I’m in Bree. I’ve just met Strider, and while I think both of us felt a strong mutual attraction I didn’t think it would be fair to expect him to court me while I was still covered in swamp scum. I’ve been to the auction house and picked up some new clothing (at the expense of just about everything I’ve earned thus far) and now I’m on my way back to him.
I stop and wash up a bit in the city fountain and then return to the Prancing Pony, where I treat myself to a quick belt.
That calms my nerves a bit. Taking a deep breath, I head for Strider’s room.
“You’ve returned,” he observes as I step back into the room. “And you’ve… changed your clothes?”
“Oh, this old thing?” I giggle. I thought I’d freshen up a bit.” I raise my eyebrows a bit and grin.
The man must have an iron will, because he doesn’t even take the bait, “Yes. Earlier you said you’d been to the marshes. Do you bring tidings of my kinsmen? I have heard little news and even less of comfort.”
“Oh that. Yes. The poor fool Amdir got himself stabbed by a Nazgul blade and is a wraith or something now. You know how he is.”
“That news reached me just a few days ago. Alas for Amdir!” he laments.
“Oh! Also, Toradan, Mundol, and Renblarg are dead,” I add. Strider seems shaken by this news. After a few seconds I bite my lip a bit and give him a little shrug, “Sorry. Did what I could, you know?”
“Your news is grim,” Strider says. “We must move quickly to-“
“Sorry, you don’t mind, do you? I’m ever so tired.”
“I… guess not.”
“My, the beds here are soft, aren’t they?” I say, bouncing up and down a little.
“I’ve spent little time on them since arriving here. The task before me is great and there is much to be done.”
If that isn’t the most blatant confession of sexual frustration, I don’t know what is. He’s quiet for a few moments. I’m sure he’s contemplating running over and jumping in here with me. Actually, is that even possible? The bed looks to be considerably shorter than he is. Hm. This may require some planning.
He furrows his brow, “Amdir’s fall, the attacks in Bree, and the gathering of goblins on the borders of your homeland. These events are bound together, and I see the hand of the Captain of the Nine in all of them.”
“The Nine?” I ask, my voice squeaking a little. “Isn’t that the wraith guys who work for you-know-who?” This is not exactly where I was hoping the conversation would go.
“Indeed, though I am surprised to meet one of your kind that knows of such things.”
I’m anxious to prove to him that I’m more than just a pretty face and jaw-dropping fashion. “Yes! The Nine. I know all about those fellas. I even faced one a few weeks ago on my way to Archet. That’s where I met up with Amdir.” I leave out the details about how I was just cowering in front of it waiting to be killed until the Elves showed up.
“Few mortals in this age have faced such an encounter, and fewer still live to tell the tale. You must be a great deal stronger than you look.”
And now he’s going on about my looks again. My plan is working!
He fixes me with a stern gaze. At first I think he’s going to profess his love right then and there, but apparently he’s not ready to give in just yet, “I know that you have done much already, but I would ask one final boon from you.”
“I’ll do anything,” I say.
“You need not agree so quickly! There is no shame in caution when facing these, the most deadly in all the servants of Sauron. Still, I would ask that you accompany me to a camp some distance from here. I believe that is where we will find Amdir.”
“Oh,” I say, trying to mask my disappointment. This is not what I’d imagined for our first date.
“There we must go, and there we must end Amdir’s life, if indeed he can still be called living.”
I brighten up a bit, “Oh, that actually sounds kind of nice.”
“Uh, I mean… important.”
Strider nods, “The path ahead is hard, but I believe we must do this if we hope to unravel the thread of their plans.”
Reluctantly, I hop down off of his bed. “Great so… what now?”
“We may leave as soon as you’ve recovered your gear.”
I shrug, “I’m good.”
“You wish to go into battle clad thus?” he asks, motioning towards my new dress.
I think back to my old outfit, which I flung off in the middle of the auction house. Not a proud moment for me, and it would be even less proud if I were to go back and try to recover my things. Finally I stammer, “Of course! This is my combat… gown. Yes. It will be just fine.”
“Very well then. Let us depart immediately.”
This could actually work out well for me. We’re going off to a remote camp in the woods at night to face Amdir. Once Amdir is dead, Strider will most likely be full of sorrow. (But not in a gross blubbering crybaby way. He might do that “shed one tear” thing that brave men do.) He’ll be in need of comfort, and we’ll be all alone.
A bit later in the evening we arrive at the bandit camp.
Curses. A couple of other rangers have met up with us here. I’ll need to get rid of these guys if my plan is going to work.
Strider speaks gravely to us, “Can you feel the chill in the air? This is not the natural cold of the night air, but the powers of evil. I have no doubt that Amdir is here, but we may find greater evil still ere we see the dawn. Be on your guard.”
“We should split up!” I blurt out.
They all turn and look at me, waiting for an explanation.
“Because… Amdir might escape,” I stammer. “He’s a slippery one. He’s always running off instead of fighting.”
“You speak wisely, young Hobbit,” Strider says with a nod. “You and Torthann should explore beyond the nearby gate, while Lenglinn and I shall look for another way-“
“No!” I yelp. “I mean, shouldn’t you and I…?”
“Fear not,” Strider says in a gentle voice, “Torthann is as capable as any of the other rangers. He will protect you.”
“That’s not what I…”
So now I’m stuck with another ranger. He’s already got his sword out. For no reason.
“Come on you,” I snap. “And try not to hurt yourself with that thing.”
“We must find Amdir! If he escapes, it could spell doom for Middle-earth.”
“Settle down, squire,” I say. “He’s a handful, but he’s a far cry from menacing the entire continent.”
Torthann holds up his sword, “He’s slain many people, and many more might-“
“No. He’s killed many rangers. He’s probably not ready to start taking on regular people.”
“I don’t understand.”
So with Torthann in tow, I stomp down to the iron gates of the brigand hideout. I am not happy. Here I am, all dressed up and dragging myself through another filthy brigand lair with another befuddled ranger.
Suddenly the gate rumbles open and a couple of filthy brigands stroll out.
“Right,” I say, scanning the woods for reinforcements. “I’ve fought these types before. You wait here and I’ll…” I glance over and he’s gone. Then I look down the hill and see that he’s run over to our foes and begun waving his sword at them. He’s saved them the trouble of surrounding him by simply throwing himself between them. After a few seconds it’s apparent that they are going to be able to kick his ass without even trying.
As amusing is it would be to watch yet another ranger bumble into an early grave, if this idiot gets himself killed it could make me look bad to Strider. I’m going to have to save him.
I sprint down the hill (now I’m really glad I didn’t wear heels with this) and fling myself into the fight. It’s tricky, but I manage to yank Torthann out of the sword sandwich and get him behind me. Then I go to work on the brigands.
Once the violence is over I take a deep breath. “Look, you can’t just run off like that,” I say as I wipe my dagger off on one of the fellows who just sullied it. “If you could refrain from-“
Torthann is no longer behind me. Suddenly I hear a scuffle within the gates. He’s already inside.
Torthann keeps this up from one end of the bandit camp to the other, throwing himself into a hedge of swords so that I have to jump in after him. I’m doing all the fighting, and he’s just running around pissing people off and perhaps gently fanning them with his sword.
Finally I get the area cleaned out and there aren’t any people left holding swords for Torthann to jump onto. Scuffed, bruised, and tired, I stagger over to the next gate.
Torthann looks me over. “Need a rest? Were those lot a bit much for you?”
“Do not test me, nature-boy.”
“Right. Well, let’s go through this next gate and see if we can find Amdir.”
We push deeper in. I stab a few more reprobates and Torthann engages in an activity that looks as much like interpretive dance as it does swordfighting.
But then we come to a gruesome platform where many men have been sacrificed. There is a Dwarf performing some sort of evil ritual here, killing his own men in the service of… something. I don’t know. This Black Book stuff gives me the heebie-jeebies.
“My servants will deal with you!” be bellows. Then there is a flash of light, and out of the ground rises a horrifying Barrow-Wight.
And also two rats? Was he afraid the Wight couldn’t do the job, but the rats would give him the edge he needed?
Well, my heart is gripped in fear and I’m probably about to die, but damned if I’m not going to stab somebody before I go.
“Torthann!” I cry, finding my voice. “You flank the Wight while I…”
But Torthann has already jumped into action and is now heroically fighting one of the two rats.
“Or, I could fight the Wight by myself.” I say. “And also the other rat. I guess.”
And then I do.
There is a lot of crazy magic being flung around and to be honest I don’t understand any of it. There’s strange screams and flashes of light and rolling waves of darkness and insanity. I just keep chopping, and eventually the air clears and everything is pretty much dead, aside from Torthann’s rat, which is giving him a little trouble.
One good stomp later and we hurry around the platform to the next gate.
“That was a hell of a thing,” I admit. “I mean, I never thought I’d even see something crazy like that in my whole life.”
Torthann scratches his nose and stares for a bit. “Don’t lose your nerve now,” he says.
“Maybe I’d do a bit better in the nerves department if you actually helped with the fighting. What were you doing over there, trying to tame the rat?”
We charge through the gate and find ourselves climbing a massive stair.
At the top we find…
Five Nazgul, ring-wraith Amdir, and Eogan, who you may remember from way back in the day. They’re all having an Evil ceremony of Evil Evilness in honor of Amdir’s new job as a Slave of Fear and Darkness. They even got him a nice new set of red robes.
You know, Strider may be the most gorgeous hunk of a man I’ve ever seen, but we are very quickly getting to the point where this might not be worth it.
“My Lords! The rangers approach with fire!” Eogan cries.
Suddenly the Nazgul shuffle out the back door. Are they really all afraid of him? Wow.
Strider bursts in with a torch in one hand and a sword in another, an engine of fury. “In the name of the Dúnedain!” he shouts as he chases after the Nazgul. What a man.
“Strider, sweetie!” I yell after him. “Do you need me? I can come with-“
Suddenly Eogan steps in front of me.
I say six words to him. I punctuate each word with a forward thrusting motion with my sword-arm: “GET. OUT. OF. MY. WAY. ASSHOLE!”
Eogan then topples over, dead. For real this time. But I’m too late. The gates slammed shut after my man, and I can’t follow him. I could just cry.
With a heavy sigh I turn to Torthann, “Looks like we can’t follow. At least I got to settle up with Eogan. I’ve been meaning to track him down for the last couple of weeks now and give him a proper-“
I trail off. Torthann is looking and gesturing at something over my shoulder. I to see what the fuss is about.
Damn it, it’s always something, isn’t it?
Amdir – or whatever he’s calling himself now – is a screaming specter of magical terror. As with the Wight, he gives off waves of fear and darkness and his shrieks seem to shake the earth. I wade in and give him my best.
“You know,” I say once we’ve put him down for good, “I think that’s about as much adventure as I ever want to see in my lifetime.”
Torthann smells his hand and makes odd faces.
I continue, “I mean, that was a lot of seriously screwed up stuff. Skeltons and Wraiths and Wights and a necromancer Dwarf.”
“And the rats,” Torthann adds.
“Right. And the rats. The point is, I’ve got the clothes I wanted. I took care of Amdir. I gave Eogan his comeuppance. I think I’m done.”
I make my way back to Strider in Bree. I don’t know how things turned out with the Nazgul and he doesn’t bring it up, but he’s completely unharmed.
“It grieves my heart that the enemy was able to turn Amdir thus. He was my fried and kinsman. My people will remember him as he was, good and noble.”
Sensing that my moment has arrived, I make my move and offer him a shoulder to cry on.
“It troubles me that the Nazgul have crossed the River and moved into Bree-land at just this time,” he adds after a few moments of silent reflection.
“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry about your friend,” I say, hoping he’ll take the hug.
“There are events in motion which could determine the fate of Middle-earth,” he adds urgently.
I lower my arms. They’re getting tired and he seems to be uninterested. I don’t know what the man’s problem is at this point. Is he thick? Is he just not getting the message here? Is he… does he not like girls or something?
“If you are able and willing, I have another task for you.”
“You know what? I’m good,” I tell him. “I think I need to get home. To my house. At #3 Wending Way. In Daisyglenn.”
“So be it. You have already done much for these people.”
“My house where, I might add, I have a really big bed. Probably even big enough for a man.”
“Sounds like you will have great comfort once you return. Safe travels, little Hobbit.”
“You’re welcome to stop by when your adventure thing is over. I have tea and… anything else you might need.”
“You are very kind.”
“I hope to be!”
Well, I’ve done what I can. If he’s any sort of a man, he’ll give in and pay me a visit eventually. I just need to bide my time. So… time to head home.
Lulzy’s musical career suffered after her journeys. People complained that her music was too angry, sarcastic, bitter, and profane. Her epic ballad “The 12 Deaths of the Quest-Giver” got her banned from most of the taverns around the Shire. Unable to earn a living as a bard, she turned to the only other thing she knew how to do well: She now works as an exterminator, specializing in giant spiders.
Strider turned out to be a guy named Aragorn, who did in fact like girls and who was also a king and kind of a big deal. He married some elf.
Frodo Baggins and some of his friends returned to the Shire after having some adventures of their own. Everyone made a big deal about them even though they only killed one lousy spider on the whole trip.
Tune in next time when I’ll be playing some other game.
The road goes ever on and on
so thank God the game has auto-run.
The trip might make you nod and yawn
but getting there is half the “fun”.
To Archet, Staddle and to Combe:
Horse rental service is not free.
You’ll get the Carpal Ache Syndrome.
from holding down the movement key.
Find a group and do the quest.
Kill the guy and get the stuff.
The wiki says the goal is west.
Use region chat if it gets rough.
Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.