COUNCIL ROOM OF KING BARD OF DALE – 9:OO pm, DAY 1
On the fifth anniversary of the eponymous battle, in the last days of November in the year 2946 of the Third Age, a great feast celebrating the victory at the Battle of Five Armies is held in Dale for the first time. People from all neighboring lands are expected to participate in the revels, as the feast has been arranged to coincide with local celebrations held for the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the colder months of the year. During the first Gathering of the Council of the North, envoys from Lake-town, the Woodland Realm and the Kingdom under the Mountain meet in the presence of King Bard to debate matters concerning Wilderland.
The royal feast continues in the throne room where dozens of wooden tables cover the floor. The remnants of a great feast litter the tables with dogs fighting for scraps. A couple hundred celebrants enjoy small conversations and several minstrels, while key notables politely excuse themselves to join the king.
The council room of King Bard connects the throne room and the royal apartments. Like the rest of Dale, the stonework and woodwork are newly appointed by dwarven and elven masters, respectively. The room is open with seats along the walls.
King Bard stands near the center speaking to two elder dwarves and members of Thorin’s company who succeeded in their quest for Erebor, Balin and his younger brother Dwalin.
Some days ago, on the road
The figure of Ecthelion, son of Turgon, sits proudly on a fine steed. He is among other men of Minas Tirith, knights, assistants, sons of Gondor all.
And he is speaking to one of these sons and knights.
"Findegil, if you remember nothing else for this journey, remember this. Even with all the strength of the White City, there may come days when even that is insufficient to ward off every threat, or at least not without dire cost. So it behoves us to seek strong and worthy allies among the other Free Peoples. And even outside of need, strengthening bonds brings benefits less tangible but perhaps worth even more."
Findegil nods at his lord's words and smiles.
He is fair of hair and skin, with a noble countenance, a clue to his illustrious ancestry. Were he to dismount, he would close to six feet in height. He is armed well, as befits his rank. Silvered ring mail, a hunting horn and a longsword sheathed at his side, showing only a hilt showing the White Tree as does his silver brooch on his black travelling cloak. A great bow and quiver are on his back, and fine riding boots adorn his feet.
"Lord Ecthelion, I hear your words and will take them to heart. I would meet with the warriors of the Free Peoples, and see their ways. We are not the only ones to battle the Shadow, and we can learn from them as they learn from us. I will do your bidding gladly."
Findegil strides into the room, not three paces from his lord.
When it is his turn to speak, he bows.
"Good lords, I am Findegil, son of Durothil, knight of Minas Tirith. I am honoured to be here and look forward to seeing more of this gathering of the Free Peoples."
The elder dwarf turns and smiles at the knight of Gondor. "Welcome, Findegil. I'm Balin. This is my brother Dwalin. And, King Bard needs no introduction." They make room for Findegil to join their conversation.
Ecthelion royally smiles and makes his way to Bard. They shake hands and move to the side of the room to discuss in low voices.
Ecthelion is over a decade older than Bard but appears the same age if a bit younger due to his pure Dúnedain bloodline. He also carries the weight of royalty with far more practice and grace.
Findegil sits down with the practised movements of Gondor nobility.
"My Lords, have there been any pressing developments concerning the Wilderlands recently? We have been on the road and may have missed messengers."
On the road
Krogen rode in silence as he listened to the sounds of the horse's hoofs plodding along as he and his teacher rode along. Krogen Looked over at his mentor the ancient man in grey robes and a long white beard had a pipe in his mouth as he rode. Gandalf, the grey, wizard some have called him a foul. Some say he is wise, Krogen was one of those. He knew if he was to learn anything it was from this ancient man
"Gandalf we should arrive in Dale this evening."
The wizard nodded his head in thought at Krogen's words
Krogen watched the gathered people and his teacher, Gandalf waved him over to introduce himself.
"Greetings my lords I am Korgen from the north, student to Gandalf
Upon Gandalf’s arrival, King Bard and Ecthelion look up from their earnest conversation in hushed voices. They nod and exchange pleasantries with the Gray Wizard inviting him into their small circle of concern.
A servant enters the room with a platter of drinks for the guests. Balin and Dwalin accept fresh tankards of ale. ”Nothing pressing as we have heard, Sir Findegil. Only the odd rumours of goblins gathering in the mountains, spiders nesting in the Forest, and a Shadow creeping into the Wilderland. But they are only stories that pale compared to the threat of Smaug.”. Balin replies to the knight of Gondor.
Findegil nods as Balin speaks.
"It is good that the north is more secure in these days. It may still be best to root out evils before they can multiply."
He too turns to the newcomers.
"My Lord, are you indeed the Grey Wizard of the tales?"
Gonna be real with you all, it's been years since I've spent much time on Middle-Earth and I'm sure I'm gonna mess up the lore, but at one point I practically lived there, and I look forward to revisiting the dream-fields of old! ... Just feel free to jump in and tell me when I'm messing up.
A Silvan elf in well-made but, compared to her fellow visitors from the Last Homely House, plain hunter's garb mills around the festivities, evidently ill at ease with the crush of people; it seems that she hasn't spent much time in the lands of Men, though her eyes are wide with curiosity and she is perhaps a bit too brazen in sneaking stares at the dignitaries - particularly the knight, Findegil.
She's orbited into the company's space by the time Gandalf's arrived, and speaks up,
"Mithrandir! It is Mithrandir, isn't it? I've never been in Court when ... But, my Lord Dwarf," she says to Balin, "the Shadow over the Wood is no small thing. Is it not, Mithrandir?"
"My apologies. I'm no diplomat - but to be honest, my Lords, neither is my royal cousin - we simply worry for our home. We may not hail from Lorien, by the Greenwood has its own beauty."
She toys with a drink she's picked up from somewhere, suddenly defensive.
Lord Ecthelion speaks up.
"Honoured members of the free folk, I would have your ears. The White Tower seeks to stand with others, and for others to stand with it. Together, we can secure the north against any darkness that might imperil it."
He looks to the great figures at the table, and their associates, for a response.
"Aye. It is quite a distance from the city of the White Tree to the halls of King Bard. What do you make of the proceedings?"
Gandalf nods at Findegil with a slight smile
" Those tales are slightly embellished lad"
Krogen smiled at the comment as he listen to the ancient wizard speak to the others
Gandalf smiles at the elven girl
" You are quite right no shadow is ever a small matter but We shall address it soon."
Krogan looks towards Findegil and Anar and speaks in a hushed voice.
"If i was an enemy of free people i would look to break in to their homes when every one was away."
Findegil quietly replies:
"Luckily for us, there are many soldiers of Gondor standing ready on our walls back home. We are emissaries, not armies, so we can talk in some surety that we do not strip defenses from our homes."
Cereidh smiles to herself, a little bit. "Would that I could call myself even that - an emissary. But, Lord Knight, while the Mirkwood has its proud traditions, we are in complete agreement about the calling of the North."
She looks over her shoulder at a tall elf, similarly in well-made hunter's garb.
"Should we wish to bring this conversation into something more formal before My Lord Thranduil catches wind of this small fellowship, and maybe bind ourselves by agreement, my Prince has got bored of your drink and is coming this way."
Cereidh half stands to wave the other elf over.
Legolas Greenleaf looks somewhat skeptical at the small gathering. He schools his expression upon seeing Gandalf. "Mithrandir," he says, with a bow. Then he turns to Cereidh. "Cos, what's this fearmongering with the younger races? Not that I don't find the fall of the Dragon both honorable and impressive," he adds to Balin and Dwalin. He sounds reluctant to be impressed, almost as if he wishes to hear them boast to him.
With Gandalf and Ecthelion turned away from their quiet conversation, King Bard joins them too, "And the Free Peoples of the North have rebuilt the home of Dale.
"After a costly victory at the Battle of Five Armies, Elves, Dwarves and Men have worked together to build a magnificent beacon in the North."
"Now, we need to continue gathering the Free Peoples of the North and discover where the Shadows lurk."
"There is a Man who would not answer my call to Gather. His name is Beorn. We have a more, complicated invitation for him that cannot be delivered by any bird smaller than a giant eagle who are unavailable for this task. The journey crosses the Mirkwood and follows the Anduin south."
"Would there be some of you ready to make this delivery?"
Yucale, when will you put your character in a profile? Thanks
Ecthelion turns to Findegil, but the younger Knight has already stood.
"I, Findegil of Gondor, volunteer for this task!"
I should be able to get that done this weekend : ) Sorry, 've been busy.
"Certainly!" Cereidh says, eyes bright, although she doesn't get up from the table herself.
Legolas shakes his head with a smile, taking a seat himself. "You're welcome to put her fervor for this cause to use, although I must request she return to the Mirkwood safely."
King Bard smiles broadly and responds, "excellent. This has the beginnings of an excellent story." He signals a servant who quickly returns with a small chest.
About a foot and half wide by a foot tall and deep, the wooden chest is decorated in obvious Elven craft. So, as expected there does not appear to be an obvious latch or lock.
"Please deliver this to the hands of Beorn with my gratitude. A pony from the royal stables is available to carry the burden if you require."
The king looks each of the volunteers in the eyes.
To break the tense situation, a hobbit saunters into the council room. Instead of courtier's outfit, this hobbit wears autumnal traveling gear of spun cloth and crudely cured furs with a traveling cloak of mottled green and brown over a backpack. In contrast to the round, cheery faces of Shire Hobbits, this hobbit is gaunt and serious. His wide, wild eyes of flint gray are sharp and untrusting. His face is hairless while the top of his head and feet sport dark brown hair. His weapon’s harness carries a short sword, a sturdy dagger, a short bow and quiver of arrows.
King Bard turns his gaze toward the hobbit, "ah. Good. Let me introduce Malaric." The hobbit starts giving the king a determined side eye.
After a short pause and sly grin, the king continues, "But he prefers to be called Mal. While Cereidh can guide you to and through the Mirkwood. Mal will guide you through the Vale of Anduin."
One of the elder dwarves noisily scoffs at Cereidh's comment. Dwalin you think his name and one of the companions of Thorin on the Quest for Erebor. "Aye, lass. Wish I had an Elven guide through the Mirkwood. They don't call it the Mirk-wood for nothing. My last crossing was fairly eventful. Elven hospitality is not the warmest to strangers."
All eyes turn to the elves for reaction. After an uncomfortable pause, Legolas, son of King Thranduil, shrugs in agreement with the dwarf and chooses not to offer a more detailed reply on the nature of strange dwarves.
Ecthelion raise an eyebrow at the exchange, then shakes it off and speaks to Findegil.
"Go with these free folk, and do Gondor proud."
Findegil nods and speaks up.
"I would begin as soon as we can make preparations."
"Perhaps next time," Legolas says with a frown, "such an esteemed party won't go marching through someone's backyard without so much as a by-your-leave."
Perhaps surprisingly, Cereidh looks amused by the exchange, but turns her shoulders from Thranduil so that he can't see her expression. "I should hope this endeavor doesn't get too interesting ere we even start," she says.
Thranduil is not here. Only his son, Legolas, representing him is here with Cereidh. That got mixed up.
The newly introduced hobbit watches the comments fly around the room. Upon the female elf's second round of comments, Mal discreetly makes his way to a corner of the council room and gets comfortable one on the man-sized chairs that encircle the room.
A few minutes later of chit chat, servants bring in a large table. King Bard suggests, "Mal, would you escort the volunteers to the royal stables and ensure that they have everything they need for the trip."
The hobbit hops down from his perch. He looks each of you in the eyes and then settles on the wooden chest and object of delivery. Then, he looks at the two men and dwarf again. It's clear that the hobbit will not Sherpa the chest.
While you decide which one of you carries the chest, the servants pull the chairs from the walls and arrange them around the table for King Bard, Gandalf, Ecthelion, Legolas, Balin and Dwalin. They seem to have more to discuss.
Once one of you picks up the chest, Mal turns and leads you down to the stables using the servants hallways, which are busy serving the continuing festivities in the great hall. While newly rebuilt and large, the stables are less busy, but there are still several stablehands doing chores and readying horses. Mal greets the stablehands with hand gestures.
It dawns on you that Mal may not speak modern Westron. He probably speaks the Vale of Anduin tongue, an archaic version of Westron that is spoken by Beornings and Woodmen.
Findegil is beaten to the chest by the swifter elf, and says with a smile in Sindarin:
"Please, allow me."
"Excellent. I shall switch back to Westron for the benefit of the others."
To the others:
"We were discussing who takes the chest. I am happy to do so if none of you object."
Anar tries to talk with Mal bowing "Thank you" he says in Dalish talking slowly.
The hobbit nods with respect to the dwarf but his wide, wild eyes of flint gray are sharp and untrusting. Anar feels examined for weakness, strength and wisdom.
Anar notices the hobbit's clothes are undyed cloth and crudely cured furs and his gear is well-kept but worn.
here's the push
Mal goes to a stall of a pony. He picks up a brush and starts grooming him speaking to him in a low voice.
The first royal stablehand who greeted Mal says to the fellowship, "You must be traveling with Mal, then. The king provides you horseflesh. Sir knight, your mount is over there. Mal has picked out two ponies for himself and the provisions. We can help the rest of you select a mount if you want. When do you plan to leave, so we can prepare the horses?"
Entering the Long Marshes: Day 2, 1pm
After assembling in the royal stables in the early morning, you set out to deliver the package to Beorn. Traveling mostly south toward Long Lake, you have Dale and the Lonely Mountain at your back throughout the morning. The river from Erebor is on your left and autumn, harvested fields are on your right. The wild hobbit sits uncomfortably atop his pony leading a second pony with the intricate wooden chest and provisions.
Near midday, you are out in the countryside near the Long Lake and prepare to turn east along the trail along the river connecting Esgaroth and the halls of Thranduil entering the Long Marshes. The ruins of the old Lake-town are visible in the water. Blackened poles poke out like ribs, and when the water is very, very still, one can sometimes spot the bones of Smaug the Dreadful. Sometimes gemstones from the dragon’s fabled diamond waistcoat wash up on the shore.
Then, you hear someone running, and shouts of "help! help!". A young boy about ten years old bursts out of the rushes ahead of you. He spots you and runs towards you, waving his arms. Tears run down his cheeks.
"Help! Please help! My father – his guards – they’re going to kill him! We’re going to Mirkwood and they’re going to kill him! He told me to run! Find help! Help!" The boy’s words tumble out in a terrified flood.
Cereidh pulls her horse up short, a furious scowl briefly crossing her face - she turns to look at the rest of the party instead of the boy as she quickly composes herself. With a deep breath, she pastes a pleasant, attentive look on her face and slides off her horse, handing the reins to whoever's been riding beside her. Then she hunches down with her hands on her knees to look at the child.
"Child! You've found it. We can help your father, but only if you tell us what's going on. Can you do that? Will you come with us, for your safety, while we find your father?"
Persuasion: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 4 = 24
Entering the Long Marshes: Day 2, 1pm
After a couple minutes of coaching, you can piece together the following story: the boy's name is Belgo. His father Baldor is a merchant of Dale. He has a caravan of trade goods and intends to bring it across Mirkwood. He hired three guards for protection, but these guards have now turned on him. The caravan is nearby – if you hurry, you can rescue Baldor.
Realising the urgency of the situation, Findegil draws his blade.
"There is no time to waste! Let us hurry to the caravan! Show us the way, Belgo!"