Rangers of the North

S02E08 - On the river

In which our heroes finally reunite, and another epic journey begins.

Some time has passed since the Undead assault on Minas Brethil, with Lord Baran away on business. After having repelled the attack, Jack Fleetfoot is now a name that calls respect. Although his foot has mostly recovered, he still feels the pain when he’s moving around. Without the supporting device he’s invented, he probably would not be walking around at all.

Suddenly word reaches his ear, bringing news of the best sort. His friends are all returning to Minas Brethil! After having been scattered to the winds on separate missions! This calls for a mighty feast!

Our friends arrive in Minas Brethil on their way to Tharbad and the library there. They find the old keep much changed. Indeed it is now far from just a keep, more a small town and around it many farms have been carved out of the landscape. It is peopled and bustling, indeed it is thriving. Baran and Jack have been busy.

Baran gives the group a kingly welcome, a feast is drummed up and the group share tales after having been apart for such a long time. When Jack pulls Beoraborn aside and shows him the forge he has set up, Bragol takes the opportunity to have them reforge his sword that was broken when defeating a troll.

Later on the eaving Salabon arrives, with him a thin, frail lady, his sister. Once again tales of the last months is shared, mostly by Salabon who is eager to tell of his meeting with Sauroman the white. While cool towards Salabon, no open hostility is shown by Hunter.

During the early morning hours Brago walks around Minas Brethil, taking in all the changes and size up it all. When the rest have gotten out of bed and are ready, they make all haste to Fennas Drunin.

In Fennas Drunin they spend the night, and the following morning they charge two boats. A barge for the horses to follow them, and a smaller vessel to make as much speed to Tharbad as possible.

Jack, who has felt somewhat weary for some time now due to pain, exhaustion and overwork, now feels lighter again. But alas, soon they are all travelling again on a mission together, this time on a small boat down a river. On the water! Jack, in shades from white to green, sits absolutely motionless most of the journey, his fingernails digging into the wood about him…

The river is strong and flows fast this time of the year and they make good time. When they finally pull along side the riverbank that evening to make camp, they are many, many miles closer to their target. Unfortuantely their good luck is about to change.

They have sailed for some time, but as night falls, everyone disembarks to set up a camp. It’s peaceful and quiet. Bragol and Hunter investigates their perimeter when they notice something strange along the river bank. A nest of large eggs, of a type unknown to both of them. Suddenly Hunter spots something in the river, something moving. “Quick, back to camp. We must warn them!” he shouts and the two sprint back towards the encampment. But too late.

Just as they arrive back a large shape launches itself rom the river, huge jaws clamp around one of the rivermen, tearing the unfortunate mans body in two. A monstrous Sea-Crocodiles, more than twenty feet long! Long, conical grasping teeth protrudes from its elongated snout, covered in the blood from a dead man. The beast proceeds to damage the boat, rendering it useless. And what is worse, more shapes are streaming towards the shore and the party.

A hard battle follows, with beasts seem more like dragons than crocodiles and Baran finds himself paralysed by fear. Arrows fly and the monsters jaws snap at the brave men and elf, fighting for their life. Finally they succeed in driving the monsters off, but a terrible prize. Beoraborn is gravely wounded, his leg torn open by the sharp teeth of the beasts. One of the sailors is dead, and the rest of the group has cuts and scrapes.

During the aftermath Hunter explains what they need to aid Beoraborn, while Salabon stabilizes and gives second aid to the Beorning. Jack and Baran follow Hunter, crossbows at the ready to provide cover for Hunter. He knows where to find the very herbs he needs, a special type of reeds called Arpsusar. He remembers seeing them earlier. The only problem is that they grow exactly where they beast has laid its eggs…

Nerve-wrecking minutes follow as Hunter carefully sneaks up to the nest, where the mother is now resting, guarding its young. So close is he that he can feel the hot breath from her nostrils… Fortunately he succeeds, returning with the herbs.

Together, Salabon and Hunter starts administering to Beoraborn’s wounds. They chatter away amicabily about natural philosophy and the proper application of herbs, all animosity seemingly gone. Feredir’s new apprentice Briar stares on in mute fascination as they place hot coals on the wet Arpsusar reed, binding it around Beoraborn’s leg. The Beorning is equally astonished to find that he can’t feel the searing heat from the coals through the wrapping.

“Where are Baran and Jack?” Salabon asks. Hunter is not sure. “I’ll go and look for them” says Bragol.

Baran and Jack have decided to pursue the eggs in all secrecy in the hopes of turning them into a valuable asset to the security of Minas Brethil. They both approach the nest, where they find the massive animals sleeping. Jack observes the area, and the two companions decide to try and silently take out one of the crocodiles. However, their attacks fail to mortally strike the beast, and they both wake up and charge Baran and Jack. Baran realizes the danger, and takes off with everything he has into the woods. Jack, however does not move. A million thoughts rush through his head and in desperation he strikes the first crocodile with his bare hands. It retreats, but only for the blink of an eye, before it attacks again. The other returns to guarding the eggs.

As Jack sees the huge gaping maw only a few feet ahead of him, approaching in terrifying speed, it’s like the time simply stops. Jack thinks about the way that led him here, all the choices he made along the way. About his reputation as a hero, about his friends. He stands his ground as the massive jaws, now only inches away, seems like a tunnel towards a black void, the wild eye of the beast, wide open, glaring right through him. Is this the end of Jack Fleetfoot, the Hero of Minas Brethil…?


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