Echoes of the North

The New Journals of Hvaldi: 2

Winter hangs heavy

(This one may come off odd. We tried AIME for one session. Started off a second session with MERP and then swapped back to One Ring for the remainder of the 2nd and then the full 3rd session. Plus I’ve been lazy and not written a log in a bit so bear with me :) )

They don’t make armor for your heart. And courage and tenacity cannot be bought or stockpiled. What is a Dwarf to do when he finds these things under attack? I am a right bear to deal with when I am fully armed and armored, but I fear that my courage or my heart will fail as the days seem to only grow darker and I have nothing but dimming hope to protect me.

It has been a span since I last made an entry as events have been rapid and the mood has not struck me. I am exhausted most of the time and were it not for the fellowship of my friends and the promise of going home to see my family again, I probably would have dug a hole and hidden in it long ago.

I suppose I shall have to start at the beginning of this mess. My stomach turns to relate the events that occurred at the inn. We found a Goblin-made map detailing their hide-out and likely from where they were raiding on one of the bandits. As they awoke we questioned them in turn. It seemed half of them had hope for redemption while the other half were ill-fit for civilized living. We decided to send the irredeemable back to Dale with Sigmund who had shown up that evening. Sadly it was not to be. I found a mass of papers and correspondence from Saruman detailing various schemes and plans he had sent Annelzen the wicked woman who had attempted to stab Laera. Later that evening, after I had fallen asleep, I was awoken by Annelzen talking in her sleep. It seems she was frightened, terrified even. I felt as if the walls of the inn, the very air were closing in on all of us.

I struck out and slapped Ann awake only for the feeling of a soap bubble popping to ripple across our reality. It seemed I had broken some sort of spell and when I looked at the papers, all of them were blank. I loathe schemes and deception but it seems there was to be no end to this sort of thing. What’s more Ann didn’t improve all that much when the spell had been broken. She was still arrogant, preening, selfish and craven. It seems she had little recollection of her previous dealings and at least had the dignity to look partially ashamed when I informed her she had been consorting with goblins and all manner of foulness.

It was right around that time that I heard odd noises outside. What light could be seen seemed to grow darker, shadows moving over it. The sound of skittering legs and whispers on the wind filled me with dread. I called out to my companions to arm themselves. When I pushed open a shutter to call across to the barn where Sigmund and his men were holding the bandit leader, I could see massive spiders moving around the courtyard. I hoped the lad heard me as i had to slam the shutter when one of the spiders tried to dart forward at me. The battle was quickly joined as we all spilled from the Inn and took up arms. Hanaf the Dwarf and Saxund joined us in the fray. I tried to stand guard over the still unconscious Annelzen but it seemed the spiders were not interested in her. Only one of the little ones snuck down the chimney into the Inn proper and I made short work of it with my hammer.

I made up my mind and charged out the front door rushing headlong into a spider that was burying its fangs into Saxund. Sadly the lad did not make it but I avenged him at least three-fold that evening. I also managed to topple the dying spider onto poor Ferdinand. I heard a shriek followed by a groan of pain but I could not stop to check. The battle was tipping back and forth. It seems spiders had snuck into the Stables as well and were pressing Sigmund and his men sorely. What’s more, the foul bandit leader seemed to be escaping. I could hardly believe my eyes but it seemed as if he was being led by one of the Spiders. I could barely hear him muttering about “I am coming my queen” and other such nonsense.

Arafal and I did our best to tear through the Spiders and when we could, we sent Sigmund into the barn to check on his men as we raced after the Bandit captain. We were able to catch and recapture him but he was as a madman. Frothing and raving and refusing to calm himself. Arafal and Sigmund, after informing us that his men were dead, taken by the spiders, counseled that we should execute the Bandit. He was too far gone into the clutches of some foul creature or sorcerer. I reluctantly agreed but I would not take part. I went back into the Inn as they carried out the sentence. When did we, or at least I become a Judge, fit to determine guilt and hand out death as such? I will defend myself and defeat my foes in combat, but the taking of life in such a manner brings me no peace. I know it was needful but I still cannot find any satisfaction in the deed.

When they returned they dropped an amulet with the markings of Dol Guldur on the table. It seems the Bandit had somehow hidden it on his person this entire time. That foul token was sundered by my hammer and we all sat down to plan. Sigmund would rush to a nearby friends house. The man was a healer of sorts and we could sorely use his help if we were going into a Goblin hole. He set off almost immediately. Barely an hour later, a messenger riding a small pony rode up and gave Arafal a missive. He gave me a short bow and said he was needed. I could see little reason to keep him as we were all waiting anyways so he rode off with the messenger.

News was not done with us though. Evening was just falling when a rather brutish Raven arrived with a swath of notes tied to it’s leg. It could not speak but seemed amenable to me taking its burdens. As soon as I did, it plucked at the corn I offered it and flew off with a loud caw. Not the dignified behavior of the Ravens I am used to but needs must I suppose. The notes carried pleas for aid. I am being generous here, they carried outright demands for it. It seems one of Baern’s children was “King” now and he was demanding aid from all and sundry. The tale being told was that some feud had spilled out of control and now what remained of Baern’s folk was holed up, not a day away from us hanging on for dear life. From the sound of it, poor Baern was probably dead, and a good number of his family as well.

He may have been an idiot at times, and a preening peacock but I think he was a good man and did not deserve this fate. I gathered those who remained and pushed at a brutal pace. I won’t stand by to see what remains of my friends or their families slaughtered for some idiotic North-men feud. We ran through the night. Anger and concern pushing us to keep up a ruthless trek. The morning was just dawning as we came upon an old stone tower. Surrounding it was a motley group of North-men while it seemed another group was inside. We quickly began to plan out how we could sneak in, or take them by surprise but I was in no mood. I simply walked up to them and asked to speak to their Chief. Thankfully he did not order his men to rush my stubborn self and we had a chat.

So long story short, the North-men outside of the tower believed that the North-men inside the tower had caused their friends and family’s destruction. After I was allowed to go inside the tower and talk, there was naught but a few old men, a pack of children, one claiming to be a king and one young woman. Grand conspirators and fellers of great holdings these were not. It seems old Baern had been up to some tricks but a great darkness had befell his Kingdom and the surrounding lands. A Dragon and a horde of Orcs had laid waste to the Anduin valley and all who lived there were most likely dead, or refugees like these two bands. To see them at each others necks while their homeland lay in the clutches of the foul shadow made my heart ache. He may have been a pain at times, but I liked Baern and his folk did not deserve this fate.

I resolved myself to seek a peaceful solution for this and went outside to talk to the Chief of the assaulting North-men. I think his name was Einar but truth be told, I am exhausted at this moment and cannot rightly recall. He was a stubborn one but I eventually began whittling away at his band’s conscience. The thought of assaulting Women, Children and the Elderly did not sit well with their warrior pride. I had more than half of them ready to walk away after offering blood-gold to sooth their pride and give them the thought that at least they had walked away with something to show. But as always seems to be the case lately, not all was as it seemed. The day had been cold but it suddenly seemed to grow much colder. A bone-chilling fog began to roll in and great clouds of what looked like debased Ravens began to circle overhead.

It did not take the sharp eyes of an Elf to see that something was very, very wrong. Thankfully the North-men were quick to rise to my calls of alarm. They began to form up around the tower. I was still too worried about violence against my charges so I didn’t demand that we all fall back inside the tower. I feel somewhat silly as that could have been a wonderful defensive point, but I was not yet ready to trust. I seem to be growing more cantankerous and traditional as I get older, much to my chagrin. Anyways, the mist was rolling in and with it came the sounds of approaching enemies. Orcs and Wood-Goblins began to arrive from three directions forming up, or what passes for forming up among their chaotic kind. From the southwest came a single human dressed in a foul looking robe. Something rankled me about this man and I was quickly proven right when the dead began to coalesce around him. A number of wights and even three specters seemed to appear at his command.

I’ll admit that I was feeling more than a little fear at this moment. We were surrounded by all manner of foulness including some form of necromancer who could command the dead. I took a moment to whisper a silent prayer for my family and began to work. I commanded our defense as well as I could only to have the wind taken out of me when two Trolls shambled up, one Wood-Troll from the southeast and a Cave-Troll from the North East. If I had the time to consider our odds at that moment, I probably would have wept but battle was quickly joined and I was not one to sit out a fight while my companions were at risk. Once again, many of the details escape me but I do remember breaking the Wood-Troll’s hip with a shield charge and leaving it for the North-Men to finish off and eventually making my way to the foul Human sorcerer. He seemed surprised that I had gotten to him through his minions and made to do battle against me with his staff. He did not fare well and I have no guilt over felling him quickly.

I would say the rest of this portion was happy but there was still the threat of danger, hurt feelings and lessons to be learned. I took the small party from the inside of the Tower back to Ravenhill and made them welcome. After they were refreshed, most of them chose to move on to Dale or Laketown. It seems the young Woman was one of Charlotte’s first children from back in Breeland. I told her where to find her mother and sent her on with my blessings. The children were all placed in good homes with Baern’s eldest being reminded that without a Kingdom, a person is no longer a King and as such, should not act the part of a spoiled brat with delusions of grandeur. Thankfully I managed to spend a full two days with my family during this period of time. Two blessed days only ruined by an old acquaintance being found. It seems Annelzen, the Tomb Raider, thief and all around distasteful person was caught, surprise surprise, raiding an old tomb to the north of Ravenhill.

I almost hate myself for my willingness to listen as she began quickly trying to save her hide. I was intending to make good on my promise of slaying her if I ever saw her again but she seemed to have knowledge of various events that I needed to know about. Goblins and spiders infested the Tomb to our north and she knew about the Goblins that were holed up in Balthi’s hold as well as the layout of the hold. I hate making devil’s bargains but she was more useful alive than dead. I feel vile even writing this as I know how dangerous courting the shadow can be. I only hope that my Children can live in a world where they do not need to make bargains such as this.

So all of us made our way back to the Inn. We spent a friendly, warm and safe night there before setting out to Balthi’s hold the next day. As an aside, venturing forth in the dead of Winter is a horrid idea. Vexations upon the Goblins for their raiding and upon any who commit evil acts and force me to venture out into the snow and cold. The journey to the hold was quiet though and we made good time. We arrived nearing early evening to Cotter Marsh’s place. He was an old man who offered shelter and warmth to travelers in the area. His property was quiet as the grave though which is rarely a good sign. We crept forward listening and sniffing. It was quiet but a strange, foul scent was on the air.

Ferdinand snuck up to one of the windows and peered inside. When he came back to our fold, he told us of a group of goblins inside the building being directed by a very large orc. As is our way, we sprung into action, instantly going every direction save the same as the others. Some of us snuck up to the door, some of us tried to go around to the other side of the building and some of us were scouting the surrounds to ensure this was not part of a larger ambush. We were all about half set when impatience got the better of us and we launched or own attack. I know it bodes ill for our future but I have all but given up on trying to direct our group or even keep them together. I do what I can to shield whom I can but I know we will lose more members at some point. We are not soldiers and we never act as such. This pains me but I do not know what more I can do.

Arrows flew as doors were kicked in, and battle cries sounded out. I decided to launch myself through the second story snow window with a mighty cry of “Baruk Khazad” and managed to kick one of the goblins into the fireplace. This seemed to dishearten the goblins and it was pure chaos and fighting from there. There had been a few goblins and another orc outside the house but those were quickly dispatched along with the few that had been searching inside. We briefly interrogated the two remaining goblins. They confessed that they were searching for some key that had been lost or taken from “Her Ladyship” which they intimated was a foul giant Spider of some sort. Also they said there was some form of “Screecher” meddling in these areas as well which I have the sinking feeling is either a Khargul or a Nazghul.

With such dark news I was in little mood for anything save preparing to leave but the goblins had mentioned they were looking for a traitor who was in possession of this key. We eventually found a runt of a goblin hiding in the root cellar. I could have encircled his chest with my hands with little difficulty but the creature was cooperative at least. Deformed and reeking of all manner of foulness, he told us everything we asked and more. Apparently the goblin tribe’s chief was dead and something had prompted their recent raiding. Some of the goblins had recently left the hold, presumably to raid and the remaining goblins had discovered something in the deeps of the hold. Beyond that, the creature willingly gave us the key and intimated he had stole it upon Anelzen’s direction. Apparently they had some extraordinarily foul deal that Anelzen at least had the decency to look shocked at.

I gave the creature some warm clothes and sent him on his way. He had done all that we asked and dealt with us as fairly as one can expect from a goblin so I let him go. During our previous search, we had found a blood trail so we finally went out to check on that. There were two dead bodies, both men laying in the snow where the other orcs and goblins had been searching. One was Old Man Cotter and the other was an Easterling man, most likely one of Frar’s mercenaries. The blood trail led beyond this fight though and to the outhouse. When we pried the door open we found an Easterling woman, wounded and passed out. Small miracle too, she was familiar. It was Deyai, whom we had rescued years ago on our journey to Rhubar. We quickly brought her inside and tended to her wounds. I hovered around her room but there was little I could do so I finally decided to see to my last task before turning in for the evening.

Annelzen had done nothing to help during our previous fight. It is becoming obvious that the lass is a coward but whats more she seems to take direction only when it suits her. I invited her to another room for a discussion and we calmly and carefully parlayed. I only had to strike her once or twice to get my point across. There was a time when the thought of striking someone for anything other than mortal combat would have sent me into fits of bluster and rage. Now I simply shrug in a tired exhaustion at what the world seems to delight in making me do.

Deyai finally awoke late in the evening and we talked for a good hour before she needed to sleep again. She is recovering quite quickly but it will take some time before she is fully whole. She told me of her and her husband’s journey over to the lands around Erebor. I guess they were going to join up with Frar but they had stopped by Ravenhill on their way. Thankfully Dumora was the gracious host that always makes me proud and saw them on their way after a pleasant visit. I was away dealing with the goblin raid. When they had made it out to Cotter’s Marsh, it seems the old man was startled and quite raving mad. He had attacked them almost instantly and Deyai’s husband slew the old man, but not before he was struck a mortal blow as well. The goblins had come creeping around later after Deyai had barricaded herself inside the outhouse due to her own wounds. I told her to return to Dale when she recovered and that she was always welcome in Ravenhill. I was sorry for her loss and I really do hope she finds happiness and peace in Dale.

The next day dawned cold and far too quick….

We came upon a blood trail leading to the outhouse wherein we found a survivor from their last ambush. A young lass, and a familiar one as well!

We arrived nearing evening and saw the gate was propped ajar. There were no apparent guards so we crept up to the entrance.

We crept forward, stopping to listen before we finally entered. Inside the gloom of Balthi’s Hold, also known as Khazad Mithrin we came upon the grand entry hall

TBC – Sleepy :) (I’m strugglin with this one so it may take me a while)

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matthewpomeroy74 Drakolus

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