Chapter 13: Recipe For a Fried Orc

"A mysterious staff? Can you tell me more?"

The Elder in Minas Tirith seems to be very interested by Haldor's story. Describing the Staff of Absorption in details seems to make him even more interested.

"Indeed you were right to come here. The staff you describe reminds me of an artifact of great power from ancient times. May I see it?"

"Here it is..." replies Haldor. "You should keep it, it would be safer if guarded by the armies of the kingdom. I fear there will be more orcs looking for that staff. I don't know why they want it, but they will try to get it by any means."

The Elder looks troubled for a moment.

"This is very intriguing. We have not seen any orcs for eighty years... could they have come from the far east? We have heard rumours from the dwarves that there still was an orc presence deep in the mines of Moria, but we thought it was just some unfounded paranoia from the old days... Maybe you should investigate and try to see if there's any connection with the staff."

"I will do, my lord."

The Elder points the location of the Moria on a map, north on the western side of the Misty Mountains. When Haldor enters the old dwarven caves, he's astonished at the size of the halls. Sure the dwarves know how to dig!

Deep in the mines, he finds a strange room filled with orcs... and their pet fire drake. The orcs are quickly dispatched with fire blast, but the fire dragon and his summoned friends take longer to kill.

In the back of the room, Haldor finds a door. Behind the door, he is welcomed by orcish screams.

"Stranger, you should never have come. The Orc Pride now have their precious, and there is nothing you can do... except of course dying!"

Their precious? What are they talking about? Golbug, the huge orc covered in fire and ice that just spoke, doesn't let Haldor think longer and prepares for attack. Haldor uses his now well practice recipe... teleport and fry them from afar.

As soon as Golbug dies, a man clothed like a watchman from Minas Tirith enters the room.

"Well met, Haldor. I am Harno, Herald of Minas Tirith, and I am here to deliver you a message from King Eldarion.

Harno gives Haldor a sealed scroll and disappears...

"What could be the news from Minas Tirith..." thinks Haldor, while breaking the seal. And when he starts to read the message, everything becomes clear...

"Haldor, this message is of utmost importance. The staff you left at Minas Tirith has been stolen, a raid of orcs ambushed the guards that were transporting it to a secret vault. The guards managed to capture one of the orcs, but he didn't know much. He spoke about Golbug, and a portal to send the staff to their masters in the far east. If you find that portal, please investigate."

Haldor starts to think he should have kept the staff... but maybe he would be dead by now. And of course the orcs' "precious" cannot be anything else than the staff. Masters in the east? Haldor is eager to find what all of this is about...

Among the burned remains of Golbug, Haldor finds a swirling orb. The Orb of Many Ways... If there's a portal around, this should activate it. Casting Vision also reveals a treasure vault, guarded by a dozen of uruk-hai. Haldor digs a hole in the wall to the chamber... and fry all the orcs at once.

Haldor opens the last door in the main room. There's another room behind, and what seems to be a portal in the middle. By activating the Orb of Many Ways, Haldor could probably go to the Far East, a continent of Arda of which only rumours are known. But this could probably be a one-way trip... Well there's only one way to know it... Haldor stands on the portal and activates the orb...

Chapter 12: Staff of the Archmagi

The fight with the Master is not going well... the bastard knows how to obliterate enemies. Mana bolt, ice bolt, rush and knockback strike... not even mentioning summoning. Direct assault is not an option, and Haldor needs to use cunning to avoid being blasted to death. After many attempts with fire blasts and retreat, the Master seems softened enough and Haldor feels confident enough to face him.

"Time to finally rest in peace, ignominous Master!" shouts Haldor, as he prepares his final mana bolt. The bolt hits the Master and slices him in half... but the two halves seem to quickly rejoin again and the Master is back to life! A resurrection spell!

"Stupid fool! I am immortal! But that's not your case... and you have pestered me for too long! Now it's your turn to suffer!"

The bolt cast from all the Master's anger hits Haldor with full effect, almost destroying him at once. He just has time to teleport away and use his last healing potion, and the Master is back in front of him... Haldor checks his supplies. Only one potion to regenerate his magical energies, and the Master seems to have regained his full life energies again...

Fortunately, Haldor had teleported to what seems to be a circular corridor around the tower. With fire blast and short range teleportation, he can stay away from the powerful spells and deal damage to his opponent.

"You fool! Did you think your stupid tricks can stop me from annihilating you?"

Haldor is petrified. The Master just anticipated his last teleport effort by running in the opposite direction in the corridor and now he stands behind him... Haldor sees the elder vampire prepare a new spell, and he knows he won't survive the damage. Quickly he inspects the Master... his fire spells seem to have soften him again enough to try a mana bolt himself. His last chance... Haldor hopes that the Master cannot resurrect another time...

The bolt hits the Master, but this time he falls on the ground. It seems that his resurrection spell could only work once. Haldor knows he must leave this place quickly... what will happen to all undead roaming the tower once they feel their master is dead? Haldor grabs the treasures left behind by the Master... in particular a dark amulet and a dark staff. The staff seems to be the now long lost Staff of Absorption, a tremendously powerful artifact. The amulet reveals to be the Choker of Dread, and now that Haldor is an undead himself, it will be very useful to him. Haldor stuffs the staff in his pack... as he knows, this staff could annihilate his wielder if he's not powerful enough... and Haldor doesn't want to try his luck.

To leave the place, Haldor tries to teleport to Angolwen... and fails. Maybe some anti-teleportation spell covers the tower? Trying to teleport from floor to floor works though, so he finds himself at the entrance of the tower very quickly.

As he comes out of Tol Falas, Haldor is ambushed by a patrol of orcs...

"You!" shouts a large orc, "give us the staff and we may be merciful!"

"Why would a band of orcs want a magical staff?" replies Haldor.

"This is none of your business... and I see you won't give us that staff easily. KILL!"

"Yes, master Ukruk!" shout the orcs, as they draw their swords and prepare their bows.

Haldor has only one thing to do... use the potion of invisibility he just found and teleport out of the orcs' reach. Haldor watch the orcs searching for him... and cast a flame blast at them. Covered by his invisibility cloak, he watches the orcs getting fried on the spot...

After a short while, only Ukruk, the orc leader remains. Wondering what the hell is happening, he doesn't see the mana bolts coming from behind and ending his miserable life.

"Sorry, Ukruk... but I'll keep that staff."

Being close to Minas Tirith, Haldor decides to go to the city and ask the Elder about the staff. Maybe he'll know more about the intentions of those orcs...

Chapter 11: Master and Servant

Haldor has heard that in the bay of Belfalas lies a ruined tower full of greater undead. This should be the perfect place to gain more treasures, fame and glory.

The old tower of Tol Falas... Upon entering, Haldor finds a sign post with a note... a note from the master of this place. He doesn't seem to be very happy with his undead minions...

"I'll show him what an "undead minion" can do..." thinks Haldor to himself.

Deeper in the tower, another sign post from the dungeon master talks about an object of great power. Perhaps it's a great magical object that Haldor may claim for himself?

Suddenly, he hears sounds of battle in a nearby room. Haldor opens the door... and finds a woman, one of those "sun paladins", in big trouble, surrounded by a skeleton warrior, a stone giant and a grave wight.

"Please, help!!!" screams the bleeding paladin.

Haldor has to act fast. He casts a shocking flame, confusing everybody in the room, including the poor sun paladin. Mana bolt, lightning bolt to dispatch the menacing skeleton warrior, ice bolt to freeze the stone giant and minor teleportation to get rid of the grave wight temporarily. Then, back to back with the sun paladin, he starts to aim his spells at the remaining stone giant and grave wight... and two vampires that decided to join the fight. Maybe they finally read all those sign posts and decided that it was time to stop being lazy and kill adventurers instead...

After the fight, the sun paladin is close to dying. Haldor feels like she's gonna pass out... but she finds the strength to talk.

"Thank you, my friend. I am Mayuwe, the sun paladin and I'll owe you forever for saving my life. I see that you have been taught the basics of the power of the sun and that you are using the Chant of Fortitude. Let me improve your knowledge of that chant, my friend!"

After spending some time with Mayuwe, Haldor continues his exploration of Tol Falas. But first, it's time to examine his findings... and in particular a strange cloak. The Cloak of Grima. A nice artifact he could use... but wouldn't that expose himself to the living beings?

Another sign post. This one clearly mentions a powerful magical item, which could even be a magical staff. Better than Haldor's Staff of Destruction?

One of those sign posts was talking about the master of this place being angry at his minions for letting adventurers come close to him and his precious item. Well for sure this place is crowded! Haldor stumbles upon a lost warrior in another part of the tower.

"My name is Gorugorion, and I'm totally lost. Could you help me find my portal?"

Haldor casts Vision and finds out that the portal is just outside the room they are in. Gorugorion teaches Haldor how to improve his life energies and leaves...

On the seventh floor, Haldor finds a glacial hatchet... the Blood-Letter. Another fancy weapon he will never be able to use...

On the same floor, he finds a big vault. Almost no treasures and the most powerful enemies Haldor has ever seen... surely the master of this tower has a sick sense of humor.

Climbing on the following floor, Haldor meets another sun paladin. However the meeting was very short... when Haldor decided to cast a flame blast to burn some annoying wights, the stupid paladin didn't find anything more intelligent to do than rushing into the blazing fire... and fry on the spot.

Now Haldor stands on the last floor of the tower of Tol Falas. Undead everywhere... wherever Haldor teleports, there are monsters waiting for him, and he can't find any safe spot to regenerate. This floor is costing him many potions to replenish his life and mana energies. And he didn't find the master of the tower yet...

"Welcome to your death! I am the Master, and I'm in a foul mood! Your death is gonna be a great amusement to me, insignificant insect!"

Speaking of the devil...

Chapter 10: Dungeons and Dragons

Haldor has heard from someone in Angolwen about dragons now living in the caverns of Carn Dum. And dragons mean a lot of treasures... So he decides to leave the town and head east again.

On his way, Haldor discovers what seems to be some ancient elven ruins and dark tunnels below them. Immediately upon entering, he is surrounded by ancient mummies, extremely experienced skeleton master archers, warriors and mages. And even some strange unique undead mold... After a short while of tough fighting involving burning, freezing and shocking, Haldor feels himself much more experienced... and in possession of very powerful galvorn items, including a shiny golden three-edged sword. However, he doesn't feel powerful enough to wander deeper in the tunnels so Haldor decides to leave for Carn Dum instead... he'll come back when the time is right, there are probably more treasures and powerful enemies in this place.

Making a short trip to Bree, Haldor sells all the items found on the first level of the elven ruins for a good profit. He buys a thick and warm coat for his journey to Carn Dum. The place is renowned for being the home of the snow giants... it's cold and freezing.

Entering Carn Dum, Haldor meets a strange woman. She looks like a mage surrounded by an aura of light and darkness. She is wounded and really worried.

"Hello, my name is Neriba. I was sent here to investigate about white dragons multiplying dangerously in these caves. My recall portal is nearby, but I was wounded during a fight with snow giants and I fear I won't be able to reach it alive. Could you help me?"

"Of course, my lady." replies Haldor. "Tell me the direction of your portal and I'll lead the way."

A few minutes later, Neriba rejoins her portal.

"Thank you. To reward your generosity, I'll teach you one of my hymns, the Hymn of Perseverance. It will help you resist blindness, stunning and confusion. Now farewell!"

Haldor is alone again in the cold tunnels... alone, at least until he stumbles upon a large room filled with chilling terror. Snow giants, cold drakes and all sort of monstruosities await in that room. Haldor moves back... and prepares his most devastating fire blast. The room is suddenly filled with vapor, undefined bloody remains... and a huge pile of treasures. Haldor feels more experienced again, and increases his life energies one more time.

Deep in the dungeon, Haldor finds a huge dragon wrapped in icy aura. His claws and teeth are big enough to kill a hobbit instantly. No doubt about it... he's one of the last dragons of Morgoth that survived the war against the Valar and hid in these caves for so many years.

"Welcome in your funeral chamber, mortal. I am Rantha the Worm. Your meat will make a nice dinner for my children."

Unfortunately for the old worm, Haldor's fire spells have become very powerful since he started his journey in Middle-Earth after his second awakening. Quickly, Rantha becomes nothing more than a pile of ash... with a pair of leather boots on top of it. The boots are cold to the touch and radiate a blue aura... these can't be anything else than the Frost Treads!

It's now time to go back to Angolwen, trade some items and embark on a new quest!

Chapter 9: Black Swans and... Wizards in Worm Holes!

The trip to Minas Tirith was very rewarding. The Weapon Smith offered Haldor to learn how to use heavy armor and how to increase his life energies for a very reasonable price. The lost merchant's Rare Goods shop had a better staff and a leather armor able to protect Haldor from stunning.

On his way back to the western part of Middle-Earth, Haldor meets a severely wounded man covered in dirt and blood... a woodsman, or maybe a lumberjack.

"Please, help!" shouts the man, pointing at the nearby forest. "Ben Cruthdar has become mad and is slaughtering everybody in my village!"

"I will go there and see what I can do..." replies Haldor.

Upon entering the village, Haldor is welcomed by a multitude of screams. The source of the problem seems to be a madman wielding a big axe and surrounded by a malignant gloomy aura. As the man approaches a pond, Haldor sees a white swan, swimming on the surface of the pond, become black because of the gloom and flying away with a gleam of madness in its eyes...

A lumberjack falls dead... and another one. Haldor has to hurry, or soon nobody will remain in this village except himself and that madman. He teleports quickly near the cursed lumberjack and bolts him to death.

"Thank you for saving me from that curse..." says the dying Ben Cruthdar. "I didn't want to harm the people in this village... it was all because of that curse. Now it has been lifted from me... and I can die in peace..."

The thankful remaining lumberjacks collect some gold and offer it as reward to Haldor. Now he can continue his journey... with a bigger purse.

Talking with the elves of Harlindon, Haldor learns about a strange hole in the beach near the bay of the Lhun. Many adventurers have disappeared inside that hole... and nobody ever came back! Maybe he will find more treasures in that place...

Haldor enters the strange hole... Inside it feels like a dungeon with walls made of sand. Near the entrance, a sandworm is crawling on a pile of bones and various items. Haldor dispatches the sandworm and examines the pile of items... and finds a pair of yellow boots. The Boots of Tom Bombadil... a nice find.

Suddenly, a huge sandworm crawls out of a wall. Haldor stands no chance against a creature this big... but fortunately, the worm doesn't care about his presence and continues digging through the sand walls. Following the worm seems to be the fastest way to progress inside this place... but Haldor has to be very careful as the unstable tunnels created by those sandworm burrowers tend to be very fragile and can easily collapse.

Going deep in the Sandworm Lair is very tedious. Worms of course, but also jellies, oozes and all types of vermin try to stop Haldor's progression. And suddenly stands in front of him the biggest worm he has ever seen... the Sandworm Queen. Haldor immediately tries to freeze her, but she seems to resist the freezing bolt! So fire blast, teleport away and mana/lightning bolts will do the job...

Once the Sandworm Queen is dead, Haldor grabs a dagger and starts to cut her heart out of her disgusting body. He doesn't know why... but he starts to devour the almost still beating heart. Suddenly, the knowledge of this old creature fills Haldor and he feels more talented, with increased abilities. Haldor increases his life energies again and maximizes his capacity to lighten his burden with Feather Wind.

Apart from the Heart of the Sandworm Queen, Haldor doesn't find anything interesting in the Sandworm Lair. Reluctant to spend more time in the sandy place, he teleports back to Angolwen... Inspecting the wands and staves shop, he finds the powerful Staff of Destruction in the list of items for sale. Having accumulated enough funds, he buys the precious artifact staff... Haldor feels powerful...

Chapter 8: An A-maze-ing Labyrinth

After spending some time in Angolwen, Haldor leaves and heads back east towards Bree. He was told by one of the mages to investigate a strange maze in the nearby vicinity: he should find more treasures in that forgotten place...

What a strange dungeon... long corridors, dead ends, traps, thieves and minotaurs. Time seems to pass at a strange rate too. Haldor can't say how long he has wandered inside the inextricable maze, killing monsters and gathering items, but it sure felt like a long time.

At the end of a corridor, deep in the maze, Haldor finds a large minotaur swinging a mighty axe.

"If you want to leave this place, you'll have to defeat me!" booms the Minotaur of the Labyrinth.

"This surely shouldn't take me long..." replies Haldor, rapidly freezing his opponent on the spot. A few bolt spells, and the only thing remaining of the stinky minotaur is a dusty steel helm.

"The Steel Helm of Hammerhand! What is such a powerful artifact doing in this dirty dungeon?"

Haldor picks up the heavy helm and inspects the surroundings. A strange teleporting circle stands at the end of the corridor... probably some shortcut to the surface. This should spare Haldor a trip to Angolwen...

Back to the surface, Haldor inspect his possessions. He has found many great armor parts: body armor, helms, gloves, boots... most of them heavy armor parts. Unfortunately, as soon as he puts them on, his hands start to fumble and his spells seem to fail! He will have to find a special trainer to help him use those armor parts properly. Maybe one exists in Bree...

Upon entering Bree, Haldor finds the town free of the storm cloud. The mages of Angolwen must have removed the spell once Urkis has been vanquished... A quick talk with the people of Bree tells Haldor that no trainer can be found in the town, but one lives in the city of Minas Tirith, south in Gondor. A good opportunity to pay a visit to that merchant he saved from the thieves and his "Rare Goods" shop...

Chapter 7: Into the Storm

A strange dark cloud seems to be looming above Bree, as Haldor approaches the town. Thunder and lightning strike the town, as Haldor gets greeted by an army of air elementals slaughtering the population. Cries of help everywhere... Haldor needs to hurry, or the town will be destroyed. For this fight, he needs to rely on his mana and fire spells, as his opponents are completely immune to lightning...

It takes Haldor a while, but the air elementals are finally dispatched.

"Did you kill them all? Are we safe now?" asks a hobbit, while getting out of a cellar.

"Seems so." replies Haldor. "Do you know where they came from and what they wanted?"

"I have heard rumours of a hidden town somewhere in the Blue Mountains inhabited by wise and powerful men. Maybe they will be able to help remove that cloud... if they exist."

Could these men be mages? Haldor wants to find out, and so leaves Bree for the mountains in the south west. Arriving near the bay of Lhun, not far from the Gray Havens, Haldor meets a novice mage.

"What is a novice mage doing in the wilderness?" asks Haldor.

"As you see me", replies the novice mage, "I want to be accepted by the elves of Angolwen and learn the secrets of the arcane."

"The elves of Angolwen? Who are they? Mages I presume?" asks Haldor.

"Powerful mages." agrees the novice mage. "They keep their magic talents secret in their town of Angolwen. Whoever wants to be taught has to pass a test and bring to the city a powerful magic artifact."

The hidden town of Angolwen. Mages. They should be able to fix the little problem set in Bree.

"I found this staff." says Haldor, showing Angmar's Fall. "Maybe it should be enough to pass your test."

"Let me see it... Indeed it is a powerful magic artifact. It should be enough to complete my quest."

"Then let's make a deal! I'll give you this staff, and in exchange you'll lead me to the town of Angolwen. You see, I also have a quest... A magical cloud has enveloped the town of Bree in the east, and I promised the people of that town to find a way to lift that spell. And I'm sure the elves of Angolwen could help me."

"This sounds fair." replies the novice mage. "Now follow me..."

The novice mage leads Haldor through the Blue Mountains. Finally, they arrive at the entrance of Angolwen. What an amazing town! A jewellery store, a potion shop, a scroll shop... and a store selling magical staves! Haldor even finds a yew staff of power in the shop to replace Angmar's Fall. Outside of the shops, a board tells the mages present this day that a practical lesson about the travel school of magic will be held soon. Haldor decides to attend that lesson and improves his teleporting abilities: controlled teleportation over small distances, teleportation of other people over small distances, teleportation over large distances... and even a spell to teleport back to the town of Angolwen from anywhere in the world!

After this helpful lesson, Haldor enquires a mage about how he could dispel a powerful spell.

"Dispel magic? You should ask the Circle of the Wise. They know the mightiest spells."

Haldor leaves the mage and goes to the west of the town. He finds a tall elven woman radiating incredible power through her white robe.

"Welcome to Angolwen, Archmage. I am Anliwen Noromiel, head of the Circle of the Wise. What may I do for you?"

"I require all the help I can get for the town of Bree." replies Haldor.

"We are aware of this problem. We have sent mages to dispel the magic cloud over that city, but they were unable to fulfil their task. The spell is too powerful. In order to remove it, you'll have to get rid of the source of the problem. And the source of the problem is named Urkis, the Tempest Mage. Urkis once was a mage of Angolwen, but he left a few years ago to specialize in the studies of the storms. No he lives on top of a tall peak in the Misty Mountains. If you are ready, we can send you there, but be careful... he is a very powerful mage."

"I am ready. I will not let the people of Bree down."

And in the blink of an eye, Haldor is magically transported on top of the highest peak he has ever seen, with storms raging above his head. Looking carefully, he finds the entrance of a cave.

The cave below the high peak is filled with lightning based creatures. Storm giants, storm drakes, air elementals... and Urkis, the High Tempest. Urkis proves to be a valiant opponent, immune to lightning as most of his minions, and surrounded by a stormy aura dealing constant damage around him. Flame attacks, mana attacks, and a bit of controlled teleportation, and Haldor manages to vanquish the Tempest Mage.

A voice suddenly resonates in Haldor's mind. "Congratulations, Archmage!" says the voice of Anliwen Noromiel. "Now Bree is freed from the looming spell."

From Urkis' remains, Haldor finds a strange rod. It appears to be a Rod of Recall, which allows the user to exit any dungeon in the world and rejoin the surface almost instantly. Haldor uses his newly learned spell and teleports back to Angolwen.

Chapter 6: Of Men, Hobbits and... a Willow

Bree. A muddy town filled with squalid people... Farmers, filthy street urchins, boil-covered wretches, pitiful-looking beggars, singing-happy drunks coming out of the taverns... and even dwarves. No, not dwarves... they have no beards and look more like children. People here call them halflings, but they prefer to be called hobbits. Strange folks...

Haldor checks the town's shops. Most of them have items of mediocre quality, but the shopkeepers provide correct prices for all the items he found on his way to Bree. Finally, Haldor finds the gem store.

"Aye." says the shopkeeper, talking about Aerimas. "The strange guy was here earlier, looking for some gems and selling the ones he found during his travels. If you're looking for him, he's probably hunting for some more gems in the Old Forest."

"You mean the forest of Ossiriand?" asks Haldor.

"Nobody calls this land Ossiriand for thousands of years, sir." replies the shopkeeper. "The forest west of Bree is called the Old Forest, and further west is the land of Eriador, where the Little Folk lives. Curious little people, but they make the best pipeweed in Middle-Earth!"

Haldor buys an agate before leaving and uses his new power to imbue his body armor to increase his stats. The old Forest seems to be a good place to gather more treasures, so he decides to go and check the place.

Rain. The cold rain chills Haldor's bones. The Old Forest is dark, thick, and filled with wild animals. Snakes, wolves and ants seem to have made the forest their homes. Haldor has to kill many of those to progress through the forest... but this helps improving his spells further. Now he's able to launch a powerful fire blast, burning many foes at the same time.

Aerimas cannot be found in the forest... and nobody else either. Haldor wonders why people told him to come here to find treasures... he cannot seem to find any. But deep in the forest, he meets an old willow tree... who strangely seems to be able to walk! Old Man Willow... some people told Haldor that it was the guardian of the Old Forest, and that he didn't like intruders much. Fortunately for Haldor, he doesn't like fire much either...

The only thing that remains from the now burnt Old Man Willow is his shield, Old Man Willow's Barkwood... and Haldor cannot even use it. What a disappointing place... Haldor leaves the forest without regret.

Chapter 5: Treasures

The few living beings encountered on his way outside of the forest told Haldor about a town west of his location. And about some caves below a ruined tower containing a lot of treasures. They warned him about all the undead infesting those caves, but now that he's one of them, it doesn't matter at all. His spells should be able to deal with all the enemies he's gonna meet.

Amon Sul. That's the name the people here give to this tower. Built during the Second Age by the kings of the West as a watch tower. Today is supposed to be the 48th Tuile of the 122nd year of the Fourth Age. Haldor is stunned... more than six thousand years have passed since Angband fell, ending what people name the First Age. All the people and places he knew have disappeared long ago, except maybe a couple of elves that survived all this time and decided to stay in Middle-Earth instead of taking the last boats to Valinor. Cirdan is one of them... maybe he'll visit his new home to the west someday, the Gray Havens. For now, what Haldor wants is fame for himself... and some good treasures could help him too.

Haldor enters the dark tunnels below Amon Sul. The atmosphere here really reminds him of the Paths of the Dead. Not very far from the entrance, he finds a room guarded by some skeleton warriors, mages and archers. Once the guardians are dead, he spots a small wooden chest in the corner of the room. Haldor opens it... and finds a beautiful golden belt inside. He identifies it as Goldenberry's Girdle of the Calm Waters, a belt that heightens his will, resistances and life energies regeneration capacities.

Deeper in the dungeon, Haldor meets a strange man, wearing blue magical robes. A mage? Haldor has encountered many mages in his life, but this man seems to have a different profession.

"I am Aerimas, and I'm an alchemist from Bree. I was looking for special gems in this place to sell to Bree's jewellery shop, but I'm afraid I got lost in this dungeon. I've set a recall portal not far from here, but I don't remember where it is. Can you help me find it again?"

"No problem." replies Haldor. "I will protect you."

The glowing blue aura of the alchemist's robe seems unfortunately to attract all creatures in the vicinity. Haldor has a hard time dispatching the various undead, rodents, worms and all sorts of underground creatures that cross his path, but finally he manages to lead the lone alchemist to his portal.

"Thank you, friend." says Aerimas. "I will reward you by teaching you how to imbue your armor with the power of gems. This should be very helpful to you. Now I'm going back to Bree. Farewell..."

"Wait!" shouts Haldor. "Bree? Is that the town west from here?"

"Yes." replies Aerimas. "If you come to Bree, maybe we'll meet again there..."

And with these words Aerimas is gone. Haldor feels more powerful again, and senses that the time has come to learn how to magically map the surroundings and make the burden of his possessions lighter. Further in the dungeon, Haldor finds a circular corridor and a door at the end... the entrance to a vault. The vault has very experienced skeleton mages guarding it... but Haldor knows that his mana/lightning combo should be able to destroy them. The treasures from the vault are quite disappointing, but Haldor finds a good ash staff of might to replace his old staff. More damage to his spells never hurts...

Now Haldor also knows how to confuse his enemies with his flame spell. The dungeon level he entered seems very humid, and any trace of light has disappeared. Behind a door, he finds a strangely shaped corridor. Suddenly, a skeleton with fire in his empty eyes appear.

"I sense it... you're not what you appear." says the skeleton. "You are one of us. I am the Shade of Angmar, and this is my realm. Come and rejoin the armies of my undead servants..."

"I'd rather kill you and take your staff..." replies Haldor, greedily looking at the skeleton's powerful glowing staff.

"Then so be it..."

And a powerful mana bolt surges from the Shade of Angmar's staff... Strangely, the skeleton appears to be a less powerful opponent... once he gets frozen by one of Haldor's spells. Then various bolt spells follow, and finally the Shade of Angmar gets destroyed.

"Now your staff is mine." says Haldor. Searching the Shade's hideout doesn't show any more treasures than that staff. Haldor leaves the Amon Sul dungeon and heads west, to the town of Bree.

Chapter 4: Rhudaur

Haldor continues his journey south to his homeland. Soon he reaches the river Mitheitel, and a bridge he's sure he never saw before. Just a few miles, and he will be able to see the forest of Rhudaur. And inside the forest, the city of Rhudor... his home.

Haldor already smells the scent of a good fire and roasted meat. And the hospitality of his people... maybe many years have passed since he died, and all the people he knew are probably dead too, but he knows he will be greeted with open arms. Now he's at the edge of the forest. In his memories, this was a part of the great forest of Ossiriand, where both elves and men used to live together before Morgoth started to corrupt all living things in Middle-Earth from his fortress of Angband.

A noise in the trees... Haldor carefully hides himself behind a large oak. Just in time to see three heavily armed trolls coming his way.

"Trolls! In the forest of Rhudaur! This can't be... they were supposed to be exterminated on the plain of Anfauglith when Morgoth fell that day." thinks Haldor, really starting to feel that many things did change during his forced absence.

After the trolls disappeared out of Haldor's sight, he started to hurry and went deeper in the forest. Something's definitely wrong... this is clearly not the forest he remembers. He should have reached his city now... And what he sees on top of a small hill confirms his doubts... Ruins... ruins of a city now buried in the forest. Nobody must have lived here for hundreds of years, if not thousands.

Haldor falls on his knees... if he still had eyes, he would probably cry. Now he's sure... nothing remains of his past life. He will have to make a new spot for himself in this world. Now he hears more noises in the surrounding forest... trolls again, this time heading deeper in the forest, to the east. Haldor follows them, and soon the forest becomes thicker. The trolls disappear through a small passageway in the trees.

This part of the forest is totally hostile. Rodents, wolves, giant worms, all types of wild animals, and of course... trolls.

Haldor looks on the ground and sees a tattered scrap of paper. Something is inscribed on it, perhaps a part of a diary entry... something about a glade and human remains.

"Excuse me, sir. I'm afraid I lost myself in this forest. Could you help me please?"

Haldor turns around an sees a woman wrapped in heavy plate armor, wielding a long sword... a paladin. She's seriously wounded and would probably not survive her next hostile encounter in the forest.

"My name is Xitha, and I've been separated from my company. They have set a recall portal somewhere in case we got lost in the forest. I will be able to rejoin them there".

"Lead on, my lady." replies Haldor. "I will protect you."

Fortunately, the recall portal stands very close to where Haldor met Xitha. A few bolts to dispel some bears and a forest troll, and the female paladin is lead to safety.

"Thank you very much, my friend. As a reward, I'm gonna teach you one of the chants of the sun paladins. It will grant you protection against physical attacks and spells. Now farewell!"

"Wait!" shouts Haldor. "Sun paladins? What are sun paladins?"

But Xitha has already crossed the portal and Haldor remains alone again. Continuing his progress in the troll-infested forest, he finds two more scraps of paper... parts of a diary, mentioning an old gigantic troll. A ruined building stands in this part of the forest. Haldor explores the building carefully, but finds nothing... except another scrap of paper, where the writer asks for help.

Now Haldor stands in the heart of the forest. The last scrap of paper he finds mentions the writer in a tree with the giant troll waiting at the bottom. Considering that nobody can currently be found near that tree, he supposes that the writer flew... or more probably got killed by the aforementioned troll.

And finally he sees him, the huge troll. Big, brawny, wielding a small tree trunk as a weapon.

"I am Bill, the Stone Troll, ruler of the Trollshaws. No human is allowed in my forest, and whoever enters it should be promptly killed!"

Haldor knows he'll have to get rid of the troll. His spells have grown quite powerful since he was awakened again, and even a big troll would be no match to his powers now. Freeze, mana bolt, lightning bolt, freeze... the giant mass of muscles drops dead.

Haldor searches the surroundings, but finds nothing except the poor belongings of Bill, the Stone Troll. Feeling discouraged, he turns back and leaves the forest...

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