to get to Mount Tinang, we had to go through the Mines of Mount Maal first. Although most of our enemies were confronting the Numenoreans at the front gate, there were enough left over to keep us busy, particularly when Thrar and Thingolodh fell through a hole in the rather dodgy old mine workings and ended up in a heap surrounded by orcs.
I complained after a while that the fighting through the tunnels of Mount Maal was getting a bit repetitive, what with goblins, trolls and dead wights. As a result, someone decided that the best way to create a more visually interesting conflict was to throw a dead goblin, bodily at a troll. The troll was surprised.
Eventually, we ended up in a large cave that seemed to have no obvious exit... but it did have a river running through it. And a lot of barrels.
And who was one of our party? Well, Thingolodh, of course, who is one of Cirdan's original Falathrim Elves, and has spent literally thousands of years on the coast. If I'm going to have to stand on a raft made out of barrels by anyone, then a raft made by someone who has spent almost his entire life since Cuiviénen learning about the best way to float things seemed like a good bet.
We leapt onto the raft, and headed off downstream. Shortly, we came to a waterfall, and headed down that too. But we didn't fall off! I told you those Falathrim know a thing or two. We found ourselves in a dark cavern, which soon proved to have a rather alarming inhabitant.. unless there were several of them. This seemed a rather damp environment for either fire magic or using a bow, so I concentrated on ensuring that there was light, using my Noldorin lightball, while the rest of the party fought heroically against the tentacles. In this picture you can see that the tentacles are trying to pull down Thrandin, while Ecthelion and Prince Irimon try to come to his rescue, while Thorofin threw a rope and Thingolodh summoned ice into the water around the tentacles. It was, in fact, a remarkable display of teamwork, which rather surprised us all.
After some further wanderings, we found ourself in a cavern lit by strange glowing crystals (I picked up a few. You never know when that sort of thing will come in handy for jewelry-making). Exploring the tunnels around the cavern, we were surprised to discover a glowing pillar of rock, which after some experimentation, we discovered could only be passed if you had a dwarf with you.
Our two Dwarves were indeed acting rather oddly, one might say, over-enthusiastically. And Thrandin,our Very Important Old Dwarf was complaining about how heavy his pack was. Angruin, who is keen to keep those friends he has not yet slaughtered, offered to carry it. And he had a point, it was very heavy indeed. So I had a rummage and found that Thrandin's symbolic Seal of Durin had suddenly become very, very heavy indeed.
At which point, I started making a few connections in his head about a mountain that was called 'Mount Maal' and was full of what were clearly strange magical crystals. It seemed likely that Mount Maal was missing an 'h'. What we had here was a mountain that belonged to Aulë, also know as Mahal, the creator of the Dwarves.
Angruin has a somewhat conflicted attitude to the Valar, and Aulë in particular. He started saying a lot of things that boiled down to: 'hang on a minute, is this really a good idea?' ( If more people in the Silmarillion had said this, it would be a very different book. Obviously, nobody listened. This is Middle-earth, after all. )
So we all went haring off into the caverns, where we found a very elaborate bridge made entirely of Mithril alloy, leading to a spectacular but completely empty city built inside a monstrous stalactite, and eventually to a forge where we found a sliver of the Flame Imperishable, where Aulë had made the Dwarves originally. It was all very impressive.
At which point, Aulë himself popped up and spoke to us. Well, he spoke to the dwarves, really. When Angruin tried to suggest that Aulë should probably pull his long nose out and stop interfering in Middle-earth, Aulë was rather cutting about Angruin, and by extension, Fëanor and the Noldor in general. I thought he liked Fëanor! Bloody Valar.
Anyway, long story short, Aulë had a mission for our dwarves involving unifying the scattered peoples of the Dwarves, and in particular, reaching out to whatever tattered remnants still remain of the Petty-dwarves. Only one dwarf could be given the task of carrying out this great mission, and it would go to the dwarf who could pull the sword from the stone.