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Eden the Rogue, Chapter Three: Fun In The Forest

"What I require, I feel, is a way to disengage myself from this battle. This battle I find myself engaged in. So I am no long engaged but rather… disengaged…" Eden mulled over this conundrum as he held off Bubhosh’s furious incisors.

Then it hit him. Disengage! Rather more ambiguous than "run like a coward, possibly leaving an injured man to die" but he rather liked his name for it. Summoning up the alacrity from his boots, Eden’s Guile, Eden fled with the speed only those with an overdeveloped sense of self-preservation can. In fact, he never stopped running until he was safely back in his own home, in Bree.

OLD FOREST 1 (TAKE 2)

The next day, Eden once again made his way into the Old Forest, not just to get into the Bree populace’s good books anymore, but also to prove to himself that he wasn’t a gutless wretch who ran screaming from a rabbit.

Luckily, it seemed that both the orc and Bubhosh were no longer present in the forest. The fact that he had seen an orc at all still had Eden rattled. He briefly entertained notions of travelling to Minas Tirith to deliver this news – they would likely find it deeply alarming. However, presently he could return to an activity he was much more at ease with: Menacing small woodland creatures, insects, and inanimate plants.

 Level 5!
 +1 Strength
 +2 Dexterity
 +1 Dual Weapon Defence
 +1 Flurry

Eden’s recent adventuring had revealed to him a new and devastatingly effective tactic: Run at your foes, and stab them a lot. No opponent would stand against his labyrinthine, diabolical, Machiavellian "flurry" strategy!

This strategy would soon find itself tested, as Eden did spy a large white snake slither between the forest’s trees, looking for something to get its unhinged jaws around. Eden dispatched it with ease, but just as he was thinking of a good one-liner to deliver to the snake’s carcass ("slither back to where you came from, you hissing… cold-blooded… thing?") he noticed another snake, this one brown. Rather more agile than the white snake, this serpent managed to sink its fangs into Eden’s arm before his daggers found their mark. As Eden was nursing his wounds – fortunately the snake hadn’t been poisonous – another snake approached. And another. And another.

Although Eden fought his way through the tangled mess of snakes as best he could, his whirling knives creating enough snake skin and meat to give every citizen of Bree a solid meal and some stylish footwear to boot, the hissing horde before him did not diminish. If anything, it seemed to grow. Eden knew it was only a matter of time before…

Snap! A copperhead snake had gotten a lucky bite on Eden’s leg, and from the painful burning sensation that spread from the wound, he knew he had been poisoned. Sensing his vitality fading, Eden began to backpeddle from the serpentine army, still hissing and snapping their fangs at him, but as he neared the boundary of the Old Forest, his steps faltered. His superstition.

"Can’t… leave… forest… while… poisoned…! Bad… karma…!"

Hopping nervously from foot to foot, Eden could only watch as a tidal wave of snakes surged towards him, hoping against hope that the poison in his blood would abate in time. "Feel pretty poisoned…" Eden mumbled, "Kind of poisoned… a little poisoned… just a little poisoned… clean! RUN!"

OLD FOREST 1 (TAKE 3)

"Finally!"

Eden worked his way past the sheer wall of dead snakes that blocked the forest’s path, picked a few broken fangs out of his flesh, and continued on. On immediately running into a brown bear, hungry and vicious, Eden laughed with joy, "Yes! A non-snake! Oh, look at the size of it. I can swing my knives anywhere and they’ll hit you! Bliss!" Leaving the bear soundly manhandled (knifehandled) Eden progressed through the forest, a spring in his step.


"Oh great. A shield." Eden’s mood darkened as he noticed an old iron shield, probably left by some unfortunate adventurer. He hated shields. Out of all the things he had to haul back to Bree to sell for cash, they were the heaviest and most cumbersome. Well, apart from full suits of armour, but you’d have to be terminally broken to trade in them. Then Eden realised: He couldn’t trade in them. He could leave it there. With the trumpets of the Valar blazing odes of joy in his head, Eden strode past the shield.

 Level 6!
 +3 Dexterity
 +1 Dual Weapon Defence
 +1 Weapon Combat

Finally, on approaching one of the forest’s staircases (a previous mayor of Bree felt that building small staircases on certain slopes of the Old Forest would make travel into it more bearable, breaking journeys into "levels" as it were) Eden found himself, with absolutely no prior warning, under attack by an insane, diseased vagrant. His assailant wheezed and gibbered, clawing at Eden’s face, only stopping as he felt a pair of daggers cut him from neck to navel.

"Panhandlers!" Eden growled, "When I say I haven’t got anything to give you, I mean it! But…" Eden’s eyes alighted on a strange copper amulet around his assailant's neck, "It looks like you have something to give me. If you can afford jewellery, you can afford to stop begging. It’s just common decency.”

Leaving the corpse of his attacker, his newly acquired amulet hanging around his neck, Eden failed to notice that the advanced level of rot and decay in the body’s flesh was from no crippling disease. It appeared that the corpse had been a corpse for quite some time…

 Level 7!
 +3 Strength
 +1 Dual Weapon Defence
 +1 Knife Mastery

OLD FOREST 2

"Well, look at this…" Thought Eden, picking up an old wizard’s hat, "Looks like a little spellweaver strayed a little too far from Angolwen, eh?" Eden looked upwards, considering his currently unprotected head. Sure, an effete, pointy bit of cloth wasn’t going to stop many fangs or blades, and he’d look silly, but it was better than nothing. Besides, Eden’s Guile made him look silly already. "Look at me! I’m an archmage! Manathrust! Manathrust! Sense! Phase door an’ stuff!"

OLD FOREST 3

Eden regarded the new steel ring adorning his finger with satisfaction, "Rakish!" With his yellow boots, ostentatious jewellery and his wizard’s hat flopping around on his head, he couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed. Still, he pondered, I suppose you can wear whatever you want out in the wilds. It might even help with thievery – nobody ever suspects the deranged-looking fashionista, after all.


“Awful lot of beasties in this Old Forest. I didn’t think Old Man Willow liked us flesh-types in general.”

 Level 8!
 +3 Strength
 +1 Dual Weapon Defence
 +1 Heavy Armour Training

With his fingers newly fortified by his heavy armour prowess, Eden tugged on his iron gauntlets with pride. "So now I can’t handle things properly, and all my important bits are still as unprotected as before! I’m a rogue master!"

OLD FOREST 4

"Are those… dragons?!"

They were dragons. Young though they were, what was unmistakably four white dragons waddled towards Eden, gouts of frosts shooting from their nostrils. Eden hesitated; though he had fought many powerful creatures recently, trolls, bears, wolves, he hadn’t yet faced anything he would call mythological. Well, apart from the orc and his rabbit. Eden choked: HE RAN FROM A RABBIT. "How am I gonna deal with this?!" He wailed, and as one of the dragons bore down on him, he instinctively swung a dagger out at it.

"Gaak!" Eden wasn’t ready for the sensation he felt as his knife met dragonhide. It was as if the rime of frost that coated the hatchling had travelled up his blade and into his arm. Regardless, he saw that his strike had an impact, as a rivulet of blood leaked from between the dragon’s scales. Swapping to his other arm (shaking his frozen one to warm it up) Eden brought one of his knives down again.


"So, I’m a dragonslayer now." Eden said to himself out loud. Clucking his lips for a moment, he added, "I thought I’d become more impressive by saying that, like a noble steed would show up out of nowhere with a suit of shining armour for me." Sadly, Eden still felt like Eden, the Bree rogue outcast. But just wait until he strides back into Bree, he imagined, a picture of manliness, the princess Old Man Willow had kidnapped wrapped around him (he kidnapped a princess, right?), throwing the monstrous tree’s head… stump… at the townspeople’s feet.

They’ll beg him to steal from them!


Eden's tree-based adventures continue in chapter four!

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Two: Eden's Guile

TROLLSHAWS 3

"Ho! Friend, some assistance!"

Turning around, Eden saw that he was being called to by a lost fighter. "What happened to you?" Eden asked, "You look like you've been headbutted by Tulkas."

"Ah! If only! I go by the name of Grinymnir, and I am afraid I will have to ask for your aid! You see, I was patrolling these woods, making safe paths which had moments hence been overrun by all manner of beast and horror. Mountains of trolls laid dead at my feet, and my blade did taste the flesh of countless beasts!"

Golly, this guy's florid, Eden thought to himself.

"But alas, I now find myself brought low. I did encounter a foe beyond my ken, an all-encompassing terror that would make a man's blood run cold."

"Bill?"

"Ha! That milksop?"

"Rungof?"

"That wastrel pup?!"

"Then what?!"

"Bees." On noticing Eden's stare, Grinymnir added, "They sting really hard!"

"Still," He continued, "Might I ask your assistance? Could you escort me to my recall portal? It is but a short distance from here."

Eden frowned, "Hold on, wasn't word of recall banned after that guy with the plague recalled himself into Arwen's bedchamber?" The warrior stammered and coughed theatrically, eventually managing, "Ah! Er-hum! I mean... my... jumpgate? Yes. I'm one of those... anorithil fellows."

"What's an anorithil?"

"Don't worry, they've been unlocked."

"Ah, those anorithils. Okay then, let's go. By the way, what do you think of my boots?"

And so the pair made their way through the Trollshaws. Eden soon found that Grinymnir was not an easy individual to guard - his recent punishment at the hands... stingers... of the bees had robbed him of what little sense of direction he had, yet he retained his Quixote-like impulse to charge towards anything dangerous looking. This impulse came to a head as the pair both ran (simultaneously) into the chest of a particularly large and nasty troll.

"A foe!" Grinymnir thundered, his eyes not focussing, "At last! Taste my blade, villain!"

"Hey, wait! Wait...!"

"HAAH!"

bleden1.png

"... What?!" Eden was as stunned as the troll was. Why didn't his dual strikes do that?! He would've been more happy if that troll had just thumped Grinymnir out of his boots. Still, Eden knew an opening when he saw one; when he was done with the troll, it had a lot of openings.

 Level 4!
 +3 Constitution
 +1 Dual Weapon Training
 +1 Disengage

"Hohoho!" Grinymnir gave a roaring laugh, "The rapscallion couldn't hope to match my strength! Good work, my boy!" He gave Eden a hard clap on the back, causing him to stumble, "You make a fine sidekick, lad!"

"How's about this for a sidekick..." Eden grumbled, shortly before noticing the commotion behind Grinymnir. "Oh... my..."

bleden2.png

A shadow troll, bigger and nastier than the troll just defeated, stood with its club ready. Behind it, wolves from a nearby pack had approached, drawn by the noise of combat (and Grinymnir's gasconade) and were now snarling, fangs bared. Though not as readily apparent, Eden also noticed a serpentine form slither through the grass, its copper head advertising its deadly poison. Even a rat had shown up.

"Ha! So more foes wish to taste Grinymnir's wrath! Come, Eden, my faithful companion! Soon, our vestments shall be wrought of troll leather, our boots plush with wolf hide! We could maybe use the snake as a belt, and... Eden? ... Eden?"

TROLLSHAWS 2

Eden hunched against an old oak tree, panting from his frenetic sprint. Looking downwards, he patted his new yellow boots affectionately; they might have looked silly, but they could really get you moving! At this point, he mused, he would normally swing by the Bree scribe's store to get them identified, but that course of action was obviously impossible now. He'd have to think of his own name for the boots! "I think I'll call 'em... Eden's Valour!"

The sound of Grinymnir screaming as he was torn apart like soft bread echoed through the woods.

"... Eden's Guile maybe."


Eden was at an impasse. He hoped to travel further into the Trollshaws, but now a veritable wall of troll flesh, wolf fangs, snake poison and rat nibbling blocked him, and he knew that the chances of besting those odds were grim, especially if he got poisoned - he had his superstition about not leaving one "section" of the world for another while poisoned, after all.

Eventually, he decided he'd do what he'd always do when he couldn't make up his mind over something.

BREE

"The tavern's shut down?!" Eden howled, falling to his knees with horror.

"Yeah..." Sighed Grim, Alatariel's nemesis, "It's ever since those Angolwen boffins worked out that spell that makes it so you never have to eat or drink." She smiled, "Pretty nifty though, isn't it?"

"I don't drink to sustain myself!" Eden snapped, "I drink when I need to think of something! Not to mention to block out that Grinymnir's screams. The Trollshaws were a bust. All I got out of it were these boots. Eden's Guile, they're called."

Grim grinned, "Cute." Eden sighed - he had forgotten about them being bright yellow and covered with ribbons. Grim continued, "Aren't you going to comment on my find?"

"Whoa!" Grim had produced, out of nowhere, a flawless masterwork longsword. "That's some blade!" Eden exhaled, "Where'd you get it?"

"Some butterfingers dropped it in the Old Forest," Grim shrugged, "A fighter I found said he'd give me 'skill points' if I gave it back. What are skill points?"

"You were in the Old Forest?" Eden asked, ignoring Grim's attempt at a fourth-wall joke, "Isn't that place a little dangerous? You could've been killed."

"Dangerous? Pshaw! No more dangerous than where you were mucking around. Besides, you have to be alive to die... heeheehee... Eden?"

Eden was already running for Bree's border in the direction of the Old Forest, "Yeah yeah! You're a necromancer! Whatever, bye!"

OLD FOREST 1

As Eden began his expedition into the Old Forest, it appeared that Grim's appraisal of the area's danger was correct. Instead of trolls, Eden now found himself accosted by bees and ants. "Battles against insects," Eden thought happily to himself, "Now this is adventuring I can get used to."

That was when Eden saw him. An orc. He had only even seen orcs in books, and he believed they had been banished from Middle-Earth for good. To say the scene was unreal was an understatement, especially when he saw what the orc was busy doing... petting a cute little bunny. Even though Eden fiercely stuffed the collar of his leather armour into his mouth to muffle his cackling laughter, the orc nevertheless heard and slowly turned his warty, scabrous face to glare at him.

"... You mock Bubhosh?" The orc's voice was low and dangerous.

"No! No...! Mmph...!"

"If you mock Bubhosh, Bubhosh will kill you."

"Oh, really?" Eden's ego and confidence in his fighting ability had been bolstered by his recent victories over the trolls in the Trollshaws, "Do you actually think you're capable of beating me, Bubhosh?"

The orc's glare burned holes through Eden's skull, "... I am not Bubhosh. This is Bubhosh."

"What?!"

"Bubhosh, attack!"

"WAAAARGH!"

bleden3.png


Will Eden fall to a vicious Monty Python joke?
Will people overlook the fact I've obviously gone to the Old Forest to powerlevel?
Will Grim ever let her feud with Alatariel just drop already?
Will the fact I can't use shops ever factor into the story at all?!

Find out in the thrilling (THRILLING!) next chapter!

Eden the Rogue, Chapter One: The Outset

Join the adventures of Eden, the rogue who's only discernable ability is to hold a dagger the right way around!

Two points to consider:
  • This game takes place under Madmonk's challenge: No using stores!
  • It also takes place pre-Maj'Eyal - it's set in Middle-Earth. The story switches over to the new setting soon enough.

BREE

"Out, you filching footpad! You backbiting bandit!"

"Hey, wait! Look, I’ve got gold! I’m here to trade -- agh! Careful, I bruise like a peach!"

"OUT!"

Deposited in a heap outside the jeweller’s shop, covered in scratches and welts, Eden silently cursed the youthful exuberance he had displayed in his adolescence. From the first time he managed to smuggle a bottle of slime mold juice from the alchemist’s store he was hooked on the thrill that thievery brought.

Over time, as he aged, he had slowly developed and refined his faculties. He practiced the arts of misdirection and stealth, he began to carry knives with him as a "deterrent" to any would-be heroes. He learnt many skills that a would-be rogue would need, but not the most important one: Don’t steal from your hometown, especially when said hometown’s residents all know your name, face and address. Especially when you’re a rather boastful person who’s prone to bragging while drunk.

In one day, he had become an outcast. The jeweller’s store was closed to him, thanks to his magpie-like attraction to shiny objects. He was chased from the alchemist’s store in a hail of broken bottles, exploding gems and golem fists. The scribe’s store had gone out of business even without Eden’s help – one could steal what they wish and simply use one of their pilfered scrolls of teleport to escape. The town’s weaponsmith even said that he "had a mithril mace of massacre just waiting for that toad Eden".

In truth, he rarely visited the armoury even before his fall from grace; a friend of his at the tavern said that the armourer, Alatariel, was a dark servant of that menacing horror from history Morgoth. Mind you, this was the same friend who claimed she was a necromancer with a ghoulking concierge and had been seen eating the daisies outside her house on more than one occasion.

So, that was it, thought Eden. He’d have no choice but to pack his bags and move on to pastures new. He didn’t relish the idea; even for a rogue, the world outside Bree seemed a strange and frightening place. Just last night he had heard about a massacre in a small lumberjack village no short distance from his desired new home, Minas Tirith.

It was at this point that Eden spotted a strange figure stumbling down the street. An adventurer of some sort, clad head to toe in beaten and dented plate armour with a notched longsword by his side. The figure weaved, staggered, and eventually keeled over, lying perfectly still where he fell.

Eden approached the fallen warrior. He couldn’t help but notice the leaves and large splinters that dotted the crevices in his armour. "Are you well?" Eden asked slowly. He wasn’t going to steal someone’s armour unless they were completely out of it, after all.

With a great creaking noise the figure sat up. He removed his helmet; the face underneath looked like it had been stuck on the underside of a boot for a month. "That… that trunk!" He gibbered.

"Excuse me?"

"The trunk!" The warrior repeated. He retched momentarily, eventually coughing up an acorn, then continued, "You just can’t get away from it. He weaves it right, he weaves it left, then WHAM! I can’t handle it, I can’t handle it. He’s too much!"

"Who? Who’s too much?"

"Bill!" The warrior yelled. Bill? He thought that old sack of stony muscle had given out ages ago, but evidently he was still active enough to dole out arboreal punishment to anyone who came too close to his lair. Eden had thought that there was a rogue Ent about, what with all the stories of people being found dead with great stump-marks covering their bodies.

Maybe this was just the break he needed.

TROLLSHAWS 1

Eden was feeling confident as he approached the Trollshaws. His mighty Bree powers had given him access to the school of field control, and by luck the leather armour he had appropriated for himself was rather… nature-resistant. "You hear that, nature? I resist you!"

Then he met a wolf.

"OHGODOHGODOHGODHELPHELPHELP BAARGH I CAN’T HIT IT I CAN’T HIT IT HEEEEELP!!!"

By the time the wolf fell, Eden was on the verge of doing the same. His acrobatic, almost theatrical stabbing manoeuvre, a move he had coined as “the dual strike” (that he hoped would become his signature move) had sailed a clean foot over the wolf’s head. All that time practising on scarecrows was a waste, he grumbled to himself - animals can move. On spying a grey mold, quietly festering to itself on the bark of a tree, he chuckled, "Well, maybe not a total waste."

Continuing through the undergrowth, a few belligerent worms and rats being his only obstacles, Eden felt his heart beat a little faster as he spotted it. A forest troll, sat picking its teeth under the shade of a large tree. On spotting Eden it heaved itself onto its misshapen feet, gave the formal trollish challenge of "URRRGHAAAH!" and lumbered towards him, club raised.

"Trolls. Trolls are dangerous," Eden muttered rapidly, "Got to be focussed. No mistakes. One mistake and you’re dead. One mistake and -- gaah!"

"STUPID VINE!"

Crack! Eden slithered to the ground as a club connected with his skull. His mind still alert (but mostly scrambled) Eden leapt to his feet, both knives aimed at the troll’s heart. "Craven spawn of evil!" He declared, revelling in the melodrama, “Take this! Dual strike!" and, with an acrobatic spin, plunged both his daggers into the troll’s carbuncled hide.

Crack! The troll’s club hit him again.

Fleeing through the woods moments later, Eden thought to himself, "Shouldn’t that troll have been dazzled by my amazing combat techniques just now?" Eden was dazzled, that much was certain; the combination of troll concussion and poison from the vine was making strange lights and shadows dance before his eyes. With hesitation, he finally took a healing potions, one of his last successful thefts from Bree, and uncorked it…


"You know," Thought Eden, toeing the troll’s knife-ravaged body, "Just once I’d like to be able to beat something without being pumped up on whatever mad reagents these potions have in them. Hey ho."

 Level 2!
 +3 Dexterity
 +1 Weapon Combat
 +1 Dual Weapon Training


"… is a gorgeous glade, but I could swear that looked like part of a human femur."

"Yeah," Eden said sardonically, “What could be dangerous in a place like the Trollshaws?! Operative word: Troll!"


Wandering between the trees, Eden smiled inwardly as he noticed a large pond a distance away. The amount of drowned trolls bobbing around in it was always a comfort to him, plus it would give him a chance to wash some of the yuck off his daggers.

His drinking friend from the tavern, the one who believed Alatariel to be the very spawn of evil, had some funny ideas regarding the Trollshaw’s ponds. "Y’see," She’d say, "Isn’t it funny that they’re always at the bottom-right? I think it’s because all the trolls, like, sit in one place so the ground kinda sinks down there."

"… Bottom-right from what?" Eden would always reply, to which his friend would shrug.

TROLLSHAWS 2

 Level 3!
 +3 Dexterity
 +1 Knife Mastery
 +1 Dual Weapon Training

Eden frowned. There was a suspicious copse of trees in the distance, their leaves unnaturally dark and pendulous. He heard the telltale rattle of bones, he sensed strange magical energies in the air, and he could distantly detect the cries of an unseen chorus complaining about the power of skeleton mage manathrusts, and they’ve beaten [insert roguelike here] so they can’t be wrong, the game must be!

Anyway, it was obviously a skeleton mage hideout. After all, some undead minions must commute; they can’t all live in their dark towers. Biting his lip, Eden snuck away as best he could. There’s not much point putting a knife in someone’s ribcage if the ribcage is all that’s there, after all.


A huge, shadowy figure loomed ahead, and Eden felt his pulse quicken once again. Shadow trolls were dangerous even by troll standards. Coming to the decision that he should strike as hard and as fast as he could, exploiting the troll’s deficit of agility, Eden leapt at his monstrous opponent, knives bared and screaming…

The troll fell immediately. Eden was obviously pleased, but also rather baffled. On closer inspection, he could see that the troll’s dark colouration wasn’t just thanks to its shadowy nature – it was sick. Eden shuddered; just what was that green ooze he had beaten moments previously? With a quick detour back to the pond he had found to wash off his knives, and mentally blocking the knowledge that he may have just "attacked" a pile of half-digested dwarf bits, Eden squared his shoulders and continued onwards.

"11th of Yestarë. Saw an absolutely gigantic troll, but fortunately I threw him off my scent."'

"No! A gigantic troll?! That’s insane! 16th of whatever! I just saw a skeleton… MADE OF BONES!" Eden cackled. It was much easier making fun of tattered pieces of paper than of people. He hoped he’d meet the writer of these diary pages though; club-shields are always handy.


"Hmm, this shadow troll is NOT sick." Eden thought to himself, spying a large figure a distance away. The troll was acting most strangely; it seemed to be capering around on the spot, giving off bizarre trollish giggles, lumpy flecks of drool flying from its jaws as it span and bobbed. Then Eden saw the ridiculously bright and cheerful yellow boots it was wearing.

"Heehee! Nobuddy catch Grunkthob! Grunkthob is da master! Grunkthob is good an’ heavy and his feet are… huh?" The troll had spotted him. Immediately ending its capering and hefting up its club, the troll charged at him, his boots producing a comical squeaking, bellowing "GRUNKTHOB BEAT YOU! GRUNKTHOB IS ERU MAYBE!"

---

"What a character," Eden thought minutes later, tugging on the yellow boots, “If that ring from Sauron’s age was still around, this is the guy I’d give it to.”


In a different location, at a different time, in another plane of existence, a powerful and inscrutable entity grumbled to itself.

“An artefact on level two of the Trollshaws, in a self-imposed challenge game? … This death shall be exquisite.”


Eden's mucking about in the Trollshaws continues in chapter two!

Chapter 20: The End of the Orc Pride

Haldor activates the portal and finds himself back to the Far East. Traveling with great haste, he attains the Gates of Morning in a short time. Aeryn is waiting for him.

"I heard about what happened in Mount Doom. Good men lost their lives, so I hope it was worth it."

"Yes, my lady." replies Haldor. "They managed to contain the orcs so I could reach the heart of the volcano. I found two blue wizards there, and interrupted their dark ritual. However they escaped before I could stop them."

"Blue wizards? I have never heard of them... So it seems that the Orc Pride has two new masters, and they are probably hiding inside the High Peak now. You should continue your investigation in the last bastion of the Orc Pride. Maybe Grushnak is keeping useful information."

And so Haldor heads to the eastern slope of the High Peak. The Grushnak Pride bastion is really different from the other bastions. Vegetation is growing loosely in the underground tunnels. The first thing Haldor sees after entering is a huge vault filled with lava... and fire wyrms. Not very different from Mount Doom... The wyrms were guarding a deep black amulet, the Echo of Melkor.

Another lava vault awaits on the second floor of the Grushnak Pride bastion... and another one on the third floor... and another one on the fourth floor. Haldor finds such a vault on every floor...

On the next floor stands Grushnak, Battlemaster of the Pride. An old orc covered with scars, armed with two massive clubs... and moving very quickly for such a heavy armored fighter. Haldor has to dodge his devastating rushing attacks, while hitting him with bolt spells. However, having no real ranged attack, the berserking orc falls quickly...

Grushnak was holding a fourth Orb of Command, the Orb of Destruction, as well as a deep black ring, the Glory of the Pride.

Now all Pride bastions lie in ruin and their masters are destroyed. Grushnak didn't have any useful information... Haldor hopes that High Sun Paladin Aeryn has learned more in the meantime. He leaves the last Pride bastion and returns to the Gates of Morning.

Chapter 19: Mount Doomed

After entering the land of Eruan, Haldor immediately spots a young elven woman resting in the palm trees. She looks tired and wounded.

"I am Vorylaith, Seer of the Gates of Morning. I was sent here with a group of sun paladins to investigate about the orc menace. We were attacked and separated. I know there's a recall portal somewhere, could you help me find it?"

But before Haldor could respond, many giant insects with sharp claws and venomous fangs pop out of the sand. Ritches! Before Haldor can do any move, some of the insects start injecting corrupting diseases in the already wounded body of Vorylaith. In an instant, she dies. Haldor buries the poor seer and continues his exploration of Eruan.

A moment later, Haldor meets one of the sun paladins from the group of Vorylaith. She's lost and wounded. She introduces herself as Ce'Nille, and gratefully accepts Haldor's help to reach her recall portal. When she's finally in safety, she improves Haldor's Chant of Fortitude as a reward.

In the same area, Haldor finds a strange loose rock. Moving it reveals the entrance to a small cavern. The den of a greater multihued wyrm and its children... Experience and treasures...

Deep in the desert of Eruan, Haldor meets another one of the sun paladins from the group of Vorylaith. He is waiting near a small oasis surrounding a strange portal.

"Haldor, my name is Guren, and I am one of the sun paladins sent by Aeryn. We have hunted the orcs who were guarding the staff up to this place. Unfortunately, they escaped through that portal with the staff, and we learned that they plan to use it to absorb the power of a remote place for a dark ritual. Some of my friends followed them. You must take this portal and stop the orcs!"

"I will not deceive you." replies Haldor.

Using the Orb of Many Ways, Haldor enters the swirling portal and, in the blink of an eye, finds himself in the heart of a volcano! Five sun paladins stand in line, fighting a large group of orcs.

"Sir Rodmour, the archmage has arrived!" shouts a human sun paladin.

"Haldor," replies High Sun Paladin Rodmour, "the orcs already started their dark ritual. I can sense the power of the staff absorbing the surrounding magical energies. You must go in the heart of Mount Doom and stop that ritual! We will try to contain the orc flow here as long as we can, but we won't be able to hold for long. So go now, do not let the orcs finish their work!"

"Farewell, my friends. Your sacrifice won't be in vain..."

Haldor progresses with great difficulty in the searing heat. The lava floor saps his life energies, and all fire creatures which he has to face are really hard to kill without his fire spells. But using mana, lightning and ice bolts, he manages to reach the heart of Mount Doom.

Haldor was expecting orcs to wait for him, but not at all. Before him stand two wizards, clothed in blue robes. One of them is holding the Staff of Absorption, the other...

"Damn you!" shouts the blue wizard. "You only postpone your death! We must depart now, but we'll leave you with a little surprise... Fyrk!"

Suddenly, a huge fire elemental appears. Flames swirl all around him. Haldor retreats behind a lava wall and waits for Fyrk, the Faeros High Guard, to appear. The fight is hard, no fire or ice spell can harm the tough elemental, and Haldor has to stay in short range to cast his mana and lightning spells. But finally, the fire elemental is destroyed, leaving behind his powerful amulet, the Fiery Choker.

Haldor turns around, but the blue wizards have left through a portal, which seems to go back to the Far East. Haldor must follow them to find out what their true purpose is. Maybe Aeryn will be able to tell more...

But Haldor is troubled, because he cannot believe what he just saw. During his recent travels, he learned the stories about the Istari, powerful Maiar who took a human form during the Third Age to help the nations of Arda in their fight against Sauron. He learned the story of Gandalf the Grey, who was known as Olorin when Haldor was still alive during the First Age, and his role during the War of the Ring. He learned about Saruman, who betrayed Gandalf in favor of Sauron. The two blue wizards he just saw were undoubtedly two of the Istari. Haldor has no idea who the first blue wizard is, but he recognized the second one. Although the past six thousand years have turned his human form into the shape of a very old man, it's still the same powerful Maia.

The second blue wizard was his mentor, Eldorin...

Chapter 18: Curse of Feanor

From the Gorbat Pride bastion, Haldor heads south along the Great Sea. Suddenly, he finds what seems to be the entrance to an underwater cavern, right on the shore of the Great Sea. Being undead now, Haldor doesn't feel the need to breathe, so swimming underwater doesn't pose him any problem.

Haldor needs to fight aquatic monsters on the first level of the Flooded Cave. On the second level, though, all aquatic monsters don't seems to care about him. A huge water dragon stands in the middle of the cave. Ukllmswwik the Wise's deep voice booms:

"I am the ruler here. What is your purpose?"

"I didn't mean to intrude," responds Haldor, "I was just curious to see who would inhabit this strange cave. Sorry if I angered you, I'll leave now."

"Wait... You seem to be worthy, so let me tell you a story. A very long time ago, at the end of the First Age of this world, the Silmarils were recovered from the hands of Morgoth during the War of Wrath. Soon afterwards, they were stolen from the elves that were guarding them by the last two sons of Feanor, Maedhros and Maglor. They were still bound to their oath, and despite their aversion for violence, they had to kill many of their kin to retrieve the Silmarils. But the remaining jewels would burn them for their sins, so Maedhros jumped into a big fiery chasm and Maglor threw his Silmaril into the ocean. After a while, he regretted his act and tried to retrieve the lost Silmaril... and with the help of Osse, he managed to do it. Now he lives in the ocean, as a creature of the sea, and guards the last Silmaril. But recently, Maglor has gone mad and started to threaten all water life, and that includes myself. Pehaps you could help me?"

"Let me see what I can do. How do I find him?"

"I can open a portal to his lair. You will have to find him, kill him and make your way back. Are you ready?"

Haldor steps into the portal... and is immediately surrounded by dozens of nagas! Myrmidons rushing at him, psyrens trying to silence him... Haldor knows he won't survive more than a few seconds, so he immediately vanishes from sight and teleports in a somewhat safe spot. Fire blast, freeze, mana bolts... and he manages to offer himself a moment of relief.

Haldor needs to progress very slowly. Those myrmidons hurt a lot, and they can spot him anywhere in the cave! Many times he has to use invisibility to get away.

On the second floor of the Caverns of Osse, Haldor is again surrounded by naga myrmidons. He teleports right away... just to find himself head to head with Walrog, the Lord of Water! If Haldor's fire spells are not very effective underwater, his ice spells are devastating. Walrog is frozen to death, and shatters as Haldor swings his staff at him...

On the third floor, Haldor finds Maglor's den. Strangely, Maglor doesn't seems to show any bit of madness... he's not even hostile.

"What is this? Why have you entered my sanctuary and slain its guardians?" asks Maglor.

"I was sent by Ukllmswwik to stop you!" replies Haldor.

"So the dragon sent you... He told you I'm insane I suppose... But who's the insane one? Me protecting the last Silmaril or you killing every living creature in this sanctuary?"

"I see... you have a point. Can you tell me more?"

"Let me tell you MY story... As I was drowning, Osse came to me and saved me. He told me I should become the guardian of the last Silmaril, as it was holding the last bit of shining light from the First Age. So now I will stand here at the bottom of the sea for all eternity, and the Silmaril shall never leave this sanctuary. But recently, the water dragon started sending mercenaries to retrieve the jewel... I can easily imagine what his goals are, and they are surely not peaceful. Now you should go back and ask him the truth."

Maglor makes quick gestures and opens a portal. But by doing this, he reveals the Silmaril for a short moment. Haldor is totally fascinated by the glowing light... Suddenly, he feels the urge to get the jewel for himself! Instead of using the portal, Haldor teleports in a short range, fires an ice bolt at Maglor and starts to vaporize the water with a fire blast. With madness in his eyes, Haldor launches all his spells at Maglor until he goes down...

As he sees the dead body of Maglor, last son of Feanor, Haldors slowly regains his lucidity.

"What have I done? Is that the price to pay for the Silmaril? Then I should not pay this price alone! Ukllmswwik, you will pay for your treachery!"

Haldor takes the portal left behind by Maglor and goes back to the water dragon cave. Without useless talk, he immediately attacks Ukllmswwik, freezing him to death. Strangely, the water dragon was not guarding lots of treasures, as someone would expect from a water dragon (Haldor even remembers one with a very strange name, Shyssiriux or something approaching, living in a remote cave during the First Age, guarding a huge room full of treasures... but nobody was brave enough at that time to claim the treasures for themselves). Haldor found nonetheless a strange trident, the Trident of the Tides.

After leaving the underwater cave, Haldor goes directly to Eruan. He has delayed his mission for too long...

Chapter 17: Ghosts and Goblins... and Wyrms

If the Vor Pride bastion was the home of elemental mages, the Rak'Shor Pride bastion is the home of undead. Haldor feels at home... somewhat.

While killing orcs, undead and... orcs summoning undead, Haldor is wondering what this strange Orb of Command he found on Vor's body is supposed to activate... and if the other Pride masters also have such an orb.

Maybe it would be good to ask Rak'Shor himself... because the master of the Pride is just in front of Haldor. Grand Necromancer of the Pride. An old orc, surrounded by a dark aura, master of death and undeath. Fortunately, Haldor is hidden behind a wall and Rak'Shor is not yet aware of his presence. And like all other orcs, he seems to burn very well... Haldor waits for the orc master to show up, freezes him and finishes him with the usual bolt spells.

And yes, Rak'Shor was guarding another Orb of Command, the Orb of Undeath. Haldor also finds a powerful magic robe, the Black Robe.

Some building in the southern part of the Rak'Shor Pride bastion seems intriguing. Haldor opens its door... and is welcomed by many orc war cries. Rak'Shor's personal treasure room! And it's well guarded... Elite uruk-hai, master archers...

Unfortunately, Rak'Shor seemed to like weapons a lot, so his personal treasure room really looks like a weapon storage room. With all the weapons he found, including the Gondor-Tree Longbow, Haldor could open a shop now...

Haldor leaves Rak'Shor Pride bastion and heads to Gorbat Pride bastion. Even with the large areas between the buildings, Haldor feels like being in confined space. The reason... dragons everywhere! And not small ones, but mighty drakes and wyrms. Ice and storm wyrms are tough... but with his ineffective fire blast against them, fire wyrms are more fearsome opponents.

After many killings, the soil of the bastion seems to be completely covered with gold! Haldor feels much more experienced... killing those wyrms and all their summons surely is a good way to train his magical spells and increase his abilities. Haldor has now maximized his life energies and all the magic schools of arcane, fire, water, air, conveyance and phantasm. He has even learned a new school of magic: temporal magic.

And now it's Gorbat's turn to show up. The Supreme Wyrmic of the Pride. An ugly orc with a pair of small wings on his back. Haldor lays down his fire blast from afar and starts hitting Gorbat with his bolt spells. After more dragon killing, Haldor manages to finish the Pride master off...

Gorbat was keeping a third Orb of Command with him, the Dragon Orb, a golden helm which appears to be the Dragon-Helm of Dor-Lomin, and a multihued leather armor, the Chromatic Harness.

With all his treasures and accumulated experience, Haldor leaves Gorbat Pride bastion. Time to go check Eruan and retrieve the Staff of Absorption from the orcs...

Chapter 16: Fire Above, Ice Below

As soon as Haldor steps into the Vor Pride bastion, he is surrounded by orcs. A lot of orcs. Warriors, archers, mages... especially mages specialized in fire and ice magic, the pyromancers and cryomancers. Haldor is quite strong against cold attacks, but he is not very armed against fire attacks. Usually, he is the one who fries monsters... but now he's the one who is on fire.

Surviving in these open areas is really hard, but the reward is really worth it. Haldor didn't go very far in Vor Pride bastion, but he has already found many artifacts. The Blood of Life, a strange potion that is able to resurrect the dead (unfortunately, it doesn't work on undead). The Star and the Moon, twin daggers that he could probably sell for a good price. The Robe of the Archmage, radiating great power. The Dragon Shield of Smaug, made from the scales of a golden dragon. Haldor also found nice items: a great elven-wood staff, granting him a good boost to his spellpower and mana energies; a pair of gauntlets of criticals, granting him a boost to his spell criticals.

On the second block of the Vor Pride bastion, Haldor meets a group of orc pyromancers. Totally on fire, he barely manages to escape. What could be worse than a group of those pyromancers? The response comes quickly in the form of orc *high* pyromancers. Fireflash, fire blast... and not a single drop of water to extinguish the fire. At least, they are susceptible to ice and lightning...

And then he finds him, the master of this bastion. Vor, Grand Geomancer of the Pride. An old orc, surrounded by a multicolored aura, master of the natural elements. Haldor needs to stay away from his devastating spells. Using the environment at his advantage, Haldor manages to freeze Vor, hurting him with mana and lightning, and retreating behind a wall to rest. After repeating the process a few times, Vor falls on the floor...

Haldor searches Vor's belongings and finds a jeweled crown, the Crown of the Elements, and a strange orb, the Elemental Orb of Command.

Suddenly, a voice in Haldor's head booms:

"Haldor, this is High Sun Paladin Aeryn. I am communicating with you through a telepathic link set by the Anorithils. I have some important news for you. The staff you were looking for has been located."

"Where?" asks Haldor.

"Our patrols spotted a group of orcs that were heading to the desert of Eruan, in the south. They were guarding something that looked like the staff you described. You should go there and investigate."

"Thank you, my lady. I will go there immediately."

Haldor leaves the Vor Pride bastion and heads south. On his way, he spots the entrance of two other Orc pride bastions... Rak'shor and Gorbat. Maybe he'll have time to clear those bastions before going to Eruan...

Chapter 15: Duel Between Sun and Moon

"Thank you for your help against Ungolië!" says Aeryn, High Sun Paladin of the Gates of Morning. "You are now welcome in our city."

"I'm honored to be a friend of the sun paladins", replies Haldor. "But I still need to get clues about how to stop the orcs... Could you tell me more about the Orc Pride?"

"We believe that the heart of their power is the High Peak, but it is currently covered by a magical shield which renders it inaccessible. To get information about the High Peak, you should investigate the four bastions of the Orc Pride."

"And where are these bastions located?" asks Haldor.

Aeryn points the location of the orc bastions on a map. The Vor Pride bastion seems to be the closest, and in order to avoid orc patrols, Haldor decides to investigate that place first.

On his way, Haldor discovers the entrance to an unremarkable cave. The cave itself doesn't seem to be interesting, but Haldor feels some power in the distance. Deep in the cave, Haldor finds a long corridor, with a door at the end. Haldor opens the door...

"You! Help me defeat this monster!" shouts a beautiful woman wearing a golden robe decorated with the symbols of the sun and the moon.

"Nah, kill her instead and I'll reward you..." replies an orc wearing mail armour.

Haldor doesn't hesitate and casts an ice bolt at the ugly orc. With the help of the strange woman, they manage to kill him quickly.

"Thanks for your help, Haldor." says the woman.

"At your service, my lady." replies Haldor. "But may I ask you what you were doing in this dark place?"

"I am an Anorithil, a mage of the sun and the moon. I was with a group of sun paladins from the Gates of Morning, trying to eliminate the orc menace in this area, but all my companions were all killed by the orcs and I almost died myself. Thanks again for your help."

Haldor leaves Fillarel the Anorithil and continues his jouney. After dispatching another orc ambush, he enters the Vor Pride bastion...

Chapter 14: World Wide... Webs

In the blink of an eye, Haldor is transported to an unknown land with no trace of the portal left... The Far East? Haldor has no clue what to do next, so he decides to explore the unfamiliar continent.

During his travel, Haldor is ambushed by a patrol of orcs. Not very powerful opponents, but an unpleasant surprise nonetheless. Finally reaching the far east... of the Far East, Haldor finds a massive hole in the mountains near the great sea. Inside the hole stands a strange town, its path guarded by a beautiful woman wearing plate armor. Judging from his past experience, Haldor recognizes one of the sun paladins.

"Stop right there, stranger!" orders the woman. "Who are you and where do you come from? The Gates of Morning are the last bastion of freedom in this land, and we don't greet spies with open arms..."

"My lady", replies Haldor, "I am indeed a stranger. My name is Haldor, and I come from the west, from Middle-Earth."

"Middle-Earth? We have not heard from Middle-Earth for thousands of years now... What is exactly your purpose here?"

"I followed a group of orcs through a portal. They stole a powerful artifact from our people, and I fear they are going to use its power for evil purposes."

"Orcs? This whole continent is swarming with orcs. They have united as the Orc Pride, and according to the rumours, their masters are powerful. And if what you tell is the truth, then they must be stopped at all cost. Haldor, you are welcomed in the Gates of Morning, should you prove your valor in a quest. There is a cavern full of spiders to the north. We cannot stand against both these abominations and the Orc Price. Please go there are destroy them."

"I will, my lady."

Haldor leaves and heads north to the caverns of Ardhungol. He enters the caves... and stumbles into huge spider webs. The spiders who produced those webs cannot be small spiders for sure! Fortunately, even the biggest spider is renowed to burn like paper when exposed to high heats. And Haldor knows how to draw his fire spells...

Deep in the caverns, Haldor finds a huge spider covered in darkness, with red glowing eyes looking hungrily at him. She probably has found her next meal! Haldor cannot fight her with all her children, so he tries to teleport away. After a few tries, he manages to find a small cavern in which the fight would be easier. Haldor waits... and the huge spider appears. Fire, ice, lightning... Haldor casts his spells and the spider goes down. Among the items dropped by the spider, Haldor finds a strange rod. Zapping it produces a venomous bolt... another tools to Haldor's arsenal.

Haldor teleports out of the spider lair... Without their leader, the spiders should not pose a threat to the paladins of the Sun Wall anymore.

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