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Completed From the Barren Lands (Tolkien CYOA)

Discussion in 'Choose Your Own Adventure Land' started by MercantileInterest, Oct 20, 2016.

  1. Usury Arcane

    Usury
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    [​IMG]
    Note:
    This adventure is now complete. If you are reading it now for the first time, you can go through the pages on this forum, reading the options and reviewing how the players decided their choices. As it so happened, I wrote the story in the third person, unusual for the choose-your-own-adventure format, but which allowed me to easily edit and compile the sections into a fun little novella. Thus, if you prefer, you may read the tale of Master Mablung as a single seamless story here. Enjoy.


    I. Introduction

    Don't see a CYOA based in Middle Earth on the first page of this forum, which obviously means the Codex doesn't have one. I aim to remedy that. First, this isn't fan fiction. We're not going to be jaunting around with any characters from Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Those who adore Middle Earth may be outraged when I fabricate large amounts of lore or take a different tone. I admire Tolkien's writings but am not going to mimic his voice. Think of this adventure sort of like a novelist inventing a Greek myth. It's set in the same place but it's not the same story.

    [​IMG]

    II. Setting

    The Ember King rules over the towns and villages of the Scorched Hills. Scattered cultivation sustains this arid region along with cattle from the nomadic tribes who often pass through. The King's subjects call themselves the Burnt Men, from their practice of branding themselves. Although previously prone to raiding, the Burnt Men have grown more civilized in the past hundred-year after suffering a number of defeats. The strawhead horselords to the southwest who call themselves Eorlingas have proven ferocious enemies. Across the land of the strawheads, the great grass gives way to the Golden Wood, where ghostly spirits, pale and deadly, dwell. Some small trade passes up the Beornings of the Northwest. To the North, the Blackwood looms. From that cursed place, no man has ever returned. The Burnt Men lack their own word for the leering fortress of the decaying and name it as it is named in the common tongue: Dol Guldur, the Hill of Sorcery. Only wandering tribesmen occupy the barren lands of the south. To the east may be found many foes but, for the moment, there is peace.

    [​IMG]

    III. Starting Point

    The town of Hwairfyn {pictured above} sits under the rule of the rhysmun in his high castle or bailey, who is himself sworn to the Ember King. The Burnt Men feel no love for foreigners and the Scorched Hills don't receive much traffic. Hwairfyn doesn't even have an inn. So, the arrival of a princely strangers and his entourage stirs up no small suspicion.

    You are:
    (a)
    Man
    (b) Woman (Codex standards, anyway)

    (1) A peasant farmer. Life could be better. You spend far too much time pumping well water, plowing and harvesting. The rhysmungard branded your master's mark upon your cheek upon reaching adulthood. You also bear the lowerborn brand on one shoulderblade and the eye of insolence on the other. On the positive side, you're the go-to expert for ditch digging.

    (2) A rhysmungard. The rhysmun appoints the strongest of the townsmen as warriors. You've shown yourself skilled with a spear and two summers back, even had a chance to fight off raiders. In off hours, extorting the villagers and generally lording it over them provides some amusement. {Females need not apply. Patriarchy at work again.}

    (3) A clerk. The rhysmun patronizes a learned scholar from the far land of Gondor. You have caught his eye with your cleverness and he has taken you on as his apprentice. You have learned reading {the Burnt Men lack their own script} and one day hope to inherit his position.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017
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  2. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
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    a1
    Console peasant, male

    Fingers crossed for elf genocide
     
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  3. Obsequious Approbation Savant

    Obsequious Approbation
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    Yeah, A1. Digging ditches is a skill not to be undervalued.
     
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  4. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
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    A million graves
     
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  5. Kipeci Magister

    Kipeci
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    A2, because stabbing smelly people is better than being branded.
     
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  6. Jack █▓▒░

    Jack
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    A3, I predict lore checks inbound.
     
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  7. Smashing Axe Arcane Patron

    Smashing Axe
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    Divinity: Original Sin
    B3

    This looks interesting.
     
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  8. Morkar illiterate

    Morkar
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    Interesting! B1, let's see how a peasant Eowyn who isn't priviledged will do in the Tolkien world
     
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  9. Usury Arcane

    Usury
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    Clerk it is, then. We'll be naming him Culann.

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    [​IMG]

    The old man sifted through his books. To think, when he first entered the service of the rhysmun so many years ago, he had brought only a dozen leather bound volumes. Since then, his grey locks had whitened and he had bought quite a few more books. Sometimes peddlers sold them. More often, he had to send a man over to Rohan to salvage any scraps of the written word which may have surfaced there. The horse lords had their own wisdom but very little in the way of scholarly achievement.

    "By the great eye," the old man muttered. "Where is it?"

    "Master Mablung," the clerk spoke up. "Can I help you find a book?"

    The old man considered his apprentice. Culann spoke the Westron common tongue well enough but he had never lost the humming accent of the Burnt Men. He had a quick hand and a ready wit but still lacked knowledge of a great many matters. He had been loyal so far but Mablung feared that loyalty might be no more than opportunism and his plan could not afford betrayal. There was also the matter of the apprentice standing out from his own people. The Burnt Men thought scribing some magic trick, one they feared but did not respect.

    "I'm not looking for a book." He said. "I'm looking for a letter. Where did you put the red vellum sealed with the mark of the kestrel?"

    "I've never seen such a letter, master."

    Mablung nodded and drew a light key from a corded necklace. The key slipped into the lock of a small chest crafted of Umbar cedar and latticed with steel. A chime sounded and the note hung in air ringing. The old man turned his back to his apprentice as a series of notes rang out. Culann had never seen the inside of the chest. In the first month of his service, he had asked about it. Rather than replying, the old Gondorian asked him to think of the worse torture he could imagine. Then he stared.

    At last, Culann had spoken. "Would you do that?"

    "No." The new teacher had shaken his head. "I would do something worse. My kin have learned very much living so close to Mordor for so many years."

    Mablung tinkered over his box for several minutes before clicking it shut. He lowered himself into a carved chair with a cushion on the seat. They were in his room in the bailey. The late afternoon sun streamed through the window overlooking the town. The thralls had instructions to keep the candles lit and the fire smoldering all day long, at considerable expense. The heat of the room was enough to drive most men out by itself and the stinging scent of some simmering incense drove out the rest. For the old man's health. He rocked quietly a while.

    "Listen, boy. My nephew is coming here, all the way from Ithilien. You remember my family home, on the very door of the land of shadow? Gives us a dour outlook, some say. Not like your happy land. I would have liked to have gone back some day, perhaps taken you with me. Hard to consider your education complete without seeing a civilized realm. His name is Beregond. My nephew, that is. He's travelling with a small company but he'll be looking to hire men. He'll want laborers, warriors and, I regret to say it, he'll need the witch. Anyone who accepts can expect not see the Scorched Hills for three months or so. Wages of ten castars for the whole trip, with two more castars for any man who doesn't make it back, which is likely. Mind you don't tell them that."

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    Choices:

    (a) Recruit laborers.
    (b) Recruit warriors.
    (c) Recruit the wisdom. (Master Mablung insists on calling her a witch, or sometimes a charlatan. He has never once spoken of her with anything but contempt. Each town or village of the Burnt Men has a woman skilled in charms, medicine and various rites pertaining to women.)

    (1) Question the master. (Not that he's ever been very forthcoming.)
    (2) Break into his lockbox. (By the now you've memorized the chime notes. Getting the key (x) might be difficult but you could also use lock picks (y). Master Mablung himself taught you how to use those.)
    (3) Hang around the new arrivals in hope of picking up information from them.
     
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  10. Obsequious Approbation Savant

    Obsequious Approbation
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    Surely not the Beregond?
    C2
     
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  11. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
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    C1
     
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  12. Kipeci Magister

    Kipeci
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  13. Gauldur's Bait Learned

    Gauldur's Bait
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  14. Jack █▓▒░

    Jack
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  15. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
  16. Storyfag Arcane

    Storyfag
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    C1

    By the way, the choice of our protagonist's occupation seems eerily familiar.

    The Peasant Naram,
    The Warrior Ean,
    The Scholar Shulgi,

    By these names, may your CYOA prove worthy of the comparison!
     
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  17. Usury Arcane

    Usury
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    This adventure takes place in the 2,970th year of the Third Age, putting it twenty-nine years after the battle of five armies and forty-eight years before ringwraiths invade the Shire. Beregond is not the Beregond from the book. We're reusing Gondorian names for the Gondorians while giving the Burnt Men vaguely Celtic sounding names. We've chosen C1.

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    [​IMG]

    "Master Mablung, where will Master Beregond be taking these men? What will they be doing? A little more knowledge will make them less sad to leave their home."

    "As if there could be any greater incentive than leaving this place of ash and refuse. I don't know how you all abide the smoke. We're going to the Mountains of Mist. Full of goblins, by all accounts, which is why we'll need guards."

    "Why would your nephew visit such a perilous place?"

    The old man sighed. "Do you know the story of the Craglord? No, of course you don't. Well, I'll tell you some other time. My bones ache and I must prepare for our guests. They'll be staying here in the bailey. Yes, I've already spoken with the rhysmun about it. Now, go and collect the witch, vile thing that she is."

    Despite his years of training, Culann winced at this impiety. The wisdom commanded fear among the Burnt Men. Her power was most plainly seen every eleventh year, when she bound the rhysmun to a pyre and committed his still breathing body to the flames. Then, the rhysmungard appointed a successor from amongst themselves. Before they branded him with the mark of the dragon, the wisdom removed his prior marks with her secret art. Six years past, Master Mablung had prevented the burning of the current rhysmun. No one knew what he did but, on the appointed day, a dozen peasants dismantled the pyre.

    The apprentice strode out of the bailey into the clouded day. A party of strangers on horseback entered through the town's lower gate. The townsfolk sneered or looked away. The bailey was built of earth heaped atop an older smaller peak. Inside was a cave, in which the wisdom dwelt. Culann hurried down the slope and rang the gong at the mouth of the cave, no more than a narrow fissure. After a little while, a woman younger than himself stepped out, stooping so as not to knock her head. She blinked and ran her eyes from his head to his foot. Heavy paint colored her eyes, black pearls studded her hair and she wore an intricately embroidered robe. She spoke in the burnt tongue.

    "You are the stone man's fool. You've come to beg my mistress' boon."

    "Might I speak with her?" Culann refused to meet her eyes. The wisdom could enchant with a look (however much the master might deny it) and this novice might possess the same skill.

    "Do you think you could persuade where the stone man could not? The wisdom knows he seeks after vanity. He has told her what he desires."

    "He has?" The young man involuntarily looked into her face.

    "Yes. Yesssss." The word hissed in the air. "A chamber of dust, overlaid with the curses of our ancestors. A place of death. My mistress will not set foot there, for it is an open mouth and a hungry grave." The novice slipped back into the gap of the rock.

    Culann walked back towards the bailey with the mud of the road smearing his boots. Still on their horses, a half dozen strangers approached the steps to the bailey. Even in the saddle, their height and broad shoulders visibly surpassed that of the townsmen. They wore fine garments, plain save for intricate stitching and tiny jewels. Whereas the Burnt Men mostly grew scruffy sideburns, the strangers had well groomed beards and silky long hair. Their steeds trotted lightly, unwearied by their journey. The tallest of the men wore a steel kestrel pinned to his breast. Another was covered all in burnished armor, with a white bear pelt around his shoulders.

    [​IMG]

    "You there." The man wearing the sign of the kestrel called out to Culann in the common tongue. "You're Uncle Mablung's apprentice, aren't you? You speak Westron. Find someone to stable our horses. The rest of you had best enjoy yourselves. We're not likely to rest under many more roofs." He rode closer. "I am Beregond of Ithilien. I slew ten orcs at the door of my family house. Even you may have heard of our knight, Sir Damrod the Dispossessed, who cut down the troll at fairfield crossing. The others are doughty men familiar with battle. If you honorless heathens betray us, we will wreck your entire worthless village. Now, on your way."

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------​

    Choices:
    (a)
    Rob the strangers. No one gets away with talking to you that way. The rhysmun will feast them at the mead hall tonight, which should distract them.
    (b) Get roaring drunk at the feast. What better way to win over these far eyed travelers?
    (c) Try to meet the wisdom again. Master Mablung hates failure. Of course, it's already sundown and she grows more dangerous by moonlight.
    (d) Attempt to scry the future in the fire, an ancient practice of the Burnt Men. Could provide insight.
    (e) Something else: ____.
     
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  18. hello friend Arcane

    hello friend
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    D>C
    Let's play it safe. Or not.
     
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  19. Storyfag Arcane

    Storyfag
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    C
     
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  20. Obsequious Approbation Savant

    Obsequious Approbation
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    C -- We throw caution to the wind!
     
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  21. Grimgravy Augur Patron

    Grimgravy
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    C - Magic old ladies love persistence.
     
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  22. Gauldur's Bait Learned

    Gauldur's Bait
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