Adventures in Arda

2.6.4 Inside the Fortress
Aramis

Inside the Fortress

-Aramis

Moonday 6 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

Aramis returns to the cart with Cúthalion. The elf leaves his weapons in the cart and bids the Gondorian farewell before turning back towards the upper courtyard of the fortress. Aramis remained alone standing with the cart.
Aramis then returns the substantial amount of coin he withdrew to the chest, grabs a more reasonable walking about sum, and seeks a drink and a warm bed.

After returning his gold coins to the locked chest in the cart, Aramis ventures to the back of the Coombe to return to the tavern where he first met Gilfalassë a few days past. The tavern is a small makeshift building, quickly pieced together from gnarled wood posts draped in thick drab burlap and the tattered remnants of sheep and goat hides. Aramis pushes his way inside and has to wait for his eyes to adjust from the early morning bright down to the smoky darkness inside. The stumps and old warped planks that serve as chairs and tables lay scattered throughout, many of them surrounding the ashes of a dead fire ring near the center of the dirt floor. Most are unoccupied save a few guardsmen who stopped in for a meager breakfast away from the crisp morning air. A few look up at Aramis as he enters, but only the man leaning against a thick post gives a curt nod over his drinking horn.
Aramis addresses the bartender

Barkeep! It has been a long day, I’ll take a bowl of anything warm, and a mug of your vilest rotgut

The man standing behind a warped plank countertop nods and turns to poke his head through a tattered cloth curtain into the back. A few moments later a young lad emerges with a wood bowl filled with a thick gruel. Steam curls off the bowl as he sets it on the planks. The lad retreats through the curtain. The barkeep grabs a small mug and turns to fill it. A thick black stream pours forth from a small oaken barrel resting on a stump. The man stops the spigot and wheels back to the bar. He places the mug next to the steaming bowl and slides them both forward in front of Aramis.

You look like you’ve had quite a night. That’ll be two penny my lord

Business proposition for you my new friend

Aramis grabs a random handful of coins from a pocket and slaps it on table

I do not wish to be simultaneously alone, awake, and with an empty mug at any point today. I generally prefer the company of comely maidens, but honestly as long as they aren’t carrying an ostentatious shield or old enough to remember the founding of Gondor or King of some place called ‘Rohan’ I’m not too picky.

Aramis takes a huge swig from his mug and barely suppresses a sputtering cough

Do you catch my drift?

The bar keeper smirks when Aramis mentions the King of Rohan

Aye! I catch your meanin’. I too am want for a warm bed and comely maiden. Alas, cold is the night of late. I can offer you a blanket but have no soft bed to lay it on. As for a lass, I am unable to find you one as I do not have any on the records here. Yet, many a man and woman best the cold dark night around that great fire. Your quarry may be found the easiest come nightfall. There may even be a maiden suitable for your…

he pauses and leans in slightly

Gondorian … tastes

He fingers through the pile of coins and slides out two Silver Pennies and shoves them in a cloth pouch at his hip. 

Unaccustomed to rebuff in his fancy-man ways, Aramis blinks for a moment. Was saving this land worth it if he wasn’t getting laid, should he soliloquize or storm out in disgust? Either was evidently effort too much as he collapsed face first into his gruel, to sleep until the action picks up again.

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2.6.3 Inside the Fortress
Dagorhir

Inside the Fortress

-Dagorhir

Moonday 6 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

Dagorhir turns up to the main courtyard and enters the great hall. As he does, he is greeted by the guards who seem pleased to see him again. He passes through the great hall and turns past the chapel and houses of healing before entering the armory. He rounds the corner and enters the armory, across the hall from the guard house. When he comes to the door, he sees a room full of armor and weapons with a small table in the corner. A portly man shuffles about the room, setting up for the day. He flips open a large ledger on the table and pulls open a drawer and pulls out an ink pot and shuffles through the drawer to find a quill and pulls a stool up to the table to sit down.

Dagorhir walks up to the man and begins to strike up a conversation.
The man is startled as Dagorhir approaches and speaks to him.

Oh, Dagorhir. I was wondering when I would get to meet you. I have heard much about your brilliant shield and was hoping to see it for myself.

He steps towards Dagorhir, admiring his armor and shield before pausing.
bq). Forgive me where are my manner. I am Oswine, the quartermaster of the old fortress.

Dagorhir continues talking with him, asking him small talk questions. Asking how the armory is holding up, how the people are faring.

These are busy times with all the refugees seeking protection. Fortunately the armory is well stocked. The food is a different matter but my assistants tell me that you and your friends have returned with a good deal of livestock this morning so that will help on that front. I have also heard that you have returned with a few of the horses that were missing from the stables and I have sent a young lad to go get an idea of which ones have returned.

Eventually, he asks if he would be able to replace the lance that he left behind in the raid the night before. When Dagorhir asks about replacing his lance Oswine scratches his head a second and flips the ledger a few pages. He begins peaking. before tracing is finger down the page.

Our knights prefer to ride light and fast and favor light spears to heavy lances. It has been many years since we have had a company of Gondorian knights stay within our walls. If they happened to leave some lances, they would have been put into the cavern store rooms long ago.

He pauses a second

Ah, here we are. It looks like their might be one still stored in the caverns. Unfortunately, there are more pressing issues right now but in a few days when we are settled again I can send my assistant Aelfric to you and have him take you down there and let you in to the caverns. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Dagorhir responds

I believe that will be all for now. It was just unfortunate that I had to leave my lance behind in the raid, I wasn’t really thinking ahead before we left. It was an honor to meet you Oswine. You seem to be doing good work here in the armory preparing for the impending siege.
I will look forward to meeting Aelfric when he has the time to come find me. My companions and I shouldn’t be too hard to find. If you have anything you may need of me, don’t be afraid to ask it.

Oswine responds to Dagorhir’s kindness.

Thank you for stopping in Dagorhir. It was my pleasure to have met you and put a face to the renown.

Oswine shakes Dagorhir’s hand as he turns and leaves the armory out into the hallway.
Dagorhir returns past the house of healing and chapel and out into the courtyard. From there he passes down the causeway to the side gate out to the Coombe. He passes on through tents and shelters of refugees starting to begin their mornings. Some have a fire starting to cook some sausage or a rasher of bacon, others are breaking their fast through more meager means. Some recognize Dagorhir and greet him or offer him some of their morning meal. Others are slightly confused by the presence of a lone knight of Gondor. Eventually, Dagorhir arrives at the cart and goes inside the tent to rest.

Dagorhir takes his armor off and neatly arranges it at his feet inside the tent. He lays down on his bedroll with his sword by his side. Moments after he lays down and shuts his eyes, Dagorhir hears an arrival at the cart and looks up to see Cúthalion enter the tent. The half-elf simply nods as he enters moves towards his sleeping roll to meditate on the day’s events.

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2.6.2 Inside the Fortress
Cúthalion

Inside the Fortress

-Cúthalion

Moonday 6 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

Cúthalion and Aramis return to the cart. When they arrive, Cúthalion drops off his weapons and then heads up to the main courtyard and enters the great hall. The guards nod to the elf as he enters the hall. He passes through the great hall and turns past the chapel to the Valar and comes to the houses of healing. Inside he sees some of the freed prisoners that had journeyed with them. when they notice him they thank him again for all that he did to save them. Beyond the weary travelers, he also sees many people in makeshift cots, covered in bandages and blankets. Women rush in between the crowded beds, doing what they can to help the wounded. A woman comes out of the door in the back of the room and sees the elf. She wipes her hands on the long cloth belted to her waist before coming to greet him and give him a hug.

You must be Cúthalion. My name is Déorwyn. I am forever in your debt for freeing my son who was captured by the rebels after the battle at the fords. I thought I was seeing a ghost this morning when he stumbled in with the others you have saved. If there is anything I can do to repay you, pray, tell me what it is so that I may do it at once.

I am merely here to help those who are sick and injured. My services are at your disposal

With so many new patients this morning has been busy. We would surely appreciate any help. Especially from one as skilled as you. Some of the new guests are still being settled in the front room here but the worst off are in the back. If you would follow me I can show you where we could use your help

She turns and leads the elf through the main hall among beds filled with tired and weary. She pushes through a set of curtains hanging in a stone archway at the back. The entry opens on a corridor with many other small doorways leading to small cells with the sick and wounded. She turns to the left and into the door at the end. Inside, a man lies asleep on a small cot. A large bloody bandage covers his chest from right shoulder to waist.

This man was brought in on a cart with many others after the battle. We have done all that we know how, but he still hasn’t woken since arrival. Do you think there is anything you can do for him?

I will do my best

As Cúthalion says an ancient healing prayer to the lady Estë in old Quenya, he lowers his hands over the still body of the wounded man. As he moves his hands along the blood crusted bandage Déorwyn looks on with awe. After he removes his hands the man lets out a faint groan but makes no movement.
Déorwyn asks the elf

Is there anything we should do with him now? Or do we just wait?

Just give him water, nourishment and time to recover. He may just pull through

She nods in acknowledgement of what the Elf says and turns to leave the room. Cúthalion follows Déorwyn out of the room, and she points towards another room on the other end of the hall. As Cúthalion passes the archway from the main room, he sees two guards standing at the foot of a cot waiting for the man to rise. When he does, Cúthalion sees one of the men that they had freed from the stockades the night before.
As the guards gently but firmly help the man to his feet, Cúthalion approaches from the back of the hall. He asks the guards who the man is and why he is being guarded. As the man shifts his weight away from his broken right ankle and onto the shoulder of one of the guards, the guard on the other side responds.

My lord elf, this man is accused of treachery, treason, and espionage. He is being taken at the order of Prince Háma. I fear that is all that we can tell you. By your blessing we take our leave.

The two guards point the delirious man towards the door. They help the man limp towards the door and outside into the corridor.

Cúthalion turns and leaves the house of healing and leaves through the great hall and out into the courtyard. He passes into the Coombe and walks among the tents and shelters with refugees starting to emerge and prepare for the day. He finds the cart and tent set up next to it and goes to enter. When he enters he finds Dagorhir inside laying on a bedroll with his armor neatly arranged nearby and his longsword laying at his side. Dagorhir looks up at him as if he had just laid down moments before.
Cúthalion simply nods, opting to wait for a more opportune time for conversation. He then prepares for his own rest.
Cúthalion drops into a deep meditation and loses himself in reflections on the events of the past night and what it may mean for the coming winter. He finishes pondering his own actions as well as those of his companions. He slowly comes out of his meditation feeling rejuvenated and relaxed.
Dagorhir shifts slightly in his sleep on the wool bedroll next to him but doesn’t seem to wake.
Cúthalion peers outside the tent and finds that the sun is much lower than he had expected. He steps outside and takes advantage of the free time to repair any damage to his robes and carefully prepare the contents of his healer’s kit in his bag. He also takes the time to sharpen his sword and refill his quiver while waiting for Dagorhir to wake.

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2.5 A Heroes' Welcome

A Heroes Welcome

Moonday 6 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The darkness lifts in the East as Dagorhir and Cúthalion ride up the long stone causeway and enter the fortress of Súthburg once more. Behind them, newly freed women and children walk and ride among dozens of cattle, sheep and goats. Behind them ride two score heavy knights of Rohan riding in a proud formation three abreast as they ride up the stones in the crisp morning. The large gate stand open with guardsmen standing tall with spears in hand. When the two heroes reach the flat bridge spanning the deep crevasse the guards post their spears to the side and give a deep nodding bow before snapping back upright as they enter the fortress. Inside the main gate of the fortress, the walls are lined with peasants and lords of Rohan alike, all waiting for a glimpse of the heroes of the raid or hoping to see a missing family member or friend. In the main causeway Dagorhir and Cúthalion are greeted by Háma. Behind him, Aramis and Gilfalassë stand weary from their own travels but relieved to see their friends again. The two mounted heroes almost seem surprised to see the two men standing in front of them again and slightly impressed with the skills of Gilfalassë.
As they pause and greet the three men waiting for them, the procession behind them continues entering and moving past them. Some of the freed folk jump off of their cows or goats and run to embrace family members. A few of the freed riders turn to the right and ride down the ramp to the stables but most stop just past the main gate and are helped off their horses. Stable hands, some roused much too early for their normal work, come forward to herd the livestock into the corral out in the Coombe. A large man approaches among the other stable hands as he moves to lead the horses down to the stables, a large chestnut destrier reared in front of the man, kicking in the air twice. The man huddles over, protecting his head before the horse trots past him towards Háma. The son of the king embraces the horse as he lowers his head over the man’s shoulder.
The large man rises once more and grabs the nearest horse and pulls him down the ramp to the right towards the stables while other smaller stable hands follow suit.
After a long embrace, Háma speaks to all four heroes.

Thank you all for bringing my friend back to me. I was worried and grieved for fear of the worst. I know my father will say the same when you speak to him, but if there is anything that you need while you are here, simply say the word. Rest now and we will speak again soon. If you need more than rest, go to the chapel and the old halls of healing and you will be rell received. Although might be you are more skilled than any brother there may ever be if the rumors are true

He glances at the elf.

Again, I cannot thank you enough for returning my long time friend. For now I have matters to tend to and must excuse myself

He bows low before the four heroes and without a lead and only a glance, walks next to his horse, striding down to the stables like old friends catching up on lost time.
The crowd and fanfare dissipates as the wounded and tired are helped up to the houses of healing and the knights and stable hands continue to drive the livestock out to the corral. The handful of stolen horses are gently taken down to the stables to get their own tender care under the watchful eye of the stable master. When the last of the riders passes through the gate and up the ramp, the guards step inside and close and bar the heavy wooden doors. The four heroes of the day soon find themselves all alone in the courtyard at the front of the fortress.

Gilfalassë suggests that they check on the camp sites, and find a communal location to stay while they determine our next move. Perhaps some sort of building or close to the gate so they can stay on top of any rising developments.

In the mean time I have business with the stablemaster. If you have need of me, I will leave my plans with Wigstan.

With that he heads off down the ramp to follow Háma towards the stables.

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2.4 The Dunlending Camp

The Dunlending Camp

Sunday 5 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The party pause to plan their attack and more importantly, an escape route North to avoid the main portion of the camp. When they reach the road they can move quickly back South towards the fortress. When they finish their plan, they skirt to the North of the low west bluffs. Cúthalion spots a Dunlending scout moving south around the edge of the bluffs. The party ignore the scout and drop down towards the caravan. They all play their parts to act as a returning scouting party with a new captive, and the men in the caravan pay no attention to them and focus on keeping warm. They join on behind a cart full of fodder at the end of the caravan. As they approach the campfires, a thick fog enshrouds the caravan as it slows down before entering the camp. The fog lessens as they get nearer to the fires. As they enter the camp, they can see a cart from an earlier portion of the caravan that tipped over. A few men work to haul the goods away from the spill as a burly guard yells and gestures at them.
When the party approach the guard, he sees the Elf and asks in a thick Dunael accent

Who is this?

Aramis steps forward to respond

It is a funny story actually…

Cúthalion looks at the man with contempt. As an elf, he is of course better than these hill folk. He does not open his mouth or do anything however.

Well I don’t have time to hear it. It is the end of my shift. Take him over to the stockade there and make them deal with it

The party push past and follow the fodder cart that they fell in behind. The cart proceeds to a large pile of hay with a few men pulling hay of off carts that reached the pile before them. When they arrive, the man leading the cart unhooks the cow that he was using to haul the cart. He takes it into the makeshift corral just next to the pile. When the men with pitch forks start to unload, the party make their way around the cart and proceed away from the corral. Aramis says to his companions, but loud enough for the Dunlendings to hear.

We need to take this one to the chief. He has always wanted to see an elf

When they get to the other side of the cart and make their way among smaller personal tents, a short young Dunlending steps in front and points his axe at Aramis. He asks

Where are you going.

Aramis responds in dunael

We are going to see the chief.

Take that prisoner to the stockades first. They are on the other side of the corral over there.

Our first duty is to the clan. If you want to go tell the chief why this prisoner was not brought immediately before him be my guest.

Aramis then pushes past and continues on towards the small tents. When the man goes past them back towards the clearing where the cart tipped, the party take a quick look around and find nothing. They make a quick plan as Cúthalion frees himself of his bonds and takes his longbow and rapier back. Aramis gives Cúthalion his corsair hat and the two of them decide to search the supply tents to find some oil to help light fires. Dagorhir and Gilfalassë decide to circle around the nearby tents and go to the back side of the fodder pile and start to free animals from the corral.

The Pirate and the Priest

Aramis takes off his heavy fur and leaves it in a pile to the side of the front of a tent. In his cloak he looks much more the scraggly corsair captive that had rowed ashore in Pelargir only months before. He takes Cúthalion, dressed in the large corsair hat, and approaches a large tent next to some cooking fires on the North side of the large entry clearing. They head through a gap in the tents and approach a small clearing with two large cooking fires, and numerous spits and smoking racks. Aramis directs himself towards the largest of the tents, but before he reaches the entrance he is stopped. A large gruff Dunlending in a thick greasy hide apron approaches the two and thrusts his fire poker out before Aramis and looks at the odd pair. Before the man can speak, Aramis keeps him on his toes by speaking with authority in the man’s native Dunael.

I am captain bloodfang’s quartermaster, his priest needs some oil for some rites.

he pauses to gauge a reaction before continuing

Medium sized barrel if you can spare it.

The man looks them both up and down and noticing the rapiers and hat says

Are you one of them pirate folk?

Sure am.

So how is it you speak Dunael?

I have been around here before.

The man does not answer and continues to look suspiciously. But before he can challenge the response, Aramis speaks up again.

I am not sure what good coin will do you in this winter but i can pay you for this imposition.

Before he finishes, he reaches into his pockets and produces four gold hundred piece coins, one between each finger. The cook gives him another suspicious eye but takes the gold and bites a piece before acknowledging the agreement by pointing to the largest tent directly behind him.

Wulf will help you with the barrel.

As the two move to step past the cook, he raises a thick hairy arm and puts his meaty hand in the chest of the half elf.

Just him.

He says as he nods towards Aramis. Cúthalion gives the man a cold look but resists the urge to draw his weapon and says nothing. His fingers twitch with the desire to teach the man a lesson for his insolence.

In the smoky tent, Aramis finds the man Wulf and asks for his assistance in finding the barrel of oil. He grabs the medium barrel and carries it out the tent and gives a nod to Cúthalion to get him to turn away from the cook and head back towards the clearing to meet the others. They pass the line of tents bordering the cooking clearing and return to the smaller private tents where they split up. Aramis leaves Cúthalion in the open with the barrel as he returns to grab his furs a few tents down.
Just then, a skinny man comes running from around the corner of the tents and runs straight towards Cúthalion hollering something that he cannot understand. Before Cúthalion
is forced to react, the man runs straight past him into the large clearing and approaches the guard who first approached them when they entered the camp. Cúthalion cannot hear what they are saying but the tone of the skinny man seems to be frenetic. After Aramis puts his furs on, the man runs back towards Cúthalion and Aramis hears him yell

Helm is here! The Hammerhand is attacking

He slows down to approach the two in the clearing and shouts

Hey you two pirates, drop what you are doing. Helm is attacking the South side of camp.

Aramis responds

Last I checked I do not take orders from you, but I will inform my captain and brethren

He then turns away towards the private tents and shouts in common

Pirates, to me!

Two more dunlendings move through the clearing and approach Aramis urging,

Let’s go pirate!

Aramis turns away from them saying,

Where is that lazy bastard Haga

he enters the nearest tent and grabs the half elf and pulls him in. As their eyes adjust to the darkness, they see that the tent is empty. One of the men waits outside the tent and Cúthalion hears him set his axe on the ground and get ready to enter the tent. Cúthalion draws his rapier in preparation. Aramis does not hear the man outside but sees the draw and follows suit, drawing his dagger. The man pushes his way into the tent and stands at the entrance, blinking to adjust to the light. Aramis lunges at the man and stabs him in the neck. The man grasps at his throat, stunned by the attack. Aramis grabs him and finishes the job with the other dagger before the man can react. Cúthalion then sneaks out the back of the tent and hides alongside the large pile of fodder. Cúthalion says a quick prayer in Quenya and at his touch, the fodder starts to light up and he turns to make his way safely away from the flames.

Meanwhile, Dagorhir and Gilfalassë leave the other two to get the oil and they skirt behind the tents towards the darkness and the large fodder pile. They skirt around the pile and reach a makeshift corral fence. They begin untying some of the ropes, hidden under the darkness of the fodder pile. When their eyes begin to adjust, the two can see horses, cows, goats, and sheep all crowded in together. On the distant South side of the corral, they can start to make out a stockade with dark shapes, large and small, huddled against the cold.
After a few minutes of untying knots, the two can hear unintelligible shouts towards the clearing where they planned to meet with Aramis and Cúthalion. They decide to move away from the noise and skirt around the back side of the corral to the East. The two men reach the stockade and peer into the darkness to search for guards and find none. They begin to cut some of the bonds of the imprisoned riders and has them to start freeing the others as well. Among the riders, they see women children and old men as well. They tell the riders that some of their horses may be yet in the corral and they should mount up and get ready to leave. Dagorhir jumps over the adjacent corral fence while Gilfalassë moves quickly towards two empty carts to his West so he can hide and get a feel for the forces surrounding the armorer’s and weapons tents.
Dagorhir pushes further into the center of the corral and nears a stable hand tending a horse who spots the large knight and starts shouting. Dagorhir hears him and charges and plunges his sword deep in the mans shoulder and pulls it back out to hit on a back swing as well. The man steps back and tries to draw a knife while he is turning and running away. When he turns his back to run however, Dagorhir strikes him across the back and drops him in the field. As he reaches to take the weapon of his fallen foe, Dagorhir notices a fire starting to burn in the fodder pile to his North.
Gilfalassë sees a lapse in vigilance and decides to quickly make his way across the thirty ft open space to get alongside the nearest tent. As he comes around the cart he sees a man leaning on the carts who turned to look towards the shouting in the corral. Gilfalassë moves quickly to make the tent and cuts his way inside with his knife. As he does, the prisoners that he started to free begin moving over the fence to find their horses and cause havoc. The guard who had dozed off against the cart is now aware of what the noises were for and he runs towards the fence and jumps over it to subdue the escaped prisoners.

Aramis leaves the tent and when the fire is lit, he turns to run back towards the cooking tents. He starts shouting in Dunael

Fire! Fire!

Dunlendings start to emerge from their tents around Aramis and follow him towards the cooking tent to get barrels of water to douse the fire. Cúthalion tries to make his way between the tents unseen but the bright fire starting to burn behind him drew too many eyes and he is spotted. He pauses and in Westron speaks to the man saying one simple word.

Water

The man does not buy Cúthalion’s excuse and raises the alarm in Dunael. When Aramis reaches the cooking tent, above the clamor he faintly hears a man yell one treacherous word

Arson!!

Aramis stops as he reaches the front of the cooking tent. He asks the burly cook if he has an barrels of wash water to douse a fire. The cook is not pleased and wants answers

What have you done you pirate scum

Aramis reponds

I have searved on a ship for many years, fire is no joking matter

The cook turns to another Dunlending with a thick beard and says

Grab this pirate and hold him while we put the fire out

Aramis has no choice but to comply and steps towards the man with his arms outstretched for him to grab.

Cúthalion quickly stabs the shouting man with his rapier before the man draws his axe and is poked again. He swings the axe at the half elf and misses. More men pour out from the nearby tents and draw there weapons as they approach. He hits the first man again with his rapier before shouting in Adûnaic to keep the Dunlendings from understanding.

Come help me!

Inside the armorer’s tent, Gilfalassë’s eyes must adjust and he soon finds weapon hafts, javelins, and other unwrought weapons. He uses his flint and steel to light a flame in some oily cloth and sets it among the javelins. Staff in hand, he looks outside the tent and is spotted by a man no more than ten feet away who shouts to him before running to investigate

What are you doing?!

He swings his smithy tongs at the intruder but misses. Gilfalassë smashes the man’s face with his staff and jumps over the budding fire to exit the tent while the Dunlending stands holding his face.

In the corral, Dagorhir tries to sneak towards the north fence and fodder pile. He attempts to jump over the fence but his heavy booted foot slips off the slick rung and he collapses on the inside of the fence. One of the men who previously had worked to offload the hay from the carts had come to the inside of the corral to investigate and sees Dagorhir run towards the fence. He runs over to the knight on the ground and threatens him with his pitchfork before he can roll over to stand up. When he does stand he is stabbed by the pitchfork. He swings his longsword in response and easily hits the unarmored man.
On the other side of the now flaming pile, Cúthalion is set upon by many men fresh from their tents. The guard who let them into the camp was running towards the fire upon hearing Aramis’ call. But when he heard the alarm being raised, he drew his heavy axe and made directly for Cúthalion. He pushes another unarmed man out of the way and makes to attack the half elf. Seeing that he is vastly out numbered and alone, Cúthalion turns to flee between the tents and back towards the fire. He dodges a parting axe swing from the guard and using his elven grace, he vaults over the two half full fodder carts between him and an open escape. The Dunlendings circle the tent to find him but did not see him vault the carts and temporarily lose him.

Aramis, in the strong grasp of the assistant cook, tries to talk his way free.

As much fun as I am having here, shouldn’t we be fighting that fire there

Aye, I was thinking the same thing. But I have orders

After continuing to try and talk the man into letting him free he finally says

Seriously, let’s go put out this fire

Alright let’s go.

Lead me to some water

The man lets go of Aramis and leads him into the same tent where he had originally grabbed the barrel of oil. The two men grab a barrel between them and go back out the front of the tent towards where they had entered. Suddenly, Aramis summons all his strength and catches the man off balance and pushes him into the large cooking fire still burning behind him. The man stumbles and falls into the flames. Aramis quickly turns back into the tent and starts putting holes into as many oil barrels that he can find. The dirt floor soon becomes soaked in oil. Soon, the man storms into the tent, his breeches still flaming, and he charges at Aramis. He slides on the oiled floor and wildly misses his swing. He manages to keep his balance but in the frenzy, his flaming breeches light the oil all around him. Aramis stabs him once and runs out the tent and uses the chaos to flee North to exit the camp altogether and flee towards the predetermined escape route. The angered man, now wreathed in flame, chases Aramis and tries to tackle him and bring him down before he can leave. Aramis strikes him again, this time piercing the man’s lung. A gurgling sound escapes the man’s mouth as he stands in shock, flames creeping higher up towards his face.

As Gilfalassë exits the tent, a blacksmith assistant notices the flames starting to envelope the tent and enters the other side. He finds his friend stunned inside a tent with a fresh fire. He pulls him away from the flames and tends to his face as he tries to figure out what happened to him. Gilfalassë enters another tent and starts to quickly light another fire. When the flames start to take hold in another pile of oiled rags, he leaves the tent and moves into the next. He finds a tent full of finished weapons and continues his work of disrupting their weapon supply. Gilfalassë leaves this tent and grabs a flaming torch out of one of the blacksmith fires and approaches a half full cart of weapons and supplies that came in with the caravan but was abandoned in the ensuing chaos. He throws the torch in the cart.

Cúthalion lands on the side of the clearing near the fodder carts and runs straight away from the fire, towards the edge of camp where they initially came in. Some of the blacksmiths who were responding to the fire, see the half elf and move to hit him with their hammers. He stabs with his rapier and moves to continue running past the two lads. They swing with their hammers but are too slow for the swift half elf. He runs further away but the two blacksmiths charge directly at him with their hammers and try to bring them down on him, nearly missing. Cúthalion says an urgent incantation to himself in Quenya and after one last swing, the blacksmiths seem to lose hope in attacking the half elf. They instead notice Gilfalassë a few paces South and move to attack the man. Cúthalion draws his bow as some of the original combatants come around the side of the tents to restart the battle with him.

Dagorhir continues his fight with the pitchfork man and they trade blows back and forth for a while. Behind him, the riders that were freed from the stockades have climbed the fence and started to gather their mounts. The stockade guard entered battle with the unarmed prisoners but the sheer number and will of the prisoners have given the guard a tough task. A fiery chestnut steed seemed to be more than passively aiding the riders as well. Dagorhir finally dispatches his foe and moves to help the men only to see they had already defeated the foe. He moves to gather an unclaimed old horse and mounts while the riders are doing the same. He rides to the back end of the corral and starts banging his longsword on the front of his glowing shield. The cattle and goats in the corral initially seem to be unsure about where to go to escape both the raging hay fire and the clamor of the mounted knight. Soon they move towards the entrance of the corral when it is opened by one of the prisoners. The women and children start to move towards the front of the corral and the riders form a loose guard around them to keep them safe.

The blacksmiths who turned from the half elf to charge Gilfalassë approach the man and miss with their hammers. Cúthalion hears Gilfalassë speaks an old verse in Quenya before grabbing one of the lads with his bare hands and tries to use the lad’s momentum against him. He manages to stay on his feet and tries to counter throw but is unsuccessful. Cúthalion runs after the lads and speaks the same incantation from the fodder pile before grabbing the same lad Gilfalassë tried to throw. The other lad sees this and swings his axe and hits the half elf but could not break his concentration. The lad writhes in searing pain at the touch and his clothes catch fire on his back as well. The remaining chasers close in on the half elf but fail to hit their lithe enemy. Gilfalassë swings his quarterstaff at one of the young lads and jumps back over the cart tipped over at the entrance to the clearing. The camp guard closes on the half elf with the burly cook by his side and they both attack the half elf. He moves to run after his ally and when enough distance has been put between him and his foes, he once again raises his voice towards the power of his favorite Vala Lórien. Soon, the thick dry bushes and grass push their way up through the thin snow in the main clearing and wrap around anything they can find. The enemies that were chasing the half elf find themselves rooted in place, unable to continue the chase. Some try to throw their axes only to see them fall harmlessly short.
Gilfalassë skirts around the edge of the newly reinforced thicket and returns to the cart that he had tossed the torch in. He grabs a new flaming brand and throws it onto the top of the last weapon tent as he makes his way back in towards the corral. He sees a panicked horse fleeing the corral and approaches it at the gate and works his way to placing a reassuring hand on the muzzle. He mounts the horse as Dagorhir and some of the riders push the livestock out of the corral with the freed prisoners in tow. Gilfalassë gestures to stay away from the bramble thicket and work their way around to escape from the camp.
Cúthalion follows him towards the corral and is followed by two Dunlendings who just escaped the edge of the thicket. He turns and rapidly shoots two arrows at the young men. He hits them both and they quickly decide to flee with their lives and run deeper into the camp. Cúthalion uses his affinity with nature to help Dagorhir herd the animals away from the camp, driving them past the helpless enemies still caught in the brambles.
Gilfalassë takes his horse and rides quickly to the North to find and follow the tracks of Aramis and meet the party back on the road around the outside of the camp.

* A Narrow Escape*

Gilfalassë, a very skilled ranger, quickly tracks down Aramis and catches him. The two of them share the horse and make for the road to the fortress. They reach the road and ride quickly and silently to make for safety and gather any assistance that they can. When they reach the fortress, they ride up the causeway and are challenged by the guards at the gate. They tell them who they are and of the mission they were on and request to enter and regain their bearings and send help for their remaining friends. They are held outside until one of the guards returns with Háma, the second marshal of the mark. He confirms their statements and commands the gates be opened. He also orders a detachment of knights be sent up the road to help defend the others in tow.

Some of the women and children are placed on the backs of the driving cows and goats as the difficulties of the camp are past but the difficulties of returning safely just begin. The riders, Dagorhir, and Cúthalion all drive the livestock quickly to put as much distance between them and the camp that they can. The numerous fires and destruction left in the camp should help to stall the pursuers as they work to salvage anything still left to them. The band reach the road and turn down to the South to drive towards the fortress. One of the riders charges forward down the road to alert the fortress of their coming and summon any help that can be spared. They progress through the darkness, constantly in fear of an all out assault, yet meeting no resistance. Finally, with the darkness lifting in the East, they reach the entrance to the deep valley containing the fortress and are met by two score mounted knights come to escort them. They push through the valley and enter the gate. Guards posted above the gate make no motion but others push to peer over the walls and see the results of the raid and look for returning loved ones and friends.

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2.3 A Covert Mission

A Covert Mission

Sunday 5 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The next day the company spend resting and preparing for their mission with the King. The sun begins to set and the chill of the White Mountains settles in the Deeping-coomb. After finishing their evening meals the companions wait for the stars to come out before a young squire approaches, asks them if they are ready for their journey, they will have a steep climb and a long journey along a hidden path. When they are ready he tells them to come with him. They follow the lad through the fortress to the front gatehouse and he tells them to wait there for the King. While they are waiting for the King, a deep bellowing horn sounds from the high tower and echoes down the canyon. A minute later, Helm comes to them in the gatehouse and the squire bows and leaves their presence. Helm looks at Gilfalassë and asks who he is and after looking him up and down and hearing from him decides that a trustworthy woodsmen could be of use on this mission. He opens a stout wooden door barely noticeable against the rock and pulls his thick black cloak up over his head as he steps out into the cold.
The four companions follow him out the door and the crisp winter winds swirl against the high walls at their backs. The door shuts tight behind them as they stand on a thin ledge of rock jutting from the base of the main wall high above a steep crevasse. To their right, the ledge circles slightly around the gatehouse tower and ends in a sheer drop and a gap just short of the main causeway. To their left Helm stands near the curve of the main wall gesturing to a small gap across the crevasse with another ledge on the opposite side. He jumps across and turns to offer a hand to the next man across.
Gilfalassë tightens his pack down and jumps across with the assistance of the king. After landing on the other side, he begins to inspect the next part of the trip. Cúthalion leaps across with his elven grace and turns to help the next man across. Dagorhir leaps across the gap and catches a heavy boot on the edge. As he slips backwards, Cúthalion swiftly reaches for the knight and grabs hold of his arm and pulls him steady. Aramis follows suit and jumps across the chasm as well. While the other three are crossing the gap, Helm edges along the rock face to the end of the ledge where a shallow indentation sits behind a rough rocky outcropping that keeps them hidden from the valley beyond. Gilfalassë follows and when the two of them fill the hollow, Helm points up the wall and bellows

Now the fun begins. Only a few people know about this climb which will bring us right up to the top of the ridge. It will be hard climbing but we will be able to approach the camp undetected from behind and take those scum by surprise. Let’s get to it!

Helm Slaps Gilfalassë on the shoulder and pulls his gloves tight onto his hands and steps up and grabs what appears to be perfectly placed natural handholds in the rock wall.

The Climb

Gilfalassë looks dauntingly at the climb ahead.

Perhaps some safety gear is in order for the rest of us my king. We are not such avid climbers.

He unslings his pack, and puts on his climbing harness.

Perhaps I could go first with the rope, and another with a harness could take up the back end to collect up all of the pieces. Those without a harness could use the rope for assistance.

Gilfalassë begins tying the rope into temporary harnesses for the two middle climbers, as well as an end point for the follower. He tise a hold for first the Elf, and then the Knight, and pass the end point to Aramis, and he then begins climbing.
As Gilfalassë is tying the rope into makeshift harness holds, Helm looks at the Dúnadan, gives a quick nod of approval, and begins climbing up a thin steep chute out of the hollow back towards the direction of the thin ledge. He quickly climbs up the chute and reaches a point where his route skirts around the rocks and the route opens up to face the crevasse and high fortress wall behind them.
Gilfalassë manages to knot two makeshift harnesses into the rope and still have enough rope to pass between all four climbers. He then starts up the chute just after Helm moves out onto the high exposed wall.
Helm continues to climb the cliff, and reaches a small exposed ledge looking across the crevasse to the tops of the high outer wall. A stiff breeze blows along the wall and he clings to the rock before looking back to see Gilfalassë reach the bottom of the wall and one by one the line of climbers reach the top of the chute and follow.
Helm reaches the top of the last leg of the climb as Gilfalassë nears the exposed ledge. Gilfalassë reaches the edge, he anchors the rope on top, and hauls himself over to brace should anyone fall. Dagorhir follows close as Cúthalion stalls halfway up the wall with Aramis on his heels waiting to push on. With Dagorhir’s help, Cúthalion reaches the ledge beneath the final climb up to reach Helm at the top.
Gilfalassë detatches the temporary anchor and begins his ascent up the mountain again. The others follow the last leg of the climb. Soon, the party reach the top, one after another to see Helm sitting on a rock waiting for Aramis to make the top. he says

Now that the climb is done we just make our way North along the ridge until we find the
camp. When you have all caught your breath we can start moving

On the ridge, a light dusting of snow starts falling. Gilfalassë begins unhooking everyone’s jury-rigged harnesses and repacks them in his bag, and then dons his armor. Dagorhir takes scope of his surroundings and sees what things and positions can be advantageous for the coming mission.
With all the harnesses put away, Helm rises from the rock and motions for the group to follow him.

From here we must make our way along the ridge to come down on their camp. It is a league or more and we must travel swift and silent by the light of the stars.

With that he starts carefully picking his way among some loose rock and starts off along the side of the ridge hidden from the fortress. Gilfalassë moves swiftly and quietly behind Helm with Cúthalion quickly behind. Aramis tries to stay in the middle of the party because his senses are downright dismal, but he stays light of foot and uses every shadow to his advantage.
Helm makes his way down with the company following single file. As they move along the ridge the snow starts to fall harder and the wind blows stronger as an early winter storm settles over the valley. After a few hours of tough travel through the blowing snow the beleaguered party arrive at a high bluff at the North end of the valley. Aramis is unhappy with the failing conditions, but in the spirit of moving silently refrains from complaint.

The Ridge

The party work their way down the ridge through the storm. Cúthalion moves light and swiftly through the falling snow. Aramis is caught off guard by the cold and starts to feel the early effects of hypothermia. Gilfalassë uses his ranging skills and helps protect the others from the elements while helping Aramis to recover. The party arrive at a high bluff at the north end of the valley with the White mountains lost in the darkness behind them. Helm signals to halt the party on the bluff and takes a quick rest to catch his breath. The snow continues to fall but begins to slow down. Despite the efforts of Gilfalassë, Aramis still feels a chill beneath his furs and cloak. When the party arrive at the bluff, Cúthalion places his hands on him and Aramis almost instantly feels like he is warmer.
Gilfalassë begins checking the surrounding area for any signs of scouts or guards. Just then, Cúthalion, Gilfalassë and Dagorhir all spot what seems to be a scout sitting in the rocks below them beneath the ridge. They also hear a faint noise on the air as he hums to himself. Cúthalion with his keen elf eyes also sees that he is a very young scout and looks uncomfortable and edgy sitting alone and is constantly looking around at shadows and phantom noises. He has his back up against a short overhang and is looking out over the valley below while trying to stay out of the last of the snow. 
Aramis feels uncomfortable from the gentle caress of the half elf and does something manly like sharpen daggers to keep it from getting weird.
Gilfalassë nocks an arrow and hides behind a large boulder and looks down the slope to the scout sitting with his back to the group leaning against a rock.
Dagorhir whispers

Should we sneak up, take him captive and see what kind of information we can get out of him about the camp?

Gilfalassë responds in hushed tones

We shall have to be swift, before the patsy gets wise. Perhaps Cúthalion and I should watch him and Aramis should sneak up and surprise him?

Cúthalion draws his bow as Gilfalassë mutters under his breath and takes aim. Aramis sneaks down the hill hiding among the rocks and scarcely making a sound. As Aramis sneaks down the slope towards the scout, when he is about halfway down, the scout looks startled by a noise behind him but looks back and sees nothing and looks up in the sky to see a falcon hunting in the night. He pulls his cloak tighter around his body and exposed ears and huddles against the rock. Gilfalassë stops muttering under his breath, but continues to take aim at the scout ready for any signs of trouble.
As the Scout Huddles against the rock, the falcon swoops down on silent wings, grabbing the small pika that startled the man in the first place. He watches the bird intently as the falcon grabs his prey and looks around while perched on a rock further down the slope. Aramis readys a dagger in his off hand to menace the throat while his main hand muffles any cry for help. Aramis easily manages to sneak up and put his dagger to the throat of the scout who tenses up at the touch but does not move for fear of his life. He slowly puts his hands out in front of him palms up to show whoever is behind him that he is unarmed.
Aramis whispers to the scout that he is to casually accompany Aramis up the hill, but first that he should tap his left foot thrice upon the ground if any of his accomplices are within ready earshot. He pauses then waves his hands in front of him side to side, palms downward. He then places his hands on his knees to slowly stand under the control of Aramis.

Very good, King Helm will appreciate your accommodating attitude

Aramis helps the boy to his feet and bids him to lead up the hill. At the mention of Helm’s name, the young lad shudders but continues back to the others with Aramis.
When Aramis and the lad reach the party, they all look around quietly at each other for a moment not sure what to do with the boy. He looks timidly around the group until Helm stands from the rock he was sitting on and the lads entire body freezes stiff. As Helm walks towards him, the boy trembles in Aramis’ arms until Helm stands before him and asks

Are there others up here with you?

The boy whimpers and shakes his head. Helm presses further in a commanding voice

Where is your camp and the livestock that you stole?

The boy nearly faints and collapses to his knees and begs

Please don’t kill me, I don’t want to be here but Wulf came into our village and made us. I didn’t steal any cows I swear.

He buries his face in his hands as hot tears stream down his face and let off faint wisps of steam. Helm says simply

Where?

The boy looks up and points down the hill to the Northeast and mutters

A few hundred paces down.

and slumps back into his hands. Between heavy sobs he squeaks out,

Please, I just want to go home.

Helm replies

Give me your weapon and you may leave in peace. No one will know you are still alive until you are back home. Make haste

The boy scrambles for the strap holding his small axe to his side and he lets the weapon drop on the ground when he stands up. When he reaches to unstrap his dagger Helm waves him off saying

You’ll need that to get through the night.

He keeps his head bowed low and thanks Helm for his generosity and turns West to scramble along the hillside to try and get as far as he can under cover of darkness. Helm bends to pick up the axe, throws it over his shoulder and says

Come, let us find this camp

Helm sets off down the hill. Aramis checks all of his gear, pulls his furs tighter, and heads off. Gilfalassë presses on into the dark, looking for any signs of trouble. Cúthalion and Dagorhir follow close behind.
As the company progress down the slope, Aramis narrows his eyes and peers down into the valley. He sees what look to be faint campfire lights, drowned out in the swirling snow and fog. As he sees this, Cúthalion and Helm see the lights as well. As the hawk circles down and lands on a rock nearby, Gilfalassë sees the camp and notices an unlit caravan moving in from the West. With the goal in sight, Helm leads the group further down as the lights get clearer and clearer. After another half mile trudging through the dark, they come to the crest of a bluff that overlooks a large valley that now seems to glow from all the campfires hidden under the shadow of the bluff.
The camp stretches though the valley straight North of them and runs from the Southeast to the Northwest. The caravan that Gilfalassë spotted can be seen moving on the North side of a large hill at the West end of the valley on the back side of the camp. A large bonfire, bigger than all the others can be seen in the center of the camp straight North of the bluff. Many large tents surround the bonfire while smaller tents stretch towards the front end of camp in the Southeast.

The Plan

Helm stops, looks over the bluff and steps back to decide what to do. He says

Looks like the front of the camp with the most defenses is at the South end of the valley off to the right. There are probably some more scouts around the area as well. What are your thoughts on a strategy?

Aramis says

If intercepting the caravan is possible, casually infiltrating it will provide the simplest path to the camp.

Gilfalassë agrees and adds

Perhaps, if we can overtake them, we could disguise ourselves as dunlendings and slip into the camp without having to fight our way in. We will need to muddy up our gear though

he looks at the knight.

We can’t have any good looking equipment showing or the disguise will fail. What do you two think?

Cúthalion and Dagorhir nod in agreement. Dagorhir says

I’m not a very stealthy kind of guy. However, I am willing to do whatever it takes to defend the good people of Middle Earth. If need be I can act as a distraction or a direct force, depending on what our plan calls for.

Aramis adds

Dagorhir and I, being men of superior moral character are taller and fairer than dunlendlings, though if we soot our faces and hair and slouch a bit we may pass casual night time inspection. I can tie a trick knot to make the Elf appear our prisoner, but allow him to spring into action if needed.

Cúthalion responds

Well I guess I could act like a slave, we just need to keep weapons on hand in case things turn south.

Gilfalassë speaks up

Perhaps we could tie some sort of knot that was designed to look secured but you could pull to free yourself quickly. Then we could secret weapons upon ourselves, or hide them in bundles of sticks or something. I’m not sure how we would be able to retrieve them in case of emergency though.

Aramis speaks slowly as the woodsman is either deaf or a halfwit

We will obviously be armed, we are a returning scout party. The woodsman will walk in front of our elf prisoner, allowing his bow to be “stolen in a surprise escape attempt” should our ruse be uncovered or violence otherwise be needed. A camp at night is no place for anyone without elf vision to be loosing arrows anyway, we humans will rely on melee. 

Gilfalassë adds

Very well ‘Fancy Man,’ your plan has merit. I say we progress. No more time for chit-chat.

And with that Gilfalassë will begin tying knots so that Cúthalion can slip into and out of them with only mild effort. He quickly makes a mess of his rope and Aramis takes the rope from him and quickly ties a knot using his skills learned aboard the corsair ships.
After waiting and listening stoically, Helm rises from his seat on a boulder and addresses the group.

Sneaking into the camp should not be hard using this plan. The problem comes with getting back out with any goods that we can get our hands on. Releasing livestock to roam free will only cause a minor annoyance as they spend time rounding the herd up again. And besides that, it will not help our already dwindling resources inside the fortress. We need to do something that will shift the coming siege more towards our favor. While the Dunlendings live at the feet of the Misty Mountains and have experienced winters just as harsh as any of the Eorlingas, this coming winter may be the worst in a small age and they are without their permanent shelter and are exposed to the elements. Besides, these mercenaries from the South have likely never before seen anything this cold.

He nods towards Aramis bundled in his furs and heavy cloak.

We must press the advantage of our warm mountain fortress and not allow the enemy to even establish a semblance of comfort by removing everything that will give them any. Wood is scarce in this part of the plains and their scouts will need to travel far from this barren ridge to get more if their stockpile runs out. Feed for their livestock will be even more scarce under thick blankets of snow. Arrows and weapon hafts will require precious wood to replace. Everything we cannot take with us we need to destroy. Multiple small strikes will cause more confusion and have a greater chance for success as a group but also be risky for each of us as individuals. The most important thing for us to think about is our escape. Causing such a commotion will certainly raise an alarm and an all out hunt for us as we leave. While we may have just fallen upon that scared young lad, other experienced scouts and rangers are sure to be out among the hills and will certainly move to ambush us if we are not wary. As the darkness deepens, keen Elven eyes will be necessary to both survey the camp and ensure a clean exit

He looks Cúthalion in the eyes through the swirling snow.

They will surely know me in that camp, disguise or no, and will direct their attention towards me to the best of their ability. I plan to use that to our advantage and attack on that side of the camp and draw them away from the supplies

He says pointing to the Southeast towards the downstream portion of the camp.

I have known these hills since I was a child and am now the king of the great fortress of Aglarond. I know of a few old secrets of old Gondor that even the best Dunlending eyes cannot find. They will send many soldiers and search many hours to find me but all in vain. I will start as many fires as possible amongst the stockhouses, armories, and tents. I will not be able to carry much, if not anything on my own. I will only serve as a distraction for you all to take what you can during the commotion. Lead animals away, carry what you can, do what needs to be done to help the people of Rohan sheltered in our fortress and to help squash this insurrection

Helm adjusts his cloak and hoists the scout’s surrendered axe and prepares to depart down the East side of the hill to attack the far end of the camp.

Oh, I almost forgot. As I told Aramis when he came to see me, I have sent a small column of riders out into the plains along the hills to the East. If they were successful, some of the warriors have left the camp with their fires burning but fewer men to tend them. Be aware of any men that see through the ruse and seek to return to the warmth of their fires and a hot meal. I have kept our mission quite among the men of the fortress for I fear there may be more than an ear or two that has been bought by our enemy. But I have alerted a trusted man at the main gate to keep a keen eye out for any return, many or few, that may come down the main road. Closer to the gates, we have eyes and arrows hidden in the scrub and valleys to help screen your return as well. Should dire circumstances beset you, blow this horn and any nearby riders will surely come down the road quick as thunder

He finishes as he reaches underneath his thick winterwolf cloak and produces a small riders horn and hands it to Dagorhir.

Be swift and may the Valar guide you and be with all of you. I hope to see the four of you, and that falcon of yours, back in my chambers when you return.

Gilfalassë suggests to Dagohir that without his horse, perhaps this is not the time for a lance, and stashing it here may be for the best.

Between Aramis and I we should be able to create a sufficient disguise that we can sneak down there, and take out our opponents with haste. Stealing one of the wains would allow us to steal some of the supplies as we left, as well as giving us cover should they start shooting at us.

Dagorhir hides his lance and makes an effort to remember the location

Let us go forth and attempt to dismantle the siege upon our friends. We have made as good a plan as we could in such a short time and must not delay any longer.

Cúthalion gives his bow to Gilfalassë and looks ahead into the darkness to search for any other dunlending scouts. As they set off down the hill to intercept the caravan, Gilfalassë takes the lead with Aramis close behind to speak to anyone they stumble across. Cúthalion in his bonds follows Gilfalassë as well. Dagorhir brings up the rear with his equipment muddied and his stature slumping to help disguise himself.

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2.2 Cistenbéam

Cistenbéam

Starday 4 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

Gilfalassë meets the stable master Wigstan who approaches him

Greetings!! My name is Wigstan. What can I do for you?

Hello Mr. Wigstan, my name is Gilfalassë. I recently spoke with the Quartermaster, Oswine, and he suggested that I speak to you about work that may need to be done. I have a number of skills that may be useful, but I am willing to do anything required.

What kind of skills do you have? You seem more intelligent and could be much more useful than simply haying and shoveling shit.

I am an effective reader and writer. And am a capable woodsman as well. If you have need of an astronomer, which it seems unlikely that you would, I’m also fairly capable in that regard. If you need help with animals, I might be able to assist in that regard as well.

Wigstan pauses, then gestures towards Gilfalassë as if he has just thought of something.

I just sent Cenric to bring in the horses and ever since Wulfric has not yet returned we have had difficulty bringing all the animals in and out from the Coomb. If you could go meet Cenric out there and help him I would be grateful.

It would be a pleasure.

Gillfalasse heads out towards the Coomb, seeking to assist Cenric in his duties.
When Gilfalassë arrives at the pasture, a large man is holding the reigns of a beautiful young chestnut colt that is rearing and pulling away from the man trying to calm him. Gilfalassë approaches and gently gestures towards the colt and as he does he calms down enough for the man to tie his lead off to the fence railing. The man thanks Gilfalassë at which point he introduces himself and says he was sent by Wigstan. The man thanks him as he grabs a small apple from a pouch on his belt and gives it to the horse while he gently pets his muzzle.

Without looking away from the horse he says

Cistenbéam has been on edge these last few days and will barely eat. This is the most calm I have seen him lately. He must like the look of you our something.

He then says if Gilfalassë could lead the line of 8 horses tied near the pasture gate then they could head back to the stables.
On the way back, Gilfalassë asks him who Wulfric is and why he disappeared.
Cenric says that he is one of the stable guards and two days ago some horses went missing during the early hours of his night shift and their disappearance was discovered when Cenric came in the next morning to preform a roll call and prepare for the surge of people fleeing to the fortress. Wulfric left the fortress in a panic and hasn’t returned since.
Gilfalassë asks if Wulfric had any kin in the fortress that might know where he went. Cenric tells him that Wulric doesn’t have any family and mostly kept to himself so no one really knows where he was planning on going or when he would return. He was an honest man and Cenric doesn’t think he could have taken the horses so it makes him sad to see so much blame put on the young man.
When they bring the string of horses back in to the stables, Cenric thanks Gilfalassë for his help and says that if he finds out any information regarding Wulfric that he should come back to see him. After feeding Cistenbéam one last apple, Gilfalassë takes his leave of Cenric, and begin his search for Wulfric.
As Gilfalassë is leaving, Wigstan stops him and also thanks him for his help. He says that he is especially grateful for his help calming Cistenbéam down because he has been nearly uncontrollable since the disappearances. Even Cenric who usually is so good with the horses cannot calm him lately and he may be in touch with Gilfalassë soon if he needs any more help.
Gilfalassë smiles pleasantly, and heads towards the guard barracks.

In the guard hall, there are two guards on duty. When he arrives, he requests to see the current guard in charge, and asks about Wulfric’s disappearance.
When Gilfalassë approaches them and asks about Wulfrics disappearance one of them says he liked Wulfric and it’s very suspicious that he ran off so quickly but he doesn’t think that Wulfric could do something like that. The other nods in agreement. When Gilfalassë asks them about the last time they say him they both recall seeing him in the long hall the day before he disappeared when he came in to eat after the end of his early morning duties. They say he must have left in a rush because when some other guards searched his sleeping quarters after his disappearance, they found that he hadn’t even taken his heavy riding cloak with him so he only had his thin sheepskin tunic and cloak to go out with.
Gilfalassë responds

Most Peculiar. If you saw what direction he left in, perhaps I could go after him and see if I can find him

He rode out the main gate and went North up the road and out of the coomb. Where he went from there no one can say. Since the disappearances and Wulfric’s flight, the gate guards have stricter orders and no one is allowed in and out the gates without direct orders from either the second marshal or the king himself. If you are so keen on finding Wulfric and the horses I would request a council with either of them.

Gilfalassë thanks the guards for their assistance in the matter, and tells them that he will do his best to resolve the situation. After leaving the guard house, he leaves in search of his newly met friend Aramis in order to ask him about procuring permission to leave the fortress.

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2.1 The Old Fortress

Chapter 2: Inside Súthburg

The old Fortress

Starday 4 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

After the party comes to the gates of the fortress and pass the entry requirements, one of the guards directs the cart towards a gate in the back that opens into the Deeping Coomb to allow the cart to be protected and to get the mounts fed and sheltered. After parking the cart among the tents and lean-tos, Aramis ventures through the crowds and attempts in vain to sell some of the wares contained in the cart.
Meanwhile Dagorhir and Cúthalion go to the courtyard and asks the guards posted outside to see the King.

They are directed into the great hall carved into the mountain and shown into a smaller chamber through the back where they await the king. When he finally enters the room he looks pleased to see the two companions.

How have you fared since I saw you last?

Dagorhir responds,

We were ambushed by Dunlendings along the road a day from the fords.

Helm replies

That is troubling but I am glad to see that you have arrived safely. If you need any supplies to help recover then go to the armory and see the quartermaster Oswine and he will help you in any way that he can. Supplies are tight but I owe my life to you and your other companion and anything that you might need should be provided.

Dagorhir graciously thanks the king and asks him about his plans for the coming seige.

We will remain steadfast here in the fortress and will wait them out. This autumn has quickly grown ill and the winter will be very harsh I feel. The hill men and the rebels will not be able to last long in the harsh elements. In the coming days and weeks I may need your help with some covert missions but for now rest and make yourselves at home here in the greatest fortress in the plains of Rohan.

Cúthalion

After leaving the King’s council chamber, Cúthalion inspects the fortress looking for secret passages and other things which might be useful in any future covert operations.  Walking slowly along the walls, he searches the ancient stonework for any signs of passages that could be useful. In doing so, he comes to a set of double doors at the end of a hallway guarded by a young soldier who asks Cúthalion what business he has there. Cúthalion replies,

I am a close friend and guard of the king, and I am familiarizing myself with the fortress to help ensure victory in this siege.

The guard at the door holds up a torch and looks again at the half Elf and says

Many apologies Cúthalion, I did not recognize who you were right away and we are under orders to tighten security here. Beyond me is the entrance to the caves and you are welcome to have a look around but there is not much between here and the south gate which leads all the out to the South side of the mountains.

He steps aside and opens one of the two doors before allowing Cúthalion to pass through.

Cúthalion peers into the caves and is struck by the sight. The walls of the cave sparkle and shine in the dim torchlight and a large still lake fills the center of the cave. Along the shore of the lake, piles of goods and supplies have been gathered to help prepare for the siege. Cúthalion enters the large cavern and leaves the torch at the doorway. He surveys around the pile of goods and looks deep across the lake but decides the caverns are better to explore later and returns to the cart, continuing to search walls along the way.

Dagorhir

When Cúthalion leaves to go explore the fortress, Dagorhir decides to stay in the long hall and offer his services to the king whenever they are needed. While waiting in the guardhall, Dagorhir hears many banal conversations had over bowls of soup and dry hard bread. When he is eating his own meal, he hears one guard ask another

Have you heard if anyone has found Áccynheorte yet since the chaos has started settling down?

The other says,

no but I hope we can find him and the others soon. but right now I have to get back my shift so hopefully I can hear some good news.

He gulps down the last bit of soup before standing and picking up his helmet and shield.

farewell

the other says as he stands to salute the man before sitting back down to finish his own bowl of soup.

Overhearing the guards’ quick conversation, Dagorhir’s curiosity is piqued. As there doesn’t seem like much to do other than the constant preparation for war, he is bored and decides to at least find out some information about this person he had never before heard of. He goes up to the remaining guard, sits down at the table, and tries to strike up a conversation with the hope of bringing up the topic of Áccynheorte and obtaining some information on the matter. Before he says anything the guard asks him

What can I do for you Dagorhir?

Dagorhir responds to the sitting guard,

I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with the other guard. Who is this Áccynheorte you two were speaking of? It sounded as though he is important and hasn’t been heard from in a while."

The guard smiles at Dagorhir’s question.

It has been a good while since he has been heard from and he is very dear to Háma and adored by everyone stationed here at the fortress. Since his disappearance the Marshall has been on edge and has been hard on those involved. I am usually stationed in the lower guard house so I didn’t see him that often. He used to like to play down at the stables and out in the deeping coomb so I’m sure the stablemaster, Wigstan, would have a better update on the situation. However, he has been put under a lot of stress with the disappearance and the huge influx of horses and livestock that he has had to deal with as well. If you don’t know how to get there just go down the stairs at the far end of the rear hallway and follow your nose.

As he says this he points towards the direction of the back of the great hall and curls his finger around an imaginary corner.

I regret I could not be much help. If there is nothing else I can do for you I too have to get back to my afternoon post.

He grabs the last chunk of his bread and sops up the rest of his soup then stands to leave. Dagorhir waits in the guard hall for a bit longer and decides that the next morning would be better to speak to the stablemaster. He then decides to leave and return to the cart.

Aramis

Meanwhile, after wandering through the camp behind the Deeping wall, Aramis made his way to a makeshift tavern high in the back along the deeping stream where he seeks easier marks to sell his wares to. He approaches a young man with dark brown hair dressed in a worn travelling cloak and carrying a wooden stave with a longsword strapped to his waist. He tries to sell the youth a slightly magical axe that had once been the weapon of a Dunlending warrior.
The young man does not make any motion about the axe but instead asks Aramis if he may to buy them both a round and discuss any arrows or other supplies that he might be able to use. The two take a round and Aramis finds something in the young man that he trusts and decides that he is in need of some greater protection on the road to help distribute his goods and fight off highwaymen and other dangers. The young man sees an opportunity to travel further and decides to join the Gondorian on his quest.
After giving the location of his lean-to to his new Gondorian acquaintance, and finding out where he should meet him later,

Aramis asks around in the tavern for craftsmen who produce martial wares. Perhaps they will barter some locally accepted weapons or armor for some of the oddities from far off lands laying about in the cart. He also seeks to buy a sizable number of arrows and bolts. Among the tents and shelters, Aramis looks for craftsmen looking to barter but finds that most of the people he meets have no interest in fancy trinkets because there are rumors that the food supply might not be large enough for the number of people that have come. They realize they might have to fight before the end if some sort of peace is not brokered soon. He then encounters one man whose left arm and forehead are wrapped in bloody bandages and he limps heavily on his right side. This man seems interested in trading some extra arrows since he will not be able to use them himself so he asks aramis to see what he might have to offer for trading. Struck by a wild idea, Aramis leaves the wounded man mid sentence.

I am not going to starve to death in a castle with a large force of pre-agricultural savages at the gates. They must have a large herd out there, that army can’t forage in winter. It will be guarded by footmen, I am surrounded by famed horsemen. I must speak with the king!

He rambles to no one in particular as he rushed off to speak with the king.  The injured man looks confused by Aramis’ sudden change of tone and as Aramis turns toward the keep he hobbles to turn with him and shouts after him,

If you still want to do business I will be around.

Aramis goes up towards the courtyard and enters the double doors to see a large room with high smooth stone columns and arches draped with banners of Rohan and ornate tapestries. Many soldiers are moving around and running errands. On the West side of the great hall, two soldiers stand guard in front of two long gold tapestries and an ornately carved wooden door. As he approaches, the guards stop Aramis and ask him what business he has with the King. Aramis responds,

I am Aramis of Dol Amroth, a traveller who chanced upon the King on the road to Súthburg, and a veteran of many sieges during my time amongst the Corsairs. I come to offer my sword, and if he be, willing my counsel, to King Helm.

Ah, Aramis. All our thanks go to you and your friends. You have quickly taken great favor with the king. He is taking a late lunch but I will announce your presence.

He knocks on the door and Announces

Aramis of Dol Amroth to see you sire.

After a pause, Helm responds to let him through and the guard opens the door.
When Aramis walks in, Helm rises to embrace him.

Aramis, it is such a pleasure to see you looking warmer than the last time we saw each other. What is it that I can do for you?

Aramis returns the King’s embrace with all of the gusto his lean frame can muster.

King Helm, I have come to offer my sword for a dangerous mission. I have walked amongst the refugees, their spirits are low, and the food stocks may be lower. This fortress will be beset by hard men with hatred in their hearts, the sort of hate that can carry a man through the coldest winter. But it will not feed him. The Dunlendling ineptitude for agriculture is legendary. Their inability to grow a single stalk of wheat is the butt of jokes as far as the South Seas, their notions of animal ‘husbandry’ make poor conversation for court. To feed a horde the size they are amassing they must have plundered the herds of shepherds and cattlemen for leagues in every direction. They will lack the knowledge and horsemanship to hold such a flock. I propose that a force of your finest riders leave the castle with the best horses. A few dozen spears will not be missed on the walls, while a few dozen riders could disperse the food supplies of the enemy, perhaps even bring some back to the castle. They could remain outside through the winter and by playing to the strengths of your people be of great value in harrying the enemy. If your men will have me, I will join this mission. I am no great rider, but I spent many years amongst the Corsairs and learned many of their dastardly strategies. My knowledge, coupled with the courage and ferocity of the Rohirrim cannot fail. What say you King?"

After listening to What Aramis has to say Helm looks pleased and responds,

Aramis I do agree that the Dunlendings are nothing more than scavengers and goat herds and surely have pillaged many lands to help feed this horde. But do not forget that while there are many Dunlendings at our gates, there are also rebels and traitors that have left their own homes in the Westfold and have brought with them their own horses and provisions to provide for the traitor Wulf. That being said, I also agree that a squadron of knights would be invaluable outside the walls which is why I dispatched them on the night of the battle at the fords. However, the Dunlendings are expecting them to attack and their defenses will be focused on preventing a mounted attack. Tomorrow night there will be a sliver of a moon and the knights will be faking an attack on the camp before it is completely established. When they do this, I will be leaving the fortress under cover of darkness to sneak in and take what I can. This is where I feel you can be of service Aramis. One does not come through what you and your company have without pickup up some unconventional talents and I think that together a small party of us can slip in unnoticed and take what we need. Prepare what you need in the meantime and tomorrow evening return here and we can take what we need to sneak out perform our mission. Just know that the secrecy of our mission is of utmost importance so only let your companions know and do not come here with all the necessary preparations until we are absolutely ready to leave. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish my meal for there are many things to be done. Thank you for stopping by Aramis. My door is always open if you need anything else.

With that, Helm again embraced Aramis before turning back to sit down to his meal. Aramis turns to leave and returns to his cart to take inventory of his goods and wait for his companions to return.

Gilfalassë

Gilfalassë leaves the tavern and heads back to where he left the four brothers he came in with. Upon returning to his make-shift camp, Gilfalassë finds the youngest of the rohirric brothers whetting swords and repairing weapons. He tells him of Aramis before heading towards the deeping wall to provide what assistance he can.
When Gilfalassë arrives at the wall, a team of masons and carpenters work to help shore up some of the defenses that have been neglected during years of peace by a garrison too small for the fortress. As gilfalasse looks on, a young lad in squires garb approaches a bald mason and briefly speaks with him before turning to head back to the main fortress. Gilfalassë follows the squire up to the courtyard and into the main keep. The squire enters a room full of armor and weapons and approaches a portly man sitting at a table with a large ledger. He barely looks up at the lad and mumbles something then waves him off and looks back to his work.
The portly man does not hear Gilfalassë approach and is startled to hear an unexpected voice. He has a frightened look in his eye and takes a deep breath to call to a guard before taking a longer look at the young man and instead gently exhales.

Nice to meet you Gilfalassë, my name is Oswine, and I am the quartermaster here. There are many things to be done and help is always welcome. I know that the stables are having a hard time dealing with the influx of horses and they need help with many things. Go down the stairwell outside the armory here and speak with Wigstan the stable master and he will be able to put you to work I am sure of it. Thank you for offering your services

With that he picks up his quill and looks back to his ledgers. Gilfalassë thanks the Quartermaster for his assistance, and proceeds down the stairs, looking for Wigstan in the stables and turns down a hallway with two heavy wooden doors on his right open to the faint sunlight filtering in from the causeway gate in front of him. A great amount of traffic passes in and out of the large doors. A boy leads a string of half a dozen horses out through the doors while knights both mounted and on foot pass in and out. The passageway echoes with the slow clop of war horses and the hurried shuffling of feet. Sheep and goats bleat amongst the shouts of stable hands and soldiers.
Walking towards the door, Gilfalassë first reaches a large archway and when he peeks inside he can see a makeshift wooden pen filled with sheep jostling to get to the stable hand with a sheaf of grain. Inside, Gilfalassë scans around and sees a large deep chamber in front of him with many stalls recessed into the smooth stone walls and many more temporary wooden stalls both finished and in progress. An archway to the left leads to a deep dark hallway that smells of dried hay and oats. On the right, a smaller archway leads into a lit room. When Gilfalassë peers in he sees a small room where a few men are sitting on barrels talking and eating a bit of bread. A second doorway on the right leads to a room where a boy is struggling to reach a saddle hanging on a slender hook.

As gilfalassë walks by he hears the room erupt with laughter one man pushes through a chuckle and says

…then he picks the fish up, wipes off his tunic, looks Henric square in the eye and takes a bite right out of the fish.

Another surge of laughter is heard as Gilfalassë enters the next room.

When Gilfalassë grabs the saddle the lad thanks him and says

Father went out to the Coombe but he should be back any minute now. You can wait with the other men in the break room if you like. Follow me.

as he turns towards the break room he sees a man enter and the boy runs to him.

I cleaned up the tack-room father. This man here was just looking for you. Though I didn’t catch his name.

The man approaches Gilfalassë and says

Greetings!! My name is Wigstan. What can I do for you?

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1.6 Retreat to Súthburg

Retreat to Súthburg

Valarday 2 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

After the people of Rohan were defeated at the fords and Helm was narrowly saved, the cart and three war horses continue making their way South. Cúthalion works to try and hide the party tracks which becomes an easier task as they move Southeast away from the fords and out of the soft mud. After traveling for nearly an hour, the King calls for a stop on a hill overlooking the destruction they just left in the North. The Isen can easily be marked through the mist and now clearing fog by the thick stands of trees that wind through the grassy plains to the West. To the North and the East many scattered Rohirrim move away from the fords and along the road towards the fortress in the South. Helm decides that he will go with Hama with their war horses and rally as many of the remaining soldiers as possible before heading to the fortress. The cart however would not be able to travel as quickly as the two war horses of Rohan. Helm tells the party that they are welcome to travel to the fortress as well but they would not be able to travel as quickly. Dagorhir responds that they will head that way and should arrive in a few days. Helm and Hama then turn to the East and ride towards the road to raise the alarm and begin preparations for a siege.
The others then decide which route to take to the fortress. Travelling South to the White mountains would help keep the group hidden from the Dunlending main force but travelling over the wild hills would slow the cart down significantly. After deliberation the group decide to follow Helm and meet up with the road before turning Southeast.
The group made a quick journey to the road and continued briskly Southeast. Aramis remained huddled in a wool blanket with chills for the majority of the ride but eventually starts to recover as the drizzle moves out leaving a crisp clear day. While they see some riders, passing by them, it seems that the pursuit behind them has slowed for the time being. The group continue down the road as evening falls and travel into the early night.
Finally they stop and make a camp just off the road. They start a fire and eat a quick meal of trail rations before assigning watches and calling it a night. Aramis and Cúthalion both have watches that pass uneventfully.
Early in Dagorhir’s watch however, he hears a scuffling noise about 50 yards down the road. He peers into the darkness but does not see anything and draws his sword. Meanwhile, a Dunlending scout sneaks up
from the other side of the campfire unknown to Dagorhir. The scout behind Dahorhir tries a strong downward strike but misses and embeds his axe in the soft ground. Dagorhir turns and hits the scout while he is pulling his axe out of the ground. Dagorhir swings again before the scout can regain his wits. He also shouts to awake the others who slowly come to while two more scouts emerge from the darkness. The first scout lands a blow with his axe and Dagorhir returns one of his own. Cúthalion is the first to rise out of his meditation and draws his longsword. Aramis soon follows and when he rises he is struck by the scout who charged up the road towards the fight.
Dagorhir lands a solid blow and nearly drops his target. In doing so, he calls over his mount
Gwaefaen who responds but does not join the fight. Cúthalion swings and misses and son after the noise of the battle spooks Dave and the mule but Dagorhir acts quickly to calm them with some soothing words and gestures before jumping onto the bare back of his mount. Aramis stabs one of the scouts with a very deft strike. Cúthalion sees that his foe is winded from the battle and he strikes once before quickly adding a second return swing to drop his target. While the others continue to swing and parry and shadows dance around the fire, Dagorhir wheels his mount around and charges at one of the scouts and hits before continuing to ride by. As Cúthalion swings at the scout, Dagorhir swings around in order to charge back through the enemy again and drops him with a swing of his longsword. Cúthalion closes on the last enemy and misses but dodges the scout’s return as well. Aramis works his way around the back of scout and works to flank him and hits him in the back. Dagorhir closes on his mount and hits with his longsword. Aramis takes the opportunity to call to the scout in Dunael and get him to yield. He does and the two have a conversation in Dunael while Cúthalion starts to heal those who were injured and Dagorhir tends to the mounts.
After a brief conversation with Aramis, the scout says:

It is in your best interest to not to stay here. The world of the straw-heads will soon come crashing down.

There are 30,000 Gondorians coming this way. I am setting you free to run to your master and tell him.

Aramis responds. The scout looks doubtful of his claim but does not dispute it. As they release the scout without his weapons he turns and says once more:

Flee while you still can and keep yourselves out of this.

The scout then runs up the road to the North and leaves the travelers behind. Cúthalion then continues to heal and care for the others while they return to sleep.

Seaday 3 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The following morning the group rises and packs up the remainder of camp before continuing along the road towards the fortress. Throughout the day columns of smoke are seen climbing into the sky to the North and West. While they travel down the road they pass by some groups of people fleeing to the safety of the Deeping wall. As the night falls the party again camps beside the road and take watches throughout the night.
During Aramis’ watch, he hears someone approaching and when he turns to look into the dark two Dunlending scouts rush him and try to tackle him before he can rouse the others. However, Aramis is able to yell and punch one of them in the face before they attempt again and the two of them are able to subdue Aramis. The others who were asleep or meditating rise to axes at their throats. The scouts throw the weapons and armor in the cart and bind everyone in ropes before throwing them on top.
With the cart loaded with prisoners, the scouts lead Dave, the mule and Gwaefaen Southwest towards a large number of the smoke columns. Shortly after leaving the previous camp site Aramis tries to use his escape artistry and rope skills to free himself but he cannot. Cúthalion frees one hand and Aramis whispers for him to reach beneath his cloak and draw Aramis’ hidden dagger. He tries to grab it but gets spotted and a guard hits him with the haft of his axe. They pull the prisoners off of the cart and retie the ropes. they do not find Aramis’ dagger however.
Almost immediately after loading the prisoners back onto the cart Aramis barely waits for the scouts to look away before trying to escape again. This time he succeeds in freeing a hand without being spotted and is able to grab his dagger. He then cuts himself loose and a scout notices him and jumps up on the cart to stop him. Cúthalion acts quickly and swipes the feet out from under the scout before trying to free himself. Aramis moves to free Dagorhir and one scout shouts in broken Westron

Stop. Now. Or we cut

Aramis replies in Dunael

Can you be more coherent, your Westron is terrible

To which the scout responds in Dunael

If you don’t stop moving we will cut off your manhood and leave it for the crebain

Aramis brandishes his dagger and responds

I rather like my manhood. Come and get it

With that, the scouts turn towards the cart and draw their weapons to deal with the upstart Aramis. Dagorhir continues trying to escape and manages to free one hand and with that hand tries to pull the blankets out from under him. Aramis takes advantage of the scout that was
tripped and slices at his neck causing the scout to clutch at his throat and writhe on the back of the cart. Cúthalion then frees a hand and works to untie his feet while the Dunlendings close on the back of the cart. One swings at Aramis and one swings at Cúthalion both hitting glancing blows. Dagorhir then tries to untie his feet but is unable to untangle the heavy ropes so Aramis turns to help by cutting him free and gets hit while doing so. Cúthalion grabs the axe from the scout at the foot of the cart. The surrounding Dunlendings continue to close on the back of the cart. Dagorhir grabs the dagger from the back of the cart and calls to his mount to break free but the man holding the reins controlled the horse and prevented her from breaking free. Aramis tries to pull up one of the the blankets and Aramis and Cúthalion jump so he is able to pull it out quickly. Aramis then throws the blanket at the men and traps one underneath. While Cúthalion strikes off the back of the cart, Aramis attacks one of the men who was escaping from underneath the blanket.
Aramis and Dagorhir reach under the remaining blankets and grab for weapons that are more suitable to their style than daggers. Soon, the man in the back of the cart rises and gets struck by Cúthalion and Dagorhir. Aramis jumps off the front of the cart and attacks the man holding the reins while Cúthalion attempts to stop some of the heavy bleeding from his sides.
Aramis attacks again and calls for Dave to move and the cart then starts rolling forward. Aramis jumps and rolls into the back of the cart as the pony picks up speed and passes by him. Aramis moves to the front and starts loading the crossbow. Cúthalion calls on the power of Eru and causes flames to leap from the back of the cart and swirl around the enemy. Dagorhir calls his mount again and this time manages to get her to escape her captor and come back to him. Cúthalion then causes the grass and dry sharp bushes grow and tighten around the enemy as the cart continues to pick up speed moving South. The rise of the undergrowth causes the enemy to fall to the ground but takes Gwaefaen by surprise as well. Aramis turns the crossbow and shoots one of the men while Cúthalion throws the axe before searching for his bow in the back of the cart. Aramis takes the reins and controls Dave while Cúthalion takes some parting shots and calls to his mule. Dagorhir moves to help free his mount but she is free before he can get there so he mounts up and returns to the carts side. When the enemy are left far behind, they can be seen to turn away and do not pursue the cart.

Starday 4 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The early morning sun can be seen just coming up over the horizon as the cart follows the road as it turns South towards the mountains and the fortress at their feet. After travelling for a good portion of the day, with the mid day sun hanging high in the sky, the high keep of the Hornburg can be see in the Deeping Coomb. Soon the cart rolls up the long stone causeway and passes through the gates of Súthburg.

Riders, Warriors, merchants, farmers and peasants can all be seen busily moving about the fortress as preparations for the coming storm are being made. Archers and watchmen stand guard on the high walls above the gates and look down on the hustle and bustle below. One of the gate guards directs Aramis towards another gate near the back of the Coomb behind the Deeping wall. Many tents and lean-tos dot the open space behind the wall as a swell of farmers flocked to the safety of the fortress wall.

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1.5.5 Fires in the Night

Fires in the Night

Moonday 29 Narbeleth(Grape Harvesting) – (Second Autumn) T.A. 2758

A young Dúnadan kneels in a small valley near a hill just North of Dol Baran to say an evening prayer to Eru before he takes his supper. The smell of cooked rabbit wafts gently away on the breeze but the man takes care that his fire remains low and does not produce any smoke to give away his presence. He removes any sign of his small fire then begins to eat. As he eats, a falcon swoops down and lands next to him and grabs a chunk of raw meat left out of the fire. He pets the bird and whispers to it before it takes to the sky again. The sun begins to set and the cold takes hold. Winter has come early in the Southern foothills of the Misty Mountains. The River Isen runs through the plains a few miles to the East and the Great West Road runs West along the Southern foot of the large hill and bends off to head North and disappears over the horizon.

Gilfalassë has been searching the foothills of Dunland all summer and has reached the edge of the hills with no sign of his lost sister Ivrenmithiel. However, now he has stumbled on something much bigger and maybe something that may lead him to her. He has noticed that the Dunlendings have been very busy during the short summer and have been moving large herds of sheep and goat towards the Southern edge of their lands. There have also been countless rumors of attacks on farmers as far West as Tharbad and the River Greyflood. Gilfalassë had come to expect something was going to happen and when he summits the large hilltop he can see now that it is something big.
All day, columns of thick black smoke have been rising far to the South on the edge of the horizon. And now hundreds of thousands of Dunlendings and darker men unknown to Gilfalassë are pouring into a large camp along the road just west of the river. Hundreds of cooking fires begin to dot the darkening landscape. Gilfalassë looks over the massive horde once more before he retreats back behind the hilltop to a small group of large boulders where he works to disguise his spot for the night. His horse stamps at his return but does not make any other noise before laying down between the two largest boulders. He had camped right under the noses of Dunlending scouts all summer and tonight was going to be no exception. As he sits thinking against one of the boulders the falcon returns silently and lands on top of the rock. He cocks his head to the side, looks at Gilfalassë who pulls another chunk of raw meat from his cloak pocket and tosses it to the bird. The bird stretches its wings while the man lays down and draws his cloak up tight and seems to almost vanish in the night. With only the two glowing eyes of the falcon to mark the site.

Treeday 30 Narbeleth(Grape Harvesting) – (Second Autumn) T.A. 2758

As he starts to follow the horde, Gilfalassë whispers to his falcon who takes flight and heads straight South towards the large columns of smoke. More and more Dunlendings come into the camp each day as a steady stream. By his count, there are a few thousand armed Dunlendings and half as many dark skinned men who joining from the South. Gilfalassë knows that the fords of the Isen are the only major crossing of the large river for miles around and once the army moves across into Rohan, that would certainly mean war if there wasn’t one already. He moves along the hills and from the ruined outpost on the top of Dol Baran he can see the entire extent of the army and there is no doubt that only a matter of days separate the people of Rohan from all out war. He continues East to move in front of the horde in an attempt to warn the small Rohirric villages that lie in the path of destruction.

Heavenday 1 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

Gilfalassë makes a camp on a smaller hill near the river where he can still see the Eastern edge of the camp. His falcon returns in the evening and Gilfalassë can sense that the falcon is flying with deliberate haste and a great sense of worry. When he lands, the man comforts the bird by whispering to it and feeding it a few more scraps of meat.

Valarday 2 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The next morning, the sky is gray and cloudy and a light drizzle is falling with stiff freezing breezes coming down from the high mountain peaks to the North. The man is woken by his falcon quietly pecking at his hand. He draws his knife from his cloak and surveys his surroundings before standing to go to the top of the hill. From there, he can see that the large camp is in chaos as they scramble to pack up and move. about one third of the army moves towards the fords while the rest of the army looks to be moving more Northwards towards the abandoned fortress of Angrenost. Gilfalassë knows that there are not many people living on this side of the river so he would be better suited to cross the fords ahead of the army and try to warn villagers on that side. He packs his gear high on his horse and approaches the fords with unease. The rain starts coming down heavier as he gets near the shelter of the large trees on either side of the river.
As he steps into the deep swift water, a javelin flies just past his horse and splashes harmlessly in the water. He instinctively ducks and avoids two arrows that spring from the trees. Unable to see the attackers, Gilfalassë pushes forward through the cold water as arrows splash down around him. Once on the other side, he turns and does not see any pursuers so he turns North towards a small village in the distance. About halfway to the village the falcon lets out a scream and dives down as two scouts attack Gilfalassë. He makes short work of the two scouts with his bow and sword and continues on to enter the village.
Most of the homes are already abandoned, but Gilfalassë enters one with four young Rohirrim who point bows and spears at him as he cautiously enters. After introducing himself and showing he is not in support of the Dunlending cause, the four men explain that they are all sons of a lesser lord in Western Rohan who did not agree with Wulf and his rebellion. Their father and two uncles fought with the Dunlendings and when they died the four brothers fled from the West. They have been on the run since and continue to work to stifle the efforts of Wulf in what ways they can. They are riding ahead of the army killing any scouts they find in an attempt to keep the army blind to movements in the East. They offer him some of the last wedge of their cheese along with some of their bread and a porridge like gruel and he offers some of his own food to help bind the alliance. Gilfalassë offers his services with a bow and they gladly accept but warn that if he cannot keep up they will not wait for him for time is short. They finish the last of their short meal and prepare to ride North to intercept troops coming down this side of the river from Angrenost.
Skirting the trees Northward, the group encounter and dispatch two individual scouts before the falcon sees a group of eight Dunlendings on foot coming towards the men. The falcon swoops and Gilfalassë senses that there is trouble ahead and he alerts the Rohirrim. Skeptical of how he could know, they act on the safe side and make preparations for a fight. Gilfalassë dismounts and ties his horse to a nearby tree then draws his composite shortbow. He says a few words much like a prayer to the old forest and prepares for a fight.
With the falcon circling high in the air above the approaching scouts, Gilfalassë shoots a high arcing shot over the top of a large oak tree to try and hit the ground below the bird. The arrow lands down on the shoulder of one of the scouts only narrowly missing his skull. He pulls the arrow out as the scouts move around the oak into the view of the young riders. One of the men draws a shortbow of his own while his three brothers spur their horses to meet the threat. Gilfalassë and the mounted archer both hit just before the riders reach their foes. The first rider to reach the scouts thrusts to try and stab a scout with his spear but overextends himself and nearly falls from the saddle, dropping his spear in the process. As he reaches to keep his balance, he is unable to avoid a quick return swing from the dunlending and two of his nearby allies, all three landing blows on the unfortunate young man. As he continues to ride past the scouts, he regains his balance and draws his sword. As he wheels towards the river, the other two riders reach their foes and one lands a nearly fatal spear thrust before the scouts continue to match blow for blow. With the dunlendings closing in on the slowed riders, Gilfalassë draws two arrows, picks his targets, and looses two quick shots. The first shot strikes a dunlending clean in the throat and out the other side, dropping him immediately, the second shot strikes the leg of one of the scouts.
The riders are badly hit in their initial charge and quickly act to turn back towards Gilfalassë and their brother. As they ride back arrows fly past them as their brother shoots to support them. While they are running, the dunlendings draw javelins from their backs and throw them in stride as they chase the riders. One just misses Gilfalassë while another strikes the mounted archer. The rider who is heavily wounded sheaths his sword and draws his bow and shoots one of the tribesmen running after him while continuing to ride away. The other two wheel around run through the dunlendings, lowering their spears for a charge across the line directly towards the river. both of them landing blows with their spears as they run through the enemy. The dunlendings recover from the charge and follow the two towards the river, swinging their battle axes and hitting the two men. Gilfalassë continues to rapidly shoot arrows at the scouts while the other two archers shoot a scout in the back and he drops. Of the remaining six scouts, three continue to chase the two riders with spears while the remaining three run South towards Gilfalassë and the other two archers. Three of them reach the two mounted archers but before they can swing, Gilfalassë shoots one just as the horse rears up kicks him and he is finished by another arrow.
One of the two riders puts his spear away and draws his shortbow, loosing an arrow in to the neck of a trailing dunlending while his companion rides the man down with his spear. As his quiver nears empty, Gilfalassë starts retreating to his horse where more arrows are available while the remaining dunlendings are starting to be routed and drop to only two remaining men. As Gilfalassë nears his horse, one of the brothers rides by bleeding profusely and another tends to his wounds near to the river while the two scouts close on the mounted archer and try to take him with them. They leave a deep gash in the mans leg but the last brother rides up behind them.
Gilfalassë shoots two arrows at one of the scouts and in an attempt to distract the other, shouts

Your mother must have had relations with an ursine troll because there is no other explanation for offspring like yourself.

As he turns to look at Gilfalassë, the man is struck down by two arrows and his last remaining companion is cut down by the rider who approached from the rear. The brothers regroup and approach Gilfalassë who begins untying his horse. He pulls his one missed arrow from the ground near where the last two scouts fell, and pulls some feathers from the remaining arrows nearby. Gilfalassë takes some salted goat from one of the fallen scout’s pouches before mounting up.

We may wish to move with haste in retreat before their friends catch us.

He surveys their injuries and says

You’ll be fine. At least until we can get away from this mess.

The men deliberate and decide to return to the abandonded village where they met to heal and regroup. The falcon flies South at a great pace and the men return to the vilage. When they get there, Gilfalassë offers to look over their wounds and gives them some bitteroot from his bags to help with the pain. Gilfalassë is able to stop the bleeding for now and the men decide to rest the night and break South as early as they can in the morning to find their cousins and retreat to Súthburg. Late in the night when Gilfalassë is watching for enemies, the falcon returns and Gilfalassë can sense a great sense of panic, chaos, and confusion in the bird.

Seaday 3 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758

The next morning, the sun rises deep red. Gilfalassë seems concerned, but says that fires have been burning all night and have discolored the sky, citing his knowledge as an astronomer. They move quickly to break South along the river and try to find their cousins and retreat to the old stone fortress. When they reach the main road, East of the fords, the men find a scene of an ambush where many broken carts left empty and dead dunlendings lay strewn among rohirric squires and baggage handlers. The continue to push South and when they start to reach some hills Gilfalassë finds a set of six ridden horse tracks. They follow the tracks for a while and reach a hilltop where the horses seem to have stopped moving and grazed for a bit. The tracks then break straight West towards the river.
After following the tracks for a while, the group sees the six horses and their riders and they press to them. There are nine riders for the six horses. Three of the riders are severely wounded, one is missing an arm. The men great the approach of their cousins and they tell about how they fought a group of scouts that outnumbered them. One of their brothers and his horse were killed and two three other horses took injuries that they succumbed to the night before. They have been trying to make it to the fortress but saw a large group of dunlendings and fled from the hills towards the river and have been circling back since. Everyone knows that at this point the only safe place is the fortress and with a bigger group, they can afford to move towards it further out in the open. They change around the riders on some of the horses to ease their burdens, and push for the fortress.
Before the evening sun sets, they make it to the fortress and the injured are taken to the house of healing while Gilfalassë follows the oldest brother to speak with the Marshall of the Mark. Háma is away from the fortress helping others flee to safety but he left his favorite horse and would return before dark. The older brother spoke to the lieutenant in charge and discovered that the First and Second muster joined together to take back the West but were ambushed yesterday before they could cross the fords. Many are dead and everyone else is retreating to the fortress and hundreds are pouring in every hour.
Gilfalassë remains in a small camp with the riders and spends most of his time scanning the crowd and watching for anyone suspicious or out of the ordinary.

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