Late in the winter, whilst our companions gathered around the hearth at The Stout Head, a certain grey wizard paid Woodland Hall a visit.
Fiomir, recognising Mithrandyr, welcomed the visitor with the long grey beard and the peaked hat. Gandalf came to sit amongst the drinkers and the tale-tellers of the western Eaves to listen to their stories and hear their thoughts. He questioned them on matters of the forest, and on the fact that orcs had been sighted in Fenbridge and near the Old Dwarf Road. When pressed about the future he replied that a hopeful light was now shining in the forest, but that many dark things still lay within its depths. Stout-hearted folk and much hard work would be required in the coming years to bring a light fully to what was once cast so deeply in shadow.
Around this time Evoric, the captured man from Tyrant’s Hill, escaped his bonds from Woodland Hall and made his way south. He was trailed by Gerold, Fiomir, and Anders to the edge of Southern Mirkwood, where the forest became too thick and dangerous to allow for further progress. Near to the Narrows of the Forest they discovered the site of a battle where a band of orcs had suffered a great defeat at the hands of a patrol of men. Fiomir wondered whether this might be the men of the East Bight fighting their way through the woods from their homelands. He was later to discover otherwise, even though his companion Anders already knew the truth about the men from Amon Baulgir – Tyrant’s Hill.
In the spring Broggo and Orri began to organise another expedition to the Old dwarf Road to the north, this time with a fellowship of ten companions. Their hope: to find the lost Yew Fort, six miles deeper into the forest than they had last been able to venture.
Using Broggo’s map they poled up the Dusky river and cut two days across heavily forested terrain. The ground was boggy. There was no fresh water. Even the animals seemed to shun the deeper unlit part of Mirkwood the companions had to traverse.
Once again they became lost a day after leaving the river, but as if guided by some unerring beacon they managed to stumble across the Old Dwarf Road buried deep beneath root and tree.
The path the buried road made was now a dark, cavernous hollow beneath the impenetrable forest canopy. A tangle of giant sticky webs hung across the way, no doubt a trap for anything bold enough to use the path. The fellowship chose to use torches to singe back the web, clearing their way, so that they could progress deeper into the silent woods.
Soon they came upon a gloomy clearing where an old half collapsed tower leaned, a great tree growing up from within it’s crumbling walls. Web strands lay all about the ground, particularly between piles of stone that look to have been made from the ruins of the tower itself. Being the adventurous sort Flora slipped past the defensive line of dwarves to have a look about the clearing herself. She froze dead in her tracks as she witnessed a terrifying sight. Above the whole clearing was a huge malevolent spider’s web. The strands floating above seemed to evoke a rising gloomy doom, striking fear into the hearts of all who looked upon it. Flora froze, as the weaver of the web, a great spider of Mirkwood descended upon her. The companions rushed to her defence (meanwhile, Gerold ducked into the tower nearby). A few of them ran for their lives when the dark magic of the web struck their hearts. But a single arrow from the elf, Fiomir, stopped the arch weaver in it’s tracks, killing the foul creature with a single shot. A moment later Gerold’s cries were heard from the old tower!
He had been strung up, right at the top of the tower, as arachnid shapes moved closer and closer to his head which was exposed to the gloomy tree tops. Fiomir and Anders let arrows fly while a dwarf ball was formed. The spiders webbed the two archers while the ball of dwarves defensively cut and hacked at the webs that were intended for their doom. The remaining greedy spiders, after capturing four of the party, scuttled down to the floor but were slain by the dwarven defenders who stood resolute there.
Once clear of the webs, the companions explored the old tower floor. There they found a vault door covered in Dwarven runes that surrounded a gleaming red gem set into its center. The script spelled out Dwarven magic, which the gem in turn fueled, to keep the contents of the vault fresh and dry.
Beside the vault door lay the grisly remains of a dwarf encased in spiders web clutching a leather bound journal to his chest. The dwarf was Dvarri, one of Tharfi’s son’s companions, and his diary spoke of how he and Farfi intended to make the eastern edge of Mirkwood by 2948. Nothing has yet been heard of Tharfi’s son Farfi.
After the battle with the spiders and the discoveries of the Yew Fort the companions set out for home once again determined to gain the aid of the Woodmen in clearing the Old Dwarf Road up to the Yew Fort.
When midsummer arrived in Rhosgobel the small town found itself alive with festivities as visitors, traders, and delegates from all round gathered for the Folk-moot. Notables included Ingomer Axebreaker, chieftan of Woodland Hall; Friedwald the runner, chieftain of Woodmen town; and Hartfast of Mountain Hall. Also there was Ceawin, the chieftain of the people of the East Bight, who wished to be included amongst the Woodmen’s folk. Amaleoda the shieldmaiden of The Black Tarn was there also, to invite any folk who wished to come south and build around the bountiful waters of the Tarn and join her in building a new village.
Ode impressed the blacksmiths by crafting an exquisite dagger in the local forge, while Tharfi brought smiles to everyone’s faces with the toys that he carved for all the children at the moot. Hagnus sought out the finest barley from the East Bight and excellent whiskey and pipeweed from The Black Tarn for The Stout Head. Ode spoke with Hartfast of Mountain Hall about obtaining a supply of high quality iron from the misty Mountains, but the old warrior feared his own supply would run out and was not forthcoming with an agreement.
When it came time for the moot, everyone heard Ceawin and Amaleoda speak. But before any decisions could be made Fiomir noticed Evoric, the escaped man, in the crowd. As Fiomir stood to accuse Evoric everyone’s attention was suddenly turned towards the long houses doorway. Through the door came a dozen men clad in black, all bearing the mark of Amon Baulgir – Tyrant’s Hill.
Leading the men of Tyrant’s Hill was a tall warrior wearing a helm in the form of a black dragon. Removing the faceplate, he revealed himself as Mogdred once Inomer, Ingomer Axebreaker’s son, and a noble Woodman by birth. He revealed that he and his men, all descendants of the Woodmen who fought the Necromancer in the south years before, had turned Amon Baulgir into a fortress again and had been using it to harry orcs. At that point the men standing beside Mogdred emptied the sacks they had carried with them, spilling dozens of orc heads onto the floor of the long house. Mogdred claimed that if it were not for the men of Tyrant’s Hill, The Black Tarn would have been overrun by orcs long since. Mogdred scoffed at the offers made by Ceawin and Amaleoda, and demanded a place on the Woodmen’s council, along with tribute, gold, and women from The Black Tarn.
Then old Tharfi stood and calmed the excited and fearful crowd. He argued with Mogdred and also with Hartfast, who didn’t see room at the council for Ceawin but favored Modgred for his military might. Mogdred tried to intimidate the council by threatening to withdraw his protection from the south, but Tharfi convinced all those who listened that all the parties needed each other and that even the new village of The Black Tarn deserved to be independent and not directly under Mogdred’s rule. Tharfi’s words were heeded and in the end Mogdred agreed that he would only take a small tithe from The Black Tarn and from those crossing The Narrows to keep his men armed and his horses fed.
In the end both Ceawin and Mogdred were given seats upon the Elder Council, along with Ingomer, Fridwald, and Hartfast. Trade agreements were made, opening up new sources of food and ale from the East Bight; fish, pipeweed and whiskey from The Black Tarn; gems, gold and silver from Mountain Hall; and high quality iron ore, worthy of Falco’s Forge, from the hills around Amon Baulgir.