Darkness In Wilderland

The Marsh Bell

Spring 2946

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Part One – Where Noisome waters Pour

The companions, made up of Fror, Polo Merryhill and Ulthaine become a fellowship of adventurers in Esgaroth, Lake-Town now remade on the edge of Long Lake. They first meet in the mead hall in the centre of the free city where the talk is of Hraf son of Hrabin, a Raven of the Mountain, who has brought to Erebor some sinister tidings. Two Dwarven messengers who left the Lonely Mountain on an errand, are nowhere to be found. The Kingdom under the Mountain is astir, and Glóin the Dwarf himself has spread word that whoever provides news of the missing Dwarves will be richly rewarded…
gloin.png Aware of the opportunity for fortune and glory the fellowship attend Glóin in his richly appointed Manor Lake-Town and, after they are careful to introduce themselves, hear word from him of the missing dwarves.
Glóin provided the fellowship a map and says, "My cousin Balin son of Fundin has left the Lonely Mountain with a companion. He was meant to personally deliver a letter, a formal invitation from King Dáin Ironfoot to the Lord of the Eagles for the coming Gathering of Five Armies, an important meeting to be held at the beginning of summer. He planned to go south along the Running River, to investigate the conditions of the Old Forest Road and possibly traverse it, now that the threat of Goblins has been greatly reduced.” Frowning, the aging dwarf continues, " I don’t know what happened, but unfortunately the possibilities are many in these days of doubt… if the perils of Wilderland were not enough, there are always the suspicious dwellers of the Woodland Realm to consider. They are sworn enemies of the Shadow, but unfortunately they don’t love Dwarves and watch their land jealously. I hope my concerns are ill-placed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Balin had found himself again a guest of the Elvenking’s celebrated hospitality…”.
Glóin promises that, if the two missing dwarves are brought back to him then he will reward the fellowship with gold from Erebor.

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Part Two – A Long and Weary Way

The fellowship travels south along the lake to the Stair of Girion where they meet a number of Lake-men. and old Nerulf, the decrepit Northman, hardly intelligible when he speaks. We warns the fellowship of a old rhyme of lore he learnt as a child – “If you go south in the marshes take heed: tread lightly and fear the gallows- weed…”

The warning of ‘gallow-weed’ reminds Polo of a nonsense poem he heard in the Shire to scare hobbit children.

The Shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.

You sink into the slime, who dare
To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.

Beside the rotting river-strand
The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gore crows stand
Croaking in their sleep.

Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool’s borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.

The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.

Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.

They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they’ve finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.

Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and gallows-weed,
You go to find the Mewlips – and the Mewlips feed."

elves-encounter.pngWondering what they might find as they head south, the fellowship continue their journey the next morning heading into the Long Marshes – wetlands mostly unexplored and dangerous; shunned even by the most adventurous of lake-men. Later they enter the most eastern eves of Mirkwood and are discovered by a group of Wood Elves led by Galion – the former cupbearer to King Thranduil.

Since the famous escape of Bilbo and his companions of the Halls of the Elven King, caused in part by his drunkeness, Galion is no friend of hobbits or dwarves and questions by Ulthaine would travel with such company. The fellowship manage to convince him that they mean no harm and the elves escort them some way, but warn they saw the two Dwarves, and yet they disappeared from their camp.

The following day the fellowship discover Balin’s camp. at a patch of dry land rising to the west of the river course, a few miles north of where The Rotting River descends from the Mountains of Mirkwood to join the River Running. There they discover, wrapped in Dwarven runes of sorcery designed to hide things of value, a small ivory jewel case, with intricately carven images of regal-looking birds: the Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains. The box contains a letter, rolled and wound about by a fine necklace of twisted gold wire, holding a magnificent precious stone of a snowy colour the size of a small fist. It is a lordly gift, intended to pass from one king to another. Is it possible that the Dwarves were sent to carry this to the Lord of the Eagles himself?

The stone itself is marvellous to behold and for a moment each of the fellowship feel the shadow of temptation fall across them. They manage to resist it and continue their search of the camp.

It is then that a Marsh Ogre rises from the black waters surrounding the camp and attacks! Bravely the fellowship defends themselves against the Ogre. Ulthaine rains arrows at the creatures head whilst both Fror and Polo step forward to hold off the creature. Polo dances around the Ogres legs, slashing with his sword whilst Fror holds the creature off with axe and shield. It is a hard fought fight but the fellowship triumph, cutting down the ogre.

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Part Three – Beside The Rotting River

Beyond the Rotting River, the water course breaks against tangles of hoary willow-trees standing close together and shutting out the light of day even at its brightest. Their drooping branches trail into the water, and their moulding roots sink deep into the grey slime: the river disappears in a vast fen without wind or tide. The fellowship enters this grim and ugly part of the Marshes.

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The fellowship finds the ruins of a wrecked boat, no doubt that used by the Dwarves. Pulling it out the water they discovered that it is slashed with fangs or claws, and there are no signs of the missing Dwarves. The fellowship, watchful because of the warning given to them by Nerulf, manage to avoid the attack of the Gallow-weed, which hangs from the trees above them.

Later they see the Gore crows which sit in the trees in the isolated part of the marshes that the fellowship finds themselves in after a long journey; a place where grim ruins pierce through the waters. The crows croak at the fellowship and seem to lead them to a to a deep pool of dark water. Here the ruins are more prominent, as if this was the place where the main buildings of a sunken town once rose. The remains of a great marble arch can be seen on the distant shore, still holding a massive wooden gate, the other walls of the building now crumbled into the mud. On the treetops around the pool the Gore-crows croak, signalling the presence of the trespassers to something unknown and watchful.

Suddenly a bells tolls and Ulthaine becomes en-spelled by it’s sound. Before his companions can stop him he wades into the black pool and is lost beneath it’s inky depths.

marshdweller.pngPolo and Fror, roused by the dreamlike tolling swim to his aid and find themselves entering a dark wet underground cellar, once part of a proud palace of the men of old. Lying on the wet floor of the cellar, as if in a dream, lies Ulthaine who speaks of grasping claws when he is awoken. The fellowship explorer the chambers of the cellar and discover a bell tower with a rope hanging down to them. Someone, or something had tolled the bell they had heard…
To one side they discovered a locked door and found Balin and Óin within! The two missing Dwarves had locked themselves in and barricaded the door is defence from the dwellers here…
Freeing the Dwarves the fellowship look for a way out but then see hundred tiny mirrors that start to flicker in the darkness; the eyes of a horde of Marsh-dwellers, the dread Mewlips of Polos nightmare poem! With Ulthaine defending their rear, the fellowship and the two Dwarves make the difficult climb up with interior of the bell tower. Ulthaine cuts down two of the horrific creatures, but is wounded and stumbles back before he is helped up the tower away to safety.
Once outside the Fellowship quickly leave the area and make the long journey back to the safety of Esgaroth. Eight days later they find their way to Esgaroth with the two Dwarves, and they are received triumphantly. Glóin meets them aboard the great gilded boat of the Master of the town as they make their way across the lake, ready to award them with their prize…

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