Day in the Life

For stories about your characters

Chapter 27: Betrayed

As Haldor approaches the tower of Orthanc, he notices that the tower lies in ruins, with only the basement remaining. Many undead still roam the rooms and passages of the tower. On the bottom floor of the basement, Haldor finds a corrupted spirit, the Shade of Saruman.

The powerful undead knows how to cast nasty spells, from acid blasts to virulent diseases. But Haldor is now powerful enough to handle the fight, and to destroy the remaining spiritual essence of Saruman. As the shade dissipates, Haldor sees no sign of a text entitled "Inverted and Reverted Probabilistic Fields". He just finds a staff broken in two pieces and a few wands. Strangely, he is able to wield both parts of the broken Staff of Saruman in each hand.

Haldor leaves Orthanc. Before he returns to Minas Tirith, he wants to check the ancient elven ruins nearby. It's not really a dungeon, but it's the last place in Middle-Earth he didn't check. Last time, he had to flee the dangerous place because he was not prepared. Now, the monsters he finds are no match anymore.

Deep in the ruins, he finds a powerful undead, the Great Mummy Lord. This undead loves to cloak himself in a fog of invisibility. But Haldor can track his movement with a fire blast... and mummies don't like fire at all! Quickly the Mummy Lord is turned into a pile of ash. Among his remains, Haldor finds a glittering sword. He recognizes the blade immediately... Ringil, the sword of Filgolfin! What is this sword doing in this place? He cannot imagine that someone desecrated the tomb of the elven hero...

On his way out, Haldor stumbles upon a strange fungal growth. It looks like a mold... but how did a mold become a skeleton? Are these the bones of hapless adventurers? Z'quikzshl is very weak, but it's a master summoner. Haldor digs a hole in the walls and approaches the skeletal mold safely. With a single mana bolt, he destroys the undead mold...

But what is this strange glowing object among the scattered bones? Haldor comes closer and finds... a glowing key. This can't be... The Orc Pride could not choose a mold to keep the key that could open a path to the High Peak?! Maybe they thought nobody would be clever enough to think it would be kept by such an insignificant monster... But it's not Haldor's problem. Now he is ready to go back to the Far East and complete his mission.

Haldor enters Minas Tirith again and goes straight to Tannen's tower.

"Did you finish your research? Are you ready to create the portal?" asks Haldor.

"I am ready." replies Tannen. "But you are not..."

Haldor suddenly notices that he is standing on an etched portal. He tries to move away, but too late... The portal activates itself and transports Haldor to what seems to be a cell in the basement of the tower.

Haldor leaves the cell and explores the basement of the tower. In other cells, he finds demons, wyrms, greater elementals, bone giants... This floor seems like a giant prison!

The second floor is totally flooded. Water creatures inhabit the tunnels. Too bad for them, Haldor doesn't need to breathe anymore, and his spells still are very effective underwater.

The third floor is the realm of undead creatures. In a room, Haldor finds some heavy gloves, the Gloves of the Firm Hand.

As soon as Haldor sets foot on the last floor of the tower's basement, he is welcomed by a huge golem roughly shaped in the form of a dragon.

"Do you like my drolem? Isn't it nice?" says a voice behind the huge golem.

Tannen! The traitor has been revealed, and he does not intend to let Haldor escape to tell the tale. Haldor lays down a fire blast and retreats, while casting spells at both the drolem and the foul mage. The construct falls first, and his master follows him shortly after. Among the items scattered on the floor, Haldor finds the Orb of Many Ways, as well as the Blood-Runed Athame and the Resonating Diamond he found earlier.

In a corner of the room, Haldor finds a portal. Not what he was looking for... but the portal seems connected to Minas Tirith. He could use it to go back to the city...

As Haldor steps out of the portal, he notices a human standing there, wearing the robe of the mages of Angolwen.

"Well met Haldor! I am Meranas, Herald of Angolwen. I have come here at the request of King Eldarion who got worried about not seeing you coming back. We were watching Tannen for some time now, and you revealed his true nature and stopped him. For this we are grateful, and I think we can pay you back. We have studied his portal research and if you give me the components, I will create the portal for you, here and now."

"I thank you for your help." replies Haldor. "Here are the components..."

And Meranas builds the portal... Haldor is now ready to finish his mission in the Far East...

Chapter 26: The Two Towers

"Welcome back to Minas Tirith!" says the Elder. "How did the hunt for the staff go?"

"The hunt for the staff took me to a remote continent, accessible only through a magical portal." responds Haldor. "I've recently returned through a similar portal, but unfortunately, the portal set deep in the Mines of Moria is not functionning anymore. I am looking for someone to help me create another portal, because my mission in the Far East is not finished yet."

"In this case, let's proceed as quickly as possible. I know one man in Gondor that could help you, a wise man that recently arrived in Minas Tirith. His name is Tannen, and he's living in a tower just north of here. I believe he is your best hope."

Haldor leaves the Elder and goes to Tannen's tower.

"How may I help you?" asks Tannen.

"I need to create a portal between Middle-Earth and a remote continent known as the Far East. The Elder told me you could help me build such a portal."

"To open a portal, you need the Orb of Many Ways. I suppose you don't have that item?"

"In fact, I do have the Orb..."

"Astonishing! I have heard tales of this Orb in ancient texts and legends. May I see it?"

Haldor pulls out the Orb of Many Ways from his backpack.

"Truly, it is the work of a great master. Perhaps Gandalf himself had a hand in its making. And you say you come with instructions of its usage?"

"I do..."

Haldor shows him Zemekkys's scribbled notes. Tannen spends a few minutes reading...

"Ah! I see. I did not at first understand the method used by this elven chronomancer, but I see now that is it correct. We can manage to reproduce his work here, but, as he says, we will need a Blood-Runed Athame and a Resonating Diamond."

"This will pose no problem. I already have these two items in my possession." explains Haldor. "While investigating the Moria, I fought and killed a balrog which had a Blood-Runed Athame and a Resonating Diamond on him."

"One last thing. I will need to study the Orb of Many Ways for a few days. I lack the expertise this Zemekkys possesses, and I have much to learn on the subject if I want to follow his method."

"Here it is. Guard it carefully. I'll be back in a few days... I still have business to do in the area anyway."

Good news... And this will leave Haldor time to find the key to the slime tunnels that is still slipping away from him.

"Oh... I almost forgot." Tannen hands Haldor a key. "This key opens the ruins of Orthanc, which the Mystics of Gondor sealed many years ago. If you happen to find a text in the ruins entitled "Inverted and Reverted Probabilistic Fields", return with it and your odds of surviving our portal attempt will go up drastically."

Tannen points the location of Orthanc on a map. Haldor leaves Minas Tirith and heads to Orthanc.

Chapter 25: Trapped?

Since the Master's demise, a malevolent skeleton archmage has taken control of Tol Falas. Pale Drake is his name. He's immune to fire, so Haldor needs to use mana and lightning against him. And like the Master, he won't die easily... as he is able to resurrect once. But the trick still won't help him... As his bones are scattered by Haldor's final spell, he drops his belongings on the floor. A well-made sling, the Gift to the Shire, and a human skull, the Runed Skull. But still no key...

Haldor should have thought more carefully. The first time he fought numerous orcs in Middle-Earth, it happened in the Moria. What better place would it be to hide a magical key that could open the door to the High Peak? Haldor travels quickly and enters the mines for the second time.

Orcs are still plenty in the mines, ignoring the demise of all their masters in the Far East. Haldor leaves a second trail of orc corpses behind him and reaches the deepest cavern in the mines. When he last saw it, the cavern was full of corpses, all fried by his fire blast spells. Now many more corpses litter the floor, all charred and reeking of sulphur. An orange glow dimly illuminates the far east of the cavern...

The glow intensifies as Haldor advances in the cavern. Suddenly, a huge demon appears. A balrog drawn to this place by the energy of the portal! Haldor needs to rely on his spells again... but Lithfengel the Balrog doesn't reveal to be a tough opponent...

A careful examination of the balrog's corpse reveals a Blood-Runed Athame and a Resonating Diamond. Among the balrog's items, Haldor also finds a pestilent waraxe, the Malediction.

Haldor is confused... This was not the ally of the Orc Pride he was looking for... he didn't carry the key to the slime tunnels. But what was he doing with a Blood-Runed Athame and a Resonating Diamond? These are the items required to build a portal...

Haldor feels something terrible has happened here. He runs to the easternmost part of the cavern, where the portal to the Far East was standing... and his fears are instantly confirmed. The typical glow has disappeared, gone at the same time as all the energies contained in the portal. It will never activate again...

Haldor is trapped in Middle-Earth, unless he finds someone able to establish a link back to the Far East. Maybe the Elder in Minas Tirith would know such a person...

Chapter 24: Deja-Vu

Haldor examines the situation... He has to find the key to the slime tunnels somewhere in a dungeon. But which one? He will have to explore each and every one again...

Haldor enters the Trollshaws. The trolls should pose no threat to him, now that he is much more powerful than he used to be when he entered the forest for the first time. However, the first creature he found the first time... was not the storm wyrm he faces now.

Deeper in the Trollshaws, Haldor meets a sun paladin, Aluin the Fallen. His once shining armour is now dull and stained with blood. He is surrounded by a gloomy aura and despair fills his eyes. He attacks Haldor at once. Haldor responds with spells, and kills the cursed paladin. From his corpse, Haldor picks up a bloody shield, the Sanguine Shield, and a dull black ring, the Ring of Mandos. But nothing looking like a magical key...

The Tower of Amon Sul still looks the same... undead everywhere. Haldor clears a vault he missed the first time, and ventures deeper. On the deepest level, where the Shade of Angmar loomed, he finds a strange spirit, Angmar's Fury. It seems to be the reincarnation of the Shade, looking for vengeance! The fight is intense, as the frightening ghost seems to resist magical damage, but he finally is destroyed, leaving nothing but a ringing amulet behind, the Vox.

The Old Forest seems peaceful once again. There are still wild animals, but nothing that can't be found in a wild forest. Until Haldor finds this huge corrupted Ent, Snaproot. Looking like an old scorched tree, he doesn't like the fire blast that erupts from Haldor's hands at all... The Ent has a lot of life energies, but he burns quite well... Unfortunately, he was not holding anything of value. On his way out, Haldor finds a strange potion, which appears to be the Ever-Refilling Potion of Mana! A really useful find...

The Maze is still the same confusing place. But Haldor has learned how to travel quickly in dungeons now, and he knows where the exits to the tunnels are. Around a corner, he finds a pack of ants leaded by their mother, the Queen Ant. Haldor quickly dispatches the ants... but of course they didn't own anything of value.

Haldor doesn't feel like going inside the Sandworm Lair again. He doesn't sense anything in that place that could hold a magical key... But who knows? As soon as he enters, he feels that something is terribly wrong. The sandworms have all disappeared... Haldor quickly finds the reason... A huge sand wyrm appears, shrieking as it notices what seems to be its next meal. Haldor casts a few spell and kills the ugly Corrupted Sand Wyrm. Like Breagh, this sand wyrm was holding a nice collection of gems. And a putrescent potion, the Wyrm Bile. But still no magical key... Haldor drinks the Wyrm Bile, and feels transformed... but also more talented.

Carn Dum... The icy dragon cave is still bleak and full of snow giants and frost dragons. During his exploration of the dungeon, he finds a shining dagger, Sting, the small sword once wielded by Bilbo Baggins. At the bottom of the cave, Haldor meets a huge and heavily scarred orc, his sword covered in dragon blood. A master of the Orc Pride... Finally Haldor has found someone related to his mission. No doubt he's holding the key he's looking for...

"You!" shouts Haldor. "The Orc Pride has been destroyed. There's no need to fight anymore. Give me the key you're holding and I'll let you go."

"A key?" responds Massok the Dragonslayer. "I don't know what you're talking about... I am here to slay dragons and collect treasures. But your skull will be a nice addition to my collection..."

And Massok rushes out... The hit he scores throws Haldor against the closest wall, his life energies almost all gone. He wouldn't be able to stand another hit, so he teleports to safety and regenerates. Now he has to use all his cunning and talents to avoid being hit again, while throwing his spells at the berserking orc. When Massok finally falls down, Haldor searches his dead body... He finds a skull helm, the artifact Dragonskull Helm, but no key. The orc master was telling the truth after all...

Haldor recalls which dungeons he didn't explore yet. Tol Falas... then Moria. That's about it. He heads south, hoping that his quest will not be in vain...

Chapter 23: Back To Middle-Earth

Haldor knocks on Zemekkys' door again.

"I have found the Blood-Runed Athame, but there was no Resonating Diamond."

"Of course there was no Resonating Diamond..." replies Zemekkys. "Did you think Briagh would let one loose for a second?"

"Briagh?"

"Briagh, the Great Sand Wyrm. He sleeps on a hoard of precious gems and metals. Including diamonds. A Resonating Diamond, you see, is nothing more than a plain diamond before it is infused by Briagh's life energies."

"And where may I find Briagh's lair?"

"South of the Sunwall. I'll mark it on a map..."

Haldor travels south again and enters the sandpit of Briagh. He is welcomed by sand creatures... worms and drakes. Suddenly, he is hit by a massive sand storm from behind. Haldor has just the time to turn around before a huge sand wyrm starts attacking him and summon sandworms to his help. Haldor retreats to a safe spot and starts casting a fire blast. It should be enough to reduce all those worms to ash...

In the lair, Haldor finds Briagh's stash of gems. Among them, a Resonating Diamond... Haldor travels back to the Gates of Morning. This time Zemekkys should be able to create a portal to Middle-Earth.

"I have a Resonating Diamond." says Haldor.

"Then let's go prepare that portal..." replies Zemekkys.

Haldor follows the shabby elf to a clean place in the Gates of Morning. Zemekkys starts to draw runes on the floor using the athame and diamond dust. Suddenly, the ground starts to shake!

"The portal is done!" says Zemekkys.

Without delay, Haldor uses the Orb of Many Ways and activates the portal. In the blink of an eye, he appears in the outskirts of Minas Tirith. But the portal is gone...

"Bah... there is still that portal in the Mines of Moria." he thinks to himself. But is it still the case?

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Seven: Visions Of Arenji

Note: Bear in mind Eden's adventure here takes place in beta12b, pre-rogue traps and pre-Maj'Eyal!

"Ah, this man looks like a guard. Excuse me, sir! My name is Eden, a simple traveller from Bree. You’ve probably heard from that novice mage who has the power to allow people into Angolwen without being admitted himself; I’m to be welcomed here, correct? Perhaps you could show me to a reasonably priced inn? Nothing Haradrim, their food tends to give me --"

The minotaur Eden had approached, fed up with the rambling of the puny ape-headed human before him, swung its battleaxe down in a brutal arc.


"Where… where am I?"

Eden opened his eyes, then promptly slammed them shut again. Commanding his eyes to show him something different, he tentatively opened them again.

A desolate wasteland stretched before him, its surface covered with unnatural-looking craters and rubble. No evidence of life could be seen, not a single plant. There was evidence of former life, though: Skeletons, heaps of them. The sky was dark, filled with roiling, purple clouds, sporadically shooting spears of fire down at the blighted land.

But Eden wasn’t focussed on this. He was focussed on the figure before him. Only the wildest, most shunned and zealous cults followed him. Normal folk didn’t dare think of his name, let alone speak it. Eden had doubted his existence too, but he was now stood before him: Arenji, the dark Vala of misfortune, chance and failure. Eden now realised that the skeletons before him must have been moments from survival before their deaths: One had a potion of full healing in its bony grip, and another held a piece of parchment, the controlled phase door incantation on it half-read.

"Enjoying your adventure, mortal?" Arenji boomed, his voice redolent with scoreboards and ASCII gravestones.

Eden squeaked in response. It seemed his vocal cords were rather more shocked than the rest of his body was.

"I needn’t tell you your fate, Eden. You’ve known it yourself, ever since you took up the Boots of Tom Bombadil in the Trollshaws…"

"E-Eden’s Guile," Eden stammered. Yes, so I just corrected a Vala, Eden thought in disbelief. He cleared his throat; the idea that Arenji was going to kill him regardless of what he said gave him a peculiar form of confidence, "Y-You know, some people in life win, r-regardless of your actions. You… you’re not all-powerful!"

Arenji’s dark eyes burnt through Eden. The supernatural equivalent of a smirk appeared on his lips, "Perhaps. Your case is a special one, Eden. You’re living on borrowed time. Already, this world is fading. Another world will replace it, a world you sadly will not be a part of. Other rogues will take your place… rogues that can lay traps, say…"

"Traps!" Eden exclaimed, "Listen, Arenji, you say this world is fading, but the only proof we have of that is your words. Maybe you’re wrong! Maybe… maybe this new world and mine can exist, together!" Metaphysical debate wasn’t Eden’s strong suit, and he soon found himself saying the first thing that came to mind. After all, he was in a hellish wasteland confronting a figure from myths and legends – he could’ve said "argle-bargle-ningy-nong" if he wanted and it would have been just as effective.

"Think that if you will," Arenji mocked, "It matters little. Soon, your world shall be destroyed in an entirely different sense…"

"Different how?"

Arenji cast an eldritch hand out, indicating the wasteland around him, "Behold, this act of destruction heralds the birth of a new world! Your kind may soon come to call it… the Spellblaze…"

"Right…" Eden considered calling the maleficent deity before him a nutcase, decided against it, then complimented himself on his wise choice.

"Who knows? Maybe you will survive, in some form. Your petty acts of burglary and stabbing may continue in the new realm. But know this: While the other Valar may vanish, I will endure, and I’ll be just the same… you silly goose!"

Eden was baffled, "Did… you just say silly goose?"

Arenji was gone, replaced by Grim, "Rise and shine, Eden!"


With a startled snort, Eden awoke, laid out on the labyrinth’s floor. Beside him was the repeatedly-stabbed body of a minotaur. Eden scratched his chin, silently thanked himself for his reflexes, and walked away.

 Level 15!
 +2 Strength
 +2 Dexterity
 +2 Constitution
 +3 Dual Strike
 +1 Weapon Combat

Eden frowned. He appeared to have forgotten to better himself when he achieved level fourteen. “I suppose I did have a lot on my plate, what with Bree and everything…”

MAZE 2

"How long does this circuitous corridor go on for? Surely there must be a shop or something soon…!"

MAZE 3

"How do mages live like this?! Maybe they just teleport between their homes and shops and things, ignoring all this maze stuff. Yevanna’s stockings, no wonder so many mages are obese."

MAZE 4

"Come on Eden, focus. Nobody said reaching Angolwen was going to be easy. Just stay calm."

MAZE 5

"hahaaahahhahahah paths and paths and paths and paths naaahahahaahaha"

MAZE 6

"Ahh, now this looks special." Eden had spied a dagger. While it may have looked normal to a passing layman, the distinguished murderer would recognise it as being of dwarven-steel construction. Dwarves, while not busy going mad, killing their nobles and flooding valleys with magma, make stellar equipment. Furthermore, the blade seemed to be coated with a corrosive acid, and its serrated edge lent itself well to massacre.

"An acidic implement of massacre…" Eden thought. Hardly stealthy, but then Eden didn’t consider himself a particularly cunning rogue. A good set of knives was a fine replacement for intelligence, anyway.

 Level 16!
 +2 Dexterity
 +1 Constitution
 +1 Knife Mastery
 +1 Lethality

MAZE 7

"I’m beginning to think – this is just an inkling, mind, just the tiniest thought flitting through the deepest, most subconscious part of my psyche – that this may not be Angolwen."

"PUNY HUMAN," Came a rumbling roar from the darkness beyond, "YOU DARE INTRUDE UPON THE LABYRINTH OF --"

"FLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRY"


"Sorry for not letting you finish your big introduction," Eden shrugged at the minotaur lord’s carcass, "My physician says I have an abnormally small melodrama gland. Still, it looks like my little jaunt here wasn’t completely worthless…"

"Helm the Hammerhand," Eden thought to himself as he held up the stark iron helm, "Hero of the Westdike. Now there was a man who knew strategy. After all, there’s little more terrifying than being attacked by a mad hairy man in the middle of a snowstorm!"

"Now for the journey back up…" Thought Eden with reluctance, "Good thing I’ve got a good sense of direction. This maze detour wasn’t my fault; anyone would think this was Angolwen!"


http://img222.imageshack.us/img222/271/edenoftlo.png

Eden the Rogue, Chapter Six: Eden The Wronged

TROLLSHAWS 1

"Dumb, dirty, stupid, freakin’…"

TROLLSHAWS 2

"Oh, Eden! You stopped a menace to our town?! Oops! Wrong menace!"

TROLLSHAWS 3

"I swear, once I’ve got that trunk, I’ll see it’s put to use…"

TROLLSHAWS 4

"An’ then I’ll run away and they’ll all be like, "Where’s Eden? Where’s Eden?""

TROLLSHAWS 5

"Erm… if I can interrupt your hateful rambling for a moment?"

Eden spun around – forgoing his usual stabbing frenzy on meeting a new friend – and beheld a strange warrior. He must have been wearing over a hundred pounds of sheer plate armour, and over two hundreds of pounds of armour polish. He shone so brightly it almost appeared like he was on fire. Eden shielded his eyes, "Geez, looking at you is like staring at the sun, you know that?"

"Good," The warrior grinned, "Just as a sun paladin should be. My name is Belebeth, and I need your help."

"You need… my help?" Eden was dumbfounded for a moment, but this soon gave way to irritation, "Let me guess, you’re here to slay Bill, right? For the glory?"

"What?"

"Well, listen here. Bill might just be another notch on your mace, you great and mighty warrior from the east that I don’t know about yet, but to me he’s everything! I need to slay Bill so that my hometown finally accepts me again! Understand?"

"Listen, knave," Belebeth scowled, "I have already fought Bill…"

"I knew it!"

"… and now I’m in trouble. I’m wounded. I need to flee."

Eden was stunned, "You… lost to Bill?! You, a sun paladin?" On seeing Belebeth nod, Eden suddenly felt very defenceless. Each shadow the trees around him cast suddenly looked like big, hungry trolls. On taking a closer look at Belebeth’s armour, Eden noticed several huge, trunk-shaped dents.

"Will you help me reach my recall portal?" Belebeth asked.

As it happened, it didn’t appear that Belebeth needed much help reaching his recall portal at all. Even not at his full strength a sun paladin is a deadly foe, as much of the Trollshaw’s wildlife found out. Fortunately for Eden however, Belebeth still felt the need to reward him as they found his portal.

"The Chant of Fortitude is a very useful ability, Eden. Use it well. I see that you are already invoking a hymn however…"

"Yes," Eden replied, idly waving his hand through the black aura that surrounded him, "Is that a problem?"

"Not at all. You can keep a chant and a hymn going simultaneously. It’s like throat singing, give it a try!"

Awkwardly, Eden attempted to incorporate the new chant into the hymn he was already reciting, singing both songs simultaneously, one line after another. After a few false starts he finally mastered it, and the aura that surrounded him shone with a new golden glow. Eden felt his head, woozy from the forces of light and darkness clashing inside it, "Ugh, now I know how that Dizzy character felt."

A few short goodbyes were exchanged, and Belebeth disappeared through his recall portal. "I wonder what a sun paladin was doing in these parts," Eden thought to himself, "Shoot. I forgot to ask him if he was the one who had left those tattered paper scraps all over the place. Oh well, at least we didn’t run into --"

"GRAAAGH!"

"AAGH!"

Quick as lightning, Eden whipped around and thrust his daggers out at the first thing he saw. Bill, stood over Eden in his terrible, foul-smelling majesty, slowly felt at the two horrific wounds that marked his chest, gave a confused, "Whuurga?" and keeled over backwards, the felled tree in his hand falling like a… felled tree.

Eden stood over (or rather stood beside – even prone Bill was remarkably big) his supposed enemy. Thinking back over his recent adventures, Eden realised that what he saw as one of his biggest flaws – wildly stabbing at anything that sneaks up on him – was in fact one of his greatest strengths, because it had just earned him, in his mind, the love of Bree.

"Yes!" Eden cheered, "Bill is vanquished! Now all that’s left to do is to return triumphant, with… my… trophy…" Eden’s gaze fell on the humungous tree trunk, "… Oh, by Aule’s nostrils, this is going to be painful."

BREE

"Eden! You’ve returned!"

Panting and exhausted, his leather armour soaked completely through with sweat, Eden groaned and heaved as he dragged the enormous tree trunk through Bree’s town square. The mayor watched him incredulously, remaining silent until Eden shakily addressed him. "One… one vanquished, Bill… I-I mean one Bill, vanquished. I need to sit down…"

"Eden," the mayor said as he stooped down to Eden’s slumped body, "You have done this town a great service. I thank you, and Bree thanks you."

Eden managed a weak smile, "Does that mean I can use the stores again? I could really go for a potion of greater healing…"

The mayor grinned, but said grin soon turned to an awkward grimace, and even before he started to shake his head Eden knew what was coming. "Well, I wish I could say yes, but you see…"

"What…?!"

"You have to look at it from my perspective," Said the mayor soothingly, "While I thank you for your recent service, I still have to think about all the crimes you have committed previously. After all, this is but one act, and there’s no guarantee that you’ve truly put your thieving ways behind you…"

Eden was silent.

"I suppose, if we received proof that this wasn’t a chance occurrence…"

AMON SÛL 1

Eden cast his gaze across the dank, mossy lobby of the ruined tower he had entered, and sighed. Unlike Bill, he had heard no rumours regarding a shade terrorising Bree townsfolk. If this shade truly was a threat to Bree, it was certainly a low-key one. With resignation, Eden unsheathed his daggers and walked down the tower’s corridors…

"Aha!"

"WHOA!" (stab-stab-stab) "Hey!" (stab-stab-stab) "Aren’t you meant to be on level five?!" (stab-stab-stab) "That’s sneaky!"

Finally setting his eyes on the figure who had appeared behind him, Eden saw that it was not a shade, but a seer. The seer, a young woman who wore a long, cashmere robe and a smile wider than the Great Sea, declared, "Genuflect, my friend! You stand in the presence of the great Xanodann!"

"… Xanodann."

"Xanodann the mighty! Xanodann the powerful! Master of all! Leader of men! Well-liked by animals!"

"Stop stealing lines from Tyrian 2K,” Eden snapped, "Tell me, Xanodann, what would such an obviously powerful and mighty seer be doing on the first level of Amon Sûl?"

"Well --"

"Furthermore, what would such a powerful and mighty seer be doing on the first level of Amon Sûl, wounded?"

"…"

Eden chuckled, "Those rats certainly bite hard, don’t they? Couple of dozen of those and they might even break the skin!"

"Silence!" Xanodann pointed down one of the tower’s dark corridors, “Take me to my recall portal. I wanna go home."

"My pleasure," Grinned Eden, walking ahead of Xanodann, "To be honest, this area is rather beneath me now. I’m used to greater perils. Someday you’ll underst -- ARRGH!"

Without warning, a bolt of pure arcane energy had screamed from the darkness, knocking Eden off his feet and leaving a huge, smoking hole in his leather armour. Skeleton mages! Life’s little reminder that you’re not invincible. Taking his opponents more seriously, Eden called, "Alright! You want trouble?! I’ve got a bag of it right -- GWAARGH!"

Without warning once again, a second manathrust tore through Eden, this time from behind. "Manathrusts don’t ricochet!" He gasped to himself, "What did that?!"

Turning on the spot, Eden noticed that Xanodann had her hand out, her cheeks beginning to flush red. "Sorry," She mumbled, "I-I was going to get that skeleton and… you were in the way?"

"That almost put me away, you fool seer! I want you to keep your hands in your pockets for the rest of this fight, you hear me?!" An arrow from a skeleton archer plunged into the back of Eden’s armour. Barely noticing it, he turned and snapped, "I’m coming to you later, be patient!"


"Well, here we are," Said Xanodann on spying her recall portal, "I thank you for guiding the great Xanodann to her location, and…" Xanodann trailed off, realising that her erstwhile guardian was simply staring at her darkly, "Ah… here! Have an identify spell, on the house!"

One quiet and subdued magic lesson later, the great Xanodann had vanished.

Eden reluctantly saw the great utility his new identify spell gave him, and spent the best part of an hour sat in a corner of one of the better-lit rooms of the tower, going through his belongings. He made a few interesting discoveries: His new cured leather armour was rather cold-resistant, one of his daggers was oozing green slime (why he didn’t notice himself he didn’t know) plus his jewellery – every single piece – was completely useless.

Also, he identified his boots as the Boots of Tom Bombadil, but he wasn’t quite ready to give up his sobriquet for them.

AMON SÛL 2

"A fellow rogue! Hello!"

"Another one?!" Eden was dumbfounded as a thief approached him. This tower was more populated than Bree was! Still, it was nice to meet a fellow rogue. "What is your name, fellow agent of the night?" Eden asked melodramatically.

"Gunydir Quiggins," The thief replied. So much for melodrama, Quiggins, Eden thought to himself.

Compared to his previous escorts, Gunydir’s guarding was a simple and short affair, with no enemies to speak of at all. Pleased for the change of pace, Eden was in high spirits as they approached the recall portal. As payment, Gunydir taught Eden a few of his personal exercises, granting a boost to Eden’s dexterity.

"Thanks for the tips," Eden nodded, "So, what are you doing around here anyway?"

"Oh, I’m here to join this gang," Gunymir responded, "Their leader just got put down by one of their former members, Eden. Boy, are the knives out for him! Literally! Bye!" Before Eden could reply, he had vanished.

AMON SÛL 3

"Hello? Anyone wounded? No? … Wow."

Chop-chop-chop-chop-chop…

AMON SUL 4

Chop-chop-chop-chop-chop…

AMON SUL 5

Chop-chop-chop-chop-CLUNK!

Eden staggered backwards in surprise. That last cut he delivered seemed to be against something particularly hard. Looking at his fallen opponent, who he believed to be just another skeleton mage, he soon noticed that the robes it was clad in were both pure black and seemed to become loose and ethereal around their edges. Its staff, too, had a strange, dark and powerful aura to it. Was it possible that this was the shade?

"Well… they certainly don’t build great and terrible undead foes like they used to."

BREE

When Eden had made his way back to Bree following his victory over Old Man Willow, he entered with pomp and circumstance, assured that his troubles were over. When he made his way back after defeating Bill his entrance was more subdued, but he remained hopeful. This return to Bree held no fanfare at all; Eden slouched into town, the shade’s staff dragging behind him. It almost felt like too much trouble now.

Thanks to his quiet arrival in Bree, the group of townspeople stood around the tree in the centre of town did not immediately notice him. Noticing the secretive expressions the group wore, Eden stealthily hid himself behind a corner to eavesdrop on their conversation.

"I swear! I saw him while I was out hunting; he’s coming, and he’s got the staff!"

"Impossible! The shade should’ve done him in, easy!"

"That’s what you said about Bill, but that wasn’t a problem for him either!"

"I’ve heard that he’s gained new allies from the east! He’s been seen with sun paladins, anorithils… plus, I’ve heard a rumour that he massacred his old gang too! What are we going to do with him?!"

"People, people!" Eden recognised the voice of the mayor among the chattering throng, "You’re forgetting – this is Eden. He’s not some mighty warrior, and he won’t keep beating these odds forever. The poor sap; he actually thinks we’re going to forgive him. When he shows up with the staff, I’ll tell him that I actually meant the staff that the Master just got, down south. He’ll believe me, the fool…"

Eden’s teeth ground together. He felt strangely numb, unsure of what to do. Some people, he imagined, would hide themselves in their room and write terrible poetry. Maybe I should as well, he thought bitterly. I will… once I’ve got some of that mayor’s blood to fill my inkwell

"Wait."

Eden turned. Grim was stood behind him, "You go into a flurry-frenzy, and you’ll prove everything they’re saying about you."

"Can it, Grim," Eden retorted, "Aren’t you a necromancer, anyway? I thought you’d like corpses all over the place."

Grim didn’t miss a beat, "Not really. When people are killed like that all they do is moan as ghouls. Oh, I’ve been wronged. You’ve killed me! Revenge! Plegh. I prefer people who die from dementia or pipeweed fever. Much more fun to talk to."

"Well, what do you suggest?" Eden grumbled, "This entire town hates me! What resolution can there be to this that’ll make me happy if not a massacre?!"

"Whoa there, you’re on the verge of becoming a reaver, Eden!"

"If only."

"Actually…" Grim thought, rubbing her nose, "You’ve always talked about moving to Minas Tirith, haven’t you? A fresh start. Maybe you should start thinking about it more seriously!"

"A fresh start…?" Eden mused to himself, "You always hear about people leaving the big city to go live in the countryside, but leaving the countryside to go live in the big city?" After a moment’s thought, he shrugged, "I suppose it’s worth a shot! Plus, when I’ve earned enough money down there I can buy Bree and turn it into a mold farm. Heheh."

Taking up a satchel, Eden took one last look around him, "Well, goodbye Bree. It’s been real. Oh wait," He added sarcastically, "No it hasn’t. I hope you rot. See ya, Grim."

"See ya! … Hey, wait! That’s my satchel!"

WILDERNESS

Eden was so busy muttering angry nothings to himself, imagining all sorts of horrible things happening to Bree’s population, that he almost bumped into the apprentice mage that was walking in the other direction. The mage shared Eden’s method of dealing with unexpected guests, although in his case he repeatedly knocked his assailants on the head ineffectually with his staff rather than stabbed them.

"Who are you?" Eden grumbled, rubbing a number of fresh bruises on his head, "What brings an apprentice mage out into the wilds?"

"Ahh, my story is a sad one… I should not trouble you with it, my friend." The mage melodramatically cast his gaze into the middle distance, not noticing Eden shrugging his shoulders and continuing on his way. When he finally did notice his absence, he hurried to Eden’s side again and repeated with a glare, "I SHOULD NOT TROUBLE YOU WITH IT, MY FRIEND."

With a rattling sigh, Eden shrugged, "Fine. It is no trouble at all! Please tell me!"

Launching into his prepared speech, the mage continued, "Well, if you insist… I am a novice mage, as you might have noticed…” He waited for Eden to look suitably impressed. On getting no reaction, he continued, “… and my goal is to be accepted by the elves of Angolwen and be taught the secrets of the arcane."

Eden smiled, summoning up a faraway look in his eyes, "Ah yes, Angolwen, I have called it home for many years…"

"You’re an archmage?!" The apprentice squawked incredulously.

"No, I’m just messing with you. Who are the elves of Angolwen?"

"The keepers of ar…" The apprentice caught himself awkwardly, tugging the collar of his robe, "Err, I do not think I am supposed to talk about them… sorry, my friend…” Another theatrical gaze into the distance, another total lack of response from Eden. The novice mage was getting rather fed up with Eden’s lack of appreciation for his showmanship, but he continued nonetheless, “In any case, I must collect fifteen magic staves, rings or amulets, and I have yet to find -- umph!"

Eden had cast the staff he found on the shade’s remains at the apprentice – right at his face, more specifically. "I’m not helping you with your errands, boy," Eden scowled, "Take that one, it was useless to me, and be thankful you’re even getting one out of me."

Having vented his bad mood at the poor mage somewhat, Eden made to turn and stalk away when he heard the mage’s flabbergasted voice over his shoulder, "Holy… dip! This is Angmar’s Fall! Where did you get it?!"

"Angmar’s… Fall?" Eden said in confusion, "You mean it’s not just a regular staff?"

"Oh yes, my friend, this is indeed a powerful staff!" The mage enthused, "I think that it alone should suffice to complete my quest! Many thanks!"

Eden was caught off-guard by the mage’s gratitude. He had believed the staff to be a long, wooden red herring, but it seemed to have some value after all. "Well, I cannot use it anyway…" He mumbled apologetically, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Ah yes! I am so glad!" The mage grinned, "I will be able to go back to Angolw… err… Oh well, I guess I can tell you; you deserve it for helping me. During the dark years of Sauron’s reign, more than one hundred years ago, Gandalf the Grey worried that…"

Eden nodded repeatedly, the mage’s voice slowly dissolving as his attention waned. "Why do mages have such funny shoes?" He thought to himself, "Maybe he miscast a spell and it made his toenails grow funny and… I’m babbling. Babbling in my head. Not that I can say much about funny shoes anyway, with Eden’s Guile here. Hmm, I’m kinda hungry. Think I’ll have pie for dinner tonight. Ritch and mushroom."

"… many people are accepted there but I will arrange for you to be allowed inside." The mage finished happily, "Aren’t you happy, Eden? … Eden? … EDEN!"

"Whuh?!"

"Were you paying attention? I said you could come and visit Angolwen!"

"Visit Angolwen?" Eden pondered, "Hmm. Well, as much as I’d like to hang around a bunch of archmages, phasing and teleporting here and there, summoning fire from the skies, warping the fabric of reality, I don’t think a country bumpkin from Bree will really fit into the milieu… unless…" Eden suddenly realised something. Fixing the mage with a steely glare, he asked, "Wait. Do they have shops in Angolwen?"

"I… I imagine so." The mage shrugged, "Why?"

"No reason," Smiled Eden, slowly backpeddling from the apprentice mage, "I suppose I better go introduce myself to the mages… make some trades… thanks again!"

"Wait, don’t you want to know where Angolwen is?” The mage called after Eden, “You’ve got to go west, then…" The mage’s voice faded out of earshot.

Finally, a break, Eden thought happily to himself. Rather than travel the length of Middle-Earth to start a new life in Minas Tirith, he could simply travel to the city of mages instead! Beyond the simple benefit of being able to trade again, living in Angolwen could pay additional dividends… "I think that when I become the most powerful wizard in all of Arda, I’ll make a great big thunderstorm over Bree. That’ll teach ‘em. Heheheh…"

He hadn’t heard the mage’s directions, but this didn’t bother Eden. Rogues have an uncanny sense of direction, and Eden felt that his was especially good – his parents told him that he ate a compass when he was little.

"This looks like the way to Angolwen," Eden said to himself, "Some grandure! You’d think a city of mages would have a better entrance; this is barely a hole in the ground!"

MAZE 1

"Now, I just need to find a signpost… geez, Angolwen’s a freakin’ labyrinth."

Chapter 22: Demonic Refusal

Limmir the Expert Jeweler lives south of the Gates of Morning in a small clearing. Before trying to go back to Middle-Earth, Haldor decides to go see him and talk about the strange tome he found in Vor Armoury. Limmir peruses the tome quickly and looks amazed.

"This is a wonderful tome. It describes how to create really powerful rings by imbuing gems into them. However, the crafting process requires a special magical place to draw enough power to create the rings. There are rumours of such a place in the southern mountains. Take this scroll... You will be able to summon me with it once you have found that place. In the meantime, I'll retire to study this tome..."

Limmir points a location on a map called the Valley of the Moon. Haldor leaves the Gates of Morning and heads south. Before reaching the Valley of the Moon, he has to go through a system of caverns... and kill many demons!

Ithilthum, the Valley of the Moon, is not really a nice place to stay. The lake in the middle of the valley is filled with deadly poison. Three infernal portals in the northern part seem to be connected to some kind of demonic dimension. And it's the place where he must summon Limmir. Haldor reads the Scroll of Summoning... and Limmir appears.

"This place is corrupted... I will cleanse it." tells Limmir. "Demons will try to stop me, you will need to protect me until the corruption is gone."

Haldor remembers the three portals. He has to make sure no demon gets too close to the central island. He teleports quickly near the portals and, with the help of his spells, holds firm.

Suddenly, a strange gloomy aura emerges from one of the portals. Haldor targets the gloom... and drops of black blood fall on the ground. A balrog cloaked in invisibility... The powerful demon takes many hits, but that doesn't seem to stop him from advancing towards the central island. Haldor teleports back on the island and puts himself between Limmir and the balrog. He sustains the damage inflicted by the balrog's fiery whip while continuously hitting him with spells. Finally, the demon's whip falls on the ground and, a moment later, the hideous corpse of the Corrupted Balrog becomes visible again.

The death of their master doesn't stop the other demons. Haldor is now surrounded and out of supplies to regenerate his life and magical energies. Suddenly, the demons start to scream... and they dissolve in thin air!

"This place is finally free from corruption..." tells Limmir.

About time... From the many objects the demons left behind, Haldor finds the Whip of Gothmog and Glamdring, the Long Sword Foe-Hammer.

"So you can make better rings in this place now?" asks Haldor.

"Yes, thanks to you. I will stay here to study the magical aura. If you bring me a non-magical ring and two gems, I will be able to transform them into a powerful ring."

"I'll keep that in mind..."

Haldor leaves the Valley of the Moon. He still has to find a Resonating Diamond to go back to Middle-Earth and continue his mission.

Chapter 21: An Armoury Filled With... Lava

Aeryn greets the good news with relief.

"The rumor of your feats have reached me. I am truly amazed by your power. We have been at war with the Orc Pride for so long... and now the war is over. While you were busy bringing an end to the orcs, we discovered a way to disable the magical shield protecting the High Peak. In order to do so, you must enter the slime tunnels, located in the Grushnak Pride bastion, find the control room, and use the four Orbs of Command which were in the possession of the four Pride masters to deactivate the shield."

"This should pose no problem..." thinks Haldor.

Aeryn continues:

"The entrance to the slime tunnels is sealed by a magical door. We have learned that the magical key required to open that door is kept hidden by an ally of the Orc Pride in a dungeon... back in Middle-Earth."

"In Middle-Earth?" exclaims Haldor. "But I have no idea how to get back to Middle-Earth!"

"Don't worry..." responds Aeryn. "Zemekkys should know how to send you back to Middle-Earth. He's living just right there..."

Haldor leaves Aeryn and knocks on Zemekkys' door. A slot in the door opens, and a pair of wild eyes peer out.

"What do you want?"

"Paladin Aeryn told me that you could help me. I need to go to Middle-Earth."

"Middle-Earth? Why not the moon while you're at it? You're wasting my time... The only way to go to Middle-Earth would be to create a portal and use the Orb of Many Ways to activate it. But the Orb has been lost for ages..."

Haldor pulls out the Orb of Many Ways from his backpack. Zemekkys' eyes open wide.

"Holy cow! It is the Orb of Many Ways! Maybe we can send you to Middle-Earth after all... Now listen... In order to create a portal, I will need a Blood-Runed Athame, a Resonating Diamond and 200 gold."

"Where can I find all that?" asks Haldor.

"Try your purse for the gold... as for the Athame and Resonating Diamond, try the Vor Armoury. The orcs should have some for their own portals..."

Zemekkys points the location of the Vor Armoury on a map. Haldor leaves the Gates of Morning and goes back to the Vor Pride bastion. After a small journey through humid tunnels, he finds the Vor Armoury. The door opens, and a ugly orc wielding a huge two-handed sword pops out.

"Guards! An intruder! Your Warmaster Gnarg calls you!"

Haldor has already fought orc masters. This one is no different from the others. He burns... and dies, leaving behind his blood-etched greatsword, Warmaster Gnarg's Murderblade.

In the first room, Haldor meets Gnarg's guards. All sorts of orcs, from berserkers to high pyromancers and cryomancers, blood mages, and even a corruptor. After having dispatched the orcs, he enters a second room containing a panel of weapons and armor parts. Among the treasures he finds the Blood-Runed Athame he was looking for. Maybe next room will contain a Resonating Diamond?

Haldor opens the next door... and stumbles upon a very experienced storm wyrm. A nasty surprise. After dispatching the wyrm, and all his summons, he crosses the room and finds another door. Feeling an intense heat behind the door, Haldor decides to use his Dig spell from afar. A very good idea... The room is filled with lava... and a legion of highly experienced greater multihued wyrms. One of these could fry him in no time... and there are many in the room. Haldor hides behind the door and throws his fire blast in the room. Strangely, the wyrms don't seem to react to the spell and, even if they are highly resistant to the heat, they aren't immune and they finally all die.

Haldor inspects the room. The floor is made of lava, which burns him on every step. Some items are scattered on solid spots: an ancient tome, a huge shield, and some common weapons and armor parts. The tome seems to talk about the power of gems... maybe the jeweler in the Gates of Morning could tell more about it. The huge shield happens to be an artifact, the Titanic.

Haldor has searched the whole Vor Armoury... no trace of a Resonating Diamond anywhere. He will have to talk to Zemekkys about that...

Playing Tales of Maj'Eyal for the first time

Ok, so I'm booting up Te4 for the first time since early development.

Looking to see what I'll do with the latest version of my first ever roguelike.

(Notice- From here on is incoherent)

I start up a character, use a cliche WH40K-esque name, and see the options.

I set difficulty to discovery. Call me a wimp.

I choose a male Higher Berserker. Call me crazy, but it sounds cool.

I change graphics mode and... yeah. (ASCII 32x32 w/background)

Starting up Te4 again.

Wait, nevermind, it was just taking its time.

I find a leather armor and iron shield, but I'm using a greatsword and better armor, so I drop them again.

Death Dance, yeah!

This music is so peaceful.

And now I must go for now.

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