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.

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...

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