November 24th, 3017
As Ardan returns to his home in Mirkwood, and Kell decides to head west for better fortunes, the rest of the party make ready to travel to the Lonely Mountain. They sell their horses and proceed on foot. The only item of interest during the trip is that Thallin thinks he spots something out of the corner of his eye out on the lake. But when he turns it is gone.
At Erebor they seek out a locksmith to open the strange box. The go to the workshop of Thogard. While Thallin waits with the locksmith, the rest go a dwarven tavern. Hours later, Thogard still does not have the box open. He calls in the assistance of his guildmaster. Around ten oclock at night, after Gudrid and Borri have returned, the box finally opens.
Within the box are six gemstones. They are bloodred garnets the size of a thumb. Borri estimates them to be worth four gold pieces each, due to their clarity and size. Fearing to keep them in the box, lest it lock again, he stores them away in his purse.
They retire to Bombur's (Borri's uncle) spacious quarters for some sleep. Around midnight they hear some commotion outside the apartments in the corridor. There is a rider at the gates calling for the King Under the Mountain. They hurry to the gate to get a glimpse. The rider is on a black horse wearing what appears in the moonlight to be black laquered scale armor. He is one hundred feet below the gates on the valley floor. Above them on a balcony King Dain arrives.
"Who calls forth the King Under the Mountain in the deep of the night?" calls out the king
"A humble emissary am I, from the Realm of Mordor. Will you listen to my message oh king?" answers the rider.
The emissary speaks of Sauron wishing friendship with the dwarves. He promises that Mordor will restore the greatness of the House of Durin. Dwarven rings of old he pledges. Then his voice lowers and he speaks of even stranger matters.
"Sauron also wishes to know of Hobbits. What kind of people are they? Where do they dwell? For Sauron knows that one of these was known to you on a time." Dain is troubled but gives no answer. "As a small token only of your friendship, Sauron asks this that you should find this thief and get from him, willing or no, a little ring, the least of rings, that once he stole. It is but a trifle that Sauron fancies, and an earnest of your good will. Find it, and three rings that the dwarf-sires possessed of old shall be returned to you, and the realm of Moria shall be yours forever. Find only news of this thief, whether he still lives and where, and you shall have great reward and lasting friendship from the Lord. Refuse and things will not seem so well. Do you refuse?"
Dain finally answers. "I say neither yea nor nay. I must consider this message and what it means under its fair cloak."
"Consider well, but not to long."
"The time of my thought is mine to spend."
"For the present," answers the emissary with a hiss, as he turns and rides off into the night.
While Borri hurries to the King asking to follow the emissary, Gudrid and Thallin descend the steps to the valley floor. But the King refuses, saying that an emissary will be respected no matter how foul his master. At the bottom Gudrid changes into a horse. But Thallin takes a step and suddenly is overcome with a mysterious exhaustion and lies down to sleep. Gudrid (the horse) nuzzles him. When Borri arrives down below, he too feels a sense of extreme drowsiness, but resists it. He urges Thallin to get up and return. After much grumbling he does. His weariness leaves him as soon as he steps upon the stairs leading up.
The party have an additional suspicion about the emissary. The ponder whether it was actually Janik. Only Ardan got a good look at the person, but he is not with them. The go back to where the king stands with some dwarves. He turns to them and commands that the attend a council with him in the morning. He then turns to his steward to summon other named individuals as well.
In the morning the party arrives. Thallin and Gudrid are the only humans. Also present are Bombur, Bofur, Dwalin, Gloin and other dwarf nobles. The king shuts the doors to the chamber and commands that no words spoken here leave the room without his leave.
The party is there to tell the others of their knowledge of Janik and his ring. Then the King explains somewhat of the Dwarven Rings of Power, and the first treachery of Sauron against the houses of the dwarves. It cannot be coincidence that the emissary arrived so soon after Janik discovered a ring. Is it one of the Dwarven Rings?
Then the discussion turns to Mordor itself. None there trust Sauron in the least. But to be decided is a continued unspoken neutrality, or whether the King should answer "no" upon the emissary's return. Gudrid argues forcefully for a firm answer of "no". But the King does not make a decision at this time.
Other dwarves speak of the hobbit they once knew, that aided the liberation of the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. They knew that he had a magic ring that made him invisible. He used it to save dwarves from spiders in Mirkwood and to free them from the dungeons of Thranduil. Bofur says that the hobbit told him that the ring was given to him by a strange creature named Gollum within the goblin mines, in return for winning a game of riddles. The hobbit also said it was his birthday at the time. Was this one of the Dwarven Rings of Power? If so, why would Sauron offer three rings for a mere one? Should they give the emissary a false location to the land of the hobbits?
And what of Moria? It was offered as a token as well. Twenty five years earlier Balin led a party to retake Moria from the orcs. They have not been heard from for twenty years. Sauron's offer mean that they have failed, as the King has long suspected? Does Sauron control Moria, or was it meant as sweet but hollow words to the king? Borri argues that they should at least send a party to Moria to see if Balin lives.
The king decides to send a group north into the Withered Heath to seek the advice of other dwarves that had known of the hobbit. He also seeks to seek council from Elrond the Wise in Rivendell. But winter is almost upon the land, and such journeys over mountains must wait until the spring. He ponders Borri's request but does not give an answer.
During the day Thallin goes to get his broken spyglass fixed, since it was missing a lens. The broach found in Tellis Keep is also appraised. As an heirloom, it would be worth much in the right hands, but a smaller but still sizable sum elsewhere.
Then they are summoned back to the king. He understands their desire to aid the dwarves in this matter, and offers them two missions. The first would be to help transport and guard the first shipment of arms to the Beornings. The second would be to send messages to the dwarves of the Iron Hills to the east. The king dismisses Borri's suggestion to go to Moria. He says he is still pondering the matter. Gudrid feels the first is most suitable, but Borri and Thallin think the second the most urgent. So they decide to be couriers to the Iron Hills. They will get ready and leave the next day.
It is November the 27th.
November 27th, 3017
The party first heads to Laketown. The leave the box and gems with Baerod the guard, restock their supplies, and leave for the Iron Hills in the morning.
The only significant encounter along the way occurs just as the reach the highlands of the Iron Hills. While Borri is keeping watch at night, he is suddenly aware of an old stooped man watching him from the other side of the fire. When he addresses the man, the only reply is "blood." The next day they can find no tracks of the vistor.
The arrive in the Iron Hills and make an audience with the Lord Fundin. They give him Dain's scroll, and related their own experiences on the matter of the emissary. Fundin replies, "What game does Mordor play?"
Later, a man named Borland from the Astrath tribes to the east arrives in the hall. He requests Fundin's aid against the marauding Vûndar. Fundin is hesitant to extend himself beyond his domain of the Iron Hills. He says he will consider the matter.
Then in the middle of dinner in the hall, two Vûndar arrive, Gar Dorok and his skinny scribe Kulek. Gar Dorok offers Fundin greetings from his soon to be new neighbors. They say they only want friendship from the mighty dwarves. Then Borland enters the hall, sees his enemies, and rashly draws his sword upon them. The dwarves break up the fight and escort Borland from the room. "I will not have guests fighting guests in my halls!" thunders Fundin.
Thallin trys to bad mouth the Vûndar, saying how easy it was to overcome Tellis Keep. There is little effect. Kulek remarks that the Khor Ulkre in Rhûn is an ineffective ruler and will soon be replaced. Borri and Thallin drink a bit too much of Fundin's wine, and retire to their room to sleep it off.
In the early morning, cries of "murder" are heard. Gar Dorok has been found with his throat cut in his bed. Lord Fundin and some guards are rushing to the room to investigate and the party arrives soon after.
The dwarven guard that was stationed near the room said he heard a thumping on the door, and upon opening it (it was not barred) found Kulek tied and gagged. Gar Dorok was in his bed with blood all around. There did not appear to be a great struggle, and Kulek had a large bump on his head. Fundin immediately takes Borland (who was sleeping three rooms down) into custody
According to Kulek, he had awakened from his sleep because he though he had heard something. He started to arise, but remembers nothing after that. He found himself coming to on the floor with his arms and legs tied, his mouth gagged, and a splitting headache. The guard outside the room sheepishly admits that he was not present the entire night, since he had left to use the toilet.
Thinking that Kulek's small stature and lack of dreadlocked beard makes him from a different tribe than the Vûndar, tries to entice him to "defect". But he will have none of it. The others make a quick search of the room. There is no bloodied weapon, and Gar Dorok's scimitar is clean. Then the guards who went to arrest Borland announce that he was found sleeping with a bloody knife in his bed.
Fundin is convinced that Borland is the murderer, but Borri puts forth a theory that it was actually Kulek who killed his master, for the purpose of casting foul aspersions upon the "treacherous" Astrath. Fundin allows the party to conduct their own investigation under his authority, and assigns the derelict guard to aid them.
Borri suggests that Kulek be sent to the infirmary to have his head looked at. The party then goes to Borland's room. All seems to be in place. There is blood on the blanket where the knife was found, but only a single drop in the center of the room. Examining the room's layout, which is identical to the other, there are only three exits. The first is the door. The second is the air passage above. The privy hole is much too small to allow exit. The air passage is in the center of the ceiling, and covered by a loose and easily removable grate. But the "duct" that runs between the rooms is too small for any to fit into but the slender Gudrid.
But Thallin is boosted up to look with the duct, and discovers that the dust up there has been recently disturbed. They have the guard look as well to confirm this.
December 9th, 3017
Gudrid changes into a hawk form (she is becoming more adept as skinchanging) to more easily fit into the ductwork. The air passage is approximately two feet square. She then goes though it, seeing disturbed dust all the way to the grate over Gar Dorok's room. This is also demonstrated to the guard.
The party then reexamines Gar Dorok's room for signs of dust. There is some dust there, but no incriminating lumps or smears of it. Borri spots a single drop of blood that is directly underneath the door to the room. They then examine the corridor between the rooms, but find no other traces of blood.
The party goes down to the infirmary to examine Kulek. His clothing is dusty, but it could easily be explained as travel dust. There is nothing that looks like fresh smears of dust that he might have neglected to dust off. They order him to remove his shirt, to see if he is dusty underneath, but he is not. He is, however, very dirty and grimy, and probably hasn't bathed in weeks. They then go to the dungeon to examine Borland. There is no sign of dust on him, and he is much cleaner.
They then go report to Lord Fundin. Gudrid explain their theory that Kulek killed Gar Dorok, then crawled along the air passage to Borland's room, then tossed the bloody knife from above onto his bed. He then must have dusted himself off, tied himself up, then knocked his head against the wall.
The party did miss some clues for a variety of reasons, and did not adequately explain some puzzling points, but their logic convinces Fundin
"If the duct don't fit, you must aquit!" Fundin calls Kulek and Borland before him. He can easily see that Kulek is small enough to fit into the air passage. So could Borland, but it would be an extremely tight fit. Fundin directly accuses Kulek, who vigorously denies it. Fundin then adds his own bit, "we found the dust on your cot." Kulek's eyes betray his guilt, and Fundin knows the truth. He orders Kulek's beheading.
"But I am an emissary! You cannot execute me," shouts Kulek.
Fundin replies, "No, you are a mere scribe. The man you murdered was the emissary."
The party leaves for the Lonely Mountain the next day. They tell Dain of Fundin's reception of the message, and of the events that occured later. Borri again brings up the matter of Moria. Dain relents, wanting to know of Balin still lives. They stock up in Dale, and return to Laketown.
There they meet up with Baerod. He tells them that Bog, the warehouseman, was found murdered ten days earlier. He was found sitting in the warehouse dead, with half a bottle of poisoned wine next to him. The two "Janik" crates are gone. He also tells of the unfortunate disappearance/drowning of a small child, and the return of Alderman Rodric from his trip to Gondor.
Baerod says he kept the garnet gems that were found in the city safe, in hope that whoever would collect the crates would come to him complaining of theft. At the party's urging, the gives them the gems, and Thallin keeps them. Their plan is to use them as bait.
Gudrid goes out at night to talk with some of the local animals about the warehouses. She is trying to find out if any rats, cats or others saw anyone take the crates. There is no news of the crates or the poisoning. But she does find out that sometimes barrels are moved secretly at night along the docks. Piecing together bits of what various rats can tell her, she learns that there must be a smuggling ring of some kind moving barrels from the docks to the Soggy Bottom Tavern. The rats know very little about it, tending to avoid all human activity. But one rat tells her something odd. The rat claims that recently the water beneath the city is "bad and cold" and doesn't like it anymore.
December 18th, 3017
The party is staying at the Barrel Rider. In the morning, Gudrid talks with Baerod (chief of the guard) about possible smuggling within Esgaroth. He says he would appreciate concrete evidence and firm leads. Suspicions aren't enough to stop it.
The others go off to try to "sell" some of the garnets, to flush out the rightful owner. They hear of a curio shop, and visit it. Near the northeast corner of the city they indeed find a shop with the name "Curios". It is run by an old man with the name of "Endering." They show him the gems, and he offers one gold coin apiece for them. They do not sell. Thallin sells him the brooch he found at Rhûn. Borri show him the horn, and Endering is fascinated.
At the Soggy Bottom tavern, they say loudly, "can you believe he offered us sixteen gold for them?" Patrons look over curious, but no one takes the bait. Outside, they are approached by a man named "Dibler". He offers 36 gold for them, but says he has "friends" who might pay more, frinds who specialize in small exotic items. Thallin tells him to come back in the evening. The go off and talk to Baerod, who thinks it is a good idea to sell four of the gems, with half the proceeds going to the city.
Gudrid changes into a hawk to spy on Dibler. The party meets with Dibler and the transaction is made. Gudrid tracks him to the same building as the Soggy Bottom, but a different unnamed establishment on the other end. Gudrid sees the owner of the Soggy Bottom (Mikken Duff) enter a shortly after. An hour later Dibler leaves to go to the better side of town and a fancy inn named the "Golden Dragon". Then he goes on to a warehouse by the wharf, where he remains.
In the morning, the party is summoned by a guard to the Great Hall. There Baerod meets with them and gives them a mild interrogation about the events of the previous evening. Amidst their confusion, they learn that some violence was done to Dibler. The party, with Baerod, go to Dibler's. It is a room above the same warehouse mentioned earlier. Though there is no body, there are signs of violent struggle, lots of blood, and a trail of the blood leading to the window and out. The gems are not in his room. Were they stolen from Dibler, or did he already pass them on to his client? Baerod believes that Dibler was murdered and his body thrown out the window to the lake below.
The party goes over to the Soggy Bottom. Gudrid talks to Mikken Duff about Dibler, while the others order a late breakfast and some ales. Mikken says that Dibler is a small time hustler, always looking for the deal that will make him rich quick. The establishment on the other side of the building is "Madame Binkers", a house of ill repute. He remembers that Dibler went there last night, but does not know anything else about his activities.
The party then goes to the Golden Dragon in the good part of town. The serving made remembered a man of Dibler's description that sat by himself speaking to no one. After he started to get drunk on too much good wine, he left. Thallin an Borri go back to Madame Binkers. They pretend to be Dibler's friends, but the lady behind the door does not let them in. She refers to the place as a "tea house", and that they need a proper introduction before they can be admitted. "Come back with Dibler and have him formally introduce you." She clearly doesn't want strangers in her establishment.
Thallin has the garnet gems. They hope to attract Dibler's murderer, and have announced in a few places that they still have two for sale. They go back to the Barrel Rider inn and their rooms. At night they place chairs against their doors, and prop chamber pots against the windows.
Late at night Thallin awakes hearing faint scratchings outside his room. From the outside by the window, not from the door. Gudrid also awakens, but does not notice anything. Slowly Thallin's shutters open and the chamber pot clangs down onto the floor. Silence for a few minutes. Thallin pretends to still be sleeping. He has his knives in hand. Gudrid sits up in her bed hearing the clang, and Borri stirs from his sleep. Then Thallin sees a tall shape enter his room. From the sound, it appears to be sniffing for something. It slowly approaches Thallin.
Thallin strikes out at the visitor. But his well aimed blows do little damage. He sees that it is a man shaped creature, but that it has blue gray skin of rubbery texture dripping with water. It resembles much a drowned man. It is naked. As the knives cut the creature, but draw no blood, it fastens its eyes upon Thallin. He is entranced by the wide white eyes and can see nothing else. Then the creature holds the bespelled Thallin and bites at his neck.
Hearing the brief sounds of knives, Gudrid and Borri rush from their adjacent rooms. Gudrid arrives first and barges through the door. Thinking that Thallin can handle himself (he has in the past), she shuts the window. Borri charges in with an axe strike against the creature. The blade bites deep, but draw no blood. The creature turns from Thallin, who now awakens from his trance. But this creature evidently prefers better odds in battle, and leaps for the Windows. Gudrid is of course in the way, and the creature bowls her over, and out the Window. She grabs at him as the fall, but loses her grip as they hit the edge of the pier one story below. The wind is knocked out of her. Borri drops out of the window after theme, followed closely by Thallin, who is dripping blood from his neck. Borri needs time to get his footing, but Thallin lands right on top of the creature and slashes at it. The attack appears to do some damage. It's like chopping at wet rubber. The creature makes a lunge and rolls over the edge of the pier and into the Long Lake.
Catching her breath, Gudrid starts changing into a hawk, then flies above the lake looking for the creature to emerge. Looking over the edge, Borri sees only that the pale creature disappears into the depths. A guard rushes up, and the innkeeper looks out the window. A commotion is forming. Thallin says that a "brigand" attacked him in his room, trying to rob him. The innkeeper is very apologetic. They move back into the inn, and the guard sends for a healer to bandage Thallin's wounds. Gudrid returns, but she has seen nothing.
In the early morning, Thallin tries to track where the creature came from, but it is useless. Few tracks show on the wood of the pier. They now ponder their course. Is the creature drawn to the gems? If they leave the city the creature might follow them. The elves of Mirkwood might be better able to handle this creature of the dead than mere mortals could. But what if that is only abandoning the city to further ravages of this evil?
December 22nd, 3017
At Esgaroth's Great House, a crowd of people is arguing with the Captain of the guard. They are upset with the recent violence in the city, and demand more guards. The master says there will be a meeting about it.
The party travels to the woodelves. The stay in the village of Cotsow on the eaves of Mirkwood. That night there is a commotion and people are running with torches. Mewlips are attacking! The party joins the throng to the village hedge. Thallin rushes beyond, sees some eyes in the marsh, and charges. The creature retreats. It does not like the torch, but Gudrid herds it to his sword. More come, and soon the entire party is in the thick of it, with the villagers watching from the hedge. Several mewlips are dispatched, and the party drags their corpses into town.
Both Thallin and Gudrid have been scratched by mewlips. The villagers warn that the the mewlip scratches can easily get infected. The wisewoman of the village wants to cauterize the wounds, but the party refuses. The villagers remark that the mewlips have never before come so close to the village. Something must have drawn them
Finally the party reaches the woodelves. There they meet another dwarf at the gates, by the name of Thanor, who the elves won't let in. Inside the party requests that Thanor be allowed entrance, and that they will vouch for him. Thanor buys Borri an ale, and explains that he is a sellaxe and travelling to Erebor. They tell him of the need for mercenaries in Esgaroth and he is interested.
The king sends for the party, and they meet with him and his loremaster. They tell him of the emissary at Erebor, and of the vampire. The king speaks of their campaign against orc movements in the forest. The loremaster says he has translated parts of the book they found. He takes one of their gems to examine.
The book is the journal of the dwarf Njoron. One part of the text seems to be an account of an attempt to rebuild Nogrod after the fall of Beleriand, although the book cannot possibly be that old. Another part is a portion of the geneology of the house of Njoron. Finally, a page near the back appears to have been part of a journal. It recounts "the third day among the khe...d people", a lament at the endless night, the everpresent smell of rancid fat, and hope that "the morrow will bring tiding from the rovers."
The next morning the loremaster speaks with them of the gems. They have a magic of some sort, and an association with blood. To know more requires further study. They leave the gem with him and prepare to depart.
Thus ends the episode. The next will deal with their trip to Moria and what they find there. But in the meantime the campaign has been put on indefinite hold.