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So, I’m back in the burned-out town of Archet, presumably looking for Amdir the ranger but really just looking for jobs that pay well and don’t violate the laws of nature and common sense.

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I’m actually kind of curious what happened to the guy, but my real priority is earning enough money to buy myself some exotic clothes like I see the fancy folks wearing. I noticed I made a lot of money when I was working for humans, and I’d like to get my hands on some more of that sparkly human coin.

Of course, the reason working for humans is more profitable is because humans are always asking you to kill other humans. In the average quest at this level, you make 90 coppers but you can easily get three or four silver worth of junk from the brigands you’re putting down. So if you take lots of non-combat quests (like those in the Shire) or fight a lot of animals (also a big part of the Shire quests) then your pockets might end up a little light. No big deal in the long run, unless you’re some idiot trying to score expensive dyes and clothing at low levels. As a general rule, it’s probably faster to level in the Shire, but faster to make money elsewhere. So the Shire is a good place for leveling alts.

Archet looks much the same as when I left it a couple of weeks ago. It’s a burned-out shell of a town full of sadistic yokels and surrounded by bloodthirsty robbers.

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Remember Jon Brackenbrook? No? Well, you’re not missing anything. I stop in and ask if he’s heard anything about what happened to Amdir. He hasn’t, but it turns out he has a message for me. He tells me to go to the Inn in Combe and meet with “someone.” He acts like this is all hush-hush secret stuff, although I can’t imagine anyone who would care. Heck, the message is for me, and I barely care.

In any case, I’m off to the next town.

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Apparently this town is called “Combe,” which I didn’t bother to learn last time I was here. I just thought of it as “The other Archet, the one that didn’t burn down.” Now that I know the name of the place, I don’t think I’ll be making any special effort to remember it.

I go to the Inn, and the barmaid sends me upstairs, where I meet…

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Another ranger? Great. I can’t seem to get away from these guys. Toradan has the usual ranger difficulty in wearing hoods in such a way that he can see in front of him. I guess it looks more mysterious this way.

He was a friend of Amdir’s, and seems to fancy himself a spy of sorts. As I enter he looks behind me, as if he expected that someone might follow me directly into his room without either of us noticing. Then he ventures a glimpse out the window.

“Lots of people hovering just outside your second-story window?” I ask him deadpan.

He speaks in a stage whisper, “Lulzy. I apologize for the cryptic summons, but I dared not betray my whereabouts to just anyone.”

“I can see why. You’re a stranger. From out of town, no less. And staying at an inn? Very suspicious.”

If he detects my sarcasm, he doesn’t show it. “I’ve been looking for my friend Amdir,” he explains as he steals another anxious glance out the window.

“You’ve been looking for him? What? In this room?!?” I exclaim.

He winces as I raise my voice, and motions for me to come closer. Lowering his voice even more he explains, “I am certain he is being held by the Blockwolds, somewhere here in Chetwood. We must find a way to enter their lair and free him.”

I whisper back, “And by ‘we’ you mean…?”

I’m whispering. Why am I whispering?

“You should seek out Constable Underhill and enlist his aid,” Toradan explains.

“So… your plan to find Amdir was to sit in a room by yourself until a stranger came along and you could ask them to go find someone else to help you?”

“No,” he says gravely. “My plan was to send a messenger to Brackenbrook to tell you to talk to the barmaid so she could send you to me so you could go and talk to Underhill for me.”

“But… you had a messenger already? Why did you send the messenger to the next town to ask someone to find you another messenger? Actually, constable Underhill is right outside beside the Inn. If you want to talk to him, open the window!”

Tordan places a finger over his lips and sneaks another glance outside. I guess I just don’t understand this spy business.

“Fine,” I say with a sigh. “I’ll have a word with the constable.”

“Once you have found the Blackwold’s lair, return to me,” Toradan replies in his low whisper.

“Oh, one more thing before I go,” I reply…

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THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, SING IT LOUD AND SING IT STRONG,
THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, SO EVERYONE CAN HEAR!

THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, I CAN SING IT ALL DAY LONG.
THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, I’LL SING IT IN YOUR EAR.

THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, EVERYONE SHOULD SING ALONG!
THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, I NEVER WANNA QUIT!

THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, TO SING IT QUIET WOULD BE WRONG!
THIS IS THE LOUD SONG, I THINK YOU’RE FULL O-

“Ow! Fine! I’m leaving. No need to shove.”

Geeze. I guess rangers just don’t like music.

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It turns out that Constable Underhill is a Hobbit, which means that he’s not a psychopath like the humans in town, he’s just a dunderhead like a regular Hobbit. In any case, he has an idea of how we can locate the brigand lair. He tasks me with performing an investigation.

And by “investigation” I mean “kill a random brigand and see if they wrote down their evil plans.”

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It works!

Secret bandit schemes in hand, I head back to town.

Speaking of ‘heading back to town’, I have to point out that to get this scrap of paper, I had to hike all the way to Chetwood. This is a long walk for this part of the game. You have to go up a large hill to leave town, run over some open fields to reach the lumber camp, go through the lumber camp to reach the woods, then trek through the woods themselves (they’re big) to get to wherever you’re going. Later in the game you’ll cover larger distances, but by then you’ll have a horse and maybe even some other fast-travel abilities.

It’s about three to five minutes, one-way, depending on how many times you get jumped. Which means (I’m explaining this for the benefit of the rangers in the audience) that the full round-trip is six to ten minutes. Hm. I wonder how many times I’ll have to make that trip in this quest line?

Trips to Chetwood: 1

The letter I recovered mentions a local woman named Ellie Cutleaf. Apparently she has been working with the brigands. I show the letter to Underhill.

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“Very nice!” he says. “Say, I’ve got a thought. Why don’t you go see her and pretend to join up with the Blackwold?”

“Because,” I say with as much politeness as I can muster, “That would be stupid.”

“Nonsense! You look like a nasty sort. I mean, they’re nasty. And you’re nasty. I’m sure after one look at you they’ll accept you as their own.”

“I’ve killed dozens of them. I’ve probably killed more bandits than any other person in town.”

“All that experience should make you a valuable candidate!”

“I’m their nemesis. I’ve actually earned a special title for killing so many.”

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See?

In LOTRO, like in a lot of MMO games, you can earn titles for yourself. There are a lot of titles. Some are trivial to earn. (You get them when you roll up your character.) Others can be extremely time consuming. (Kill infinity minus one Orcs.) Others can be tricky. (Reach level 20 without dying.) The “Watcher of Roads” title is given for killing 30 brigands. I’m pretty sure you can hit 30 without even trying. You’ll likely kill that many just trying to get through the woods trying to do the quests in this area.

“The Blackwold would never have me,” I continue. “I’m famous for killing them!”

“So you’re a famous killer?” Underhill says. “You’re a natural!”

“They hate me!” I object.

He shrugs, “Well, I hate you, and I hired you anyway.”

He makes a fair point. These humans have done far dumber things than hiring their worst enemy. It’s probably better to just agree to his silly plan than to stand here all day arguing.

Underhill gives me directions, and I head off to see Ellie Cutleaf.

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Cutleaf’s house is the Middle-Earth equivalent of a trailer park. She raises big, mean, slobbery dogs that aggressively guard her and her property. She lives in a run-down building next to a stagnant pond, all of it overgrown with weeds. Her quest text does a good job of portraying her as a rough sort.

Ellie Cutleaf is at home. I walk in the door, pretending to be a hopeful brigand recruit. She immediately tries to talk me out of it and asks for my help in taking down the bandits.

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I object, “No, see… I was trying to go over to your side. You can’t join my side while I’m trying to join yours!”

“But why do you want to join up with the brigands?”

“I don’t, really. Well, I do, but only because I’m trying to be a spy against them. But I can’t be a double agent while you’re also trying to be a double agent.”

“Well, stop trying to join my side and let me join yours.”

“I can’t stop joining your side because I have to join your side to stop your side.”

“This is very confusing,” she admits.

“Look, I’m just a simple musician. I don’t have a head for this spy business. Isn’t there some way we can do this by just having me kill stuff?”

Cutleaf gives me a nod, “I’ve got just the thing!”

Fine. As long as I don’t have to hike to Chetwood.

Next Time: Chetwood, here I come!

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Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.

FF7 Writer: Nintendo Era Is Over

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