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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. Azira Arcane Patron

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  5. hello friend Arcane

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  7. Usury Arcane

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    (a)(a) We bartered away Master Mablung's knife. :negative:

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    [​IMG]

    The hooded figure dropped his bottle on the packed earthen floor. It rolled into the chair leg with a clink. He picked up another, already half drained, and put it to his lips. As he rocked back and forth on his chair, the first bottle rolled away from the carved front legs. The hood and robe were of tough but coarse linen cut in foreign fashion. The fire pits of the last guest house did not dispel the shadow under the hood, nor did the serving girls go near him.

    "Keeping well, friend?" Culann asked in the common tongue.

    The figure slowly turned. Flickering firelight revealed the outline of nose and beard. He took another swig and leaned forward. The chair's front legs clumped down, shattering the discarded bottle.

    "You're no friend of mine." A phlegmatic voice answered in the Burnt Speech. His gloved hand clasped a sword hilt.

    "You've been outside the Scorched Hills, haven't you? Do you bring any news?"

    The hooded figure neither answered nor lifted even a finger. When Culann at last turned away, he raised the bottle to his lips again. The scribe glanced over his shoulder and met the robed man's unyielding stare. For half a breath, a smile seemed to flicker under the hood, like a dying flame.

    One of the serving girls laid her hand on the clerk's shoulders. She winked and licked her lip. He shook her off. With how little coin they had, he'd be a fool to buy even a mug of ale, and she wanted to sell quite a bit more than a mug. Back in his room, he sank swiftly to sleep.

    At dawn, they woke the cook and bought two days of bread and vegetables. Other than a few guests snoring in the corners, the great hall was empty and cold. Culann stepped outside. His breath misted. No rhysmungard could be seen but the man in dark green stood a hundred paces away with the reins to his steed in hand. The clerk led the horses from behind the hill. His two companions mounted and they rode west. The hooded horseman also rode west, keeping a good four hundred paces behind.

    "I suppose neither of you two know that fellow?" Master Mablung remarked.

    "No." Llewyn said. "Stone man, where do you take us?"

    "Well, I have enough time to tell the story at last. You have heard of the Craglord. Your people call him Rhysbidean in their stories. His clan ruled many high peaks in the Misty Mountains. They practiced a little horticulture and shepherded goats but mostly they raided the people of the plains. That forgotten clan never boasted a stronger or more cunning chief than the Craglord. He slew men all about and pillaged every village within sight of his mountain. Even the goblins feared him. One day, he captured my greatfather's mother."

    "The Rhysbidean was born of the sky when the sun first rose." The woman said. "And he returned to the sky many eras before your greatfather's mother was born."

    "I am much older older than you know girl, sprung from an immeasurably ancient race. The Craglord belongs to the most recent period of recorded history. He indeed took her captive, along with her sister, her nephew and her firstborn daughter. I don't know how he treated his captives but one doesn't expect much from a savage who bows before the great eye. He sent a messenger to Ithilien, demanding weregeld. My greatfather was at that time not yet a man full grown. He heeded the advice of his counselors and sent gold for ransom rather than a warband to free our kin."

    Farther back, the man in green continued to follow them. They rode on the only road west but he had waited to follow them. It was true their was safety in numbers but he was deliberately loitering behind them.

    Culann cleared his throat. "Did the Rhysbidean release your kin, master?"

    "He meant his offer when he made it." An expression more ancient and sad they had ever seen filled the old man, like moss eating away at the crumbling face of statue. "But by the time messengers brought the gold the Craglord was very old himself and he felt death waiting for him. He commanded his clan to carve out an endless tomb. It was the custom of his people to burn at death (for they were related to yours) but hated the thought of all he had built continuing when he was no more than ashes. All of his people stood in the catacombs with torches in hand as he heaved his final breaths. First he ordered the captives slain, then the women, then the children and at last he ordered his warriors to slay themselves. We can infer some of them disobeyed, else we wouldn't know the story."

    "We're journey to take your gold back from the Rhysbidean's tomb?" Llewyn's voice dropped. "Sweet mother have mercy."

    "But, Master Mablung," the clerk said, "we've all heard of ghouls and wights and... other things in the Rhysbidean's tomb but we also heard he went back to the sky. It's all ignorance and fear, as you so often teach, insn't it?"

    "The Craglord is certainly dead, not even of the race of Numenor, but his acolytes knew more than a few evil magics. That's why I asked you to hire the witch. The Burnt Men are cousins of the extinct mountain clans and they share much lore. You, girl! You know much about curses? Good. Now, Culann, I've grown weary of this man following us. Tell him to turn back. If he refuses, kill him."

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    (a) Obey Master Mablung. There's a branch on the road which should make a good club.
    (b) Argue against him. How are you supposed to kill a man with a sword? (x) You've never killed a man before. (y) He doesn't deserve death. (z)
    (c) Ask Llewyn to help you with her wisdom's skills.
    (d) Recommend catching up with the Gondorim.
    (e) Something else____.
     
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  8. Azira Arcane Patron

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  9. hello friend Arcane

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  11. Storyfag Arcane

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  12. oscar Tacticular Staff

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  13. Grimgravy Augur Patron

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    Bz - he could be of use.
     
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  14. Usury Arcane

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    (B)(x)

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

    "He bears a sword, master." Culann said. "How can I fight unarmed?"

    "A sword? Your people favor axes and he does not wear your garb either."

    "When we spoke in the guest house, I didn't hear any accent. Perhaps, he has journeyed far and only now returns to his own land?"

    "More likely a highwayman than a pilgrim." Mablung said. "He would cut you two down in seconds and I've seen too many years, even if you could put a blade in my hands. He's threat enough alone. What will we do if he has robber brethren lurking ahead? No sense in fear. We may as well proceed."

    Llewyn raised her voice. "Might the rhysmungard have turned back? They pursued us in haste, without bread, ale or cloth. Nor did we see the rhysmun himself. They would not quit the town for long without his leave. Yes. They have turned back."

    "Good scholarship doesn't allow for assumptions." The old man shivered. "Nor does any other sound judgement."

    An hour later, they saw dismounted horsemen on a low roadside hill. One distant figure raised a hand in greeting. As they drew nearer, the smiles of the Gondorim became clear. They numbered six, counting Sir Damrod and Beregond of Ithilien, who rushed down to meet them.

    "Uncle! I worried for you. Why did you linger? We saw the dust and riders and we knew the barbarians had betrayed us." He looked at the Burnt Men and switched to a flowing silvery tongue.

    "That's quite enough." The old man said. "It is always the will of Mordor to turn its foes against each other. You've never before seen that throat slitting goblin breed? Troubling indeed. Sir Damrod!"

    The knight bowed. "Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo."

    "Yes, yes, I know. Now, we've ridden since dawn with that green rider at our heels."

    Damrod nodded, mounted and rode east. The lone horseman retreated. After a few hundred yards, the knight turned back. The man in green halted and began to follow once more, keeping a broad span between them. One of the Gondorim drew an arrow from his quiver and stretched out his bowstring. The shaft arced high into the sky before plunging into the dirt three paces from the hooded horseman, who broke into a gallop, northwards off the road. There were no settlements to the north, for it was only a day's walk to the fell forest of Mirkwood.

    Beregond frowned. "Some evil messenger, I warrant. We must quit this place."

    The nine traveled westward until sundown, not once seeing other folk. The men of Gondor spoke but little and mostly in strange silvery speech. A few times they spoke to Culann but none addressed the woman. Making camp, they praised how quickly the Burnt Men started a fire and spoke more freely afterwards. Beregond passed out rations of dried beef as the first stars appeared under the velvet sky.

    "We meant to buy supplies in your town. Is there anywhere along this road we might find more?"

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

    (A) Visit the Crumbles, a settlement to the south inhabited by mean and vulgar folk.
    (B) Hunt the great cattle of the plains. (Llewyn advocates this idea.)
    (C) Go hungry on the road until you reach a Beorning Village. May take several days.
    (D) Something else_____.

    The Gondorim offer weapons. You take:
    (1) A war axe.
    (2) A sword.
    (3) A bow and knife.
     
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  15. Gauldur's Bait Learned

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  16. Azira Arcane Patron

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  19. hello friend Arcane

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  20. Usury Arcane

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    (B)(3) We now have a bow and a hefty Rohirrim iron knife.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    [​IMG]
    The nine journeyed westward four days more, near a hundred miles from Hwairfyn. With bow and spear, they hunted the wild aurochs of the field. Culann learned to use a bow better while Llewyn foraged a surprising amount of roots and birds' eggs every night. The first day, after one of the strangers felled an aurochs with two arrows, they cured with salt and smoke what meat they did not consume. This delayed them considerably but no one protested.

    The old man often dozed off in the saddle or woke late at night. He conversed with everyone but many times trailed off into muttering. On the fifth morning since their reunion, Beregond joined him.

    "Greetings, Uncle. It's your birthday today, though we've little wine to celebrate it."

    "I hadn't forgotten it, nephew. I used to wonder whether I should live this long. You know, my greatfather's greatfather lasted three years beyond two hundred but such was a marvel even then and our race has only dwindled since."

    "One hundred and fifty is no mean amount." Beregond clapped his shoulder. "Nor do you waste away in dotage but you strive to restore our family fortune. You honor all of us."

    "When the Valar gave our kind the gift of long years, they gave us also the grace also, in our failing years, to sleep rather than waste away with age and so pass beyond the circles of the world. I yearn for the peace of the second gift. When our errand is done, you may bury me with our ancestors in the tomb the Craglord fashioned for us. To pass beyond the circles of the world, beyond even the knowledge of the Valar... do you suppose dead men dream?"

    When his nephew did not reply, Sir Damrod spoke. "The Elves once named our fate the gift of men. They were wiser in those days. The light of the old ages fades and the darkness of the new grows. When I think of the shadow swallowing all lands, I am glad we are not bound to this world, but perhaps, even now, there is hope."

    "Always so high minded." Beregond chuckled. "Don't forget, we run a modest errand. We're here to fetch back our gold, not cast down the strength of the black land."

    They had passed out of the dry brown Scorched Hills to the rolling green fields of Celebrant. Skeins of honking geese flapped southwards. Deer and elk abounded, so the travelers added a little venison to their salted beef. The mournful cry of the loon echoed across the pale sky, while the wind rippled through cattails and grass.

    After noon, Llewyn climbed a steep hill, seeking a certain mint. At the top, she stood up and peered across the horizon the way they had come.

    "I see smoke, as of a great many men."

    Beregond scaled the hill, drew out his looking glass and cupped it with his hand, to keep it from reflecting in sunlight. "The Burnt Men, about two score of them. Mount up! We'd do well to put some leagues between us."

    "The rhysmun must have left the town unguarded." Culann said. "Why would he do that?"

    "He wants the stone man back." Llewyn put her foot in the stirrup. "The stranger hindered my mistress from burning him on the appointed day. Having already lived too long, he now hungers for even more life."

    "A savage custom," Master Mablung said, "a delight, perhaps, to the Dark Lord but not to free men."

    In the past few days, they had journeyed at a hard pace, with purpose but not with haste. Now, they pressed their horses. No one cared to deal with forty rhysmungard. Soon, the road curved away to the south so as not to draw too near to Mirkwood but Beregond chose a straight western path. Their mounts left a clear trail of hoofmarks and trampled grass.

    "Are we going into the blighted forest?" The clerk asked with more than half a mind to turning his horse around.

    "When the king comes!" Beregond shouted. "No, we're just cutting close. Let your friends follow us if they dare."

    They continued for the remainder of the day. At times, the wind carried the clattering the rhysmungard's hooves. From the forest came no wholesome sound. The trees stood but a league away.

    "Hold up." Sir Damrod said as the sun slipped below the horizon. "We need to rest the horses. We've enough of a lead to spare a few minutes. Oh, what is it now?"

    A shrill whistle piped in the murk and then another. A crooked form, red in the twilight, flew out of the forest and circled above them once before soaring off to the east. The whistle shrieked again. A tide of loping vermin galloped from the bushes. The two Gondorim with bows loosed arrows. Culann drew, nocked and released. His shaft flew past one of the figures and vanished into the darkness. He loosed again and shot the rider from its beast. Two more of his arrows fell astray. Then the foe was upon them.

    Up close, they could be seen as a small breed of goblins clinging onto giant rats. When they came within spears reach, the goblins let go of their mounts and fought on foot. They had long slimed noses, sharp teeth and glinting eyes. They screamed, whistled and thrashed about with their long daggers. The rats, large as dogs, leaped and bit.

    The swords flashed. Goblins and rats fell on every side. Beregond struck the heart of one, swung his sword to the side to swap off the head of another and then lunged forward to smite another. Sir Damrod charged alone into the onslaught. The teeth of the foe snapped on his armor and their weapons glanced aside. His seemed almost to dance with each attack flowing smoothly into the next. He had no need to parry, for each enemy which stood before him died before it could strike. In a moment, ten lay dead all around him. An eleventh goblin squealed, threw down it's weapon and ran back towards the trees. Another two dozen assaulted the knight.

    Culann and the woman fought with the other four men of Gondor. The clerk blocked a goblin blade with his own knife, punched the foul creature with his other fist and then stabbed out his eyes. Another goblin jumped on his back and would have bit his neck had not one of the Gondorim hacked it down. Beregond screamed as an enormous spider skittered from the gloom but he did not step back. It spindly bowed legs stretched high as his shoulders and its thin body jilted about. The dark shape fluttered overhead again. Mablung cried out as a team of four goblins pulled him to the ground and began to bind him with cords. Sir Damrod perched on a rock, raining down blows on the swarm which surrounded him. He had slain many but more had come and they now numbered at least thirty. The other Gondorim strove with four rats and a dozen goblins. Everywhere sounded the screeches of the foe and their shrill whistles.​

    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]

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

    (A) Flee. The rhysmungard can't be too far behind.
    (B) Try to draw some of the enemy off Sir Damrod.
    (C) Help Beregond tackle the giant spider.
    (D) Attempt to rescue Master Mablung.
    (E) Stand with the Gondorim.
    (F) Something else_____.
     
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  21. hello friend Arcane

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  22. Gauldur's Bait Learned

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  23. Grimgravy Augur Patron

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  24. Storyfag Arcane

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    As poetic as this sounds, Proffesor Tolkien would undoubtedly call the bird a "diver".

    Anyway, voting D.
     
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  25. Azira Arcane Patron

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