Part 1: At the Prancing Pony
They had gathered from all over the lands. A fellowship to confront the growing nightmare in the Eryn Vorn. Thom Thistlewool had been haunted by the past now for several weeks, a growing shadow on his mind. He consulted his old friend Sancho, a hobbit of some standing in Bree. They came up with the plan to go south, all they would need is some help. So they had called for some known rogues and some unknown.
The first was Cora Fairbairn, she was a known burglar and ne’er do well in the area, along with her friend Jessica Appledore. The two were noted for robbing barrows and other unsavory acts, they were barely tolerated by the locals due to their outgoing nature and general shiny dispositions. They were joined by a wood elf from the far lands of Cuivinen by the name of Ryusen. He had traveled west with Cora and Jess to see what lands lay beyond the great rivers. The Dwarf Khuzul had come from the Iron Hills and was a slayer of grim renown. Finally an unknown came in through unexpected quarters. A Dunlending called Stephen. He was a tad touched in the head or perhaps he was truly in tune with the spirits of the world.
Sancho was sure these would do nicely. He went to each to press his case and offer employment. Cora and Jess were the easiest as they were making spectacles of themselves by drunkenly dancing on tabletops. Butterbur was getting annoyed but the ladies kept the other guests entertained and drinking. The girls eagerly jumped at the chance to get into more trouble and perhaps to make a bit of coin on the side.
The elf Ryusen agreed as well, with his only two friends on this side of the world having already agreed. He was a man of few words but swift and decisive action. Ryusen was certain that there was more going on than only what the hobbit was aware of, but he kept his own counsel for now.
Khuzul was ready for a fight and the hobbit offered him the potential for just that. Having traveled far over the mountains towards the Blue Mountains he had few opportunities to vent his wrath. Khuzul was more than eager, he was also certain with the hooligans already gathered he would certainly be needed.
Stephen himself was busy seeking the spirits of the place. He had already decided to liberate some pies from the window sill and while his thoughts were scattered his will was strong. He took notice of a great many shenanigans going on in the main bar room. He was especially vigilant of the young hobbit who had gotten herself into the rafters (Cora being an excellent climber) while her companion had gotten rowdier by the drink. The hobbit Cora was busily lifting coin pouches with a bit of fishing line and hook while Jess kept all eyes on her.
The night was going well, or so it seemed. There were some ruffians about who had taken exception to the lady’s entertainments and decided to take matters into their own hands. Khuzul saw this and decided to head it off, Stephen was equally concerned. Sancho had hired his fellowship and now decided to move them towards dinner at the Thistlewool farm. Khuzul followed the ruffians out and a small scrap was initiated. Stephen and Khuzul quickly saw them off, sending them scampering for safety.
After “herding his cats” Sancho finally managed to get the fellowship moving. A minor circumstance caused a bit of a problem as earlier Khuzul’s fiery temper brought the idea to Sancho to try to “calm him down” with a bit of spiked ale. That went poorly as a very drunken and flirtatious Jess took the drink and promptly passed out face first into the table. After all it was meant to fell a mighty dwarven warrior, not a 124 pound woman. So they had to place her in a cart to get her moving. Cora of course could not let her friend get off so easily and decided to fold her hands on her chest with a flower in them, to convince the drunk young woman that she was actually dead. Such pranks were the norm and Ryusen merely shook his head.
Part 2: Thistlewool’s farm and the quest begins.
Thom Thistlewool waited patiently for his guests to arrive. The nights had been growing more hellish as the weeks went on and he was eager to get some resolution. He dreamed of past adventures and that last terrible battle with the marshlight near the abandoned fortress of Minas Thonfalon. It was there his old fellowship was broken, he had lost his true love all those years ago but had at least thought the cold comfort that the wicked spirit was overthrown. This would all these years later prove not to be the case as the old enemy returned to torment his dreams.
When he saw Sancho and his wagon approach there was great relief. At last things could be set in motion and his family could be made safe. Missives from old Cadoc (the brother of his love and his dearest friend) had told him of strange lights in the mist and dark songs on the wind. He prayed that Sancho found stout hearted folk. He was not disappointed in what he saw. The heroes looked very capable.
He met them at the porch of his home and welcomed each of them warmly. Cora and Sancho merely wheeled Jess’s unconscious body into the barn still in the wagon. The heroes walked into his home with grace and poise and were introduced to his family. The Thistlewools are an old and distinguished family after all *(despite Thom’s peculiar habit of going on adventures.) and the dinner was superb. They could all feel the tension in the air though. Thom’s daughters were enthralled by the tales of the heroes exploits and his son was a bit surprised to find Jess in the barn.
The night went quickly and the tale of the marshlight was told. The fellowship listened as he spoke of the battle with the creature on a desolate island near an old watch tower, of the loss of the lantern and the tragedy of his companions. Ryusen was aware of the presence of the spirit even this far away. Stephen as well had a feeling of foreboding, a sleepless malice who gazed upon the Thistlewools. Cora of course could not resist taunting her companions, particularly Stephen, she managed to convince a newly awakened (and painfully hung over) Jess to help her try to scare him. Of course it ended with shenanigans.
As morning dawned the fellowship packed their gear and Thistlewool said his goodbyes and they set off south down the Greenway southward to the crossroads. From there they would travel into the lonely lands of Minhiriath among the ancient and quiet ruins of Cardolan. Ever headed southward they pressed with light hearts and heavy tread as each mile passed after the last. The scouts at last set them off the road and into the wilds.
Ryusen and Stephen flitted like spirits in and out of sight as the fellowship moved deeper into the wild lands. The mood of the fellowship dimmed as they came ever closer to the great cape of the Eryn Vorn. After several days they at last approached the ancient dunlending ruins of Cairc Faergus. The town was abandoned and in ruins save for one resident. Old Cadoc had remained, here in his vigil over the land once haunted by the marshlight. The oppression was felt in the air and Stephen was sure the spirits of the long dead lingered yet beyond the light. Even Cora and Jess found their playful moods dampened by the ever present dread. The proud dwarf and the stern hobbit Sancho merely took note and filled their beer mugs for the bitter times ahead.
Cadoc was heartened to see his old friend once more though the circumstance left something to be desired. The old friends caught up while the fellowship set about making camp and making the boat seaworthy. They would soon set sail for Minas Thonfalon to see what had befallen. Morning came far quicker yet the sky still was overcast and dreary. The song on the wind had become less faint as they arrived and the dread of the place began to set in. Sancho and Thom realized that they needed to press on. Fortunately Khuzul was not afraid of the boat so the trip went faster than could be hoped.
The Journey to Minas Thonfalon went swiftly and the ruins quickly came into view. An ancient fortress of the Dunedain from the age of lost Cardolan it loomed above the trees a silent sentinel. The fellowship steered towards its ancient broken causeway. Cora of course was up to the challenge of climbing and sneaking into the ruin, even with the aura of malice about the place she felt more adrenaline than fear. Of course there was no way Jess would let her go alone. The ladies did their best to quietly climb the rubble. Ryusen made it seem all too easy as his light elven step glided into the ruins unchallenged by rubble or noise. Of course that meant that Sancho had to go as well.
Thom was glad that Cadoc and Stephen remained behind as both would have been vulnerable to the evil of the place. He had left them both to remain watchful in Cairc Faergus. Khuzul came last, armored and eager for battle the grim handed slayer entered the main gate and passed his gaze over ancient stone with the eyes of a master smith. The fellowship sought out the passage into the dungeons that were mentioned by Thom and Cadoc. The first sign of trouble came as Cora became convinced that something or someone was watching.
Never being one to resist a fight, Jessica Appledore did one of the things she does best and bellowed at the top of her lungs in challenge. The silence was shattered (along with the patience of Khuzul) and she was quickly rewarded with the presence of marsh dwellers rising out of the ruins to challenge. The fight was short and sharp, the beasts had no idea how overmatched they were about to be. The fellowship wasted no time bringing their might to bear,. Ryusen kited them from afar as Khuzul and Jess ran head on. Cora slipped unseen behind the attackers and ambushed them herself. The fight was over in moments as both creatures, foul as they were lay dead on the stone.
Of course that was when Cora found the passage leading into the bowels of the fortress. It was narrow and dangerous. Sancho realized he would have to go down into the depths, as he was well aware of what they sought. Of course going alone would not do, Cora and Jess were almost spent emotionally and Ryusen was not willing to leave them alone. So stealing his courage, Sancho headed into the dark. Khuzul went right after him.
In the dark place they walked cautiously. There was a feel of a sleepless malice in this place and the torchlight teased eyes in the shadows. Sancho stepped into some webbing and cursed lightly as Khuzul warily eyed the corners. They were sure footed and quickly came upon the chest where the lantern should have been. As they approached the chest, she arrived. An evil thing in the shape of a great spider. Her eyes glittered in the darkness and she took in the fresh meat that wandered so eagerly into her domain. She eyed them greedily, but was still wise enough to be cautious of the armored dwarf. That was when she was most pleasantly surprised by the polite gentleman with the dwarf.
Sancho was a lady’s man by trade and this was a lady despite all outward appearances, so he turned on that Longholes charm and it worked. She was fawning over each sweet word and turn of phrase. He paid her compliments and gave her nuggets of stories that left her breathless and enraptured. In the end, she decided that such a pleasant fellow should be rewarded and not devoured, after all such courteous guests where a rarity in any event. She offered them a share of her coins (and here her malice reasserted itself, for she knew the treasure was cursed).
Sancho and Khuzul quickly noticed that the lantern was in fact gone, just as the lady had said. She had sent it to the island where the wicked spirit sat and festered in its malice. They quickly rushed out, before the lady changed her mind. They emerged into the grey drizzly sky. The rest of the fellowship was glad to see them and they quickly told their tale. Thom was now certain that they would have to challenge the marshlight before sunrise. As the last time they thought they had defeated it, it merely returned later. Ryusen was by now aware that perhaps the lantern was the key, he discussed that with Sancho and Khuzul as Cora and Jess prepared the boat with Thom.
They set sail immediately, the trip would be hazardous as the weather seemed to respond to the evil spirits call. It was surely aware that they approached and was prepared for the end game. It took several hours but the light of the lantern guided them to the small rain soaked island. The island itself held the ruins of an ancient lighthouse and there the marshlight waited. The fellowship leaped from the boat as soon as they were close enough and went to the attack. The wicked spirit summoned the spirit of Rosabelle and bound her to the area, tormenting Thom into inactivity. Khuzul roared out the dwarven warcry “Baruk Khazad!” and charged with Jess right behind him. Cora moved to get into a better position while Sancho challenged the creature to a battle of wills. Ryusen engaged from afar, sending arrows speeding into the undead appirition.
The marshlight was near impervious to the stings of arrow and blade, but seeing the human woman challenging him, its rage built and lifting its lantern cast a dreadful spell. Jess fell with a gurgling scream as seawater filled her lungs. Cora was enraged and sliced her ancient blade across the back of its knees. As the enchanted blade struck undead flesh it screamed, exposing the lantern for a well placed shot. Ryusen took it, and the lantern shattered into thousands of pieces. As the creature reeled from the loss, Cora cut it down. The spirit of Rosabelle rose into the sky and was set free with the destruction of the evil wraith. Thom was immediately free from the horrible spell and Cora was busy tending her fallen friend.
Sancho and Khuzul gathered the fellowship and reembarked on the boat. They tended as best they could to Jessica’s wound but the spell had injured her deeply, she would not wake until they arrived home safely a week later. Exhausted the fellowship returned to Thistlewool’s home in the Bree land. They had acheived the goal of their quest and set unquiet spirits to rest. They all knew (Ryusen most of all) that now the eye of the enemy was upon them, the defeat unlooked for of the marshlight was a blow he could not ignore.
When they arrived, Thom and his family invited them to stay and rest. After several days the fellowship disbanded to see to their own affairs. Sancho to write the tale of his great adventure. Khuzul to grouse in the Prancing Pony over the weak ale of manfolk. Ryusen kept a vigil on the barrow mounds to the south west of Bree, never dropping his guard against the machinations of the dark lord. Stephen disappeared as mysteriously as he had arrived. Cora and Jess went right back to their old tricks and behaviors with hardly a missed step. Ryusen knew to keep an especially close watch on those two.
Thom sat quietly on his porch, deep in though with Sancho idly rocking and dozing nearby. He could not quite place it, but something had changed. Some feeling of future peril growing closer troubled his mind. But for now, he would rest and enjoy his new found freedom, his guilt and dread lifted.