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  1. #1

    Total Immersion - Where Now the Horse and the Rider?

    Greetings! The desire for beginning this story came as The Riders of Rohan expansion drew near; I decided to pre-order the expansion knowing full well that I was in the midst of my hobbit tale over on Crickhollow and it might be awhile before I even had time to journey there with any character. But the dream of finally being able to venture to Rohan was more than enough for me to get the expansion right away.

    Before departing Crickhollow only recently, I began this story but ultimately I have abandoned it with my move to Landroval. However, my desire to run the tale in full was never forgotten. Thus, I decided to kick-start the story from the very beginning here.

    Naturally, I already have the story of the poor dwarf, Brimbur going quite steadily along right now - his story will remain the focus of most of my attention. This story will be played out much slower and with fewer updates and chapters than Brimbur's story, yet I cannot without my desire to return to the story and complete it if I can.

    Since I already began to story and adventure back on Crickhollow, I decided to change the beginning a bit as to not create an exact replica of the first.


    1. Travel: I will only travel on foot or by regular mounts and absolutely no swift travel horses or map recall use. This can be waived when conducting toon upkeep, such as visiting a settlement to level. Except when in a quest, lair, dungeon, combat, etc, I will walk everywhere - I will allow myself to run for short periods of time, however, such as trying to run away from an enemy.

    2. Chat / Speech: I will always stay in rp character at all times during Chat. I will chat in OOC when it is necessary however, since there are times I might want to talk to someone out of game.

    3. Food and Rest: I will follow the LOTRO day/night cycle closely and force myself to rest at a safe location such as an inn or in a town if such an inn is not available. The day/night cycles are:

    Late Watches

    I must rest during the night cycles of Evening, Midnight, Late Watches and Foredawn each day (or at least camp/rest for four cycles each day/evening). I can hang around an inn, for example, and rp a bit with other players, but no going out into town to shop or craft, etc. This is to simulate my character actually resting. During the rest time I must eat a meal of some kind - Folcwain, the story character, his a hunter by trade so gathering food in the wilds is perfectly acceptable.

    If I am away from a town or settlement, things will become more tricky. I will attempt to find a safe spot to camp for the evening - this means halting my journey and actually sit my toon down for rest.

    4. Promoting Realism: This rule is a catch-all for such things as no jumping off high cliffs, swimming with armour on, jumping around while I am moving, jumping every fence I come across, etc.

    There is one rule I play that I always forget to mention - and that is the repair of equipped gear. I may only pay for repairs of weapons from a suitable vendor; ie, weapon repairs from a weaponsmith npc in a crafting area.

    5. Death and Defeat: Since I love a challenge, I will add in a harsh rule for myself. Folcwain cannot be defeated by any means during the story - should this occur, he will be considered truly dead. For all of my stories in the past, the character begins at 6-7th level right after the Intro. However, for this story, Folcwain begins at 20th level and has managed to survive to gain the Survival title of UNdying to begin the adventure.

    6. Arms and Armour: Folcwain may only equip or use equipment gained via mob drops or gained by the completion of quests. So, he may not craft gear for himself, or purchase gear from a vendor or the Auction House.


    1. Hunting Program: I desire not to give the full details of the story plot right off; what the plot does entail is Folcwain being on the trail of a fearsome and nameless wolf or warg. A simple program will be used to plot the progress of the hunt; beginning in the Lone-lands, Folcwain may attempt to find the trail and track it. This may be done in two ways.

    The first is the use of the Hunter skill, Passage of Nature in the wilds. The trail of the beast will wander through a region, crisscrossing back and forth, sometimes even backtracking. The program will reveal the trail as map coordinates that can lead further on, disappear into mud or rivers, or even lead to ambushes of fell orcs, beasts or the like. Once I arrive at the map coordinates given by a tracking clue, I enter it into the program to search for the next trail. Should the trail disappear I will have to seek the surrounding area for more tracks.

    NPC’s can also provide clues and sightings of the beast, with the completion of quests. Again, this is not failsafe; some NPC’s may only have rumours to give, others actual sighting and others may even lead to unwitting traps or ambushes set by the beast. Should a sighting be true, the program will lead me to a map location where Folcwain can scour the earth for the beast’s tracks once more.

    The program is written so that I have little way of knowing exactly where the trail will lead – the trail has many possible paths that use many same locations on the map so I will not know that a location I am tracking to is a true path or leading me into an ambush.

    2. Mount: Folcwain does not begin with use of a mount for he has become separated from his most beloved horse, Hálasfal. Until he can find his missing horse, all travel will be on foot. Another sub-program will be used in search of Hálasfal during the long hunt for the wolf or warg. Foclwain may visit Stable-masters and Reputation Vendors dealing with Reputation Mounts for sale. Of course, some clues may be nothing, or perhaps may lead to a quest request. Or, beyond hope, the Stable-master or Vendor may have found Hálasfal wandering alone in the wild and has given him shelter.

    3. Skirmish Soldier: At the beginning of the story, Folcwain will not have access to his Skirmish Soldier, Holwine, who has also gone missing during the mysterious journey far into the north. That means, during a Skirmish, Folcwain will have to battle foes alone.

    Another sub-program will be used to find lost Holwine; this entails completing quests from certain NPCS or speaking to NPC Healer Vendors. Perhaps someone has found the wounded Holwine in the wilds?

    Should Holwine be found safe, Folcwain will have to bring him along for the duration of the story, using Landscape Soldier Tokens to summon Holdwine into battle whenever a foe appears. Naturally, I will wish to keep Holwine safe and return him to Snowbourn unscathed. Should Holwine fall in battle, he will be considered as having been slain.


    In developing the language of the Riders of Rohan, Tolkien used the tongue of the Anglo-Saxons and anglicized the words. For instance, the word, Éored, comes from the Old English éoh meaning "horse" and rád meaning "riding."

    Other words or phrases like, ‘Westu Theoden hal’ was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word, wes þu being westu, which meant “be thou” and h?l meaning hal - healthy or hale.

    Tolkien never fully developed the language as he did with the Elvish dialects; the novels are left with a scattering of place-names, person-names and a few odd assortment of others. However, I thought it would enrich his story if I expanded the language. I found a very good Old English dictionary to expand the tongue of the Eorlingas for the story. What follows is a concise dictionary to make reading the story more easy and understandable. Those words or phrases marked with an asterisk (*) denotes words that I have developed; otherwise they are the creation of Tolkien himself. The list of words begins short, but will be expanded as the story grows and the need for others comes into use.

    Eorlingas - a name taken by the Men of Rohan in their own tongue
    Éomer - from eoh, "warhorse" and m?re, "famous
    Ferthu hal - go thou healthy or hale
    Folcwain* - wagon-people or person
    Hafred* - hawk-riders, consisting of ten men, scouts and hunters, commanded by a Héafod -from the word hafoc meaning hawk and éoh meaning horse
    Hálasfal* - prized grey, from the words háls meaning prized and fealu meaning dun-colored or grey
    Héafod* - chief or leader of a hafred, from the word héafdes
    Holbytla (pl. holbytlan) - hole dweller, ahobbit
    Holwine - loyal-friend
    Láthnéat* – from láð meaning hateful or loathsome and níeten for beast
    Riddermark - the name of Rohan in the tongue of the folk there, also called simply The Mark
    Snowbourn - the settlement in East Rohan or the river
    Théoden - from þ?oden, "chief" or "lord"
    Westu hal - be thou healthy or hale


    Chapter One: A Strange Land - 18 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Two: Ere the Sun Rises – 19 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Three: A Red Day – 20 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Four: Hunting – 21 to 22 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Five: The Hill of Rain – 23 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Six: Elders in the Shadows – 24 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Seven: I Came Singing in the Sun, Sword Unsheathing – 24 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Eight: To Hope’s End I Rode – 25 to 30 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Nine: Dark to the Day’s Rising – 31 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Ten: Dark to the Day’s Rising – 31 Forelitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Eleven: An Elf-swain's Lament – 2 Afterlitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Twelve: Lilies in the Valley – 3 to 5 Afterlitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Thirteen: The House of Elrond – 5 to 9 Afterlitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Fourteen: The Riddle Game – 10 Afterlitha, 3017 TA
    Chapter Fifteen: The Rider Fallen – 11 to 12 Afterlitha, 3017 TA
    Last edited by Brucha; Nov 18 2013 at 09:32 PM.

  2. #2
    Good luck! I am glad your doing this again. Would you accept help along the way? Is your dwarf going to be a hunter?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by rangerofthewest View Post
    Good luck! I am glad your doing this again. Would you accept help along the way? Is your dwarf going to be a hunter?
    I am unsure what you mean - Folcwain is of the Mannish tribe, and from Rohan, the Riddermark. Certainly I would welcome any aid during the story - and the assistance would be be most beneficial!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Sunny SoCal, USA
    Oh, this looks excellent. From where are you starting? The Forsaken Inn? You're trying to make it all the way to Snowbourn? With the rest of Rohan coming out this year, will you be going the more logical path geographically... through the Gap of Rohan... or will you be going the level-appropriate route? XD Horses cannot go into the mines, after all...

    RIP ELENDILMIR • Jingle Jangle
    : LAERLIN (Bio + Drawings) • LAERWEN • OLORIEL • AETHELIND (Bio + Drawing) • NETHAEL

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Laire View Post
    Oh, this looks excellent. From where are you starting? The Forsaken Inn? You're trying to make it all the way to Snowbourn? With the rest of Rohan coming out this year, will you be going the more logical path geographically... through the Gap of Rohan... or will you be going the level-appropriate route? XD Horses cannot go into the mines, after all...
    Folcwain will begin in the Lone-lands, near the Forsaken Inn. As far as the path he takes, that is uncertain. The hunt for this elusive warg will take him from the Lone-lands and into the Trollshaws. After that, it becomes more tricky. The path may lead up into the Misty Mountains, and over into the Great River or even into Mirkwood.

    Or it may lead into Eregion - from there the path could lead across the Redhorn pass and into the Great River, Mirkwood, or Lothlorien. Or it might lead further south towards Dunland and even Rohan itself.

    There is no way of knowing exactly where the path will lead me (since the program I wrote will dictate the path I am lead along); thus there is a great chance it will not be a level-appropriate route! Each region has the possibility of locating the warg Folcwain seeks. The first area is the Misty Mtns and Eregion, though the program is set with a low probability of that happening. Beyond those regions, the chances increase.

    However, should the hunt succeed, his horse is found safely, and Holwine found unharmed, Folcwain will finally make the slow journey back home to Snowbourne and the end of the story.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    I am unsure what you mean - Folcwain is of the Mannish tribe, and from Rohan, the Riddermark. Certainly I would welcome any aid during the story - and the assistance would be be most beneficial!
    Oh, I am sorry. I was a little confused. I'll try to help you when I can.

  7. #7

    Chapter One: A Strange Land - 18 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    Folcwain slowly stirred from a great sleep and, with still-unopened eyes yawned, stretched his arms over his head. Somewhere off in the distance the faint call of a bird sounded, a lonesome call it seemed, and it slowly drifted away among the soft rustle of branches in a gentle wind. He blinked as he slowly opened his eyes, and at once began to scold himself for oversleeping. He sat up to call out in stern voice to summon Holwine to set the fires and call forth the hafred. Bewilderment washed at once over him and he shook his head as if to awaken from a dream.

    He sat up suddenly only to wince in great pain; hazy hints of an ill-remembered battle and unending hunt slowly crept slowly into his mind. Folcwain looked about and found he was lying in a deep bed of brown ferns surrounded by thorny thickets. Rising up about him stood tall and wind-bent trees, their boughs marked with greenish-grey leaves. All was quiet but for the sighing of the wind.

    Only when the pain at his side began to ebb and recede to a dull ache did he slowly rise to his feet. There in the ferns was a bow of ash wood and a sheaf of arrows; Folcwain’s hands strayed to his belt, and sighed when he was assured his sword still hung by his side. He lifted his iron-shod helm and pulled at the long braids of flaxen-hair that fell down his shoulders.

    He stepped to the thickets and parted them with a gloved hand; what stared back at him from the hiding place was an unrecognizable land. The fleeting light of the dying sun shown dim and shadowy across a landscape that seemed wild and threatening. Bushes and stunted trees grew in sparse patches across the undulating ground all about the thicket, and the ground was covered with scant, coarse grey-grass.

    Folcwain turned to spot his pack upon the ground next to him. He winced slightly as he bent down to take it in his hands and then sat gingerly down onto the ferns. His hand fell to the fine burnished rings of the long hauberk and then lifted it up; the skin beneath was blackened and dark with bruises and the rings were bent inwards as if struck by a heavy blow.

    Folcwain let the hem of the mail fall from his hands and he opened his pack. He frowned at the sight of an old, wrinkled pear and a hard piece of bread inside. As with the men of his hafred, Folcwain kept much of his foodstuffs on the bags of his horse, Hálasfal, and the thought of such a meager dinner did little to raise his failing spirits. Yet he drew out the pear and munched on it, a puzzled look spreading across his face as a feeling of dread and uncertainly crept into his thoughts.

    Finally, Folcwain reached for his bow and pack and climbed slowly to his feet once more; he parted the thickets and stepped out. He stood there for some time, gazing guardedly over the land before he set out with wary, uncertainty steps. He made his way down a gentle slope as the wind began to hiss through the heather and grass. To the south, the ground descended rapidly and now offered a wide view of the darkening landscape.

    Far off in the distance hung a line of huddled and wooded hills and at their feet wound a lonely road sweeping from west to east in the growing dusk. Nothing of the bleak landscape seemed familiar to Folcwain and he found himself uncertain as to the proper direction to follow. He looked out for some time and then set out down the slopes towards the distant road.

    He kept a vigilant eye as he went, casting his keen gaze about at any hint of foe or danger; yet there came to his ears few sounds of beasts. Far off in the dimming light he would hear the forlorn calls of unseen birds or the distant mournful howl of a wolf as it woke from its long daylight sleep.

    The last glimmering light shone to the west, and the sun slowly dipped beneath the horizon, as Folcwain made the careful way down from the heights. Slowly, the line of darkened hills drew near when there came the sound of a snapped twig. It was swiftly followed by a harsh muttering in a horrible guttural tongue.

    At once, Folcwain halted to crouch beside a large bare stretch of exposed rock and looked out warily as the muttering drew nearer. Presently a goblin came into view; a smaller breed of orc it was, green-skinned with a wide and sniffing nose. It was clad in ragged filthy leathers and clenched a wicked but short spear in one hand as it made its way alone snarling to itself.

    Folcwain slowly drew his sword very silently from his belt and then suddenly leapt up with a cry; but the goblin shrieked aloud and sprang back as it released it short spear through the air towards its oncoming foe. At the last moment, Folcwain swerved aside as the spear passes within inches of his body and he closed the last steps between them.

    The goblin’s nostrils widened and hissed and its small red eyes raged as the two foes met on the short graying grass. The air rang with the sound of clashing metal as their blades met before the goblin sprang back again with upraised blade ready to strike.

    The two foes danced warily just out of reach in a wide circle for some time, each gazing warily at the other. Then the goblin let forth a snarling snicker and came at Folcwain; the Eorlingas cried out in pain as the spear lanced his thigh even as he hewed forward with sword and knife. The goblin let out a hideous yell and stumbled back a step before toppling over onto the ground.

    Folcwain took in a long wheezing breath and clenched his thigh to gaze down at his slain foe. He had battled goblins and orcs in the lands about Snowbourn, and yet this one seemed strange to him. This goblin-soldier looked as one from the mountains, and yet upon its filthy tunic of leather it bore a strange device; a small crudely-painted white hand in the center of a black field.

    Folcwain took up the goblin’s spear to break it in two and then tossed it into the grass. He then took from his pack some strips of linen and wrapped it round the wound on his leg. He gazed one last time at the strange goblin at his feet then, with a hasty glance about, Folcwain wound down the last stretch towards the bottom of the long hills behind him.

    The first stars were twinkling in the sky, though the moon had not risen to the east yet, when his sharp eyes caught a dull gleam ahead. It was a ramshackle building that now came into view, one that seen far too many years. It was one-storied and made of stone and shingled roof; Folcwain thought at first it was long abandoned for he could glimpse large gapes and holes in the sagging roof. Yet as he gazed at it, he could spot a dim glow flickering through the grimy windows and a thin plume of blackened smoke curling up from the crumbling chimney.

    Intrigued, Folcwain slowly approached the lone building and round to the front that faced the road that wound ever eastwards. He as much surprised to find an odd assortment of Mannish folk seated here or there in the yard. The folk at once turned dark suspicious glares at the stranger and all fell to wary silence for a moment. Folcwain felt a sudden wave of mistrust and uneasiness from the men, but when he did not draw a blade, they returned to their own quiet, solemn business.

    Folcwain climbed the worn stone steps to the door finally and paused hesitantly; he then knocked loudly upon the wooden frame and stepped back. From within came muted sounds and many low, guarded voices. Folcwain looked back at the men in the yard, pulled the door open and stooped low to step through the doorway.

    Beyond the door he found a long hall, deep patches of shadows mingling with flickering starlight that shone through the gaping holes in the splintered and crumbling roof overhead. Dim flickering candles swayed atop chandeliers hung from the low rafters and to each end stood smoky hearths of stone that gave off a dim glow.

    The far end of the hall stood atop a raised area where there could be seen a ramshackle bar; long wooden tables ran the length of the room and smaller round tables sat in the shadows nearer the walls. Dusky and crestfallen folk were seated at the tables, alone or in small numbers; all seemed very wretched and woeful.

    It was an inn, though one that had witnessed far better days long past. Folcwain at once was filled with deep distrust and doubted the wisdom of seeking shelter in such a dismal place. And yet the desire to return alone into the wilds was enough for him to push aside his misgiving.

    Ignoring the silent stares of the inn folk, Folcwain slowly made his way near the hearth and set down his bow and pack onto the ground at his feet. He then sighed softly and closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the smoky fire slowly seeping into his chilled limbs. It was some time when Folcwain finally stirred once more to gaze about the darkened hall.

    His eyes passed slowly over the muted quiet folk until his eyes rested upon man who was watching him with dark and distrusting eyes. The man seemed waiting for some sinister and dubious purpose to be made clear from the new arrival. Folcwain lowered his eyes for a moment and the room seemed to grow very quiet and dark.

    Finally, Folcwain turned his eyes to the man and approached him with slow but deliberate steps, until he was standing face to face with him. He swept his long braids over his shoulders and spoke with a hesitant voice, using the manner of the Common Tongue.

    ‘I seek to know of this place,’ he said with a lowered voice. ‘My journey has been long and this land is not known to me.’

    For a long pause, the man did not answer, but gazed at the stranger with grim untrusting eyes. Then he spoke.

    ‘Some come to these lands because they are shunned, others to simply pass through,’ said the man, scratching his whiskered chin and shivered from the unrelenting cold in his bones. ‘Some folk, like me, are here at the behest of others with nothing more than profit on the mind. Which ilk are you?’

    Folcwain returned the grim gaze of the man but it swiftly faded to grow soft and unthreatening. ‘As for that, I am indeed a stranger here among you and your folk,’ he answered softly and without malice. ‘Trust is a rare gift, not to be given lightly nor gained easily. I am called Folcwain, son of Aldwic, fifth Héafod of Snowbourn in the Riddermark.'

    The man gazed up at Folcwain, muttering something under his breath and then turned away, as if he had said too much already. Folcwain stared at the sudden silence of the man, but nodded and turned to stand beside the fire once more. There he fell into a deep, troubled mind and it was some time before he roused his head.

    When he did begin to stir, Folcwain glanced about the hall once again and his eyes fell onto a dark-haired woman standing in the deep shadows nearer the door. Even in the dim light her face was visibly strained with a deepening look of disquiet and fear. He gazed at the sullen crowd in the hall and then slowly stepped up to her with open hands.

    ‘At first glance from afar, I thought this place abandoned, or worse, but now I see that is not so,’ he said softly and without reproach. ‘And yet this place bears signs of some misfortune or strife. There are strange things afoot here. Tell me, what has brought such misery to this place?'

    The woman gazed up at Folcwain, a foreboding filling her eyes; she glanced about the room, as if fearful to speak. ‘So many travellers have been stranded here because of goblin-attacks,’ she said finally with a deep breath and stuttered words. ‘We could sure use some help.’

    ‘Goblins you say?’ he answered sullenly, and an image of the goblin he had battled that very day crept into his mind. ‘That is fell news, but what would bring the likes of them down so far from the distant mountains?’

    The woman did not speak and, as the man had done so, she fell silent and would not speak further. Folcwain muttered a quiet apology and turned towards the rickety bar on the far end of the hall. There behind a low table stood a grey-haired man, busying himself with filling wooden mugs atop round trays that was soon whisked away by the maids to be brought to the tables below. The man gazed up as Folcwain approached and set down a dirty rag atop the bar. Folcwain smiled weakly then spoke.

    ‘A forsaken inn,’ he said quietly but with little jest. ‘That seems a befitting name for such a dark place as this. I have heard talk of goblins or worse among the folk here. Are these tales true?'

    The innkeeper looked long at the stranger with a dark gaze, and then simply shrugged. 'Pay no mind to the name; not all who pass here never return. Only ones that stray too far off the road would find themselves in the clutches o' them goblins.’

    ‘I have seen one of their foul ilk this day, and do not doubt your words.’ answered Foclwain slowly.

    'Those goblins are a menace, if you ask me!’ said the old man with much loathing. ‘Driving them off will help travellers find their way into the Lone-lands with less fear in their hearts, and I'll lose fewer customers. Anyone of any importance will win and only the goblins will lose, my friend! Isn’t that what we want?'

    At once, Folcwain opened his mouth as if to speak, and then quickly shut it, a look of awe and disbelief spreading across his face. He turned to gaze about the tavern as if seeing it for the first time. ‘The Lone-lands?’ he muttered softly. ‘Little do I know of it but that it lies far north of my homeland. Can it be that I travelled so far north...'

    The proprietor nodded absentmindedly and turned to begin pouring another number of wooden mugs full of ale. ‘Bloody-handed creatures deserving of a good beating, those goblins!’ he said over one shoulder. He then turned back to Folcwain and, with a wink and tap of his nose with a finger, he spoke swiftly.

    ‘You're an able-bodied sort. Why don't you go show those brutes they're not wanted here? The lands around the inn are just crawling with them. People scare easily, you see. With the goblins creeping all about the ruins and so close to the Inn, I'm destined to use the wood falling from the roof to bar the doors unless someone gives me a hand. You'll find goblins on the fields of Annunlos, and a goodly number of them have established a foothold in the old ruins of Minas Eriol, to the southeast.’

    Folcwain lowered his gaze and the round the darkened hall. A feeling of remorsefulness crept into his heart as he looked out over the wretched and hopeless folk. Finally he lifted his eyes to gaze at the proprietor.

    ‘Hunting goblins in any land is foul business, yet their presence here seems fouler,’ he said solemnly. ‘It is not in this manner, alone and bereft of my hafred, have I hunted their sort before. Yet the doom of chance is upon me; I will do as you ask for I am need of your wisdom and of answers I desperately seek.’

    Folcwain bowed his head and then spoke swiftly but with great weariness. ‘For now I must rest and will set out at dawn. Then I shall hunt these goblins wherever I may find them; look for me on the morrow ere the sun sets and I will bring you word of my hunt.'

  8. #8

    Chapter Two: Ere the Sun Rises – 19 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    The dawn had broken sullen, and cold, a bitter wind blowing up from the west, when Folcwain quietly made his way from the inn. Billowing clouds hid the sun as it rose hidden over the distant East so that only a dull paleness filled the waking sky. He set out at once with slow but steady steps beyond the inn to the north until he came to the feet of rising hills that wound up towards distant highlands along tumbled ridges and slopes.

    For some time he scrambled up the slopes towards the crest of the high ridge above; his path went slow for the slopes were steep and difficult. Yet after some time, Folcwain came to a thin shelf of level ground. There he halted, cupped his chilled hands to his warm breath and gazed out over the quiet land. Morning was now shimmering in the sky and the red rim of the sun peeked through the tattered clouds. He took a deep breath.

    ‘Ah, the green scent,’ he said quietly as he looked out over the sea of green-gray grass far below. ‘It brings Snowbourn and the grasslands of the Mark to my mind. Alas! Long have I been away from home.’

    His gaze swept over the lands about then came to rest at the grass round his feet. A puzzled look spread across Folcwain’s face as he bent down nearer the ground. There he found the short grass trampled and bruised by the passing of heavy but small iron-nailed shoes. Folcwain’s eyes followed the trail of footprints as they went along the narrow shelf before curving sharply towards the ridge above.

    Swiftly he turned and followed the trail; at last he reached the crest of the rising hills and a sudden wind blew his hair and stirred his long cloak. The merciless cold wind of dawn had warmed and veered round from the south. The swift-flowing clouds had lifted a bit and now the fleeting rays of the sun shone through them, pale and watery.

    The ridge upon which Foclwain now stood went down sharply before his feet and tumbled down into a narrow trough running east to west until it widened onto an undulating stretch of grasslands. To the north and east stony slopes rose ever higher above.

    Folcwain crouched in the grass and gazed down into the valley below. His eyes looked warily over curious but ancient and crumbling works of stone that choked the vale; tall and wind-bent trees grew here or there among the ruins, their boughs casting wide stretches of shadows about the ground. Then a glimpse of sudden, dim movement caught his keen eyes.

    ‘Goblins,’ he muttered softly.

    Folcwain swept his eyes round the valley; all about the ruins sat, stood or wandered about a small company of goblins. He watched in silence as he slowly counted three within view. Finally, Folcwain rose, set an arrow to his bow and slowly made his way stealthily down into the vale.

    He crept towards the nearest goblin who was seated in the short grass beside a large rough boulder of bare rock. The goblin spoke to itself with a wicked voice, harsh and cruel it sounded, as it ran a crude whetting stone along the short blade of its sword atop its lap.

    Folcwain let out a soft whistle and the goblin looked up with surprise before leaping to its feet with a long snarl. A soft twang came from Folcwain’s bowstring as a pair of arrows whistled towards the goblin. The goblin cried out as the first arrow struck its leg and it stumbled forward; it took an unsteady step as the second lodged deep into its throat before faltering and crashed to the ground.

    Folcwain glanced about guardedly and then strode carefully to the fallen goblin. He took up his arrows, cleaned them on the grass and turned round to the sight of the next goblin. Quietly he crept towards the foul creature, his bow ready in his hands; but as he came round a broken pillar of stone jutting from the earth, there came a sharp bark to one side. At once Folcwain turned to spot another goblin; their eyes met before the goblin let out a hoarse snicker and sprang from the grass.

    Folcwain let fly an arrow from his bow, but the shot went wide and disappeared in the grass beyond. The goblin took several quick steps then halted, drawing back his arm. A short spear flew over Folcwain’s head and then another smote his shoulder only to spring back as it struck his stout hauberk of mail. Folcwain’s bow sang swiftly and there came a hoarse croaking scream as the goblin fell to the ground, an arrow passing through its throat.

    Folcwain spun round as the second goblin, its sharp ears alerted by the cries of its companion, flew at him with a short wicked blade in its hands. Folcwain’s bow slipped from his hands as he swept up knife and sword; at once their blades met with a sharp ring. For tense moments, they struggled with one another; the hideous goblin leaned in, bringing its yellow fangs close to his face. It shivered and licked its lips as its foul breath washed onto Folcwain’s face.

    Folcwain let out a cry and drove the goblin back; he leapt forward with a flurry of blows. Folcwain smiled as the goblin’s shield splintered and shivered as his sword beat down on it. The goblin wailed aloud in terror as Folcwain turned aside a clumsy stab of its blade. With a swift stroke, Folcwain swept the hideous head from the shoulders as the goblin tumbled to the ground lifeless.

    Folcwain bent down to wipe his sword on the grass and then stood to gaze about. When he was certain the valley hid no other foes, he turned west and came out into the grasslands beyond. From there he went north up a pathless slope towards the summit of a hill. When he reached the brow of the hill, Folcwain took in a deep breath, enjoying the faint smell of green and flower and then looked about.

    The hill crown was littered with ancient, blasted and moss-covered ruins, some nearly hidden in the short grass. He picked his way carefully through the crumbling masonry and cracked plinths to the far side and then looked round, turning his gaze north and west.

    To the west, the land fell sharply away below his feet and he now stared out over a vast miasmic swamp. Rising like sickly limbs from the fetid water were stunted trees half-shrouded in thick swirling mists that hinted at a much wider expanse of dismal land further on.

    Folcwain sat down upon a crumbling stone and drew from his pack a shriveled apple. He munched quietly on the meager meal, and gazed out over the marsh below for some time. Finally, with one last look, he turned from the hill and began making his way down to the north and east. The way was slow and plodding, for he searched as he went with keen eyes, always bent low to the ground. He halted only once more, resting a short while in a patch of thick brush among the folds and gullies of the rolling hills, before continuing on.

    The sun climbed well past noon and then passed slowly down the sky to the west as Folcwain neared the last of the rising hills of the rugged land. Suddenly, a sound came to his ears, a long echoing caw or cry, followed swiftly by several shorter ones.

    Folcwain tensed and turned his gaze about; his eyes halted upon a roost of large black crows perched in the boughs of a dark tree some distance to the east. He grew wary at once, crouched into the grass and gazed intently at the rooks. Much to his surprise, the unkindly-looking birds seemed to watch him eagerly in turn with dark, lidless and knowing stares. Then they let out a raucous trill and took to the air, wheeling and circling upwards before dwindling into the distance to the east.

    Only when the crows fell from view would Folcwain rise from the grass. He looked out where the rooks had flown and then turned to make the trek back down the highlands once more. The eastward sky had turned dim and dark, and the first hints of stars were slowing growing as the last fleeting light began to fade quickly, when the inn fell into view finally.

    Folcwain passed slowly and quietly into the inn; at once he was welcomed by the warm smoky glow of the hearths. He strode through the hall, ignoring the silent stares of the gloomy patrons. Setting down his pack and bow atop the bar, Folcwain hailed the old innkeeper.

    ‘Westu Analf hal!’ he said as he motioned for the old man’s ear.

    The proprietor turned and set down a mug of ale atop the bar; Folcwain gazed down at the drink and winced before pushing it aside with disgust. ‘I have returned with dire news,’ he said in a low guarded voice. ‘I came upon a vale to the north of here, riddled with long forgotten ruins. Within I found goblins; their numbers were far greater than I dared guess.’

    Folcwain fell silent, watching the old man expectantly. Yet Anlaf only nodded absently and turned aside to place several foaming mugs atop a tray at the end of the bar. Folcwain hesitated as he watched the seemingly unhurried innkeeper then fill several bowls of hot broth onto another empty tray on the bar.

    He watched the old man for some time and then spoke in a stern voice. Anlaf turned back, as if only now remembering the tall flaxen-haired man standing at the bar. He nodded quietly as Folcwain continued.

    ‘Three I found there in the ruins and dealt with them. I cannot say that the threat of their foul presence has been removed but their numbers have been thinned; the goblins will stalk the hills with more caution after this day.’

    Anlaf nodded once more silently as he took the neglected mug of ale and turned to pour it back into the barrel. Then he gazed at Folcwain and spoke. 'You've done me a favour, friend, and I feel that I owe you something. I've not much to spare other than a little coin, and that's not worth much this far from Bree. There are some others here at the inn that might have need of help. You should speak with my cook, Old Mugwort, and my server, Lieva Dourlily. Mugwort has a very strong dislike of anything associated with goblins, and Lieva has been working on a scarecrow meant to scare the goblins away. Why not speak with them? You've been a help to me, but you're not willing to leave it at that, are you?'

    Folcwain listened politely then shook his head and gazed grimly at the old innkeeper. ‘Nay, I am already delayed because of my business with you and I seek only the end of our agreement. It is time for you to honour our bargain. What can you tell me of wolves in these parts?'

    Anlaf glanced about the smoky room at the motley collection of folk in the tavern and then took a deep breath, his words coming with a stuttering voice. ‘Queer things you see these days. Yet I did spot a wolf, a big one, to the southeast of the inn, south of the road.’

    ‘A wolf?’ said Folcwain scowling. ‘And what else can you tell me of this wolf?’ Anlaf did not say more, but only shrugged and bent to begin wiping a filthy rag across the rickety bar. ‘Very well, to the east,’ said Folcwain finally with a sigh. ‘I thank you for your aid. It is not a thing I soon forget easily or swiftly, Anlaf the Forlorn!’

    He took up his pack and bow and then turned to make his way down to the dingy and bedraggled private room below the tavern. The room was very modestly prepared; a questionable and very-hard-looking bed and worn blanket stood against one wall and a filthy-looking bedroll was flung onto the floor beside it. A number of smoky candles atop a stand cast flickering light about the walls, whose crumbling plaster was easily seen.

    Folcwain sat down on the edge of the bed and set down his pack and bow. Yet he did not lie atop the bed but sat hunched in the dim flickering light of the smoky candles, grim and silent as a weary, sulking hawk. Dawn was still a far cry to its rise when at last Folcwain stirred and rose to his feet. A great weariness was about his heart, and yet his will was firm and decided. He made his up the stairs and through the silent, dark tavern to fade into the still darkness outside.

    The stars in the darkened sky twinkled brightly overhead as wisps of clouds passed the round shining moon as he set out at once. He crossed the road and picked his way silently until a stand of dark trees came into view. He suddenly halted and turned his gaze aside before darting quickly towards a patch of disturbed earth. There he stooped to survey the ground in a widening circle.

    In the earth he found a set of tracks, half-hidden in the short grass, many times larger than the biggest fox. To an untrained or unskilled hunter, the tracks of dogs and wolves would easily be mistaken for one another. But Folcwain was no such a huntsman; he knelt down and parted the grass to peer at the tracks.

    Folcwain could glean that the prints did not seem sharp or clear; he gently prodded the earth with a single hand and soon discovered that the ground was caked hard and his open palm left no molded print, a sure sign that the tracks were old.

    Yet, Folcwain did not feel displeasure at this find; the tracks hinted at a massive beast, larger than the fiercest hound. His eyes looked towards the direction from where the tracks led from and he swiftly saw that they showed the maker moved with deliberate motion and purpose over the open, flat ground. At once, he knew that the tracks were not left by a dog, which would wander almost aimlessly in a ceaseless cris-crossing fashion or travel. Folcwain’s keen eyes followed the tracks as they passed with clean strides across the ground towards the east and was lost from sight.

    Spurred by this find, Folcwain rose and sped after the trail, keeping his eyes to the ground. He soon passed from view of the inn, as the trail led towards a low treeless hillock within sight of a narrow vale to the east.

    With renewed hope, Folcwain sprang up the hillock and surveyed the ground with searching eyes for a continuation of the trail. Much to dismay, he found that the earth was trampled and upturned by the tusk and hoof of many boars. Frantically Folcwain drew round the hillock in a circling fashion until he was certain that the trail was hopelessly lost in the tumbled earth. He drew round the hillock once more in fruitless search before slowly coming to a halt.

    Folcwain sighed at the thought that the hunt had come so close to his grasp, only to be snatched from his hands. He turned and strode to the lip of the hill to gaze out over the land. There he stood, drawing his cloak about him and looked out with mournful eyes. Finally, he drew his longing eyes away and looked at the trampled earth before beginning the march down towards the inn.

  9. #9
    Ah what terrible luck! To get lucky and be given my first clue only to have the trail immediately be lost! So here is my first clue using the program I wrote:

    I have two options open on how to proceed; I can take another quest from an NPC and receive a second NPC clue, or search the wilds near the spot where the trail was lost (using Passage of Foes skill).

    At least the battle with the goblins went better than I expected - no major wounds and each was dispatched quite easily, much to my surprise (since Folcwain is only 20th level right now).

  10. #10

    Chapter Three: A Red Day – 20 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    Folcwain’s face was grim and his eyes without hope when he returned to the inn to make his way to the old innkeeper. He set down his bow and gazed at the old man. ‘What evil mischief has befallen me?’ said Folcwain slowly, his voice harsh and thickening. ‘I have begun this errant a fool and remain so. Your words rang true Anlaf the Forlorn. I discovered the spot you spoke of; the tracks I found were of no ordinary vale wolf, but a large beast...'

    The innkeeper looked up but said nothing, and mindlessly cleaned a mug with a dirty rag in his hand. Folcwain glanced about the quiet hall, and shook his head wearily. One or two newcomers watched him with uncertain eyes, but most of the Eglain had grown accustomed to the coming and goings of the strange flaxen-haired Man and now paid him little heed. Finally Folcwain spoke.

    'Alas! The ground was trodden by the hooves of boars and was lost from my sight...yet I cannot allow such ill-fortune to slow me.' Then Folcwain’s face grew very grim with indecision and doubt. ‘There is trouble upon all borders of my homeland and even now within them. But at what cost will this…’ His voice died away before he had asked the question in full.

    Analf nodded his head absently and turned to tap one the kegs lining the wall behind him. 'What of other sightings can you tell me?’ asked Folcwain after a pause. ‘I would not ask of another boon for you have held true to your word, yet I am in great need.'

    The innkeeper only shrugged and glanced over his shoulder. Folcwain fell very quiet for some time. Then he sighed. ‘Very well, perhaps others in the inn may have word of what I so desperately seek.'

    Folcwain turned round and his eyes passed over the quiet hall. His gaze paused on a woman nearer the hearth; she in turn was watching him with interest and misgivings. He reached for his bow and slowly approached her.

    'Hail, forgive my intrusion good lady, but I am need of dire aid. I seek news and word of wolves in the area round here. Nay, not any lone beast, but a great wolf chieftain.'

    The woman gazed searchingly into his eyes and then spoke. 'I hate the goblins, I do! Skulking thieves, the lot of them, sneaking about in the night so they can pick the best herbs and mushrooms! They'll soon pick the Lone-lands dry if they go unhindered -- not that there was much out here to begin with!’

    'True words,’ answered Folcwain. ‘I have faced these foul goblins in the short time since my arrival here. But what of my question?'

    Much to his surprise the woman reached down to lift up a water skin of sheep’s bladder and offered to Folcwain. 'I made a special draught for them, though,’ she said simply. ‘It'll make them sluggish and unruly -- maybe unruly enough to fight amongst themselves! And if not...well, it'll have other effects that just might make them change their minds about staying here.’

    Folcwain gazed long at the woman before speaking. 'Shrewd are your folk here,’ he said softly. ‘An outstretched hand is met by the same. And for doing as you ask, can I look for the answer that I seek upon my return?'

    The woman nodded her head gently. 'Take these draughts and pour them into the barrels located in the goblins' camps to the north-east of the inn at Weatherfoot, at the base of Weathertop. Return to me when the deed is done.'

    ‘The Men of the Mark do not suffer fools easily or gladly,’ said Foclwain as he gazes sternly at the woman. ‘And yet one deed pays another; I will dispense with this draught into their water and return when it is done.’

    With that, Folcwain turned, strode across the hall and down into the room below. There he rested for the few hours of night that were left, ate a little and drank some water from his skin. Even when the pre-dawn sky was still dim and pale, he set out.

    From the inn he went, and soon passed out of sight from the loungers in the grass about the front steps, who watched his departure with curious eyes. Foclwain turned away to the east to cross the dry stony ravine and through the thickets of trees atop the far bank. Ever he listened with straining ears for sounds of foot or hoof ahead and behind as he passed the crumbling ruins beyond. But now the ruins were ominously silent and he hurried past with great haste.

    The sun broke to the east and the morning began well enough, though the wind was blowing from the north-east. He soon began to climb a long slope and paused at the top beside old brawny bracken overshadowed by dark ash trees. There Folcwain turned his eyes thither to a long titled vale in the deep shadows of a towering hill.

    What greeted his gaze brought both surprise and dread to him; in the vale could been seen many camps, all lit by flickering torches and campfires. Black specks dotted the vale that seemed to go hurrying about in the growing light of the dawn. It seemed that a great host was assembled there, and the camps were set in a mustering fashion.

    Folcwain watched for some time, and then formed a plan; their numbers were many and he but one. He glanced down to his sword and counted the arrows in his quiver. There was skill at sword and bow within him, if he used them wisely, for he greatly needed a way to even the odds that must lie in the vale below.

    He crept forward on stealthy feet into the vale and it was not long when he neared one of the many camps. Folcwain halted beside a rugged ash tree and looked down into the camp. With watchful eyes, he spotted goblins within the camp, each clad in tunics of filthy leather and bore shields of wood and bronze; they were armed with wicked curved blades and axes or short stabbing spears and he counted four in all.

    Folcwain watched in silence for some time and did not stir to make his way into the camp, but waited in the shadow of the tree. Then he sunk several arrows into the earth at his feet and drew back his bow.

    There was a twang as an arrow shot through the air and there came a hoarse gurgling cry. The others looked up with surprise and hatred, then roared aloud and leapt up to charge forward to hew the intruder down.

    Folcwain drew his bow once more and a goblin fell writhing with an arrow through its throat. Now dread fell among the remaining goblins as they began to wail aloud with dismay and began falling back. His bow sang loud and strong and the last two fell into the grass, each riddled with arrows.

    Folcwain crouched beside the tree once more and listened for a while; when he was certain no alarm was raised, he slowly made his way into the camp. A swift search found him a crude barrel which held brackish, oily water; he glanced about then poured Lieva’s foul-smelling draught into the water. With one last look about, Folcwain crept from the camp on the far side.

    He had not taken many steps when suddenly he heard the sound of marching feet. It was some distance ahead, but he could see faint dark shapes coming up the slope. Folcwain set down his bow and drew his knife to begin digging several large holes into the earth in front of him. Very swiftly, he cut several sharp but short branches and sank them into the ground about the holes.

    He then crouched into the grass and set an arrow to his bow; he did not wait long; very soon there came into view goblins, marching in disorder bearing torches in their cruel hands. The leading goblin came loping along first as the others struggled to keep abreast, panting and bowing their heads low. Once or twice the lead goblin, its face hidden beneath an iron, closed-face helm, turned to bark something at the others in their foul tongue.

    Silently, Folcwain rose from the grass and loosened an arrow which flew through the air; a loud thud sounded as the arrow smote the shield of one of the straggling goblins. At once the goblins turned their swarthy eyes upon him; with snarls and curses, they charged forward but were met with a hail of arrows as he lifted his bow to the sky to loosen a volley into the air.

    The first fury of arrows fell among the goblins, who were unprepared for such an onslaught. Several arrows stuck quivering into their shields or fell harmless into the grass, but many more found their target. One goblin faltered and fell over as the others roared aloud and leapt forward; Folcwain watched as the goblins drew nearer with a curious smile. All of a sudden, the goblins stumbled and cried aloud as they passed into his laid trap.

    With a flash, Folcwain let the bow slip from his hands and swept up his sword to fall upon the faltering goblins; he hewed down their chieftain as the others foundered; some stumbled as their feet sank into the newly-dug holes or howled in pain as they were lanced by the sharp barbs. His sword rose and fell in the shining light of the sun until the last goblin was felled and the withered grass went red with their blood.

    Thus Folcwain hunted through the vale, felling all who crosses his path; noon was fast waning when he came to the last camp, on the northern end of the vale. There he climbed to a narrow ledge along the sheer cliffs that rose up; he stood now in the heat of the warming sun that shone bare in the bright sky above the towering hill.

    Within the camp he spied several goblins, their swarthy faces gleaming in the bright sunlight. Their voices were hoarse and cruel and the clink and creak of their armour and arms came easily to his ears. He watched warily and then took up and arrow.

    With sudden quickness, he loosened his bow but the shot went wide and thudded into the rough hide of the tent. The goblin turned about in surprise then looked about to follow where the arrow had flown from. It hissed and snarled at the hunter, drew a wicked blade then leapt up the slope to hew Folcwain down.

    Folcwain’s bow sang twice more and the goblin first stumbled then fell dead, his body riddled with arrows. At once, even before the goblin’s lifeless form came to rest in the hard earth, Folcwain drew back his bow. There came a shriek and a silenced cry as anther goblin came crashing down, an arrow passing through its throat.

    Last came the great warg that he glimpsed prowling about the edges of the camp. There was a sharp twang as he let loose his bow and there came a hideous yelp. The warg shook its arrow-bitten long mane with rage and snarled to spring forward with a slavering howl. An arrow arced through the air, glinting in the light of the sun, and plunged down into the heart of the great beast.

    Only when he dispensed with the last of Lieva’s draught in the now quiet camp did Folcwain turn from the vale and began to make his way towards the inn once more. As the afternoon drew on and the bodies of the many fallen goblins were discovered lying about the vale, a great dread fell among the ones that remained. That evening, as the goblins sat huddled beside their many fires, there grew a tale of a strange and fearsome horror that stalked the vale and slopes of the towering hill; a silent unseen shape, as quiet as a shadow, which walked about their camps to slay all it met.

  11. #11
    The attack upon the goblin camps in Weatherfoot was incredibly easy, which was not what I had expected. In my first attempt at this story (begun shortly before leaving Crickhollow to move to this server), I was constantly met by terrible luck and chance meetings of mobs that defied logic and belief.

    Folcwain once encountered a lone goblin in the hills above the Forsaken Inn, only to discover there was a stealthed wolf right beside the goblin; he was forced to fight both at the same time and neared died.

    Another time, Folcwain was surprised by not one lone stealthed wolf, but four all at once. He detected the stealth movements one of of the wolves and turned to kill it - that is when three others suddenly came into view as well! Naturally he fled on fast feet to get away from them...

    Although Folcwain is only 21st level - and facing off against mobs two or more levels above him, he is dealing with each in turn very easily. The part of the above chapter with the goblin patrol happened just like that. The chieftain was in fact the signature mob, Lûz, who was marching along with several goblins sort of wandering after him. It was one of those moment that I find sometimes while playing Total Immersion that makes me love this game more and more...

    I stopped counting after Folcwain slew the first dozen goblins about the camps - the number probably went over two dozen I think before he poured the last smelly draught into a water keg. This all gives me hope that Folcwain will triumph and survive this difficult story and come out victorious in the end

  12. #12

    Chapter Four: Hunting – 21 to 22 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    Folcwain stood thoughtful and silent beneath the arching boughs of a tall ash tree, his eyes gazing across the windswept grasslands and rising hillocks. The red rim of the sun was even now rising over the shoulders of the dark land as the shadows of night slowly melted away. The rise upon which he now stood went gently down to the east; beyond lay a narrow valley that rose up to one side to towering cliffs and to the other steep hills dotted with scattered trees.

    The memory of the days since he had left the inn seemed faint and uncertain to Folcwain, full of vague visions of dark lands rushing past, sung to by the sigh of steady winds. Before the dawn was in the sky, he had awoken and rose, then set out to take up the hunt into the lands the Eglain named Annunlos. Little else seemed prudent upon his return from the goblin-infested camps, for the Eglain woman, Lieva, offered only hinted rumours and whispered talk of nocturnal howling that sometimes could be heard from the safety of the inn.

    And so, he had made the difficult choice of returning to the wilds to seek signs of the hated Láthnéat, should his skill proved themselves, and pursue the beast if luck would have it. Little did he now recall of the journey from the inn and into Annunlos, passing through the desolate lands with determined speed and with only the briefest of halts before continuing onwards ever more.

    And yet, cleverness or fortune seemed to elude him, for the trail he found proved faint and difficult to follow. Sometimes the trail seemed to wander, almost by deliberate and maddening mischievousness; the trail meandered to the east, only to turn back over itself many times. More disquieting was the melting away of the trail; more than once Folcwain found the tracks lost in the hard earth, or would become mingled with the tracks of other beasts.

    That was the first day, and it was not until dusk had settled deeply, when Folcwain cast himself upon the ground and slept. When the eastward sky had begun to turn pale and the stars began to fade, he woke to take a scant meal before springing away. The long hours of relentless pursuit marched on and the sky was filled with sweeping clouds and a fitful sun; seldom that day did he halt for rest as the lands faded over his shoulder.

    For the first hour of the dawning day, Folcwain had taken up the hunt once more but with bitter hopelessness, for the trail had grown cold even before he camped. Now, he bent low to the ground with discouraging eyes. Just as he was about to turn aside, his eyes came to rest upon the sight of deep prints below the ridge. He sprang down and there in the soft earth were the marks of something large and powerful having passed with long loping strides towards the north and east.

    Folcwain ‘s keen eyes followed the tracks as they passed with clean strides across the ground and into the valley and then fell from sight in the distance. He leapt forward with a cry and began to pursue the trail, his watchful eyes turned down to the ground as the tracks pressed on with all possible speed.

    After a time, he slowed his pace as he neared a narrowing in the valley then turned his head to listen. The soft whistling sound of the wind crept into his ears and far off, came the lonesome croaking of an unseen bird.

    Folcwain stood tall and was about to spring away when he froze and shrank back with wariness. His eyes darted their sight forward where a shadowy shape seemed to glint in the filtered sunlight underneath the canopy of a tortured tree. Suddenly there was a twang and a wooden bolt shot past Folcwain followed by a hoarse curse.

    From the shadow stepped an Orc, man-high and clad in dark mail. His broad swarthy face snarled at Folcwain and then out a sudden outcry and leapt at him with a cruel wide-bladed axe held in large hands. With a crash, the two foes met, blade and axe clashing as one before springing back in the air.

    The Orc roared and swept forward with the axe; Folcwain’s sword rang and his arm numbed as he desperately turned aside the blow. Folcwain cried aloud in a clear voice and rained several blows upon the Orc with rapid swiftness; but the Orc only laughed as he turned each aside so that only the weakest of blows found their mark.

    Then Folcwain staggered back clutching his arm, his dagger slipping into the grass as the Orc’s axe shorn through his mail sleeve with a wide sweep. Blood ran freely down his arm as Folcwain fell back under more blows of the Orc. With a horrible laugh, the Orc rose tall, his axe held high above his head to hew the Man’s head from his shoulders.

    Folcwain too rose, the sun gleaming upon mail and sword; with a great cry he flung himself at the Orc even as the axe fell only to sink harmlessly into the earth. For a moment, Orc struggled to lift the axe from the ground and then shrieked aloud as Folcwain swept up his dagger and dug in into its thick leg. The Orc’s eyes grew dark and it leapt back and turned to run; but Folcwain followed and his blade passed through the Orc. The Orc gave a hideous cry and fell to the earth silent.

    Folcwain winced as he drew back from the silent Orc and then lifted the mail from his arm; the wound was not deep but it flowed freely. Yet it did not appear poisoned, as many wounds of orc-blades often are, and he soaked it with water from his flask before wrapping clean strips of linen round his arm.

    Folcwain turned to depart then suddenly paused to look down at the Orc once more; he stooped and picked up something from the grass. He held in his hand a thing that glittered faintly in the sunlight. It seemed a piece of worthless jewelry much tarnished and stained with time, but as he turned the pendant over in his hand, he found a faint inscription engraved on the back:

    ‘I will ever and always love you. – D’

    Beneath the inscription was carved a raised relief of a rearing beast or great cat. Folcwain turned the pendant over but found nothing more. ‘Too precious a thing to discard or leave aside,’ he muttered quietly. Yet little more could he learn from this riddle, so Folcwain slipped the pendant into his pack.

    Once again, the land swept swiftly past as Folcwain prusued the trail by the clear light of day. It seemed that the beast continued its deliberate wandered course, because for every turn, the trail always went to its an easterly course. Slowly, the sun climbed past noon and then rode slowly down the sky; light clouds came up out of the distant south only to be blown away upon the breeze. Then the sun sank and shadows rose, reaching their long arms across the land. And still he went on.

    As night began to close about him, Folcwain halted along the bleak and darkened slopes of a steep hill that now loomed over the lands about. He set down his pack and bow, and then began to gather a handful of dry grass and broken wood or fallen branches. Within minutes there was a whiff of smoke from the pile he laid out on the ground; Folcwain fanned the flickering flames with the hem of his cloak and piled larger wood over the growing fire.

    Folcwain settled down beside the fire and gazed out from his camp. The hill was bare and the brush scattered along the far slope where there stood a few twisted ash-trees. Already the twilight was about the land but he was content, seated in the warmth of the fire. He turned his eyes upwards where stars leapt out above and the sky was clear and cold. For some time he sat with watchful eyes in the flickering glow of the fire but he saw no sign of enemy or spy in the darkness. Finally, Folcwain threw the last wood atop the flames and stretched out beside the fire. He listened to the soft night wind, then laid his head down onto the grass and slept.

    A wind sprang up and rustled through the bent grass when Folcwain awoke before the coming dawn. He climbed to his feet and gazed out over the quiet lands, a dull reddish hue creeping slowly into the sky to the east.

    Suddenly, he started and turned towards a faint and distant glint in the gathering light. To the east there now could be seen rising towers and walls that seemed broken and crumbling; but soon his keen eyes spotted wisps of rising smoke from what seemed only ruins at first glance.

    Folcwain collected his bedroll and kicked the remaining coals in the fire, then took up his bow to begin jogging to the north and east. Slowly the fortress grew closer and at once up there sprang towering walls of stone on the far side of the road. At the foot of the walled hill stood a narrow vale that was gained by a faded and much worn path from the road behind. At one end of the vale could be seen a simple stables from whence came the familiar sounds of horses within. Rough and broken stairs rose from the vale; at the top stood a formidable gate, though it too bore signs of ancient visage and ruin as the walls and towers above.

    For a moment, Folcwain stared out over the ancient fortress, crossed down into the vale and climbed the steps until he came to a halt at the gates. There stood men in worn but formidable mail and well-used weapons who sprang to their feet and barred the way further with spear and drawn bow. Interest filled their faces at his arrival but showed little warmth as they looked on with dark eyes upon the newcomer.

    For a moment, Folcwain returned their gaze with disquiet, then slung his bow over one shoulder and slowly approached under their fortified glances of dislike and distrust. Then he halted and raised both hands in peace as one of the guards spoke, demanding his name and errand.

    ‘Folcwain, son of Aldwic I am,’ replied Folcwain slowly and without hostility. ‘The Fifth Héafod of Snowbourn in the Riddermark.’

    ‘You must be lost to have found us,’ said one of the watchful guards as he looked warily the stranger at the gates.

    'Lost? I was at first but I am no longer,’ answered Folcwain simply. ‘I come in friendship to you and without malice. Your tongue was strange to me when I first heard it but no more. Yet long has been my journey from the Forsaken Inn to reach here and weary I am now.'

    The guards glanced at one another and then the strong gates were swung open. He found a wide stair of hewn stone falling down into the fortress courtyard beyond. Many crumbling and half-repaired stone structures filled the wide courtyard below, mingled with smoky campfires, tents and ruined pillars of a lost magnificence.

    Folcwain strode down into the courtyard to walk among the many Eglain there. Near the stairs he came to a lofty crumbling hall and from within came pitiful sounds and groans. Folcwain turned, bent his head to cross through the archway and stepped into the interior of the wide hall.

    There he gazed out over a collection of simple beds and cots spread across the stone floor; each bore a sleeping form or shuddering person in great pain. This was the healing house of Ost Guruth, under the care of Strangsig, a gentle woman wise and skilled in the art of healing of the wounded, hurt and sick. As Folcwain gazed at the sad sight, he could see that many of the folk within were sickened with some malady or illness, while others were stricken with the wounds of battle.

    Great was the healer’s skill, but little could she do to stave the constant flow of the such in need that grew daily as the Elgain fought an unending battle against the foes that sought to sweep them from their last and only place of refuge. Folcwain’s face grew mournful as the light of the narrow windows shone upon their grey faces that reflected looks of forlorn and hopeless despair.

    Presently, a woman approached Folcain, her face softened with lines of care. She paused and looked into the fair face of the man of Rohan with patient silence. Folcwain gazed about the halls and then down to the woman. ‘Greetings good lady,’ he said with great respect. ‘I thought this to be a garrison hall, yet it is not. It seems more a place of healing for those who are sick and injured.’

    The woman turned to whisper softly to an aid who strode up to speak quietly into her ear; the healer then turned back to Folcwain with a nod to his question but said nothing more. Folcwain’s face beamed with a glimmer of hope and began to speak with swift words.

    ‘Ah very good then! These folk will long remember the care you give and, in that, will arise hope in this terrible darkness,’ he said simply. ‘I am need of no healer, but I do seek word of a companion that was lost to me. He is garbed in the manner as I am and I fear the worst for him. Please, tell me of any such strangers that have come to you in such need.’

    The woman gazed up into his eyes with genuine concern but shook her head slowly before she spoke. ’I am a healer, that much is true, good master. Yet I do not know how I can aid you in your desperate search for your missing companion.’

    For a moment, Foclwain’s face grew grey and his eyes misted with tears. ‘Alas, I could not have hoped for such luck. And yet that does not end my search for him, no matter how long the road takes me. I thank you nevertheless, and will delay you work further.’

    Folcwain bowed his head and went out of the healing house with a heavy heart. He questioned a passing Elgain outside and was soon shown to others of the Elgain guard camped round the many camps nearer the stairs. There he was warmly welcomed by them and he made what merriment that could be had under the restless gloom that hung upon the forsaken fortress.

    Folcwain took a meal among the men gladly and talked in hushed tones with the Men as the morning passed and afternoon drew on to dusk. Then, as weariness fell upon him, he was led to a simple tent; there he rolled into bed and soon fell asleep.

  13. #13
    One major rule for Total Immersion play is that I restrict my camera angles while traveling - I don't zoom the camera far out, above and forward, and restrict my path of vision to what my toon can see. Thus no peekign round a large boulder or over a ridge before my toon could actually view it.

    What that makes me do is to be very careful while traveling and to keep moving the camera to one side then the other to look for mobs. When Folcwain met the half-orc, I became distracted by one of my cats, so I walked right near the half-orc who proceeded to fire its crossbow before charging forward.

    But Folcwain has arrived in Ost Guruth, a bit under-level (still at 21st level when he arrives), and so quests will be fairly difficult to run from here on. And he also questioned his first NPC Healer on the whereabouts of Holwine but my luck did not help me this time...

    Last edited by Brucha; Jun 28 2013 at 03:13 PM.

  14. #14

    Chapter Five: The Hill of Rain – 23 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    In the dead of night, Folcwain was awakened by a quiet Eglain guard outside the tent. Folcwain muttered softly as he peered out into the darkened air and then nodded as the man, who turned round to briskly disappear into the gloom.

    Folcwain rubbed the sleep from his eyes and reached for his bow and sword. He crawled from under the tent and stood up, strapping his sword and belt round his waist, before striding over to the softly glowing fire. There he found two guards speaking quietly in quiet tones and hushed voices. He stood beside the fire gazing down into the flames until one of the Eglain nodded to the other and looked up to gaze into Folcwain’s eyes. Only then did Folcwain speak.

    ‘I received your summons, Tortwil,’ he said slowly. ‘Of what did you wish to speak with me?’

    The Eglain fell silent, glanced up into the darkened sky and did not speak straight away. Finally he turned to look into Folcwain’s bright eyes.

    'No doubt you've seen spindly crawlers weaving their webs and trapping their prey, which happens to be anything that has life within its veins. Crawling monstrosities is what they are! Nothing good comes from them, and I have seen too many fall prey to their hidden nests.’

    Once again, the Eglain fell silent to stare down into the crackling fire. Folcwain nodded but did not speak, waiting for the man to continue. When the man did so, his soft eyes were misted and a sense of great loss and grief washed over his face.

    'By my word, you may know that my wife and son fell to the brood, but they were not the only ones to fall to the spiders in that vale. The Eglain have lost so many through the years. Other families have lost siblings and loved ones to the spiders and, more recently, to the Wargs stalking the wild.’

    'I have a request for you, which may prove fruitless, yet I hope it shall yield solace for many. In Amon Ros, where the spiders dwell, you likely saw many sacs of eggs. These sacs will bring more evil into the world and the grief will continue.’

    Folcwain passed a hand over his face as he spoke hesitantly. ‘Any request for aid I give willingly to you and your people for such hospitality that you have granted me. What is it that I can do?'

    'Will you go and destroy the eggs before they hatch?’ said Tortwil as his face softened. ‘The spiders' numbers grow each day, while the good folk of Ost Guruth dwindle.'

    Folcwain eyes grew dark and grim and his words trembled as he struggled to speak. ‘I cannot speak enough to grant you the sorrow of your loss. Yet this small request I will do gladly, Tortwil. I will seek this Amon Ros at first light.’

    The Eglain smiled at the words of the stranger and then laid a hand upon Folcwain’s shoulder. 'Scour the ruins of Amon Ros and destroy any egg sacs you may find. Hope may be scarce, but at least you may slow the spread of the spider-brood in Nain Enidh.'

    Folcwain turned aside and returned to his tent; he did not return to sleep, but sat quietly beside the fire and listened to the crackling logs mingled with the snores of the Elgain in the nearby tents. He drew from his pack some wrinkled apples and a hard crust of bread and ate sullenly for some time. When his meager meal was finished, he took his bow and climbed to his feet.

    Folcwain went from the camp and made his way through the courtyard. He climbed the long stairs and passed through the gates to stand for a moment gazing out over the land outside. The formless view lay quiet and ominous, and seemed to frown and glower at him with evil purpose.

    The moon was still riding pale across the sky when he set out, down into the vale at the feet of the walls, and turned westwards, disappearing into the murky blackness. Slowly and cautiously Folcwain went as the towering walls of Ost Guruth fell from sight over his shoulder. At length he stopped and leaned against the trunk of a withered tree.

    The ground before him now began to climb upwards along a steady slope towards a rise in the earth. There lay a patch of blackness darker than the night itself that seemed to loom up, blanketing out the faint stars overhead. Rising out of the blackness could be seen tall cliffs and Folcwain could see a faded and worn path leading to an opening between the shoulders of the cliff walls.

    He strode carefully through the darkened trough, the sound of his heavy boots seeming to hover dangerously into the unmoving air. Folcwain took only a few steps when he halted and choked back a breath as a strange odour reached him; not the odour of decay, but a repellant noisome stench. He slung his bow and slowly drew his sword from its scabbard.

    Beyond the trough, the ground widened into a long coombe that led away further to the west. There lay a greyness, dull and heavy; across the width of the ground were thick webs that blanketed the floor of the coombe. They climbed up the sheer walls or into the strangled trees like a vast network of clutching arms. There too he spied jagged pinnacles of ruined stone; columns and crumbling walls tor and carven over countless biting years and forgotten winters.

    Folcwain began to pick his way stealthily along the coombe and, as he drew near the ruins, something caught his eye. It was a silken sac, wrapped in white-coloured thread, and nestled in thick webs at the base of the cliff to the right. He looked about with uneasiness and then slowly approached.

    He knelt beside the cocoon, set down his sword and drew his dagger, then began sawing at the thick threads. It was not easy work, for the strands were strong and tough and resistant to his blade. At length, he cut it open and gazed down at the soft whitish eggs clutched inside. Folcwain grimaced as they each seemed to quiver with unseen movement inside.

    Folcwain took out a flint and steel and after only a few short seconds, there sparked a flame as the cocoon leapt up with fire. He stepped back as the flames engulfed the sac and did not stir until the cocoon collapsed in upon itself. Folcwain then glanced about and began stalking about the coombe, setting flame to all cocoons he could uncover or find. His eyes watched keenly about as he went, and always looking back as well.

    As the flames slowly began to fade and die on the fourth cocoon, Folcwain drew up and looked about the basin. He sensed great evil all about him; and he felt as if he was walking into a trap, but of what he could not tell. He sheathed his sword and drew his bow from his back.

    After a time, Folcwain passed up a slight slope to a level hollow that overlooked the darkened lands about. For a moment, the bleak darkness shimmered and he could glimpse faint stars overhead; but the inky blackness soon enveloped the sky and all grew dim and dark once more.

    Folcwain took a step forward when suddenly there came to his sharp ears a sound, a sort of skittering and hissing. He turned swiftly and set an arrow to the string of his bow, then began to tremble as a sense of great evil washed over him and he grew faint.

    As he turned, his eyes caught a flash of movement issuing from the webs and crevices to the right, as the monstrous and loathsome form he ever beheld came into view. Spider-like it was in shape, pale-yellow fleshed, many-eyed it was, older and more horrible than the foulest Orc.

    Holding back a cry of horror, Folcwain let loose a volley of arrows in swift succession; but to his dismay the hide of the thing was great, and many of the arrows snapped or sprang back. The monstrous thing moved forward with sudden and horrible speed, running and springing along its many legs.

    As it neared, Folcwain let his bow fall to the ground and he swept out his sword. But he was not prepared for the speed of the thing and it drove him back with its monstrous body. Folcwain cried aloud as his blade shorn through one spindly, hairy leg; even as he did, he cried out as the venomous fangs of the spider lanced his leg. Suddenly, the spider sprang back, and Folcwain stood reeling, his leg unable to steady him.

    The spider gathered itself for another spring, bent upon crushing its hapless victim under its tremendous weight. Folcwain’s leg felt cold and limp, and the world seemed to turn to a gray haze of nothingness. Then the thing leapt forward; Folcwain made a great sweeping swing, and slashed at the horribly-bloated form with a desperate stroke. His blade scored its bulbous body and he lurched forward to bury his sword deep into the cluster of great eyes. A shudder went through its body, and green sickly ooze welled from the deep wound. The spider collapsed to the ground and went very still.

    Folcwain staggered back and fell to the ground; he felt weak and sick, and could not move for some time. He cleansed the wound and wrapped it with dry dressing and, only when some warmth and strength slowly returned, did he climb slowly and unsteadily to his feet.

    He soon came to a faded path that led towards a deep ravine; on the far side the path wound further onwards past rising cliffs into the darkness beyond. But to Folcwain’s dismay, the far side could only be reached by a slender stone bridge which spanned the ravine, and it lay broken at the center.

    Folcwain sniffed the air and looked doubtfully across the span. He strapped his bow across his back, tightened his pack, and then stepped towards the edge cautiously. Turning his gaze down, he saw that the floor of the ravine was lost in a deeper blackness below.

    He took several steps back from the edge and drew a long breath, before spring forward with a great leap. Yet, as his boots left the stone, Folcwain saw at once his folly. The span across the broken bridge was far wider than he hopes and the spider’s venom had made him very weak. His feet landed on the very edge of the far side of the bridge; he swayed and teetered for several moments and then slipped off and downwards into the darkness with a cry.

    Folcwain landed heavily upon the ground, his legs jarring from the fall and his breath. He groaned softly and rubbed his back before he stood up and steadied himself. What he saw in the dimness was that the ravine swept under the bridge above, its walls glistening with a faint silver sheen of webs. He took a step forward only to shrink back with great alarm.

    Suddenly, some prescience of coming malice or evil filled his heart as two great clusters of eye, monstrous and abominable glittered from the darkness ahead. To his growing horror, they seemed to be filled with a hideous hunger such as no beast ever showed.

    For long moment, Folcwain’s gaze was held by the dreadful stare of the cold eyes, and they slowly began to creep towards him, unhurried. The eyes drew nearer then halted, quietly watching him from the darkness, gloating, glittering with cruel amusement. Suddenly there came a hissing and a horrible spider-shape came leaping out the gloom, hurrying forward upon great, bent spindly legs.

    Folcwain’s bow sang as several arrows leapt from its string and flew towards the spider. One or two dug deep into its corpulent body, but many more glanced off or shattered. At once the spider was upon him; Folcwain kicked at the horrible head with a heavy boots and, with astonishing speed, sprang back. He swept out his sword and hewed at the spider. The first stroke sprang back and his arm jarred from the blow, but he stabbed downwards, sinking the blade deep into the spider’s back.

    The spider convulsed and shivered before collapsing to the stone floor. Black drops of foul ichor dripped from the blade as Folcwain staggered back with surprise. He looked at his arms and legs, and found no marks of the foul spider’s bite. With a carefully glance about, Folcwain began to follow the winding ravine to the north.

    He soon found that the ravine came out onto the grassy lands to the east; the grey sky outside was still dark as he emerged from the ravine, but a reddening glow was creeping up as the dawn drew near. Folcwain sprang into the grass with relief, gladdened to be free of that foul place.

    The dawning sun was just breaking over the horizon when the walls of Ost Guruth came into view. Folcwain paused to look back towards the still-darkened ruins of Amos Ros, and then wearily began to ascend the long steps towards the gates. Once through the gate, he gazed across the wide courtyard before making his way to the guard camp.

    ‘I have returned with news, Tortwil,’ he said as he approached the camp and halted. ‘The hills west of here, of the place you called Amon Ros, is a foul and forbidding place. I no naught the ruins found there, but no living man now dwells within. It is now the haunt of many great and horrible spiders.'

    But the guard did not speak straight away; instead, he turned to hush the murmuring of the other Eglain about the fire, who now drew near to hear the return of the tall, fair-haired stranger. The Eglain pressed round the young Eorlingas, staring at him and listened with wonder to Folcwain’s news. The Elgain then turned to Folcwain and asked for the tale once more and they began to feel that their fear was lifted from them with such a victory even in these harsh lands.

    ‘I did as you asked; within those ruins I uncovered many an egg cocoon of the foul horrors and put fire to each. Not desolate was that place, however. Many a spider haunted, and still haunts, Amon Ros and I brought bow and sword to several before escaping back here.’

    ‘Your efforts to curb the spread of the spiders may bring at least some respite from our grief,’ cried Tortwil aloud and he extended a hand towards the Eorlingas. ‘You have my thanks, Folcwain!' But then Tortwil called for silence and he turned to Folcwain once more.

    'All that you have done for the Eglain proves your honour. I shall not doubt your intentions again, but I shall ask one more favour of you.’

    Folcwain lowered his head at such praise and his fair blushed crimson. ‘My deeds pale to what your brave people face each dawning of the new sun, Tortwil. I gladly gave what little aid I could to stem the tide of such terrible afflictions you face here and yet for what success I have brought, I cannot say. But come; tell me of this new favour you ask.’

    Tortwil looked at the others and then spoke with but a whisper. 'I am sure you have seen that a variety of spiders stalk the shadows of Amon Ros. You may also have seen the elders of this vile brood. It is they who are to be feared the most.’

    There came a murmuring from the others at these words, and a grim silence fell over the Elgain. It was only broken when Tortwil spoke anew.

    'I ask now that you return to Amon Ros and slay the elders,’ he said clear and loud, and stood tall before the Eorlingas. ‘They have lived for too long, preying upon the helpless, and must be destroyed.'

    Folcwain did not speak, but gazed at the Eglain for a time, their eyes gazing back at him with a sense of hope. Finally he spoke.

    ‘I have little desire to return to that dreadful place,’ he began slowly. ‘And yet how can I refuse such a task, Tortwil? The loss you have suffered by these horrors cannot be unmended – yet, if the slaying of these elders would offer you some peace, then I shall do so willingly.'

    Folcwain stood tall before the Eglain and drew his sword in offering. ‘But I am forced to ask…nay beg, a small boon, Tortwil. I desire news of a wolf, a great chieftain in your lands. I would look kindly on whatever you can tell me of such a thing upon my return…’

  15. #15
    I think that my eagerness to get on with Folcwain's story has gotten the better of me. I now see the sheer madness of leaving the Forsaken Inn so soon. Folcwain was only 21st level when he arrived in Ost Guruth - naturally, the first quest he accepts is not only 26th level, but the spiders that haunt Amon Ros are also 26th level...

    Not to mention Folcwain is armed with only a 18th level bow, not the best for such mobs. Oh well...

    The fall from the bridge was of course true to form and entirely my fault; after fighting the first spider, I toggled Walk and strode across. Somehow I managed to forgot to toggle Run back on to try to leap over the gap...leaping does not work very well without a good run at it first!

  16. #16

    Chapter Six: Elders in the Shadows – 24 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    All about the darkened fortress of Ost Guruth the twilight deepened. The guards atop the stairs at the gate drew their cloaks about them as the wind began to blow chill and cold. The lands around were dark and formless and a waxing moon slid slowly and silently, shining pale and thin, across the sky.

    One of the Eglain there at the gate cupped his hands to warm them in his misted breath, and then stopped short; as he stared out into the gloom, he spotted a dark formless shadow moving through the vale below. With silent strides it seemed to glide across the vale, past dark and scattered trees, their boughs rustling with withering leaves in the chilled wind.

    At the foot of the stairs, the figure halted and disappeared unmoving in the darkness. Then there came the sound of heavy boot steps, slow and steady, climbing up the steps. A fear gripped the guards, of some nameless threat unseen approaching. Then the footsteps stopped and the Eglain squinted into the gloom as a coat of mail gleamed faintly in the dark.

    One of the guards drew down a torch from the wall and held it aloft; at once they glimpsed a face within the edges of the flickering light: the dark and grim face of a fair-haired man. The guards shrank back and drew their bows and swords and stood trembling for a moment.

    But the man did not stir; he bowed his head, his long fingers were quiet at his side. One of the guards muttered something, a word or two in their tongue but said nothing more. For some time none of the guards spoke or dared the slightest move.

    The strange man to did not utter a sound, but stood still and silent in the space before the gate. At last he raised his face, besmeared with dust and blood, and spoke very slowly. ‘Fear not, I am no Orc or horror out of the wilds,’ he said in a soft but deep voice.

    ‘I am called Folcwain and I must speak with Tortwil, for I bear news for him and him alone to hear.’

    Feeling less fearful of the man now, the Eglain began to murmur among themselves to his sudden and strange arrival at the gate. He in turn said nothing for a time, but his gaze met theirs. He laughed then, a short laugh, that of a man who thinks himself a fool or mad. The Eglain looked up with curious eyes at the smile that lingered on his fair face.

    ‘…out of doubt, out of dark to the day’s rising…’ he said softly and without pride, his eyes turned to the ground. Then he rose tall, and stern now came his words.

    ‘Let me pass,’ he said in a hardened voice. ‘I must speak with Tortwil at once and cannot tarry here a moment more.’

    The men fell back before the command of his voice and delayed him no further and Folcwain strode swiftly through the gate. He wrapped himself in his fluttering cloak and descended quickly from the gate and into the courtyard below. He found Tortwil and the others seated round the camp fire; they stood up as he approached with heavy grim steps.

    Folcwain came to a halt in front of the gathered Men. ‘It is done,’ he said, his voice deepening and head bowed low. ‘The Eldest of the shadows are no more, yet their brood still haunts that forsaken place and I fear that the perils of their presence remains. The memory of that place will lie heavy with me long after I leave this land.’

    Folcwain looked about as there comes a low murmuring from the Eglain, but Torwil raised a hand for silence. For a moment darkness passed over Folcwain’s face and he was as still and silent as death. His shoulder slumped as if from a great weariness.

    ‘The first of the Elders I found with ease,’ he said at last, slowly, as if looking back on an unwanted memory of pain and horror. ‘For never did they dare perceive one to come hunting for them in their own webs. Out it sprang from the shadows even as I bent arrow to bow, and its fangs dripped with venom no herb would avail against.’

    ‘I lifted my bow as the horrible spider thing let forth a thin creaking and hissing sounds before scurrying towards me on rapid spindly legs. It’s fangs were about me, and legs clutching my cloak and mail, and my skin burned from the slightest droplet from its maw.’

    ‘Ever I hewed it until it lay silent at my feet. My mail glistened with its ichor and green blood and my limbs scratched and bleeding, but nary a bite did I suffer.’ Folcwain fell silent once more, and looked out with unseeing eyes before speaking.

    ‘Onwards I pressed through the ruins of the place you named Amon Ros. The second Elder was found swift enough. It came as a sound at first, much like that of rustling dry dead grass, which reached my ears from the darkness ahead. A monstrous spider it was, skittering into view as I let forth a hoarse cry and loosened my bow; there was a twang as an arrow struck the many-clustered eyes atop the spider’s bulbous body.’

    ‘And yet on it came and I stabbed down with my blade, deep into the back of the thing. The Elder convulsed and shivered before collapsing to the stone floor. Black drops of foul blood dripped from my blade as I staggered back with gladdened relief.’

    Folcwain again paused and sighed, and turned his eyes softly to the sky. He took in a welcome breath of the air.
    ‘But the hunt was not complete, for the final Elder seemed to elude my skill; long I hunted the ruins in search of it and it was the thing itself that I found was stalking me. I had halted in the darkness with keen ears, hoping for some sign of the thing when suddenly I spied an unwholesome gleam in the gloom ahead. I peered careful as it seemed to advance from the darkness very slowly. Suddenly I cried out as the realization set in that the gleam were eyes; two great clusters of eyes.’

    ‘This was the most terrible of the three, I think. Crafty and wary it was, as I drew blade and the thing gathered its massively-repellant body to spring forward with a great leap. Green venom dripped hissed and sputtered onto the stone as it came at me.’

    ‘Though my sword was notched and mail rent, I triumphed by will alone. When the third Elder fell unmoving, never to rise and stalk the lands here, did I stagger down the slopes from the ruins and through the grass at a run.’

    ‘With every step, the darkness of that dreadful place seems to lessen in my heart. As the towering walls of Ost Guruth fell into view ahead I slowed before letting forth laughter. I was unscathed and still stood, and the despair was fast depleted from my heart.’

    As Folcwain fell silent and his tale closed, the Eglain began to stir and murmur with astonishment. Once again, Tortwil lifted his hand and there was silence. At length Tortwil spoke.

    'This news will ease the suffering of many, said Tortwil, looking at Folcwain. ‘Though it seems a task without thought, we are not a people accustomed to venturing against such foes. You are a hero to the Eglain and deserve all that you shall receive in reward.'

    'Nay not a hero, you should not name me so. It is only a great dread and peril that drives me forth to wrong a terrible grievance that I have brought upon myself.’

    To this Tortwil only shook his head and smiled. He called for one of his men who brought up a set of fine leather boots and crafted helm. Tortwil took each and turned them to Folcwain; the Eorlingas muttered soft thanks and bowed very low to the Eglain.

    'I will wear these proudly Tortwil, and they will recall to my mind this day of our meeting and friendship in such dark times.'

    Folcwain bid the Eglain farewell and turned to make his way to a quiet tent. Then he sat down, unslung his pack, took out a piece of dry bread, and munched on it. He unstopped his leather bottle of water and sipped it slowly. He put the pack behind him for a pillow, pulled his cloak around him, and lay down. He lay there quietly, legs crossed at the ankle; his gaze wandered into the reddening sky as the dawn approached; he sighed and closed his eyes. The light grew slowly brighter. He slept.

    Folcwain was roused by an Eglain guard. The dawn had long since risen, pale and bright, the westering sun was masked behind billowing clouds and the wind blew strong and chilled from the north. A loaf of bread was set out for him, beside a mug of thin ale. He sat up yawning and ate the meager food.

    As his sat back to sip the last of the ale, Folcwain looked about with slow eyes as the Eglain came and went around the camp. He sat up abruptly as he felt something in his pocket. It was the tarnished pendant left forgotten until now. He took it from his pocket and his eyes fell upon the carved relief of the rearing beast. Folcwain’s eyes then turned to one of the banners atop the walls and at once he saw a resemblance in the engraved symbol.

    He rose and, taking his leave from the camp, Folcwain went into the courtyard. There he began speaking with all who he met, showing the pendant and asking any of news of its owner. He began to grow weary and devoid of hope to find anyone who could grant him answers when Folcwain approached a smith in the market quarter of the courtyard.

    'Forgive my intrusion as you are busy with your craftwork and smithy,’ he said politely to the auburn-haired young man. ‘I seek the bearer of a strange necklace I found in the wilds near this place. Cherished it must be to it’s rightly owner, or so the inscription makes me believe.' He then lifted the pendant from his pocket and held it aloft.

    The man’s face suddenly washed with a sense of great anguish; but he pushed back the pain and looked up at Folcwain with a slight smile. 'This is my wife's,’ he said simply, his voice breaking slightly as he took the pendant in hand. ‘I gave it to her before we came to live with the Eglain. It was lost when she was struck down at Naerost.’

    For a moment, the man spoke no further and tears fell unashamed down his gentle face. He then looked once more on Folcwain and spoke. 'You have given me something that I cannot truly repay, but I will give you something of import to me in an effort to repay you.'

    Folcwain eyes grew soft and he bowed his head deeply. 'Nay, with such a loss I could never ask for such payment, nor could I accept it. That this cherished pendant’s return would spring such remembrance with you is reward enough; and perhaps it’s reclaim will bring hope despite these foul and dark times.’

    He bowed his head once more and went up the long stairs and through the gates; there he stood silently for some time. Folcwain looked up at the walls and the banners that flew there, then at the gate behind. The sun was now climbing westwards and the shadows of the fading day were drawing long. Finally his gaze turned down to the narrow vale below and his eyes came to rest on a simple stable nearer the foot of the stairs.

    Folcwain smiled slightly, climbed down the steps and slowly approached the open air stable and towards a grim-looking dwarf who could only be the horse-master. A beautiful mare stuck its head over the fence, tossed its head and stamped the earth. Folcwain again smiled as he gently stroked its great flank and mane. He then turned to the dwarf, and spoke.

    'I am Folcwain, son of Aldwic, master dwarf. You have a fine stock of horses here, master dwarf. I would be foolish not to take one of them, and yet I seek another. Nay not from another master, but my own. Hálasfal is his name, a magnificent grey mare. We became separated in an ambush I desperately seek his return.'

    The dwarf tugged at his beard and gazed up at the tall Eorlingas then shook his head slowly. ‘I am afraid that I don't anything about lost horses, good master,’ answered the dwarf simply.

    ‘All the same,’ began Folcwain haltingly. ‘I seek him with the utmost urgency. Please, look for such a mount should one find its way to you.’

  17. #17

    Chapter Seven: I Came Singing in the Sun, Sword Unsheathing – 24 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    The day was waning fast and, in the fading rays of the sun, the tall walls of the fortress cast long shadows across the courtyard of Ost Guruth. Darkness had already crept into the vale below the fortress and along the slopes of the rolling hills about. The sky above was swathed in deepening clouds and the battlements atop the walls gleamed faintly in the last sunlight before the coming dusk.

    Folcwain was seated among the Elgain in one of the camps; for some time he had talked with them, telling them of his home of Snowbourn, or in turn listening to the trials of the Eglain or tales of battles long past. Yet he was very weary and sat for a long while half-dreaming, listening to the soft words of the Eglain in their slow speech.

    Supper was called for after a time, and Folcwain partook in the meal; yet he did not return to the merriment and talk, and only ate and drank in silence. He had been very lonely when awakening in that forlorn land and never was that felt more so than now. He listened to the Eglain speak among themselves with a sense of comradeship and his heart leapt for it drove the feeling of being a stranger among them ever stronger.

    At last, he drained his mug and bid the Eglain goodnight, then stood up. Folcwain climbed the long steps to the gate and stood there in silence, turning his bright eyes away north and east, and his face grew troubled.

    A great longing crept into his heart to once more see the green seas of grass flowing to the very foot of Emyn Muil; or to walk once again along the gentle slopes of the Entwash Vale as a gentle mist shimmered about the waters. Too into his mind came a yearning to breathe the faintly scented air, as if a stirring spring, of his fields and farm back home, that now lay barren and unworked.

    Folcwain sighed softly and turned to make his way down from the gate. As he neared the foot of the steps, he turned and paused to glance to one side at a figure seated alone beside a small crackling fire in the deepening gloom. He blinked once, then twice as wonder and disbelief slowly crept into his face. The man seated there drew back his green hood to reveal a fair and proud-looking face, his short-cropped flaxen-hair falling down his mailed shoulders.

    At once, Folcwain leapt forward, a look of joy beaming in his face. . 'Westu hal my friend!’ he said swiftly in a mixture of the tongue of the Eorlingas and the Common Speech. ‘What luck it is to find one of my own, here of all places!'

    The other Eorlingas stood tall and smiled with laughter. 'You must be new here, friend. There are more of us here in the North than you might expect. Particularly in this fortress.'

    Folcwain turned a troubled look about and then spoke. 'New here? I would think any of the Men of the Mark would be to this forsaken land. How can it be a Rider to be found here?'

    'There's a whole éored of us 'ere, friend,’ answered the Eorlingas now in the tongue of the Riddermark. ‘Most of us are camped in th' mountains t' th' east, but a fair few of us came west fer supplies an' spare horses before joinin' back up wi' them. 'I don' know where th' rest o' them are right now. Prob'ly out huntin' Orcs and Wargs. There's plenty o' them around.'

    'That is surprising news, but long have I been away from Snowbourn and little do I now know what happens there now,’ said Folcwain. ‘Why would our people be here, of all places?'

    'Snowbourn, ye say? Then ye may know some o' our Riders. Th' éored's based out o' Aldburg, and Aethelwigend Guthmyr's our leader. Th' name's Éoléof, son of Éadwine. I'm from Westfold orig'nally, but Guthmyr recruited me 'ere in th' North.’

    ‘I am named Folcwain, son of Aldwic, Fifth Héafod of Snowbourn,’ answered Folcwain as he looked deep into Éoléof’s eyes. ‘I thought I was lost in this forsaken land, but to meet you here? What has brought you hither?'

    'Me person'lly, or th' éored?' said Éoléof and his face darkened.

    'All...I would have thought the hope to meet others here beyond my deepest hopes...long has been the hunt that has brought me to this unknown land, and much has yet to be answered of how I came here.'

    Well, th' éored was sent north by Lord Éomer t' see what we could see 'ere,’ said Éoléof slowly. 'e 'eard some rumours that th' Orcs an' Hillmen might be movin', an' we were sent to hinder 'em as we can. As far as I go, I met up wi' Guthmyr in a town a fair ways west. It's a long story 'ow I ended up 'ere, an' I don' feel like sharin' right now, if ye don' mind.'

    'North?’ said Folcwain, speaking his thought aloud in his astonishment. ‘I thought my hafred had only done that, and from great urgency only!' He then shook his head. ‘It seems much has transpired since last I was home…too long...far too long then have I been away.'

    'Well, friend, if you are interested, the éored is on its way back south to the defense of the Mark. You are welcome to join with us.'

    Folcwain’s face drew dark and he lowered his voice as he spoke. 'I cannot, for a terrible task waits before me...'

    'Indeed? And what may that be?'

    Folcwain fell silent for some time. At length he spoke. ‘It began when word came to Snowbourn of a foul and merciless beast that stalked the lands of the Entwash. And the wolf was not alone, for the pack that roved with the beast was large; I was dispatched with twenty-five of our men, nearly three hafreds in all, at once.’

    Folcwain paused awhile and sighed, gazing up as the first stars began to sparkle in the darkening sky. 'We found them and gave battle but the fighting was fierce and unforgiving. Alas, two of my men I lost, and one horse. Great was my pride that day; the beasts were greater in number that I had counted on, and others soon joined them from back over the Entwash.'

    'We fled before them, and they pursued us long into the night. As the sun broke over the East Wall, we turned to face our pursuers. There rose a great singing from my men and with a cry we charged the wolves, the light of the dawning sun gleamed on mail and spear. Through the ranks we cleaved, wheeled round and charged again. Many of foul beasts were slain and those who were not soon broke and fled back towards the Entwade. Everywhere I spurred my steed I looked in vain for the pack master, until I laid eyes upon him. The great beast had gathered the stoutest wolves about it and drove for the crossing in retreat.'

    At once, Folcwain’s voice fell to a shamed whisper as he continued. 'Recklessly, I called for a swift pursuit, but my men begged off; another of our men had fallen, Feolor was his name, and we were very weary. My men called for me to turn aside from further pursuit, for we had been too long away and were needed elsewhere. But I would not listen; onwards I drove on and my men, out love and respect, followed without further question.'

    'On the west side of the river, their trail was plain to see, and we found clear clues not far from there that led us further on,’ continued Folcwain gravely. ‘For a fortnight, we pursued them, to the very eaves of Fangorn and endless leagues to the River Isen. And further onwards we drove on, into the wild and dangerous lands of Dunland and beyond.’

    'On the tenth night we halted; my men had grown wary of wandering further, the trail grew cold and silent,’ he continued quietly. ‘The moon was hidden in cloud and the night as very dark when I relented. We set camp in the deepening dark; our horses were restive, straining at their tether-ropes, showing the whites of their eyes. It was a little while before Boeda, a master at horsemanship, could quiet them.'

    'My own man, Holwine, took watch as the rest slept; all about was silent, save that the trees rustled and the horses picketed endlessly. When the dawn came, the dark spruce about the camp frowned with frozen sparkles of new-fallen snow, and they seemed to lean, black and ominous towards one another. A vast silence seemed to reign over the land.'

    'There was no hint of humour among the men, but a terrible sense of worry and grimness. At once we rose and took positions, expecting an attack; and yet an hour went by, then another and nothing showed. The pale light of the sunless morning was only then beginning to crest on the horizon when a faint howl arose on the still cold air. It soared upward with a swift rush then slowly fell away.'

    Folcwain turned his eyes down into the fire as he spoke. ‘A second cry arose, piercing the stillness, away to our rear. A third and fourth answering cry was then heard, to the right and left of the camp. From every side the cries arose, and the horses showed their fear by huddling together and we drew close to the fire in a tight group.'

    'Then they appeared, their bristly fur rimed with frost, their breath freezing in the air as it left their jaws, spouting forth plumes of vapour. To the forefront of the pack there came a great wolf, no more than a dozen yards from the fire, and it sat down upon in haunches to gaze wistfully at us. Its jaws opened, and licked with a sense of anticipation.'

    'Holwine drew back his bow and let fly an arrow; but it went wild and the great wolf sprang away, baring its fangs to their roots. Holwine leapt forward in pursuit but a bolder wolf sprang from the pack forward at him, its jaws snapping only inches from him.'

    'With shuddering howls, the rest of the pack was now surging forward. At once they were upon us; twice they came on and twice we drove them back; but we could little hold on, for we were hungry and weary and the enemy rested and well-fed. Long did the battle last, until our quivers were empty and hands numb from cold.'

    'All about the camp lay many silent forms of the hateful wolves and on they came without relent. Noon had come and daylight was soon fast dwindling. The fire was burning low; we had no more wood and dared not venture for more.'

    'One of my men attempted to step from the circle to gather more fuel but the wolves surged forward to meet him. A wall of stout spears made them spring aside, but they no longer sprang back. From all sides they now came and we were soon overwhelmed. There were cries of my men, the howl of wolves and the frightened whimpering of the horses.'

    'To me came a gaunt old wolf, a chieftain, grizzled and marked with the scars of many a battle. Ever he snapped and frantic did I strike, my sword and spear before me. Deftly the old wolf evaded my every blow, laying its steely jaws at me with every swing. Then I stumbled and it was atop me at once. There I fell and knew no more; I know not what happened to my men, nor why I was spared the stomach of the great beast.'

    Folcawin fell silent and did not speak again. He turned his head low and shame filled his fair face. Éoléof’s brow furrowed as he pondered the tale for some time. Then he began to speak swiftly. 'Wait a moment. You said the last you remember is swooning in battle with that Warg in Dunland. How came you here?'

    'I do not know what happened after I fell, or how I came to this land,’ answered Folcwain quietly. ‘Yet the hunt must continue and the beast found. The wolf moves with a great speed and he does not tire easily or often. Astride my horse Hálasfal, I would certainly overtake him. Yet on foot I cannot hope to overtake his long start unless he is hindered. But Hálasfal is missing and I am left here. The path has lead eastwards until I reached this place here among the Eglain. I have not the strength or skill it seems to pursue the beast, but how can I turn aside?'

    'Wait a moment! This demon is roaming these lands?' exclaimed Éoléof with horror. 'By the Mearas! These are ill tidings indeed! The beast was heading east, you say?'

    'Yes, or so the trail led,’ answered Folcwain suddenly, gazing up at the other Rider. ‘Alas! I lost his prints before coming here and have yet to find it again. I had hoped for word among the Eglain here but my search has been fruitless thus far.'

    Folcwain turned his gaze aside, a pained look in his bright eyes. ‘And should I meet this beast in the wilds, how will I fare?’ his voice dies away before he finished.

    'Friend, your news is worse than you know,’ said Éoléof grimly. 'I don' want t' alarm the folk here overmuch, but this is bad.'

    'Nay, I believe this beast far too clever and devious to bring harm to the Eglain. It seeks to return to its home, wherever that may be. But I fear that its trail has grown cold and colder still the more delay I present. It is a game to the foul thing, I think it toys with me like a puppy toys with a rag in the halls in the Mark. It verily may be stalking me and not me of it.'

    'It ain't that, friend. Th' reason some of our éored was off west gettin' supplies was because we 'ad just 'ad a scuffle with a group o' Warg-riders out o' the mountains.'

    'Warg-riders?’ said Folcwain with disbelief. ‘Never have they ventured this far from the mountains. So the rumours are true! Whatever foul alliance would bring such terrible portents that have not been seen since the ride from the north in Eorl's time?'

    ‘Just a couple a days ago, some o' our scouts found Orc and wolf-tracks just the other side o' th' Bridge. Looks like they've been followin' our trail. If this beast is as much a terror as ye make 'im out t' be, I don' want t' think what'll 'appen if 'e meets up with Red-Scarf an' 'is group.'

    'The bridge?' asked Folcwain softly as he gazed up at Éoléof. 'Where would this bridge you speak of be found?'

    'There's a big bridge over a river off to the east aways, ‘ said Éoléof as he pointed to the east. ‘I 'eard some o' th' Eglain call it th' Last Bridge.’

    There was silence before Folcwain spoke anew. 'A river?’ he said slowly, his face darkening. ‘That bridge would provide the only means of crossing should the waters prove too deep for fording...the beast could only have made its way there.'

    'The river is too deep and fast to ford,’ said Éoléof. ‘The bridge is the only way over.'

    Folcwain looked about doubtfully and bowed his head. Finally, he looked into Éoléof’s eyes, a glimmer of dim hope now flickering deep within his gaze. 'Chance meetings are never by chance. Little can I offer you for such wondrous news, Éoléof. At the least I may call you brethren and brother, though little can I hope for us to meet once more.’

    He then fell still and quiet, his eyes downcast, and a great dread fell upon him. At last with effort he spoke. ‘I cannot say where the beast is and I do not know how my hunt will end. Yet I must find him no matter the cost.’

    'Wait a moment,’ begged Éoléof with an outstretched hand. ‘As I said, there are more of us roaming these lands, some of whom are accomplished scouts and trackers. If you would be willing to tarry a short while before you cross the Bridge, we can aid you in your hunt. We were planning to cross the bridge in force ourselves soon and hunt the Orcs and Wargs in the woodlands beyond.'

    Folcwain bent his clear bright eyes at Éoléof, and then spoke slowly and grimly 'Little can I ask of you with such a heavy burden upon your shoulder already, Éoléof. Advise and offers of aid are not given easily and should it be dismissed swiftly. I have dealings with the Eglain here that I must fulfill and honour before all else. Give me a day or two and we may discuss the matter more.'

    Éoléof gazed at him silently with understanding eyes, his head bowed. 'We ourselves will not be leaving for a few days ourselves,’ he said slowly. ‘We need to finish scouting and gather our forces.'
    Last edited by Brucha; Jul 14 2013 at 08:33 PM.

  18. #18
    Uuuah, I wanna be your sidekick so badly!! I'd love to be able to get together for some RP in your quest regardless of whether or not you are looking for a roleplaying partner, however.

    If you would like a partner/sidekick, I'll send you my skype info and we can chat. =)

    Final disclaimer: Yes, I will play by the preset rules if accepted as your partner/sidekick.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Spearow View Post
    Uuuah, I wanna be your sidekick so badly!! I'd love to be able to get together for some RP in your quest regardless of whether or not you are looking for a roleplaying partner, however.

    If you would like a partner/sidekick, I'll send you my skype info and we can chat. =)

    Final disclaimer: Yes, I will play by the preset rules if accepted as your partner/sidekick.
    Funny you should mention wishing to join the hunt, Spearow...

    So far in the story, up until the chance meeting with Éoléof, I have not had the pleasure of role playing with other players. However, as shone with my other total immersion story concerning Brimbur, I always welcome any sort of rping that is always included into the story.

    I think the difficulty lies in that places like the Shire or Bree tend to be centers for role playing. Once in the wilds, it becomes far more difficult for random role playing to spark up.

    Thus, Spearow, I would welcome a chance to role play with Folcwain at any point. I have fallen a bit behind with posting chapters and so Folcwain has only just reached the outskirts of the Trollshaws for the first time. Seeking Folcwain there is the best way to meet with him at the moment.

  20. #20

    Chapter Eight: To Hope’s End I Rode – 25 to 30 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    Folcwain spent five days more among the Eglain of Ost Guruth, making ready his gear for the journey ahead. He mended his rent hauberk of mail with the aid of the Eglain smiths, and fletched a new quiver of stout arrows to replace the many that had been gravely spent. He was still welcomed by the folk there for, though the Eglain were a rough, proud people and wary of a stranger’s face and words, they were hospitable to one who came alone or fought at their side.

    They offered him meat and drink in plenty, and the comfort of firelight and the comfort of friendly voices, or a bed where he could sleep each night. In return, other works Folcwain did in those remaining days at the fortress in the desolate lands about. These were such people as he had known as a boy in the vales and waterways of Snowbourn, though poorer even than those. With them he was at home, as he would never be elsewhere beyond the Mark, and he knew their bitter needs without having to ask.

    So he went among the farmers there and worked their meager fields, showing them many things from his own farm. He instructed them the planting of barley and vegetable as he could in that harsh unforgiving soil. By day he went out to hunt deer and stag, bringing back meats for the fire or collected wild berries and onion that could be found. By the dark of night he stalked the lands about the fortress, to fell orc and warg that could be found prowling the dark and bringing ruin and misery to all he faced.

    When his hauberk was mended and supplies of cured meats and such were ready, Folcwain returned on the fifth morning to speak one last time with Tortwil. ‘There was a stranger in this place, attired in garb and appearance as myself,’ he said in a low voice, his face cast downwards. ‘He is one of my kinsmen from the Riddermark; his name is Éoléof. He is one of my kinsmen from the Mark. Is he here still?’

    Tortwil paused as he stoked the fire, and gazed strangely at the Rider for a moment. Then he shrugged and shook his head before returning to attending the crackling fire.

    For a moment, Folcwain fell silent. ‘Tell him should he return…,’ he began again, his voice shaking. ‘Tell him…Folcwain has gone hunting. He will understand.’ Folcwain turned without waiting for a reply and stepped out into the growing light of dawn.

    Folcwain climbed the steps towards the gate, bowing his head politely to the guards that stood there with watchful eyes. In the shadows of the gate, he turned his gaze back upon the Eglain camp behind. For long minutes he did not stir and was gravely silent, his heart saddened and his face mournful. It has seemed many an age since he had spoken with one of the Mark and the chance meeting with Éoléof had touched him far more than he thought until now. He gazed down at the fire where his friend had sat, remembering the joy of seeing another of his kind in such a forbidding place. Strong was the desire within his heart to ride with the others and return home where their numbers were so sorely needed.

    Yet the fulfillment of his duty and task before him would not be stilled; this was no vainglorious wish for glory, or for praise. It was unbridled hope to wrong the wrongs his disgraceful and wanton pridefulness had wrought. Holwine was missing; Hálasfal was lost, and his hafred was scattered. And it was his hand that brought this about. His heart grew very heavy and he cast his eyes downwards in shame.

    But then his face softened and Folcwain looked up and smiled, a sudden and gladness warming his heart. Éoléof had suffered too, he thought mindfully, and dark was his road. Yet Éoleof now held a new task before him, a new direction and in that redemption would be gained. His friend had newfound purpose born from tragedy.

    Folcwain sighed softly and strode from the gate and down the steps one last time. Only the lone guards at the stairs viewed his passing as he descended from the heights and into the land beyond. The morning was dry but the sky was grey with cloud masking the bright sun overhead. Behind him the rise of Ost Guruth slowly sank and before him the distant hills loomed a little nearer with every passing hour.

    The Eorlingas struck a course eastwards in as straight of a line as the rising and falling lands allowed; Folcwain was uncertain to the direction of his hunt, yet he was determined to make for the bridge and try there to pick up the beast’s prints. As noon approached, the ground began to fall slowly towards a wide shallow valley to the east and, as the sun passed noon, he came to a ridge on which a few gaunt fir-trees stood. A little below could be seen the Road curving away to the east towards a river that gleamed pale in the thin rays of sunshine.

    It was already late afternoon and the sun was sinking Folcwain reached the distant bridge and the rising wooded hills beyond. He found that the river was not wide, but it was deep and strong, being fed by many small torrents that came down out of the wooded hills. Under the stone bridge, the fast-flowing waters swirled by far below the great arching span that crossed to the far bank and swept ever on to the south.

    There Folcwain paused for some time, glancing about, now certain that the warg could not possibly have forded the river alone without venturing over the bridge. He then hastened across and paused again to gaze out over the somber and forbidding country of tall and dark pines and large outcroppings of bare stone that greeted him.

    On the far bank, he halted again, pondering for some time; he did not like the thought of entering the woods at such a late hour. In the end, Folcwain decided to go no further that day and to make camp along the rocky and stony banks of the river below the bridge. He collected an armful of branches and twigs from the nearest trees and began to make camp. As night fell and the light of the fire began to shine out brightly, he drew his cloak about him and sat down beside the fire.

    Folcwain did not sleep, as a sense of wariness and peril entered his heart. Of the láthnéat he sought there was no sign by day since departing from Ost Guruth and yet he kept a sleepless watch by night beside the fire. In the still darkness furtive sounds reached his ears from the unseen forest ahead and more than once his keen eyes spied black shapes stalking in the dim grey night under the waxing moon veiled by thin clouds under its canopy.

    It was still dark about the land when Folcwain rose once more; the wind had picked up and the dark trees along the riverbank bent and swayed as he kicked the last smouldering coals into the water. He climbed the bank to the road and gazed out; the Road bent eastwards into the wooded hills that now lay quiet under the shadow of the predawn. Folcwain glanced about with wary eyes but there was no sign of any other travelers to be seen.

    Folcwain did not set out ahead, but instead turned his eyes to the earth nearer the bridge in a widening circle. It was not long when he cried out softly and bent low to the ground; there, beside the road he found deep prints in the muddy earth. He turned to follow the tracks as they lead swiftly and straightly towards the east and south, crossing the road and disappearing into the trees.

    With a grim smile upon his fair face, Folcwain stood and hastened forward to plunge into the huddle of wooded hills; at once the trees about him seemed shadowy and dim, and he knelt beside a tall fir to follow the tracks ahead with a keen gaze; they led forward into a long ravine – narrow, deeply sided and dark and ominous. Trees with old and twisted roots hung over the towering cliffs to the right and piled behind slopes of pine-wood ahead and to the left.

    Without hesitation, Folcwain sprang forward, an arrow bent to his bow. Silently he went, hugging the thick trees and thickets that provided some concealment as it could. He had not gone far when the hairs on his necked lifted and he stopped to stand unmoving in the deep shadows, listening for a moment. He then took a single hesitant step forward as his keen eyes caught a glimpse of a dark shape moving in and out of the thickets ahead.

    At once, a deep-throated grunt rent the air as a great boar stepped into view. It lowered its head and began to plough the earth beneath it with its long tusks and shuddered with gathering rage. The beast then raised its snout and let forth a long grunt before lowering its head and springing forward.

    Folcwain’s bow sang once then twice as arrows flew towards the beast and sank deep into its flanks; but the boar did not halt its charge, its eyes flaming red and its neck bristling, as it bore down onto the Eorlingas. As another arrow passed into its thick neck, the boar’s long tusks gored Folcwain’s legs and its great weight struck his body, sending him reeling backwards.

    Crying aloud in great pain, Folcwain let his bow slip to the ground and swept out his sword and dagger; he hewed at the enraged beast but this seemed only to send the boar into an even deeper and maddening rage. The boar dug its hooves into the earth and charged once more. Folcwain stumbled back desperately lancing his sword into its thick hide while trying to steady his feet, but the boar sprang forward, trampling and snorting with ever-maddening reddish eyes. Folcwain stabbed and hewed at the beast, feeling the strength slip from his bleeding limbs with every blow; just when his arms could no longer lift his blade for one more strike, the boar let out a shuddering grunt and crumbled to the ground at his feet unmoving.

    For long moments, Folcwain stood over the body of the great boar, his breath coming through gasps of pain. He then slid to the ground beside it as a grimace spread across his face. Blood flowed freely down his legs and from under his mail and he lifted the hem of his hauberk carefully. Several deep tusk wounds scored his limbs and they were ugly and red and swollen. He laid back and did not move.

    Only after some time did Folcwain finally stir; he sat up and bathed the deep wounds before wrapping them tightly with fresh strips of linen from his pack. He then stood unsteadily to his feet, and gazed down at the slain boar. What caught his eye were the magnificent tusks of the great beast; he knelt beside the body and gasped at the surprising beauty and strength of the tusk. Folcwain drew out his knife and cut one of the tusks from the beast and washed it with water from his bottle, then wrapped it with long grass and slid it into his pack.

    Folcwain went along once more after the trail as the sun broke over the horizon and the first rays of light gleaming bright in the sky. The tracks went on scrambling over the rocky vale and upwards towards the east. It was not long when he reached the top of a slow-climbing slope in the deep shadows of a tall ridge of highland ahead, its dark edge against the brightening sky and broken into many bare points like teeth overhead.

    There Folcwain halted to scour the earth for signs of the tracks; he did not search long before he found the trail led away north and east along the foot of the ridge. Ignoring the dull pain in his limbs, Folcwain sped forward along the trail as it swept towards the Road once again before plunging down a steep slope to the east into darkened trees below. He stepped onto the Road, knelt beside a brake of tangled thorns and briars and looked about; to the north ran a wide vale at the feet of tall cliffs. To his astonishment, a pale gleam came into the dawning sky, a blaze of yellow that lit a strange forbidding sight atop the cliffs.

    It was darksome ruins Folcwain now spied from the Road, an ancient fortress of Men, if his eyes did not deceive him. He looked quietly at the ruins for some time until he was certain they were indeed unoccupied. Yet a thought crept into his mind. What had become of those men who once dwelt there? Vanished long ago no doubt he grimly thought at last, driven to ruin by some great evil that now held sway in that dark land.

    With one last look towards the ruins, Folcwain turned back to the trail. His way was slow going as the day drew on for he was forced to pick his way carefully through the pathless forests. He was often hampered by the thick trees or found his way blocked at the end of narrow vales or rising cliffs. Steadily, the land began to rise steeper and higher to the east and north.

    The afternoon had come when Folcwain found that the trail now bent north towards the Road once more. Here the forest and trees began to thin and fall back as he passed within a low valley hemmed between towering cliffs that led towards a narrowing at the far end. The Road swept forward and began to climb towards a narrow saddle between the narrowing cliffs.

    The shadows of the cliffs and tall trees now grew long as Folcwain paused to lean against a fir tree; his limbs felt heavy and dull with pain and he was quite weary. He looked ahead and then lit a small fire beneath the tall tree beside the road just within the saddle as dusk approached and the sky turned dim. In silence, he ate a little and drank sparingly from his bottle of water then leaned his back against the rough bark of the tree. He looked up into the darkening sky as the first sparkle of stars began to shine above. Then Folcwain slowly closed his eyes and slept.
    Last edited by Brucha; Sep 06 2013 at 04:20 PM.

  21. #21
    Ah, so now comes the Trollshaws...I was hesitant about leaving Ost Guruth since Folcwain is only 28th level, but I thought he had spent enough time there and he needed to return to the hunt at last. The dangers of the Trollshaws was readily apparent when I was attacked by the Elder Stonehoof - being a red-coded 33rd level mob, it was very tough to defeat; half the blows ended up missing and it turned out to be a tense battle. I fought some other mobs (mainly those that stood in my way) but the boar was the only foe that attacked me straight away. I will certainly not risk moving about at night because of the stone trolls!

    I did not stop at Barachen's Camp since I will not allow Folcwain to go to Elvish camps or settlements until he overcomes his fear of Elves. SO now he has camped on the very edge of the South Trollshaws near the Bruinen Gorges. So now, I must find a way to be befriended by an Elf or two and make my way towards Thorenhad - this is very important since Folcwain cannot repair any damage to equipment until he reaches a settlement...

  22. #22

    Chapter Nine: Dark to the Day’s Rising – 31 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    The night had grown colder when Folcwain awoke beside the darkened road. He rose and stood beneath the boughs of a tree, singing softly to himself in his own tongue. White stars shone overhead and off to the east he stood and watched the distant dawn drew slowly closer in the barren and cloudless sky. There was silence in the wide lands and he could scarcely hear the wind moving in the grass.

    The Eorlingas thus stood for countless minutes in peace and silence when suddenly he stirred and looked down the darkened road to the west. He bent his ear to the ground; at first the earth was silent but soon the quiet gave way to a distant but growing tremble. Folcwain stood tall and at length he could hear the distant beat of approaching hoofs. He sat down into the faded grass beneath the tree, wrapping his billowing cloak about him and waited. At once, the night seemed heavy and impending as the wind blew suddenly thin and quiet.

    Folcwain’s wait was not long for there soon came into view four riders in the gloom to the west along the road. With them came soft spoken voices among them, but all faces astride the mounts were hidden beneath deep hoods. The riders were nearing the seated Eorlingas when he suddenly rose up from the grass and called out in a loud voice.

    'Halt!' he cried out using the Common Speech of the West and drew his sword. 'This is a forbidding land, and few passers I have found. Strange is your garb and unknown you are to me,’ he said as he looked at the riders keenly and with grave suspicion.

    The nearer rider slowed his horse to a halt and looked down upon Folcwain. ‘We have men with wounds on route to Rivendell,’ said the rider with a muffled voice. ‘We need to pass,’ he added with some urgency.

    'Are you elvish folk?' said Folcwain slowly and he sheathed his sword with wary eyes. 'I do not bar your way further, but question only a party such as yourselves who come onto me with such haste. What is this land, Rivendell, you speak of?'

    The strange riders exchanged glances as the first spoke anew. ‘It...it is a location with powerful healers. We need their aid,’ said the rider slowly. The second rider leaned to pat the neck of his horse as it began to stamp the earth, and turned back towards the third rider who sat bent upon his mount, as if asleep. The second cloaked and hooded rider then rose up in the saddle, looked down the road, and then down at Folcwain silently.

    'Their aid?’ said Folcwain softly and then looked up with dark eyes at the others. ‘And what of the others with your party,’ he said plainly but his eyes hardened. ‘Can they not speak?'

    The fourth rider, who had remained silent, now nudged his horse forward slowly and slid from the saddle, caressing the beast’s fine mane as a low groan rose from the bent rider in the rear. ‘We can speak but we consider Milwin our mouth piece when we are all in agreement’ said the standing figure carefully.

    'Strange is your tongue in the manner of the West,’ answered Folcwain now turning his gaze to the short rider. ‘Not a Man of the Mark to be sure. Where do you hail from?'

    ‘I hail from Mirkwood,’ answered the hooded face of the standing rider, a smile hinting in his clear voice. ‘What is a man from the Mark doing in Eriador?’

    ‘Mirkwood you say?’ said Folcwain. ‘You are no Woodsman that is plain to my eyes. But what other folk dwell in that forsaken place called Deorcholt among my folk.’

    The dismounted rider strode forward to stand face to face with Folcwain, his hands held out open before his steps. ‘The Quendi also dwell within the woods though we often choose not to be seen,’ said the rider and his hood was thrown back. Bright and yellow was the hair that flowed now in the dim light, and the figure seemed to shine with a white light.

    Folcwain raised a hand as if to ward off a blow and took a step back. ‘You are Elves!' he said with a muttering grim voice. He bent his clear eyes to the other riders then down once more to the elf before him.

    ‘My people have little love or trust of the elven-folk of the forests,' he said darkly with a cold glance at the tall elf. ‘In the Mark we tell tales of the Lady of the Wood, called an enchantress or worse by many, and woe to those who become ensnared in her deceitful webs. Less darkly do we view others of her ilk outside the Golden Wood, but never with open friendship.'

    The tall elf smiled and turned to gaze back at the others. ‘Milwin is not Quendi, but of Men,’ said the elf quietly. ‘And there is Threno over there.’

    ‘I too hail from the land of the Elves,’ said the rider with a pained voice who seemed at first sleeping astride his horse. The rider lifted his head but sank back onto the horse’s mane and fell silent. Milwin climbed down from his horse, an unlit wooden pipe clenched in his teeth. He helped the wounded elf from the saddle and laid his companion gently onto the grass, watching the Eorlingas with careful eyes.

    The last of the four riders now sprang from his pony and stalked forward, slipping back his hood. At once Folcwain laughed aloud for what he saw was not Man nor Elf but a boy, no more than half a man’s height.

    ‘Friend, I would ask for your title once more, and ask if you have ill intent for us,’ said the youth sternly.

    Folcwain gazed down at the young boy and then towards the others. ‘Do your now ride to battle with boys and not men?’ His voice came grim as well but a smile crossed his face. ‘I am called Folcwain, son of Aldwic, fifth Héafod of Snowbourn in the Riddermark,’ he said simply to the boy.

    ‘I am Penur. My King is Thranduil. I do not follow any enchantress,’ spoke the first Elf as he stepped forward with a bow of his head.

    ‘So you say, Penur.,’ said Folcwain guardedly. ‘The Eorlingas are Men of few words, and never given to deceit or guilefulness; grave is one that would offer such in return to us. Yet not for idleness or pleasure do I come hither. I am in great need; darkness lies behind me and peril before me.'

    ‘These elves are not your enemy,’ muttered the young boy angrily. ‘If you wish to kill anything, why not seek vile Wargs?’

    Folcwain turned to look down at Threno, but no angry stung his soft face. He then glanced about sighing long and softly. 'Nay, I do not seek simple slaughter or death. I have only just arrived by the late day yesterday across the river. Under great need do I pursue a terrible foe, though not willingly in such a manner as I do so now. A láthnéat, called a wolf in the Common Tongue of the West, is what I hunt. But worrisome too is my desire for word of the fate of my men and horse.'

    Penur shook his hair and looked down at Threno with a raised brow. It was Milwin who now spoke as he stood from his companion on the ground and strode forward. 'You are on foot?' he asked.

    Folcwain said nothing but grimly nodded. Milwin fixed his gaze on the Eorlingas. ‘And a warg?'

    Folcwain paused before he answered, a darkness seeming to cloud his bright eyes. He shook his head and looked up. 'Some call such a beast that, though I do not know more than that, for there is much that remains a mystery to me. Greatest of all is how I came so far north from whence I last recall and where now this beast hides...'

    Penur turned from the others and bent beside his kinsman. He drew from his small satchel some withered leaves which he began to crush in his slender fingers, before applying them to his companion’s wounds. Threno watched the Elf for a moment and then turned back to Folcwain.

    'Perhaps we seek the same foe. I too, seek a mysterious warg. When my ally is tended too, we should speak more so.'

    Folcwain nodded grimly and then looked down at the Elf upon the ground. ‘I was befriended by the Men called the Eglain after I awoke; with them I recovered from my wounds and much they gave me to send me along the road I sought. One such gift was this.’

    He took down his pack and drew out a small jar in one hand, then offered it to Threno. 'Little do those forsaken people have in their darkest hour, yet healers they are of some skill. Some of their remedies they gave onto me should I suffer in the wilds after my departure. Perhaps this salve may help your wounded companion?’

    Threno took the jar from the Eorlings. ‘A moment then,’ said Threno as he turned to walk over to the Elf on the ground.

    Folcwain watched as Threno and Penur tended to their wounded companion and turned to speak to Milwin. Suddenly he started and drew back, his hand falling to the hilt of his blade. as his keen ears heard the distant but swiftly approaching beat of galloping hoofs. Within moments a pony swept from the darkness on the road to the west, and a short figure swathed in a deep cloak and hood, could be seen atop the saddle.

    The rider checked the pony and leapt from the saddle to the ground. At once, Foclwain thought of the strange Threno as he gazed cautiously at the new rider but fell silent as Milwin stepped forward.

    'Evolgrim!’ he said sternly. ‘Where have you been?'

    'Trolls, boss,’ said the short rider with a muffled voice. 'They don't call it the Trollshaws for nothing.' The rider drew back his hood to reveal a youthful face, very much like that of Threno.

    'You were supposed to escort Bevor from Ost Guruth,’ answered Milwin, his eyes gleaming darkly. ‘As you can see he is wounded; he headed out by himself and was attacked by a Troll.'

    Evolgrim choked back a cry as his eyes fell to the wounded Elf nearby. 'Fortunately, One of my ravens saw him lying in the road and we rushed to his aid,’ said Milwin quickly. ‘We are now on our way to Rivendell, by night mind you, which I do not like at all. Not at all.'

    The two friends fell into quiet talk and Folcwain turned his attention back to the stricken Elf. Bavor’s fair face was grim and pale yet he now could stand weakly with the gentle arms of his friends. The Elf turned and bowed his head towards the Eorlingas in thanks. Penur smiled at his friend then turned to gaze at Folcwain. The Eorlingas returned the gaze thoughtfully and then spoke softly.

    'Your people are not thought of even in best of days by the Men of the Mark, and these days are dark indeed,’ he said without malice. ‘And yet, I am in great need. Tell me, what settlements may a weary traveller find in this dark land?'

    ‘How much first hand interaction have you had with the Quendi,’ said the Elf as he helped Bavor gently back to the ground. ‘Or are you merely caught up in tales told to children under the moonlit sky?’

    Folcwain gazed at the tall Elf and a look of softness washed over his face. 'None; little do I know of the folk of the woods beyond what tales back home are told round the evening fires.'

    ‘You would be welcomed in Rivendell if you entered with an open mind,’ said the Elf with a smile.

    Milwin now returned to the others with Evolgrim. He gazed down at Bavor and smiled, then turned to the Eorlingas. ‘Thank you for your kindness stranger,’ he said simply. ‘It is not often to see such.’ Folcwain only nodded as the man spoke further.

    'There are three places the elves dwell in these lands, Folcwain,that I know of at least. The closest place is Thorenhad. Perhaps it would be wise for us to head there and rest for the night.' Milwin paused and then added grimly. ‘Or we could press on to Rivendell, though the way is long and dangerous.'

    Folcwain looked at the others and sighed deeply. 'Lost I am as never before and dark is the task before me. Aid is what I need and little will my wrathful pride bring me. Thus, I must ask for such from you.'

    At that Threno spoke up as he rose from beside the sleeping form of Bavor. 'Perhaps Milwin, but I have a thought, if you might indulge it.' He strode forward as all eyes fell to the short youth. He looked about and then up at Folcwain.

    ‘You said your steed went missing? Was it lost in the area?'

    ‘I do not know,’ answered Folcwain and his voice faltered as he spoke. ‘That is one of many riddles I seek...I hope to speak with any horse trader I may find of news or word of my beloved horse should he ever be found.'

    Threno nodded silently then turned to the others. ‘Then one should stay behind with Folcwain and bring him to Thorenhad. The rest can take Bevor and ride ahead, then return after he is safe and sound, so to speak.'

    'Thorenhad is not far from here,’ said Milwin. ‘Then we should head there. Folcwain may find much needed rest and supplies there.'

    Milwin nodded slowly and spoke. 'Evolgrim and I will escort Bevor ahead to Thorenhad. You and Penur can accompany Folcwain. Evolgrim can ride back to assist you once we have Bevor to safety.'

    Milwin turned and climbed atop his horse, then looked down at the others. 'I will await your arrival in Thorenhad,’ he said as he summoned Evolgrim. 'Keep this man safe, and be wary the trolls.'
    Last edited by Brucha; Sep 06 2013 at 04:20 PM.

  23. #23

    Chapter Ten: Dark to the Day’s Rising– 31 Forelitha, 3017 TA

    With the tall Elf and Threno in the lead, Folcwain set off when the others had mounted their horses to ride on ahead in the darkness. They first passed through the narrow saddle between the rising cliffs and beyond where the land fell swiftly away to the east. Penur did not follow the road that wound ever eastwards, but now turned aside along a worn faded path that went up into the dense shadows of deeper woods to the north.

    Under the night, the trio made their way along the faded forest path. The darkened trees stood tall about them, arching over the path beneath their spreading boughs and, in the dim light of the stars, their stems shone grey and their leaves a hint of fallow gold and yellow. The light footfalls of neither the short child-like Threno nor the elf made little sound amid the rustling leaves and branches of the trees as they went.

    Threno and Penur walked in front, talking quietly and occasionally pausing to glance about with whispered words before setting down the path once more. Folcwain strode behind, walking softly and did not speak, listening for any sound of ambush or foe in the woods about.

    Less than a half a mile within the woods, the path began to wind upwards along a winding incline and above loomed a great grey rise; there upon the heights could be glimpsed the shadows of dark stones. Many of the crumbling walls and pillars of stone looked to have been worked by hands, though now they lay tumbled and ruinous upon a narrow shelf of the tall rising cliffs above.

    Penur sprang lightly up the path, his horse trotting behind without tether or leash. Folcwain looked darkly towards the ruins above and slowly followed; even as he reached the summit of the winding path, a voice spoke suddenly from the shadows ahead.

    ‘You there! Welcome to Thorenhad, the camp of the sons of Elrond!’ cried a clear voice. Folcwain dropped back in surprise and distrust as a blue-grey clad figure rose from the darkness. Penur paused and spoke softly in the Elven tongue to the figure; Folcwain could catch only little that was said but knew nothing of the words that sounded strange and unknown to him.

    Presently, Penur turned to the Eorlingas with a smile. ‘You are welcomed here,’ he said beckoning Folcwain forward. Yet Folcwain did not stir but watched as Threno scampered past the Elven guard and then took a hesitant step forward to follow.

    ‘A strange place is this, Penur,’ said Folcwain haltingly. ‘Ancient and venerable it seems to my eyes. Is this of Elvish make?'

    ‘Aye,’ answered the Elf. ‘It is Quendi...and things do falter in time.’ With a soft word to the guard, the Elf strode lightly up the path and Folcwain followed shortly behind, glancing about at the ruins with grave suspicion that now sprang into view out from the shadows of the towering cliff.

    The narrow shelf whose cliffs rose ever higher above was sheltered to one side by ancient walls of stone; on the other side stood tall slender pillars of beautiful worked stone that overlooked the wooded vale below. Within there was arrayed a simple camp where there were seated a small company of Elves around scattered campfires. They were clad in hues of grey and blue and white, and could not be seen unless they stirred. Here or there was hung small lamps that shed slender silver beams of flickering light and in the center of the camp rose a tall tree; its large bole was fair and round with smooth silken bark. The branches spread out like a wide canopy over the camp that rose into a shimmering crown.

    At a secluded fire set near the ledge, Folcwain found the others seated round a crackling fire. Milwin rose to hail their arrival and then turned back to a haunch of meat roasting on a spit over the fire. There the new arrivals took seats as Milwin offered plates of food to each in turn.

    ‘Not quite breakfast, but I am sure you are hungry,’ he said with a smile, and Folcwain took the food gratefully and sat down beside the fire. The old friends fell at once into a quiet talk; Folcwain grew silent, nibbling at the plate on his lap and glanced about warily, hardly hearing the conversation. Finally, he set down his half-finished plate onto the ground and bid the others goodnight.

    Next to the tall tree, he laid out his blanket; setting down his belt and bow, Folcwain laid down for some time, and looked at the stars that glinted now and again through the roof of pale rustling leaves above him. The scattered voices about the camp was muffled or hidden by the gentle wind in the leaves above and soon he was lulled by the sweet murmuring wind into a gentle sleep.

    Slowly, the Eorlingas slipped into a vague dream, in which he stood upon a rise gazing down onto a windswept plain of grass. Far below in the unseen distance came the forlorn and distant whinny and call of a horse and the stamping of many hooves upon the earth.

    Then he heard another cry that suddenly rent the air; a shuddering howl that floated in the air and slowly faded over the stirring winds. He grew tense and set an arrow to his bow as streaks of lightning skirted the dark clouds overhead followed by distant rolling thunder. Then all grew dark and he could recall little more.

    When Folcwain awoke, he found Penur and the others gone and their fire had died to glowing ash and embers. The last thin rind of the waning moon was gleaming dimly in the leaves of the tall tree. The wind was still. He sat up and drew the last of the withered fruit and stale bread from his pack and began to eat, gazing at the Elves that now made ready the duties of the drawing morning.

    After awhile, he rose and wandered to the cliff edge, gazing out onto the lands to the south and east. Long he stood there silently until, finally, he turned back. Folcwain strapped his belt round his waist and took his bow over a shoulder, then counted the arrows still remaining. When all was ready, Folcwain quietly made his way from the camp and down the long winding path into the wooded vale below. He set out at once with slow but steady steps, and soon the camp above fell from view through the many tall trees.

    After a short distance, Folcwain left the road and stood atop a rise overlooking a narrow vale flowing eastwards flanked by rocky embankments. He turned his keen ears round to the sounds of unseen calls through the trees then returned to the road once more.

    The morning drew on as a chilled wind sprang up; he paused, cupping his chilled hands to his warm breath. Suddenly, he turned aside and gazed down at the ground beside the road. Warily Folcwain inched forward and bent down nearer the ground. There he found deep sets of hoof tracks in the soft earth. He looked up with a smile and followed the tracks as they went away into the narrow vale to the east.

    Folcwain stood and set out to follow the trail at once, pausing often to survey the grass and patches of soft earth as he went. He had not gone far when there came a rutting sound in the trees ahead. Folcwain stepped behind a tall tree and looked out as a proud antlered hind buck came into view among the trees; for a moment, the animal paused to sniff the air, its nostrils flaring in the dim morning light.

    Folcwain smiled once more as he quietly slung a rope over the boughs of the trees next to him and secured the end round the trunk. He then knelt low to the earth and tied the other end into a noose and laid it out carefully onto the ground.

    With one last look at the trap, he rose slowly and set an arrow to his bow; for a long moment he held his breath and then let loose the arrow. The arrow plunged into the hind’s shoulder and it faltered beneath unsteady legs and crashed to the ground.

    Folcwain laughed aloud but his voice trailed off as he watched the proud beast stagger to its hoofed legs and began to spring towards him. At once the hind was upon him, its forelegs kicking and tearing at him with its sharp hoofs. Even as he swept out his sword, the hind snorted an almost crying wheeze as it pummeled him again and again with ruthless intent.

    As crimson flowed into his eyes, Folcwain choked back a cry and plunged his sword into the hind; there arose a painful whine and the hind fell, never to rise again at his feet. The Eorlingas staggered back, wiping the blood from his eyes, his sword forgotten in his hand, and then glanced down at the unmoving hind.

    He was about to lean to the hind where there suddenly came the soft pad of paws to one side over the fallen leaves under the boughs of the trees. Folcwain whirled round as a massive furred form came leaping from the shadows; at once he cried aloud as powerful jaws bit through the mail sleeve on one arm and drove him back under the beast’s weight. Through misted eyes he could see the shuddering, yellow-eyed head of a great wolf as it jerked and tossed him about with its jaws clenched tightly onto his forearm.

    Clenching a fist, Folcwain pummeled the wolf until its let loose its grip and he hewed at the beast with unsteady strokes of his blade. Yet the wolf was spry and only once did his sword find its target, lancing the shoulder of the beast as it let out a loud howl of pain.

    Suddenly, with a great heave, the wolf bore him over and Folcwain’s breath caught in his chest as he landed upon the hard ground. With surprising speed, the wolf came again, snarling and snapping even as he kicked with both legs at its head. One blow struck the beast and it paused momentarily, enough so that Folcwain scrambled back and staggered to his feet.

    With all hope lost, Folcwain stepped back, then all at once turned and ran, and the wolf gave chase. He ran and the beast followed a pace behind him, unable to catch him yet never dropping behind. Folcwain did not look back, but ran through the vast trees as the wolf let out mournful howls of hungry.

    Soon he was no longer running, but stumbling and staggering ahead, struggling up the slope out of the narrow vale and onto the road. Just as he thought he could run no further, and his breath came in deep tortured gasps, he whirled round to face his pursuer. He reached for support from a tree beside him and his legs seemed unwilling to support him any longer. With a cry of defiance, his raised his voice aloud with his blade for one final blow.

    But there came no ravenous beast upon him; Folcwain blinked with stark surprise as he watched the dwindling form of the wolf as it slinked away among the trees below. Only then did he take a breath as he sank slowly and painfully to his knees. Soon he slipped away into darkness and he remembered no more.

  24. #24
    That battle was tense! I decided to set out to do a bit of hunting for two reasons. First, I wished to find out how tough the red-colored mobs were in the area of Thorenhad and, two, I thought that Folcwain would more appreciate fresh meat to Elven food, at least for the moment.

    I tracked the hind for some time and then attacked; naturally with only an 18th level bow, I could not defeat the hind before in engaged me. But I was able to, after a brisk fight, kill it. Of course, it was maybe a second after the hind fell that a Moor-stalker suddenly appeared to one side and attacked by surprise. The darn wolf got in a couple of wounds before I could even turn and strike back. Folcwain had already been reduced to below half Morale when the wolf attacked so he had little chance of surviving a second battle so soon without and rest or healing. So, as his Morale drops below 300, I decided to make a run for it.

    When I turned and ran, I watched Folcwain's Morale continue to drop as the wolf continued its attacks, and was certain he was going to perish for sure! Thankfully the wolf finally gave up the pursuit and turned to run back into the trees.

  25. #25

    Chapter Eleven: An Elf-swain's Lament – 2 Afterlitha, 3017 TA

    Folcwain awoke and found himself lying on his bedding beneath the tall tree within the Elven camp. He sat up slowly and his hand fell to the fresh linen bandages wrapped round his waist and arm. He looked about with puzzlement; beside him was laid out his mail and sword and bow in the soft grass.

    Then slowly the memory of the ambush with the wolf in the woods crept into his mind. He recalled vividly the snarling slavering jaws and its hot breath upon his face. The memory of the terrible flight through the trees as the beast tore at him savagely wavered unwanted in his mind.

    Then a darkness overcame him and little could he remember; there was a feeling of weightlessness and the sound of soft fair voices in his ears. Folcwain lay back at gazed up at the sparkling sky; a smile crossed his face as he gave a silent thanks to the Elves who must have found him and brought him back to tend to his wounds.

    Folcwain stood and donned his mail and boots then clasped his belt and sheath round his waist. He found his arm was much better and his wounds healing; the warmth had returned to his limbs and the pain of the wolf’s bite had faded away to an uncomfortable ache.

    When all was ready, he strode alone through the camp, past the tall Elves who did not look at the passerby, but they spoke with clear ringing voices in their fair tongue. Folcwain stood at the frowning precipice to see the lay of the land below. He did not speak for some time, but looked out over the cliff edge southwards, and smiled as the sunlight warmed his face.

    Finally, Folcwain turned and strode back into the camp. He did not go far when his bright eyes fell upon the face of a tall elf-woman; young she seemed to the Eorlingas, and yet not so. Her short hair framed a flawless and clear face, and she was clad in hues of gentle blue. His keen eyes perceived some sense of worry and unrest in her ageless fair face as the elf-woman gazed up into the brightening sky and her voice rose with a melody of fair words in the elven-tongue. Folcwain murmured quietly and his heart was moved at the beautiful words that seemed to lift into and over the air with a life of their own.

    Then his face softened and he smiled, his heart filled with pity at the elf’s sadness. He took a step towards her and spoke. 'I am Folcwain, a stranger among you here, folk of the wood. Only for a short time now have I rested here, as no tidings of my road ahead has been shown to me and my heart has darkened with such a delay.'

    The elf-woman turned her clear gaze at him but did not speak, the song falling from her lips. Folcwain again smiled softly. 'Yet much kindness has been laid at my feet by those to whom I have long thought little more than deceiving and treacherous folk. I am ashamed to have not seen through my misgivings otherwise.' The smile fell from his face as it now grew shamed and remorseful. Folcwain shivered slightly in the cool morning air and looked about to the west and south.

    'I was sorely hurt when I went out to hunt and only survived when I was found by one of your brethren; I was brought back here and under your people's care was set again on the road to health. For that I am ever grateful.'

    Now Folcwain stood tall and proud, with a glitter in his fair eyes as he spoke anew. ‘Let it never be said that a man of Rohan is forgetful or ungrateful, for I owe my standing here with you to the healing arts granted to me. So come, tell me what misery or evil has befallen your fair face.'

    The elf gazed into his eyes and she smiled. 'My friend Arrod is a good Elf, but he is not always as cautious as he is well-intentioned, and he often gets into trouble,’ said the elf-woman for the first time. ‘Master Elrond recommended that he help keep watch over the Trollshaws, and indeed he has been assigned to scout the Bruinen Gorges, but I fear that his mind is not entirely on his duty.’

    'All of his thoughts dwell on Faimir, an Elf-maiden of our acquaintance in Imladris, and I fear he is not paying the attention he should to his own well-being and safety. Would you seek him out in the Bruinen Gorges and make sure he has not come to harm, Folcwain? He is sure to have taken up a post overlooking the road.'

    Folcwain smiled and bowed his head solemnly with deep respect and a sudden love. 'Gladly would I do so, Narlinn. Whither my attentive arrival at his watch camp will be welcomed, I cannot say. Yet at the least I may sooth your heart and fear as to his health. I will return once I have found him.'

    Folcwain turned and made his way back to take up his bow and quiver of arrows; with a few soft words to an Elf at a fire, he accepted some sparse food and water that he placed into his pack. With that, he set out through the camp quietly. With one last glace at Narlinn, he then turned down from the heights following the faded path through the gently-swaying trees of the forest below.

    Setting an arrow to his bow, Folcwain set off in a southerly direction, following the faded path through the wooded country. He made his way slowly and cautiously, his eyes turning to search the trees to either side for the hint of movement and his ears keen for the sudden howl that he dreaded would be heard. As the morning drew on, he reached the Road.

    There the Eorlingas paused; to the east the Road held its course through a narrow deeply cloven valley. His eyes looked up towards the towering hills and mounting slopes that hugged the sides of the Road. He had only gone a short distant along the Road when he turned to gaze along a rising path that wound up the slopes of a tall hill to one side.

    Upon the heights he caught glimpses of ancient crumbling and broken pillars of rising stone through trees with old and twisted boughs that hung precariously over the cliff edge. Folcwain grew very wary and marched slowly up the slope as it roes higher towards the summit above.

    Soon he reached the summit where many carven and broken pillars stood in a wide circle; and there stood an Elf, silent watchful, in the clear sunlight. The sky overhead shone blue and clean and birds sang in the trees about the ruins.

    Suddenly the Elf stirred from his gaze and he turned with unfriendly eyes towards the Eorlingas. Folcwain set aside his bow, his hands held out in open friendship. 'Fear not master Arrod, I am no foe seeking you harm. I am called Folcwain.’ He said coming forward. ‘Narlinn has asked for me to seek for you - she is concerned for your safety and well-being. Nothing more.'

    For long moments the Elf stood ever silent. Far off Folcwain could hear the distant endless roar of a great river and the wind murmured in the branches of the trees. Finally the Elf spoke. 'You are from Thorenhad? Elladan and Elrohir entrusted me to scout the Bruinen Gorges for signs of evil, and I am doing so. I have not found much, but I must admit that I hope to find something -- there is an Elf-maid I hope to impress with my valour and my prowess in battle!'

    Folcwain eyes turned soft at the elf's words. 'Indeed Arrod, many evils have I too have found in this land in the short time I have been here and great is the need for such watchful eyes as yours. But what is it that you so desperately seek?’

    ‘I am entrusted with watching over the road through the Bruinen Gorges, but my mind keeps drifting, and I cannot keep my eyes upon the road.’ said Arrod slowly, a gleam in his bright eyes. 'There is an Elf-maiden of unsurpassed loveliness in whose company I delight and I wish to make her a gift she will recognize as a sign of my affection for her. It must not be any passing thing, but a token of such beauty that her breath will be quite taken away -- nothing less will do! And yet, I am charged with watching the road.’

    ‘Love you say? Love is another matter than duty. Longing in one’s heart can bring the most grievous of wounds master Arrod, and the loss of such can never be mended,’ said Folcwain softly. ‘And what precious gift will suffice?’

    There was silence. At length Arrod spoke again. 'I do not wish to fail in my duty, so I would ask you a favour, since you are not so charged,’ said the Elf looking at Folcwain. ‘Search among the high places of the Bruinen Gorges for a hendroval nest and retrieve a perfect feather from it. The creatures are dirty and unwholesome, but sometimes feathers of incomparable beauty are left in their nests...undoubtedly the feathers of the hendroval's prey. I will use the feather in the crafting of my gift.'

    The Eorlingas held the Elf with his eyes and fell silent. At length he released his gaze and he smiled. ‘Kindness is a treasure more valuable than any gold,’ he said tenderly. ‘Willing will I do so Arrod, for your sake and the sake of your heart.’

    Folcwain turned to gaze out over the lands about; the weather remained dry but the sky now grew grey with clouds. Turning back from the ruins, he made his way down from the hill and to the Road below where it wound along the narrow valley, clinging closely to the feet of the heather and tree-covered hills as it rolled and wound to the East.

    With one last look towards the ruins above, he started off in a southerly direction, first crossing the Road and plunged into the trees beyond. The land he now entered was wild and pathless; bushes and thick trees made his way slow and cumbersome. Slowly the ground began to rise from the road further south.

    Soon he drew near the feet of a tall hill and saw before him a narrow slope that wound up towards the summit above. For a moment Folcwain paused and looked up; nothing could be seen moving at the top. With a growing wariness, he began to climb the slope, turning first west and north; before long the Eorlingas reached the top of the slow-climbing slope atop the wooden hill where a few gaunt fir-trees stood.

    Standing at the edge Folcwain saw a wide view of the thick woodlands and rising hills about; his eyes followed the Road’s path below with his keen eyes as it curved away on his right. With one last look, Folcwain sighed and turned to make his back down from the hill.

    It was already late afternoon and the sunk was sinking fast when Folcwain returned to the Road. He now turned west to stride along its path as it went past the skirt of the rising hills on both sides. He once again found a sloping wooded way climbing towards the heights and ridges of the hills north of the Road.

    Slowly he began to climb; soon he came out through the trees upon the top of a high bank above the Road that bent away eastwards. Ahead the hills rose still higher and steeper before him and he was forced to turn away north and the further east along their course.

    The sun sank low to the west and set as the forest fell quiet under the growing shadows of early evening. Soon the sky became dimly lit by a cloud-veiled moon and the trees seemed shadowy and dark. Onwards Folcwain went, scrambling over the rocky heights, a watchful gaze scanning the darkened trees for any sign. But he saw nothing and heard nothing.

    As the night drew on, the heights slowly began to fall away; he climbed slowly down the eastern side of the ridge and before long Folcwain found himself beside the Road once more. ‘I cannot go further,’ he muttered softly and gazed into the darkened night. With a growing weariness, he turned and began to follow the Road back to the west.

    T he trees rustled crackled and creaked on the height above in the wind as Folcwain plodded slowly along the Road. He had not gone far when the sound of heavy steps, like a great beast, reached his ears. At once he grew alarmed and leapt from the road to crouch in a sheltered hollow beside a tall tree. There he waited.

    Suddenly a darkened figure appeared ahead on the road; at first the Eorlingas thought it was some overly-large person, but as it approached he could see that it was far taller than the tallest Man. A great face it bore and it walked upon legs as thick as tree-trunks.

    With bewilderment and heedful eyes, Folcwain watched as the great thing strolled laggardly down the road, muttering and cursing as it passed with heavy thunderous stomping feet. Slowly the towering figure disappeared into the darkness; Folcwain sighed softly and, with one last look down the road, he continued on.

    It was late evening when he returned to Arrod’s camp along the heights above the Road. There he found the tall Elf standing still and silent in the night air. The Elf turned quiet eyes to the Eorlingas as he approached and stopped to stand in front of him.

    ‘Long did I search the heights along the road and yet nothing I found,’ he said wearily. ‘Bears aplenty did I find but little else. But fear not! Let me rest a bit and I will return to my hunt at the coming dawn.'

    The Elf led him to the edge of the ruins among the trees; there Folcwain laid his blanket down upon the soft grass. The elf spoke words of good night and went back to gaze softly over the darkened lands, his fair elven voice murmuring in the night.

    The night was cold among the ruins; Folcwain lit a small fire and sat huddled in its warm glow. The wind blew chilled round the broken pillars and the tree-tops moaned and sighed. As the night drew on and the fire began to shine out brightly sleep slowly came to the Eorlingas.


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