06 June 2024

Against the Witch-King: Chapter 2

Strange Events in Bree

The first chapter of our saga covered the initial events involving the newly formed fellowship of Almarian (a Dúnadan ranger fom Fornost), Arpet (a Lossadan shaman from the northern village of Mulkan), Doffa (Arpet’s brother), Celebrin (a Sinda Elf of Lindon), and Turuk Larr (a Dwarven sage from the Blue Mountains). 

[Central Arthedain and Breeland]

These events involved: 
  • The receipt of advice from the Fornost scholar (and uncle of Almarian) Thindparv
  • The acquisition of vital information from the eccentric seer Telemnar (who dwells in the northern observatory of Ro-Malborn); 
  • Measures taken by the party against the treacherous Riverman Wulfgli and his bandit allies; 
  • The observation of many malevolent gorcrows; 
  • And a brief interaction with a mysterious albino Dúnadan, who seemed determined to obtain Almarian’s legendary spear “Orcspite” (but instead departed Fornost with a different polearm, a copy of Orcspite, crafted by Turuk).

21 Narbeleth (October) 1964

The adventurers rest and confer at the manor of Thindparv. They decide to help Arpet and Doffa on their quest by first travelling to Bree. There, they plan to consult with the Hobbit Tobric about the location of the great oak and the “tree halflings.” Turuk recalls that he has a Hobbit friend in Bree, Coldomac Tunnelly, and also that there is an “autumn fair” in the town at this time of the year. Almarian recalls that her friend, the ranger Helvorn, frequents Bree when he is not in the wilds scouting about, hunting brigands and orcs. 

Almarian, Arpet, and Celebrin visit the home of Nenereth (Almarian’s mother). There they meet once again Ohtar and his family. The refugees from Arthedain’s troubled borderland thank Almarian and Nenereth for their benevolence. 

The Lossoth brothers obtain some silver coins from Thindparv in exchange for a few high-quality northern furs. The party then does some shopping in Fornost. Arpet and Doffa obtain suitable “southern” clothing, as well as some other equipment. Doffa purchases a superior dagger. Turuk purchases some crafting equipment (an anvil, a set of tongs, a small hammer, and the like). Celebrin acquires a number of minor useful items.

The fellowship then enjoys a pleasant lunch back at Thindparv’s manor. The scholar gives his niece a book: A Speaker’s Guide to Kuduk. He suggests that it may help her communicate with the “wild Hobbits” they seek. While the Hobbits who now dwell in Bree and the Shire speak “Westron” and have largely forgotten about “Kuduk,” their less civilized cousins may still rely on the tongue of their nomadic ancestors. 

After lunch the party departs Fornost and heads south on the Greenway towards Bree. They have a cart – filled with the Lossoth brothers’ furs, Turuk’s crafting equipment, and other sundries – pulled by a stoic pony. 

22nd – 24th Narbeleth 1964

During the journey south to Bree takes the following things happen:
  • Turuk finds some helpful herbs (“Tulaxar”) growing alongside the road. The blue leaves are added to the party’s supplies.
  • The adventurers encounter a band of Hobbit pipe-weed traders from Bree: Nimbo, Sammy, and Fredigar Brooksigh. They are on their way to Fornost. Doffa and Arpet are introduced to the halflings’ leaf and seem to enjoy it. Arpet confirms to himself that the beings in his dream were indeed Hobbits.
  • The party stops in the towns Ringmet and Galadhal. In the latter town they stay at The Green Stone inn. There is a small forest to the west of the town. Iffly the innkeeper recalls that, according to legend, the area was once a grand woodland, until the trees were felled by the Númenóreans during the late Second Age.
  • The fellowship notices a murder of gorcrows following them. Almarian instructs her goshawk Seerwing to try to scare them away. The gorcrows disperse to the east and south. Towards the evening of the 24th, though, a great black hawk is spotted tracking the party for a few hours. Almarian broods. 

25th Narbeleth 1964

Shortly after noon, the party reaches the gates to the town of Bree. In response to a query from Almarian, the gate wardens report that they do not recall seeing any “albino travellers” passing through the town in recent days.

While at the King’s Rest Inn, Almarian and Celebrin notice that a rather slovenly, shifty looking Breelander seems to be observing them. They learn that his name is Hal Broadleaf, and that he has an unwholesome reputation throughout Breeland. Celebrin follows him out of the inn later. Hal goes to the hedge wall at the edge of the town and seems to do something there before leaving. Approaching the hedge wall afterwards, the Elf cannot figure out what Hal had been up to.

[Central Bree]

Doffa and Arpet wander around the town, asking any Hobbits they see whether they know of Tobric. The Lossoth brothers learn that Tobric lives not in Bree but in the nearby hamlet of Staddle. They then go to the King’s Rest Inn and join Almarian and Celebrin there.

Later, the ranger Helvorn enters the inn, limping badly. Almarian learns from her old friend that he recently was wounded by a warg. The vile beasts have become more common of late. The ranger tells Almarian, Celebrin, Doffa, and Arpet that great murders of crows have been seen in the Chetwood over the past several months. Almarian asks Helvorn if he has encountered an albino Dúnadan recently; the ranger recalls meeting one only a couple of days ago on the Great East Road. The Dúnadan had been travelling with a bundle of weapons and claimed that he was en route to Tharbad. Arpet asks Helvorn if he knows anything about “tree Hobbits.” The ranger recalls a tale of a tribe of wandering halflings who settled in a great tree centuries ago after the fall of Rhudaur, but knows nothing more.

Turuk purchases a wooden box from Duffy Nobwood, the town carpenter, and learns where his old friend Coldomac lives. He then goes to the smial (“Hobbit hole”) of Coldomac Tunnelly. The halfling – who had visited Nan-i-Naugrim years ago – greets Turuk warmly, and insists that he and his friends stay with him in his smial. The Hobbit is alarmingly excited by the prospect of hosting the fellowship.

[Coldomac Tunnelly]

The party enjoys a delicious meal at Coldomac’s smial. The Hobbit is quite enthusiastic and verbose. While he wears on some of the fellowship’s nerves, they cannot deny the little fellow’s generosity. 

26th Narbeleth 1964

Coldomac accompanies the party to Staddle; there he introduces them to his “old friend” Tobric Staddleson

After swearing an oath not to reveal the location of the great tree, Tobric tells the adventurers that he knows where it is and indicates its location on their map. He had spent some time there years ago. The great tree is known as the “Durmast Oak,” and the Hobbits who live there are Fallohides who chose not to settle in Bree in the fifteenth century. Tobric explains that they do not speak Westron, but instead still employ the ancient halfling tongue of Kuduk, although a few know Sindarin as well, since they trade occasionally with Elves and Dúnadain. Their leader is Smorgo Petraeas and there are many skilled craftsmen and herbalists in their small community. 

Drawing upon A Speaker’s Guide to Kuduk (given to her by Thindparv), Almarian tries to say a few words in Kuduk. Tobric is so upset by her mispronunciations that he agrees to accompany the party on their journey. He decides that it has been too long since he has travelled, and he has fond memories of the tree folk. The party agrees to return to Staddle in two days; at that time, they will begin their journey east. 

[Tobric Staddleson]

Coldomac also expresses interest in taking part in the endeavour, but the party diplomatically dissuades him from doing so. The fellowship returns to Bree with their earnest host.

In the late afternoon, Almarian, Doffa, and Apret decide to investigate the reports of large numbers of gorcrows in the Chetwood. They travel to the woodland hamlet of Archet. There they stay in a hunting lodge for the night. The local hunter Briff tells them that both wolves and crows have become quite common in the Chetwood over the past year.

Back in Bree, Celebrin and Turuk go to the Autumn Fair at the top of Bree Hill. There the duo purchase some nice knives and a bronze tea set – gifts for their host, Coldomac

Celebrin is encouraged by the local youths – who are amazed to see a real Elf at their fair – to take part in the archery contest. The skilled Sinda wins first place, and is awarded with a silver tankard, which he comes to oddly cherish. While the contest takes place, Turuk notices a scoundrel picking the pockets of the audience. He confronts the thief – Braith “the Tinker” – and earns the gratitude of the locals for doing so. The dwarf and elf subsequently are fêted in the King’s Rest Inn before they retire for the night in Coldomac’s smial.

27th Narbeleth 1964

A light, cool rain falls upon the Chetwood as Almarian, Doffa, and Arpet head into the forest. They notice a gloomy murder of crows to the north. Doffa climbs up a tree and succeeds (outstandingly so!) in surveying the region. He spots a clearing nearby, in the middle of which stands a massive monolith. The Lossoth scout also notices two figures near the monolith, standing beside a sputtering fire.

The trio stealthily approach the clearing from the east. They observe the two figures while concealed in the verge. One is tall Dúnadan woman wearing a beautiful black cloak. She examines the monolith and observes the many crows flying above her with manifest approval. The other figure is a rough looking Riverman. His eyes scan the edges of the clearing – but he does not spot the adventurers.

After a few hours, Hal Broadleaf arrives and speaks with the two figures. Following a brief discussion, the three collect some things and leave to the west. The trio of Almarian, Doffa, and Arpet follow the trio of Hal, the Dúnadan woman, and the Riverman thug. Eventually the group leaves the Chetwood and starts travelling south towards Bree. The woman removes her black cloak and puts on an Arthedan travelling cloak. Almarian, Doffa, and Arpet return to Archet – in order to pick up some pies from Dorit the baker – and then travel back to Bree.

Meanwhile, in Coldomac’s smial, Celebrin finds a remarkably helpful tome in the library. It describes a great battle at the place where the rivers Mitheithel and Bruinen meet! The battle took place during the terrible War of the Elves and Sauron in the middle of the Second Age. Following the fall of Eregion, Elrond led refugees north. But during this retreat, Elvish forces clashed with pursuing orcs at the southern edge of what is now known as the “Angle” (En Egladil). There, many noble Elvish warriors fell, before the orcs were distracted by Dwarvish forces out of Khazad-Dûm. Perhaps Celebrin’s dreams concern one of these warriors?

Celebrin also learns from a different book in Coldomac’s surprisingly impressive library that the tribe of Fallohides that settled in the great Durmast Oak centuries ago interacted with Elves of Rivendell. Perhaps these relations continue to this day?

Turuk’s research is less successful, although he does find some notes on the ancient Kuduk language.

That evening, the entire group enjoys several excellent pies. Coldomac is especially delighted by the tasty treats – and is grateful to Celebrin and Turuk for the tea set and knives. Afterwards, the fellowship goes to the King’s Rest Inn for some further drinking. There they spy Hal Broadleaf – but not the two suspicious individuals from the Chetwood monolith. Almarian asks the innkeeper, Ham Rushy, to keep an eye out for the tall Dúnadan woman. 

28th Narbeleth 1964

The company enjoys a fine breakfast served by Coldomac. Almarian charts a possible route to the Durmast Oak. She then speaks with the ranger Helvorn, updating him about the suspicious meeting in the Chetwood the previous day.

After bidding their excitable host Coldomac farewell, the fellowship journeys to Staddle with their cart and pony. There they meet up with Tobric and head out on the next part of their journey.

[Eastern Arthedain and northern Rhudaur]


All maps are from the ICE Middle-earth modules Rangers of the North and Bree. The beautiful regional maps are all by Peter Fenlon. The picture of the Bree guard is by Charles Peale (from the Bree module). The pictures of Coldomac and Tobric are from a “mod” of the Baldur’s Gate CRPG (unfortunately, I don’t know the artists).

Link: The master-page for the “Against the Witch-King” campaign.

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