When we last saw our heroes they had just barely escaped the rage of two giant hill trolls. While resting, they noticed they had stopped by the perimeter of the Ent Gardens, an effort of the Fangorn Ents to revive the old forests. Marked by two trees, the garden before them showed saplings and small trees just beginning to grow, still fragile and with many more years ahead of them before they reached their full height.
In a bout of madness and stupidity, perhaps due to his fright from the fight with the hill trolls, Germaine swiftly armed his bow and fired an arrow into one of the trees. Bregalad (The Ent tasked with protecting the gardens) had been en route to the company, having heard the commotion from the fight. When he saw an elf shoot one of the few trees in the surrounding area, he entered a fit of rage and charged at the elf. The elve’s cries for sympathy and explanation fell on deaf ears, and Hoblan’s attempt at soothing the creature was equally ineffective. Bregalad gripped the two of them and held them high, his hold ever tightening. He asked the remaining company members what their business was in this land. Strangely, it was Knobit, perhaps because of his grating voice, that prompted Bregalad to set down Germaine and Hoblan.
Hoblan, being the orator that he was, quickly set forth to amend their rather hasty and horrible first impression with Bregalad and asked if there was anything they could do to repay the Ent. A tribe of Orcs, Bregalad explained, had been settling in a nearby network of caves. They had some sort of involvement with a wandering herd of Wargs. These Wargs, Bregalad pointed out, were running amuck in Dagorlad, a desolate land the company would have to cross in their journey to Mordor. Bregalad proposed they help him root out these Orcs, find out why and how they were contacting the Wargs, and in return they might be able to ease their passage to Mordor. The company quickly complied and accepted the task. Bregalad led them to his grotto, gave them each vials of ent wash to assist them in their task, and sent them on their way.
It didn’t take long to reach the cave, thanks mostly to Ashuk and Knobit’s skills. The mouth of the cave rested on the side of a small hill, seemingly abandoned and oddly peaceful. It was certain, at least to the company, that their were Orcs in these caves. Before they could decide how to approach the mouth, and while Ashuk was attempting to persuade the company to cover themselves in Orc filth to hide their stench, Turion charged in.
Thankfully Turion was only greeted by cold silence and darkness. As he edged along a long tunnel, with no immediate end in sight, he noticed on the side a small alcove. With his bow fastened he quickly turned into the room, to find it abandoned and disheveled. In the room was a table and a few chairs. Several shattered bottles of black liquor adorned the wooden table. As Turion observed, the rest of the company caught up and looked around the room as well. Ashuk noticed a rudimentary alarm system had been set up in the room, with a series of strings and metal debris hanging from the ceiling, leaving the room, and shooting down the tunnel in what appeared to be several different directions.
While Hoblan attempted to gather some of the black drink the company pressed on and came upon a room with three tunnels. The left seemed mostly harmless, with just the sound of running water and a crackling sound to greet them. The middle glowed with flames from the connecting chamber and hinted at being the most dangerous. And the right was dead silent, potentially being the worse of the three. The company opted for the left path and continued onward.
They came upon a sight similar to the alcove, with several overturned tables and smashed chairs. The room was filled with the smell of rotting meat. The sight of rotting carcasses of some animal confirmed this. Far off in the corner the company noticed two dead goblins. They approached them. They discovered that they were not in fact dead but passed out, most likely from the black drink they had seen earlier. The first goblin died to Turion’s bow. The second, waking up, was quickly held by knife point and questioned by the company. He revealed that they were followers of Nazg’goth, an orc that Ashuk knew from his service under the Dark Lord. He loved good sport, and it was most likely that the middle tunnel was a result of whatever game Nazg’goth was reveling in. When questioned further the orc grew silent and Germaine quickly disposed of him, much to Hoblan’s chagrin.
The company was presented with three more paths, all of them darkened, and all of them silent. The company elected to go left again. Along the way they passed another path on the right. Quickly afterward they entered a large chamber, covered in darkness. For those who could see, there looked to be several shoddy wooden structures hanging on the cave walls, like fungus on a tree. On these outcroppings were sleeping goblins. In an attempt to keep their presence unnoticed the company promptly executed the defenseless goblins. A few of them however, did not go so quietly and attracted the attention of a nearby patrol. Coming from the path they had passed, a large orc and a warg had entered the room to scope out what had happened. They were greeted by Ashuk, and thankfully for the party, he was the only one the Orc noticed. Ashuk approached the orc in kindness, attempting to catch him off guard. He succeeded, and before the Orc realized it, Ashuk had plunged his sword through his gut. The Orc was not yet down however, and put up a small fight along with his warg. Hoblan, Turion, and Germaine had emerged from the shadows and assisted in the fight and barely suffered any real damage.
After a quick recovery the company pressed on through the sleeping quarters. They went down the path at the end and found themselves back in the eating hall. They elected to go back and down the path the Orc and Warg emerged from. When they entered the next chamber, they were surprised to find a pit of sleeping Wargs below them. In the back of the chamber, on the same level as the pit, were dark holes, indicating tunnels. Though the company agreed this required further investigation they chose to ignore the sleeping Wargs for now, not wanting another long battle to leave them weary for any threats that yet lie ahead.
The only path available to them glowed with red flame, very similar to the center path they first found upon entering the cave. Reluctantly the party advanced, cloaked and disguised and with Ashuk leading the group.
They came upon a chamber larger than anything they had yet seen. It was vast and wide, and goblins littered the walls, sitting in little inlets that were carved into the stone. Off in the distance, on top of a mound and sitting in a throne fashioned out of a pile of stones. He and the other goblins, were observing a fight in the middle of the room, in a pit with high walls. In the ring the party saw three elves. They were locked in combat with a party of Orcs. The fight seemed one sided, as the Elves were fighting without any energy or vigor. One of the company noticed the Elves were wearing necklaces with grey stones. They assumed it was these necklaces that were the cause of the Elves’ fatigue.
Despite the horrific act before them, the company deemed it in their best interest to press on, and use the distraction to their advantage, seeing no real positive outcome should they be forced to fight. They spotted a path across the chamber and made straight for it. Halfway there, the company spotted a cage being rolled out into the ring. Inside was a dwarf held captive. He was in grave condition and his beard was mangled. On his helm was a melted candle. In his hand was a shattered mug.
In his fright he spotted the travelling company and in a fit of stupidity called out for help. The goblins turned and noticed the company. Ashuk quickly reacted, feigning ignorance and a lack of awareness. As goblins advanced on the party, the elves, and the crazy dwarf, Ashuk took advantage of the moment and created a ruckus, shouting out for bets amongst the soon to be victims. The strategy, strangely, worked. A strange and exciting fight ensued, with Ashuk gathering wagers as Turion picked them off one by one. In the pit, Germaine, Hoblan, and Knobit joined the fray and attempted to free the elves and the dwarf. Near the dwarf, Knobit lept upon an unsuspecting orc and stabbed his blades into it’s shoulders, attempting to will it forward as some sort of strange mount. Through random happenstance, like the rest of the fight, the crazy plan had worked and Knobit used his new mount to hurt and distract the remaining Goblins. Meanwhile Germaine and Hoblan managed to assist the two elves, with Hoblan getting close to them and removing the necklaces from their person. With seemingly new life, the elves retreated in fear towards another path bathed in white light, indicating a path to the outside.
Meanwhile Ashuk had abandoned his bookkeeping strategy once he noticed Turion was able to handle the rabble of Orcs. He made a bee line for the orc up top, whom he recognized as Nazg’goth. The battle was bloody, and Nazg’goth was clearly the more powerful, but Ashuk persevered and despite suffering serious injury, decapitated the Orc. His death sent the crowd of Goblins into a panic and they scattered through the several tunnels. Where they went, at the moment, the company does not yet know.
Beaten, battered, tired and confused the company was left in the vast chamber all alone and with few answers….