Last Friday we finished our second session of The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild, in which the Fellowship continued with the second part of The Marsh Bell. Unfortunately Colin was ill and couldn’t make it this time around, so we had to play Oinarin by group consensus. The rest of us had another great game. Hope you’re well again by the time you read this Colin!
*** SPOILERS ***
The Marsh Bell – Part Two
The Journey South (Day Three continued) – Balin’s Camp
While the Fellowship investigated the abandoned camp, the shadows under the trees rapidly lengthened. By the time they were finished it was too dark to continue, so they wearily settled in for another night in the marshes. A foul stench hung over the stagnant waters and everyone was soaked through and covered in mud. Searching for the missing Dwarves was proving to be a thoroughly miserable experience.
[Everyone made a Corruption test for their second day in this part of the marshes and they all failed. So everyone got a point of Shadow.]
That night, Grimald had first watch. He clambered into the lower branches of a nearby tree and huddled there in his cloak, bow and arrows to hand, staring out into the darkness.
A few hours later, when his watch was nearing an end, the Woodman noticed flickering lights beyond the nearby tree trunks. He observed them for a while and then, concerned by their proximity, roused Oinarin who was on watch next. Once the Dwarf was awake, Grimald drew his attention to the lights and suggested Oinarin keep an eye on the sleeping Beornings while he went to take a closer look. Oinarin advised the Woodman to be careful before standing ready to raise the alarm if anything happened.
Despite the quagmire under foot, the tangles of roots and the maze of small pools that had to be navigated, Grimald slipped silently across the marsh like a ghost. [Due to the conditions I had given Ben a TN16 Stealth test to avoid making “sploshing” noises as he moved closer to the lights but he aced it spectacularly with an Extraordinary success.]
Once he had a better vantage point, Grimald could clearly see the ghostly wisps of flame that drifted above the stagnant water. He watched them for a short time but remained unsure as to what they were or what might be causing them. Eventually he withdrew, back to where Oinarin was waiting.
The two conferred, but Oinarin could establish very little from Grimald’s rather vague description of what he had seen. Eventually the Dwarf gave up and decided he would go and take a look for himself. He hefted his axe and boldly sloshed over to the pool. [Oinarin has no Stealth skill and I rolled an EYE OF SAURON on the Feat dice].
Oinarin stood there observing the lights for a while and then turned back towards Grimald, declaring in a hoarse whisper, “It’s nothing. Just swamp gas I reckon.”
At that moment, the troll that was hiding beneath the surface of the stinking pool burst out of the water behind him.
“TROLL!” Grimald yelled in alarm.
Oinarin dived away, scrambling and sliding through the mud, while Malaric and Grunehild awoke, jumped to their feet and grabbed their weapons.
The troll was quickly in amongst them. It wielded a heavy branch, thrashing it back and forth like a huge club. [Everyone failed their Awareness Tests to avoid the ambush, so the troll had the advantage of surprise.]
[Combat Round 1: TROLL Success => Oinarin takes 6 END; OINARIN (Open) Failure; MALARIC (Open) Success => Troll takes 9 END (Malaric spent 1 Hope to hit); GRUNEHILD (Open) Success => Troll takes 7 END; GRIMALD (Rearward) Success + Edge => Troll takes 7 END + saves.]
Dripping mud and stinking marsh-water the fell creature bellowed and swung the branch into Oinarin with a mighty thwack! The two Beornings moved in, flanking the troll and worrying it with spear and axe in an effort to keep it off balance and away from their comrade. Meanwhile Grimald let loose an arrow, hit the troll in the shoulder and swiftly readied another.
[Combat Round 2: TROLL Success => Oinarin takes 6 END (Troll spends HATE for +6 END, Oinarin takes knockback to halve damage); MALARIC (Forward) Extraordinary success + Edge=> Troll takes 21 END + saves; GRUNEHILD (Open) Great success + Edge=> Troll takes 12 END + Wound; OINARIN (Open) Knocked back; GRIMALD (Rearward) Failure.]
Enraged, the troll pressed forward once again. Acting on its innate hatred of Dwarves, it took another mighty swipe at Oinarin. Again it connected and this time smashed the Dwarf face down into the mud. Yelling a cry of battle, Malaric came to the Dwarf’s aid. He summoned his strength and plunged his spear up into the troll’s ribs. The beast reared and roared at the pain. Malaric dug in, pressing home the advantage, driving the troll up and back, away from Oinarin. As he did so Grunehild, his fellow Beorning, swung her axe with all her might and buried it deep into the creature’s midriff. Rocked by the Beornings’ combined assault, the troll staggered and Grunehild ripped her axe free.
[Combat Round 3: TROLL Success=> Oinarin takes 6 END (Troll spends HATE for +6 END, Oinarin takes knockback to halve damage); MALARIC (Forward) Success=> Troll takes 9 END; GRUNEHILD (Forward) Success=> Troll takes 7 END; OINARIN (Open) Knocked back; GRIMALD (Rearward) Extraordinary success=> Troll takes 13 END.]
The mortally wounded creature took one last swing at Oinarin and then collapsed under the continued onslaught. Once it had fallen, Malaric stabbed it a few more times. “You can never be too sure,” he grunted by way of explanation before wrenching his spear free.
Grimald then came to their side, having stood back during the battle to use his bow. He helped a rather muddy, beaten and weary Oinarin to his feet. “Don’t worry it takes more than a few knocks to finish me,” the Dwarf grimaced bravely.
The remainder of the night passed uneventfully.
The Journey South (Day Four)
The next morning it was wet, misty and grey. The Fellowship arose, ate a meagre breakfast and then searched around the camp again. There was some evidence that the Dwarves had continued on foot and, as the companions packed up their things, Grimald noticed a sunken skiff in the nearby reeds. Malaric waded into the water to take a closer look and found that the bottom of the boat was smashed. It was no longer river-worthy. This confirmed their belief that the Dwarves had travelled onward over land.
There followed some debate as to whether the Fellowship should continue by boat and risk missing signs of the Dwarves or follow them on foot. By Oinarin’s calculations, it would take around two days to reach the end of the Old Forest Road by foot from here and a day by boat. Malaric and Grunehild were also puzzled about the ivory jewel case that Oinarin had discovered. They presumed it held the message that was intended for the Lord of the Eagles, but could not understand why the Dwarves had abandoned it. Perhaps there was more to it. Grunehild in particular was curious. Malaric suggested looking inside the box but Oinarin was reluctant to do so because it did not belong to them.
In the end the Fellowship decided to hide their boat and continue over land.
During the day, debate about the contents of the jewel case periodically resumed. Grunehild didn’t like being in the dark about it and she and Malaric secretly suspected that Oinarin had already looked at the contents or perhaps that, being a Dwarf, he had prior knowledge of it. When she and Malaric talked privately about it, Malaric suggested they take a look while Oinarin was sleeping.
That evening the Fellowship made camp once again.
[The Corruption tests for the Fellowship’s third day in the blighted marshes resulted in Malaric spending a point of Hope to succeed, and Oinarin, Grunehild and Grimald all failing. So Oinarin, Grunehild and Grimald each got a second point of Shadow.]
During the night, when Malaric finished his watch and woke Grunehild, her first thought was to ask him about the jewel case. “Well, did you do it?” she whispered. “Did you find out what was in it?”
“It didn’t seem like a good idea,” Malaric replied. “I’m not the stealthy one. I’d be almost certain to wake him.”
“So you want me to do it?”
“Whether you do or not is not for me to decide,” Malaric muttered unhelpfully as he rolled over and settled down to sleep.
So Grunehild sat through her watch wondering what secrets the jewel case held and whether Oinarin had already looked inside it. Eventually she came to a decision. She rose and crept over to where Oinarin slept. It was relatively easy for her to take the box. The Dwarf did not stir. Within the case she found a rolled parchment and a fine necklace of twisted gold. The necklace held a magnificent snowy-coloured jewel. Even in the darkness of Mirkwood its countless facets glittered as if illuminated by an inner light.
As Grunehild held the necklace her certainty that it was a wondrous and powerful item grew. It should not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. It needed to be kept safe.
[The stone was from Smaug’s hoard and the Dragon’s wickedness still lingered upon it. Grunehild had to make a Corruption Test when she saw the jewel and Emma failed, so Grunehild was seized by a fierce desire for it. I felt it made sense to present this in terms that appealed to Grunehild’s Warden calling.]
Grunehild wanted to take the necklace but was afraid of being discovered. She thought that Oinarin knew about it and would notice if it was missing. She decided to bide her time and reluctantly returned it to the box and put it back with the Dwarf’s belongings.
[I wasn’t sure how best to play the ‘Shadow’ desire in this respect. I could have forced Grunehild to take the necklace but I didn’t want to break Emma’s visualisation of her character. I need to consider this aspect of the game more carefully.]
The Journey South (Day Five)
The next morning the Fellowship travelled on again.
By late afternoon they had reached the eastern end of the Old Forest Road and turned westward, continuing through the marshes within Mirkwood. They entered a tangle of hoary willows where many small-sized ravens with greenish-black feathers sat motionless, apparently watching them from high in the branches overhead.
“That’s not a good sign”, Malaric observed, nodding towards the strangely unsettling birds.
“Let’s not do anything to aggravate them”, Grimald suggested.
The four companions pushed on through the hanging willow branches until a short while later Grunehild noticed one of the branches was moving under its own volition. “Watch out. The trees!” she cried out in alarm. Her warning came too late however, as at that moment one of the branches slipped around Malaric’s throat and rapidly tightened. He was drawn up on tip-toe as it started to choke him. The Beorning struggled and grabbed for his axe, trying to free himself by twisting and hacking above his head. Unfortunately he could not get a clear swing. [I gave John an Athletics test to get in a position where he could make an attack but he failed it.].
Grunehild was quickly at Malaric’s side, lifting him up in an effort to help him breathe. Meanwhile, Grimald chopped away at the branches with his axe, trying to free the Beorning. However, in the confusion the Woodman’s blows were misdirected and one glanced off Malaric rather than severing the intended target [Ben rolled an EYE OF SAURON, so Malaric took 7 END.]
Malaric glared at Grimald. He looked like he was trying to say something but his face was turning purple and his eyes bulged as the constricting branch squeezed the life out of him.
“Hold him up” Grunehild barked urgently. Grimald immediately stopped hacking and did as the Beorning woman bid him. Grunehild swiftly drew her axe and cut through the offending branches. [Emma needed a Great success or better and succeeded at her first attempt.]
Freed from danger, Malaric dropped to his knees and gasped for air. His colour quickly returned to normal. The Fellowship moved away, putting a safe distance between them and the hanging branches before resting for a few moments.
While they were catching their breath, Malaric began to recall bits of an old rhyme he had once heard. Much of it bore a striking similarity to their current situation. “Gallows weed… Gorcrows,” he muttered thoughtfully. He recited as much as he could remember of the Mewlips poem to the others. Certain words and phrases hung eerily in the air.
“The shadows where the Mewlips dwell … dark and wet … slow and softly rings their bell … in the slime you sink … grinning gargoyles … noisome waters … drooping willows … a dark pool’s borders … moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide … gloomily the gorcrows stand … cellars … deep and dank and cold … single sickly candle … there they count their gold … feet … go softly with a squish-flap-flip … in a sack your bones they take to keep … hanging trees … gallows-weed.”
“If at all possible, I think we should try and avoid the place of which that poem speaks,” Grimald suggested when Malaric was finished.
“Let’s just find my kinsmen and get out of this accursed place,” Oinarin urged.
Once again the Fellowship pressed on, following the heavily overgrown course of the Old Forest Road through the marshes. They soon came to a place where the last vestiges of ancient buildings jutted out of the slime and mud like broken teeth. Lonely pillars, crumbling arches and wet walls with staring gargoyles appeared to be all that remained of an ancient town.
“Is there anything about this in your poem?” Grimald asked warily.
Malaric nodded towards the “grinning gargoyles”.
Grimald swallowed but said nothing more.
They soon found themselves approaching a dark pool. Around them the gorcrows started croaking raucously and then very faintly they thought they heard the ringing of a distant bell.
Malaric immediately brought them to a halt. “It’s getting late,” he said. “And I really don’t want to be wandering around this place in the dark. Let’s find somewhere to hole up until morning.”
They pulled back and sought shelter in the lee of a ruined wall that they had recently passed. There, huddled in the darkness, they slept restlessly or watched and waited, listening to the night sounds around them. Drip … drip… squish-flap-flip.
[We finished our second session with the Corruption tests for the Fellowship’s fourth day in the blighted marshes. Malaric and Grimald each spent a point of Hope to succeed, Grunehild failed and Oinarin succeeded. So Grunehild finished the session with 4 Shadow, Grimald and Oinarin with 2 each and Malaric with 1.]
[Later, during Session 3, we looked back and determined that on one of the occasions he was alone on watch, Oinarin would also have looked in the jewel-case. However, Colin made the necessary Corruption test and was unaffected by the jewel.]