7 – The Storm Breaks

 

The Battle of Maethelburg

Aelindur dispatches the equine virus with strict instructions to her contacts in Edoras, then she flies in vampire form secretly into the north, carefully avoiding Lorien and the watchful Eagles. Using the Ulûkai over several weeks, she gathers Orcs from scattered tribes across the north into a horde to march down the Anduin valley.

As the Goblins march south Aelindur ventures north into Mount Gundabad and meets Throkmaw. The cunning Dragon guesses who she might be, her ancestry and her recent endeavours. In a mighty battle of minds Aelindur attempts to enthral and ensorcel the Dragon, whilst at the same time the mighty Wyrm plants a Dragon doom upon the Queen of Shadows: her endeavour “will be blind to the future but her fate is truly without light”. Aelindur’s spell of domination is unsuccessful and she flees the wrathful dragon. She has failed to stir Throkmaw out of Gundabad but learned much from the encounter.

maethelburg-locationAelindur glides down the Langwell to Framsburg where she finds the slumbering Hyarleuca. The spawn of Scatha is less than subtle and falls under Aelindur’s enchantment. She bedevils him south towards Maethelburg, the fishing-village-come-border-fortress north of the Carrock.

The moment the inhabitants of Maethelburg had been dreading has arrived. The dragon horn is sounded- Hyarleuca is spotted by lookouts at sunset heading directly towards the town. Maethelburg is alerted and Elfwine (Éomer’s son) immediately sends a squadron of horsemen out of the town. They have orders to attack the beast from the rear if at all possible, or warn of the town’s fall. Aelindur alights in a wood not far from the burg. Her magic panics the defenders and a spilled oil jug starts a fire that disables one of the ballistae. Radagast detects the use of sorcery and sends out avian messengers to nearby allies. The cavalry outside attempt to charge the Dragon but the horses shy away. Hyarleuca wriggles snake-like across the swamp allowing only two harmless volleys of arrows from the garrison before the beast is upon the fortress.

maethelburg-mapThe gate and tower shatter easily under Hyarleuca’s weight and he rushes inside hurling men left and right. The guard scatter in terror but the two surviving ballistae turn inward. A shot punches sideways through the Dragon’s face putting out one of his baleful eyes. He roars, tearing the machines apart. The Dragon fails to notice Elfwine and a lance of Rohirrim who are mounted and ready within the first tier. They charge the beast and drive their spears deep and hard. The Dragon writhes and swats most of the horsemen to red ruin, but Elfwine veers away, pivots his horse and returns to charge again. The Wyrm is clawing at the spears stuck in its side when Elfwine’s barrow lance impales the other slitted eye. The son of Éomer is torn apart as Hyarleuca’s terrible howl echoes up the Anduin Valley. The Dragon has been blinded.

Hyarleuca blunders his way out of Maethelburg. The Wyrm wriggles towards the mountains screaming and roaring in pain and loss. The Eagles swoop down and try to slay the Drake, but after the frantically thrashing beast knocks one down and shreds the bird, they leave the sightless Wyrm be. The defenders of the town have but an hour to recover when the Goblins are sighted.

goblins-attackAelindur’s Orc horde pours out of the woods to the north. Herumal, the 2nd in command, assisted by Radagast, orders carts drawn across the broken gate. High up in their eyrie the Eagles have seen them coming but the Orcs are prepared for the birds. They carry bows with poisoned or flaming arrows and also lug barrels of oil which billow thick smoke further deterring the Eagles. The Goblin folk invest the small town at sunset and shoot flaming arrows over the walls.

Maethelburg catches fire and the haggard garrison cannot hold the broken gate for long. They soon retreat upslope to the second wall. Goblins swarm into the smoking town and assail the next palisade. Aelindur’s magicks crack the second gate, (Radagast is able to prevent it shattering) and it is broken asunder before midnight when an armoured Troll proves unstoppable. Many men die in the retreat to the third battlement.

Elfwine’s cavalry outside the wall have been insufficient to attack the Orcs but now they are joined by a lathered contingent of elvish horse patrolling from Lorien. The Rohirrimoutside-the-wall and Galadrim charge and drive off the mob outside the walls then enter via the broken outer gate. Riding around the circular track they hew many an Orc. Beorn the Younger swims the Anduin and joins the attack. Most of the Goblins don’t realise it is only a small force and panic, fleeing over the walls into the night. Beorn runs amuck inside the second wall slaughtering all the Orcs who remain. In a grim single combat, the hammer-wielding Troll badly wounds the skinchanger but is himself disembowelled by the savage bear.

By dawn Aelindur has rallied the Orcs. They camp outside the walls during the day. Beorning and Northman reinforcements cross the river and bolster the garrison. The Orcs make another attempt the following evening but this time are unable to pass the second wall. Aelindur senses the presence of Radagast and decides not to force the issue. She shrugs and lets the Goblins disperse. The High Pass and the Dwarf road remain open. Maethelburg is little more than a smoking hill with blackened walls, but it holds. The mountains nearby echo to the awful sound of Hyarleuca’s suffering, earning the area the appellation ‘Blind-Worms Bluff’.

Aelindur is exhausted from her mental battle with Hyarleuca but now knows she can reposition individual Dragons. Flying south to assist the Dunlending revolt, the Queen of Shadows notes a hue and cry in Lorien but dare not stray near to smirk at what goes on…

Webs in Lorien

The monstrous spider child of Shelob, Enna San Serab, escaped the fall of Dol Guldur at the end of the 3rd age. She fled north east to a bleak canyon in the Mountains of Mirkwood. After the Queen of Shadows invoked the Ulûkai the great spider becomes active and probes south towards her former lair.

webs-in-lorienClose to Dol Guldur she catches and devours Elves bearing mallorn seeds into Eryn Lasgalen. The seeds wreak an eerie change in the swollen arachnid. She develops sorcerous powers echoing those of her famed mother, and grows fecund unleashing a new wave of hatchlings upon East Lorien. Enna San Serab desires to feast upon the sap of a great mallorn of Caras Galadhon. She allies herself with the Olog Wodûrishak and his small band of goblin raiders. The shadow demon Slyardach, newly released from servitude in Sarn Goriwing, is drawn to Enna’s growing power. They form an unholy alliance and slink toward Lorien waiting for a chance to slip within the borders.

With the patrols of Lorien concentrated on the Orcs of the Hithaeglir and the Dragons to the north, the spider and Wodûrishak’s band cross the Anduin at the Gladden Fields. They hide in the swampy forests and creep south. Wodûrishak sends his Warg riders towards Moria. They fire western Lorien and create an orcish racket – drawing swift reprisals from the forest wardens. Meanwhile Enna and Slyardach weave a concealing darkness around their band of marauders. They steal across the grass plains at the dark of the moon and enter Lorien. They soon come upon a Mallorn. Wodûrishak spears the tree and Enna San Serab drains the sap. The spider swells and darkness belches from her nether regions further cloaking the vandals. Slyardach strangles an Elf warden and prevents any alarm from spreading. Nevertheless Celeborn is alerted to mischief. He aborts the hunt for the Wolf Riders and returns eastward at speed.

ennasanserabThe spider drains two more trees before deciding to feast upon the greatest mallorns of the wood. She ensorcels and murders several Elves before her band is caught within the bounds of Caras Galadhon. It is the first penetration of the tree garth in history. Slyardach strangles Elves or hurls them off the flets, but the demon cannot move far from Enna San Serab as even the fading magic of Lorien begins to dissipate his form. Wodûrishak the Troll cuts the buttress of a huge mallorn and the spider again suckles upon the tree blood.

The Galadrim are fully alerted. Archery shreds the Orcish ranks and the Trolls cannot come to grips with the elusive foe. The spider’s darkness billows outward as the sap within her is corrupted, but then Celeborn enters the city. The roiling shadows and doom like miasma contracts as the light of the tree city swells. Slyardach counsels retreat. Celeborn dispels Enna’s faith-bane and gloom dweomers and his retinue shoot at the arachnid and trolls. Enna San Serab climbs the nearest tree and vomits web upon the flet folk. Two Elves are trapped and slain but the filthy insect is arrowed deeply. She screeches and flees with the Dindae in tow. The surviving Trolls follow only to be caught by vengeful Elves within a mile. The ancient Olog Wodûrishak, bane of the Emyn-I-Thang, meets his end under the trees of Lorien.

As for the demons, away from the light of the great mallorns they are able to rekindle their sorcery. They spin web traps, gout shadow and flee east. The demons cross the Nimrodel. Celeborn and his few warriors harry them closely but are unable to close in for the kill. The spider eventually throws herself into the water and poles eastward like an animated bag. Slyardach crouches on her pestilent back, cloaking their crossing while the pin-cushioned demonic arachnid whines and shivers, polluting the Anduin. By the time Celeborn has returned with canoes and crossed the river in force, the demonic duo are miles away.

They hide deep in Southern Mirkwood, using spells of deception and cloaking to mask their presence until Celeborn withdraws. Serab the Fecund heals and, revelling in her newfound power, spawns hundreds of monstrous kin whilst she and Slyardach plot their next move.

Pelargir Besieged, Rohan Assailed

The Dunmen cross the Isen and ravage Rohan’s western provinces. The road to Tharbad is blockaded and land communications between Eriador and Gondor are severed. The Rohirrim shelter in the Hornburg or flee eastward towards the muster at Edoras. Aelindur’s agents release the horse plague as the Rohirrim gather. The Dunlending attempts to use the black powder on the Hornburg’s walls are unsuccessful. Grey haired veterans of the War of the Ring are on the lookout for that trick and the fortress holds with the lethal help of Gimli’s Dwarfish axes on the walls. The Dunlending horde moves west in search of easier pickings. Their primitive catapults hurl black powder bombs to effect when repelling cavalry charges on the road to Edoras.

As the Rohirrim muster a huge army at Edoras the horse plague begins to takes hold.
Harad and Umbar have rebelled. When the news reaches Minas Tirith, much of the Gondorian presence in the north is recalled to fight off the threat to Pelargir and the alliance with Rohan is invoked.

The Haradrim move north and easily take or isolate the Gondorian border fortresses. Their large army crosses the Poros and advance on South Ithilien. The Gondorian fleet sorties from Pelargir to assist in Umbar and along the coastal road. corsairs-of-umbarBut just south of the island of Tolfalas it encounters an armada of Corsairs. The Umbareans have the wind at their backs and the black sails rapidly engage the ships of Gondor. They unleash Aelindur’s black powder chicanery to devastating effect. Explosions wrack many of Pelargir’s finest warships. The fleet of Gondor is routed and the mariners of Belfalas flee to Pelargir. The Umbareans land en-masse and the city is besieged. On both sides of the river the armies of Gondor scramble to regain the initiative from the Southrons, whilst Elessar orders the beacons lit.

Rohan is already in the process of mustering when the Red Arrow arrives. That same day the horse plague becomes apparent and hundreds of steeds fall ill and begin dying. Éomer is devastated to learn of the death of his son Elfwine and now must choose how to simultaneously answer Gondor’s call and repel the Dunlendings whilst his cavalry withers. He sends half his available men south, the remaining 2000 will conduct a defensive war in Rohan.

The Rohirrim are shocked by the horse plague but resolve to field a sizeable infantry force. They march out and engage the larger force of Dunlendings in the Westfold. The horse lords are dismounted and outnumbered but well equipped and disciplined. Tripartite Rohirrim shield-walls repel outflanking manoeuvres and drive back the Dunmen, preventing their advance towards Edoras. The Dunlending horde moves north in search of easier pickings. They are followed warily by the Rohirrim.rohirric-spearmen

Aelindur flies into Rohan intending to assist the Dunlendings with her magic, but she notes the haze obscuring the gap of Rohan. Recalling accounts of the Battle of the Hornburg she looks closer and espies the Ents and Huorns moving down out of Isengard and Fangorn. Fearing the Dunlendings will be wiped out, she wings north into the Misty Mountains. Here she seeks out the Dragon recluse Turukulon.

Not bothering with negotiation she invokes the Ulûkai and compels the sleeping Wyrm with her most powerful charm. The stunted Dragon is enthralled. At her subtle instigation it glides down into western Fangorn and ignites the forest. Wellinghall itself is burned and Turkulon confronts and incinerates the birch bark Ent Longleaf. A second Ent, Rootbeam, comes harrumphing upslope, summoning Huorns. The Dragon breathes upon Rootbeam but is struck a glancing blow from a boulder thrown by the blazing Ent. The impact frees him from Aelindur’s grasp and Turukulon flees back into the mountains before a copse of Huorns entraps him.

The Western margins of Fangorn are burnt to the ground though the small Dragon has a hot time of it staying ahead of the incensed flaming Huorns. Aelindur is well pleased to see the Ents withdraw from the gap of Rohan to assist in putting the fires of Fangorn out. The mountains will echo with their bellows of dismay for weeks. The Shadow Queen glides south to Rohan seeking out the Dunnish army.

-She finds the Dunlendings turning at bay near the village of Dunlostir on the plains north west of Edoras. The invaders are advised by Turinbar to use the open ground and superior numbers to their advantage. It is a week after the first major encounter with the Rohirrim. Impetuous Dunnish charges squander their early advantage until Aelindur befuddles Éomer and his senior commanders. The Dunmen push the horse lords back but fail to break their lines and are unable to take advantage of the Rohirric confusion. Fighting peters out at nightfall. Noting the bad omens, unfavourable odds and open terrain, the Rohirrim withdraw to a small hill with the Deeping Stream on their flank.

At dawn the Rohirrim form a shield wall and steadfastly defend the high ground. The Dunmen horde launch several abortive attacks but cannot break the Northmen. Aelindur attempts to mind-warp Éomer a second time, but the old Thegn recognises the assault and, gripping Theoden’s sword, is able to stave off any rash decisions to charge. The Dunmen move across the Westfold seeking plunder but are shadowed by the determined Rohirric fyrd waiting for a mistake. The invaders are stalemated and in hostile territory. They withdraw towards the Isen, looting and burning as they go. Aelindur is satisfied with the result and hastily flies south east.

Spy Game 2

radagastRadagast and an Elven guide make good time hiking the Elf path to Aradhrynd. Beyond the Enchanted River their passage is hidden by the blazing woods. Smokey and singed they quietly enter the Elven king’s halls. Luckily the Dragon is not home. The elven scholar Delucardh’s writings on the Wind Thrones are as he left them more than a year ago. The wizard recovers the Elf’s work and flees back west before the draconic resident returns. Studying the scrolls gives the wizard some insight into how the Awakening was accomplished.

The adventurers bound for Edoras leaves the smoking ruins of Maethelburg and travel down the Anduin via canoes. They disembark at Sarn Gebir and hike across the Riddermark. Three weeks later in Edoras they find the city on a war footing. They discover the letters from the north are picked up by Aeglif, a Smithy’s Widow who is enamoured of the Moon Queen cult. Interrogating her they discover the drop point for her correspondence with Aelindur and that a delivery of some kind of ‘weapon’ was made to Edoras only yesterday. But the group fall afoul of the Mark’s city guard.

Before they can be tried, word reaches Éomer of the assault on Helms Deep and the approach of the Dunlending army. Charges of assault on the widow are put on hold after some muddled explanations to Éomer. They are conscripted to assist in the repelling the Dunlending invasion. The weapon they had heard of is soon revealed to be the horse plague. By the time the Beacons are lit, the herds of Edoras are in the disease’s fatal grip.

Less than two weeks later the adventurers survive the indecisive battles of Westfold and Dunlostir. Unable to obtain leave to follow the spymasters trail, they secretly desert the muster and return to Edoras. Aeglif is gone but they observe two of her letters (outbound orders from Aelindur) being picked up by a merchant of Minas Tirith. They follow him by joining the march south to reinforce Gondor.

Continued in part 8 – War in Gondor

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