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  1. #1

    Total Immersion: A Dwarf's Lament

    I had the idea for this total immersion tale already in mind when I moved over to Landroval, but the plan was to hold off on its beginning until one of the two stories I am currently running were complete. However, Folcwain's tale has become much slower in its growth than I had initially anticipated (though I am certainly still struggling along with it). So, there is no better time than the present!

    Dwarves are by far my favorite race to place in Lotro. Certainly, I have a soft spot for Folcwain and my old hobbit, Theodoras Took, back over on Crickhollow is very dear to me. But dwarves remain my cherished favorite. I always strive to develop unique and interesting personalities of all my characters (such a Brimbur) or attempt to instill in them a strong driving purpose (as in Folcwain). And Brodli, my new dwarf, is no different.

    I progressed Brodli up to 26th level to begin his tale and, like Folcwain, got him to 20th level without a single defeat. While I levelled him, I took time for some general rping now or then, mostly running a weekly dwarven market in Bree each weekend where I crafted to order armour for players.

    But now it is time for his tale, so enjoy!


    1. Travel: I will only travel on foot or by regular mounts and absolutely no swift travel horses or map recall use. This can be waived when conducting toon upkeep, such as visiting a settlement to level. Except when in a quest, lair, dungeon, combat, etc, I will walk everywhere - I will allow myself to run for short periods of time, however, such as trying to run away from an enemy.

    2. Chat / Speech: I will always stay in rp character at all times during Chat. I will chat in OOC when it is necessary however, since there are times I might want to talk to someone out of game.

    3. Food and Rest: I will follow the LOTRO day/night cycle closely and force myself to rest at a safe location such as an inn or in a town if such an inn is not available. The day/night cycles are:

    Late Watches

    I must rest during the night cycles of Evening, Midnight, Late Watches and Foredawn each day (or at least camp/rest for four cycles each day/evening). I can hang around an inn, for example, and rp a bit with other players, but no going out into town to shop or craft, etc. This is to simulate my character actually resting. During the rest time I must eat a meal of some kind.

    If I am away from a town or settlement, things will become more tricky. I will attempt to find a safe spot to camp for the evening - this means halting my journey and actually sit my toon down for rest.

    4. Promoting Realism: This rule is a catch-all for such things as no jumping off high cliffs, swimming with armour on, jumping around while I am moving, jumping every fence I come across, etc.

    There is one rule I play that I always forget to mention - and that is the repair of equipped gear. I may only pay for repairs of weapons from a suitable vendor; ie, weapon repairs from a weaponsmith npc in a crafting area.

    5. Death and Defeat: Since I love a challenge, I will add in a harsh rule for myself. Brodli cannot be defeated by any means during the story - should this occur, he will be considered truly dead. For all of my stories in the past, the character begins at 6-7th level right after the Intro. However, for this story, Brodli begins at 26th level and has managed to survive to gain the Survival title of Undying to begin the adventure.

    6. Arms and Armour: Brodli may only equip or use equipment gained via mob drops or gained by the completion of quests. So, he may not craft gear for himself, or purchase gear from a vendor or the Auction House.

  2. #2

  3. #3

    Chapter One: An Old Soul – 8 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    The sun had already risen over the eastward heights and great shadows crept down from the lofty walls of the Eglain fortress of Ost Guruth. The courtyard was busy with many of the Eglain; guards paced the walls or stood watchful at the gates, mindful of the many dangers that lurked in the lands about. Cries rose from the small market square to one side and a steady flow of folk could be seen coming and going through the gates. Not all of the arrivals that came were of the Eglain; one of these was a dwarf who strode slowly down the stairs and towards the crackling fires to one side of the courtyard.

    There he slowly lowered himself wearily onto the moss-covered ground beside the fire. Not a young dwarf he was, but venerable-looking and clad simply in the raiment of a common craftsman. His beard was very long and white, and his grayish-white mustache hung down his chest in fine plaits of golden braids.

    The dwarf gazed out over the camp with a strange light in his deep, worn eyes and grumbled softly. ‘It has been too long…too long….’ He then settled back, his old dwarven bones far too enfeebled to carry him a step further. He sighed deeply, letting the warmth of the fire seep into his old beaten limbs. The dwarf glanced up to watch a flock of birds over the ancient fortress as they swooped and wheeled into the sky then vanished into the distance.

    Slowly the old dwarf’s eyes began to flutter and droop as his head slumped down onto his chest, as if drifting off into a deep sleep. For a long while he did not stir and his breath slowed to a gentle, peaceful rhythm. Suddenly, his eyes fluttered open as he looked up, his sleepy gaze falling upon an Eglain standing there gazing back at him with curious eyes. For a moment, a sense of long-ago remembrance washed over the dwarf’s face.

    ‘Asgrim, my old friend…’ he said with a slow smile. ‘How can it that you are here?’ A dark shadow passed over the dwarf’s face, mingling with a look of bewilderment that now crept into his aged eyes. ‘No, no, you are not Asgrim…’ muttered the dwarf softly.

    The dwarf rubbed his worn eyes with one hand and looked up with a clearer gaze at the bemused guard. 'What do you say? Master Frideric wishes to speak with me?' he said with muttering grumble. 'Whatever for?' But the man only shook his head and did not answer further before turning round and walking away.

    The dwarf climbed slowly to his feet and looked about until he spied the man he sought. With weary feet, he strode over to the elderly Elgain, bowing low as he did so. ‘Master Friderik the Elder, what is it so urgent to awaken me from much-needed rest?’ he asked simply.

    The old man turned and looked down at the venerable dwarf, a warm friendly smile upon his face. 'Our paths cross again, Brodli,’ he said kindly and softly. ‘There is something I would like to ask of you, a favour that may prove dangerous. Our trades were not limited entirely to Bree-town in the west. We have, in our time, traded with an Elf from the east as well.’

    ‘True, master Frideric,’ said the dwarf quietly as he turned dark eyes to the Eglain elder. ‘Long ago my people kept open our routes from the Misty Mountains to Ered Luin. Yet those paths have long since been lost and it is only now that some have once again been reopened at last.’

    The Eglain nodded politely and spoke anew. ‘When the raids in the west began we sent some of our kindred eastward to rekindle our trade with the Elf, but they returned after seeing great, lumbering creatures near the road east. The creatures did not attack and acted in an intelligent manner. I hope to gather goods for them to offer as a promise of peace with them. If you are willing, I will need meat from the boars roaming the Weathered Hills and fur from the lynxes in near Weathertop.'

    Brodli furrowed his worn brow and fell strangely silent as he listened to the man’s tale. Presently he spoke. 'A lumbering beast?’ he said with a bright light in his eyes. ‘It cannot be a troll, which I first feared, for they are slow and dim-witted creatures. And never would one be spoken of as intelligent. Perhaps it was a giant from down out of the mountains? But what would a giant want with furs and meats?'

    But the elder did not speak, but only shrugged and looked down quietly at the dwarf. Brodli muttered under his beard and then looked up at Frideric with some irritation. 'I am no hunter, master Frideric...axe and hammer do I wield and best suited for cleaving the heads from Orcs...' He fell silent once more and looked about. ‘Where may I find such beasts, master Frideric?’

    ‘Wargs can be found surrounding us to the south, west and east of Ost Guruth,’ answered the elder with deep respect. ‘The boars are to the east along the Great East Road toward the Last Bridge. Gather the meat and furs and return to me.'

    The dwarf grasped at his long beard and the sighed aloud. 'Long in exile did I wander, master Frideric, until I came to dwell among your people,’ he said finally. ‘In time, I called this place my home, and still do. Little have I had to offer your folk but all I have given freely and willingly. I have come to look upon you and your people as my own...for that I can little refuse your request.'

    The dwarf spoke no further, but bowed stiff and low then turned away, his face grim and silent. He returned to the fire and sat down, gazing unseeing into the cracking, smoky fire. For some time he sat in silence; it was only the sound of steady footfalls that roused the dwarf at last. Brodli looked up with curious eyes at a tall man clad in the livery of a guard came striding up to him.

    The man was not alone; with him stood another wearing a stout coat and hood of mail and holding a sturdy wooden banner aloft in his hands. A red blade upon a blue field was emblazoned on the banner that fluttered in the light breeze. Yet no Men of the Eglain they seemed and that was proven more so as the first suddenly spoke aloud.

    ‘Greetings master dwarf!’ said the man as he bowed deeply before the seated dwarf.

    ‘Hail and well met, young master,’ answered the dwarf as he rose from the fire and bowed very low. ‘I am Brodli at your service,’ he added bowing still deeper.

    ‘Do not be shy, Benhelm’ said the man turning to the standard bearer behind him. ‘Salute the master dwarf!’

    ‘Bencroft at your service!’ replied the first man. ‘What is a dwarf doing so far from the mountains?' he asked quizzically.

    Brodli did not answer directly, but fell silent for a time and turned his eyes down to the fire. 'I am but a simple smith, long in wandering exile and have found home here among the Eglain,’ he said finally. ‘Little craft can I offer these forsaken folk but what I can do, I do so willing. Helm and greaves, mail and shield do I provide these people as best I can.'

    'I see...' said Bencroft quietly. 'Do you know this land well?'

    'As best as one could, I suppose. I have dwelt here now for some time and now call it home.'

    Bencroft nodded and reached into his pack to take a crumbled piece of paper from within. ‘I am looking for a refuge of the elves called River of Ale, or a similar name...’ he said slowly, glancing down at the parchment. ‘I heard that at the Prancing Pony and could not withstand the calling of adventure. My searching brought me here, but I am stuck at the moment.'

    'I know naught of the River of Ale I am afraid...' answered the dwarf with a frown. 'Perhaps it is my feeble age and memory; long has it been since I woke as Durin did long ago...'

    The man sighed and rolled up the paper before stuffing back into his pack. 'I have spent several weeks trying to find this place...do you know about somebody that can give me the information I need?'

    'Many travelers can be found on the roads in these dark days now,’ answered the dwarf quietly. ‘Perhaps one of them may shed light on that which I do not know.'
    ‘What is his or her name?’

    'I cannot say;’ said Brodli with a shrug. ‘Many are the folk that pass through here and little do I ever speak with them.'

    The man smiled and then glanced down at the fire. ‘Do you bother if we sit for a moment? It should be good for your bones.’

    'Of course...’ answered the dwarf with a smile of his own. ‘A fire is always lonely when one sits at its side alone.'

    And so they sat and talked as the sun crossed the sky above and the dinner-bells sounded. Only the banner-man did not sit, but instead stood behind Bencroft resolute and silent.

    'Benhelm can stand,’ said Bencroft watching the gaze of the dwarf towards his companion. ‘He is in training and needs to have his muscles strong.'

    'What do you know of my folk?' said Brodli with a nod.

    'Of the dwarves? I can say that you are not the first one I have met. A dwarf saved my life long time ago... but I do not know much about your people...'

    'Then let listen to the ramblings of an old dwarf if you can,’ said Brodli quietly. ‘I shall tell you a tale of sorrow and triumph...'

    Brodli eyes began to glower in the light of the flickering fire and he fell silent for a moment. Then he spoke ‘Long has been the years since Durin awoke beneath Mount Gundabad,’ he began with a sigh. ‘And great have my people suffered through those countless years. Much we have lost and little regained. Dáin is now King under the Mountain yet many of our ancient halls lay silent and empty.’

    Bencroft kept his eyes on the dwarf and muttered softly over one shoulder. 'I am eager to listen! Pay attention Benhelm! Stories make us wiser and better captains!'

    But the dwarf did not seem to hear the man’s words. A look of sadness had now washed over his worn face and his voice grew grim and dark. 'The labours of my folk there are great and they have done well; yet in metal crafting we cannot hope to rival our fathers of old; far too many secrets have been lost to us. Sword and axe, mail and helm, they can craft, and yet none will ever match those made before the dragons grew strong again and multiplied following their long slumber.'

    Brodli fell silent once more as a shadow passed over his face. ‘Disquiet has fallen upon my people and much has been whispered or hinted in these desperate times,’ he said finally. ‘Great is the belief that we have become hemmed into a narrow crevice and that the wealth and splendor we so desperately seek is no more.’

    'Still others have begun to speak of Moria, and of what was lost to us. But not kindly do we speak of it, or openly, for though the longing of our return grows, so does the dread of such a journey. No dwarf had dared to pass the Doors of Durin for many lives of kings, save Thrór only; and such was his penance for such foolishness.'

    ‘Moria! Moria!’ he cried aloud and looked out as if to glimpse towards a distant and unseen land. ‘Too long and deep under the mountains did well delve and in our foolishness and greed we awoke a nameless terror; now its vast halls lay silent and empty since my people fled, never to return. There was felled Durin the Last, so too did his son, Náin.’

    Brodli fell silent now as if unable to speak further. Bencroft bowed his head and then spoke in a low voice. ‘Dwarves and Men are not very different...’ he said grimly.

    'Indeed we are...’ countered the dwarf after a time. ‘As different as winter to summer...'

    'But, not as different in heart, greed lives in the heart of both races,’ answered Bencroft.

    But the dwarf did not speak further; his eyes grew unfocused and unseeing for a long while. When he did speak anew, his worn, raspy voice had fallen away, and grew deeper, clearer in its tone.

    ‘I was but a stripling then, do you recall, Asgrim?’ he began slowly, as if recalling a moment from long ago. ‘Deep was my pride when I was allowed into the mustering for war so long ago...’

    'To the north we trekked, our company under the leadership of Lord Frothi, the chieftain of our house. We hunted for the Orcs for many a week until at last they fled or abandoned their dwellings and caves to gather at Celeb-ost, located high upon the northeastern-most spur of the Grey Mountains, beyond the Withered Heath.'

    Brodli murmured softly and then glanced up to nothingness in the air, as if speaking with an old dear friend. ‘Do you recall that day, master Asgrim?’ he said proudly and nobly. ‘There on the slopes of the ancient fortress were drawn a great host of foes. Ah, but we looked splendid that day, did we not?’

    'Oh how we drove our foes back, shrieking and cursing, as we cleaved through the ranks, crying ‘Durin! ‘Durin!’ We hewed all who stood in our way until we reached the very gates of Celeb-ost…'

    ‘Yet our pride was nearly our undoing,’ he sighed as if in remembrance of a sad day so long ago. ‘For fresh foes poured from the mountain and fell upon us; we were surrounded upon all sides and formed a ring upon a low rounded hill - there we made our stand. Proud was I to have you there beside me, Asgrim, my old friend.’

    'All about our ranks the battled raged and there Haki fell, and too did Nasi, defending Lord Frothi with their very lives. We were floundering in a sea of foes as the sun glinted red and all hope seemed to be lost…'

    Brodli eyes misted slightly and his voice broke suddenly. ‘That was the hour when I found you, Asgrim, lying still and silent upon the stone, pierced by cruel Orc barbs and hewed down by wicked Orc blades. I was without words and wet were the tears that fell unashamed down my face.’

    ‘I think our master dwarf is very old,’ murmured Bencroft softly to his banner-man who now whispered something in the captain’s ear. ‘He thinks he is talking to some dwarf called Asgrim.’

    The dwarf seemed lost to everything about him, and did not hear their exchange. 'With the roar of one voice, we gathered the last of us and struck out with abandon, for we sought only death in defeat,’ he said slowly, tears washing down his face. ‘Terrible was our wrath and dismay fell among our foes, who had sensed nothing but complete victory before then. Lord Frothi himself pulled down the Orc chieftain and hewed his head. At once the Orcs began to flee in all directions and we pursued them until none remained…'

    Brodli slumped back beside the fire, his voice sinking and the strange gleam faded slowly from his eyes. For long moments he was deathly silent. Finally he looked up dully. ‘What were we discussing?’

    ‘You were telling us a fantastic history,’ said Bencroft with a warm reverent smile upon his caring face.

    'What tale?' answered Brodli as he shook his head.

    'Master Brodli, is it wrong to ask a Dwarf about his age? I think you have seen things that happened a very long time ago...'

    'Long are the years since I woke…’ muttered the dwarf softly. ‘I was but a stripling when the war came against the Orcs. That was well nigh 200 years before now...'

    'Why are you here, in these lands? I think your knowledge should be worthy in this dark times.'

    'My halls are forsaken and lost...’ answered the dwarf grimly. Even my son has deserted me. He wishes nothing more than vain glory now. Lost are the days when my people wished little more than to bring us to our lost homes of old...dark are these days now and darker they will become...'

    'You are right Master Brodli, but your experience can help to brighten them,’ said Bencroft with some hope. He then looks to the darkened sky. 'The night is getting darker, Master Brodli, I need to return home to have some rest.'

    He stood up from the fire and bowed low to the old dwarf, motioned for his banner-man to do the same. 'It was a pleasure to meet you. Safe travels and glorious battles!’
    Last edited by Brucha; Oct 02 2013 at 09:01 PM.

  4. #4

    Chapter Two: Wargs and Boars– 9 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    The dawn had not awakened in the darkened sky when Brodli rose from his camp and strode quietly through the Eglain courtyard. The market was silent and dark as the dwarf made his way quietly towards a simple tent pitched behind a wooden stall and table. There he found the man he sought, just now slipping from the low tent to stand tall and gaze up at the dim sky.

    'Hail master Grimdeal,’ said the dwarf with a hushed voice as he bowed deeply. ‘You have often been generous with your desire to purchase my supplies for your craft and now I must ask one final boon. I require a bow...my hands know little of such weapon yet I am in great need of one.’

    The bower said nothing but looked down at the dwarf silently then turned to the crates and boxed stored behind the stall. Presently Grimdeal took up a short bow of ash and set it down atop one of the tables. Brodli glanced down at it with distaste and then spoke softly as he drew a few simple coins from his purse.

    ‘It shall suffice, master Grimdeal, and fetch me a quiver and arrows as well,’ he said as he put the coins in the man’s open palm.

    As the bowyer slid fletched arrows into a quiver, the dwarf checked the supply of dried meat and hard bread inside his pack. He then took the bow and quiver from the man and bowed very low once more before turning away.

    Brodli made his way slowly up the long steps to the gates above, bowing his head to the guards there and strode through. At the stairs he paused for a moment, his eyes held closed. A passerby might have thought the old dwarf had fallen asleep standing there in the flickering gloom of the torches hung from the walls beside the gate.

    Then the ancient dwarf’s eyes fluttered and opened and he looked out before climbing down from the heights and into the grasslands far below the fortress. At the foot of the stairs he paused and glanced up into the sky. 'The sun is slow and tired, and will not rise for some time...,’ he said softly. ‘Yet I am restless and would like to finish this business for Frideric if I can...'

    The dwarf then stirred and set out, turning first east and south, steering his course towards the Road. The night was drawing fast to its end as he reached the Road and the last fleeting cold stars glinted in the sky overhead. Brodli paused once again to gaze over the quiet land and then began striding down the road in silence.

    Brodli made his way slowly cautiously down the road; presently the old dwarf turned from the road bearing left. He steered as straight a path north and east for a time over the wild lands as best he could. For an hour or more he went slow and gloomy through the cheerless land; little could he glimpse in the gloom but for the scant, coarse grass about. More than once Brodli spied black shapes lurking in the grey night, dimly lit by the gloom. Yet he gave the furtive glimpses little concern and followed their movements but little.

    Slowly, the last of the night passed as the ground began to descend slowly into a long and undulating vale beyond. In the east the sky grew red signaling the coming dawn that was lazily approaching. The wind had turned from the west during the night and now blew soft and cool from the south. He paused to gaze out where the road to the south cut a great loop round the feet of a rising hill ahead.

    Brodli scanned the gloom before he made his way down into the shallow vale and then began to climb the long slopes of the hill. Reaching a hollow on the side of the hill, he halted and gazed down towards the sweeping road below as pale sunlight began to gleam over distant mountains to the east.

    Suddenly the dwarf looked about and pressed to the slope and looked out, squinting his tired eyes until his gaze fell upon a dim wolf-shape along the slopes below, it’s shining eyes glinting in the dimness. He watched as the beast patted on silent paws through the gloom slowly up the slope towards him.

    With careful hands, Brodli took down the bow from his back and set an arrow to the string. He followed the warg for a long moment. There was a twang as he loosened the arrow, followed by a curse from the dwarf as the arrow swept low towards the beast and struck the earth quivering at the warg’s paws.

    'Blasted thing!’ he muttered as he threw down the bow and swept out his axe and hammer. ‘What do I know of a bow...I am no Elf of the wood!' The warg slowly turned its foul head towards the dwarf with a snarling moan and then sprang at him with great bounding leaps.

    Yet Brodli gave no ground as the beast came at him; he stood defiant, his stout legs apart and hewed forward with a great sweep of axe and hammer. With a cry of ‘Khazâd ai-mênu!’ and a shuttering howl the two clashed together; Brodli swept down his hammer upon the beast’s foreleg even as the warg’s talons tore into his side. The two foes staggered back, one grasping at the torn fabric of his bleeding tunic; the other limping back out of reach and growling in pain.

    ‘Come you foul beast!’ said the dwarf aloud despite the pain at his side as the warg snarled and leapt forward with a great leap. Brodli hewed forward with a cry and the leaping beast thudded to the ground, its head rolling into the dirt at his feet.

    Brodli slipped the axe and hammer from his hands and fell to one knee, clutching his side. He winced softly as he drew up his coat of mail to look at the terrible talon wound in his skin. He drew a piece of cloth from his pack and staunched the flow of blood with thick strips. He then wrapped wide swaths of the cloth round his waist and staggered to his feet, glaring down at the silent warg with dark eyes. He then bent beside the warg and began removing the hide as best he could with the blade of his axe.

    When he was done, he turned to collect long fern leaves and wrapped the skins before sliding them into his pack. He then rose and, gazing one last time at the warg, he pressed on. The morning was passing towards noon and still the dwarf wandered and scrambled through the barren undulating lands. Nowhere could he glimpse water, or hear any sound of it. All seemed bleak and dry; his heart sank in that desolate forbidding land.

    After a brief halt and a hasty meal he set off at as good a pace as he could make it. It was heavy going for the hill was steep and ragged, his legs ached and his head felt dizzy as he thought of the long painful march back again to Ost Guruth. In the distance near the summit of the hill high above, he saw several black specks moving in the air.

    Brodli turned from the heights and made his way round the eastern slopes. He had reached the northern slopes of the hill when he halted beside a low tortured tree and looked out. Not far ahead he could see a wide swath of earth and short grass that was trampled down. Bushes were torn out of the ground in twain and stripped of all bark. And therein the midst of the destruction stood a large boar, its grey-black hide flowing over its massive shoulders and thinning hind. At first, the beast’s head hung low to the ground, rutting the earth with its long tusks.

    As Brodli looked on, the boar suddenly lifted its great tusked snout and snorted loudly, turning its red eyes to stare at the lone dwarf. Brodli slid the bow from his back and fitted an arrow as the boar began to slowly approach with a stiff-legged gait, the bristles on its mane raised. The dwarf took aim and let fly an arrow; but it went wide as the boar snorted and suddenly quickened his pace to a run.

    The dwarf let the bow slip from his hands to the ground, swept out his axe and hammer, and took a step forward to meet the beast. With a crash the two foes met. The boar ground its jaws with slobbering foam, slamming its great head and tusks at the dwarf, who felt battered as if in a raging torrent. Brodli cried out in pain as the tusks lanced his legs and he stumbled back, hewing at the beast with terrible blows. Suddenly, there rose a wounded squeal as froth flew into the air and the boar crashed to earth, its skull dashed by a heavy hammer blow.

    ‘Miserable boars,’ muttered the dwarf as he stepped back from the silent beast. He turned to collect his bow and then back to the laboriously task of skinning the beast. When all was done, he wrapped the furs with grass and placed it into his bulging pack.

    Thus he went on hunting in this fashion, a dull light in his old eyes; always he turned his head, seeking patches of bruised and beaten earth or keen to the sounds of distant howling in the air. The sun climbed past noon and then slowly rode away westwards and still he went on until the sun sank and shadows rose, reaching out long arms across the lands.

    As the day wore to its end Brodli passed from the desolate lands and came once more to Ost Guruth. Wearily he climbed the long stairs, nodding solemnly at the guards at the gates and passed within. He found the Eglain elder awaiting him in the courtyard below.

    The old dwarf limped to stand before the tall Elgain; his dwarf mail was rent and about his limbs were linen bandages stained with red. He bowed stiffly to Frideric and then spoke with a great weariness in his voice.

    ‘I have returned as promised,’ said the dwarf as he set down his heavy pack upon the ground at the man’s feet. ‘Yet the hunt was long and I am weary as none before master Frideric.’

    Broldi fell silent as the Eglain bent to open the pack with smiling eyes. 'Aye, these will do nicely,’ said Frideric. ‘They will fill our stores in time and allow us to part with some of the meats we have treated and the furs will prove that we share a common enemy. We have prepared the offering already, but needed to replenish our stock before moving forwards.'

    The Eglain set the pack aside and turned to the dwarf with grim eyes. 'We have salted-meats and furs collected from the Wargs,’ he began slowly. ‘We would like to offer these to the creatures, in hopes that they are not hostile. I ask you to be cautious, because this could prove very dangerous. We do not know what the creatures are, but we know they are not trolls.’

    Brodli was silent for a time before he looked up, his eyes sorrowful. ‘Very well, master Frideric. But grant me one respite - better may I be after even the briefest of rests. Give me only a short sleep and I shall seek the answers to this riddle.'

    The old man looked down at the dwarf with gentle eyes and nodded. 'Search to the south of the Great East Road, south and a little eastward of here, near the Tornstones. You should find a small encampment of the creatures there. Seek out their leader and offer him the supplies on our behalf.'

    ‘Little can I ask speak of your desire of this offering of peace with these strangers,’ sighed the dwarf. ‘I know these creatures not, master Frideric, and little do your words comfort my growing wariness of them. Yet, I will depart and do as you ask. I will leave before the dawn.'
    Last edited by Brucha; Oct 02 2013 at 09:02 PM.

  5. #5
    A Dwarf's Lament, eh?

    “A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition”

  6. #6

    Chapter Three: The Jorthkyn – 10 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    Away in the east, the evening light lay pale upon the dim lands of distant and desolate plains when the old dwarf rose from uneasy slumber. There were many clear stars in the sky and the fast waning moon would not be seen till late as Brodli gathered his pack in silence. He then slid s axe and hammer into his wide belt and slowly climbed to his feet.

    Most of the Eglain within the fortress had fallen asleep and only the slight breathing of the sleepers, or the swish of the horses’ tails, shook the silence of the deepening night. Hefting his pack to his shoulders, Brodli strode across the courtyard with slow, patient footfalls that seemed to shatter the soft silence.

    Brodli strode slowly out of the narrow vale from the fortress and bent his course south; before long he reached the Road where the slopes rose ever southwards scattered with brush and behind and further south ridges with twisted trees could be glimpsed in the gloom. High in the air there were small numbers of dark birds. Brodli looked at them with disquiet and then at the slivered moon that now slipped slowly over the horizon.

    He gazed up doubtfully as the dwindling birds faded into the darkness then cross the Road and went towards the hills; the trees about him seemed at once shadowy and dim as he climbed. The East was now overcast, but in the West the stars still shone bright and clear. The moon rode higher through a sudden break in the cloud-cover away in the east, passing as it did behind dark isles in the sky. Little hampered Brodli’s way and he saw or heard few signs or sounds of any living things, save only the occasional shrill, hoarse chattering bark of a fox.

    Nearing the summit, Brodli looked darkly upon the sight of stones looming from the gloom ahead; old they seemed and of varying sizes they were rising from the deep earth, but all uneven and tall, tapering towards their tops. Suddenly, the old dwarf halted and peered forward and the ground beneath his boots began shake rhythmically as if the very earth was awakening from a long slumber.

    For long moments Brodli did not stir; then his worn eyes fell upon a towering, gaunt-faced and lanky creature that now strode slowly into view, lumbering along the summit among the standing stones. Giant-like it was, and possessing of tanned, leathery skin or garments across its gaunt frame.

    The dwarf watched the tall creature with wary eyes as it passed from view, and then stepped cautiously towards the summit. In the shadows of the stones he halted and looked out into the center of the ring of menhirs; there now could be seen a camp seemingly made for folk greater in size than the tallest Man. And the camp was not barren or empty, but occupied by more of the strange giants in likeness of the one seen atop the ridge.

    Warily, Brodli crept slowly into the camp, his axe and hammer held tightly in his gnarled hands and his worn face was set and grim as the giants turned to watch his arrival with heavy lidded eyes. The dwarf returned their fixed gazed with his own, as if they were tall trees that were in need of felling.

    At the center of the ring of stones, the dwarf spied a hulking form, taller than the tallest of the other queer giants. Grey unblinking eyes watched the dwarf approach, slow and solemn, in silence below massive arching horns atop its head, each traced with delicate sigils and runes.

    Brodli strode carefully towards the monstrous giant and slid his hammer into his belt; then he set down the sack of meats and furs at its feet and stepped back with a low bow, never averting his eyes from the beast. ‘A gift I have brought you...’ said the dwarf slowly.

    The strange unwavering giant stared down upon the silent dwarf and then flared its nostrils at the bag. ‘What is this, little stranger?’ said the giant with a deep rumbling voice. ‘It smells of meats and furs. You say it is a gift for the Jorthkyn?’

    'Nothing do I know of Jorthkyn that you speak,’ answered the dwarf slowly. ‘But indeed, the elder of the Eglain has asked me to bring this offering to you as a show of friendship and goodwill to you and your folk.'

    The giant lifted up the tiny bag into his massive hand and towered tall over the dwarf. ‘Kekkonen accepts the gift, little one, yet we cannot give anything in return. We cannot give help to others until we have no more troubles. We are chased from our home and must find a place that is safe.'

    Brodli murmured and gazed up at the Jorthkyn, a strange light creeping into his deep eyes. ‘And what could do such a thing to one of your strength and stature?'

    ‘We are pursued by our past from our home in the north and east. We fled as the darkness rose around us and came here to find peace. But peace will not come to us, not while the enemy follows us south. We stay here now, away from the forest and bog, ever in the sun to shield ourselves from darkness. At night, the trolls will roam free.’

    'Peace to be found in these dark days is rare and priceless beyond measure...’ said Brodli with a flash in his eyes. ‘But what of these trolls?'

    A queer look crept into the old eyes of the Jorthkyn, a sort of weariness. 'If we could confront the darkness and defeat it, we could, perhaps, make friends of others who wish not to succumb to the shadow of evil,’ said Kekkonen with a deep rolling murmuring. ‘You have helped the tribe who wishes our friendship...perhaps you would help the Jorthkyn, too?’

    'Never before have I laid eyes upon such folk as you, and at first I thought you to be trolls,’ answered the dwarf somberly. ‘Yet small kindness is but a token of what I may offer to you. What is it that you may ask of me?'

    'Would you fight the trolls for us, make them go away? They hide in the bog, far to the south and east of here, at a place that Elf-folk call Harloeg. You are very tiny...you should be find on your own.'

    Brodli paused and fell silent then bowed very low. 'I shall then master Kekkonen,’ he said finally. ‘I am but a shadow of my people of old and yet I shall triumph in this or perish should I falter and fall...' The dwarf bowed once more and turned from the Jorthkyn, adding, ‘Yet old are my bones and formidable is the task that you have lain before me. Let me rest ere the dawn and I shall seek this Harloeg. Look for my return and, if I do not, then that will be an answer as well.'

    With that, Brodli made his way to the very edge of the standing stones and cast himself upon the ground falling at once into sleep; it was not until the morning drew near and passed did he awaken and rise. The dawn came cold and the East wind was streaming through the hills and seething round the strange stones. Overhead the hurrying clouds were low and sunless.

    Kekkonen was still there, standing in the deep shadows of the menhirs, gazing east and south towards some sightless visage in the distance. The Jorthkyn did not speak but motioned the dwarf to his towering side; there they both sat, munching upon a meager meal of boar meat offered by the giant. When the meal was finished, Brodli climbed to his feet and strode away without a word spoken.

    As the cheerless shadows of the early dawn began to fall, the dwarf made his way east; for some time the lands changed little and slowly across the undulating ground. The scattered trees soon thinned and then failed as he approached long formless slopes stretching down and away towards a wide stretch of reeds among the fluttering banks of waterways far below. Beyond lay a dense forest of bedraggled trees, strangling vines and roots and Brodli halted to gaze down at it uneasily, as if the forest harboured some secret or hidden danger awaiting him.

    As he went down, the dwarf found the streams broad yet shallow in depth; bleak stony banks lay upon both sides, and there were gravel shoals in the water. Upon the other side the meads had rose into patches of grey grass, wide fens and tussock. Again Brodli paused to stare over the dark grey water and forests ahead before splashing to the far side and up onto the muddy bank.

    Brodli went slowly and attentively round the ominous pools and past places where his boots could tread without sinking into chilly gurgling mires. Soon a light wind got up to mingle with cold falling rain; it came from the south and east and it bore a bitter tang and hint of tainted air. With it was brought reeking mists round the shallow banks and dark channels.

    Slowly the forest drew nearer until the dwarf found their arching boughs overhead. A short distance into the forest, Brodli paused to peer forward in tense silence. For long moments there was only the pitter pat of the falling rain. Suddenly, the dwarf’s eyes spotted a dull blur ahead before it passed among the thick trees.

    Without warning the trees shook and swayed as a great shape sprang forward bellowing a deafening cry. Tall and broad was the troll, towering over the dwarf as it came, and carried on flat and toeless massive feet. Its dark skin and grayish scales was clad in thick leathers and scale armour and no weapon was needed in its massive hands more dangerous than the mightiest hammer each. Unhindered by the fens, the troll crashed into Brodli with a maddening rush.

    With knotted hands, the troll beat upon mail and arm until the dwarf’s head rang like a bell and stars filled his eyes. Yet Brodli did not blanch nor was he unmanned; he drew back his hammer and hewed forward with a cry, smiting the troll’s great heavy face that leering down at him with a terrible blow and crushed its bulbous nose. The troll rose up tall roaring like a wild beast, and came again, pummeling the dwarf again and again.

    Brodli shook the rising and dizzying reeling in his head and struck; there was a bellow from the troll and it drew back back as the dwarf’s axe hewed at its neck; green drops dripped from the blade and smoked onto the mossy grass at the beast’s massive feet. Relentless, Brodli drove down upon the bent and helmed head of the troll with axe and hammer. There came a strangled gurgle as the troll toppled back and crashed to the ground like a falling mountain top.

    Brodli lurched back and spat down onto the unmoving troll; blood flowed freely from his brow but his eyes were clear and smouldered with a bright fire. He then sat down wearily onto the mossy grass and, setting down his axe and hammer, tended his wounds. His head and face was welted and bruised and looked ugly, but he bathed the wounds with a clean linen from his pack as best he could.
    Last edited by Brucha; Oct 02 2013 at 09:02 PM.

  7. #7

    Chapter Four: Harloeg – 10 to 11 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    With one last glance at the troll upon the ground, Brodli made his way down to the banks of the stream; there he stooped to draw some water in his cupped hands to his bearded mouth. The water was brackish and cold, and bore an unpleasant taste, bitter and begrimed. Yet he drank it thankfully until his parched throat was quenched. After that, the old dwarf felt easier and the pain of his wounds lessened to a dull unforgiving ache.

    Brodli climbed to his feet, gripped his axe and hammer and went forward slowly, turning more south towards the depths of the deepening woods. Overhead through the tall boughs the sky grew faint with the dying afternoon, now ugly and grey. The dwarf peered into the trees that stood silently about him, rank upon rank, until they faded away into the gloom in every direction.

    Under the huge branches of the trees hung strands of weeping lichen and mossy vines or covered with ragged leaves that blew and swayed in the rain-swept wind. Soon, in the chilled air, he came to another water-way, the banks moss-covered and strewn with rotting stone. To the west the stream gurgled and flowed towards the stagnant pools and mires further on beyond the edge of the trees.

    Dry reeds hissed and rattled in the wind and mists curled and smoked from the wide fens in the dim half-light and the reek of them hung stifling in the air. Brodli peered about before splashing across the shallow water and up the far bank. The dwarf paused beside a bedraggled tree, shaking his water-soaked boots, and then gazed out with a dark light in his deep-set eyes.

    At first there was no sound to be heard among the whispering winds; yet for long moments Brodli did not stir. He crouched low to the muddy earth and scanned the trees with watching eyes as the sound of thudding, stomping footsteps, more thunderous than the largest oxen, slowly reached his ears. Suddenly, a tall lumbering figure came into view through the trees. ‘Troll…’ muttered Brodli quietly.

    Hefting his axe into the air, Brodli shouted aloud and shook his beard at the troll; but his defiant cry quickly fell away as the troll turned its gaze towards him. It was not the attention of the troll that quailed his heart, but the parting of the trees as another troll, until now unseen in the gloom, stepped forward.

    The first troll thundered across the shallow water, hurling itself at the dwarf, as it companion bent to lift up a large stone from the soft earth. The first roared and snapped, lunged and bellowed over the dwarf, its broad face red-lit by the flare in its wide-set eyes. Saliva spewed from its great gaping mouth as its great arms rose and fell, smiting the dwarf with terrible blows.

    It was not only the heavy blows of the troll that fell now unrelenting upon the dwarf; great stones came hurtling through the air to strike Brodli with much force. At once, the old dwarf was stunned and overbourn, as a massive clenched fist struck him with tremendous strength. A deep darkness began to dance in the dwarf’s eyes as he fought back a creeping daze that now threatened into his head. He cried aloud in pain and fell back.

    With a triumphant roar, the troll drew up tall and threatening over the bowed dwarf, bent upon crushing his hapless foe into the earth with a final strike. As mists of pain fell weeping from his eyes, Brodli struggled to his feet, and cried aloud. ‘Ai-oi! ‘Khazâd! Khazâd!’ he cried out and hewed at the thick trunk-like legs of the troll.

    Black blood dropped in thick drops from his axe that now rose and fell, driving the troll back. His strokes hurt the troll, and infuriated it, yet its hide or armour seemed more thick than the stoutest mail. With fleeting strength slipping from his limbs, Brodli redoubled his attack; he called out with joy as his axe cleaved deeply into the vitals of the troll and black blood washed over both axe and dwarf.

    The troll groaned and stumbled back a step, teetering before falling forward to the ground with a great crash. It was only a swift leap to one side that saved the dwarf from being crushed under its massive weight or to be buried beneath is great form.

    Yet the fight was not done, for at that moment another great stone came hurtling from the trees, smiting Brodli heavily squarely in the chest. He fell back with a crash to the ground as the second troll roared aloud a challenge and came with a bellowing shout. Shaken and weak, the dwarf rose unsteadily to his feet and the troll came at him with a rush. His left arm hung loosely at his side and blood flowed freely from terrible wounds.

    As the troll sprang forward, Brodli threw up his axe to deflect a heavy fisted blow and he was driven to his knees under the troll’s terrible onslaught. With a gruesome throated chuckling, the troll raised a fist for one final killing blow. The dwarf hewed up, and pierced the troll’s shoulder; it roared in great pain and its blow went wide.

    Brodli struggled to his feet, forcing his unmoving arm to clench the dangling hammer; he beat aside the lunging arm of the troll and dealt it a great blow with his axe. The troll’s knee buckled and it stumbled forward, trying weakly and desperately to raise its massive arm. With a merciless cry, Brodli swept out both axe and hammer and cleaved the troll’s great head from its wide shoulders.

    The fires went out of the old dwarf’s eyes and darkness replaced it as he staggered back and collapsed to the ground. For a long time, Brodli lay there unmoving as if in a deep sleep. The he sighed a winded groan and roused himself to his feet. Though weary and pained by his wounds, he still had some strength left; he strove forward, forcing his resisting legs to take one unsteady step, then another.

    So, it was already night when Brodli made his way slowly from the stagnant and terrible marshlands. He was wounded with many terrible wounds, and his armour rent and notched was his axe when he entered the giants’ camp as the rising moon climbed low in the rainy sky. The dwarf bowed stiffly to the tall Jorthkyn and spoke, his voice hoarse with pain.

    'Little friendship has there been of old between your ilk and the people of Durin. And yet neither have we spent blows in war, Kekkonen. For that I am thankful.'

    Kekkonen looked down in silence at the old dwarf, whose worn eyes now fluttered and closed. He then lifted his eyes to the giant’s face and strove to speak with slow weary words once more. ‘You may rejoice at the news I bring you now. Rife were the trolls I found that dwell in the bogs you named Harloeg. Terrible they were and it was a small wonder that I returned unscathed as I have, though my axe and mail are rent from their mighty blows.’

    Brodli’s gaze strayed to the other silent Jorthkyn about the camp. ‘Several I slew but many more haunt that marsh. More cautious should they be now after my return however, though their presence still lurks there.'

    The tall giant stirred and murmured with quiet words and looked down at the dwarf with unblinking eyes. ‘You are possessed of strength beyond what I believed of such little people. You have earned our trust and given us hope. We honour you, and we give you our thanks and more.’

    Brodli smiled up at the towering form and waved his hand in the air with a deep bow. Nay, not strength, Kekkonen, though kind are your words. Your thanks is enough for this old son of Durin as payment enough.'

    Kekkonen did not speak, but turned and lifted up a hammer and bowed his massive head low to the dwarf. Brodli muttered something with but a whisper and bowed low once again as he took the hammer from the giant’s offering hands.

    'A fine weapon Kekkonen...’ he said slowly, his hands caressing the fine weapon. ’This is no small kindness of a gift. I shall carry it with honour and it will recall to mind our meeting ere the arrival of my last days.'

    Now the Jorthkyn rose up tall and led the dwarf to the edge of the circle of standing stones. The giant paused and gazed out over the darkened lands. The rain-swept clouds had broken and dispersed with the coming of winds from the north and the stars leapt out above. The sky was clear and cold.

    'Kekkonen will accept the offer from this tribe you help, these Eglain,’ said Kekkonen slowly. ‘You have shown the Jorthkyn that there is strength in the little people who dwell here. Return to your folk and tell them that they may come to us, and we will speak with them and be friends.’

    'Nay, the Eglain are not of my folk Kekkonen; yet let the light of this meet shine forever and I shall from now look kindly upon you and your people with better eyes!'
    Kekkonen bowed his head with reverence as he spoke once last time. ‘Go to their rocks to the north and give them my words.’

    With his farewell, the Jorthkyn watched in silence as the dwarf turned from the camp and began to make his way down the slopes to the north. Soon the towering form of the giant was small and distant in the deep darkness of night; then Kekkonen lifted his long lanky arms in a final farewell and was lost from sight.

    The night was still dark when Brodli reached Ost Guruth. He strode up the long stairs and hailed the watching guards at darkened gates and called for Frideric the Elder. ‘I have come bearing news for the Eldest of you people;’ he said in a stern commanding voice. ’Summon him at once for it is urgent that I speak with him.'

    One guard turned with swift feet to summon the Elgain elder and the others fell back, looking about with wonder at what news the strange dwarf bore at such an hour. It was not long when the guard returned, and Frideric followed after, gazing at the waiting dwarf with curious eyes.

    ‘Hail Frideric the Elder,’ cried the dwarf with a low bow. ‘I have returned with news that cannot wait until the coming dawn. I have done all that you asked of me and bring the words of the chief of the giants that you so desperately sought. “Return to your folk and tell them that they may come to us, and we will speak with them and be friends.” So said Kekkonen of the Jorthkyn.’

    The Eglain elder looked down at the dwarf who now fell silent, his carven face smiling at him. ‘You have proven a choice unmatched, Brodli,’ said Frideric grimly but with honour. ‘We found new allies in this world and will work with them to form a bulwark against the evil creeping here.’

    ‘That brings me joy then, master Frideric,’ said the dwarf quietly. ‘But I beg of you to allow me rest. Long was the battle with trolls in the marshes to the south to forge this new friendship for you and your people.'

    The Eglain elder did not speak further but bowed gravely and called for one the guards who quickly led the dwarf down into the quiet courtyard below. Few spied the return of the dwarf and he was shown to a crackling fire; the dwarf bowed and excused the guard and sat down beside the fire, placing his axe and newly-won hammer down next to him. In silence, the dwarf gazed about the courtyard and then laid down and fell at once into a weary sleep.
    Last edited by Brucha; Oct 02 2013 at 09:02 PM.

  8. #8
    Well, well...Brodli has proved to be an old but stout and rugged little dwarf . In the bogs of Harloeg he battled and defeated two 29-30th level trolls at the same time (and he was only 27th level at that time) and won. When he returned to the giants' camp he was awarded with a new hammer as well:

    Not too bad of a weapon I must say! Dwarven Champions are by far my favorite class to play in Lotro.

    I have to also mention that Brodli's meeting with Bencroft in the first chapter was wholly unexpected and unannounced. Bencroft simply approached me and began to impromptus role playing that led to a very good way to begin the story overall. I must thank him for that and for the great rping we enjoyed!

  9. #9
    Not too bad of a weapon I must say! Dwarven Champions are by far my favorite class to play in Lotro
    I might have to give them a try. I tried an Elf Champion, but I didn't care a whole lot for it. I bet it'd be different as a Dwarf, though.

    I really like in this one how Brodli has changed so far, with that old warrior's spirit coming back. He didn't seem like such a warrior at the beginning, with his references to that old battle seeming a little far-fetched, but the fire is back in his eyes, and I can see it happening now. I've made a character on Landroval now, too, so if there's ever a chance, I'd love to join you again.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Elben View Post
    I might have to give them a try. I tried an Elf Champion, but I didn't care a whole lot for it. I bet it'd be different as a Dwarf, though.

    I really like in this one how Brodli has changed so far, with that old warrior's spirit coming back. He didn't seem like such a warrior at the beginning, with his references to that old battle seeming a little far-fetched, but the fire is back in his eyes, and I can see it happening now. I've made a character on Landroval now, too, so if there's ever a chance, I'd love to join you again.
    I am very happy you are enjoying the story! There is a method to the madness of how I began this story - and Brodli's strange tale of a battle long ago is important. Whether it is true or simply the mindless ramblings of an old dwarf remains to be seen.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Brucha View Post
    I am very happy you are enjoying the story! There is a method to the madness of how I began this story - and Brodli's strange tale of a battle long ago is important. Whether it is true or simply the mindless ramblings of an old dwarf remains to be seen.

    Now I am very intrigued. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

  12. #12

    Chapter Five: The Dream – 12 to 14 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    Brodli awoke suddenly; he blinked and sat up as a look of confusion and puzzlement washed across his worn face. What greeted his waking eyes was not the sleepy courtyard of Ost Guruth; the sun had sunk unseen from the sky and he found himself lying in the grass. Deep shadows of a dark wood was about him on all sides.

    The dwarf climbed to his feet and slipped his axe from his belt; he found he stood now on a grassy path in the grey dusk that went along through the dense woods. With growing uncertainty, Brodli followed the path; he suddenly came out under a pale evening sky pierced by sparkling stars. He passed through a high green hedge whose walls shone with leaves of gold and white and pale green, and into a vast circular treeless space. Within the hollow murmured a silver stream past a low pedestal and basin of silver, wide and shallow.

    Atop the pedestal stood an Elf woman; tall and pale, grave and terribly beautiful she was, clad wholly in white and silver. Her golden hair shone with a shimmering light and her face timeless and ageless. For a moment, the Elf said no word and moved not, but her bright eyes shined as she looked long into the face of the dwarf. Brodli looked about, his heart was suddenly cold.

    ‘What sorcery is this?’ he growled threateningly.

    At once the air fell very still and the dell lit with a strange silvery light. The tall Elf still did not speak but gazed long at the dwarf and then beckoned him forward closer. Only as she slid with silent steps from the pedestal did the strange Elf-woman speak.

    ‘Brodli…’ she said finally with a soft voice that seemed to fall clear out of the air about him. ‘Listen to my words...'

    The dwarf lowered his axe but his eyes watched darkly the tall Elf as she halted in front of him. At last she spoke once again. ‘I am Galadriel, the Lady of the Golden Wood. Do not be afraid, friend dwarf. The friendship between our peoples has been strained, but I hope it has not been lost.’

    ‘What is this place?’ muttered Brodli. ‘And why have you brought me hither?’

    Galadriel looked down upon the dwarf with soft eyes. ‘I will not long disturb your sleep. I can visit you in dreams for only a short time.’ She then turned and strode atop the pedestal to the shallow basin of silver.

    ‘I have looked into my Mirror and seen much that worries me. Let me show you.’ Galadriel passes her hand over the basin and sudden awe and fear came over Brodli. He willed his struggling legs to climb the steps to stand beside the Elf.

    A shiver ran through the dwarf; at last he bent over the bowl and gazed down. The water looked hard and black. Stars were shining in it. Then they went out. The dark veil was partly withdrawn, and a grey light shone; mountains were in the distance, a long road wound towards a blackness devoid of light.

    Slowly a great and terrible city came into view, high walls of dark stone and towers of deadly form and feel. Overhead a blood-red sun was sinking among black clouds. ‘I have seen lighted windows in the evil city of Carn Dûm,’ came the voice of Galadriel as the city drew nearer. ‘The dread land of Angmar stirs. Shadows once stretched forth from Angmar to threaten Middle-earth.'

    As the walls of the terrible city drew near, Brodli now saw there stood a tall and fell figure, a shadow of death. Tall and threatening it seemed, its faceless head crowned with steel and bearing a deadly gleam of eyes. The dwarf was suddenly stricken dumb and mute, as the figure raised its voice with poisonous despair and formless words of death.

    Then Galadriel’s voice spoke once more. ‘I fear they will again,’ she said softly. The cold that clutched his heart fell away as a dark veil shimmered on the water and the terrible visage disappeared. The mirror grew dark and grey and then clear again.

    For long moments nothing pierced the dark. Then there came the beat and echo of many hurrying feet upon stone. Slowly a dim light began to grow as Galadriel spoke anew. ‘My Mirror shows me much else I do not understand.’

    Suddenly the veil parted once more and Brodli now looked down from a great height into a vast hall of stone. Through the center strode towering pillars carved like the boles of mighty trees and rose to the towering roof. In the hall’s center gaped a huge fissure and out of its pit a fierce red light came. Among the pillars stood a company of folk; two Men stood side by side, swords drawn. Behind them quailed elf and dwarf and four of the Shire folk.

    Across the black chasm stretched a slender bridge of stone; Brodli’s gaze slowly swept over its expanse as a he spied a figure standing defiant atop the bridge. The figure was clad in grey robes, its staff shining with a pale fire. Before the old man stood a thing, like a great shadow, a power of terror it seemed. Flames rose from it and wreathed about it, it one hand was clenched a blade of fire and in the other a terrible many-thonged whip.

    ‘Some of this may come to pass, or none of it. That is the nature of my Mirror's power.’

    The vision now changed once more. A long and wide hall came into view, filled with shadows and half light. At the far end of the hall beyond a smoky hearth was a dais with three steps, and in the midst of the dais was a great chair. In the chair sat a man so bent with age that he seemed almost a dwarf. His white hair was braided upon his shoulders; his long beard was laid upon his knees. But his eyes burned with a keen light that glinted from afar off. Behind his chair stood a fair women clad in white. At his feet upon the steps sat an ill-savoury figure of a man with a pale wise face.

    And the woman’s head bowed and her shoulders trembled. Fair and slender she seemed. Her face was filled with gentle pity, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. There was a silence.

    Then the Elf’s voice spoke. ‘All of Middle-earth is endangered by the return of Sauron. We need strength, wisdom, and courage if we are to oppose him. Men, Elves, dwarves, hobbits... all free folk must stand together.’

    The vision of the lofty hall fell away to black and slowly the water returned to its pale reflection of the stars overhead. Broldi looked up as if awakening from a dream; beside him stood Galadriel, a sadness marring her fair face.

    ‘You are near to wakefulness, Brodli,’ she said finally with tender words. ‘The last tendrils of sleep will soon release you.’

    ‘But why bring me here?’ murmured the dwarf slowly.

    ‘You ask why I wanted to show you this?’ she answered, her voice clear and musical. ‘It is for one reason. I saw you in my Mirror. Not once or twice, but often. Whether you desire it or not, your fate is tied to that of Middle-earth.'

    Slowly the view of the silvery garden began to melt and fade as a dark veil embraced the dwarf. Galadriel spoke once more, as if from a great distance. ‘Do not forget my words when you awaken. The Free Peoples of Middle-earth will have need of you. You must not fail them.’

    Slowly Brodli roused from sleep; he woke, not knowing what he had dreamed at first or where he was with certainty. His eyes looked out over the faint grey light on the air, not knowing it was the light of dawn coming to the world. Then slowly the mist cleared from his mind and he sat up.

    He was lying beside a crackling smoky fire in the courtyard of the Eglain fortress. A shadow seemed to pass over his eyes before slowly fading away. Then the darkness cleared and the bright growing light of the dawning sun filled his gaze.

    The old dwarf rose to his feet. A great lassitude was on him and his heart was dark and hardened. He looked about towards the scattered and quiet camps of the Eglain and then lowered himself in front of the fire. There he fell into deep and troubling brooding; for an hour or more he did not stir.

    Little of the strange and bewildering dream could he recall swiftly or easily. Fleeting images and snatches of thought crept into the corners of his mind; a narrow vale nestled in the snowy arms of the Misty Mountain and an image of a fortress of stone and the hurrying forms of many kinsmen.

    A flash then entered his unseeing eyes, and he envisioned a great storm that formed into vast mountains of ice that seemed to bury the ancient fortress beneath a deep, featureless blanket of snow. Closer he peered and slowly the image of a dwarf came into mind.

    The dwarf sat on frosted stone, his back to a wall and his breath coming in hoary mist. The dwarf murmured as if from great pain and his eyes were closed as if deep asleep. A notched and broken axe lay next to him.

    Then the dwarf opened his eyes and strove to speak. ‘What is this blasted cold?’ he said gazing about with uncertainty. ‘Afwald? Is there a draft in here? I feel chilled to my very bones...’

    The vision left Brodli and now the image of frosted and snow-swept came unwanted into his mind. And yet, despite the falling snows that covered the hard stony ground and wind-stripped slopes, the caves seemed strangely warm. Suddenly from deeper within the came a growing glow.

    He now envisioned a great wingless worm asleep in the heart of the caves. Wisps of smoke curled from its flared nostrils and jaws. Near the worm lay the unmoving form of a dwarf. Bent and broken he was, his beard scorched from fire and his axe and helm rent and scarred from terrible claws. Then the images slipped from his thoughts and replaced by the slowly revolving word in his mind: Hrimbarg.

    Finally, Brodli stirred and climbed slowly and reluctantly to his feet. He took a deep breath, a grimness creeping into his old eyes and he looked like on who now gazed upon a great weary and uncertain labour ahead.

    He went from the fire and found Frideric the Elder as the darkened clouds of dawn sprang into the skies to the north and the sky opened pale and blue. For a moment the old dwarf stood silently; the Elgain waited for the dwarf to speak.

    ‘I have come to say goodbye, the Eldest of the Eglain’ he said slowly and his eyes glinted brightly. ‘A darkness has been revealed to me, though naught do I understand the road ahead that awaits me.’

    Brodli’s hands fell to his knees and his eyes closed softly. Presently he spoke anew. ‘I must seek the hidden refuge of Elrond Halfelven, called Imladris by the Elves. Yet unknown is the path there and narrow will be the search. Yet go I must for I hope that the master there can aid me for what I seek.’ With that he bid the Elgain good day.

    One day slipped to the next as the dwarf readied his departure and each dawn broke colder as the last lingering leaves fell from the windswept trees. His mail and axe were mended by the Eglain smiths and provisions he gathered for the long road ahead.

    Finally, at daybreak on the third day, and as a grey light welled up in the east, the old dwarf set forth from Ost Guruth. At the gates the Elgain guards stood and watched as the dwarf climbed down from the heights of the old fortress. They did not wave or call aloud, but stood unmoving as the sight of the dwarf dwindled smaller and smaller until it at last fell from sight over the desolate lands.
    Last edited by Brucha; Oct 02 2013 at 09:03 PM.

  13. #13
    And so at last the purpose of Brodli's story arrives! I had not ever run the quest instance, Galadriel's Dream, before moving from Crickhollow to Landroval. The first time I ran the instance, I instantly knew it would form the basis for a great story. Thus chapter reveals some enticing clues as to the overall plot. But for now the road leads first to Rivendell and the wisdom of Elrond...

  14. #14
    Ooh. That's a twist I wasn't expecting.

  15. #15

    Chapter Six: The Missing Dwarves – 14 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    The Great East Road that swept past the Eglain fortess of Ost Guruth held its course eastwards until it reached the Last Bridge. There it spanned the River Mitheithel, of which Men called the Hoarwell. The long river began its beginnings high up in the icy north of the Misty Mountains and flowed southwards through the lands of Rhûdaur, round the woodland region of the Trollshaws. There it passed beneath the Last Bridge on the East-West Road, until it met the River Bruinen to the south.

    The dawn swiftly passed and the morning broke quietly, but it was cheerless and grim. The wind blew stiff and cool from the North and the sun rose half-veiled behind the thick clouds to a growing sunless day. It was late morning when the old dwarf halted as he reached the eastern borders of the Lone Lands.

    Down the descending slopes there now rose a tall and ancient-looking stone bridge that spanned the wide expanse of water that was the Mitheithel. Further to the east there lay somber and forbidding country of tall and dark pines and hills and step ridges.

    With a cautious glance about, Brodli hurried across the bridge; the water far below swirled lazily around the thick stone pillars as it swept further south. But the dwarf slowed his pace as he reached the center of the bridge as a lone figure came into view at the far end of the bridge.

    It was a tall Elf-woman, her golden hair shimmering in the soft light of the morning. She turned silent eyes to watch as the dwarf strode towards her, his hand falling the haft of the axe at his wide belt. He stopped a pace from the elf and then bowed very low and proper.

    'Hail and well met,’ he said stiffly and with little love. ‘I am Brodli at your service. It is strange and unlooked for you find you standing here alone as you are.'

    The Elf-woman gazed down at the stern dwarf with mirth in her glittering eyes. The she spoke, her voice ringing as a gentle song and at once Brodli thought back to his dream of Galadriel. 'I bid you welcome, friend, but must give you a word of caution,’ said the Elf. ‘Servants of the Enemy passed across the Last Bridge and swept into the Trollshaws no less than two months ago. They were hindered at the Ford of Bruinen, and some fell to its raging torrents, but...not all of the evil ones were accounted for.’

    'Servants of the Enemy?’ growled the dwarf and looked up into the Elf’s eyes with his. ‘That is fell tidings, for I too seek passage to the east from here.'

    The Elf-woman smiled at Brodli and she spoke once more. 'Barachen maintains a camp to the east, on a hill south of the road. Bring him this message from me, if you are going that way: "no agents of evil have entered the Trollshaws by the Last Bridge, but so too have none left it. Whatever evil lurks among the ruins of old Rhudaur...remains there."

    ‘Who is this Barachen?’ asked the dwarf with grave suspicion. ‘Little love do I have for your folk and long has been strife among our two peoples. And yet I seek a hidden path before me. Perhaps this Barachen may aid me in such an hour of need in return for the delivery of your message?’

    The Elf-woman fell silent and Brodli grew uncomfortable under her silent gaze. Then she spoke anew. 'I thank you for this, friend. Tread with care and follow the road east until you see my friend Rochwen. She can guide you to Barachen's camp.'

    'Very well,’ muttered Brodli when his question was not answered. ‘It is said that to ask an Elf a question is to receive two more in return for one’s efforts. I will seek this friend, Barachen you so named. And may Durin's Beard grant me no hindrance in finding this camp.'

    With no further word, the dwarf stepped from the bridge and made his way down the road ahead. Soon the bridge fell away behind and he now began glancing about at the land. It seemed at once threatening and unfriendly, and many a call of unseen beasts comes to his ears from the screen of dark trees to either side of the road.

    On both sides of the winding road he glimpsed tall heights to the north where the half-hidden sight of ancient stone walls and crumbling towers could be seen. Soon the trees drew lose to the road, casting deep shadows and he passed through the towering pines and beech trees.

    Brodli has gone perhaps a half-mile or more when his eyes turned to a thin wafting spiral of smoke rising into the air from some unseen campfire through the trees. Beyond the trees to the south, the dwarf could see the rise of a tall hill, accessed by a winding path along one side.

    With a glance about, the dwarf stepped warily off the road and passed beneath the darkened tress. Slowly he began to climb the path to the hill’s summit. At the top lay a sheltered knoll, guarded towards the back by a sheer wall of rock, while to the other side the cliff fell straight down towards the road far below.

    Near the back of the knoll there was pitched a pair of weathered tents and before them crackled a small campfire. Two figures stood round the campfire; the first was a dwarf with a dark and plaited beard that fell down his wide chest. He wore a green tunic over a short hauberk of shiny mail. The second was a tall Elf clad in a shimmering blue tunic belted round his waist. His dark hair fell down his shoulders and his bright eyes looked over Brodli in silence.

    Broldi strode forward with uncertain steps until he was within a few paces of the fellow dwarf. There he bowed low and spoke in a clear voice. ‘Hail and well met, I am Brodli, at your service. I am seeking one called Barachen, is he here?’

    The dwarf only nodded in silence, eyeing Brodli strangely and then turned a glance towards the tall Elf. ‘This Elf, Barachen, has agreed to help me with the troubles I have encountered here in the Trollshaws,’ said the dwarf grimly. ‘If you are of a mind to, you could lend him a hand.’

    Brodli gazed down at the solemn dwarf and the turned to the Elf. Bowing stiffly, he spoke with a tense, untrusting voice. ‘I have come to find an Elf named Barachen at the behest of Alphlanc; She spoke with dire words of the crossing over the river of the enemy but that none further have been spied since.’

    At the dwarf’s words the Elf cried out in a clear voice. ‘You bring word from Alphlanc?’ he said. ‘I am gladdened that she has not encountered any evil creatures, but it is clear to the Wise that an unseen evil is often the worst.’

    The Elf’s face softened and his voice fell away to but a whisper. 'Still, I am glad of your tidings. If you are willing to help us watch the wilderness for signs of evil, you will be doing us a great service.'

    Brodli fell silent under the uncomfortable stare of the elf. 'Help you?’ he said with a stirring in his deep eyes. ‘Little time do I possess for such a boon, and yet there are things I must learn of my road ahead. What service would you ask of me?'

    'Our dwarf-friend here has requested my assistance with a matter of some urgency, and we should do what we can to help him. He was part of a company of dwarves that was commanded to bring certain relics from Thorin's Hall.’

    Brodli followed the Elf’s gaze to the silent dwarf beside the fire as the Elf continued. 'Heithur Ironfist travelled ahead to notify his lord that the dwarves would soon arrive,’ continued the Elf. ‘But after the passage of some days, he grew worried. The company never arrived at Rivendell, and Heithur has now come back along the road seeking them.’

    ‘That is fell news,’ muttered Brodli quietly. ‘But what of their fate…is there no word of the missing kinsmen?’

    'There are many boars to the west, and I fear that the dwarves may have been beset by the creatures and overwhelmed,’ answered the Elf. ‘The fury of creatures in the Trollshaws is often underestimated by those from afar. Defeat some of the boars and look for any sign of the missing dwarves.'

    ‘Little would kinsmen to worry of wild boars,’ said Brodli in a low voice and dread crept into his old eyes. ‘I sense there is more to this than menacing boars.’

    'The boars of the Trollshaws are most ferocious and are best avoided,’ said the Elf. ‘If Heithur's dwarves thought to hunt some of the creatures to break the monotony of their journey, they may well have come to an unhappy end.’

    ‘Then we must not tarry. I am no hunter and my hands have felt the hammer of an anvil far longer than my axe. Yet the old strength that I once had is slowly returning. I will hunt these boars as you ask and in that perhaps I may uncover some sign of Heithur's lost kinsmen...'

    Brodli turned and lowered himself wearily beside the fire with the silent dwarf. Heithur never spoke, but gave the old dwarf meat from the spit over the fire and let him sit hunched by the fire. The old dwarf spoke soft words of thanks and they ate in silence. Then, as the sun passed overhead and began to drift slowly into the West, his head began to nod and he slipped quietly into a deep sleep.

    After the sun has set far in the West, Brodli awoke and sat up. Heithur was still there gazing grim at the flames in silent brooding. The old dwarf set his axe axe across his lap and traced the curved axe head with loving hands.

    ‘I go to seek these boars,’ he said at last, his voice harsh and thickening. ‘No small kindness you offer this old dwarf for a seat at your fire, and a meal for my belly. For that I hope to return and bring news of your lost kinsmen.’

    Heithur looked up and smiled a little, then turned to brewing some hot water over the fire for tea. ‘My dwarves should have come this way, but they’re nowhere to be found,’ spoke Heithur quietly. ‘If they really have been trampled by the wild boars of this place, the boars will soon taste of my vengeance!’

    Brodli, still weary, fell silent and only nodded. Then, in the cool hours of the early evening he rose and the first stars began to glitter above the darkened hills. Down from encampment he went, and through the darkened trees.

    On he went for some time, past the whispering pines and beech trees; often his path ahead was blocked by high hills and steep, impassible cliffs. Slowly the moon leapt out overhead and silvers of silvery light shone through the branches of the trees.

    Brodli came to rest at a low knoll above the road; he looked out into the forest and sighed. Suddenly, there came the sounds of rustling in the nearby bushes to one side. Brodli turned to stare coldly at the brush, drew his axe and hammer from his belt quietly. Then a deep grunting erupted from the brush, and they began to shake vigorously. Then something burst from the undergrowth and straight at the dwarf.

    It was a large boar that now shot towards the dwarf; it shook its two great jutting and wicked-looking tusks emerging from under its massive snout. The beast was heavy in its wide shoulders and a bristling mane of thick hairs trailed down its long back.

    On rushed the stampeding and enraged beast at a full run. Brodli dove to one side but the rampaging boar barreled into him with great force, its long tusks lancing the thick leather covering his legs and its heavy weight bore the stunned dwarf back.

    The boar squealed aloud and charged forward once more, and it dug its hooves into the earth.. With a blackness creeping into his eyes, Brodli cried aloud and with a wide sweep of his hammer, he smote the massive head with all his strength. The boar crashed to the ground unmoving at his feet.

    The dwarf stumbled back from the silent form of the boar and knelt down to staunch the flowing blood down his leg. Once the clean linen was bound around his leg, the dwarf stood up and peered into the darkened woods.

    As the night drew on, he now began scrambling up a long and rocky slope to the heights above. As he reached the summit, he was greeted with wild beastly grunts and the stench of foul hides. Brodli paused and peered out into a wide sheltered hollow; in the dim light of the moon he could see the many bristling shapes of boars.

    Upon careful feet, the old dwarf stepped into the hollow, mindful of the all the beasts under the eaves of the many trees about. He had not taken many steps when a lone boar barred his way ahead. The beast snorted and raised its foul snout to sniff the air. Then with a shuddering rutting in the earth, the boars squealed and leapt forward.

    At once Brodli laid at it with hammer and axe, sheering off one hairy long ear and then out or reach. But the boar returned to the attack and he felt the scythe-sweep of its tusks about him and he grew sickened in its filthy stench. Fiercely he parried and struck, driving he beast back. The boar gave ground and Brodli leapt forward, stunning the beast with a blow of his hammer. Even as the boar struggled to its hoofed legs, the dwarf cried out and swept out his axe. The boar quivered and then fell to the ground.

    The night was silent and windless as Brodli made his way back to the Elf’s camp. The thin crescent of the moon had fallen early but a few stars still shone bright in the darkened sky. He strode wearily into the camp, his face and garb torn by many tusk stabs.

    Both dwarf and Elf turned to watch his approach in eager silence. Brodli halted at the fire and bowed deeply, despite the great pain at his side. 'I have returned with news,’ he said grimly. ‘West of your camp I found a boar's den where many a boar I found. I slew several of the beasts as I searched for signs of the Heithur’s lost kinsmen but to no avail...'

    Heithur’s looked up, the hope slowly dwindling from his eyes. ‘No sign of them?’ he muttered softly. His eyes then flashed as he looked at the Elf. ‘It seems like he was mistaken -- no boar could best any of my dwarves!'

    The Elf did not speak straight away; he closed his eyes then spoke. ‘I am both disappointed and heartened that you did not find any sign of Heithur's dwarves among the boars, Brodli. They may yet live, though I have little hope of it.'

    Brodli stirred and his eyes flashed. He stepped forward, a grim merciless shine in his old eyes. But the Elf raised a hand. 'Heithur Ironfist was telling me about the missing dwarves while you were away, Brodli,’ he said. ‘It was requested the delivery of some stones of historical value from Thorin's Hall as a sign of good faith for the Elves of Rivendell and Heithur is worried that he will be made a laughing-stock without such gifts.’

    'He is mistaken, of course. Master Elrond treats all with respect and honour and has no need for such baubles. I have told Heithur he need not worry on that account, but he does not listen. Perhaps the dwarves were surprised before they had come very far into the Trollshaws, Brodli? Speak with Alphlanc at the Last Bridge...perhaps she has seen some sign of their passing.'

    'And so I am asked to fetch mere baubles for your pleasure?' said Brodli, his voice thick with anger with a gathering rage. He turned to gaze down at the silent and distraught dwarf and his face softened.

    'Only for such a kinsman do I do so, master Barachen,’ said the old dwarf finally. ‘I know not what evil has befallen Heithur’s kinsmen this desolate land but all I can give I will. But not your sake do I do so!'

  16. #16
    I have been diligently working on my two main Total Immersion stories so much that I have allowed this one fall stagnant for quite awhile. The reason being is that Brodli has now been given a fellowship quest that is five levels higher than his current level. I have been unable to gather help from random rping in the Trollshaws to complete the quest so I wish to put out a general request for any players that would be willing to come to the poor old dwarf's aid.

    So if there are any players interested in lending a hand, get in touch with me

  17. #17

    Chapter Seven: Ost Dúrgonn – 15 to 19 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    Brodli sat beside the smoky fire and looked down into the valley about the sheltered camp in silence. Warmed by the campfire, the hard ground felt inviting and comfortable to the old dwarf. He relaxed slightly and his eyes lingered over the landscape. The trees in the valley below shimmered in the late season’s colours and the brilliant reds and golds faded into gentle blend. A thin column of wispy smoke curled up from the campfire and into a soft spreading haze in the air.

    He coughed and shook his head, his shoulders slumped down. He sighed wearily. It had been five days since he took up the call of Heithur Ironfist to discover the sad truth of his missing companions. He sought the wisdom of the Elf at the Last Bridge and a short trek to the water’s edge had uncovered a wooden crate, of dwarven-make, lying discarded along the muddy bank. And yet it had been smashed open and whatever held inside spirited away by unknown hands.

    Heithur was beside himself with fury when Brodli returned with the news, and the dwarf called for him at once to speak with the Elf Rochwen concerning the missing stones. That he had done only yesterday and he recalled the dire words of the Elf when he at last found her.

    'There are cave-claws among the ruins of Ost Dúrgonn, not far north-east of the Last Bridge,’ she said quietly upon his arrival. ‘But how or why the beasts would carry off the stones Heithur is seeking, I do not know.’

    'Perhaps some other foe is to blame, but the cave-claws are closest to the Bridge and may have played some part in weakening the dwarf-company or in drawing them off the road. Travel north-east of the Last Bridge until you reach the ruins of Ost Dúrgonn and seek within their crumbling walls for either the stolen stones of the dwarves of Heithur's company. Speak with e again if you decide to go that way -- I would have you perform another task among the ruins.'

    Now Brodli was beaten and weary walking back and forth through the chill autumn air. Slowly, his head fell lower onto his chest and his breath softened as he fell into a gentle sleep. Some time had passed when a voice came unwanted to his sleepy ears. It was a clear but youthful voice that suddenly spoke, though in the haze of his mind, the words could not be made out.

    Then the voice drew nearer and spoke once more. 'Hey, you're a dwarf!’ said the shrill voice. ‘Can you help me out a bit?'

    Brodli stirred from his sleep and opened his eyes slowly to find a fair-haired hobbit standing there, smiling down at him with an innocent grin on her face. 'Help?' he muttered softly.

    'Oh, yes! Wake up!’ said the hobbit imploringly. ‘I need dwarf sort of help.’

    Brodli climbed wearily to his old feet, and stared curiously at the hobbit. 'And what would you be needing, little master?' he asked softly and glanced up into the darkened sky.

    'Well, it's about these missing stones,’ answered the bright hobbit. 'Oh, wait!’ she uttered suddenly and with apprehension. ‘Am I supposed to tell you about those?’

    Brodli fell silent, a grim look spread beneath his thick grey bushy eyebrows. He then glanced over to the tall Elf, Barachen. 'The missing stones...’ he said softly at last. ‘I too am seeking them as well. Perhaps we can help one another.'

    'That would be great!’ cried the hobbit with joy. ‘I have to say I'm a long way from the bounds of my home.'

    'I may know where they can be found, or at least where we may learn more about the stones' disappearance,’ said Brodli as he reached for his axe and hammer on the ground. He tugged at his long grey beard with a gnarled hand and said, ‘Come then little master, it is only a short distance from here.’

    As they gathered their things, the weather changed as the dawn drew on; the wind was turning through south and south west and dark clouds obscured the rising sun, but for a slender pale light gleaming over the distant mountain-tops. Prella walked beside the old dwarf as they made their way down from the hidden camp, so eager she seemed to uncover the mystery of the missing dwarven stones.

    Through the forests below they struck a path northwards for a time. The dawn was passing towards morning and soon the first drops of rain began to fall with a soft pitter-pat that mingled with the dull stamp of Brodli’s dwarf-boots and the scarce-heard steps of the shoeless hobbit. At length they came to the Road that veered west and east round the feet of the towering hills and cliffs.

    Down the Road they went, climbing the rising slopes for a furlong or more. Brodli led the way, his head hung low as the rain dripped from his long nose. The wind picked up and blew chilled, and shook the rain from the trees as they passed, souring the old dwarf’s moody silence further. Prella, on the other hand, seemed not at all bothered by the falling rain, and caught an occasional raindrop on her tongue with delight.

    Somewhere behind the grey clouds the sun rose towards noon and the trees along the road bent and swayed in the stiffening winds. Suddenly Brodli paused and raised a single hand, then stepped from the Road and pointed off to the north. Some distance off reared vast cliffs, their stern faces pallid in the dim light. Sat precariously atop the cliffs was the sight of frowning stone of ruined walls and towers. A slender path wound up from the vale below to the heights though no sign of gate or entrance could be seen.

    Brodli looked up at the ominous ruins with a queer light in his eyes. 'There be Ost Durgonn or so it was named to me,’ he said quietly at last. ‘I fear that some clue to the disappearance of Heithur's kinsmen can be found there.'

    Prella followed the dwarf’s gaze and then turned her eyes down into the vale; she squinted and wiped the rain from her brow. She then choked back a cry and clutched at Brodli’s arm. What slinked into view was a single goblin, clad in ragged and filthy brown leather. It was of the small breed, dark-skinned with long ears and snuffling nose, and carried a short narrow-headed spear. The goblin bore several more spears over one shoulder.

    ‘Goblins!’ whispered Prella softly and with some apprehension. The hobbit swallowed loudly and then cleared her throat. 'Looks like there will be trouble, but I can handle a few goblins,’ she said finally trying to raise her courage up.

    Brodli did not speak, but only nodded slowly as he watched the goblin as it made its way down the vale, muttering and cursing to itself in its foul tongue. He slipped his hammer and axe from his wide belt and stepped forward. The goblin halted at the sound of snapping twigs and lifted its head to stare blinking at the dwarf with it beady eyes.

    For a moment the goblin crouched low and then with a hideous yell it sprang forward and loosened its spear. The short spear whistled through the air and smote the dwarf between the shoulders then sprang back by the dwarf-mail beneath his tunic.

    Slaver dripped from its mouth and the goblin snarled like a wild beast as Brodli leapt forward. It licked its lips and stooped forward to stab and slash with its spear but Brodli turned each aside and struck the goblin with his hammer. The goblin faltered spat at the dwarf and gave a yelp of pain. With a snarling breath, the goblin gave ground and raised it spear; just then Prella appeared to one side. The little hobbit stabbed forward with her short blade and it passed into the back of the goblin. The goblin let out a horrible gurgling and clutched at the blade protruding from its back then slid silently to the ground with closed eyes.

    ‘That’s better!’ said the hobbit as she wiped the blood on her sword onto the grass at her furry feet. She then turned her head up towards the cliffs above. 'Boy, do they have to build all these ruins on hills?'

    Brodli looked up at the hobbit, who now began to shiver in the cold rain and the gleeful grin worn on her youthful face was now gone. He roused himself, rubbing his shoulder where the spear had struck him, and then motioned for Prella forward.

    Together they crept up the winding slope towards the ruins. All was ominously silent. Soon they had reached the top; before them lay a vast ruin of stone at the edge of the high ridge that fell steeply down into the vale below. Through a dark trough rose ancient walls and towers their sides pitted and notched and jagged from timeless years.

    Brodli paused, lowering his head, and listened, peering into the dense shadows of the ruins. Far within could be heard faintly the queer sound of croaking and hissing. The dwarf turned his old eyes round and then to the hobbit at last. 'Cave-claws I think,’ he said grimly. ‘Many of these scavengers foul this place. We should be wary as there are many.'

    The hobbit smiled meekly and then fell in behind the dwarf as Brodli stepped into the ruins warily. Stealthily they made their way past fragments of old stone littered the ground and broken walls on all sides. Prella looked about, feeling quite curiously attracted to the ancient stone-works and Brodli more than once turned to bring her attention back to the task at hand.

    Deeper within the ruins, Brodli halted and his ears perked up at the sound of a painful groan came. ‘By Durin’s Beard…’ muttered the dwarf quietly.

    A few steps ahead they soon found the source of the groan. A dwarf lay in a corner of the ruins on the bare ground, his eyes closed as if resting peacefully. But Brodli saw at once his mail was rent and an axe lay notched beside him. The dwarf’s head was bound and wrapped with linen stained dark with blood.

    Brodli knelt beside the dwarf, whose eyes slowly fluttered open with a look on confusion. At last he strove to speak. 'Are you...here to help?’ he said at last. ‘Be careful, friend! A mighty cave-claw has slain...the rest of my....'

    ‘Yes we are…’ said Brodli with sorrowful eyes and he took the dwarf’s hand in his. ‘Might you be Tóki Whitebeard, companion to Heithur Ironfist?’

    The dwarf nodded slowly and his eyes closed wearily, a shudder passing through him. Then he spoke anew. 'This monstrous cave-claw...is some pet...of the trolls...that stole the stones we...were bearing....'

    Broldi helped the dwarf slowly to unsteady feet as the hobbit looked on weeping eyes. ‘Can you walk, kinsman?’ asked Brodli quietly as he braced the wounded dwarf beside him. Tóki nodded and bent to take up his axe. Suddenly the dwarf stiffened and looked about. ‘Oh no!’ hissed Tóki. ‘Here comes the lot of them!’

    Brodli whirled round at the approaching croaking to see six rodent-like creatures, each the size of dogs scuttling out of the ruins about. They were long-beaked and whisker-backed with long talons on four legs. At once the cave-claws were on them swarming about like many foul rats.

    Tóki let out a rousing shout and leapt forward as the cave-claws swarmed about him. The gleam of his axe rose and fell in the falling rain as he hewed and struck at their taloned legs. ‘Fool of a dwarf!’ cursed Brodli aloud as he leapt forward and cleaved the head of a cave-claw from his whiskered body.

    Still cursing aloud, Brodli brought back his axe and with a wide sweep shorn the leg from another cave-claw as it sprang at him. Prella stood behind the old dwarf; she was faced by two of the beasts and the hobbit stabbed ahead this way and that as they closed about here. Prella aimed a blow at the nearest but it only sprang away and out of reach like lightning. Desperately she whirled to hew at the other, but her short blade rang, glancing off its bristling back.

    The other now came at her and its talons cleaved her tunic deeply. Choking back a cry, she stabbed again, sinking her sword into the cave-claws back. The beast convulsed and shivered before collapsing to the stone at her feet.

    Yet despite their numbers, the cave-claws proved no match for the companions; soon the sound of battle faded away and the ruins fell silent but for the heavy panting and gasps of the old dwarf. Prella looked up at him with a smile, but the grin swiftly passed and she shrank back in fear.

    It was a monstrous cave-claw, bigger than a horse that now slinked from the ruins; steady and unhurried it came, tearing at the stone beneath it with its claws. The dwarves surged forward with a cry; the monster lashed out with a thick leg, and sent Brodli sprawling onto the ground his axe and hammer clattering away and out of reach.

    Tóki hewed at the side of the monster with his axe but the blow sprang back with a resounding ring and the dwarf faltered back a step with dismay. Prella too stood there and she stabbed feverishly with his blade as the great beast began to shudder wildly in pain.

    Brodli leapt to his feet, his axe and hammer now held tightly with both hands, to stand with his companions. Together they rained blow upon blow on the beast, Axe and hammer and sword swept forward and the cave-claw shuddered uncontrollably with maddening jerks before flopping onto the ground in a heap. Suddenly all went silent and the companions slowly lowered their weapons.

    Tóki now turned to his rescuers and began to speak swiftly. ‘You have my thanks!’ he said with a laugh and turned to march from the ruins.

    ‘Wait!’ cried Brodli after him. But the dwarf only paused to look back at him. ‘Find Heithur Ironfist...and tell him that the stones were stolen...by trolls. I'll be fine...you must hurry! I will...rejoin him later....' And with that the dwarf disappeared from view.

    Brodli watched in silent then shook his head slowly before turning to the hobbit. ‘Come little one,’ he said softly. ‘Let us leave this foul place before more of the cave-claws are drawn to our presence.’

    From the ruins they went slowly until they at last had returned to the Road. There Brodli halted with a wheezing painful breath. 'You go ahead, little master back to the camp,’ he said wearily and he slowly lowered himself to the ground. ‘My bones are old and not what they once were. I will be along shortly.'

    Prella looked down at the old dwarf with concern and then smiled warmly. 'Heithur will be most glad to hear of the news you bring him,’ said Brodli closing his eyes and set down his axe and hammer beside him.

    Dusk had deepened and the rain had thankful stopped when Brodli returned to the camp high up on the cliff. He strode slowly in and bowed low to the dwarf seated at the fire. ‘Did the little lass from the Shire bring you news of our find, Master Heithur?' he said softly.

    Heithur’s eyes brightened at the old dwarf’s return. ‘So Tóki lives! This is wonderful news, Brodli!’ he shouted aloud with hope. ‘And I thank you for bringing it! Let it not be said that the Whitebeard betrayed my trust, for I know he fought valiantly against overwhelming odds. That the stones were taken from his company is not his fault.’

    Brodli nodded solemnly but said nothing. Heithur clasped his shoulder and spoke swiftly. 'I have never known trolls to ally with other beasts or to covet such things as my dwarves were transporting. Were it not for their historical merit, the stones would be wholly unremarkable. This is very disturbing.'

    Brodli shook his long grey beard and then quietly muttered. ‘Trolls…’ He then gazed up at the tall silent Elf as Heithur continued.

    'We are very close to recovering the stones, Brodli, I am sure of it! Tóki Whitebeard has repaid my trust in him ten-fold, for now we know the culprits: the stone-trolls of this inhospitable place! The Elf Rochwen was right to send you to the ruins where you found the Whitebeard, and I expect she will be able to tell us where these trolls make their lair. Speak to Rochwen, north of here by the road, and recover those stones, Brodli!’

    'Little love do I have for Elves, Master Heithur,’ answered Brodli grimly. ‘And yet that must be put aside, for not at least for your sake. If they may aid us in uncovering what has befallen your kinsmen, then so be it.’
    Last edited by Brucha; Nov 24 2013 at 03:44 PM.

  18. #18
    Well I wasted several days in-game trying to find some help with the quest to rescue Tóki - I was lucky to meet Prella at Barachen's Camp one evening while in-game. She approached me in rp to ask for help with the very same quest

    Unfortunately, I was so busy trying to rp the unexpected meeting with the hobbit (and trying to keep both Brodli and Tóki alive in the ruins) that I completely forgot to take any screenshots...

  19. #19

    Chapter Eight: Troll Hunting – 20 to 21 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    Under a starry sky and waxing moon, Brodli made his way to the camp above the forests. He strode with a limp and linen bandages were wrapped round an arm and head and each were stained red with blood. He sat wearily beside the fire and set down his axe and hammer, then fell silent to peer out into the gloom. Far below into the wooded vale all was quiet and the dawn was still some time off from its waking. Finally he raised his head towards the dwarf beside him and spoke.

    ‘I did as you asked, master Heithur. Though I scarcely believe that trolls are to blame for the theft of your stones, I sought them out as you asked.’

    Heithur poked at the crackling fire with a branch and looked up at the old dwarf but said nothing. Brodli winced as he settled a bit more. ‘I am but a tender and old dwarf...' he said after a long silence, his eyes dim and unfocused. 'A stone-troll I found, and it was more than I could face alone...by some small kindness I fled before it or else I would have faltered and fallen, never to arise again...'

    Heithur held the old dwarf reverently in his silent gaze then turned to the fire, tossing another log atop the flames. Brodli too turned his head and looked out over the darkened lands about the hill and camp for some time before speaking further.

    ‘I know not if I can face another so and come out unscathed, Master Heithur,’ he said. ‘I fear these trolls I must seek are too powerful...' he sighed softly and passed his hand over his bandaged brow. ‘Perhaps this is how my son had felt when we had exchanged our harsh words...alone and lost, unable to confront that which must be so desperately faced, no matter what the cost...'

    Brodli fell silent once again and stared into the fire. ‘No matter,’ he said quietly. That is a tale for another time, master Heithur.’

    The old dwarf slept uneasily until the dawn came cold and the sun rose hidden behind thick cheerless clouds in the sky. Heithur roused him and they both took a cold meal in the warm of the fire as an icy blast flew from the mountains in the east. Brodli did not depart from the camp that day, but sat beside the fire, drawing his cloak tightly about him in the wind that blew stiff for much of the day.

    As the afternoon drew long, Brodli rose and looked over the land. Away to the east he could see the dim shapes of lofty mountains; each was tipped with snow and their precipices lay in deep shadows in the sunless sky. He then returned to sit beside the fire in silence. Brodli ‘s head slumped onto his chest as he slipped in deep sleep.

    For a long while, the camp was silent but for the crackling fire and the soft murmuring of the sleeping dwarf. Just then, Brodli’s eyes fluttered open and he looked about, his uncertain gaze falling onto a dwarf standing over him, who wore openly a hauberk of stout dwarf-mail and in his belt was a broad blade of steel.

    'Frorolf, at your service and your family's, in this life, and the next,’ said the dwarf with a low flourishing bow. ‘Not often you see a dwarf in these parts.'

    Brodli reached for his axe as darkness passed over his worn face. A look of uncertain remembrance spread across his face. ‘The Orcs came upon us at night by stealth and ambush, Asgrim,’ he said grimly. ‘Have you informed Lord Frothi of our delay? Several of our kinsmen fell or took a stab from an Orc chieftain before I cleaved its head from its shoulders.’ He then looked about in confusion, as if now seeing the dwarf standing there for the first time.

    ‘What was I saying?’ said Brodli at last, and a shadow passed over his face once more.

    Frorolf lifted his iron helm from his head and tucked under one arm. 'I must assume you were sleeping, old fellow,’ he said as he put out a hand to help Brodli to his feet.
    'Brodli at yours and your family's,’ replied Brodli slowly. ‘Sleeping? Yes sleeping I was but little time can I spare for such pleasures.'

    'In this territory, pleasures are few and far between,’ said Frorolf as he gazed about the camp slowly.

    Broldi nodded softly and motioned for the dwarf to sit beside the fire. 'It is some small wonder to find another kinsman here, master Frorolf,’ he said grimly. ‘And great is my need for such an arrival as yours.'

    'Are you well, Brodli? You seemed troubled in your thoughts.'

    'Am I well?’ grumbled the old dwarf with irritation. ‘Of course. Weary and foot sore I am, but my bones are old and my limbs not what they used to be...' He nodded his head towards the silent Elf standing in the growing darkness of the dusk. 'Him I know little of, but master Heithur here is a valuable kinsman from the West, and sad is the tale that has brought me here.'

    '...Of course. Now, what tale does he bring?'

    Brodli gazed at the dwarf seated on the far side of the fire for some time. 'Heithur has come to bring a valuable treasure to the master of Rivendell,’ he said at last. ‘But his companions fell prey to foulness here and the stones that were to be given to the Master of Rivendell have been stolen.'

    'Stolen? That is troubling indeed.'

    ‘Indeed,’ said Brodli solemnly. ‘It is believed stone-trolls to have been the true thieves of the stones - I went out to find a troll only last night. Long we battled until my axe was dull and mail rent. In the end I was forced to flee from the troll or else end up its triumph.’

    Brodli sighed softly. 'I fear my arm is not what it once was. Years ago perhaps I could face a troll alone and survive, but now...?'

    ‘I am no warrior of great renown, nor worthy of tale, but I will assist you as best as I may,’ said Frorolf grimly as he placed his mailed hand upon his sword at his belt.

    Brodli looked back at the dwarf slowly. 'Once perhaps in my youth, pride was a cherished gift, master Frorolf. But now such things are not precious at my age. I would gladly beg your aid in this, and of your no small kindness!'

    'Broadbeams are taught to revere those blessed with age and wisdom, both you seem to have. I will aid you, as best I can. Let us embark then. Longest is the task never started.’

    Brodli glanced up into the darkened sky. Yes…’ said the old dwarf slowly. ‘That we must.’ Falling into hushed words with Heithur, Frorolf did not hear the odd note in Brodli’s voice or in the manner he slowly rose to his feet. Brodli brushed his gnarled hand across his brow as Frorolf turned to him.

    ‘Stone trolls never venture when the sun shines and the dark is when we may find them,’ said Brodli softly. ‘I can lead us to where I battled the troll last evening. Perhaps he is still there, or others of his foul ilk.'

    From the camp they went, down the long winding path into the forests below. They did not hurry along but plodded slowly and carefully, only the crunch of the twigs and dry grass beneath their booted feet making a sound. Both dwarves were silent and restless, and the far lands vague and dark. When they came to the Road they turned east and went on down the fading and broke path of the great paved way that wound up from the lowlands.

    Under the night the trees stood tall before them, arched over the road than ran beneath their spreading boughs. In the dim light of the stars their stems were grey and their quivering leaves a hint of fallow gold. They had gone a furlong and more when Brodli halted to raise a single hand for silence. He then pointed off the road where a faint path wound up the sloping ground towards a rising hills like a great spear-head thrusting up from the Road. At the top the path stood two columns of rock and between them passed the path further on.

    'Up there is where I stumbled onto the troll last evening,’ said Brodli quietly. ‘I believe there may be more than he about, so beware!'

    'The air stinks of something foreign, and unnatural, said Frorolf nodding slowly. Brodli lifted his axe and hammer from his belt and peered up the slope warily. ‘Be ready…’ he said and took a step forward with a grim light in his eyes.

    The dwarves passed through the cleft in the towering rocks and came to halt. The last rind of the waning moon was gleaming fitfully overhead and the wind was still. For a long moment they could see nothing, no shadows of themselves fell upon the hard ground at their feet. The faint path drew on to the left that led down a narrow cleft in the rocks under the roof of dark boughs.

    The dwarves stayed silent and gazed downwards unwinking. Then there came heavy footfalls coming up the path, loud and lumbering they sounded from out of the darkened dell below. Suddenly a large form towered out of the darkness; its two heads atop its wide shoulders bowed under the arching branches and then stood tall with flaring nostrils.

    But then a sliver of the moonlight fell across the towering form and at once Brodli saw that the form was not some horrible two-headed thing but a troll; it wore bear-skins across its wide back and the bear’s head was slung beside the troll’s own massive scaly head.

    ‘Trolls…’ murmured Frorolf.

    'Yes, trolls,’ said Brodli softly. ‘And another deeper in the dell below if my old eyes do not deceive me...let us take them as kinsmen of old, master Frorolf. We need little stealth in such matters.'

    Frorolf drew his sword as Brodli stalked forward with silent steps. The troll looked about and its eyes squinted in the darkness; just then Brodli cried aloud and leapt forward to hew at the thick trunk-like legs of the troll.

    The troll rose up taller than even the tree, and roared like a wild beast. As one the dwarves circled the troll, laying at it with blows of axe and sword. But the troll whirled round with deceptive swiftness that surprised the dwarves. It sprang forward and began beating down with its massive fists like great hammers.

    Frorolf leapt to one side to avoid the crushing blows and hewed at its massive three-toed foot, but his sword glanced aside and nearly fell from his shaken hands. The dwarf moved too slowly and the next blow smote him with such strength that he fell back stunned and ringing filled his ears. The troll rose up to it full height towering over the dwarf with bitter delight, meaning to crush him into the earth with one final blow.

    Brodli cried out again and hewed at the troll, his axe lancing deep across its hideous hide and skins. Dark blood spilt upon the rocky ground and the troll bellowed loud and turned round, nearly wrenching the axe from Brodli’s hand. The troll howled and swung its fist round but the blow went wide and struck the tree instead; there came a snapping sound as the tree splinted and came crashing to the ground. For a moment the troll looked at the fallen tree with blinking eyes then turned its gaze at the dwarf standing defiantly at its feet.

    The troll’s hesitation was enough, for Frorolf shook the dizziness from his eyes and once more hewed at it with his sword. Now the troll became wary and the dwarves began cautiously circling it, each looking for an opening. The troll bled freely from several wounds of the dwarves’ blows, but they too were battered and bruised from its massive fists. Frorolf’s sword was notched and he had discarded his rent helm which had fallen to the ground. Brodli’s breath now came in deep gasps and his arms had grown weary with every swipe. And yet the troll’s fury seemed to only grow.

    With a deafening roar, the troll sprang forward, and smote Brodli with heaving ringing blows. The old dwarf gave ground but so did Frorolf leap forward, passing under its arms to hew at its thick legs with broad strokes. The troll cried aloud a terrible scream as Brodli sank his axe deep into the bowels of the troll with a final desperate stroke.

    For a moment, the troll wavered uncertainly; then with a groan it toppled over and came crashing down like a great tree. Only when the troll did not stir did Brodli stagger back, letting his axe and hammer slip from his hands, and he sank to the ground in pain. Frorolf turned to gaze down at the old dwarf.

    ‘Are you well?’ he asked softly.

    ‘Just weariness, but it will pass…’ said Brodli. His voice sank and he closed his eyes. In the dim light the dwarf looked far older than even his long grey beard and worn face betrayed. Finally, Brodli stirred and he opened his eyes to climb to his feet. He bent over the massive troll and lifted a pouch from its belt.

    ‘Ah, clever troll…’ he muttered. ‘Here it is that I seek master Frorolf!' he poured from the pouch some unexceptional grey stones into his hand and held them up.

    'This is unnatural,’ said Frorolf softly. ‘Never have there been so many trolls gathered in one place. This...is discerning.'

    Brodli nodded solemnly and lifted the stones into the starlight. 'Yet we found what Heithur so desperately sought.' He then slipped the stones back into the purse and looked round. ‘We should return to the camp and inform Heithur of our find.'

    Frorolf said nothing but turned to look unseeing into the darkened dell below. 'One or two may camp together, but so many at one time?’ he said at last. ‘Something foul is afoot...Elrond, the master of Imladris, should hear of this, if he hasn't heard from his people already.'

    ‘True,’ answered Brodli. ‘I wish words with the master of that house, but that shall have to wait.’

    The dawn was slowly reddening and spreading over the distant mountains to the east when the dwarves made their way back to the loft camp. Brodli’s face was worn with hurt and weariness as he approached the waiting dwarf at the fire, but his voice rang out loud and clear.

    ‘Hail master Heithur!’ he cried out and held out the stones in his hand. ‘I return with your prize but with terrible and unsettling news...' He set the pouch and stones down and spoke quietly. ‘We recovered the missing stone from trolls just as the Elf suspected, yet there were many more than I could have thought.'

    'You have recovered the stones from the stone-trolls!’ cried Heithur as he leapt to his feet. ‘You have my thanks, Brodli, and more besides!’

    ‘But what of the stone-trolls?’ asked Brodli as he watched the dwarf turn to stride over to the tall Elf on the far side of the camp with his prize in hand. Brodli’s eyes glowered at Heithur and he turned slowly to his companion.

    'He seems unconcerned about our news...' he said his voice falling low and uncertain.

    'Perhaps it is known here,’ answered Frorolf simply.

    'Perhaps so, master Frorolf.'

  20. #20
    With the tragic loss of Folcwain, I truly do not wish to lose another character - however, when I first got the troll quest to recover the stolen stones, I went out to battle troll by myself. Not too clever on my part. That did not work out so well and I did have to flee since by the time Brodli fell to something like 300 Morale, I had reduced the troll to only 3,000 Morale out of 4.000 Morale.

    I was very happy for the aid offered by Frorolf; however, since he was far above in level, I asked him (as I always do of such high level characters) to only use auto attacks during the battle to make it more fair. Well, the troll naturally agrro'd him for much of the battle and he kept getting stunned over and over. The fight seemed to drag on forever, with many my own hits either missing or being deflected or parried.

  21. #21

    Chapter Nine: The Sons of Elrond – 22 to 24 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    At first light, Brodli rose and had climbed down from the high camp to take to the road once more. The rising sun shone pitifully over the distant mountains to the east and great shadows still crept down from their steep sides as he passed into the forests below. Dimness veiled his boots and mists rose up from the boughs of the thick trees as he walked quietly, listening for any sound through the trees ahead.

    When he came at last onto the Road, he found the tall Elf woman Rochwen there. She was clad in hues of soft purples and greys and could at first not be seen among the tree-stems she now stood under lest she moved suddenly. Then she turned and the rays of the pale sun shone upon her gentle face, and she looked gently on the dwarf’s worn face. ‘You again?’ he muttered with little mirth as he stepped closer to the tall Elf.

    Rochwen smiled simply at the dwarf and then spoke. 'You have been a boon to those of us assigned to watch the Trollshaws, Brodli’ she said with welcoming words in the Common tongue, speaking slowly. ‘Recovering the stones stolen from Heithur's couriers was no small task, but you did so without complaint. I know that Barachen is pleased with your service, and I add my voice to his. You have our thanks.’

    'Perhaps, but only for the sake of my kinsman, Heithur did I do so,’ answered Broldi, planting his legs firmly and set a hand upon the haft of his axe. ‘No thanks is asked for, his and his alone, was needed,’ he added sternly.

    The Elf woman fell silent and gazed down at the old dwarf for some time. Finally she spoke anew. 'If you are of a mind to continue lending your aid, I would have you introduce yourself to Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond,’ said Rochwen quietly. ‘They have established a camp, Thorenhad, east of here and to the north, and I know your services would be appreciated. Their camp is within a set of hilltop ruins north of the bear-dens of the Bruinen Gorges.’

    Brodli laughed suddenly. 'Lending my aid? Long have I already tarried with you and your folk in this dismal place. And yet I am need of speaking with Master Elrond, though the road to his house is unknown to me. I have little times for further games but perhaps his sons may guide me in my search as I have aided you.'

    The Elf lifted her face into the shimmering sunlight then down to the dwarf who had fallen silent. 'They have organized a concerted effort to watch the wilderness for signs of evil,’ she said softly. ‘If you go to them, they will surely find a use for you. Tell Elrohir that you have come with Barachen and Rochwen's commendations.'

    Brodli muttered softly and turned aside to step back onto the Road. Without a glance back at the Elf woman, he began down the Road in silence. As the Elf fell from sight over his shoulder, the leaves began to blow in the trees along the Road and spots of rain began to fall from the overcast sky. Then the wind fell away and the rain came streaming down. Brodli said nothing but lifted his hood over his head that now dipped down onto his wide chest.

    He was footsore and tired but Brodli trudged doggedly on the winding Road for many furlongs. The sun, now hidden behind the thick clouds, turned from the noon and began to west and slowly the grey light began to wane as dusk drew on. The distant mountains were veiled in deepening mists and rain and the wind blew cold and chilled and still he marched on.

    Through a narrow cleft in the rising cliffs Broldi now came upon a chance sight; off the Road a faded path wound northwards through thickening trees where distant cliffs rose and whose shoulders frowned in the gathering gloom.

    The dwarf, mindless of the rain dripping from the long grey beard, gazed down the Road and then along the path as it fell from view through the trees. The Elf woman’s words now came into his thoughts as he stood there in silence.

    'You will find Elrohir at his camp of Thorenhad’, Rochwen had said as he departed. ‘East of here among the Bruinen Gorges and north of the bear-dens, among a set of hilltop ruins.'

    With one last look about, Brodli set down the path with unhurried feet, his boots splashing alogn its muddy length. After some time, as the dusk deepened in the failing light, he came to a sharp bend where the path veered up a slope and to the west along steep cliff sides. He saw atop a high cliff above there stood ancient crumbling pillars of stone in the darkness. Brodli gazed up at the ruins and then stepped slowly up the grass-clad slope.

    As he reached the summit, a voice spoke suddenly from the deep shadows ahead. ‘You are fortunate indeed to find Thorenhad! Up here!’ Brodli drew back and his eyes glittered darkly in the dim light as an Elf rose from the darkness at the top of the slope.

    ‘Fortunate?’ he said grimly and harshly. ‘Stand aside!' he called to the Elf whose shimmering hair seemed untouched by the falling rain. 'I have only words for Elrohir and you are not he.' With that the dwarf stomped past the Elf without another word.

    Beyond, Brodli came to a wide treeless shelter among the ruins of ancient stone. Upon the further side there rose to a great height a cliff wall whose summit was lost in darkness overhead that shadowed a simple Elf encampment. A single tree grew to one side, its many branches were gleaming yellow and gold, and amid its ever-moving leaves were hung countless lights.

    Brodli passed within the camp upon swift feet; all about muted forms could be seen there and to his ears came the soft voices of many Elves. The dwarf passed under the towering boughs of the tall tree and slowly approached a small campfire near the rising cliff face.

    Two Elves were standing in the flickering light of a small fire. They were clad in subtle hues of green and blue and each bore faces both fair and timeless. Each too wore gems in their long soft hair and stars seemed to glitter upon their brows as they watched the dwarf halt before them. One of them held up a single hand and spoke words of welcome in the Elven tongue. Brodli spoke haltingly in return.

    ‘Well met, I am Brodli, at your service. I seek Elrohir, the son of the Master of Rivendell at the wishes of Rochwen,’ he said with a stiff bow. ‘Are you he?'

    The Elves spoke together in soft voices, and then the first turned back to Brodli. 'You are welcome to join our company, Brodli, for there is much work to be done if we are to keep this land safe from servants of the Enemy,’ answered the Elf, Elrohir, in the ordinary speech.

    ‘Little welcome do I seek master Elrohir, but advise and knowledge,’ murmured the dwarf grimly. ‘I come here only by the request of Rochwen and nothing more. She said to me, “Tell Elrohir that you have come with Barachen and Rochwen's commendations.”.

    For a time, Elrohir did not speak, but gazed down at the dwarf, who returned the look with steely eyes. Then the Elf spoke anew. ‘I have known Rochwen for a very long time, and I tell you truly that she does not give her recommendation lightly. I fear that she still does not approve entirely of my brother, for example, despite her best efforts to impress her.’

    ‘Whatever aid I offered for was not for her sake but of that of a kinsman, Heithur, nothing more. And yet my arrival here may also benefit me as well, for I seek the road to Rivendell to speak urgently with your father.'

    Then the dwarf too fell silent; he gazed up at the darkening sky and drew his cloak tight about him. ‘It is chill in the tree tops…’ he said at last. ‘It is but the first days of autumn and yet here it seems winter has almost arrived early.’

    Brodli turned to look at the brothers, saying, ‘Let me rest and shake this chilled rain from my shoulders and we shall speak more of this matter, master Elrohir.’

    Brodli turned aside and strode back through the camp, not waiting for the words of the Elf. He did not go far when he heard the ringing of hammer to anvil and a hoarse voice cry out for wood to be thrown into the forge. With growing curiosity, Brodli passed into a smaller courtyard along the cliff face surrounded by the last crumbling ruins of stone wall. There within he was surprised to find a small camp and forge manned by several dwarves.

    ‘What can I do for you?’ called out one of them, a dwarf with a flowing brown beard.

    'Hail and well met kinsmen’ answered Brodli as he strode up and with a swift deep bow, added, ‘I am called Brodli, at your service. I seek nothing from you, but strange it is to find Durin's Folk among the Elves here...are you kinsmen to Heithur?’

    The dwarf did not answer straight away, but only shook his head and bent down to toss another log atop the fire. ‘Take care in the wilderness, for these are dangerous woods.’

    ‘True words my friend,’ said Brodli grimly. ‘I come here only for the most grievous of matters. Pray lend me some kindness and allow me a seat beside your fire. I would feel more at home among you and your kinsmen that out there with the Elves.’

    The dwarf said nothing more but shrugged and motioned towards the fire. Brodli thanked him and set down his pack where one of the dwarves was preparing a pot over the fire. He accepted supper from the dwarves gladly and soon, wrapped as warmly as he could in the deepening cold, sat down beside the fire. Weary though he was, sleep seemed elusive; Brodli sat there as the others fell one by one to sleep, and looked up at the stars that glinted here or there in breaks in the roof of deep clouds. The last two kinsmen sat near the fire, their arms wrapped about their bent knees, speaking in whispers, until sleep at last took them as well.

    It was late in the night, and Brodli stirred beside the fire. The others were now fast asleep, snoring beneath their blankets. A thin rind of the moon showed flickering in the swiftly-passing clouds and its light shown down dimly into the ruins. The wind was still. A little way off he heard the gentle laughter and song of an Elf.

    Quietly, he stood and retrieved his pack, then strode from the enclosure, where only a few silent Elf guard stood yet awake in the main camp beyond. He looked back at the sleeping dwarves and stepped forward, only to draw back with a hiss as the grey hood of an Elf appeared suddenly before him.

    ‘Foolish Elf…’ he muttered. ‘Don’t be rising out of the gloom like a wraith like that!’ The Elf drew back his hood and smiled softly, then stood silent and unmoving in the dim flickering light of the nearby fires. ‘Well…out with it…’ said Brodli, his mood souring. ‘You have the look of a question begging to be asked. Come along and ask it before my patience with your foolish games runs thin.’

    Again the Elf smiled as he began to speak. ‘There have been worrisome signs for the past few months that something has not been right in the Trollshaws, but wherever I search I am unable to find the cause. And once more I have found what seems to be a symptom rather than a cure: the wolves that prowl the Bruinen Gorges have been greatly disturbed, but by what I cannot determine.’

    'Wolves you say?’ said Brodli. ‘Foul beasts indeed, and not ones to meet in these wilds after dusk. I too have seen strange signs in this land as well, but what could disturb these beasts?'

    ‘The wolves have become more unruly in recent days,’ answered the Elf, his eyes glinting like stars in the dim light. 'Travel south-east into the Bruinen Gorges and seek out the wolf den, Drauglad, its most south-western valley. Defeat the wolves and their pack-leader, and travel into the deepest reaches of their dens. Perhaps you will find some sign of the evil that has caused this new madness in the creatures. It may be that you will find some clue I have missed in the deep reaches of the valley.’

    Brodli gazed up at the Elf with a strange light in his deep eyes. 'No hunter of wolves am I, master Elf, unless they come upon me in the wilds.’ He then lifted a hand for silence as the Elf turned to him to speak. 'Nay my words are not a rejection; I too am curious and alarmed at goings-on here as are you.’

    Brodli fell silent and stroked his long grey beard and then spoke. ‘My kinsman Heithur has suffered greatly by the evil that seems to hover over this grim land like a hammer waiting to fall. I shall do as you ask and seek this pack-leader; perhaps in this I may uncover the mystery to the fall of Heithur's kinsmen as well...'

    Brodli turned to sit back down at the fire in the dwarven quarter of the ruins. He drew out his axe and set it across his lap, then reached for his pack and took out a simple whetting stone. With a glance up into the still-darkened sky, he began to run the curved blade of his axe across the stone with a grim look upon his old face. Quietly, he began to whisper.

    ‘What fools we have become, you and I…’ he said as the stone atop his lap made a slight grinding sound. ‘And great now seems both our folly. Long I watched you with silent eyes as you looked ever away to distant things. Adventure is what you always sought, of merriment and great deeds to spoken of you. And for me, I go in search of a dream, no matter what the cost…’

    Brodli lifted the axe into the light of the fire and traced the edge with a finger. ‘I thought you would awaken from your foolishness and yet how can I fault you for that? I have failed you and with that comes my greatest folly…’

    Brodli sighed softly and the slowly climbed to his feet, slipping the axe into his belt. ‘Perhaps we both return to the mountains for our final rest, we may at last speak openly. And then we may brush aside all the years of anger that has so choked us for so many years…’

  22. #22
    I usually do not like to use the same quests in regions for more than one story, and this was especially true with Brodli and Folcwain since they were adventuring in the Trollshaws at roughly the same time as their stories were being written. However, quests in the region are few and far between so I took up the same quest that ultimately defeated my poor Eorlingas hunter, that being to hunt down the wolves in Drauglad. The quest proved to be far too much for poor Folcwain, but I have confidence in my old dwarf in being up to the task!

  23. #23

    Chapter Ten: The Wolves of Drauglad – 25 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    The dawn was still, pale and cold; as the light grew it filtered through the golden leaves of the tall trees, the wind blew chilled from the north. Brodli stood at the ledge beside a broke pillar of stone, his eyes wide and staring, out into the valley below that still lay deep in shadow. The old dwarf was lost deep in thought, recalling the Elf’s dire words that brought a murmuring to his heart even in the light of the new morning.

    ‘The Bruinen Gorges are to the south-east of Thorenhad and the wolves I am concerned about are in Drauglad, its most south-western valley,’ counseled the Elf. ‘Defeat the wolves and their pack-leader, and travel into the deepest reaches of their dens. Perhaps you will find some sign of the evil that has caused this new madness in the creatures.’

    He did not stir for a long time. At last the old dwarf turned quiet eyes around the Elven camp and then strode solemnly from the ledge and down the winding slope. Brodli halted at the feet of the slope and looked back towards the high cliffs; for a moment he caught a flash of silver at its edge that quickly fell away.

    With slow footsteps, he went along the faded path through the shadowed trees until he came to the Road. Brodli glanced down the Road in both directions and then went some way along to the east, under the towering cliff walls on both sides.

    As the Road dipped and swung round a bend, the dwarf came to a cleft in the rising hills to one side. He gazed up darkly at the trees filling the dell and then turned aside from the Road and halted on the short grass under the great boughs. Brodli slipped his axe from his belt and began to pass under the trees, each tall with pale stems. All about came the endless rustle of leaves in the wind that whispered in the branches.

    Suddenly he passed from the trees once more and ahead lay a patch of darkness, black and shapeless, before him. Brodli leaned forward to stare into the blackness as slowly a long dim ravine, filled with a deep gulf of shadows, came into view. His eyes followed the ravine as it ran back into the rising hills, its sides tall and sullen in the gloom that lay thick along its path. Great cliffs thrust upwards to either side, dark and back in the gloom, and their tops gaunt and broken like jagged teeth.

    Brodli felt a sudden chill about his heart, and a cold like the memory of an old wound soon joined it: he crouched down to the ground and began to rug damp earth into his gnarled hands. Then he looked up warily; there now came no sound upon the air, even the leaves had fallen silent. An evil feeling clung to the motionless air, and Brodli began to sense something was watching him with unseen eyes. With a grim gleam growing in his soft eyes, the dwarf stepped into the ravine.

    The dark sloping ravine led off to the west, and its length was broken and strewn with fallen rocks. With axe and hammer in hand, Brodli went further in but his way was careful and slow, and with deliberate steps. His eyes glanced up at the few trees along its path, their twisting boughs entwined by clambering old briars and their branches formed a raftered roof over his head.

    The dwarf had not taken more than a few lengthy steps when he froze and held his breath. To his ears came the soft sound of stealthy movement in the leaves at the trees’ feet deeper within the ravine. At once he saw two reddish eyes in the gloom; they stopped and gazed up towards him unwinking with evil intent. Suddenly they were extinguished. Brodli took a step forward even as the reddish eyes appeared once more, but now to the other side of the ravine.

    The glowing eyes seemed to advance forward as a great dark wolf-shape came into view in the gloom. It halted and gazed at the dwarf, raising its head with a deceiving yawn but made no sound. Brodli gripped his axe tightly and stepped forward. ‘Come you foul beast!’ he cried. ‘I will cleave your filthy head from your shoulders!’

    The wolf snarled and sprang forward with a great leap. Brodli stood waiting its onrush, his stout legs apart. Suddenly the dwarf rose up as the wolf’s breath reached him and his voice rang out. With a flash, his axe rose and fell, and the beast’s terrible fangs tore into him. For long moments, the two foes rend and bleed one another. Then, with a great sweep of his axe, Brodli hewed the head off the wolf.

    The dwarf winced as blood flowed freely from his arm. He looked down at the fallen wolf and spat. He tore a strip of his cloak and bound the wound, then gazed forward before continuing onwards. As the dwarf delved deeper into the ravine, the stench that reached his nose grew almost unbearable and his breath came difficult and short. Ahead, the ravine fell deeper to the west, and chilled air seemed to flow like an unseen river from its dark depths. He could see very little but for great black shapeless forms and deep shadows looming all about.

    Without warning a fierce and wild howls erupted all about in the gloom as many dark shapes sprang over the rocks towards Brodli from all sides. From the darkness came many snarling beasts, circling the dwarf with slavering hungry jaws. The wolves harried him upon all sides, leaping in and out, snapping their jaws at him and their foul breath washed over him.

    But Brodli stood firm and his axe and hammer sang; his hammer fell as a sickening crunch sounded when one of the beasts came too close. Another wolf whelped aloud as the dwarf smashed its snout with the flat of his axe. Then, just as sudden as their attack, the wolves drew back, only to rush the dwarf as one.

    Brodli cried out as he felt the dagger-like fangs about him. Fiercely he struck, beating the beasts back with many blows. And yet swiftly the beasts returned to the attack and the dwarf staggered from several vicious wounds. A darkness began to crept into his old eyes. For a moment, all vision of the ravaging wolves was lost. For a moment, he heard the distant ringing of hammers and the calls of long forgotten kinsmen of old. A great sense of weariness swept over the dwarf and a sudden desire for endless sleep rose within him.

    Suddenly, the dwarf’s arms fell to his sides and he shivered as he gazed out with unseeing eyes. Even as the many fangs lanced him, Brodli roared aloud as a strange light slipped into his eyes. ‘Asgrim! Asgrim! Bring on our kinsmen!’

    Then as sudden as it had left him, the old dwarf’s strength and resolves stirred and the dimness fell from his eyes. Axe and hammer rose and fell and his cries of ‘Khazâd ai-mênu!’ echoed up the towering cliff walls.

    Then there was silence; on the ground about the unmoving dwarf lay four great crumpled wolf shapes. Brodli’s breath came in great heaving wheezes but he still stood. His cloak and tunic was stained with blood, not all his own. He raised his head slowly and smiled grimly, then slid to the ground.

    For a long while, the dwarf did not stir. Then slowly, he removed his cloak and lifted his short shirt of mail. The wounds looked ill and many still bled, but he would live. Brodli bathed the wounds with water from a nearby brackish pool and then dressed them with strips from his cloak. Then he rose to his feet and cast his cloak round his shoulders.

    Leaving the unmoving wolf shapes behind, Brodli went on. Now nothing seemed to bar his way for some length until he at last halted with grim eyes. There before him could be seen a narrow cleft in the rock wall. Two great trees near the entrance stood stiff and dark and silent throwing deep shadows upon the ground. The dwarf glanced back up the ravine and then stepped forward, passing through the cleft.

    At once, it seemed to him as if an unseen door had been suddenly shut, or like the swift shuttering of a lamp. Blackness fell around him, darker and darker further in like a crawling shadow of nothingness. At first he could see little; the deep recess seemed blanketed in a world of dimness in which only dwelled shadows. But then he became aware of a light of sorts ahead. It seemed to glow and shift and a terrible sense of dread overcame the dwarf.

    Then with a suddenness, there came a shuddering howl, unbearably violent and fierce, and a flash of red eyes from the darkness. From out of the gloom there leapt a great wolf, grim and dark. Hateful was the gaze it laid upon the dwarf with eyes like pits of black emptiness. It jaws writhed and snarled with unceasing hunger and malice.

    The dwarf cried aloud and smote the stone cliff beside him with his hammer; the wolf’s back bristled and a threatening growl reputed from its long snout. The beast seemed to snarl mockingly at Brodli as it drew low to the ground like a coiling snake. With a howling cry the wolf sprang forward and the two met with a crash.

    The first to draw blood was the dwarf, his axe piercing the beast’s flank with a wipe swipe. The wolf yelled hideously but came on without pause. But now it was Brodli who cried aloud in pain as he felt the powerful jaws clap down onto his arm. He beat down with his hammer and there came a yelp from the wolf as it snarled and sprang away, shaking its snout and baring cruel fangs at the dwarf. But just as swiftly, the wolf leapt again, redoubling its attacks, snapping and lunging at him.

    Again Brodli felt the beast’s fangs cleave him even as he hewed at its back. Dark blood fell in thick droplets from his axe and split onto the stone at his feet. Mortally wounded the great wolf snarled and slinked back but relentlessly Brodli came on, burying his axe deep into the breast of the great wolf-chieftain. At once the beast’s eyes dimmed and grew dark and it slowly laid onto the ground as if drifting off into sleep.

    Brodli staggered back upon unsteady feet and his axe dipped low to the ground until touched the ground beside the wolf. For long silent moments, he stood there unmoving, his eyes closed as if he too was sleeping. Then his eyes fluttered and he looked down at the wolf, his face grim and pale, then turned to make his way back from the ravine with slow uncertain steps.

    Long and wearisome was his march from the dreaded ravine; in silence Brodli returned to the Road and then down the long winding path through the stirring trees towards the encampment high atop the cliffs beyond. He said nothing to the Elf at the ready as he passed within the camp, but his eyes shone with a queer dark light. The Elf spoke little and fell back before the grim dwarf. Brodli strode quietly through the camp, heedless of the Elven laughter in the air and the sound of their fair voices, until he came to stand before the Elf, Fimgris.

    ‘I have returned, master Fimgrim,’ he said grimly and with a great faintness in his old voice. ‘I found that place you so named Drauglad…a terrible place and so too was the battle I faced there. Some unseen evil brought wicked intent to those beasts, but of what I cannot say.’ Slowly, Brodli recounted his journey to the ravine and of his battles with the wolves. Then he fell silent.

    ‘I am glad to see you return from the valley of wolves, Brodli,’ said the Elf gravely after a time. ‘And your story helps me to piece together what may have crazed the wolves. Only a terrible evil could have scarred the land in a way for it to be felt so strongly in its absence.’

    'That is true...’ answered the dwarf equally grim and dour. ‘The beasts seemed gathered for some terrible evil purpose that I cannot fathom. I found the chieftain and slew him...yet little good will come of it I fear should whatever evil had brought them together with such hateful purpose remain unopposed.’

    ‘Whatever it was, it has moved on, though the memory of it is enough to trouble the minds of the wolves.’

    ‘Moved on?’ murmured the dwarf. ‘Then there is a much greater thing to fear here should this terrible evil now stalk the lands beyond the ravine.’

    But the Elf only shook his head and looked down at the dwarf. ‘Any more than this I cannot say. Do not return to that valley, Brodli. There is little we can do to heal the mark that has been left - only time can do that.’

  24. #24
    Most of the time I am very cautious of aggroing too many mobs at once, especially when your character is 32nd level and what you are facing is 36th to 37th level. However, in my seemingly unique ability to do so, I managed to aggro four wolves at once:

    But Brodli is a tough old dwarf and even that many foes at once could not bring him down I was so busy in the battle that I managed to get only the screenshot above. I have confidence that old Brodli will make it to the end of his tale unscathed, no matter what foe he confronts!

  25. #25

    Chapter Eleven: Calenthon– 26 to 27 Wedmath, 3016 TA

    Brodli awoke; he was lying in a bed of blankets and furs beside the smoky fire in the dwarven camp of Thorenhad. Wéthorm was busy stoking the forge fires while the other dwarves were readying the anvils and tools for another day’s labour. The grey of morning was dim among the bare branches.

    For a time he sat in silence, watching the dwarves begin to work the bellows until the forge glowed bright with flame. Then with hammers in hand, they began the laborious task of smelting crude ores into workable metals. The old dwarf watched the work with a sorrowful look in his eyes. Longing was his heart to return to such simple pleasures and yet there was other grim work that was more pressing.

    At last Brodli climbed slowly to his feet. Somewhere in the camp a clear Elven voice rose in song, and it was soon answered by joyous laughter. The dwarf glowered at the laughter and then stalked away from the sound of ringing hammers upon anvils.

    Beneath the bole of the singe tree in the camp and canopied by the living bough sat the Sons of Elrond. The pair stood up to greet the dwarf, after the manner of Elves, even to those of less stature or importance than themselves. They said no words but looked long upon Brodli's face as he bowed stiffly but proper before them.

    'Love between your folk and mine is strained at best, master Elrohir. Many a wound has been bourne over the long years, and most have never been healed.' Brodli paused a moment, then said, 'It is the fourth day now since I arrived here and only now do I come at last to hear your words.'

    With that Elladan stirred and murmured with displeasure, and he gazed at the dwarf harshly. He held Brodli with his eyes, and in silence. Brodli returned the gaze, a dark gleam shining in his old eyes. But Elrohir only smiled.

    'Do not think I would not heed your words or counsel Elrohir, Son of the Master of Rivendell,' said the dwarf finally and he tore his gaze from Elladan. 'I had returned from foul den of wolves you so name Drauglad only yesterday; the battle with the wolves there was long and trying on an old soul such as I, that is all.' Elrohir's eyes betrayed a slight hint of mirth at the old dwarf as Brodli spoke anew. 'Come, Elf, let us speak now, if you will have me,' he said simply.

    'Nan Tornaeth was once home to a great city of Rhudaur, but it fell into ruin in the great battles of long ago and has been largely reclaimed by the wilderness,' said the Elf slowly. His voice was clear and timeless. 'Hill-men make their homes among the ruins, cursed still for their ancient betrayal.'

    Brodli listened silently as the Elf spoke, his worn old face growing grim. 'This land is much unknown to me,' he said 'Yet even as my folk have suffered through the years, so has others. Many a land has been lost to those who cherish it more than life itself. But what about this Nan Tornaeth and your need of me?'

    'Calenthon set out with his falcon Malloval to search the ruins of Nan Tornaeth, but neither have returned, said the tall Elf with a sigh. 'Find him and lend him what aid you may. It could be he has encountered some difficulty and cannot send word to us.'

    Brodli turned his eyes down into the fire for a moment and fell silent. Then he gazed up at the tall Elf and spoke at last. 'With every step I take since crossing the river to the west, I have been beset by you and your folk for aid,' he said lowering. 'With so many of you here, I scarce wonder why you would need my aid instead.'

    Again the silent brother glowered bright eyes at the dwarf and was moved to speak. But Elrohir raised a hand for silence. Brodli gazed at the two brothers and then said. 'Do not fear, I will not forsake such a request, master Elrohir.'

    There was a silence. At length Elrohir spoke again. 'Do you have a map of the wilderness?' said the Elf looking at Brodli. 'I will show you where Calenthon may be found.'

    Brodli looked up at the Elf and then drew out a wrinkled map from his pack. 'I do, yet old it is, first drawn many years ago when I was still a stripling following our terrible war with the Orcs.' He unfurled it in his hands and followed the Elf 's finger at it traced a path across its faded and worn surface.

    'Look to the north-west of Thorenhad...there,' said Elrohir softly as his finger paused in the region of hills to the north of where Thorenhad lay. 'Look for him there, and happy fortune go with you.'

    Brodli rolled the map and stuffed in into his pack. 'Thankless is this endeavor it seems, Elrohir, but little do I long for such things in these dark times. I will find this Calenthon and his bird. I am in need of the path to Rivendell - upon my return I hope you will show your thanks in my need should I be triumphant.'

    With no other words, Brodli turned and went away from the brothers in silence. Through the day he worked beside the other dwarves at the forges, sharpening his axe and repairing his rent mail with what little Wéthorm was willing to part with. That night Brodli sat at the fires among the other dwarves at the end of their day's work.

    Brodli fell silence while the others sat round the fire, sipping ale or filling pipes and talking endlessly about wars and gold and newfound troubles in the mountains. Much of what was spoken he did not give much attentiveness and only politely nodded to any word directed towards him.

    At last, one by one, the dwarves fell asleep and even a watchful dwarf standing at the forges began to nod. The night had grown very old and dawn was not too far off. Finally the dwarf rose and lifted his pack to his shoulders. Slipping his hammer and axe into his belt, Brodli sighed painfully with soft eyes at the sleeping dwarves and then began the long slow climb down from the camp atop the cliffs.

    From the feet of the ling winding slope, he plodded a slow path northwards through a narrow cleft in the towering cliffs. Passing through the cleft the narrowness soon ended and he now stepped into a long deep dell enclosed with steep rocky walls upon all sides save forward. In the vale's center rippled a deep pool of blue water and lush thickets adorned its banks.

    Brodli paused to gaze ahead beyond the pool where the ground rose once more; nothing moved in the shadows of the cliffs and nothing reaches his ears save for the harsh croak of a bird in the air. Brodli stepped to the edge of the water and cupped cool water to his lips. Shaking his dripping beard, he drew out his map. The dwarf turned his eyes north and then down to the map in his hands. He then stuffed the map back into his pack as a black and ominous crow in the branches of a low tree cawed and croaked at him.

    His made his way north, rising away from dell and pool, and along great spurs of the high cliffs that flung out northwards and that climbed dark and silent and ever higher above his head. As he nearer the top of the ravine, a strange hissing rose into the air and a noisome stench reached Brodli's long nose. Brodli slowed his pace and a hand fell to the ace at his belt.

    Suddenly, from round a large rock outcropping ahead, a long slender and wiry form came into view. A worm it was, though a smaller breed, as Dragons go, perhaps the size of a horse. Flightless and wingless it was but deadly nonetheless. Brodli's heart swelled at the sight of the worm, and he laughed and shouted. 'Come you sniveling brethren of the drakes of the north. I am one dwarf who shall not flee from the likes of you!'

    The worm made no answer, for he had no voice nor little if any dragon-cunning. Its wide nostrils hissed and fiery spittle curled and dripped from its jaws. On it leapt very swift, rattling it jaws and bent on burning the dwarf where he stood. Brodli did not wait, but sprang forward to meet the worm with a cry.

    Together the foes clashed; the worm lashed with reaching talons, and its jaws eager to wither the dwarf with spitting fire. Its long neck snaked and snapped forward, as it lunged and spun as smoke roiled red-lit from the glare of its fiery mouth. Brodli's beard smoked as the flames licked his face but his axe and hammer rose and fell, beating and hewing down the worm's neck and flank. The worm hissed and spat as black dragon-blood fell in thick drops onto the ground.

    Then there was silence, Brodli stood alone now, his axe was black with scalding worm-blood and he was scorched about the head with fire but he still lived. The dwarf waited only till he had his breath back and then cleansed his axe of the foul blood in the dirt. With one last look at the unmoving worm, he went on.

    Onwards climbed the narrow ravine, walled in with high spurs of the hills and cliffs into the north. The sun was shining its last morning light as noon drew near when he at last unexpectedly found what, or rather who, he was seeking. The ravine rose and fell more than once as the dwarf scrambled among the tumbled rocks as noon passed. The ground began to rise one final time towards a fork in the ravine. One cleft in the cliff-walls turned west and north while a still narrower one broke away to the east.

    Brodli crept forward and stood beside a tall crop of bare rock footed by thick thorny brush. A spire of thin smoke curled into the air beyond and the dwarf grew wary. He stepped round the rock and stopped. What greeted his eyes was a simple camp at the mouth of the narrower ravine, and there sat a lone Elf, seemingly peaceful and yet watchful about, beside a small smoky campfire.

    Brodli strode through the brush and raised a hand in peace. 'Do not fear Calenthon, if that be your name,' he said as the Elf sprang to his feet. Brodli saw that he was tall and clad in a long flowing robe of green; bright clear eyes gazed at the dwarf warily. 'Brodli is my name. I have been sent by Elrohir to seek for you - long has it been since he has heard word from you. Glad am I am to find you still safe.'

    'You have come from Thorenhad?' said the Elf with astonishment in the Common Language and his wariness melted away suddenly. 'I would have sent word to Elrohir, but I do not yet understand the nature of the evil I have discovered here. Will you lend me your aid?'

    Brodli gazed at the Elf with a queer simmering light in his eyes. 'Evil?' he asked simply. 'Indeed, I too sense a great evil in this land, one that stretches forth a controlling hand that seems to drive what plagues this land. Elrohir bade me to what aid I can to you. Tell me what that might be...'

    'I have traveled throughout much of Nan Tornaeth in recent days, and few things trouble me like the corruption that has taken some of the beasts here,' said Calenthon with grief and uneasiness. 'A fell malady has seized the bears that hunt in Nan Tornaeth, twisting their mind and bodies.'

    The dwarf nodded grimly. 'True words, Calenthon. Many a thing in this desolate land seems tainted and nursed with fell intent. I have seen this with my own eyes in the vale of Drauglad. But what has this to do with your request of my help?'

    'I do not know if this vile malady can spread to other creatures, Brodli, but I want to know its source,' answered Calenthon. 'We cannot risk this corruption leaving Nan Tornaeth and spreading across the Bruinen to Imladris itself. Bring me pelts from the corrupted bears that stalk the valleys of Nan Tornaeth, and I will examine them for some sign of the malady's source.'

    Brodli fell silent as the Elf stood there without a word. He drew a hand down his long grey beard and then spoke at last. You ask me to hunt bears?' he said without reproach. 'Very well, Calenthon,' he said with a gentle laugh. 'Yet whatever foulness that has corrupted this place might verily be what what you may not wish to discover.'

    Brodli sat his pack down beside the fire and then gazed at the Elf wearily. 'Let me rest beside the warmth of your fire and I shall set out at the new dawn to seek these tainted bear-pelts. Should I not return, perhaps that will grant you an answer as well...'


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