A tale by Brathodir (Taerandor)
An Adventure in Fornost: Part 1 – Wraith of Water
Our story begins in the Prancing Pony of Bree. It was a normal, rainy day; a quiet day for the company of three. The ale was cold and frothing; the light dim with only the wood and bronze chandelier to discretely illuminate the room. The mood was set for a slow-paced evening. The waitress arrived with three new mugs of ale for the table: the table where it all began.
Slightly drunk in part ale and part boredom, Sohori reached for the newly arrived mug, removed the top skim, and took a heavy sip: somehow she managed to drink ale like a man and still uphold her feminine grace. A Minstrel’s power goes beyond that of a lute and a song. Taerandor, however, did not hold his ale the same way. Years of service in the Army of Gondor amongst equal men had given him a more raw way of handling alcohol. Yet our Captain, Cymran, had not touched his new round of ale. He looked slightly resentful down at the not-so-innocent beverage that had caused quite a scene not too many days ago. He looked up shifting his eyes between Sohori and Taerandor:
“There must be something else the three of us can do besides sitting here getting drunk”, he uttered. The Minstrel and Guardian looked up and simply let go of their mugs: “Yes, there has to be!”, Sohori followed and Taerandor, if not for the heavy beard, looked just as enthusiastic for something more interesting… like a fight! “Yes! What do you have in mind?” Taerandor asked Cymran. A subtle but noticeable smile appeared in his lips as he began: “There is an old city in North Downs or more specifically the former capital destroyed by the Witch-King of Angmar”, he said and followed eerily by the whispers “stories has it that it now is a ruin infested with orcs and fell beings.” Though nothing had changed, the atmosphere seemed darker around the table at which the three had gathered for an evening of mild drinking and rough storytelling. The company of three agreed upon the quest of Fornost, the haunted capital of North Downs, in seek of Legends, fame, and fortune.
The Three paved their way through muddied road and stopped at Trestlebridge. They had been riding for two days straight, with only a few moments of rest – for such is the eagerness of Legends. Trestlebridge, a border town that connected the Bree-lands and North Downs, could not offer much as they had their own perils to deal with. A few rations richer and a good night of rest the three set out to continue their journey towards Fornost.
This particular part of North Downs did not see any rain… or life for that matter. Only barghests and bats occupied the wilds in which the company had ventured into. It was cold, dark, and yet a slightly damp road to travel. They saw neither friend nor foe, and the further they rode the darker and more dead it felt. “We must be getting close to Fornost”, Sohori said. Taerandor and Cymran shared a look that only fellow men can witness when a woman is close: it was the look of two men agreeing upon the protection of this fragile being. Sohori looked at the two men: “What?” she said confused. “Nothing,” Cymran replied. Taerandor and Cymran shifted their gaze towards the cold, dead lands – and the gates of Fornost in the distance.
The three crossed the threshold of evil and they all felt it. Their senses crippled them all: The cursed and the dead did not let the three forget the difference between life and death. Sohori sang a few lines of a verse that would rally the spirits of the dreaded company:
Home is the hearth of the living and free
The Curse of the dead holds no dread of thee
Raise and be strong, show will, and move on
The time of the Legends will never be undone
With morale raised, with neither dread nor doubt in heart, they went through the outer ruins of the city towards what would seem like the entrance to the city. “Hold,” Taerandor said in a low, but strong voice. Stones tumbled down the walls and hit the stairwell before them. “We’re not alone”. Taerandor raised his shield in defense; Cymran took ahold his mighty halberd and took place behind the Guardian. The formation had proved to be quite effective against many foes. Two orcs leapt down from the wall and ran towards the men. Ready as they were, they noticed Sohori jumping past them to attack the two orcs head on. With her strong, piercing voice she forced the first orc to fall and with quick parry and riposte she penetrated the thick hide of the second orc and decapitated it. She steadily paced towards the orc on the ground, brimming with light and confidence, and pierced the body with her sword finishing it off. She cleaned her blade on the loincloth of the slain orc and looked back at the two men: “You coming?” The Guardian and the Captain both shared another look that only men can share: That woman!
The company of three pushed onwards and slew one orc after another, climbing the stairs of the outer parts of Fornost. They reached a tall, wooden gate which had been strongly fortified with beams of metal. It was guarded by a goblin, huge for its kind accompanied by small and more ordinary goblins. The Goblin Guard named Zhurmat denied the three access. However, the giant goblin was still just a goblin and charged the three with all its fury and hunger for flesh. The three formed the formation and warded off the first wave of goblins, slaying them easily. Zhurmat summoned more and more goblins to aide him in his combat. The three struggled with Zhurmats heavy blows and the goblin was well trained in the arts of melee combat. It parried the blows of both Taerandor and Cymran and retaliated in kind. It seemed impossible to deal with this strength and speed. “DO NOT GIVE UP!” Sohori cried out, “keep pushing him, keep hitting him.” The chant of Sohori’s speech bolstered the strength of the two and they overcame the challenge that was Zhurmat. It was a tough fight but victory felt good nonetheless.
Strange, muffled sounds came from beyond one of the gates that closed off the pens. Taerandor and Cymran bashed in the wooden gate to find a tied up old lady. Sohori quickly passed the two, who now had stationed themselves as lookouts while she tended the old lady. “She’s fine,” Sohori said. “What is your name, old lady?” Taerandor asked while he sheathed his sword and placed his shield against the wooden pen-wall. The old age of Taerandor and his well-experienced commander’s voice made the old lady mumble the first few words “… Oakheart”. The old lady Oakheart managed to get herself together, pick up her walking cane and started not walking, but running off! “We have to save the others!” she yelled Sohori and Cymran quickly followed her – she seemed a lot faster and a lot stronger than her old age would otherwise indicate. Strange…
Oakheart opened another pen to reveal a horde of crabain, black ravenlike birds and a lot more vicious. The birds started attacking encircling the Captain, the Minstrel, and the old lady. It seemed impossible to deal with: They both had to keep up their guards to defend themselves while also protecting Oakheart from the flying menace. Hard as it was, they managed to hit one bird to the ground killing it in the process, followed by another – but there were too many to deal with, when they heard the bestial wrathlike voice of Taerandor, taunting the birds to attack him. The crabain shifted their focus from the small group to the strong Tower-like person. The crabain’s attack had little effect against the plated heavy armour and the shield that gave him a similar protection to that of the walls of Gondor which surrounds the entire city. As the horde of flying creatures aimed for Taerandor, both Cymran and Sohori could focus on pressing the attack – and so they did. The long reach of the halberd and Sohori’s voice slew birds upon birds until the area around them looked black covered in feathers and the remains of their enemies.
Oakheart sighed in relief and went to push onwards towards the next pen. She forced it open and greeted the crowd of civilians that had been caught travelling too close to Fonorst. They tried their best to escape but a pack of orcs and wolves cut them off before they reached the stairs. Taerandor passed the crowd of civilians, trading places with them to be in the front and fray of battle. Quickly Sohori and Cymran followed and engaged the wolves. Cymrans long halberd swung from above and cleaved the poor wolf right next to Taerandor. Blood gushed out of the wolf and hit Taerandor. The second wolf went for Sohori, but without much trouble she dodged the attack turned around placed the edge of her sword in the back. The wolf howled and died. Both orcs pushed Taerandor who had to defend from both angles. A swift parry and strike, forced one orc to falter, which resulted in his death: a gigantic halberd smashed in the skull of the orc. Taerandor blocked an attack, heaved his sword from ground up in diagonal of the orc and sliced the chest, followed by a heavy and very powerful shieldbash. The neck and spine snapped and the orc fell to the ground.
Heavy breathing was once thing the company of three had in common. They quickly pulled out something to eat and drink – anything to give the Legends a little strength for the fight ahead. With food still partly unchewed and they all took one heavy sip of water, swallowed, and headed for the two fiercly looking uruks.
The two big uruks were unlike any previous orc-kind they had come across. They both were heavily armoured and metal spikes rose from the shoulderpads. They realized quickly that these two uruks were used to fighting together and were not to be underestimated. Taerandor and Cymran nodded in agreement that this was going to require more than just heavy hits and and strikes. Taerandor charged the orcs and was followed by Cymran who tried to flank the uruk to the right. Shield locked in position and sword readied for a sting to a vital point, he enclosed the uruk – the uruk kicked out and hit Taerandor’s shield directly, which incapacitated Taerandor for a brief moment, potentially long enough for the other uruk to deal the finishing blow. Both uruks raised their cleavers and went for the Guardian. Cymrans polearm intercepted the uruk to the right and tje loudest, meanest, toughest piercing cry forced the uruk to the left back. The sheer force and power knocked the uruk off its feet which gave Taerandor enough time to get back up, and shake off the blow. Both uruks attacked at the same, which proved for Taerandor to be quite the challenge to parry and block. Swiftly his sword met the uruk’s cleaver and sends the blow flying in another direction, whilst his shield blocked the other attack. He followed the combo by ducking which gave Cymran all the space to heave his halberd sideways and decapitated both uruks on the spot. Their bodies fell heavily to the ground in what was, for the three, perceived as the slowest way to fall. Baffled at the combination of blocks and strikes, Cymran and Taerandor roared in might and pride. They did not believe the strength the three possessed. They truly felt legendary – what a memorable moment it was!
The three Legends, as they came to be known, were short on restitution and supplies. They set up camp near the gate where Zhurmat had guarded. They had moved the corpses inside a pen and closed it off. With Cymran on guard, Taerandor and Sohori could rest. They realized that a three man fellowship would each person need to take at least two hours on guard while the rest get 4 hours of sleep before they headed out – it was not optimal but they had to make do.
The cold evening weather started to freeze up and restlessness beyond the gate stirred in the night. Was it the fell beings? Was it the undead that finally had shown up? The three rose from their meal, armed themselves with their faithful weaponry and pried open the gate. They saw what appeared to be some courtyard but with puddles of water. It sounded like the water is discretely buzzing. In the distance they saw the undead, the cursed ones. “How do we deal with them?” both Cymran and Sohori asked. “In my youth the Sentinels of the White Tree were sent to investigate and ascertain the truth behind the crypts and Barrows in Bree-lands. We came upon combination of light and fire which would engulf the metal of the weapons. I brought some oil to smear on and then we just have to light it.” Taerandor handed out the skins with oil and they prepaired for combat with the undead.
Taerandor led the charge. They slashed, smashed, and set the dead aflame. They dodged, parried, and blocked the fell one’s comeback. It felt like every slain dead brought to more forth from the shadows. They quickly and desperately chopped through the undead like an army of woodsmen chopped and felled the trees of a forest to sustain their lives. It made no difference. The undead were truly cursed and the three seemed doomed for combat until they tire out.
“Taerandor, look! Notice the green and blue shades in the shadow?” Cymran yelled while aggressively defending against two undead beings. “Why do they not attack us?” Sohori asked while struggling with another two undead. Taerandor set his opponent on fire and sprinted towards a blue undead that had noticed him, he leapt for an attack from above its head assisted with a piercing cry from Sohori. The fell being dissipated before their eyes along with the other the majority of shadows that had attacked them. Only one green and one blue shade remained. Sohori made another well-aimed piercing cry while Cymran pressed an attack, stabbed the blue shade and set it on fire, and spun around, and shattered the last remaining shade. It dissipated with a blast. The door was unlocked.
They opened the two doors and entered a building. Both directions led to the center of the room behind a wall that divided the interior in two. The first room was circular and a hallway led to what would appear to be the last room. A shade that twisted and distorted the area around it stared at them from beyond. “Come… closer”, it said. The wraith was armoured and the links between each piece of armour looked like water. The three entered the room to see that the layout consisted of four walls, and larger areas with deep water. “Who are you?” Cymran demanded. The wraith collapsed and vanished before them – and reappeared next to Cymran. It whispered “Your death”. A loud scream followed by a wave force that shattered two walls opposite of each other: The room just became three times as big! The wave force had pushed Taerandor into the water and due to the weight of the armour, he could barely hold on to the slippery floor. Cymran reached for him and pulled him up. Meanwhile Sohori had engaged the wraith on her own. Her war shouts and cries affected the wraith, but were not enough to finish it off. Before she could reach for the wraith, it vanished and reappeared in the far opposite end of the room. Cymran was closest to the wraith and swung his halberd with all his might – the wraith was forced to flee. Taerandor charged and swung his blade from atop his head to slash the wraith – it vanished once more. It reappeared close to Cymran, who had figured out the pattern and just very easily stabbed behind her – where the wraith had just appeared to accept the end of its existence.
The darkness of the room lifted and the Legends felt once more their lungs with air.
Back at Trestlebridge, the Captain, the Minstrel and the Guardian were welcomed with open arms. It looked a little less dark here, didn’t it? They received a mug of Trestlebridge’s finest ale. Once more did the sit around a table drinking alcohol. Cymran laughed.
So ended the Legends tale of the Wraith of Water.