Back to Middle Earth
Week 4, Battling Darkmoor
Around two in the morning, we decided to vacate the mountain and, as our immediate goal, try to live off the land until the Battle of Five Armies. (We did not put it quite so prophetically in Daewen's hearing.) We left through the crack in the chapel wall, the non-climbing party members being lowered by Daewen's rope, held by Pfusand (who calls herself Babar to the locals, just as Cantrel calls himself Galwain).
The whole of the Lonely Mountain is circled by a wall. We were approaching it from the inside when Tom spotted a "boulder" that looked wrong. The party started to ready itself, using the distraction provided by Daewen, whose sword and armor glowed. She spurred her horse forward and called, "Bart, I'd know your stink anywhere. Is your master about?" The crack in her voice sounded a lot like the patharchic power of Command. In response, the boulder rumbled.
Aphron probed at the boulder and announced, "There's a whole passel of 'em over behind that rock." Then several things happened at once. A man with a sword stepped out from behind the boulder, a large orc charged us, the boulder unfolded and revealed itself as a troll, and a gigantic shadow sprang up, twenty or thirty feet tall. Cantrel tripped the orc with TK and Daewen called, "Darkmoor, you naught but the shadow of a shade's shade. You don't fool us with your tricks." Cantrel turned his attention to the giant shadow and tried TK, but it felt vague and mushy to his mental touch. He could not grapple. Daewen rode toward it on her horse. Then the enemy troops charged.
There were a grand total of seven orcs, one troll, one Viking-looking man, and this giant shadow who seemed to be the boss. Daewen engaged the swordsman and, it seemed the shadow, the troll moved but slowly, and so that left the rest of us to cope with the seven orcs, three of whom were noticeably larger than the other four. (Uruk-hai, though we have no way of knowing that.)
And there are eight of us -- Cantrel, Pfusand, Aphron, Fogi, Lorelei, Wu, David, and Tom. No problem, right? There wouldn't have been if Wu's telepathy net hadn't crashed just then, as Wu turned and attacked David with karate. Fortunately, David's new armor soaked up abnormal amounts of damage. Lorelei inexplicably turned and threw Aphron into a magical sleep. Then Lorelei and Wu faced off silently for some time. This freed David to shoot arrows at little orcs until they closed and he had to spend his time dodging them.
Daewen cried, "Release them!" to the shadow and pounded on the viking some more.
Tom, Pfusand, Fogi, and Cantrel all variously fought off orcs. Cantrel labored under a deadly panic-fear that came on him out of nowhere, but he still managed to kill off one of the big orcs and toss another back at the shadow with TK. The tossed orc bounced off and managed to land on his feet, but was too groggy to do much for some time.
Meanwhile, Daewen had given up on the viking and had ridden to Fogi's rescue. Fogi had been gravely wounded by a large orc. Daewen drove it off, then blanched and hissed, "My sword!" Then she turned and killed Fogi in two blows.
Rather complicated things had been happening to Tom. He had fired at the orcs with his crossbow pistols, the whipped out Victoria's spear and turned on his Knack of Tools. The spear nicely impaled the first orc who rushed up. Tom started for Cantrel, who was beleaguered by two or three orcs at the time, but suddenly saw the panic vanish from Cantrel's face. Moments later, Daewen said, "My sword!" and Tom saw her attack Fogi. At the same moment, Tom noticed for the first time that all three of our expert telepaths were unconscious or apparently battling each other.
Mind control, he instantly deduced. Now, for the last several seconds, he had been in a panic about Daewen's safety, especially when she was fighting that swordsman right next to the giant shadow. When the thought "mind control" was dragged across that feeling, he realized that his love-at-first-sight for Daewen had been HER idea.
And seconds later she killed Fogi.
Cantrel levitated her sword away and a look of relief spread over her face. He then threw the sword into the troll. Darkmoor, the shadow, then picked Cantrel up with TK and slammed him into the ground. The sword came out of the troll (who didn't seem all that hurt) and swung at Cantrel, who slammed it to the ground, then threw the TROLL and the shadow. The shadow crumpled and congealed into a man in a black cloak sprawled on the ground. The shadow seemed now to have been his cloak.
Meanwhile, Lorelei slept Daewen. Wu attacked Lorelei and knocked her out. When the shadow crumpled, so did Wu. Then the man in black disappeared. The surviving large orc and the troll ran away. The party polished off the smaller orcs.
Tom roused Daewen roughly. Startled, she attacked him. He drew his crossbow defensively and she attacked again. Finally Pfusand held her down. She slipped away and called, "Hold it! Uncontrolled!" Then she just stood and trembled.
Lorelei woke with a broken jaw. She kicked Aphron awake and tied up Wu. Meanwhile Pfusand and Cantrel set out after the troll and the orc. Pfusand tracked and Cantrel did the shooting. The orc got away, but they kept the troll moving until the dawn's first light. And if they are touched by the light of day, trolls turn to stone. Sure enough. Worked like a char... It worked.
Tom and Daewen, meanwhile, had patched up their differences, though Daewen thought it was a little humorless of Tom to object to her little love-spell. Tom's humor, however, is worn rather thin just now by Fogi's death. (Actually, it wasn't a spell, just deliberate application of outrageous beauty. But the infatuation is definitely over, whatever caused it.) Tom wants to hide Fogi's body as quickly as possible. Cantrel, back from his troll hunt, suggests a tree. Daewen agrees it is wise to hide the signs of battle, but is puzzled over the particular concern with Fogi's body. In fact, Tom hopes someday to come back and grab Fogi's freshly-dead body and pop it into the pantope's autodoc. If we see that we haven't done that soon, we CAN'T come back and do it soon. Hence the necessity to hide it. Got that? Me either.
Tom gets a time-fix from Cantrel, then the conversation turns to the recent battle. Daewen is the only available source of data. She asks if we know of the evil one who lurks in southern Mirkwood. "Yes, the Necromancer," says Tom. Daewen flinches at the name and adjures them not to use it. And not even to THINK of the one whose servant the Necromancer is. The Necromancer himself has servants, and they in turn have servants of their own. (The Necromancer is Sauron; his chief servants are the Nazgul, the Ringwraiths who used to be great men, kings and wizards. Bu the characters haven't read that book.)
One of the Necromancer's servants has a stronghold in the north of Mirkwood. Darkmoor is the servant's servant, and was given that black cloak more than seventy years ago. Darkmoor himself has lived out more than a human span and is no longer entirely human. She congratulates us on creaming his pet troll.
Several questions remain. What did Darkmoor want here? Why did he attack us, other than general malevolence? Are we likely to run into him again? (I'd bet money...) And what is Fogi's player going to play this side of Resurrection Day?
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.