Yes, I know, I said it was a good idea for the girls to learn to defend themselves. I don’t think it’s a good idea for either of them to follow me out here beyond the Bounds. I meant it just for their care in case trouble comes to the Shire, not for them to go chasing trouble themselves. They need to stay home where its safe – and use their training as a last resort. Chasing adventure beyond the Bounds is a very poor idea.

I don’t want to see them out here with me. It’s just not a fit place for them, and I don’t want to have to worry about them.

We've are doing well enough out here. In fact, Bounder Chief Meadowlarke sent out a new Bounder recruit name of Mishala this last week, just to get her experienced in battling villainy. I was in Ost Guruth at the time, but Hedgerow mustered a squad to take her into the Great Barrow where she could see some of the creatures the enemy has brought out, and learn how to stand up to them.

From what I hear, the first two patrols went well and Sambrog’s minions were defeated where they were encountered and driven further into the Barrow. But, starting with the third patrol, they ran into difficulties. Their troubles started in earnest with a pair of Sambrog’s lieutenants that we Eclairians have been calling “The Twins”. I mentioned that, as we drive them deeper that they get more powerful. Well, these twins were able to stand up to repeated assaults - finally convincing the Eclairians battling them to leave them and retreat from the Barrows for a spell.

It was a squad made up of Heminhaw, Adaninim, Hedgerow, Andrig, and Helkaer confronted the twins on this patrol. Mishala was not there on account of already having made two patrols and was resting a bit. I had not met either Heminhaw or Adaninim at this point so I cannot truly attest to their skills. Helkaer, of course, is an elf with great skill summoning powers from stones and runes. Andrig is a competent fighter. Hedgerow . . . well . . . I think he is more suited as a clerk than as a Bounder.

Anyways, it was the first time as I recall where Eclairians left the enemy in the control of the battlefield.

Of course, with its victory, Sambrog’s army figured it was time to consider marching back to the surface. Fortunately, this weakened them a bit. When, the next day, a force made up of Andrig, Helkaer, Heminhaw, and Hedgerow encountered them again, the villains still effectively stood their ground.

While these three days of battles were going on, I had returned to Bree. I had grown low on provisions in Ost Guruth and had to return to Bree to get additional foods, medicines, and other supplies. I was spending the night in hobbit-sized beds in the Prancing Pony when Hedgerow himself nudged me awake. He told me of their defeats and inability to dislodge the twins and asked if I would contribute to the battle.

Hedgerow was distraught at the loss. I think he was blaming himself – which, truth be told, is perhaps not unreasonable. He was talking of returning to the Shire – and I did not try to persuade him against it. I did, however, travel to the Great Barrow to take his place in another assault.

By the time I had gotten there, Adaninim had also arrived. This is where I had met her – and Heminhaw - for the first time.

There were five of us in the muster now and, this time, we were finally able to force the twins from their stronghold. It was a long and costly fight, but we won in the end. Later, we went after Sambrog himself and made him think twice about trying to approach the free folk living on the surface. It was in this patrol that I met Mishala for the first time. She has been trained in the spear like me, and seems like a most competent Bounder. To honour Chief Meadowlarke's request to see to her training, she was given the lead through the expedition. I stayed back to defend Helkaer - to make sure no villain distracted him from pulling his powers from the rocks and runes.

I am afraid Helkaer and I got into a bit of a tiff over Hedgerow. I mentioned the fact that he was a better clerk than adventurer, and Helkaer, for some odd reason, came to his defense. Where is there the fault in naming the fact that some Shire-folk are not fit for adventure? I saw none, but Helkaer did.

Well, we agreed to put the subject aside during the patrol. It was this, as much as training Mishala, that brought me to take the task of being Helkaer's defender. It turned out to be a busy task. More than once, villains broke through the front lines made up of Adaninim , Mishala, and Andrig and came back to Helkaer and Heminhaw – and I was there to intercept them. We did not talk about the incident after . . . and I hope he saw that I took no offense.

After defeating Sambrog and driving him even deeper underground, Mishala said she was ready for more battling and Andrig said he scarcely felt challenged. As a result, we settled on pursuing Sambrog to the next levels underground so as to prevent him from retreating unhindered to rebuild his strength.

What a difference a level makes!

At this new depth, we encountered his soldiers who set up an ambush in his defense. We were ready for it though, since Sambrog had used these tactics in the past. Still, we were forced to retreat. We gave second thought to our decision to pursue Sambrog and resolved instead simply to keep him down at that level, and to return if there is evidence he is again moving closer to the surface. So long as he stays at his current depth, he is too strong for us. Perhaps as we gain more experience, we will battle him again. For now, there is a stalemate.

Tomorrow, I will return to Ost Guruth, reprovisioned. With Hedgerow returning to the Shire, I think Radagast and the others will have need of me.

I will write to you as I can.

In the meantime, keep the girls safe.

Love, Alphred Troute

Club Éclair is increasing its level cap to 25 on Monday, November 18th. At this level, we intend to finish up our adventures around Ost Guruth, do some practicing at the skirmish training battle set up on Weathertop, return to finish some chores about Trestlebridge and the Fields of Fornost, then look for this secret hidden rebel ranger camp of Esteldin.

If you think you would like this type of adventure, as always, it would be a pleasure to have you join us. You can reach us in-game through the user channel club-éclair (/joinchannel club-éclair).