28 February 2024

Against the Witch-King: Chapter 1

From Fornost to Ro-Malborn and Back Again

[Central Arthedain]

Out tale begins in the city of Fornost, capital of the besieged Kingdom of Arthedain, in the year 1964 of the Third Age, on the 15th day of Narbeleth (“Wintring” according to the calendar of Bree; “October” in Westron). 

It is the first year of the reign of King Arvedui. The Dúnadan Seer Malbeth foretold that Arvedui would be the last ruler of Arthedain. But does this mean that Arthedain ultimately will fall to the Witch-King’s hordes, or instead that Arvedui will defeat Angmar and resurrect the greater realm of Arnor? And what role – if any – will our heroes play in this prophesy?

[City of Fornost]

15 Narbeleth 1964

Four travellers gather in the manor of the Dúnadan sage Thindparv. They are: Arpet, a Lossadan shaman from the northern village of Mulkan; Arpet’s brother Doffa, a crafty scout; Celebrin, a Sinda Elf of Lindon; and Almarian, a Dúnadan champion and niece of Thindparv. They all wish to speak with the sage for their own reasons… 

Arpet and Doffa seek knowledge of a great tree inhabited by tiny folk with strange hairy feet. According to a dream that Arpet had weeks ago, a holy artifact of their people – the Horn of Mulkan – can be found there. The ancient narwhale horn had been stolen a year ago, and the Lossoth brothers are determined to recover it. A Dúnadan trader who frequently visits their village, Beleg, told the brothers that his friend Thindparv may be able to help them; he wrote something called a “Letter of Introduction” for the brothers to facilitate a meeting. Arpet and Doffa have spent the past two weeks travelling across northern Eriador to reach the bewilderingly large city of Fornost. Doffa has found the new sights to be wonderful and exciting. Arpet, on the other hand, finds his thoughts drifting back to someone he left behind in the village.

For the past year, Celebrin has been plagued with a vision during his reveries. He sees a great blond elf warrior wandering through a thick mist, possibly underwater. The warrior calls out for help in both Quenya and Sindarin, but to no avail. After a few moments the vision disappears. No one in Lindon can understand what this vision means. Following Círdan’s advice, Celebrin has travelled to Arthedain in hopes of solving this mystery, or at least learning more about how best to proceed.

Thindparv is Almarian’s mother’s brother. Nenereth and Thindparv were once close, but have drifted apart over the years – perhaps due to Thindparv’s studies. Almarian hopes to heal the rift somehow – hence her return to Fornost. She also hopes that Thindparv can tell her some of the abilities of her family heirloom, the ancient spear Orcspite, as her father was slain by Angmarim before he could pass this information to her.


Thindparv’s assistant Hador brings exquisite wine from Belfalas to the four as they sit within the richly adorned waiting room. As they finish introducing themselves to each other, a door opens and in walks Thindparv the Aranarth, the crown prince of Arthedain. The two are deep in conversation and are on friendly terms; it would appear that they have known each other for many years. After a few moments, they notice the others within the room and end their talk. Smiling broadly, the prince warmly introduces himself to the four travellers before departing.


Thindparv remarks – in an absent-minded way, seemingly to no one in particular – that Aranarth was once his student. The Dúnadan then turns his attention to his guests. The travellers explain their reasons for seeking the sage’s counsel. 

Using some charcoal, Arpet etches the image of the great tree on a piece of parchment. Thindparv identifies it as a great oak and informs him that the little people are no doubt “Hobbits.” He offers to conduct additional research into the tree for the Lossoth brothers, but regrets that it will take him a few days to do so. 

Celebrin delivers a book from Lindon, a copy of an ancient tome from lost Eregion, to the sage. Thindparv thanks the elf and tells him that he should consult with the seer Telemnar, who dwells within an ancient observatory, Ro-Malborn, to the north of Fornost. The reclusive seer should be better able than he to help the elf decipher his disturbing dream. Thindparv remarks that he interacts regularly with the seer, and is sending some supplies – ink, parchment, and dried goods – to Ro-Malborn the next day with his assistant, the Riverman Wulfgli. He explains that it should be no trouble for the elf to accompany Wulfgli on his mission.

Almarian implores Thindparv to see her mother, Nenereth. After a moment’s reflection the sage agrees to meet with his sister for dinner in a few days. Relieved, Almarian asks about Orcspite. Thindparv advises his niece to accompany Celebrin and Wulfgli on their journey and to consult with Telemnar about it. 

Realizing that they have nothing to do over the next few days, Arpet and Doffa offer to join Celebrin and Almarian on their trip. 

16 Narbeleth 1964

The quintet – Arpet, Doffa, Celebrin, Almarian, and the scruffy Riverman Wulfgli – travel north to Ro-Malborn. En route, Almarian recalls what she knows about the place. The observatory was once the dwelling place of a treacherous seer, Malborn, who secretly allied with the Witch-King during the Second Northern War (1408-1410). The seer was executed after the war and the observatory was given to Telemnar’s ancestor. Despite its dark history, the observatory retains the name of its original owner. In recent centuries, however, it has provided valuable information for the kingdom. Telemnar is known to be brilliant but erratic and eccentric. 

During their journey the party encounters a Dúnadain family – led by the warrior Ohtar – travelling to Fornost. The family’s farmstead was recently destroyed by raiders from Angmar. Amarian graciously writes a note for Ohtar, to introduce him to her mother in the city. She assures the family that they will be given succor at her household.

As evening approaches the group reaches the observatory of Ro-Malborn. They are greeted by the seer’s servant Elphir and brought to the sitting room, except for Wulfgli who delivers his supplies to the storage area.


Telemnar eventually appears and greets the party with slightly unhinged enthusiasm. The party informs the seer of their various reasons for visiting him. Telemnar promises his help and the travellers retire for the night.


17 Narbeleth 1964

As Telemnar engages in research to help the party with their various endeavours, Arpet decides to investigate the flora, and especially the herbs, of the region around the observatory. He finds a wild plant with curious leaves. Later, the animist learns from Telemnar that the plant is “Arlan,” and that its leaves can heal wounds when prepared as a poultice, while its roots can act as a decongestant when consumed.

Almarian – with her loyal goshawk Seerwing – and Doffa go hunting. While the Dúnadan and her goshawk are unsuccessful, the Lossadan returns with a deer, which provides a delicious dinner for everyone at Ro-Malborn that evening.

At night, Celebrin uses the telescope to see what the stars might reveal about his recurring dream.

18 Narbeleth 1964

Arpet and Doffa sense that Wulfgli is hiding something, as he seems strangely nervous. The two pressure the Riverman to go hunting with them in the morning. After a few hours, Wulfgli tries to sneak away; Doffa stealthily follows him and watches Wulfgli do something with a giant crow. The crow then flies away to the east. The Riverman seems unaware that he has been observed. 

Almarian recalls that the Angmarim are known to sometimes use malevolent crows as spies and messengers. She confronts Wulfgli. Drawing upon the ancient arts of persuasion of the Dúnadain, she gets the Riverman to reveal that he wrote a message to a bandit leader named “Gruff” about her spear Orcspite. It appears that the Witch-King seeks the weapon! Wulfgli reveals that the bandits plan to waylay the party and obtain the spear during their trip back to Fornost.

The Dúnadan warrior reveals this information to Telemnar and the rest of the party. In turn, the seer reveals what he has learned about Orcspite. An artifact from ancient Númenor, it was brought by the Faithful to northern Middle-earth centuries before the sinking of the great isle and has been in Almarian’s family for over twenty-five centuries. It was used during the War of the Last Alliance against Sauron two-thousand years ago. The reason why the Witch-King seeks it, Telemnar infers, is that the spear is unusually deadly against orcish warriors – as its name suggests. No doubt the leaders of Angmar wish to remove such a terrible weapon from their enemies as they prepare their final assault against the Northern Kingdom.

Telemnar also tells the Lossoth brothers that the hobbit sage Tobric of Bree may know where the giant oak that Arpet saw in his dream is located.

19 Narbeleth 1964

It is a grey day. 

In the morning, Almarian uses the telescope to look east to see if she can spot the brigands. Alas, she finds nothing. She then instructs Seerwing to scout to the east.

[Turuk Larr]

Around noon the dwarf Turuk Larr arrives at the observatory. Telemnar marvels at all the guests he now has staying with him – more than he has ever hosted in his many decades at Ro-Malborn! He welcomes the dwarf, as the two have exchanged letters over the previous year. Turuk seeks information about the mysterious human settlement known as “Nothva Rhaglaw”; he wishes to learn how the small region has avoided conquest by the forces of Angmar for so many centuries. According to legend, the place was also largely untouched by the terrible War of Elves and Sauron eons ago in the Second Age. Telemnar provides the dwarf with a map of the region around Nothva Rhaglaw and a brief treatise, written in Adûnaic, about the settlement and its legends. 

Almarian and the others tell the dwarf about what has happened recently, especially Wulfgli’s treachery. Turuk notes that he, the Lossoth brothers, and Celebrin may all be heading in roughly the same direction: to eastern Eriador (after first stopping at Fornost, and possibly Bree as well). 

Drawing upon his dwarfish lore, Turuk senses “darkness” in the Riverman – he is a servant, whether knowingly or not, of the Witch-KingArpet employs some colourful Lossoth interrogation methods on Wulfgli, but the Riverman insists that he has told the party everything he knows. Almarian senses that Wulfgli is hiding something about Fornost. Eventually, the Riverman explains that after he and his bandit conspirators recover Orcspite, they are to turn it over to a contact in the city. Telemnar agrees to keep Wulfgli prisoner until he can be turned over to the forces of Arthedain.

As evening falls Seerwing returns. While communicating with the goshawk is not easy, Almarian manages to learn that five black-clad figures (presumably either men or orcs) are travelling southwest to the crossroads north of Fornost. The Dúnadan communicates this information to the others and the party forms a plan to counter-ambush the bandits. Celebrin excuses himself from this endeavour, however, as he has yet to complete his astrological investigations.

At midnight the party reaches the crossroads. There, Turuk and Arpet notice a large crow on the shoulder of a black clad figure who is moving large rocks onto the road. Doffa sneaks up to the crossroads, aims at the crow with his hunting bow, and slays the bird with a single shot. Almarian investigates the dead crow and discovers that it has a silver band around its leg. She takes the band.

20 Narbeleth 1964

The party captures the black clad figure. He is a Riverman named Trav. The brigand explains that he and his fellow ne’er-do-wells communicate with their employer via the great crows. 

In the middle of the night the other brigands arrive, expecting to set up an ambush. The tables, however, are turned on them! Two bandits are slain, while the other four – including the leader Gruff – are captured. The prisoners are then brought to a nearby Arthedain tower, commanded by Captain Haleth.

At the tower, as dawn breaks, Doffa notices that Gruff is squirming uncomfortably as the party speaks with Captain Haleth about what has happened. Arpet employs his unique interrogation methods again – this time he uses a black opal that he calls the “Eye of Aunt Anda.” The bandit captain is deeply disturbed by this and confesses everything that he knows. He explains that they were instructed to deliver Orcspite to their contact in the Grey Moor tavern within Fornost. Their contact, according to Gruff, would be an albino Dúnadan nobleman. The deliverer of Orcspite is supposed to wear a bright blue hat with a black feather – which, sure enough, the party finds among Gruff’s equipment.
Almarian proposes that the party members dress themselves up as the bandits and deliver a false Orcspite to the agent of Angmar in Fornost. The others agree to go along with this plan. The party changes into the black clothing of the bandits. Captain Haleth gives the group a cart and a pony; into the cart is loaded the real Orcspite, along with the many furs of the Lossoth and other sundries. Turuk employs his advanced weapon-crafting skills to modify a spear from the tower so that it closely resembles Orcspite. The party then heads to Fornost.

Arriving in the early evening, the party heads to the Grey Moor tavern (while Seerwing is sent to the manor of Thindparv). The place is quite lively and filled with people from many parts of Middle-earth: merchants and travellers from Bree, Tharbad, and even Gondor. Turuk speaks briefly with some dwarves from Khazad-Dûm. They gently mock Turuk for being from the Nan-i-Naugrim, which is a tiny insignificant settlement compared to their own glorious, wealthy halls beneath the Misty Mountains. They drunkenly boast that Khazad-Dûm is invincible and will endure until the end of time. 

Eventually the albino Dúnadan arrives with a Riverman warrior accompanying him. Doffa puts on the blue hat and places the fake Orcspite on the table at which he is sitting. The Riverman approaches the Lossadan scout. Doffa doffs his blue hat. The Riverman gives Doffa a pouch of coins and takes the spear. The fake Orcspite then is given to the pale nobleman, who departs immediately. Almarian waits for a few minutes and then leaves. Outside she sees no sign of the albino. She describes the agent of Angmar to the guards at the city gate and they tell her that such an individual departed Fornost at great haste upon a mighty steed minutes ago. Meanwhile, the Riverman remains in the tavern and proceeds to get quite drunk. Eventually he stumbles to the Green Fields Inn, which is across the square from the tavern.

Almarian and the others return to the manor of Thindparv. She instructs Seerwing to scout around the city in order to spot the albino nobleman. The goshawk returns an hour later and reports that the nobleman is riding south; the party infers that he most likely is heading towards Bree. Almarian then asks Thindparv if he knows anything about an albino Dúnadan nobleman. The seer recalls that he once met such a person; while cannot recall his name, Thindparv believes that he was once a lord of Cardolan, and expressed some hope in resurrecting his realm there one day.

Meanwhile, back in Ro-Malborn, Celebrin completes his studies of the stars using the great telescope. He discerns that his dream emanates from something or someone near the headwaters of the great Gwathló river. After meditating for a few hours, the elf thanks Telemnar and departs from the observatory to find his friends in Fornost.



For more information about this campaign, go to its Master Page.

The area map is by Pete Fenlon, from the ICE modules Rangers of the North and Arnor. The picture of Ro-Malborn also is from Rangers of the North

The picture of Prince Aranarth is by Elena Kukanova. The pictures of Thindparv and Telemnar are from the Icewind Dale Enchanced Edition CRPG. The pictures of Turuk Larr and Celebrin are from “mods” for the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition CRPG. 

The map of the crossroads was scrawled by yours truly.

1 comment:

  1. Small edit (2024-02-02): I revised the information gained by Celebrin to be somewht more precise: "He discerns that his dream emanates from something or someone near the headwaters of the great Gwathló river."


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).