The Third Shadow, Chapter One

Report of Saturday’s LOTR game

It is 50 years into the Fourth Age, and the ancient northern capital, Annúminas, is being re-dedicated by King Elessar and Queen Arwen. It is an historic occasion, and nobility from all over Middle-Earth have braved the unseasonable chill to come and usher in the re-birth of the Reunited Kingdom. Present at the ceremony are Beornia of Rohan (Brooke), Lord Kaine of Gondor (Mike), Malinear of the Grey Havens (Kris), Elentari of Rivendell (Laura), Aerlaer of Rivendell (Beth), Murk Proudfoot of the Shire (Josh) and Zaka, a Dwarf of the Blue Mountains (Jason).

During an outdoor reception at the Royal Hall of Annúminas, Elentari spots Feredir, the chancellor of the young Prince Eldarion, sneaking off. She and her minstrel Aerlaer decide to investigate, following Feredir through the Royal Hall, into the private chambers of the Royal family, and to the King’s Star-tower, the highest point in Annúminas, with a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside and Lake Evendim. In the center chamber of the tower, they see Feredir using the palantir that King Elessar had brought to connect the city with Minas Tirith by instant communication. He appears to be in some sort of trance, mumbling under his breath. They decide to confront him, breaking his concentration.

Meanwhile, the hobbit Murk notices the surface of Lake Evendim begin to freeze as he watches. He runs to tell the King, and the party-goers turn just in time to see the Lake entirely ice over, and then, with a crack like the world coming undone, the ice in the center of the Lake shatters and a Helegrog (a creature of shadow; the ice equivalent of the flame-borne Balrog) leaps from the waters and heads directly for the Royal Hall. In the Star-tower, Elentari and Aerlaer take Feredir into custody and head back to the main hall, which is filling with panicking party-goers, driven there by the supernatural fear that emenates from the Helegrog. Three individuals leap to face the ice demon: King Elessar, Lord Kaine and Zaka the Dwarf. Beornia, as befits a daughter of Rohan, sees to the person of King Eomer, bringing him to the relative safety of the main hall.

King Elessar brandishes Anduril, attempting to drive away the ancient evil, but the Helegrog strikes him with a whip engulfed in blue flame, which encases the King in thick ice from head to toe. With a gutteral cry of anguish, Queen Arwen grabs a blade to join the fray, only to fall to the same dire weapon, leaving her entombed along with her beloved.

Kaine and Zaka begin a desperate battle with the Helegrog, attempting to drive it away or destroy it, aided by Malinear, Murk and then by Elentari, who has left Feredir in the custody of Gondorian soldiers. Aerlaer prevents Prince Eldarion from sharing his parent’s fate, but the young man loses his temper, and shouting “Fell Traitor!”, he runs Feredir through with a spear, nearly killing him. Feredir lies unconscious, any secrets he possesses lost for now.

The battle with the Helegrog rages on. Kaine is nearly killed, and loses an eye to the chilling touch of a spear made from ice. Just as it appears all may be lost, a lightning bolt strikes the Helegrog, shattering it into steam. The companions turn to see Radagast the Brown, the last Wizard of Middle-Earth.

A week passes as Kaine recovers and Radagast performs research in the Great Library of Annúminas. Attempts to question Feredir are fruitless, as he does not regain consciousness, and only occasionally mutters something about “My Lady.” Finally, Radagast calls a grand court, presided over by Prince Eldarion acting in the stead of his parents (still frozen in the magical ice). Radagast says that the unseasonable cold and the demon of ice are signs that a Shadow stirs in the North, and that he shall ride out and investigate. He also tells of an artifact that can free the King and Queen from the ice–the Horn of Hror, an ever-full drinking horn, crafted by the Dwarves of old. Radagast says that pouring it over the ice will dispel the evil magic…but that the Horn was part of the treasure hoard of a lost Dwarven city, Zarak-dum, that lay somewhere in the Ettenmoors. Zaka the Dwarf knows this tale well. Zarak-dum was ravaged by plague in the Second Age…and then, at their weakest, the city was attacked and taken by a Great Winged Drake: Scorba the Wyrm.

To free King Elessar and Queen Arwen from the ice, the companions must travel overland to the Ettenmoors, find a lost Dwarven city, and face a dragon…and all the while, the Evil in the North grows ever stronger….

Not bad for a first session.