Echoes of the North

A deep and dark December night

From a raid to a brawl

The events leading up to the night of the 27th by Hanaf Firebeard, a dwarf of Gondamon

Three days ago we had managed to ambush a group of forest goblins wandering too close to the old Miner’s Path. The fight was short and sharp but we managed to kill most of them before my companions captured one of the wounded survivors. I should start with giving you a little bit of information about them.

Jasper Boffin, what to say about him. I have had little dealings with the Shire-folk, and if the rest are anything like this guy I will continue to avoid such dealings. Jasper is a black hearted villain through and through. He does have a few qualities that makes him tolerable, namely his skill at sneaking and his vast library of vulgar jokes. He makes me nervous as his temper is rarely in check and he has a habit of being very secretive.

Saxulf Fastarsson. This young Barding warrior is way out of his element here. He has too good a heart for this line of work. He took up with Agmund and Annelzen and has regretted it ever since. He served as a mercenary in the great host of Frar the Beardless in his war for the Greydelve. Now he is with us, a renegade with no real prospects. He admires (wrongly in my mind) Agmund and follows Annelzen like a lost puppy.

Annelzen. It is hard to say which is worse, her or Agmund. She is vain, petty and manipulative, and those are her good traits. She usually is either conspiring with Jasper or conferring with Agmund when not manipulating or abusing poor Saxulf. I was very uncomfortable with the ease with which she was able to communicate with the goblins, but it came in handy when we snuck into their vaults. I was ashamed that this was once an old hold of my folk, now overrun with filth. I may have to come back one day.

Agmund the Archer. This is the rotten beating heart of our operation. I am ashamed to call him “friend” but I owe him a great debt for saving me in the Greydelve. The fighting there was cruel. Agmund decidedly is no mercenary, he is at heart a bandit. I was most surprised by this, but I have tried to keep both my honor and my hands clean, I believe I have failed at both. Agmund managed to convince poor Saxulf to follow him and now the boy is in too deep. I will try to save him if I can. Agmund is beyond redemption, he is no longer content to rob other mercenaries heading home, he is looking towards Dalesmen now as well.

And lastly there is me, Hanaf of the Firebeards in Gondamon. I am now a renegade and a wretch. I associate with scum and worse. I have some hope of saving at least one of my companions but will not waste words with the rest. We had just left the Greydelve. Agmund, Saxulf, and myself when we met Jasper on the road. He was in some spot of trouble with goblins (had I known what manner of creature he was, I would have strongly considered leaving him to thier tender mercy) It was a short, sharp fight but the goblins were all slain. He joined us at the exhortation of Agmund, yet he feared pursuit. Lastly we found Annelzen, and I rue that day. She had crawled out of a tomb covered in filth and blood. I knew her then for a grave robber. But she knew the tongue of goblins and that made Agmund eye her greedily. Saxulf of course was smitten.

The Goblin-hole

With this motley band we set to robbing and pillaging easterling mercenaries headed home and scattered bands of goblins fleeing the wrath of Frar. It was on the 25th of December when we should have all been enjoying a warm mug and hearth that we, in the dead of night fell upon a pack of goblins. we slew all but one, and that one we spared because it had convinced Annelzen that it had a secret treasure. I guess both of their black hearts thought alike. Well she told Agmund and that was settled. We were off. I took Saxulf with me to hunt food while they tortured the creature for information. Jasper’s laugh still chills me.

When we returned, carrying a good sized buck I may add. The creature was a mewling pile of ruin but they had procured a map. I made dinner in silence as Agmund and Jasper planned out the delve. I was not keen on going into a goblin hole, and told Saxulf of my misgivings. Annelzen had sunk her hooks into that boy too deeply by then and he was determined that an assault against a hold of goblins would be a great deed. I had not the heart to tell him the truth of it.

We set out that night, despite the cold and snow and reached the hole by midnight or thereabouts. I was not sure. I knew I had frost in my beard and rime on my helm. I was surprised to see this was no mere den of orc filth, but a lost hold of Durin’s folk. I can imagine it was a refuge in some older time. In any case we were lucky, the bulk of the inhabitants were out on a raid and we were able to sneak in the front door. Jasper of course insisted on murdering the sentries.

The dark was quiet but we had little light to see by. I trusted well in my vision and guided my companions unsure of what we sought. Agmund and Annelzen wanted to find the gold as soon as possible and get out. Jasper wanted to kill more goblins, but not for the same reasons that Saxulf did. I told my companions to stay close, so of course they scattered and went about their own business with only Saxulf stoutly by my side.

It must have been hours that we wandered about (though later I was told it was merely one) when the rest all returned to where Saxulf and I bravely held the doors. Annelzen had a sinister aspect around her and clutched tightly at a small pouch, whilst Agmund beemed with fistfuls and a sack of gold. I felt a sinking in my stomach to realize it was all dwarf gold he had. But I encouraged us all to move on quickly before the goblins returned and found their kinfolk slain and their realm plundered (though I have heard there is more wealth, and a tomb that Annelzen is dying to rob, damn her)

We headed out at as brisk a pace as we could for so foul a night, we knew we would be safe if we could make the tavern on the Miner’s path. It was too close to the watchful eyes of King Bard’s men for the goblins to risk it. The trip took a terrible amount of time and was tense. Saxulf had a falling out with Annelzen that Agmund had to step in to quiet. Jasper just sat back enjoying the “fight” and telling snide jokes into the mix. By the evening of the 27th we finally came to the tavern, I could see the lights and smell the fire. I was glad to be getting out of this wretched weather and getting some space from my foul “friends”.

The Stout Oak, and our flirting with disaster.

I was first to enter the tavern to the calls from Jasper of “hey, ladies first!..Oh wait the lady did enter first”. I wanted to pop that little pimple but the thought of a warm mug was too tempting. Saxulf was brooding and silent so I thought to cheer the boy up with some fine drinking. The warm fireplace in the back was just the thing for the moment. The tavernkeep was a stout fellow named Balderic and he kept a buxom wench as his server/cleaning assistant, her name was Haddy or something. I told Saxulf that was the kind of lass he needed. Honest and comely. He said little but glared at Agmund. I asked no more questions.

Agmund strode in like the laird o’ the land and demanded ale all around. Balderic tolerated it with the sight of so much flowing coin. My companions and I then went around to the table closest to the fire (the poor place had only two tables and a few stools at the bar) I ordered food and sat in for a nice trencher of mutton and venison and mulled mugs of stout brown. That was when I noticed Mable. The serving wench’s little pet piglet. Mabel “helped” often with keeping the floor clean. She was also quite adorable and fond of guests (particularly ones who were generous with their droppings to the floor)

While playing with Mabel I did not notice that Haddy had gotten too close to an inebriated Agmund and received a none to kind pinch to the bottom, she scampered off to the jeering of Jasper. What ever it was had set Annelzen off and she stormed off into a corner glaring daggers at the poor girl. Annelzen then started playing on her lute (which I learned of course she had stolen from a wealthy man in Bree) and playing badly but it was enough for Jasper to continuously demand bawdy songs and she obliged.

The mood about our little band was about as explosive as one could imagine. I was hoping for about anything to change the atmosphere. Saxulf was brooding, Agmund was being a downright skite about everything, Annelzen was off “pouting” and likely now felt twice misused. Jasper as usual was adding fuel to the fire with his bawdy tales and vulgar jokes not too cleverly veiled as jabs at all of us. I tried mightily to disregard it all by giving my attentions to sweet Mable.

The door opened a bit later letting in the cold that had Annelzen even more surly. I made a quick glance and saw another small hobbit enter. He matched the description of some of the marks in one of Jasper’s tales of “glory” so I felt it best to say nothing. I would later regret not at least being more concerned. But something compelled me to put on my helmet. Agmund thought that a joke and did so as well. Fortuitous it would be.

The door of destiny and migraines.

It was when Annelzen began playing some awful tune that made Jasper wince that the night started going bad. Saxulf was on his 8th mug and finally feeling better (and making eyes at Haddy) I was warm inside and out and Mabel was out scampering for more snacks. Agmund was straight drunk and obnoxious. Jasper was about to launch into another vulgar story when he and Agmund both yelled at Annelzen to stop her awful racket and play something proper, she obliged with a sneer that made me cringe.

That was when he walked in. It was a night that legends came to life. Arifal the berseker walked right into the Stout Oak Tavern and I nearly skat me britches! He trod up just as casually as can be and ordered three mugs, I was hoping we would be beneath his notice, what with everyone in such a foul mood. Balderic was quite plussed to have such a personage patronizing his place he about fell over when the next guest walked in the door.

Hvaldi Blackfeather! the Grimhammer hisself just moseyed on up to the fire. When I saw the look on Agmund’s face it occurred to me that he realized what a stew pot we were really in. I am not too proud to admit that Arifal alone could have shredded our merry band, but add in the Blackfeather and our goose was as good as cooked. I cautioned my companions to be calm and provoke nothing. I made a quick check about the room. Annelzen was eyeing the new arrivals like a butcher looks at a prime cut of meat. I was sure she would be the first of us to make a mistake. Turns out I would be wrong.

In the middle of one of Jasper’s more vulgar tales the living legend did something….not so legendary. Hvaldi let out a fart that could have woken old Smaug hisself had he still lived. That was outright funny to Agmund, and Saxulf let out a bit of a chuckle. He had stopped making poorly thought passes at Haddy a bit a go and was now listening to Jasper’s tales o’ foulness. Jasper felt challenged by Hvaldi’s horn call of flatulence and decided to answer with a trumpet o’ his own from the gut. A mighty belch issued from the wee hobbit that made me cringe a bit. Annelzen from the other side oh the tavern gave both of them a look of disgust. Seemed she was now just eyeing old Arifal. I hope the girl does nothing stupid.

I thought things were going to pass, we might walk outta here with our wealth and hides intact. After all the great and mighty often ignore us rabble. That other hobbit was concerning me though, he was actin’ like he had a bee in his bonnet or somewhat over where he was “hiding”.

Devastation wrought, or .. OOCH! me beard!

As I said, I had thought things would pass and we would be safe, well. I was wrong, and it started so calmly that I should have known of the coming hurricane. Arifal came right up to our table, big grin on his face and scooted Saxulf right out his way. He sat down as comfortable as yeh like and drained his fourth? mug in short order. Grinning the whole time, he took the empty mug and shattered it across Saxulf’s surprised face! the lad went arse over onto his noggin and quick as a fox he was across the table and bustin’ Agmund’s nose.

That was when all bedlam broke loose. I heard a woman scream, may have been Haddy, and miss Mable had scampered off to not get a stomping. Calmly as can be Balderic went into “hiding” and I thought I saw Haddy go under the bar to hide (and cheer her favorites, which obviously wasn’t us)! I was shocked, but not so much as my companions. I thought well, here goes. But I thought it may be not so bad, since Arifal’s mighty axe never left his back, he intended to pummel us.

Only in the face of the hurricane that is Arifal could one forget such as the Blackfeather (likely as not the more dangerous of the two, if only for not being so obvious about it) being in the room. Well I paid for that mightily as he walked up and gave me a scoop o’ burnin’ ash from the fireplace in the face! He even had the gall to say “kinnah ash ye a question” as he scorched me beard good. I was all a flummoxed when he bashed me to the ground with a blow I barely saw (though it was coming in fast enough that I had time just to yalp).

I heard the bells ringing, smelt me beard a burnin’, and me eyes a waterin’ as the chaos erupted all round the tavern. In the midst of the ringing I heard howls of pain and the grunts of close combat. For a moment I thought myself back in the darksome halls of the Greydelve fighting for my life. I was not sure who fell first, Agmund or Saxulf, But there was enough commotion to allow me to my feet.

I found myself somehow staring at Hvaldi’s massive back, he had been using his shield as a “go to sleep” aid. So I took the dishonorable tactic of grappling with him. Bad idea as he had the strength o’a mountain bear. It took him but moments to break my own iron grip. I glimpsed Arifal using Saxulf’s limp body to pummel the villainous Jasper to the ground! I had heard the cry of “weapons out” from one of our adversaries and of course the wee weasel had tried to knife Hvaldi. Stupid twerp got what he deserved for that one.

I looked about to see Agmund was unconscious on the ground with a busted lip and nose. Saxulf in a pile with Jasper, and a thing of beauty. A fair elf maid had somehow slipped in and entered the fray. At the moment she was beating the snot outta Annelzen. Not that the witch didn’t have it coming mind you. Fact is I would have liked to watch how that played out. It was like seeing a graceful swan pummel a fat turkey vulture. I spent far too many precious moments watching Annelzen getting the stuffing knocked out of her to realize my own peril. Hvaldi had decided that enough fun was had and decided to finish me off.

I heard him, barely saw the blur of metal and dwarf flesh that plowed me into the wall. I tried to catch my breathe. Only Annelzen of all my companions was still on her feet, bleeding and battered, she was breathing heavier than I was. The blood around her neck made me fearful that mayhap she had pushed the elf maid too far (and while I would shed no tears over that creature being removed from the world. I would hate for young Saxulf to be so roughly slain, best hope for the best) It was clear that soon I would be the “last dwarf standing” as Annelzen was clearly outmatched.

Sure enough, the sickening crack of wood on skull was heard and Annelzen went face first over a bench. She had been hit so hard she had wet herself. I was now the last of our “fellowship” for what little that was worth still on his feet, I braced for the expected onslaught. I was not expecting the thunderous kick to my chest. Hvaldi’s reputation is woefully short of the truth, he managed to kick the air from me lungs and I felt what may have been me ribs a crackin! I tried to stay on my feet as my eyes started to glaze over. I saw Hvaldi flip back up to his feet in plated armour!! No one would believe that feat had they not seen it. Sadly that was all I seen as I slipped into unconsciousness.

Thus endeth the tale…for now

The accounts of the Hanaf Firebeard on the events of the 27th of December end here. I can say that as a casual observer that he had little to worry about. Ferdinand, son of Joller had no intent on the death of this group, he just wanted his gem back. Well Hanaf’s group did not have it. Arifal took it upon himself to stack the defeated in a corner by the fire, he did so without regard for size and weight. This meant that the villainous Jasper would be doubly sore and that all those unfortunate enough to be underneath Annelzen would be wet.

The fellowship did not “rob” their fallen foes, though they did insist on taking the damages and the next round(s?) of drinks out of their hides. Hvaldi did discover the goblin map on Annelzen which undoubtedly raised more questions than answers. Ferdinand was visibly upset by the encounter but grateful for the arrival of his father’s mighty companions when they did. As he had been snooping about the place for a while. He is his father’s son in many ways, but still young and inexperienced.

Another observation from the tale of Hanaf was that it made scant matter which of the companions would have entered alone for any of these famed heroes of old would have made short work of his motley fellowship. It must also be noted that for a brief moment Hanaf had managed to hold Hvaldi at bay (had it not been a desperate grab from behind, one could imagine it going very, very badly for Hanaf, as Hvaldi has a reputation for “troll baiting” second to none in the third age), only Arifal had taken any meaningful strike (and that merely had annoyed him), a desperate hay maker from Agmund before he too was felled.

As an aside, the night was actually well taken by Mabel as she was able to thoroughly enjoy all the spilled victuals. Balderic now has a great tale to tell of when titans strode in his tavern. Haddy herself had merry time of it being able to sit back and watch the brawl while helping herself to the villain’s next already paid for rounds, they would not be needing them.

Thus ends the tale of the “Battle of the Stout Oak Tavern”

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