Flavor text: Angmar Awakened

These articles are becoming longer and longer the further we go in. But I have grown to appreciate the stories a lot since starting this series. While most of the work is simply cutting and pasting the stories from the rule sheets, I do have to type some segments over, giving me a better idea of what exactly the developers intend to tell in these stories. With that, we have come to cycle 5: Angmar Awakened. This cycle focuses a lot on story, and includes an interesting epilogue that I had almost forgotten about. I hope you’ll enjoy!

Intruders in Chetwood

Start: The House of Elrond was bustling with preparations. Fall was turning the leaves on the trees of Rivendell to flaming colors, and the valley echoed with the singing of merry voices. The Elves were gathering the last of the summer harvest to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. All were busy except the Master of the House and his guests, a band of weary travelers who had recently arrived from important errands in Gondor and Dunland. The heroes were tired from a journey of many leagues fraught with peril, and Elrond had welcomed them to rest in his home and tell what they could of their adventures.

In the Hall of Fire, Elrond spoke with the heroes at length concerning their service to the White Council. Many great deeds they had done to forestall the growing power of Mordor, and for their acts of valor, Elrond made them honored guests and bid them stay until they were refreshed.

While they spoke with the Elf-lord, a messenger entered the Hall to announce another traveler newly come to Rivendell. Behind him stood a tall man of proud bearing. He wore the weather-stained garb of a Ranger. From the man’s appearance, it was clear that his errand was urgent.

“Mae govannen, Dúnadan”, said Elrond, “The sons of Valandil are welcome in Imladris.”

The Ranger placed his hand over a hawk pendant he wore on a chain around his neck and bowed. “My lord,” he spoke, “My name is Iârion, and I have ridden here in haste to seek my kinsman, Aragorn. There is evil afoot in the untamed lands north of Bree, and we Rangers have need of our Chieftain.”

“The son of Arathorn is not here,” answered Elrond. Gesturing for the Ranger to sit in the empty chair next to him, he continued: “But tell me more of your errand. Long have the Dúnedain kept the villages of Bree safe with secret vigil, yet seldom have they sought for aid in that thankless task. What evil drives you here now?”

The Ranger took the seat that was offered to him before explaining: “Orcs have been discovered west of the Weather Hills in greater number than we have seen them in many years. They are spying out the land, and we believe they plan to attack.”

“Alas, Aragorn is far afield with my sons and the warriors of my house,” replied Elrond. “Until they return, I have no one to send to your aid.”

Iârion looked downcast but mastered himself before speaking: “Then I must return at once to my kinsman and help them prepare as best I may.”

“I will tell your Chieftain of the threat to his people as soon as he returns,” said the Elf-lord.

The Ranger stood up, bowed to Elrond, and turned to leave, but the heroes who were sitting there rose to their feet and stepped forward. “We will come with you,” spoke one, and the rest nodded in agreement.

“I thank you strangers,” replied Iârion. “But as Master Elrond has said, our deeds are secret and thankless; we Dúnedain receive no reward for our sacrifice, and neither do we have any to offer.”

“Hunting Orcs is its own reward,” said the hero evenly, and continued, “we will not sit idle here while you and your folk fight this battle. Not while we have strength left. We will come.”

“Then let us ride swiftly to the aid of my people,” said Iârion with fresh hope in his eyes.

“May the favor of the Valar be upon each of you in this task,” spoke Elrond in farewell.

Together the Ranger and the heroes bade farewell to the Last Homely House. They rode west from the valley of Rivendell towards the villages of Bree-land. They followed the Old Road over the Last Bridge all the way to the southern end of the Weather Hills. There they turned aside to climb Weathertop, the tallest of the hills. Its summit commanded a great view of the surrounding area, and Iârion told his companions there would be Rangers keeping vigil there. From them, the Dúnadan hoped to learn some news before pressing on.

When they reached the top, they found two Dúnedain who greeted them. “Ho Iârion, I see you have brought others to help us, but I fear it may be too late,” one of them said grimly. “A large number of Orcs descended from the hills last night. A war party it seemed to us, but moving warily and avoiding the road. We watched creep north and west along the edge of the marsh until they disappeared beyond the fens.”

“It is likely that they mean to come upon the villages of Bree-land from the north,” replied Iârion looking in the direction the Rangers indicated. “Our people in Chetwood must be warned! One of you take my horse and ride with haste to do so. My companions and I will follow the Orcs and do what we can do to delay them.”

Turning to the heroes, Iârion laid his hand on the pommel of his sword as he addressed them: “There are many lonely homesteads north of Bree. We must do what we can to track these Orcs and safeguard those people. Come!”

Completion: Iârion leaned on the hilt of his sword and watched the last of the Orcs flee to the east, away from the peaceful villages near at hand. The Ranger and his company had chased their quarry to the very borders of Bree-land, where they forced their enemy to turn and give battle.

The war-party was better armed and better disciplined than the sort of ordinary rabble the Ranger was accustomed to hunting, but in hindsight it seemed clear to Iârion that the Orcs were bent more on pillaging than fighting, for they broke and fled after only a short battle.

“Clearly these Orcs did not expect to be met by such determined resistance,” said one of the heroes triumphantly, looking down at the body of the last Orc he had slain before the rest turned to flee.

Roused from his tired musings, Iârion turned to face the man and replied gravely: “Yes, but the audacity of their attack unnerves me; the Orcs have not dared to venture this far west in years. What is it that leads them here now?”

The heroes could see the concern in the Ranger’s eyes, and the rush of victory had faded as they considered the implications of his question.

“I’m afraid our work is not yet finished, my friends,” said Iârion, gazing into the distance. “There is to be a gathering of the Dúnedain at Fornost in a few days to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. I must go thither with news of this attack for I fear it is but a prelude of things to come, and the Rangers must be ready for what follows.”

Turning to the heroes with him, Iârion continued, “However, we cannot allow those Orcs that fled to escape, or they may return again in even greater numbers. Since I must go to Fornost, I ask you: will you track them in my stead?”

From the strained look in his eyes, the heroes could see how hard it was for the honorable Ranger to burden them with this dangerous task, so they made him an oath that none of the Orcs that had ventured so close to Bree would live to return again.

“Well said,” replied Iârion. Then he raised his sword in salute and spoke, “May the spirit of Oromë guide you on your hunt!”

With that, the Ranger sheathed his blade and hurried away. The heroes watched him head north along the Greenway for a minute before turning their eyes to the east and the trail of their enemies.

The Weather Hills

Start: For days, the heroes pursued the remnants of the war-party east from Chetwood across the northern edge of Midgewater Marshes and into the wide plain beyond. Along the way, they came upon several burnt homesteads. Each was plainly the work of Orcish savagery. However, at each home, the heroes were surprised to find no bodies. Instead, they found signs of struggle and the unmistakable tracks of Orcs dragging their captives away.

“Why would retreating Orcs stop to take prisoners?” asked one of the heroes, examining the impressions on the ground.

“Perhaps they think to ransom their lives?” answered another as he emerged from the charred ruin of a collapsed hovel.

“One or two prisoners would have sufficed if that was their intent, but these Orcs have taken a dozen at least,” replied the first. “Look at the markings here.”

The man in the doorway knelt by his companion to examine the earth more closely. After a minute he said, “I think I see the answer to this riddle: The Orcs we chase are not the same that attacked this home, though it is likely that they are in league with each other. Look here! The prints made by this family as they struggled against their captors are at least a full day older than those of the Orcs we have pursued here.”

The rest of the heroes agreed that he was right, but this discovery did little to ease their mood since it suggested the attack near Bree was only part of a larger plot. There was brief silence as each member of the company contemplated what that might be.

At length, one of them spoke, “If the Orcs are in league together, then it is likely that the ones we hunt will lead us to their meeting place. There we may hope to find those who were captured. Even if we cannot rescue them, we can at least avenge ourselves upon their captors!” The rest agreed that this was their only course of action, and they resumed the chase.

The Orcs’ trail led them north and east towards the Weather Hills. As they marched, the sky above them grew dark with clouds driven by a chill wind out of the north. By the time they reached the first rocky slope of the hills, it was unusually cold.

The heroes drew their cloaks about them, but it did little to keep out the frosty air. As freezing rain began to fall on the heroes in heavy drops, one of them lifted his eyes skyward and said aloud, “This is an ill omen, my friends. The weather turns against us and washes out our trail. I fear there is some new evil at work here that gives aid to our enemies.”

There was some murmur of agreement among the company before another spoke up, “It matters not whence the rain comes or if the trail ends; our quarry hides somewhere in these hills, and we must find them or forsake their captives and our oath.”

There was a hushed ring of steel as each of the heroes drew his weapon in silent reply. The heroes pulled up their hoods and began to search for sign of the Orcs. …

Completion: The Orcs had made their camp inside an old Dúnedain border-fort built at the northern edge of the Weather Hills in the Second Age *Durin’s Father’s Note: This should read “Third Age”* during the war between Arnor and Angmar. The ancient wooden gates were destroyed with age and the Orcs could not stop their pursuers from entering in. Once inside, the heroes fulfilled their oath to Iârion by slaying every Orc they found hiding among the ruins.

After the fighting was finished, the heroes cleaned the blood from their weapons and began searching for the Orcs’ captives. Inside what might once have been the great hall of the fort, they found the mutilated bodies of several villagers. Their desecrated corpses were arranged at the center of an evil pattern on the floor. The victims had clearly been sacrificed as part of some unholy sacrament, but none could guess what it was. Then did the heroes rue their decision to slay all the Orcs without questioning them first.

“This is not Orc work,” said one of the heroes who looked with horror at the scene. “This is foul sorcery.”

“Aye, but whose?” asked another in reply.

“Let us search the rest of the fort in hopes that we may find the answer,” said a third, covering his mouth and turning his face away from the bodies.

At the far end of the hall, they found a darkened stairway leading down. The heroes lit a torch and descended the narrow passage as it twisted its way underneath the fort. At the bottom of the stairs, they found a dank cellar sealed by a locked door. From inside they could hear shuffling and whimpering sounds.

The heroes forced the door open and thrust a torch inside. The flickering orange light revealed a small group of survivors huddled together in a corner. They appeared half-starved, and they shivered in the cold dungeon. The heroes removed their cloaks and placed them around the unfortunate prisoners to help warm them.

The air was cleaner outside, so the heroes led the survivors back up the stairway and away from the dungeon. But as they passed the bodies in the hall, the rescued captives screamed and wept.

“Who has done this?” asked one of the heroes, but they were too distraught to answer.

Outside the wind had died down and the rain had stopped. The heroes lit a fire in the courtyard of the old fort and the survivors gathered around it. At length, an older man named Thaurdir spoke, “We didn’t see what happened. We couldn’t. They kept us locked in that dungeon for days without any light. We could only hear the screams…” His voice trailed off.

The man’s hood covered most of his face so the heroes could not see his expression. After a moment he continued. “We could hear the harsh voices of the Orcs too, but there was another voice that commanded them. I don’t know what kind of creature it was, but it was terrifying to hear.”

“We found none but Orcs when we arrived here,” spoke one of the heroes.

“Then it must have escaped,” answered the old man.

“If that is so, we cannot stay here,” replied the hero. he turned to his companions and said, “We should take these people to Fornost where the Rangers are gathered. Iârion will want to hear what they can tell him of their capture.” Turning to the former prisoners, he said, “You will be safe there.”

The rest of the heroes voiced their agreement, but the traumatized survivors merely nodded. After they had given their charges something to eat and water to drink, the heroes began their slow march to Fornost.

Deadmen’s Dike

Start: It was a long journey from the Weather Hills to Fornost Erain, made longer by the weary survivors the heroes were escorting. The unfortunate villagers had suffered much hardship during their captivity, and the unusually cold weather did not improve their condition. Soon they were all sick from their ordeal. In the end, the heroes had to send a runner ahead to summon help from the Dúnedain they were seeking.

With help from the Rangers, the heroes were able to bring the survivors safely to Fornost. Once the capital of Arthedain, the ancient city was abandoned after the war with Angmar, almost a thousand years ago. Now the desolate ruin was called Deadmen’s Dike, yet on high days, the Dúnedain still gathered there, as they did now.

Iârion and a younger Ranger were there to greet them when they entered the city gates. The noble Dúnadan had a look of wonder on his face as he watched the heroes bring the survivors inside the walls. “You have exceeded your oath in saving these people,” he exclaimed. “On behalf of the Dúnedain, I think you friends. Come, join us at the council fire and tell us your tale. My brother, Amarthiúl, will take care of your charges.”

The younger Ranger, a man of good stature, brought the survivors to see the healers while Iârion led the heroes to the central square of the city. A council of Dúnedain were gathered there around a large fire. In the place of honor was their Chieftain, Aragorn, son of Arathorn. He looked at the heroes with keen interest as Iârion introduced them, “Here is the valiant company that helped us defend the villages of Bree-land and pursued our enemies to their hiding place in the Weather Hills. They have come here with the survivors they rescued from the Orcs, and with evil news.”

The heroes described for the Ranger the details of their adventure: the burnt homesteads, the Orcs’ captives, the old border-fort of Amon Forn, and the grisly sacrifices. After the whole account had been made, there was a long silence before Aragorn finally spoke.

“Your tale is full of woe,” said the son of Arathorn, “We have not heard of such evils since the fall of ancient Angmar.”

“Indeed,” replied Iârion, “their tale bears the very trappings of Angmar. The king of that cursed land was a powerful sorcerer, and many stories such as theirs were heard in his day.”

“Aye,” answered Aragorn, “but the armies of Angmar were defeated, and the Witch-king fled the North. That fell wraith now commands the fortress of Minas Morgul and threatens Gondor with was. These foul deeds cannot be his doing.”

“And yet the crimes we hear of now are the same as were uncovered in this very city when it was recovered from Angmar many years ago,” insisted Iârion. “If they are no the Nazgúl’s work, then perhaps one of his disciples has returned to take his place?”

As the Dúnedain debated this question, the setting sun fell behind the hills of Evendim to the west, and the sky darkened above them. From another part of the city there came a shrill cry, and a moment later Amarthiúl came running towards the council.

“Iârion! Iârion!” he shouted between breaths. “We are betrayed!”

“What is it man?” asked Iârion. “What has happened?”

“Black sorcery!” said Amarthiúl, seizing Iârion’s arm. “One of the survivors. The old man. The one called Thaurdir. He…” The younger Ranger took a breath, “He is a wraith!”

“A wraith? How did you learn this?” asked Iârion with an astonished voice.

“When I brought the survivors to see the healers, I saw the old man slip away. I thought that suspicious, so I followed him in secret,” explains Amarthiúl, speaking quickly. “He walked straight to the tombs and there cast aside his cloak. His face was drawn and withered like a corpse, but his eyes!” The young Ranger blanched, and then continued “I made no sound, yet he looked straight at me where I hid among the shadows, and I knew he could see me with those hollow eyes. Being discovered, I drew my sword to confront him, but he merely laughed. It was the most horrible sound I’ve ever heard! Then, from the open tomb behind him, I could see the spirits of the dead gathering around him. That is when I ran here.”

Iârion was about to reply when the flames of the great fire suddenly burst into the air and then died, leaving the Rangers in total darkness. All about them, a chill fog gathered. From within the black mist, they could hear scraping and rustling sounds. As their eyes adjusted to the dark, they descried the horrid outline of many ghouls in rusted armor surrounding them. The dead faces glared at them with hollow eyes, and rotted hands raised ancient blades to attack.

“To arms, Dúnedain!” shouted Aragorn, drawing his blade. “The wraiths of Angmar are upon us!”

Completion: The Rangers were unprepared for an attack, and they were nearly overmastered by the sudden onslaught of Thaurdir and his ghouls. But the heroes who stood with them rallied the Dúnedain to victory with their unyielding courage.

Even so, it was a frightful battle. Swords were not the enemy’s only weapon, and the fear of them nearly drove the heroes mad. Yet as dawn drew closer, the sorcerer’s spell began to fade and the Rangers gained the upper hand. However, just as victory seemed assured, Thaurdir seized Iârion and fled the city. The brave Ranger was holding two enemies at bay when the sorcerer struck him over the head with a resounding blow. Then, Thaurdir ordered two of his minions to retreat with the body. From behind a press of ghastly warriors, the heroes saw Amarthiúl give chase but they were unable to aid him because of the enemies that barred their way.

As the first light of sun broke through the clouds, the heroes struck down the last of their unnatural foes and ran after Amarthiúl. They found him at Deadmen’s Gate; his eyes glazed in a stupor. He still wielded his sword and struck at the air around him, but there were no ghouls left to fight.

“Amarthiúl!” cried one of the heroes, “The dawn has come, and the enemy has fled.”

The Dúnadan lowered his sword and regarded the heroes as one waking from a dream. “I couldn’t reach him,” he muttered as he fell to his knees. “When I saw them take Iârion, I tried to follow. But the fog grew thick around me, and I lost my way.”

“It was an evil spell that clouded your eyes,” said one of the heroes, trying to comfort the young Ranger. “The wraith that attacked us was a powerful sorcerer. it was he that took your friend.”

“Why?” asked Amarthiúl, but none could answer. On the ground, the young Ranger found the hawk pendant of Iârion and regarded it in his hand. “It matters not,” said the Dúnadan clutching the pendant and rising to his feet. “Thaurdir has taken my friend, so I will pursue him.”

“We will aid you in this quest,” spoke the heroes with one voice. “We cannot abandon Iârion to the same fate as those village people.”

“Then let us depart swiftly,” said Amarthiúl, sheathing his weapon. “We may still rescue him if we move quickly!”

The Wastes of Eriador

Start: The battle at Fornost was fierce and bitter, and left many of the Dúnedain wounded. The sight of the wraiths had very nearly broken their spirit, and had it not been for the valiant efforts of Iârion’s companions, the Rangers would not have withstood the attack. Once dawn had finally arrived, the Dúnedain recuperated their strength, shoring up the defenses of Deadmen’s Dike and tending to the wounded.

Amarthiúl had other concerns. Iârion had been captured during the battle by the Wraith Thaurdir, and there was still time to come to his aid. The heroes who had helped defend Fornost vowed to rescue Iârion as well, and so their hunt began. It didn’t take long for them to find the enemy’s tracks leading northeast into the hills.

Thaurdir and the remnants of his forces, including the minions that subdued and captured Iârion, were making great haste across the North Downs. Despite the enemy’s efforts to get away, the heroes were smaller in number and eager to pursue their quarry. Iârion’s captors took little care to cover their tracks, and so the hunters spent many hours chasing afoot without stopping to rest, eat or find their bearings. They traveled far into the night, hoping to overtake Thaurdir under the cover of darkness. But when the sun rose over the green hills, they had still closed little ground on their adversary.

Amarthiúl looked north to the horizon and sighed, worry etched upon his brow. “It’s no use. Thaurdir is a Wraith of the shadow world, and his minions care not for food or rest. They travel unhindered for weeks without feeling weariness, while we struggle to keep pace.” He turned to his companions, forlorn.

“Patience, my friend,” one of the heroes said, clasping Amarthiúl’s shoulder. “Whether it be at sunset tonight or a fortnight from now, we will not stop pursuing them until we have rescued Iârion. They must have some need of him alive, for we have seen no sign that harm has befallen him.”

“Indeed, although that thought worries me equally,” another of their company said. “Amarthiúl, what do you know of Iârion? What reason would Thaurdir have to take him captive? Surely Aragorn, Chieftain of the Dúnedain, would have been a greater prize.”

The young Ranger took Iârion’s pendant from one of the pouches he wore across his belt and stared at it remorsefully. “I… I am not sure,” he said, shaking his head. “Iârion comes from a noble bloodline, that I do know. This is the symbol of his house,” he explained, showing the heroes the pendant of the hawk-in-flight they’d seen Iârion wearing. “A lesser prize than Aragorn you say, and no doubt that is true. But Aragorn’s true heritage we have long kept hidden from the Enemy. Iârion’s heritage needed no such safekeeping. As long as I’ve known him, he has worn this pendant proudly.” The Ranger’s eyes narrowed and he looked at the heroes with bitter vengeance deep in his thoughts. “Whatever the reason, I know what I saw at Fornost. Thaurdir could have taken many others, but left them dead or wounded instead. When Iârion challenged him, he sent his minions one at a time, sacrificing them to Iârion’s blade in order to wear him down. He meant to capture Iârion alive. Perhaps that was his goal all along.” The rest of the company nodded in response to Amarthiúl, whose logic seemed sound.

“All the more reason why we must pace ourselves,” one of the heroes said. “We are no help to Iârion falling over with exhaustion. We must be ready to fight when we reach the Wraith. Let us press on!”

They continued to track their quarry for many miles, keeping a more sustainable pace, resting briefly when necessary, and pressing onward with haste when the enemy’s tracks led them downhill or through level country. Eventually, they reached the edge of the North Downs, where the green hills gave way to the vast and desolate lands of northern Eriador. The weather grew colder and fouler the further north they traveled. Snow and freezing rain began to pelt their cloaks and hoods, and for the first time since departing Fornost, they felt the need to camp for the night.

That was the first night they heard the howling. It came from all around them, growing louder with each passing minute. One of the heroes took charge and alerted the rest of the company. “We cannot tarry. The wolves here are evil and vicious, and the darkness of night is their hunting ground.” They quickly broke camp, the weight of weariness beginning to take its toll. Throughout the night, the incessant baying of wolves was ever at their heels. Amarthiúl gave voice to their common concern: “I fear our hunt has just become theirs…”

Completion: They had endured the freezing cold and the biting fangs of evil wolves for many days, traveling as far as they could by day and fending off fierce attacks each night, but over time the company had grown weary. Defeating the pack’s leader had caused the creatures to retreat, but spending restless nights chased and harassed by wolves had forced them far off track, close to the peak of Mount Gram which towered into the northern clouds. They were far from Thaurdir and their friend Iârion, with no way to tell how much time had been lost fighting the evil wolves. Worse, they were far too exhausted to continue marching without sleep. and many of them had grown sick from the cold. What little game there was to hunt in the wastes had been scared off by the wolves, and the rations from Fornost were running out.

After many days of these conditions, a night with no howling was a great relief. The company discussed at length whether this meant it was safe to camp for the night, but in the end, they were too hungry and weak to continue. Knowing they were in a dangerous position, they had no choice but to stop for the night.

That was when the Goblins struck. They emerged under the cover of darkness, clad in white fur that blended with the snow. The sentries that kept watch were taken from behind, pulled to the ground and gagged. One spotted the approaching Goblins and called out, but was immediately struck by Goblin-arrows. The sentry’s shouts woke the rest of the company, but taken by surprise and outnumbered nearly ten to one, the odds were grim. The largest of the Goblins stepped forward and grinned wickedly. “Surround them! Don’t let any escape! ” it bellowed, “ Gornákh wants them alive!”

The ensuing battle was futile. The heroes fought valiantly, but the heavy snow impeded their movement and the Goblins had a strong upper hand. Most of the company was knocked unconscious or cornered and surrounded. Others fought to the bitter end, though the Goblins seemed to be trying to take as many captives as possible. Those who resisted and could not be captured were pierced with stone arrowheads or spear-tips, and left to bleed in the snow.

The heroes were forced to submit, disarmed of their weapons, and bound. They looked amongst themselves for a moment before they realized that Amarthiul was no longer standing among them. They weren’t sure if his body was among the slain. “ Come along now, lads, ” the larger Goblin growled, pulling one of the heroes to his feet and forcing him to march at spear-point. “ Mount Gram awaits. “

Escape from Mount Gram

Start: Blindfolded, the company was marched into the tunnels of Mount Gram. It seemed they walked for miles uphill, and through many winding corridors. When the blindfolds were removed, they were deep in the heart of the Goblin stronghold, with no knowledge of an escape route.

Gornákh’s dungeons were gruesome and awful. They smelled of rot and decay, and the floor was damp, covered in frost and slime. Flickering torchlight scarcely illuminated the dungeon’s halls. The Goblins separated the companions and brought them down different tunnels, passing by chambers filled with wicked instruments. Cries of lament and pain echoed throughout the dungeons, filling them with dread.

The companions were thrown into separate prison cells, all windowless and scaled with frost. Some were dragged to cells close to the dungeon’s entrance, and others were brought much further into the belly of the dungeons. Each was alone. Any attempt on their part to call out to their companions was met with a swift beating.

One by one, they were brought to the chamber of Gornákh, who interrogated them cruelly at the edge of a knife or whip, adding to their scars and their misery whenever they gave an unsatisfactory answer. Even so, none would dare betray their companions or their mission and spoke nothing other than witty retorts or curses under their breath.

On rare occasions, they were offered a repulsive meat of unknown origin that smelled of death, and likely tasted just as bad, though none of them dared to eat it. After prolonged starvation, however, even this foul meat was starting to look tempting. Having lost track of time in the never-ending darkness of the dungeon, they started to wonder if there was any hope of escape. A seed of despair took root and began to grow.

Finally, the monotony was broken when one of the company’s heroes overheard what sounded like a regiment of Orcs arriving in the dungeons. “Gornákh!” a familiar voice bellowed, his voice echoing throughout the halls. “We have come to claim your prisoners in the name of Daechanar!” The hero stood in her cell and leaned against the cold bars, trying to see past the darkness. There could be no mistaking that voice, warped and tinged with evil. It was Thaurdir, the Wraith they had confronted in Fornost. The one who had taken their friend.

“But, we are the ones who captured them! They are our prizes, not yours… And I am not yet done playing with them!” Gornákh protested, angry with Thaurdir’s presence.

The voice of Thaurdir was cold and imposing. “Remember to whom you speak,” he responded. “Lord Daechanar has claimed these for his own. Bring them to Carn Dûm at once. They will make fine soldiers for the Lord of Angmar.” There was a long, sinister pause. “Or do I have to remind you what Lord Daechanar does to those who do not obey?”

The hero clenched her hand over the bars of her cell, surprised at the mention of a Lord of Angmar. The argument between Thaurdir and Gornákh grew heated. Several of Gornákh’s guards ran out of the hall, presumably heading to where the argument was taking place. The hero shuddered to think of what fate might befall the Goblin who defied Thaurdir—or worse, the fate that awaited the hero’s companions. Just then, a faint light crawled across the walls, and the lightest of footsteps approached the cell. The shape of a hooded man appeared, illuminated dimly by the light of a torch. The hero drew away from the bars cautiously.

“Don’t fret,” the man whispered, and Amarthiúl pulled down the hood that covered his face. He raised a keyring and unlocked the door to the cell, and a wave of relief washed over the prisoner.

 “Amarthiúl! You came back for us!” the hero whispered, exiting the cell and embracing the Ranger.

“Of course. After the battle with the Goblins, I escaped and managed to track everyone to this mountain. I couldn’t find a way in at first, but when Thaurdir and his Orcs arrived, I slipped in behind them. Once the jailor was distracted, I made my way to your cell. The way I came is now guarded by Orcs from the north. However, there is another exit, a hidden gate high in the southern end of the mountain. I overheard one of the Goblins talking about it.”

“Good,” the hero replied. “We’ll find as many of the others as we can and make our way to this southern gate.”

Amarthiúl hesitated for a moment and clenched his jaw. “If Thaurdir is here, that means that Iârion is here as well. He must mean to bring us all north to Carn Dûm, together.” He handed his keyring to the hero, closing his companion’s hand around it. “There are many more of our company imprisoned here. Find them and make your way to the southern gate. I will try to find Iârion, and meet you there.” The hero nodded, and the two clasped forearms. With that, the Ranger quietly headed back the way he came.

The newfound sense of freedom gave way to anxious dread. The halls were quieter than ever before. Alone and without weapons or gear, the task ahead was daunting. Even so, the rest of the company could not be abandoned. The hero steeled her resolve and went to work…

Completion: In hindsight, the dank cold of the dungeon was tranquil in comparison to the icy weather outside. The narrow pass twisting down the snowy mountainside was slippery and treacherous, and one false step could spell doom. After cautiously making their way down the pass for hours, they reached the base of the mountain and hid in the treetops, and waited.

It wasn’t long before Amarthiúl descended down the narrow pass and the company was reunited at last. Iârion was not with him. “Thaurdir is aware of our escape,” the Ranger said grimly once they had said their greetings and taken stock of their numbers. “Our fortunes have turned. Now we are the ones being pursued.”

“And what of Iârion?” another of their company asked, to which Amarthiúl’s response was solemn silence.

“I tried to reach him,” he explained after a long pause. “He was held captives by the Orcs who came with Thaurdir. He was unconscious but unharmed. I slew many of the Orcs, but that awful Wraith appeared and fought me back. He ordered that the Orcs take him to Carn Dûm, and held me at bay while they escaped.” Amarthiúl cursed and slammed his bloody fist against a nearby tree, furious and desperate. “I was beaten again. I barely made it out alive. And worse, Thaurdir is hot on our trail. I fear I’ve only made things worse.”

“You rescued us from torture and death, or worse,” one of the heroes replied, comforting their friend. “For now we must regroup and get away from this awful place. I fear we cannot pursue Iârion’s captors north, not in our current state.”

“Are we to abandon our mission then? To abandon Iârion?” Amarthiúl asked. “No, we cannot. We must make haste towards Carn Dûm, to catch up with the Orcs and rescue him!”

“I understand how you feel,” another one of the companions assured Amarthiúl, “but are we, alone and weary from our imprisonment, to confront all the forces of Angmar in their bastion of Carn Dûm?”

Amarthiúl opened his mouth to respond, but he knew they were right. Most of them were mounded, and some hadn’t eaten in days. Their clothing was torn, their rations long gone, and they had little of the equipment they’d brought with them from Fornost. “You’re right,” he said at last, sorrowful. “What then? Have we failed in our quest?”

“No,” the hero said with a smile. “Not yet. Not while there is hope. We know they desire Iârion alive, for whatever ill purpose. We have no choice but to head south, to Rivendell, to seek the counsel of Elrond and gather our strength.” He clasped his hand on Amarthiúl’s shoulder. “Perhaps then we can assault Carn Dûm to rescue Iârion. But there are many miles between here and Rivendell, and Thaurdir still pursues us. One step at a time, brother.” Amarthiúl nodded, and the company set off to the south.

Across the Ettenmoors

Start: The company had barely escaped from the dungeons of Mount Gram with their lives, thanks to the bravery of the Ranger Amarthiúl and the skill and guile of the heroes who rescued their companions. Heading south from Mount Gram, they found the return to Rivendell fraught with peril at every turn. The need for haste forced the company to travel into the wild lands of the Ettenmoors, a decision they quickly regretted.

The Ettenmoors were an untamed and dreary land, overrun with Trolls and beasts that roamed the wilds, constantly searching for food. The heroes had recovered some of their belongings in the dungeons but were exhausted from their imprisonment and in bad shape to be fighting such monsters.

The rolling hills were beset with horrid weather. The skies did not clear for even a moment, a torrent of rain constantly pelting their cloaks. The rain muddied the ground, soaked their clothes, and chilled their bones. The clouds overhead were obsidian. At night, they blotted out the moon and the stars, and the occasional flash of lightning was the only light to guide them. Now and again, a roar of thunder crashed around them, setting their ears to ring.

There was little food to be found in the hills of the Troll-fells, and even less shelter. If they could find a haven – a small cave to hide in, or a patch of trees to give them cover – they could take a brief rest, safe from the Trolls and the rain. However, they would soon be forced to move again, for they would have to keep a steady pace to make it to Rivendell in time to help Iârion. At least, that was the reason they gave for their haste. They knew the Wraith Thaurdir was pursuing them still, and the thought of him catching up to them in this dreadful place brought terror to their hearts…

Completion: The journey through the Ettenmoors was full of hardship and turmoil, but the company was able to persevere through the wilds. They had endured the cold and evaded Trolls-and worse-at every turn. When they scaled the last hill and saw the woods of Rhudaur before them, they breathed sighs of relief and rejoiced for the first time since escaping the Goblin dungeons.

“ This is the land of Rhudaur, one of the three kingdoms of old Amor,” Amarthiul explained as they entered the pine woods. “The line of Isildur did not survive in Rhudaur, and over time the number of Dúnedain here dwindled. The elders tell us that evil men, hillmen in league with the realm of Angmar, usurped the last king of Rhudaur many hundreds of years ago. From that moment on Rhudaur was a vassal of the Witch-king, and those Dúnedain still remaining in this land were either slain in cold blood, or fled west.”

“You are well-schooled in the history of your people,” one of the heroes said in amazement.

Amarthiúl smiled. “It is important that we Dúnedain remember who we are and where we come from,” he replied. “Our kingdom was divided and our people were scattered in the long war with Angmar, and not many of us remain. But we believe there will come a time when the blood of Isildur can reunite the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor. If we forget our heritage, we lose our purpose.”

Once they felt that they had traveled far enough from the Troll-fells that they could safely rest, the company set up camp, hunted game, and cooked a fresh meal for the first time in weeks. But they could not linger for long. Their destination was still many miles to the southeast, and they felt a cold chill following them into Rhudaur, as though tendrils of dread had crawled after them through the moorland.

The Treachery of Rhudaur

Start: Having escaped imprisonment in the Goblin dungeons of Mount Gram and an icy death in the rugged Coldfells at the hands of hungry Trolls, the heroes had finally reached the woods of Rhudaur. The company made good time for several days, fair weather and plentiful food motivating them to travel at a brisk pace. Yet, no matter how many leagues they crossed, the dark presence and fear that had been tugging at the back of their minds ever since escaping Mount Gram never ceased to haunt them. When they slept, they were plagued by dreadful nightmares, and every waking moment was filled with the sensation of being pursued.

As they traveled, evidence of the kingdom’s collapse peppered the woods. They crossed through ancient ruins and made their way around towers of stone and rubble, long forgotten and ravaged by years of disrepair. “This area has been largely uninhabited for centuries,” Amarthiúl explained to them. “Once Rhudaur was annexed by the Witch-king, those loyal to him were called to fight in his long war with Arthedain. The kingdom of Rhudaur was abolished and left to ruin.”

“They should have you teaching young pupils,” one of the companions said with a chuckle, and Amarthiúl himself gave a smirk.

“Perhaps, but this is the path I chose for myself,” Amarthiúl disclosed. His expression grew solemn. “When I was younger, I followed Iârion and several other Rangers on a hunting expedition. I was eager to prove myself to the others, that I could be one of them. But I was too brash and foolish, and the orcs captured me. Iârion risked his life to save me. His determination, his willingness to sacrifice everything, inspired me to become more than a scholar or a healer. I swore that I would repay my life debt with steel and blood. I wanted to become a warrior and a leader like him, to save others like he saved me.” The Ranger gave a sigh and rubbed his forehead, worried. “Now he is the one held captive, tortured or worse, and I am powerless to help.”

Amarthiúl appeared inconsolable. It had been tough watching the young Ranger’s determination go unrewarded for so long. “I understand now why you are so driven to find him,” one of the heroes said. “Do not lose hope. We are not defeated yet.”

Just then, the young Ranger’s gaze was drawn behind the heroes, deeper into the woods, and his eyes widened. “Is that what I think it is?” he muttered, and ran ahead. They hadn’t seen Amarthiúl run that swiftly since departing from Fornost. It didn’t take long to catch up to the Ranger – the building he had seen lay fifty meters away, obscured by trees and brush. The pinewood forest opened into a small clearing, concealed on all sides by dense overgrowth. At the other end of the clearing, they saw a stone gatehouse, decrepit from years of disrepair, forgotten by time, but standing strong nevertheless. Behind the gatehouse stood the ruins of an ancient keep tucked into the woods. They had seen several such ruins throughout their journey, but what caught their eyes was the symbol painted upon the wooden door of the gate. It was the symbol of the regal hawk-in-flight. Amarthiúl pulled Iârion’s pendant from underneath his tunic, where he wore it on a thin chain. “This symbol… It’s the same!” he exclaimed, holding the pendant up next to the symbol on the door.

“You said Iârion wore this pendant proudly as a symbol of his lineage,” one of the heroes said, and the company exchanged anxious glances. “This is a fortuitous discovery. We have not the slightest clue why Thaurdir – and this Daechanar who commands him – took Iârion captive at Fornost. If Amarthiúl is right and the Wraith was after Iârion in particular, these ruins might hold the answer to this mystery.”

There was a murmur of agreement, and Amarthiúl nodded. “Then what are we waiting for?” he declared, an eager light in his eyes. But as soon as they opened the door to the gatehouse, a furious gale, chill as ice, knocked them to the ground. The wind shrieked. There was a foulness in the air all around them – in the ruins, and in the woods behind them. Something evil haunted Iârion’s ancestral home, and worse, the malevolence that had followed them from Mount Gram was close behind…

Completion: The company’s investigation of the ruins was fruitful, but dangerous. Iârion’s ancestral keep was haunted by the wights of Dúnedain who had sided with Angmar, and the spirits of those they had slain in their wicked pact. It seemed that few Dúnedain had managed to escape from this place alive, just as the heroes were barely able to escape with their lives.

Once they had reached a reasonable distance, they began to piece together what they had found inside the keep as they walked at a brisk pace. Most of the ancient documents they found were too tattered and faded to read, but some were still legible. Among them was a family tree, inscribed inside a leather tome bearing the hawk crest they had become familiar with – the crest of Iârion’s family.

“Look!” the hero holding the tome shouted, pointing to the tree. “I recognize this name: Daechanar. That is the same name as the one who commands Thaurdir – the “lord of Angmar” mentioned in the Goblin dungeons!”

One of the companions shook her head, pondering what they had learned. “It cannot be the same person. It’s been over a century. The Dúnedain are long-lived, but they are not immortal. The Daechanar in this family tree should be long dead by now…” They pondered that thought for some time, but they were too weary from their hardships to come to any conclusions. While they were starting to understand the events that had unfolded in Arnor many hundreds of years ago, there were too many pieces of the puzzle still missing.

“We should continue to Rivendell,” one of the heroes declared at last. “Even Thaurdir cannot pursue us there, and we can consult Elrond about these matters. If there is anyone who will understand what we are dealing with, it is he.” There was a murmur of agreement, and the company continued traveling with great haste. The ghostly presence of Thaurdir hung over them still, an ominous stormcloud threatening to overtake them if they dwelled any longer…

The Battle of Carn Dum

Start: The leaves had fallen and winter’s cold bite had crept ever southward by the time the heroes’ company reached Rivendell. They were greeted by Elven guards who recognized the heroes and welcomed them, escorting the company into The Last Homely House and offering them food and drink, which they accepted heartily. When they asked to see Elrond, they were granted a swift audience and brought into Elrond’s Hall.

The Elf-lord entered soon after, bidding the heroes to sit and tell their tale. The company spoke at length with Elrond about their long journey – their discovery at Amon Forn, the attack on Fornost, their imprisonment in Mount Gram, and the information they found in the ruins of Rhudaur.

When they mentioned the name Daechanar and showed Elrond the tome they had found in the home of Iârion’s ancestors, his eyes narrowed with recognition and his jaw clenched. “That is a name I have not heard spoken in over a thousand years,” he said. “The Daechanar you speak of was once a Dúnedain of Rhudaur. It is he who paved the way for the kingdom’s collapse, defecting to the side of Angmar and joining the Witch-king as one of his trusted lieutenants. His brother Iârchon and his sons were among the few Dúnedain who managed to escape, fleeing here to Imladris to dwell for a time.”

Elrond knew of what he spoke by memory. He had lived through these events, and not read of them in a book. “Not long after, the forces of Angmar laid siege to Rivendell. We were beset by our enemies for some time, but after many seasons we broke the siege. Iârchon was among those who fought to defend Imladris. I watched as he met his traitorous brother on the fields of battle. Daechanar was slain and the battle was won, but Iârchon was disturbed by his brother’s last words and came to me seeking counsel. I still remember those words, to this day: ‘I will outlive all of you and haunt your descendants long after you are dead. My master has seen to that.’ I feared that the lord of the Nazgûl had taught some manner of foul sorcery to his lieutenant, that which knits dead flesh and traps spirits long-deceased within this realm.”

Amarthiúl’s eyes went wide with fear and realization, and he rose to his feet. “Do you mean to tell us that the Daechanar who commands the dead we have encountered is this same Daechanar, who died so long ago?”

“Just so,” Elrond replied, and bid the young Ranger to sit once more. “Only I believe he was never truly defeated – his body was broken, but his spirit remained. ‘I will haunt your descendants long after you are dead.’ You say that Iârion was captured alive at Fornost, and I do not believe this to be coincidence.” He paused for a long moment, considering what he had heard. “Iârion is of Daechanar’s blood. I believe he means to possess Iârion, to use as his new body. Then, his return to this world will be complete. With the Witch-king in Minas Morgul, Daechanar would rule over the dark land of Angmar – you’ve already seen orcs at his command and the Goblins of Mount Gram in his allegiance. The safety of the north would be shattered.” It seemed difficult to believe, but the wisdom of Elrond did not lie, and the heroes did not doubt for a moment the truth behind his words. Finally, everything they had experienced made sense.

“Iârion has been captive for weeks,” one of the heroes said mournfully, hoping all was not lost. “Are we too late to stop Daechanar’s plan from coming to fruition?”

Amarthiúl clenched the pendant of the hawk-in-flight which hung from his neck, and spoke passionately. “We must head north immediately! ”

Elrond spoke calmly despite the dire situation, raising his palm to the Ranger. “Your bravery is admirable, young Ranger, but have patience. A powerful ritual such as this is not something easily cobbled together. It is no coincidence that Thaurdir and his forces attacked when they did. In several weeks, midwinter will be upon us. It is the coldest and darkest day of the year’s cycle, the last day before life begins to spring anew. On midwinter’s night, Daechanar will find his passage into Iârion’s body easiest. If I am correct, he is biding his time and waiting for the right moment. That means we have time to gather our strength, and for you to rest. You must be weary from your long journey.” The Elf-lord then called several Elves into the hall, and tasked them with traveling south and west to find as many Rangers as they could and summon them to Imladris. “I do not have a host of Elves to send into battle, but those I can spare will accompany you north, to the fortress of Carn Dûm.”

The heroes looked at one another and nodded, confirming their intentions and rising to their feet. One of them gave Elrond a short bow and addressed him politely. “Daechanar must be stopped. We shall venture north as well, and see this mission to its end.”

Amarthiúl turned to the heroes, his expression full of stern determination. “My friends, time and time again you have put your life on the line for my kin. Please, allow me to join you. Wherever your travels lead you, my swords shall be yours if you give me leave to assist.”

“You have earned your place among us,” one of the heroes said, clasping Amarthiúl’s forearm. “We are grateful to have you fighting by our side.”

For over a fortnight the company rested well in Rivendell, recovering from their wounds and exhaustion. Each day more Rangers responded to Elrond’s call, arriving in Imladris with bow and sword, eager to seek vengeance for their brethren who fell in Fornost. They waited as long as they could to prepare for the assault, but they were soon out of time and could tarry no longer if they wished to reach Carn Dûm before the winter solstice. With a small but determined band of Elves and Rangers at their side, their only hope was to fight their way into the fortress so they could stop Daechanar’s ritual…

Completion: As they slew Thaurdir, his remains crumbled and decayed into ash before their very eyes, and his armor and weapon clattered to the ground harmlessly. But before they could rejoice in their victory, the howling of wolves sounded in the air, as if all around them.

“Goblins!” One of the Rangers in the rear ranks shouted, “Goblins from Mount Gram!” The company found themselves assaulted from the south by Goblins while the Orcs of Carn Dûm rallied their defenses once more. They had but a moment to slip into the fortress before they were surrounded on all sides. One of the Elves that had accompanied them from Rivendell turned to the heroes with a grim expression and shouted over the clamour of battle, “You must make your way into the fortress and stop Daechanar’s ritual!”

“What about you?” One of the heroes replied, worried. “You cannot hold off these Goblins forever!”

“Then do not take forever! Now go!” he beseeched the heroes again before joining the fray. The heroes had no choice but to leave the rest of their party to fend off the Goblins, slipping through the gates of Carn Dûm. They slew the few Orcs that remained in their way, and infiltrated the enemy’s stronghold to confront Daechanar and rescue their friend…

The Dread Realm

Start: The capital of Angmar was a terrifying place. Once the heroes had defeated the Orcs guarding the entrance and made their way inside, all was eerily quiet in comparison to the battle raging outside. The halls of Carn Dûm were cold and lonesome, though no matter where the heroes ventured within its walls, the feeling that they were being watched never ceased. The realm of Angmar had claimed immeasurable lives over many hundreds of years in its long war with the Dúnedain. With each step they took, their burden grew worse.

The fortress was sprawling, but if they strained their senses, they heard cries of pain coming from below. So, deeper into the stronghold they ventured, down many long and steep flights of stairs, the corridors becoming narrower, the stone walls pressing in all around them.

Somewhere within these catacombs, surrounded by the watchful dead, their friend Iârion was struggling in torment. Spurred onward by steel resolve, the heroes began their search…

Completion: The heroes had but seconds to spare as the catacombs crumbled and collapsed around them. They ran as fast as they could, trying to remember the route they took through Carn Dum’s dark and labyrinthine halls. The walls shook and screeched as a dark power coursed through them. Walking corpses collapsed and decayed, foul spirits dispersed, and the power that Daechanar had summoned began to crumble with his defeat.

The dark clouds above the fortress scattered, and the light of day washed over the battlefield. With the defeat of their master and the sun glaring down at them, the Goblins fled south to their mountain refuge. The remaining Elves and Rangers, rallied by the turning tide, drove the Orcs into a full rout. The battle was won… but the victory was bittersweet. As the heroes emerged from the fortress carrying Iárion’s body, their company was filled with a great sorrow. Though they were able to defeat Daechanar and stop his plans from coming to fruition, they were too late to save their friend. The tragedy of slaying the Ranger with their own hand was something the heroes would never forget, although they had his final words to comfort them.

The return trip was melancholy, but swift. Although winter had come to the north in full force, the deadly, unnatural weather they had become familiar with seemed to subside with the fall of Daechanar, and the evils of Angmar no longer dared to emerge and stand in the heroes’ way. Once they had put the peak of Mount Gram behind them, the Elves decided to part ways, heading back to Rivendell. The heroes thanked them for their aid, and in return the Elves told them they were welcome to return to Imladris once their business with the Dunedain was finished. The rest of the company continued west to Fornost, to lay to rest their fallen comrades.

The Rangers and the heroes buried the dead in a tomb dedicated to those who fell in defense of the North, and gathered together to speak words in memory of their valiant sacrifice. After everyone but the heroes and Amarthiúl had left, the young Ranger approached Iárion’s sepulcher, holding the pendant of the hawk-in-flight. “ I was not able to save him, ” he said as the heroes approached. The death of Amarthiul’s mentor weighed heavily upon his heart. “ None of us were, ” one of the heroes replied, mournfully. “ But had you not been determined to pursue Thaurdir and rescue your friend, who knows what horrors Daechanar would have unleashed upon the lands your kin protect?

The Ranger nodded, clutching the pendant tighter. “ He had no siblings or heirs. The line of Iárchon and Daechanar is ended. ” With that, Amarthiúil stepped forward to place Iárion s pendant atop his tomb. Letting go of larion’s pendant seemed to be a difficult act. As he lay the pendant on the tomb of his friend, he calmly sang:

A fearless man in darkest night
A faithful brother bright with mirth
His spirit now is taken flight
Beyond the circles of the earth.

One of the heroes rested a hand on Amarthiul’s shoulder. The Ranger had come a long way and had grown much during their journey. “ Iárion was a noble warrior. He would be proud to see how strong you’ve become. ” They lingered for some time, grieving their loss, before they finally emerged from the quiet tombs of Fornost. “What will you do now?”

” I pledged my swords to you, remember?” Amarthiul said with a warm smile. “ The Dunedain are in your debt. I aim to repay that debt. If you ever need my assistance, do not hesitate to call upon me. ” With those words of friendship, they parted ways. The heroes traveled back to Rivendell and spent the rest of winter under the care of the Elves; recovering from their many journeys and battles. Before the snows thawed, however, a messenger came for them bearing a scroll with a peculiar seal. It seems the heroes were needed once again. Fully rested and ready for adventure, they thanked Elrond for his hospitality and ventured back into the wild, riding as fast as they could to the west… Toward the Grey Havens.

Epilogue: Daechanar’s origins

Iârchon did not bother to clean the Orc blood from his sword as he stepped over the creature’s body. His nose twinged, the coppery smell of blood mixed with the scent of ash and scorched wood overwhelming the battlefield. The ringing of steel swords and the clamor of battle echoed down the hills, drowning out the sound of the flowing Bruinen. He gripped his sword tighter than ever before, cursing his own kin for the treachery that had led to the downfall of his people’s kingdom. Something -sweat, blood, or both- trickled down his forehead. “Daechanar,” he called to the figure standing across the steep plain that flanked the ford. “This ends, now.”

His older brother simply laughed – no, not his brother. This accursed man who stood before Iârchon could not be his brother, could never truly have been. Not after betraying his family and pledging himself to the Witch-king. Not after setting loose cruel hillmen on their ancestral home, and driving his sword through many of Iârchon’s own kin.

Daechanar drew his blade from his scabbard, and it ebbed with dark power, like a hundred poisonous whispers in Iârchon’s ears. He didn’t recognize the strange sword his brother wielded, dark runes etched upon its handle. The traitor examined it for a moment, admiring its handiwork and keen edge. “You are a fool, Iârchon,” he said calmly, a malicious smile tugging at his lips. “My master offered you a place at his side, as he has given me, but you refused. Now I must kill you, instead.” He took several long strides forward, his tattered cloak billowing in the wind.

Iârchon’s heart wrenched. He was prepared to fight his brother to the death, but had hoped to avoid such a confrontation. Seeing now the murderous intent in Daechanar’s eyes, he knew it was the only option. The lieutenant of Angmar showed no mercy, advancing swiftly and slashing savagely with the edge of his blade. Iârchon raised his sword in a defensive posture, deflecting each of Daechanar’s blows. He could not bring himself to strike his brother.

“How long?” Iârchon screamed. “How long has your mind been seized by the Enemy? How long have you plotted the demise of our kingdom?” He parried Daechanar’s sword to the side, twisting and letting his brother’s momentum carry him forward, past Iârchon. Before Daechanar could regain his footing, the noble brother was upon him, his sword spurred by vengeful wrath. Though he landed several scathing blows, his blade tearing through his adversary’s cloak and leather hauberk, Daechanar’s expression was still twisted into an uncanny grin.

“Tell me little brother, who do you think will win this war?” Daechanar asked over the sound of their swords clashing. “Do you think you stand any chance against the armies of Angmar?” Iârchon gritted his teeth. His brother’s words cut deep. They had already suffered loss after loss, and now the Witch-king’s forces threatened to overwhelm all of the north. Daechanar took the advantage, pressing Iârchon backwards with each of his powerful blows. Against the swiftness and strength of Daechanar’s attacks, the noble brother was barely able to defend himself, the dark blade slicing into his armor and flesh several times. Blinded by arrogance and seeing his imminent victory; the traitor hadn’t realized the trap until it was too late.

When they were children, they used to spar with wooden swords in their keep’s courtyard. The older brother was the fiercer, nimbler fighter, but the younger brother more cunning. Whenever Daechanar tasted victory; he relished in it and abandoned his defense in order to end the fight. Iârchon put himself on the brink of defeat before his opening appeared – a gap in Daechanar’s defenses. He swiftly ducked under a slice meant for his neck and drove his sword into Daechanar’s chest. The turncoat’s eyes widened and his face twisted into an expression of agony.

“I know not who will win,” Iârchon responded, pushing his blade deeper into his brother’s chest, “only that you will not survive to see the war’s end.” Daechanar grasped for air, his lungs pierced by Iârchon’s blade. His voice croaked, one last gasp before his breath escaped him.

“You’re wrong, little brother,” he smiled. “I will outlive all of you and haunt your descendants long after you are dead. My master has seen to that.”

Then the life fled from Daechanar’s eyes, and he fell into his brother’s arms.

We are over the half-way point for this series now, with just 4 cycles left to cover. I hope to keep this pace when going through the final few cycles, but will likely need a bit more time to complete some of the longer narratives later on. I also will not be doing this series for the Saga expansions, as you likely have read the story behind those quests already in the original books.

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