September 1st, 3017
The party is sitting around a table in an inn minding their own business. This is the Barrel Rider, popular among travellers to Laketown. The proprietor is Hennig Olwyc, helped out by his wife and three children. Borri strikes up a conversation with a fellow dwarf, Frer.
Suddenly they hear a high squeak from the bar saying "'eer, 'oo are you!" They turn to see a pickpocket attempt gone bad. A young unkempt lad, Kuepper, has tried to pick the pocket of a middle aged fisherman, Silas, who has caught him. Panicking, Kuepper slashes at Silas with a knife and dives through a nearby window. Silas falls to the ground clutching his throat, and his purse drops spilling coins and an extraordinary amount a cut gems along the floor.
Gudrid rushes forward to the aid of Silas, and through her superb healing craft, manages to prevent his sure demise. He catches a few words from Silas before he passes out. "The dragon [something] got me at last. Warn my friends." Meanwhile, the rest of the party, and most inn patrons, are scrambling about the floor grabbing up the spilled gems. But soon many of the locals drop their gems in horror as they hear a warning about the Dragon's Curse..
The tale comes to light of the dragon Smaug and the events told in "The Hobbit". Dragon treasure is cursed, as born out by the tragic events that befell Thorin Oakenshield and Company upon their recovery of Smaug's hoard. The dragon himself died and his bones lay at the bottom of Long Lake, surrounded by the gems and gold that once encrusted his scales. But none have yet dared to dive into the cold waters where once was Old Esgaroth to scavenge the riches that lay there.
Two town guards enter the inn. One rushes forward to wounded Silas, and the other begins to question the patrons. Rumours and news start to flow. Silas often goes out fishing with Fuster, Krant and Boldt. Kuepper is a young miscreant and suspected thief who hangs out with whoever will have him. The guard them demands that all surrender the gems, which will be taken to the Master of Laketown. A brief quarrel ensues as to who is the rightful owner of the gems, Silas, Laketown, the Dwarves or the Elves. Thallin and Kell keep their gems and their tongue. Snorri forfeits the gems he has collected. But true to form, he holds one back. He does however go with the guard to the Great House of Laketown to make sure the treasure is kept safe.
A third guard, dripping wet, arrives to announce that Kuepper has escaped underneath the town (which is built on piling rising from the lake). The guards will conduct a house to house search soon.
The party takes Silas to his wife, living in a third floor room in the poorer section of town. The wife is hysterical. After calming down, she says that he has been out at nights on an odd job up the road to earn a few more coppers. The party, suspicious of everyone and everything, starts looking around the lodgings for evidence of further treasure. The wife notices, and screams for them to leave. The party leaves, though somewhat confused as to why she should be angry at their pawing through her belongings so soon after the near death of her husband.
The party attempts to locate Fuster and Krant. They go to the town quay and question some fishermen. Those two are still out on the lake fishing. But soon their small boat arrives and the party stops them. They tell them of the attack on Silas and his words that his friends should be warned. The fishermen say that they are friends to Silas, and often go out with him and Boldt, but they deny having anything to do with the scavenging of gems. They also say that Silas spoke of a job inland at night (!) clearing brush and trees for a new farm.
The party, at the urging of Borri, suddenly become suspicious of the dwarf Frer way back in paragraph one! They've got it into their heads that Silas was holding out on somebody, and that Kuepper was paid to silence him. They go back to the Barrel Rider and ask of Frer. Innkeeper Hennig tells them its none of their business. So they decide to wait and see if Frer leaves and to follow him. A couple of hours later a guard comes in, on a house to house search for Kuepper. Ardan keeps a close watch on the guard, and discovers that Frer really is upstairs sleeping. Of course, now the guard is suspicious of the party.
The party splits up. Thallin, Ardan and Borri go to the poorer part of town and the Soggy Bottom tavern, where his wife said that Silas usually goes. Kell and Gudrid watch the lodgings of Fuster and Krant to see if they leave. Snorri heads up to his room in the inn and sleeps.
At the Soggy Bottom, Borri has three orders of fish and chips, and the others ask around about Silas and Kuepper. A few tidbits of information are forthcoming, primarily on the high quality of Silas's character, the lack of same on the part of Kuepper. As the party leaves, they notice that a town guard has been watching them.
Meanwhile, Kell and Gudrid see Fuster leave his place, go to Krant's, and the both them creeping silently to the quay and their boat. They wait until the boat leaves, then Gudrid wakes up a sleeping duck, and tells it to seek out the man, elf and dwarf that he was with earlier and tell them to hasten to the quay. Gudrid explains to Kell that many of her people can speak with beasts and birds. Kell thinks she is crazy.
The other half of the party go looking for Kell and Gudrid, when a duck flies over, lands and starts quacking. To their amazement, they can understand the duck's speech! It is telling them to hurry to the quay because the two fishermen are leaving in a boat. Still dumfounded by the amazing talking bird, they hurry on.
The party meets up, and Ardan's Elvish eyes can make out the fishing boat away off in the darkness. The party "borrows" two other boats without asking and head off after them. Kell is the only one with any real boating experience, so they rope the two boats together. A couple of hours later Ardan spots the other boat stopping and tying up on an old piling sticking up out of the lake. The party remains back where they cannot be seen.
Fuster and Krant appear to be dredging the lake bottom with a bucket tied to a rope. About an hour later they head to the shore. The party heads to shore as well, then sneaks up to without a couple hundred feet of the fishermen. This is close enough that even the humans and dwarf can see somewhat the events. The fishermen are sort through gravel and muck and picking things out, presumable gems.
Kell figures that it will be at least three hours going back by boat, since they will have to go against the slow but steady current in the Long Lake. So Kell heads back with the boats now so their "borrowing" won't be discovered, while the rest will take the road back into town later. It is two in the morning.
September 2nd, 3017
Soon after the departure of the boats and Kell, the party hears the sound of a horse coming up the road. A man on horseback approaches from the south and talks to the two fishermen. He is wearing a dark hooded cloak. Several members of the party attempt to stealthily move closer to hear any conversation.
The horseman is handed the bucket, and he examines the contents. Suddenly he reaches in and pulls out an object, letting the bucket drop, spilling a few gems in the mud. He holds up the object and it is a shiny ring. The fishermen appear to be confused at the horseman's behavior. Then the horseman puts the ring in his purse and whistles loudly, the rides off down the road south whence he came.
From the wooded and rough ground below the low bluff to the west of the lake come several orcs. The party at this point is separated from each other as they were individually sneaking forward and hiding behind different trees when this occured. The party's first thought was that they had been discovered. But three orcs proceed to fire arrows at the fishermen. Other orcs are moving forward to join the bowmen.
Thallin is closest and makes an impressive charge towards two orcs, striking both and knocking one prone. Ardan soon joins him in the melee. The three bowmen orcs, who are only a dozen feet away, ignore them and continue knocking arrows and firing at the fishermen. One arrow strikes Krant in the back and he falls.
The horsemen continues riding off, even though he must be aware of the melee between the orcs and party by now.
Two orcs are seen charging towards Borri's position. Apparently he had been spotted earlier. But Borri either ignores them, or is unaware of them, and sprints towards the three bowmen orcs. Reaching them he sweeps his axe around, hitting one grievously, while the other two dodge. They wisely drop their bows and draw scimitars as Borri yells a dwarven battlecry.
And what of Gudrid? The whispered tails of Beorning skinchanging may have some justification after all, as a large bear charges from where she was hiding. The bear reaches the two orcs that were chasing Borri, knocks one down and starts mauling it. Meanwhile Fuster has grabbed the injured Krant and hauled him into the boat.
The orcs were not expecting resistance. A couple of orcs are routing when one of the bowmen orcs make a great shout, and the rest start retreating. More orcs are then heard to the west retreating south as well. The party take out a few more orcs as the retreat, but do not follow them for the moment. In all, eight orcs were seen and four slain. Many more were heard in the darkness to the west.
Ardan rushes towards the "escaping" fishermen. He persuades them not the leave. Gudrid resumes a human form, and pulls the boat back to shore, offering first aid to Krant, who is still unconscious. Borri casually picks up the gems that were spilled by the horseman.
Fuster then proceeds to tell his story. The horseman, who he knows as "Janik", hired the fishermen to scavenge for gems. He was giving them a tenth of the find. They only see Janik at night. Borri wanted to know why they needed an employer to take nine tenths of the find, when they could have scavenged on their own. His reply was that Janik would keep trouble away, since scavenging for Smaug's treasure is not legal. The party then resumes their debate on who the gems rightfully belong to, the dwarves, men or elves. Ardan wants them dumped back in the lake.
Then the party starts considering the ring that was found in Smaug's resting place, and why the horsemen took it and rode off. Is is a ring of power? They try tracking the horseman, but it is too dark to make out horse tracks from the orc tracks. Gudrid contacts a night owl to send a message or Korak, lord of the ravens of northern Mirkwood, that the horseman must be tracked. He realizes that it will be many, many hours before the message is received.
At dawn they are able to see better, and Ardan and Thallin track the horseman down the road. They arrive at the end of the lake, and the impressive Londaroth Falls. There the orc and horse tracks diverge. The horse tracks lead on to the village of Londaroth, while the orc tracks veer off to the southwest and Mirkwood. Thallin wants to go after the orcs, but the pary feels that the horseman is the greater worry.
The party moves on to Londaroth. It is now about 11 o'clock in the morning, and they find Londaroth in an uproar. There is word of orcs holed up in a homestead to the west within the outlying woods of Mirkwood...
September 2nd, 3017
The party is entreated by the villagers of Londaroth to help them take care of the orcs which have holed up in a homestead in the outlying woods to the west. They are rounding up swords, spears and pitchforks for an assault. Ignoring their missed sleep, the party decides to help the villagers. But the party does request a quick meal and a chance to sit down, so the stop in the small village tavern.
At the tavern they meet Karst Stadsen, a boy of about ten years age. He is being tended to by some villagers. It was early this morning, before sunup, when he outside his parent's homestead on a "call of nature" when the orcs arrived. They stormed into his house, and he ran away unseen. He went straight for Londaroth, about ten miles away. He is exhausted and frightened.
A half hour later and the party is rested enough to continue. Outside the tavern a group of eight villagers have gathered with sundry pointed farm implements, ready to head off with the party. They all appear to be completely inexperienced with combat, except for one old man, Rutland, who has the look of an ex-guard or yeoman.
The group head into the woods along a trail to the homestead. Along the way they find where the orcs came across the trail and started following it.
The homestead is a one story log cabin with steep thatched roof. There is a single door, one shuttered window in front, and two on either side. There is a small woodpile and leanto on back. It is in the middle of a small clearing, and the group stays back in the trees to observe it. All appears to be quiet as some party members scout the outskirts of the clearing.
Gudrid notices that the three shuttered windows are cracked slightly, as if a watch is being kept. The group decides to move towards the back of the house where they cannot be seen. They move quietly back through the woods and reapproach the house from the north. But they are spotted! A harsh voice calls out from the homestead saying "come no closer." Then a women's voice is heard saying that she is a hostage and that the orcs will kill her.
Gudrid "negotiates" with the unseen orc/hostage from the edge of the woods, while the rest of the group sneaks to the back of the house in preparation to storm it. The hostage, which is presumably Mrs. Stadsen, says that the orcs will let her go and be on their way at sunset. She sounds very frightened.
Ardan silently and cat-like jumps up onto the roof and moves to a point above where Mrs. Stadsen is heard speaking. The rest of the group, except Gudrid who is negotiating, splits into two and sneaks towards the front of the house on either side. The plan is to sneak under the side shuttered windows to make a quick storm through the front door. But Borri is not as quiet as he thinks, and as he passes under the west window, it opens up and an orc scimitar lashes out and strikes him. He is too surprised to do much more than a clumsy parry.
The battle is on in earnest before the party is ready. Ardan jumps down through the thatched roof and lands just behind the hostage. He keeps his footing, grabs her and hoists her up to the roof opening. The homestead is full of orcs, but he keeps holding her up until she can grab hold. Fortunately the suddenly opened window and newly made hole in the thatch have dazzled the orcs with sunlight.
Thallin rushes to the front door and wrenches it open. Borri makes a mad charge to the open door and fells and orc standing there. But now he is facing a dozen or more orcs within, and two injure him with cruel strokes. He quickly backs out of the building. Gudrid rushes forward from where she was speaking from the woods, and climbs the woodpile to the top of the leanto. She attempts to grab the hand of the hostage. Villagers at either side of the homestead thrust pitchforks and staves into the open windows hitting some orcs. But a few are hit back with scimitars, and a few arrows are shot back as well.
Gudrid manages to grab hold of the hostage and help her out. Ardan is backed into a corner inside and battles two orcs around her. She disarms one while the other is hit with a pitchfork thrust in from the side windows. He leaps up and pulls himself out of the building. Now things start to get a bit confusing, as often happens in battle. Thallin, Borri, and several villagers shut the door and windows to hold the orcs in while others start a fire to burn the thatch roof and suffocate the orcs. But the two villagers at the east window still try to strike orcs with staves and pitchforks. One large orcs manages to leap out the window and run towards the woods. Others try to escape the same way but are stopped.
Borri manages to get a fire quickly started and a couple of villagers start lighting the thatched eaves on fire. Ardan climbs down and rushes to the east windows and helps stop the orcs from escaping. One orc manages to hit the door hard enough to knock Thallin back, but Thallin strikes him down and he cannot escape.
Soon the orcs within are smothered and dead, and the villagers enter to finish them off and put out the fire before the walls catch. Three orcs are alive, that had managed to escape the east window. Two are incapacitated from wounds, and the third had run off into the woods. The master of the homestead is found within, dead.
Several members of the party track after the escaped orc, which is not difficult. The orc is wounded and dazzled in the daylight. They catch up to it and shoot it down. The head back to the homestead.
They revive the two incapacitated orcs and interrogate them. One refuses to talk, but the other does. He says that Janik "hired" them to make sure the fishermen were not disturbed in their scavenging, and to finish them off when the word was given. Janik came from the Mountain of Necromancy, or Dol Guldur. Gudrid remarks that he thought Dol Guldur had been cleansed of its evil several decades earlier by the White Council. Borri keeps his promises and gives the orcs a quick death.
The party head back to Londaroth. There Gudrid meets with a raven from Korak, and he tells of the horseman that must be tracked. Gudrid says to report back to them at Laketown, where they will go the heal up. The raven says that he and his brothers will do their best. The party finally gets a full nights sleep.
They head back to Laketown the next day, and just before the reach it, in the evening, a raven comes to them. The horseman was seen entering Mirkwood by the Old Dwarf Road and the marshes that have overgrown it on the east end. The raven says they will continue to try to track the horseman, but it may be impossible once he is fully under the cover of the forest. The party decides that Dol Guldur should be their next destination, but they must heal first.
September 4th, 3017
The party rests a while in the Barrel Rider inn. They discuss the happenings with Snorri, who has heard dim stories of dwarven rings of power. Thallin wants to pursue "Janik" the horseman immediately, but a few of the party are still wounded and need more rest. Ardan heads off to Mirkwood to report the events to his liege Thranduil.
Wrapping up the loose threads in Laketown, Borri and Gudrid visit first Krant and then Fuster. Krant is badly wounded, and he is convinced to give up his take of Smaug's gems. They also learn a tiny bit more from him, as he mentions that Janik's horse was a noble steed with fine trappings, and that Janik spoke with an easterling accent. He also mentions that the saddle had stirrups, which are known to be used by Gondor and Rohan but not by any easterlings. Visiting Fuster they are rudely rebuffed as the source of his woes. They leave him without recovering any of the loot.
Meanwhile Thallin is gathering supplies for a trip through Mirkwood. The bakers are famed for their "cram", a form of waybread, though it looks more suitable for roofing shingles. Snorri has gone off to see Master Forgavia of Laketown. They have come to an agreement to return the scavenged gems to Erebor. Gudrid and Borri meet him there, and a lockbox with the gems is handed over. A separate letter with the inventory is also sent by the master to Dain.
At Thallin's urging they proceed at once to Mirkwood before even taking their noon meal. He is anxious that they have lost too much time already in their hunt for Janik.
Thus ends Episode One of the Chronicle, though the game session continues with Episode Two...