Twilight of the North

From the Journal of Aethor the Youthful
I travel with dwarves....

*The Twilight of the North
Session 1

  • From the Journal of Aethor the Crimson Elf, Early Autumn, 1409 of the third age of this world.

I travel with dwarves.

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Autumn seems to come earlier and earlier each year of late. The winds bear the cold from the northeast, and I fear the illness that seems to infect them.

Currently, I am surrounded by dwarves. Fjorin and his Mirmaedhim are remarkable, however, not the uncivilized savages Master Elrond and the other learned lead me to believe. Sure they are loud, they eat like trolls, and the smell—but they bear a nobility. I am eager to travel more with these comrades. Vindal, Hannar, and Bildr chatted casually amongst themselves in the dwarf tounge—the Khadzul, I think they refer to it, and I gathered their chatter regarded out newest companion, another dwarf (will I ever meet anyone else?). Azthrozil is his name and he claims to be of the First Age. Though his name seems to indicate that, and I have never heard of a dwarf with his manner, except in some legends of the dwarfs, he is wholy unusual. We found him in what they call a deathless door. The dwarfs are fascinated by him, and I am curious as well. What can he tell us of that age than to even we elves seems legend.

Aha! Finally, someone over five feet tall. We have encountered a human, a Dunedain no less. My close friend, Mirodon, the holder of the contract. I think some men might refer to him as a spy master, but I will not denigrate his noble blood nor my friendship with that pejorative. He directed us to make for Amon Sul, the watchtower of the three kingdoms of men, the broken kingdom of Arnor.


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Weary, we arrived at the Sarn Ford, a common crossing point of the Baranduin, called the Brandywine by some common folk; the Sarn Ford is near a small turn in the river; clusters of young trees on either side of the river; the road becomes quite overgrown with thicker scrub brush as we draw closer to the river; it is late in the day; the crickets serenade us. I felt as though Fate were creating something for us, some token of its note, a point for us, perhaps? A mere passing fancy. I sore desire to sing the traveling song of my people, but the short ones will not endure a singing elf. More’s the pity.

Across the ford, we notice a man leaning against tree. Is he another man to join our company? Dressed in leather armor, later one of the dwarves (Vindal, I think—the plaited beard one) comments that the armor is cheap and in disrepair of Cardolan , but all human armor seems, well, a bit cheap. Regardless of his dress, I approached him, quite eager to meet another of the younger race.

“Hail! And well met, fellow traveler!” This behavior was what landed me in trouble with the masters of Rivendell. Rash. Youthful, a epithet the others intended as insult, but I take as badge of honor.

The man seemed quite drawn back a bit by the appearance of an elf in this wilderness. I confess I do have that effect. He stumbles and tries to give me an impression of a smile, but there lurks the wolf in his looks. Quickly, I see him as charlatan trying to con us as he asks for “donation to his cause to protect the ford," seeing our relics and the well-equipped nature of the company.

Mirodon, the excellent fellow, asks him for his writ of command, but the scoundrel hems and haws, clearly lying about the nature of him and his companions—a small suspicious group, lurking hooded watchers, up on the rocky outcropping to the northeast. I ask him about them, but he dodges me.

“Orhad’s my name; I am well-known in the local villages."

Mirodon drops his name quite clearly; Orhad is clearly impressed and perhaps fearful.

Fjorin steps up close nose-to- belly and claims his right to pass the ford and his right to hospitality and gifts from Orhad in the service of the king and the Valar! May the Valar bless the brass of this dwarf.

Orhad keeps glancing behind him atop the rocky outcrop

I move close, near enough to smell the wine and garlic on his breath.

“My friend, of what are you afraid?”

My glance is drawn to the figures on the hill, robed fig—*suddenly all I see is a smooth, black throne; the figures, they are now kneeling before it and are chained; they reach out for a black orb—a palantir?! But prowling, unseen, a malevolent presence lurks. I am unsure of what happened for several moments.*

Later I am told that suddenly, several men approach from the south east. What follows is almost unbelievable to me, I,who have seen the wonders of the elves, can scarcely believe that Azthrozil wades into the river, using his shield of the dwarves in an almost impossible way, even defying the power of the river, and destroying the composure of the group approaching the company.

Mirodon watches Azthrozil’s opening volley and turns to Fjorin. “Lieutenant, your new recruit will serve the Mirmaedhim well,” he says wryly.

Still in the fear of the vision, I heard Words of Westernesse, but the black Númenóreans’ speech. I feel the fear clutching at me as the scoundrel Orhad turns back to me, filled with a blind, almost supernatural hatred as his hand drops to pull his sword

The approaching group attacks Azthrozil and he deflects with his mighty shield, arrows flung back at the bandits who flee. Azthrozil bellows, and this is a rough translation of the dwarf: GO HOME TO YOUR MOTHERS WHILE YOU HAVE A CHANCE!

Mirodon’s normally calm expression suddenly shows surprise as Azthrozil deflects the attack. “Quite well indeed.”

The bandits line the shore, shooting at the company, and noble Fjorin is hit by arrows.

Meanwhile, Orhad draws his weapon, and Mirodon recognizes that it is out of place with the rundown guard gear—this sword though is of clearly older and finer make. He,, taking advantage of my phantasm, stabs me, jarring me out of the vision

Fjorin moves into the unsteady footing of the fjord lets loose his mighty battle cry! And demands that all “KILL THEM, YOU FOOLS!” And the Mirmaedhim join him, raring to attack

Mirodon moves to defend me, later saying he’s has seen this vision state before, and interposes himself.

Azthrozil moves to attack the bandits, a sort of domino knocking one head into the others “KHAZAD!”

What I had feared in the vision now becomes real as the hooded watchers chant and gesture! The Baranduin, separating our company, becomes choppy, raging against the dark magic; the river rises. The ford becomes near unpassable. Fjorin calls his troops to hold!

I trust my longtime friend Mirodon to handle Orhad as I swings out my Crimson Bow and shoot a flaming arrow through one of the hooded watchers, catching a second villain on fire. As a minion stumbles backward out of fear, he loses his footing, falling to his death.

Orhad swings to attack me, yet Mirodon, true to his word and intent, moves to take to attack. The ferocity of the attack throws Mirodon off balance.

Fjorin, the river raging against him, orders his men to link arms, pulling themselves out of the river; they become ready for action!

Azthrozil and those that have crossed the river see tents and wagons; he rushes to attack the southern group of bandits with his mighty shield. One is decapitated; the shield bounces off, breaks another’s arm, and returns.

“KHAZAD!!” echoes through the land.

The bandits, fearing for their lives, frightened of the dwarf standing in the middle of their camp, flee into the trees and rocks.

Azthrozil, though mighty, feels the weight of the ages, the bones of stone now slow his pursuit.

The bandits, with no sense of honor or goodness, attack Azthrozil but to no avail. Azthrozil’s armor is too mighty, but now they have revealed themselves.

I see Mirodon attack, and shift and swings his bow, now aflame with my talent, into Orhad’s face, singeing his hair and temporarily blinding him.

Orhad attacks again, enraged. Mirodon is hurt

Fjorin moves to the wagon, an oddly undersized wagon, and sees the bandits are up in the tree; ramming the cart into the trunk of the tree, causing the tree to lurch out of its roots, dropping the bandits like so much rotten fruit into the raging Baranduin, sweeping them to the west.

Mirodon commands Orhad to throw down his arms and surrender.


The company regroups with Orhad in tow on the other side of river. Mirodon asks Fjorin to bind Orhad; Orhad acts as though he’s surrender, but Mirodon notices that it is a ruse. Fjorin ties him tightly, I stands with his sword ablaze providing light and a bit of fear.

The sword of Orhad is old, possibly early third age; Azthrozil dismisses it as poor dwarf make, but Mirodon knows that it is an artifact of Númenórean make; a blade from Annúminas The scabbard is more recently made, marked with a rune, near the top, Awarthannem Alurin, meaning “we have forsaken but not forgotten”

Upon consulting Fjorin’s passages from the liriphant are in reference to fallen kingdoms and some refer to Númenor. These passages (and the investigation of the bodies of the hooded watchers) indicate that the makes of the scabbard are Black Númenóreans —those who believe that the mad king of Númenor who offended the Valar was right to do so. Fjorin finds a signet ring, (a Malzayan? signet ring). That Fjorin believes the company can possibly forge. Cirith runes are on the ring, but they are indecipherable.


In the camps, tents, and the wagons, we find a pile of trash and bones (some humanoid) and we find two young hobbits, slightly older than children. The two seem traumatized and hungry, I feeds them, fascinated by this almost legendary race. Their names are Hildegard and Rudigar, a boy and girl. Sweet children from a clearly noble race. They were passing this way with their family moving to Arthedain. How can I tell them that their parents were cannibalized? We determine (under Mirodon’s leadership) to find a fitting home for the children. Azthrozil frightens them. Fjorin demands time to bury the remains, out of a mixture of respect and fear. My desire to help the other races of Middle Earth, and, honestly the novelty of hobbits, causes me to take special interest in the children, creating both small light a fire shows and tricks to amuse them.

Orhad is of that ilk of man who has no confidence in the weakened Númenor governments, those losing control of the fracturing of Arnor. He refuses to talk about the black Númenóreans —we can glean that they promised him to help Make Arnor Great Again.

Mirodon wants to help Orhad see the error of his ways—that there is trouble but that solving it through the black Númenóreans is wrong. Fjorin and Mirodon work Orhad over—the good guard and bad guard routine—Orhad begins to crack, seeing how Arnor could be saved and that his actions were wicked. Azthrozil invokes Durin the Deathless, placing the shard of the crown, compelling him to REPENT! Orhad breaks down and weeps. Finally Mirodon comes to Orhad, trying to push the redemption of Orhad, wanting to teach him a nobler path.


Fjorin and Mirodon push to keep moving, though I favor setting camp to care for the children. As we travel, we discuss my vision, the memory causing me to become nearly sick: the chained figures, the empty throne, the palantir —we piece together that Sauron caused the fall of Númenor by tempting them to worship Melkor; the evil presence seems an echo of a great evil, a servant of one of these defeated dark lords? The black Númenóreans seem to have some allegiance to Melkor or his followers.

Orhad listens with interest, but adds that these people have been going up and down the Greenway, traveling from village to village, making promises to the poor or oppressed; promises for restoration and prosperity. Mirodon dispatches men carrying news of a reward about rumors or leads on these cultists

As we travel the Greenway, we decide to cut across on advice of the dwarf Mirmaedhim (is it Vindal the scout with the braided beard, I think that’s the one), passing through the South Downs, rough hills. We come to a narrow road passing through some cliffs. A tall tree has collapsed and blocked off the road. I thought about shooting a flaming arrow into it, but Fjorin and the Mirmaedhim investigate the log. Azthrozil begins to make his way up the cliffs.

The log, as Fjorin pokes it, begins to move, snake-like, and a hissing voice, “Ahh! Vissitorsss…”

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It didn’t look like this, actually. We’re so very dead…..
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Ugh. I knew I should have set it on fire.

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Call of the Mirmaedhim
From Ered Luin then to Brandywine

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The Mirmaedhim squad had just descended the rocky path, which led to the Lost Luin Death Door where they had awaken Az-thrazil, the enigmatic dwarf somehow locked away in the vault claiming to be from the First Age. Fjorin, leader of the Draug’s Bane Squad had seen a lot of crazy unexplainable things related to magic in Middle-Earth, and yet he had a hard time believing the story told by this so-called “deathless” dwarf. The mystical tattooed writings of the Lîriphant had led him and his small band of mercenaries to the Blue Mountains in search of some “weapon” that would push back the Darkness in the North. And when the vault was opened and the dust settled, instead of some great sword or dragon-bow, there was only a dwarf with a queer shield. Fjorin was somewhat crestfallen. His expectations underwelmed. Could the Valar have been wrong?

It was at the bottom of the rough trail where the Mirmaedhim band were met by a galant man in a regal cloak atop a white mare. The man’s cloak shroud his face with a hood, yet the band knew exactly who was there to greet them. His saddle bore the crest of Cardolan and his cloak the signs of the Dunedain house of Bergilion. Mirodon, the merchant-prince and patron of the Mirmaedhim, deshrouded his hood and wore a great big smile.

“Greetings, friends! I have found you!” Mirodon threw his leg over the hind of his noble mount and demounted. He raced over to the weary band to greet them formally. Fjorin extended his hand to shake, whereas the merchant-prince embraced him as a brother. After clasping in a hearty hug, Mirodon finished by scruffing up Fjorin’s travelling helmet.

“How have you been old friend?” asked the nobleman gleefully. “I hope the Valar have kept you well?”

Fjorin knew Mirodon was not led so strictly by the way of the Valar as he strived to be, but instead respected Fjorin’s beliefs by speaking about them frequently. He was never insincere, though. It allowed Fjorin to be open about his beliefs with his friend and employer. This made Fjorin always feel welcome when in the company of the nobleman.

“The Valar have guided us to you, no doubt.” Fjorin proclaimed. “We are safe and well, sir. By the Valar, what brings you out to greet us? Is Cardolan safe?”

“Cardolan is safe for the time being, master dwarf. Yet, I bring grave news of the nobles of Arthedain. The armies of Angmar have raised a horde of barbarians and are pushing past Arthedain’s defenses toward the watchtower of Amon Sul.”

“Are they requesting the Mirmaedhim to head back to the frontlines? That will certainly cost them an arm and a leg bathed in gold to send us there.”

“No, friend. They say that there is a more important mission for our services.”

“What could be more important than pushing back the armies of Angmar, m’Lord?”

“There is talk that there is one of the forgotten palantir still being kept in Amon Sul.”

“A seeing stone?!”

“The same, Brother Fjorin, the same. This must not fall into the Witchking’s hands. We have been called to the battle, not as soldiers, but as rogues. We are to enter the tower, find the stone, leave without a trace, and carry the artifact to Fornost for better safekeeping.”

Fjorin got the distinct prickling at the back of his neck that he recognized as the changing script of the Lîriphant. He didn’t have to read the fresh writings to know what the Valar were trying to tell him. It wanted him to save the palantir at Amon Sul, and possibly use it to see where the real weapon may be hidden. He didn’t know what Az-thrazil and the palantir had to do with each other, but this prickling meant that he was on the right path.

“We ride then, m’Lord!”

“Errr…I think I should have brought more horses. I knew there was something I was forgetting. But rest assure I have a pretty mîrian worth of spies patrolling these parts, one must know where to obtain six sturdy horses. Well, off we go.”

Mirodon fitted his right foot into his stirrup and threw his left leg over the saddle of his white mare. He turned toward the Brandywine River and started at a steady marching pace. Fjorin in military fashion quickly briefed his men, then called the order for them to fall in and keep up with their patron. Hopefully that farm they had past just East of Brandywine Bridge on their way to the Blue Mountains would have a handful of horses.

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Paths
On the road to Amon Sul

Mirodon had seen a lot of orphans in recent years. That fact made it no easier to look upon the two hobbit children huddled close together in their wagon, still clinging to one another. These poor children had suffered a loss that no children should be forced to endure, but was all too common in Cardolan in these dark days. It was up to him to find them a new home—a place where they could feel safe, be loved, and prosper in spite of what they had endured. That was, as a great many things, easier said than done, Mirodon mused. Yet, he was resolved that it would be done.

Orhad, too, thought of the children. He occasionaly glanced at them, but quickly averted his eyes each time he did. Guilt and remorse haunted his countenance. It was clear that the full weight of his deeds had come to rest upon his conscience. He had chosen to follow the Black Ones, those servants of Angmar, and perhaps he would never truly be free from the scars that service had inflicted. Yet, Mirodon reflected, the words of Fjorin and, indeed, his own words had a profound effect on the wayward Cardolan soldier. Orhad was changed. The realization and regret of his misdeeds was the first step on the path toward righting the wrongs he had committed in their service. He had taken his first steps on that path.

There was a lesson here; a warning. Mirodon shared many of Orhad’s concerns about Cardolan’s governance. In many ways he himself embodied its conflicts and turmoil. He understood what was at stake. No matter how bleak things appeared, there was always a right way. The ends did not justify all means. The path trod was no less important than the destination to which it led. How could one expect to create a better world through evil? It was impossible. He needed to remain mindful of that, Mirodon realized. Sometimes the right choice could become obscured behind the veil of suffering caused by the shadow.

Ahead, the trail twisted and led into a ravine. Another path opening before them. What choices would face them here, Mirodon wondered. The company marched on.

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Dwarvish Dilemma
Fjorin in Rivendell

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A haven of elves despite its lavishnesses is no roosting place for a dwarf. And so it was that Fjorin itched for adventure beyond the sharp steep moss-laden ravines of Rivendell. It was not as if Lord Elrond was keeping the intrepid Longbeard from leaving. On the contrary, he had been very hospitable to his guest’s accomadations. Fjorin simply felt—stuck. Despite his fearless character (a result of the protections the Three Fëanturi gave to him when they fused his soul with the sacred book of Eregion, the Lîriphant) Fjorin had somewhat of a superstition passed down through the blood of Durin that ran through his veins preventing him from crossing the threshold of Elrond’s Gates. His irrational belief was based in a Khuzdul saying that no solo dwarf should ever go into the world alone save until the Great Eagle, also called Soronúmë in Quenya tongue, seizes Durin’s Crown rising it above the Peaks of Durubath. This is to say—never. This superstition was reinforced the day before he came to the Grey Haven when Molorath the Lindwirm laid waste to his kinsmen. So each night the young child of Aulë would watch the twilight skies and stare at the nigh motionless stars of the Great Eagle waiting for the constellation to swoop across the sky to converge with Durin’s Crown. It was a hopeless cause for an adventurer needing a companion to be surrounded by a hive of indifferent isolationists. But a warrior never gives in to doubt, and a pious dwarf never gives up hope. Fjorin was both. He did not know how, but he knew the Fëanturi had a plan for him.

After an odious day of studies trying desparately to learn Quenya and Sindarin so that he could transcribe the words of the Lîriphant imbedded in his skin, the young dwarf needed some fresh air. Some real fresh air away from all the wispy rose and wafty mirrh scents that aided in elvish meditation. Fjorin desired to smell the earth, the wet musky odors of fresh mud and brisk sweet bitters of ferns and moss. He wanted to hear the stern crushing sounds of broken rocks and fractalized gravel beheath his boots. And he longed to feel the crisp fuzz of morning dew that settled in from the groves of nettled pines. No more elvish chamber music, but to hear the far distant echoes of nothingness harmonizing with the stark shrills of a love-struck morning dove.

Fjorin burst out of Elrond’s hall of academia and bolted up the flagstone path for the Gates. His body flung into a lurched stop dead in front of the threshold of Rivendell. His heart beat hard and his pulse pound through his temples. The words of the Khuzdul warning coursed through his mind. Beyond the Gates he could feel the world and all of the intricacies and creations of Aulë’s hand pulling at him to leave Rivendell behind. He closed his eyes and prayed for a sign from the Valar. As he stood there torn between these two worlds, it seemed as if the whole world of Middle-Earth were passing away around him. There was silence—utter silence. He felt peaceful. Suddenly, off in the distance with his eyes still closed Fjorin heard the soothing shrill of a male morning-dove. He opened his eyes ready to take the step, but found that he was no longer at Elrond’s Gates, but somewhere just off the Grey Path and up the way from Rivendell. He was surrounded by hidden creatures revealed only by the gentle noises they made. He could feel the closeness of the spirits of the trees and the elements as they moved with the sweet mist-filled breeze swirling through the deciduous leaves and needles of nettled pines. His mind felt free.

Why had I not done this before? Thought the dwarf as he soaked up every essence of revelry. He took a few steps up a steep grass-flocked hillock when he spotted an elk. As he studied the grace and power of the creature from a distance, he tried to recall its elvish name—belenaras—wait no, belegaras. That’s right belegaras. He recalled the story of Raissuithoron, taught to him by Elrond himself:

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Raisuithoron whose massive antlers grew and grew. He was a prize that all wanted to capture. Many of the Avari elves tried to hunt the great stag to no avail. They scoffed and said the beast was unslayable, even the skillful Oromë could not slay the beast. Hearing this, Oromë felt his honor as the Huntsman was in jeopardy and took to the trail in search of Raissuithoron. It did not take long to find the massive elk. Oromë notched his arrow and let it fly. The great elk attempted to evade the hunter’s arrow by sprinting into a bramble of dense thorns and out running it through an open meadow. But the arrow followed the beast where ever it went. Soon, the beast tired of running. The arrow caught the great elk in the breast piercing its heart. When Oromë found the elk, it lay dying in the meadow. It was at this point Oromë was grieved for having maimed this magnificient creature. He pled with Yavanna who chanced to be walking the meadow, asking the forest Vala to give life back to the fallen stag. Yavanna had compassion on the repentant huntsman, and blessed the stag. From the elk’s horns grew a grove of tall oaks, that later became know as the Ivory Oak Grove a part of the Old Forest near the feet of the Blue Mountains. From the blood which poured from the beast’s chest came a spring which flowed a stream of pure water. The waters became known as the Faronîr River and the spring the Pool of Aelinaras.

Fjorin watched the gentle elk eat a patch of sherry green clover and stalks of sweet lissuin. Suddenly the graceful beast erected its neck as if startled by something. Fjorin intentionally minded his breathing and movement so as not to scare the creature away. The elk’s ears stood straight up and turned toward the dwarf’s direction. The dwarf noted the breeze was against his face signifying he was down wind from the elk. What then was alarming the beast? At that moment Fjorin’s arm stung with pain. His forearm burned as if a hot iron had crawled up his sleeve and proceeded to smelt his flesh. His first thought was it was a nasty beetle or nagdeleb. He pulled the sleeve of his tunic back to reveal what had stung him. But instead of an insect, the dwarf saw only a word forming in the mystical ink of the Lîriphant. D-R-E-G-O…if only he could instantly recall the teachings of Elrond and his retinue. Was it the Sinadrin word for ‘Battle!’…no, that is Dagro…drego?, drego?…what was the translation?! What was the Lîriphant trying to tell him. The pain intensified on his forearm. The mighty elk at that moment bolted for the cover of the wooded draw of the hillock. Fjorin suddenly remembered the Sindarin word! It meant ‘Run!’ Run?! Why run? Why did the Lîriphant want him to know this word?

A deep guttural growl emanating behind the puzzled dwarf immediately sent a chill down his spine like putting on a cold shirt of mail direct upon his warm flesh. Fjorin’s flight or fight emotions kicked in. Had he not immediately came from the academia hall, he may have been carrying his bladed mace, Horn-Cleaver. In fact, he may have been even clad with the fairings of some dwarvish chainmail, good for most occasions of battle. But, as it was he was merely dressed in a coarse cotton tunic, a twill woven jerkin, leather breeches and a broad leather belt. The words of the Lîriphant were now quite resolute—RUN! He bolt over a fallen pine and made a voracious sprint to the Grey Road down the hillock.

Its a good thing dwarves are natural sprinters, thought the dwarf. Without his armor and heavy melee weaponry, he actually wasn’t doing too bad. He could hear something massive and snarling pounding the trail behind him. He darted under a leaning log just before a huge maw full of teeth snapped his ear off! The low log forced Fjorin into a half crawl. He scrambled back to his feet as the log cracked and wained under the weight of the colossal predator. It was at that moment that Fjorin looked back to see what was trying to devour him. Atop the leaning pine he saw what looked like a mix between the body of a wolf, the head of a shorn lion and the shoulders and haunches of a bear. Fjorin had never seen this creature before, but it did not mean he did not recognize it. He had heard tales and stories from dwarves of Khazad-dum who had travelled the Grey Mountains in the north, tales of the vicious wargs. The warg leapt from its perch sending the log crashing down from the powerful force of the beast’s upward ascent. Fjorin rolled to his right narrowly missing the beast’s landing. The collapsed log lurched into a dangerous roll behind them.

Fjorin again fought to get his feet under him and get into a run. Clawing the roots and shrubs with his hands for more traction he managed to get himself vertical and running down the hill again. An out cropped root caught his foot sending the unlucky dwarf cartwheeling head over heels painfully down the hill. As the world was spinning dizzily round and round, Fjorin thought he saw more than one warg surrounding is inimical tumble down the hill. Though he was unsure if this was the same warg seen distortedly over and over as he reeled in a headlong plummet. His descent agonizingly continued till he rolled into a barrow pit hitting the opposite bank with an abrupt stop knocking out his wind. The rolling log nearly took off Fjorin’s head as it rolled right over the pit and took flight over the Grey Road with a distant smash and further crashing down the continued slope on the other side of the road.

Fjorin was completely disoriented struggling to breathe. A sharp ringing was in his inner ear, and the world kept spinning. He fought the urge to black out, as he feared he would never wake if he lost consciousness. He found himself again trying to get to his feet. This time his arms and legs were beginning to swell with pain and bruises. He felt a large gash on his right arm with sticky crimson blood pouring from the wound. The knowledge of losing blood caused his stomach to turn, his head became light and uneasy. He collapsed back to the ground from his half succesful stand. From his crumpled position he watched as four hungry wargs’ heads appeared over the barrow pit with rows of sharp teeth dripping with saliva.

Unable to move and hear, struggling to see and breathe, Fjorin lay helpless to defend himself as the wargs drew closer. The blackness taking over his vision increased. Before he could see no more one of the four wargs lunged at him. Yet, to his surprise as the blackness took over, he felt nothing. He still felt all the aches and bruises about his body, so he couldn’t be dead. But he had no idea what came after the warg attacked, due to the ringing and pounding in his ears and head. He just lay there motionless pondering what could be happening. Gradually, the ringing lessened, but only enough to allow him to recognize some sort of commotion happening. At one point he felt a great heat near his face. He swore he heard a henious yelp just before a flesh-like mass collapsed heavily on his left leg and hip. The trench became embroiled in an acrid noisomeness of burning hairs and charred flesh. The waft of unpleasant fumes caused the dwarf to awake from his deprecation of senses. His awareness returned. He now could see one of the wargs lying lifeless on top of his leg a blackened arrow with flaming fletching still on fire prodruding from the beast’s right lung. Flashes of light burst from just out of direct sight over the bank of the barrow pit’s ridge.

Fjorin with renewed strength managed to push the dead warg from his leg. He began to crawl out of the trench to get a look at the commotion. Upon peaking his head over the ridge, his hand grasping the outcropping roots blistered with pain. The ink of the Lîriphant formed the Sindarin word danno!, duck! Not wishing to be insolent twice in not heeding it warning, Fjorin fell back into the pit just as a lithe blade bathed in fire careened through the air narrowly missing his scalp.

Breathing heavy, and not knowing whether to move after nearly losing his head to a flaming sword, Fjorin anxiously looked around for anything he could use as a weapon. His fingers pawed a large loose root which he broke free. Under his heavy breathing he counted to three after which he planned to spring from his trench and lay seige upon this new threat. 1-2-3! He leapt up, club in hand only to be apprehended by a tall elf.

“Whoa there little man! Are you always so agressively rude to your saviors?” The elf easily disarmed the dwarf’s makeshift club, then freed the dwarf so as to show that he was not a threat. Fjorin relieved but still confused looked around to account for the four wargs.

‘Do you inquire of the draugrim?’ The elf asked. ‘If so, they are dead. You are welcome. Excuse me.’ He reached around Fjorin to take hold of his blade now embedded in the chest of a dead warg no longer flaming.

Fjorin still was too exhausted to speak, though he managed to get out something that sounded like a grumble.

‘I apologize for nearly taking your head there. I truly had no idea you were there. I had been tracking this pack that had come down from the north. It is unusual for draugrim to travel so near Rivendell.’

Fjorin still speechless.

‘You have little to say, dwarf. I like that! I am Aethor.’

‘You of Rivendell?’

‘Ah! So it does speak! And Elvish at that!’

Fjorin grumbled again starting to regain his strength and sense of pride.

‘In short, yes’, continued the elf. ‘But it has not been permanent nor will it be. I go there now, is that where you are headed? You know they don’t quite welcome the Stunted Folk. But, I will accompany you the way if you wish. Wouldn’t want another draugrim to pick up your scent.’

Somewhat annoyed by the elf’s arrogance, Fjorin mumble some disdain. But Fjorin was used to this behavior from the elves from living many months in Rivendell. He knew that given time, most elves were honorable and had good intentions. Unfortunately, many dwaves didn’t have the lifespan long enough or the patiences strong enough to wade through the years of arrogance. But Fjorin was not a normal dwarf, he was freakishly covered in elvish tomes and spoke Sindarin and bits of Quenya. Furthermore, the Fëanturi gave him an uncanny ability to inspire people, even when he was being a brooding dwarf. Elves were no exception. So, Fjorin accepted Aethor’s invitation to walk the Grey Road to Rivendell. Along the way, he learned that Aethor was orphanned and sent to Rivendell, too. Aethor was ready for adventure to leave Rivendell.

As the unlikely pair walked, Fjorin looked down at a tingling pricking on his hand near his left thumb. He saw the word mellyn written in the mysterious ink of the Lîriphant, Sindarin—for friend. Fjorin knew at that point that all of this craziness was all to answer his prayer to the Valar. He knew he now could leave Rivendell and quest for adventure. The Fëanturi had sent a travel companion so he would not have to wait for the Great Eagle to traverse the night sky. And even though he was heading back to the elvish haven, he felt freed.

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A Prime Introduction
The Acquaintance of Mirodon and Nimari

nimari.jpg

Nimari sneered as she watched her target, certain that she had found him only after he opened the sealed parchment delivered by the dwarven soldier. She knew at once that the man was Mirodon Bergilion by the suddenly noble bearing on his countenance and the decisive answer which he gave to the dwarf once he had finished reading the message’s contents. Her target clapped the dwarf on the shoulder and the two exchanged words and a laugh. This was him, then. Three wasted days.

She would have hardly believed this man was her target had she not seen it with her own eyes. A trusted functionary as she assumed? Yes. A Merchant-Prince? Hardly. He didn’t dress in the ostentatious finery of the merchants of Tharbad, nor in the more subtle courtly attire of Ost Erindyrn. He hardly looked any different than a common traveler. He seldom gave orders to those around him, but instead made polite requests. He acted the role of a guest in this town rather than the owner of several of it’s more lucrative enterprises. Her target was not haughty, arrogant, cruel, nor entitled. He did not command respect, but it was given to him freely. Why?

She had found the man easily and had been following him for several days now, sure that he would lead her to his cowardly master hiding away from his enemies. She had watched him as he met with various craftsmen, oversaw work on a small dam along a nearby waterway, bartered goods in the local market, all while she waited for him to lead her to her true target. Now she felt a fool. She had wasted precious time. She felt as if she had been tricked. Anger welled up inside her. For that, Mirodon Bergilion would die slowly.

The message she had had delivered was a false one, sealed with a stolen signet ring that it’s previous owner had died to protect. It would lead her target straight to his death. Her sneer shifted to a scowl at how easy it had been. Disappointing. How could this man be the one causing her father so much vexation? Lord Ilkhor had been clear: Mirodon Bergilion must die. Her father’s will would be done.


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“Ohtar, I have come. What is so urgent that…” The fool must have sensed something because he began to draw his sword. It didn’t matter. She was on him before he could react. In three quick strikes he was on his back with his sword spinning harmlessly along the floor. Pitiful. She raised her blade to deliver the killing stroke.

An armored barrel crashed into her with jarring force and she just managed to avoid an axe blow which would have separated her jaw from the rest of her face. The dwarf had overextending himself. He had missed his opportunity. She would not. Nimari spun using the momentum of her dodge and slid her blade deftly between the gap in the armor underneath the dwarf’s arm. The dwarf gave a painful scream and crumpled. He wasn’t dead, but he would be momentarily.

“No,” her target shouted as she raised her blade to finish the dwarf. “No! Not him. Me. You came for my life. Take it, but spare his.”

She turned to catch her target’s eyes with her own. She wasn’t sure why. Everything she had learned in her life told her it was a bad idea, but she did it anyway.

His eyes held no fear. He did not cower, or beg. He did not offer riches for his life as all men did, though he had much more than most. He met her gaze defiantly. Hurried footsteps rumbled like thunder from nearby. The fool would get his wish if only due to necessity.

She crossed the room into two quick strides, snatched his head back with her gloved fist, and placed her blade at his throat.

He continued to meet her gaze. She had to give it to him. He played the noble soul right up until the end. But he wasn’t so noble. He was a madman and a fool. Who else could squander such power? This man who had been given so much and earned more? He didn’t lord his power, his status. He…shared it. She had seen it with her own eyes. Such a man didn’t deserve what he had been given…did he?

“You don’t want to do this,” he said calmly. He was not pleading. He said it as plainly as one might report the weather. But he was wrong. She did want to kill him. He had to die. For being such a fool and because it was Ilkhor’s will. Her father’s will must be done. It didn’t matter how warm this man was on her skin. Nimari glanced down. His left hand rested on her right. When had he moved? Why could she feel the warmth of his touch even through her gloves? He didn’t grip her or try to pull the sword away from his throat. Her grip on the hilt tightened. He did not look away. Outside the footsteps continued to thunder. Now was her last chance. He had to die.

Nimari screamed in anger and drove her boot into the man’s stomach with as much force as she could muster. He doubled over and very nearly vomited. She added one more kick for good measure just as a tattooed dwarf with a gleaming axe charged through the door. Nimari bolted for the window and disappeared into the night, but not without one final glance behind her. Not at the dwarf hot on her heels, but at the man lying in a heap trying, defiantly, to rise.


“Been sharin’ sheets that you shouldn’t ’ave?,” Fjorin asked him later.

“Excuse me,” Mirodon replied caught off guard by the question.

“Play innocent if you want, laddie, but there’s only one reason a woman looks at you like that,” the dwarf answered.

Mirodon shook his head hardly believing what the dwarf was implying, “Even with the mask, I’m sure I’ve never met that woman before.”

“I’d be willing to bet you’ll be meeting her again,” Fjorin added.

Mirodon placed a hand protectively over his bruised ribs and abdomen, “I think I am going to take you up on that mail coat you’ve been trying to get me to wear.”

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Prologue
Last Days of Arnor

Annuminas

Five hundred and forty-eight years ago, our nation was broken.

Earendur, tenth and last king of Arnor as a united realm, died. Annuminas, city of the kings of the North, lay decaying and forsaken. Amlaith, the true heir, was betrayed by his brothers, who shattered the kingdom into three lesser states.

Today, the wounds of that civil war still bleed.

Cardolan in the south is overrun by petty merchant-princes and mercenaries. Rhudaur in the east is lost to the Hill-men under the sway of Angmar.

In our heartland, Arthedain, the line of true kings rules from the citadel at Fornost. Despite the strength of our walls and towers along the Weather Hills, and the valor of our captains who stand against the pressing darkness, few would say that our lands are safe.

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