Rangers of the North

S03E11 - Friends and foes

Bragol and Salabond are finally given the name of noble the mysterious agent of the dark lord wants, them to subvert or kill. They are surprised to find that it is the third son of a noble lord, a young dilletant without any apparent value to the enemy. Why would this person be of any interest? Salabond vaguely remembers the young man, he used to hang around the society of the written word, always trying to gain their attention and praise, never succeeding.

Together the two formulate a plan to initate contact with the youg lord. Bragol follows the man for a few days, learning his movements and routines. Once this is done, they choose the place and time when Salabond just “happens” upon he man, recognises him and offers him friendship.

But an unforseen event complicates matter. The courtyard is filled wih people in quite an upheaval. It seems that Gandalf the grey is visiting the White City and many are wondering what he is doing here. Seeing and opening Bragol shouts: “Look, is it not Gandalf that cometh this way?” And with all faces turned and attentions busy Salabond "accidentally walks into Egel, spilling his books and begging his pardones. Then he “regonises” him and the two falls into discussion.

It would seem that the Egel is much given to study the history of the old seeing stones of Arnor. Could this be why the enemy is after him? This and if the two are not mistaken there is an aura of some power about the lad, could it be that he has some potential for magic? This could explain why the enmy would be interested in such a little waif…

Suddenly Bragol notices something disturbing. The air seems filled with signs of some form of magic, as if someone is scrying upon them. Scanning the crowd he attempts to uncover their source, but before he can succeed his attention is drawn to a most peculiar and disconcerning sight.

A gaunt figure of a man, dressed in rags and with long, wild hair is approaching the Salabond and Egel, drawing everyones attention towards them. Even more disturbing is what the old vagabond is crying out: “Eldacard, I am searching for Eldacar. Are you him? I can see power in you, but you ar enot him. Where is Eldacar? I must speak with him!”

Fearing what is afoot, but not wanting to expose himself the elf remains quite and watches. It does not take long for the guards to appear and apprehend the beggar. Salabond ends his meeting with promises of seeing hte youg man again and unable to locate the source of magic he detected, Bragol decides to follow the guards and the strange man in order to uncover who he is and what his purpose might be.

Salabond however is surpised, gladly so, by the sudden appearance of an old aquitance, one Adamar, whom he knows through Sauroman the white. The two falls into conversation and retire to Salabonds office.

Bragol however employs his special skill set and succeeds in breaking the old man out of the guards prison. and brings him back home. Learning that the man suffers from visions, visions that directed him to search for one Eldecar. Uncertain of what to make of it, he offers the homeless tramp to stay with him in hopes of uncovering the meaning of it all.

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S03E10 - The White Tower

A long time has passed since Bragol and Nestaron first entered the White City in search of the enemy agent that they believe is situated there.

At first all went well. They were successfull in infiltrating the city and keeping their cover intact. They opened a breakfasthouse named Eldecar’s Breakfast house in the first ring, and later a shop dealing in fine goods in the forth ring. With the help of Mabs Bragol began to set up a spy network.

But they soon hit a dead end; the enemy agent made no contact and the months passed. More than a year and stil no word. Then one day Nestaron arrives at the breakfasthouse and discovers a message, finally the game is afoot. But who are the mysterous strangers that follows Bragol to the drop sit? One is a young ruffian, clearly hired by the enemy. But who is the other one? The professional?

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S03E09 - The Battle of the Borderlands
Wherein our heroes and their Dwarven allies wage war
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S03E08 - Halls of Stone
Wherein our heroes visit the fabled Thorin's Halls to call the Dwarven host to arms

Well ahead of the Horde, the Companions arrive at Thorin’s Halls. They marvel at the grandeur of this living Dwarven citadel, where before they have only experienced long-dead such wonders.

They declare their intentions, and are soon brought before the Lord of Thorin’s Halls, Dwalin himself, of which Feredir has read in Bilbo’s memoirs.

They waste no time in delivering their dark tidings, and Dwalin, that wise and noble creature, instantly believes them. He sends Feredir and Idhrhis to scout the Horde’s progress, while Brolin, Beoraborn and Svendir join him in preparing his forces for campaign.

The following day the two scouts return with the news that the Horde is moving south, as Dwalin had suspected. Two mere days’ march will bring Dwalin’s host to a glen where they can meet the Horde with every advantage their own. However, he can also select, as many would, to close his gates and let others fend for themselves, such as he himself has experienced done to his people. But his noble heart forbids him so, and therefore it is a easy decision to order his troops to move out.

The Dwarves of Thorin’s Halls are going to war.

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S03E07 - Black Work
Wherein our heroes break the siege

Upon the morrow Feredir stalks the encamped Orcs, discovering extremely lax security, enabling him – dressed in his translucent Dragonskin armour – to move unseen within the very camps themselves. He quickly discards the Orcs’ arsenal, pilfering their arrows and depositing their mêlée weapons into the violent river.
He then returns to his companions, and the five of them ambush the Orcs, Beoraborn spear-heading the attack, and trapping most of the Orcs within their pavilion. They make short order of their enemies.
By this time, the Orcs encamped further down the bank have raised their alarums, but finding their arms vanished they soon panic, and the Companions bear down on them with relative ease.
Finally, the five stand there, drenched in Orc blood, having just perpetrated a veritable massacre. The difference between a highly trained, elite force specialising in surgical striking and a rusty, unpractised band of brutes is palpable. It is strikingly clear to the Companions that Feredir’s initial observations indeed were right; this intruding force is not the Enemies finest. This is an old horde whose skills at battle have eroded through a long time of disuse.

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S03E06 - Siege at Gundabhund
Wherein our heroes seem trapped by the vicious horde of Orcs on their heels

There is little time; the Companions and Tom prepare for a siege.
As the Horde approaches, Feredir and Idhrhis position themselves at the end of a gauntlet of traps and caltrops, and take out as many enemies as they can before finally being overrun. They bolt through the secret path, as Orcs meet their doom in the gauntlet, and it is in the nick of time they barricade themselves in the old fortress.
The gate holds. Even when the vicious giant arrives, sending reverberations through iron and stone, making even Tom shudder with unease. The Companions use the arrowslits to fell as many foes as they can, finally tallying several scores of dead Orcs, until the giant plug the holes with his fallen comrades. Finally, the giant relents, and the Orcs erect a massive pyre at the gate, with their own fallen as fuel.
Feredir watches from a secret perch outside a chimney as they light the fire, and the main force withdraws, leaving only a small detachment in a make-shift camp.
The Companions have little choice but to await the fire dying, as Tom cannot fit through the chimney, and they make good use of their time by gaining some well-needed rest.
The following day they awake to Tom having wandered off down the tunnels. Feredir and Brolin track him for a while, but it is clear that the giant has found a massive tunnel that seemingly goes on into Lindon past the Ered Luin, and they understand that he has left them.
Meanwhile, Idhrhis and Svendir discover that yet another detatchment has tried to conceal itself further from the make-shift camp. It is obvious that the Orcs are conspiring to let the Company taste their own medicine, and catch them flat-footed in a trap. Idhrhis breaks his usual sombreness with a private chuckle: It will be a dark day indeed if a bunch of cretinous Orcs gets the better of Idhrhis of Lindon!

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S03E04-05 - Shadows over Northern Skies
Wherein Feredir leads a new band of rag-tag heroes protecting the last frontiers of Eriador.

Four years later.
The Enemy has declared himself.

Feredir and his three companions, Svendir the Soldier Son, Brólin of the Iron Hills and Idhrhis the Lindoner are running through the northernmost pass of the vales caressing the eastern slopes of the Blue Mountains. Their silent, deadly war on the incurring Orcs that constantly probe the borders from Forochel. This time, they have met their match: A pack of Wargs is chasing, and they suspect a greater enemy behind.

They prepare to make their final stand, and with their well-practised tactics rout the Direwolves with ease. Feredir and Idhris give chase, but soon realise that the Wargs are leading them. It is a trap! Quickly, they gather up their companions, and they make for the ford of the river. Crossing is deathly cold, but inner zeal keeps them warm.

On the other side, they realise they were right: A much larger force follow the Wargs, led by a gigantic figure who trumpets spine-chillingly from a massive horn.

The Enemy has reached Númeriador.

They spirit away to the Last Retreat, the northernmost trading post in the Borderlands. They are delighted to find their friend Beoraborn present, but dismayed at having to tell everyone to evacuate.

Having sent the traders on their way the next morning, they build a make-shift raft to cross the treacherous waters of the river, and secret themselves to get a better glimpse of the enemy.

It is a war party of Orcs, led by a wretched creature perched on the shoulder of a Giant. Having the privilege of calling one of the giant-kind friend, this saddens Feredir.

Idhrhis fells a few with his arrows, just to make the point, and the Companions retreat, to find a plan and to warn anyone in the war party’s path.

They have not gone long before they come across Feredir’s Giant friend, Tom, holed up in an abandoned Dwarf mine.

With Tom’s help, the Companions dig in, setting a trap for the scouting party surely on their trail…

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S03E03 - Angmar Part Three
Wherein our heroes must confront one of the mightiest beings in Middle-Earth

It takes the Companions a while to recover from their encounter with the dread beast. Feredir and Salabon surmise that it must indeed be the terrible Scorba, one of the mightiest of the Red Fire-Drakes, and equal almost to Smaug the Golden himself. Futility engulfs them, and nothing do they want more than to let go, to give up.

But in the Huntsman stirs the sense of duty of his forbears. He resolves to follow through, even if it means his own end. He has come this far, and he has a responsibility to try. Knowing that his companions will follow him even in death, he quietly motions Herbs to walk with him aways from the group.
“I trust you to carry on without me,” Feredir entrusts his friend. “You must make certain nothing befalls our hapless companions. They must not act like fools and irresponsibly follow me. This I must do alone, the catalyst of these events, and I can not and will not ask any to walk this path with me. Do you understand me?”
Salabon carefully weighs the words of his best friend, and feels a sadness well up within him. But he nods gravely, and confirms. “Aye, for love, I will, at that.”
They exchange sober, curt nods, and return to the rest.
“Friends, we need to consider our approach most carefully,” proclaims Feredir. “Herbs, will you not draw us a likeness of this area, and explore the surroundings from our considerations?”
“Aye,” agrees Salabon, nodding. “Gather round, mates, and we’ll regard what we’ve seen from all and every angle.” And with that, Feredir silently falls back, steels himself, and slips away towards the dread citadel…

*

Zarak-Dûm’s constructions seems to have shared the general arrangement as that of the nameless abode of Colargon, and it appears to Feredir that they must have been erected, or rather carved out, at around the same time, presumably by many of the same masons and engineers. As such, its halls and tunnels are so similar that he is able to maneuver his way along with relative ease, due to his familiarity with the designs. He moves silently, slowly, taking his time and measuring his breaths.

Nothing. The subterranean citadel is silent, as the grave it truly is. He occasionally dares let lose a flicker of light, from the talisman he once feared, retrieved from Ost-in-Edhil, which now seems like centuries ago, but truly was only in the previous year. A rustling noise makes him seek refuge in a sheltered alcove, and his light is quenched, sending him spiralling once more into pure, utter blackness. Nothing. It must have been a small piece of rock, crumbled after millennia, and let loose by his presence stirring the stale air.
He wonders if Dwarven design is similar across Middle-Earth, and struggles to recall how Bilbo Baggins described the secret tunnels in Lonely Mountain. In his mind, he conjures up Bilbo’s depiction of that distant monument, arguably twice the size of this fortress, but vaguely similar. He lets loose the briefest of gasps, and quickly sends forth a minuscule ray of light, enough to illuminate a series of barely visible runes etched into the wall by which he crouches. He touches them, and with the faintest murmur of rumbling rock, the wall yawns open enough for Feredir to slip through, spiriting him further into the abyssal darkness of the Dragon’s lair.

*

He makes his way through the secret tunnels, the darkness oppressive, the only sounds those of his own feet, or the rare, subtle rustle of debris stirred by his passing. Finally the tunnels open up, and before him an antechamber gives way to a hall larger than any room Feredir has ever seen. Across the vaulted ceiling stretch walkways and galleries, criss-crossing upwards and demonstrating the near impossible height of the chamber. He is filled with terrible dread, but no signs does he detect of the presence of the dragon. He does, however, sense a familiar stench: Aurochs! Standing perfectly still, he believes can hearken the sounds and clamour of aurochs, far, far into the great hall. The dragon keeps beasts? Then he must have tenders… His line of thought is broken by a din coming from behind him, in the tunnel. He draws his sword, but there is no sign of any enemies; the blade does not glow. He rushes into the tunnel, and discovers his friends: They have all followed… He sternly and soundlessly reprimands them for making such a racket, and reluctantly accepts their presence.

Together, they make their way up, up along the galleries and walkways, until they reach a majestic highway cutting across the hall, an immense bridge large enough to support three carriages side by side. They follow it, and beyond find a sort of animal shelter, complete with stalls and plenty of hay. Feredir was right, the dragon is keeping a stock. Then they are suddenly accosted by a withered old man. Feredir apprehends him, and is shocked to realise that the spellbound old fool is dressed in Dùnadan garb: He is one of the Rangers of the North! Feredir appeals to his inner self, declaring himself his brother, and manages to shake him out of the trance that the dragon had placed him in, and the sobbing, broken old man tells the tale…

Scorba the Wyrm is cursed with sustained slumber thanks to a powerful talisman hidden in the hoard. Unfortunately, the talisman must be activated, and everyone within three hundred feet of the talisman is doomed to join the slumber – including the one who triggers the curse. Thus, one of the Rangers have taken it in turn to sacrifice themselves to a generational sleep, and another has been on hand to take over once the curse’s cycle comes to an end. He is distraught to learn the year, however: He has only been asleep for forty years, so the curse is lessening in potency. He had expected to remain torpid for at least seventy.

The Company has no time to come up with a sofisticated plan, however, as the terrible pandemonium heralding Scorba’s return sends ice cold spikes of fear through their souls. With no time to lose, Feredir commands his Companions to take care of the old Ranger, and carry him and themselves to safety: This is Feredir’s Quest, and his responsibility. He will fly to the treasure chamber and recover the talisman, himself being the one to activate the curse. Dread strikes, however, as they realise that Jack Fleetfoot has already done just this, the troubled Hobbit seeing this one, last act of bravery enough of a sacrifice to redeeem himself from the greed and lust for power that has plagued him.

There is no time to stop him – the dragon is here. It bellows terrifyingly, demanding to know the intruders. He can smell the death-stench of Colargon, but not the Companions’ true scents, and is confused and terribly angry. Feredir and Eadyth exchange a glance: This is a contingency they have secretly prepared for.

Having made it almost across the bridge, Salabon, Feredir and the old Ranger secret themselves, while Eadyth confronts the beast. She flatters it, claiming to have travelled all across the world to come here and behold Scorba’s magnificence, and to serve it. The ruse works long enough for her to lure Scorba far enough out onto the bridge to be affected by the talisman, in Jack’s hands far below them. Then, Feredir suddenly walks straight onto the bridge – hidden from the dragon’s eyes by the enchanted armour he wears. He starts taunting the dragon, claiming to be the wraith of Colargon, back to wreak his vengeance upon him. At first Scorba is only affronted, but that affront, coupled with his confusion, turns to anger, and secondly to fear. The beast starts thrashing about, but Feredir is safe, being able to see the dragon’s attacks, while the dragon cannot see him. When finally they have the dragon in position, they break, and scream to Jack to cast the curse, just as the dragon takes flight and is about to incinerate them, a gruesome death by fire. As it crashes down onto the bridge, the Companions barely manage to escape the range of the curse, and the entire citadel trembles around them, dust and stone raining from above.

It is over.

Scorba sleeps once more.

But so does Jack Fleetfoot.

Silently, the Companions cast one final, lingering look at the dust-filled cavern, glittering reflections from the lit braziers upon the immense treasure sparkling like stars to their eyes. Then, as one, they turn and walk out the way they entered.

“Wait!” Eadyth stops them. She bends down, and picks up seven golden coins, having scattered from the treasure affixed to the dragon’s scales all the way to the gallery they are about to exit. She hands one to each of them, and saves one for Bragol, and one for Jack. “That halfling was in a way larger than any of us,” she says. “In forty years, should any of us still live, he will need our aide once more. I propose a pact, that we keep these coins, and one day return to finish what we started; better prepared and better equipped. Forty years to devise a way to slay that monster, and to save our Companion.” Needless to say, they all agree.

That is the last thing they say to each other until they return to Rivendell to stand before its lord and master.

Epiloge:
It is the autumn of 3017 in the Third Age of Middle-Earth.

Four years have passed since the Companions of Feredir left Jack Fleetfoot, the Hero of Caravan Hill, in a deep sleep on top of the greatest hoard of treasure in Eriador. Very few know the tale of what befell them in the bowels of Zarak-Dûm, that foul and fallen Dwarven stronghold of old, now the tentative prison of Scorba the Wyrm, last of the Great Fire Drakes. It is Jack’s sacrifice that holds the beast prisoner, and should anyone attempt to enter the stronghold, they, too, will fall into the torpor induced by a powerful amulet clutched to Jack’s bosom. But fear of anyone feeling the temptation of that mighty hoard, or worse, word of the Great Dragon’s fate reach the ear of the Enemy, has made the secret a much-guarded one among the Rangers of the North and the Elves of Rivendell. As such, and because of the ever-present concern for agents of the Enemy among their own ranks – stronger now, since the fall of Treadfall – very little pomp and circumstance is made of the fact that the Quest was successful: Not only did the Huntsman indeed return with the fabled blade Aeglin, a long-lost relic of the Dúnedain of old, forged in Gondolin and present at the fall of that majestic citadel, but three dragons have been felled or immobilised as course of the Quest and by the Companions’ hands. Very few even suspected the presence of dragons so far South and West, and it has certainly caused increased prudence amongst the already vigilant Rangers and Elves.

Yet the Companions’ actions are not without rewards:
Feredir’s is granted privilege to be guardian of Aeglin. He is also awarded the duties as Chief Ranger of the Evendim Hills and the borderlands, his birth lands.
Eadyth is given an edict from Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, attesting actions of true valour, courage and honour, enough to satisfy the Horse Lords and restore her family name. The edict is, of course, made out to her brother, Edmund.
Salabon is named a true Dúnedain for his efforts, and his lineage will subsequently be counted among the clans of the Rangers of the North.
Beoraborn is given free passage in all the lands falling under Rivendell’s aegis, and the Bejibar is named a Friend of the Elves.
Jack Fleetfoot is mourned by the Elves. Though because of the circumstances, he will not be immortalised in song. The lamentations of his passing are silent, but not insignificant.

And thus, the Quest for Aeglin is over, and the Company disbands. Feredir travels West to assume his duties, while Salabon goes South, to reconvene with Bragol, their designs their own, but with mutterings of travelling East, into Gondor. Eadyth joins him on the way to Ost-in-Edhil, to bring her family’s restoration back to Edoras, and Beoraborn walks for a while with a Wandering Company of Elves.

Four years later.

Feredir has learned well to know the lands of Emyn Uial and beyond, the borderlands along the Blue Mountains, and the disputed lands to the North, where he and his new companions wage a precarious skirmish war with agents of the Enemy. They have hitherto been unsuccessful in learning the nature of the Enemy’s objectives, but their struggle lingers on.
Oft-times Feredir wonders what befell his friends, and his moods will go dark. Often he will not speak for days. Only Beoraborn understands, but his presence is irregular, his wanderlust taking him long distances away from the Ranger and his new companions. This is one of those moments, and the weathered Outrider falls into a brooding state as he is helping himself to the company’s lunch of cooked coney.
Four years Feredir and his band have been ranging the lands north of the Ered Luin, four years have passed since he last saw his brother Salabon and the others.
Just as he and his companions are about to set of for Lindon, a bird descends upon Feredirs bedroll. A hawk. It is weary, it must have flown very far, Feredir surmises, for the fowl is scrawny for the coming winter, and its plumage disheveled. He is not surprised when the bird speaks him, his inborn ability to speak with birds and beasts making him understand the hawk’s address, but something in the message is unanticipated. “Are you the Huntsman?” the bird demands, and the pitch and tone is not common to the hawks of the Ered Luin. It has flown far, indeed. “Aye, I am he,” he replies.
“Then I have a message for you,” continues the bird. “From the female they call the Magpie. Mother of He Who Gathers Pigeons. Mate of the Half Elven.”
Feredir raises his eyebrows. His companions have left their own meals uneaten, and are now watching the correspondence, unable to comprehend the meaning that passes between man and bird.
“What is this message?”
“Keeper of Pigeons have been taken and Hlaf Elven has disappeared . You must come to the nest of the White tree. Fast.”

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S03E02 - Angmar Part Two
Wherein our heroes finally find Colargon

The Companions of Feredir march on, staying low and avoiding encounters, and after some days they catch the spoor of the fleeing drake. Cresting a hill, the creeping Huntsman comes across a valley in which he spots the blackened remains of Colargon. He calls the others, and soon the Companions discover that Colargon has been slain and eaten by an even greater dragon. The Huntsman looks north, and there, no more than twenty miles distant, stands a terrible fortress. He knows it from legend; Carn Dûm.

Suddenly, an earthquake startles them, and they see a shape emerging from the distant ruin: A giant, black dragon, almost a hundred feet long! It swoops down on a herd of unassuming aurochs, but scents the group, and makes for the valley. The Rangers quickly secret themselves, and it is clear that the dragon fails to locate them, and seems confused by the strong scents of the carcass. It breathes a mighty rain of fire upon the valley, and it is sheer luck that makes it give up and return to the citadel with its prey.

Feredir suggest they mask their scents with the remains of Colargon, and urges his fellows to move on Carn Dûm: This monstrous, evil threat to all Eriador has to be stopped.

That night, Feredir obtains an innate sense of the lands. He does not like them, but he can feel them – understand them. This helps him locate a perfect hiding place for the night; a small cave carefully nestled behind fallen rocks, with a small stream running across, enough to hide any scents. He is also able to produce a small, smokeless fire, so the companions can enjoy a last meal – possibly the last meal ever. Talk turns to their two lost comrades, Bragol and Baran. Worries are voiced, and fears spoken. Only Jack remains silent, even more so than the brooding Huntsman.

The next day a careful survey of the terrain shows that it is quite obvious that the giant Beijibar Beoraborn will be unable to hide himself in case the dragon should appear.
Beoraborn looks immensely sad: it hurts him to leave his companions, but they all agree it is for the best. Beoraborn is best served as last defence, or, if the worst were to pass, a messenger to warn the Free Peoples of the impending doom. Feredir feels uncomfortable leaving his mightiest ally, but it is unlikely that any of them will return, so it stands to reason that someone should be left to survive. Honestly, at this point, he would rather go alone, and risk only his own life, but he knows proud Eadyth would never allow herself to miss the opportunity of regaining her family’s honour: Even if she should fall, her recognition is sure. Jack is hell-bent on his quest for redemption, and facing this foe – perhaps the most terrible in all of Middle-Earth – is the ultimate test. And Salabon is loyal to a fault. He would never leave his best friend. This, Feredir knows, and thus he grudgingly accepts that he is leading some of the best people he knows into certain death. If he will ever be able to live with the choice, if he lives after the ordeal, he is less certain of.

They make their teary-eyed farewells, with promises from Beoraborn to give messages to all who deserve them, and press on. Beoraborn lingers for a while, a great sadness ovewhelming him for a spell, before retiring to the cave to wait, and observe from a far. Waiting, he is familiar with, as a bear shifter. But observing without interfering, is a concept he struggles with.

*

The Companions finally reach the village at Carn Dûm. They see it has been inhabited up until recently, by scores of Orcs, and even some Trolls. These are all lying in the streets, littering the place with their corpses. They are all dead. Feredir tries to communicate with the vermin feasting on the dead, but the wretched things seem mad. He concludes that they have been driven wild by the dragon’s mere presence.

They have little time to consider them, however, as they soon sense the return of the dragon, having been out in flight, and they all make haste to secret themselves among the ruins.
The mighty beast glides deadly and silent above them. They see its glimmering scales, strong as obsidian, and the myriads of gems and coins infused between them like a second armour – just as Bilbo’s tale told Smaug was adorned and protected. The monster, larger than anything any of the Companions have ever witnessed, leaving them gaping and overwhelmed, before it awkwardly lands beyond the city walls. Soon it crawls onto the walls, and trumpets into the misty daylight.
“I smell the foul stench of the wretch Colargon!” it bellows. “I know not who you are, but your tricks cannot fool me!” It roars, and then the air turns electric for a split second as it takes a huge gulp of air, and throws a lance of fire across the square and the nearby buildings. The Companions hug their hidey holes, and bide their time. The dragons stands still, considering the display before him for quite a while, before it suddenly turns away and clambers down and into the fortress.

The Companions sit still, white-faced and in terrible awe. It is not fear that course through their veins, although that is surely strong enough an emotion to affect them. No, it is pure futility, hopelessness and despair that mar the Companions.

How in Fram’s memory can they ever hope to slay such a mighty and invincible beast?

To be concluded.

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S03E01 - Angmar Part One

Prologue:

He was awake. He did not know for how long he’d been asleep, but it had to have been some time. He could no longer feel the presence of the darkness. In fact, he could only feel the presence of one of the younger ones, and the younger one was dying. He rose and stretched his limbs. “Not as powerful as I used to be”, he said to himself.

*

_Corlagon crash-landed in a ravine. His alkaline blood was burning through what little vegetation there was. He had not fled far enough, and death was not far behind. He closed his eyes. It was hard to breathe. He didn’t know how long he’d been lying in the ravine when he could feel a thud, as if something huge had landed right beside him. Corlagon tried to open his eyes, but he was too weak.

“Corlagon,” a voice spoke to him, a voice he had not heard for hundreds of years. “You always were an embarrassment.” Corlagon tried to speak, but only bubbles of alkaline blood emerged from his lips. “Corlagon the Great.” The voice was filled with mockery. “Hunter of goats, ravager of sheep. So petty he could not even hold goblins as slaves.” Colargon wanted to jump up and go for the throat, not necessarily to kill, simply to end the mockery. Even if that meant he’d die. For he would die, soon, he knew that. He spat out some more bubbles of blood. “What was that you said?” Corlagon mustered all his remaining strength. “They are right behind me, and now they are coming for you too.” “You fool. You are nothing more than a cave wyrm. Who are right behind you?” “They are armed with elven…” and Corlagon was gone.

He was hungry. Hungry enough to devour a drake, and that was exactly what he did. Refuelled by the draconian soul harvested from the red Cold Drake, he stretched his neck and roared.

It was good to be awake again._

Rangers of the North: Angmar
Part One

The wind beats uncaring gusts in across the parapet. Below is true darkness, above is nary a star. Only Salabon can see the uneven course of the wounded beast as it frantically beats its wings into the night.
“We must descend the way you arrived! We need our mounts, the supplies…”
“No.” Feredir interrupts him. He walks to the edge. “Dwarves do not fly. And this fortress was not built for dragons. This parapet must have had a function, it is unlikely ornamental in origin.” He tosses a torch down. There are steps carved into the very face of the cliff, but even from here he can see that they are mostly eroded and broken. Not a one of them will be descending that way.
“But the way you came!” sputters Salabon. “Surely it is the only way?”
Feredir turns on him, and snarls, “It is the wrong side of the mountain! End your prattle about the way we came, we are not taking that path. The only way is there!” He points into the gaping archway towards the night.
Salabon still does not understand Feredir’s sullenness, and mistakes it for uncertainty, so he continues unchastened. “What about the gold?”
“What of it? If you are thinking of filling your pockets, you have another thing coming.”
“No, no, not for myself. Dragons can sense if its hoard has been pillaged. Won’t it be back for the gold? We don’t need to go anywhere.”
Again Feredir turns on his friend with anger in his eyes and voice. “Do you presume to teach me of dragons? Have I not travelled across all of Eriador and beyond collecting every last tale and bit of lore about them?”
This stings Salabon’s pride, finally. “Well, I presume not a thing, but if you recall, o Huntsman, it was I who translated the ancient writings in the library in Tharbad. I fail to see how anyone else could have done that.” He adds the latter in almost to himself.
Through gritted teeth, Feredir mutters “And we all know about your linguistic abilities,” but he regrets it as soon as it is said.
Beoraborn tries to intercede. “Let’s prepare this place for its return, we can rig an ambush, get it real good.”
“No.” Feredir stalks over to the hoard, scans it, and picks a large, precious jewel. “This will do.” He points to Beoraborn. “You and I can track it. The rest can return for the gear if you deem fit, and we will leave tracks for you to follow.” Beoraborn nods.
“Wait a minute,” says Jack. “This chain mechanism, would it not be able to feed enough chain to lower us down?”
Feredir thinks for a while. “It makes sense. That must be the purpose of this platform, to transport goods up and down with this chain.”
“I’ll see if I can get it working,” says Jack, and ambles over. While he is busy trying to make sense of the ancient, Dwarvish magics, the rest of the crew go over their gear.
“We have enough supplies,” says Eadyth. “The goat we smoked will last us for several days.”
“And there must be ample hunting in Angmar,” says Feredir, nodding. “After all, the dragon must have been feeding on something. Goats, hill sheep, grouse…”
“We’re ready to go,” says Beoraborn, and Salabon sighs dejectedly.
“Fine,” he says, sullenly, still not sure of why Feredir chastised him so, not grasping the enormous feeling of failure and guilt in his friend, and the burning need to set it right or die trying.
“I have it,” Jack calls from the other side of the hall, and they all turn in surprise to see the chain rattling and clanking across the parapet and into the darkness.
They cheer and clap Jack’s back as he returns to them, and Feredir states, “Right, then we embark.” And with that, he grabs hold of the chain and disappears into the night.

*

Soon they are down on the ground.
“Can you track him?” Feredir asks Beoraborn. The massive Beijibar ponders, and then shrugs off his equipment. He stalks off into the darkness, and after a series of terrifying and painful-sounding noises an enormous bear emerges from the night. It sniffs the air, snuffles about, and then starts lumbering away. The Companions look at each other and follow.

After a while it becomes clear that sporadic drops of alkaline blood is insufficient to determine the direction of the dragon’s flight. It is simply too time consuming to locate the next splash of blood.
“This will never work,” complains Salabon. “It is impossible to find what way the dragon took!”
Feredir just glances at him, and calls in a hooting voice. Soon, a familiar-looking shape glides out of the night and lands on his raised fist. He seems to speak to the barn-owl called Nighteyes, but it is unintelligible to them all. “He flew north,” he finally declares. The Companions move out.

*

The track the dragon’s path, and find that it veers off into the mountain chain to the west. Impossible to traverse, they decide to move further north, into Angmar itself, and skirt the mountains via the plains. They have not gone long before they can see campfires being lit in several directions in the dusky twilight of morning, visible in the flat, open plains miles away. Orcs," mutters Feredir, equal measure statement and query.

Some time later, Feredir comes across the tracks of a company of Orcs, no older than two days. At a march, they move much slower than the Companions, and the five of them pick up the pace. They gain good ground, but are eventually forced to make camp, as only Feredir and Beoraborn are able to keep up the relentless pace.

As Jack keeps watch, he seems to sense something in the dark. He wakes the others, and they realise they are being stalked for an ambush from several directions. They hurry to get their gear on, and make a circle around their secret weapon, Beoraborn. Suddenly arrows start flying, and they are under attack!
With the giant bear on their side, they make quick work of the Orcs, but their battle has attracted the attention of another group of Orcs, half a mile away. They pilfer what they can, and make flight, easily outdistancing themselves from the Orcs, and being able to rest for the night.
When day breaks, they retrace their steps, and sneak into the Orc camp. Feredir and Jack crawl all the way into camp, donning discarded Orcish armour and helmets to blend in, and manage to dispatch the sole sentry with ease. They signal for the rest, and the five methodically slaughter the evil creatures. Even Salabon takes part in the dirty work – and dirty work it undoubtedly is, but works that need doing. For Feredir, this is the reason for his training: Kill Orcs and vanquish evil. Having inherited his father’s grudge for the twisted humanoids, he also has a special hatred for Angmar Orcs, as they also turned out to be his father’s bane. For Jack, dispatching the things bearing a symbol resembling the hated Red Eye, this is another step on the path to Redemption. For Beoraborn and Eadyth, these are their peoples’ tribal enemies. And for Salabon, this is another uncomfortable reminder of the life he chose when he decided to escape from the path of Evil: Even the good path is an evil in and of itself.

As the sun rises over a plains awash with black blood, five grim Rangers again turn towards the mountains and their prey.

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