Back to Middle Earth
Week 2, Mirkwood
We then exit where we entered and take three days to march over the grasslands between Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, and Mirkwood. On the second day, we see horsemen in the distance, chasing a herd of beasts, either large goats or very small cows. Daewen tells us these are the Grammuz, distant kin of the Rohirrim and the Dale-men. Usually, they stay east of the Long Lake. They are not necessarily pleasant people, and we stay out of their way.
We reach the edge of Mirkwood at the end of the third day. Mirkwood is dangerous, especially at night, so we camp well outside. We set watches and bed down. Two hours into the first watch, Pfusand and Tom (the ones on guard) notice that Nate is missing. Pfusand sends out a telepathic call and finds that, wherever Nate is, he's asleep. Tom gets a bearing on the straying lamb with his Finding talent and the two sneak off after him. They find him propped up on a heavy stick, "on guard," sound asleep.
Tom kicks the stick out from under Nate, bawls him out, and sets him on watch. Tom then hides and watches Nate. He stays awake for an hour, so Tom decides that is enough punishment. He approaches and sends Nate back to camp.
But Nate fails to show up back at camp. We wake everybody up, Pfusand takes bear shape, and he and Daewen sniff and track after the twit. Tom reaches out telepathically and determines that Nate is asleep again. The two trackers find his heavy stick. But this time it has cobwebs all over it. And Mirkwood is notorious for its giant, aggressive spiders...
The party sets out on Nate's trail, guided mostly by Daewen. It leads to the river, where we find a sticky silk rope, thicker than a 20th-century power line, strung across the river. Spiders, as if we had any doubts. Cantrel scans the far banks with infrared binoculars (Oh! Hi-tech? Well, no one said not to.) and sees faint images of two or three manlike shapes. Hmm.
With a little effort, we cross the river on the spider-walk. On the other side, Daewen finds evidence of something heavy being dragged. As she tracks this, she encounters a BIG footprint. Cantrel thinks it looks recent. A little later, we hear a far-off screech. Daewen, Cantrel, Chris, and Tom head off for it. The IR binoculars show a fire in the distance, in that direction, plus some large humanoids. Trolls? Smallish giant?
Daewen and Chris go scouting and spy lots of spiders fighting with two big guys, a mature giant and a youngster. Two trolls are retreating. Behind the spiders is a very heavy, house-sized knot of webbing that COULD hold Nate.
Cantrel stands guard while Daewen, Chris, and Tom creep up on the battle. The smaller giant is "only" nine feet tall; the larger (father? big brother?) is more like seventeen. Nate is nowhere in sight. The spiders all seem busy with their battle. Daewen slits open the tent-like walls of the web and stands guard while Chris and Tom go in to look for Nate.
They find a lot of silk-wrapped animals, two or three dead elves wrapped in silk, and one elf who is just barely alive, but deeply unconscious. They also find a large, barrel-sized spider who would probably notice if they explored any further. Also, the deeper you get into the web, the older the catches seem to be. They think the odds of Nate being in that direction are too low to justify tangling with the spider, and so retreat to the opening, taking the comatose elf with them.
>From time to time, Tom has been trying to get a fix on Nate with telepathy or Knack of Finding. Nothing. This worries him, since the only three explanations he can think of are (1) Nate is dead, (2) Nate has been removed from this cosmos, in which case it was probably worldbenders, or (3) something is shielding him. He doubts that the spider-silk could do that. He also knows that there is a Nazgul in residence at Dol Goldur, far in the south of Mirkwood, who has at least one black magician working for him.
Meanwhile, at the battle, the small giant is gone and the large one is retreating, swinging a tree-sized club to keep the spiders from following. We leave the battlefield and return to the river. Tom can now vaguely feel Nate off to the south. We find that the elf we rescued is now dead. Daewen recommends burying him in the forest, rather than returning him to Celebanon, since elves get very upset over death, it being unnatural to them.
With the help of the bear, we bury the elf near the river, re-cross the silk cable, and head for Celebanon.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.