This post is my notes from my latest Adventures in Middle Earth game. It is an official release of Lord of the Rings built off the rules of D&D 5e, where I am a player. This is a bit of an experiment with publishing these on here.
This is the 8th adventure we have been on, which has taken us over 2 years (thanks Covid!). We play with a varied number of players present, this session was just three of us.
Spoilers ahead for the Mirkwood campaign and non-graphic descriptions of spiders.
Thurissel: My character, a Mirkwood elf Warden (bard type) who has dark dreams of the Shadow.
Hallas: The Dúnedain Wanderer (ranger type), hidden royalty the last of a noble bloodline with many enemies.
Vlander: A silver tongued Man of the Lake, a Treasure Hunter (rogue type) who wields the magical elven sword Garhend, bane of spiders.
2952 – Spring
Bofri our dwarf trader friend from years ago, wants to visit a fort along the old forest road. It is said to extend a magical protection to the nearby road, preserving it over the generations. He mentioned that within might be the Staff of the Road Warden, perhaps hidden within the fort, carved and inlaid with gold leaf and a relic of his people.
After gathering provisions and loading them upon Bofri’s donkey we set out, ready to make the journey, embarking well thanks to the skills of our Guide Hallas.
Four days into our travel we cross paths with a band of men and women, armed and armoured but with weapons not drawn. Vlander calls out peaceful greetings and we discover them to be Geobold and his companions. We ask them of their travels and the road and they clearly seem stressed by the growing dangers of the world.
They bring tales of Beornlings being slain and taken prisoner in the north, and tales of the bear near Forest Gate of which we had heard rumours. Most startlingly, they were attacked by goblins from the Mirkwood only a few days ago, headed north as we are. They were brazen to attack such a clearly strong and capable group of humans, especially during daytime. Both Geobold and I think that perhaps something is driving them.
That evening Hallas see two birds, hunting hawks perhaps, fly towards each other. They pull up, facing each other as they do, as the sun sets behind them. That night I dream of a small cavernous room, rubble on the floor and the ceiling has stones missing – roots and earth poking through. A sense of cold fills me and shivering I awaken.
A few days later, Vlander notices a flash of light from the woods edge, like the reflection of the sun. More such flashes seem to lead us onward into the forest. I remain with Bofri and his pack mule at the road, while Vlander and Hallas investigate further. They find a monolith in a clearing, a marker for a subterranean home or barrow.
Vlander calls Bofri and I over and under the earth we find steps down to a wooden door, carved with markings. They appear almost as imitation of elven script. Reaching out and trying to converse with the door itself, it resonates respect and awe at my elven heritage.
We venture inside, and find it matches the place in my dream. I tell the others of my dream, and warn them that my dreams are often touched by the Shadow. As I we search the room, we discover a corpse – skeletal but also somewhat ethereal.
We discover more of them amongst the rubble. Hallas calls out to them in common, to no response. I do the same but in elvish Sindarin and one approaches, whispering “Wealth”. I offer up my necklace, gifted to me by my mother long ago. However, he approaches Vlander instead, whispering “Precious to us and our blood”. Vlander asks him what he means and he replies “History. Tradition.” The figure offers up a scrap of leather.
Reaching out, Vlander takes it from the ghostly figure. Smooth with small indents of a pattern, folded many times perhaps like armour. The skeletal figures fade, back from whence they came.
A few days later the path gives way to stone underfoot, emerging from a thick stand of trees into a leafy tunnel. “We’ve found it,” exclaims Bofri and he begins scrabbling at the ground with his shovel. He uncovers cut stone and his fingers trace the runes inscribed upon it.
“Five miles east to the Millfort from this spot. Forty-five to the Beacon tower, and sixty-five west to where the Westfort once stood! This way!” He hurries off down the overgrown road to the east… and then stops dead. “What’s that?” he exclaims, and points to the top of a nearby tree.
In the top of the tree is a web wrapped bundle. After some discussion, we realise that Garhend-Vlander’s magical sword-is not glowing, which it normally does in the presence of spiders. Eventually it is decided I should climb the tree and cut the spinneret down. Climbing down afterwards to examine it, it appears to be the consumed bodies of two very large boars enwebbed together. A chill goes through me at the thought of a spider large enough to commit such an act.
Hallas leans down, pressing his ear against the grass but only hears the sounds of some underground water, perhaps. We push on, away from the spiders – or so we think.
A few miles further a clearing emerges, the Millfort looming. A fort for travel and rest, rather than for a garrison. Behind it sits a stream, a water mill rotting beside it. The tower itself is overgrown, on top perched a giant spider almost as big as the fort itself.
“The staff must be in there,” whispers Bofri, “but how to get it?”
Hallas knows the spider to be one of the three great spiders, Taueler. Fortunately it seems asleep. We discuss whether Bessie the donkey could be sacrificed to distract it… or perhaps to take the opportunity to slay such a blight upon the Mirkwood. However, I have heard stories of the great spiders, how one can kill whole bands of elven warriors. We reluctantly make the decision to sneak in to retrieve the Staff.
Creeping our way past the hanging spiders legs, we carefully venture inside the Millfort. It is crumbled, and within are a series of boxes and a chest against the rear of the fort. Vlander approaches the chest, thieves’ tools drawn in anticipation of it being locked.
Working the tumblers open, inside he discovers three mail shirts. Hallas looks carefully at them, holding each up to get a better look. In doing so sees a stone in the wall slightly different colour. Touching it, he realises it not to be stone at all. Pressing against it causes the whole thing to move, rotating at one end, revealing a staff sized for a dwarf, a large pearl at its top and runes carved along its length. Taking the staff, Hallas is filled with feelings of safety, the pearl glowing faintly for a moment.
Sneaking back out to Bofri, his eyes beam at us.
“You have found the staff of my people, the heritage of our people and these lands. You are heroes to my people.”
Hallas hands the staff to the dwarf. The pearl begins to glow, must more so than it did for Hallas. Inspecting the staff, Bofri then twists it to reveal a hidden compartment. Unfortunately it is empty.
“This staff contains many such hidden things, but my people will have to investigate this thing further to discover its secrets. It is said to contain maps and important information. With this we may be able to restore my peoples’ strength. I shall take this back to Erebor and bring it to my people there. Perhaps we may start to take our place back in the world… even coming to the aid of others.”
We head back to the village, travelling for a few days. Bofri soon begins wandering off from the path, finding previously hidden supply caches by presumably some power granted to him by the staff.
Once back in the village he presents us with a reward for our help. He hands us an ornate container filled with many coloured gems, worth a 100 gold or more. The chest itself is of dwarven construction, craved with runes which if presented to a dwarf it would grant us safe passage and aid.
Bofri readies to make his journey to Erebor, to deliver the staff to his people with hopes of rebuild the old forest road and the ruined dwarven forts that stand along its length, lights against the growing darkness of the world.