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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

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    (D) Rescue Master Mablung​

    Interesting. Well... Tolkien would have appreciated dialectical variation. :MIf the men of Gondor have any reason to talk about this bird, they'll call it a diver.

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    Even with four goblin scouts seeking to bind him, Master Mablung still struggled with a free arm. Culann sped across the grass. His knife slashed across the back of one throat and caught on the ribs of another before the remaining two noticed him. They growled and their ears stood up. The clerk circled round but they kept themselves between him and their prize. Suddenly, a rope looped around one of their necks. The creature gulped and wheezed as Mablung drew the cord of his binding tight around its gullet. The last goblin glanced both ways and ran but not before Culann sheared off its ear. He began cutting his master's cords.

    The spider tapped its legs and snapped its mandibles. Its many eyed head twisted. Beregond's sword swung and it drew back before springing forward. The man fell to the dirt and the monster pounced like a hawk seizing a mouse. As Beregond rolled aside, the outer edge of the mandible tore at his coat. His blade smashed its thin leg which splintered into strands like a reed, broken but not severed. He grabbed the leg, pulling the monster down to pull himself up, and stabbed between a joint in its carapace. The blade pierced through soft innards until it scraped the hard shell of the underbelly. Not a sound did the terror of Dol Guldur make, save for the frenzied tapping of its many legs as life flowed out of it.

    As Culann sliced the last cord, a jagged dagger punched into the back of his thigh. His strangled scream caught in his throat as his slashed his own knife blindly behind himself. With a gurgling cackle, the one-eared goblin slithered back five paces. The clerk's leg gave way. The goblin cackled again and sauntered forward. Culann unstrapped the bow from his back and nocked an arrow. The snag toothed creature had just enough time to form an expression of dumb shock before the arrow slammed into the center of its chest.

    More whistles shrieked out amongst the trees. Larger goblins emerged, these new ones half the size of a man, carrying crescent shields, some with short spears others with bows; fighters all. In the darkness, they could not be counted but they blotted the branches like a cloud.

    The Gondorim clashed with scouts and rats. Each stood back to back with his brethren with eyes fierce as swords and swords fierce as eyes. The enemy did not attack in one great rush but sought to dart between and drive them apart. None had succeeded so far but a good five and ten still lurked about. The fighters would arrive soon.

    Beregond charged into the midst of them, hewing down rats and riders. The companions hurried to his aid. A storm of steel fell upon the foe.

    Holding the reins of two more horses, Llewyn galloped to Culann. An arrow whirred past. He boosted the old master into the saddle as more arrows landed. One shaft hit the flank of the unmounted. It whinned and reared up, only for another arrow to strike its neck. Llewyn and Mablung drew back under the barrage. With his leg wounded, Culann began to half limp, half crawl towards the other horses. So low to the ground, the archers had not noticed him.

    Beset on all sides, his armor smeared with the blood of his foes, Sir Damrod the Dispossessed had begun to sing. As he tried to fight his way free, the last of the scout goblins clung to him with biting and scratching. For all they could not get through his armor, they did hamper his movement and the fighters would arrive shortly.

    "Ithilien for Gondor!" Beregond's shout thundered in every ear.

    With the roar of hooves, he and his companions crashed into the foe. They leaned in their saddles to reach low enough and their steeds kicked so as to crush goblin skulls. As Damrod stretched out to grab the reins of the free horse, a dark shape swooped down and its claws raked the steed's head, tearing out jaw and eyes. The horse fell like stone.

    "Fly, all of you! Fly!" Damrod began to run on foot, as fast he could in his heavy plate armor. Ten paces away, Culann saw all the others riding out.

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    (A) Cry out for help.
    (B) Cover yourself in the corpses of dead goblins.
    (C) Crawl farther from the forest to hide in the grass.
    (D) Something else_____.
     
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  2. Grimgravy Augur Patron

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  3. oscar Tacticular Staff

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  4. Azira Arcane Patron

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    Not sure what goblins do to their dead, but hiding under their corpses sounds risky.

    C
     
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  5. Gauldur's Bait Learned

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  6. hello friend Arcane

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  7. Usury Arcane

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    (C) Crawl farther from the forest to hide in the grass.​

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    With his left thigh gored, Culann could not even rest upon his knee without feeling yawning agony. With the first shock vanishing, the pain worsened. Black specks blurred across his vision. His companions galloped away with the knight treading behind them. With baying calls, the horde from Mirkwood followed, not with the disciplined march of many boots but the disordered stamp of clawed feet. They were drawing near to the injured man.

    He pulled forward by his arms and his good foot. The grass whipped across his face and flattened as he wormed over it. His hand skid splashed into a stagnant pond, almost frosty to the touch. Crawling through the water, he rolled on the bank at the other side until covered in mud and curled up among the reeds. His heart faltered. The pain had lessened to a low beat. Not too far away, whistles shrieked to each other and evil creatures hooted.

    ***​

    "How many fought here?" The rhysmun surveyed the battlefield.

    "They've moved the dead, mightiness." His shield-bearer replied. "Piled up a lot of 'em over there. Cooked 'em and 'et 'em too but a few of the dead they left alone. Mayhaps missed 'em in the night. Foul, to imagine chewin' on gobbos and rats. Even the blood stinks sour."

    "They ate their own dead. The strangers wouldn't partake of rat flesh. These stone men love their finery."

    "Well, we've found a few arrows and one of their bows but no token of their deaths."

    "Mightiness," one of the guard rode up. "This is rib of horse from the ashes of the cook fire, gnawed to the marrow."

    The rhysmun examined the bone. "Not the rest of the beast? So, the carrion eaters of the forest carried away what meat they did not consume."

    The two score rhysmungard had ridden up an hour after dawn. The scarred earth told of battle, if not as plainly as the early crows feasting. A heap of charred flesh littered the embers of a cook pit. Many were the carcasses of small creatures but a third the height of man, others those of enormous rats, roasted with the fur and then peeled. The grass and the mud plainly showed a large company had sallied south and returned to the wood later. If they had cooked any men, they took the bones with them.

    The rhysmungard whispered amongst themselves. The Scorched Hills knew only legends of goblins and darker things. Not one of them would have approached within sight of the forest of his own will.

    ***​

    Culann opened his eyes. The canvas of a tent roof fluttered overhead in the wind. The pain had subsided but it flared up with every twitch. The mud was gone from his face and he was dry. The grey bearded rhysmun sat cross legged beside him.

    "Tell me," he said, "what is Mablung's errand?"

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    (A) Pretend to be addled.
    (B) "He means to steal lost treasure from the tomb of the rhysbidean."
    (C) "He moves to attack Dol Guldur." (Lie)
    (D) Claim he hasn't told you.
    (E) Something else_____.
     
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  8. Storyfag Arcane

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  10. Gauldur's Bait Learned

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    E

    Enquire about the identity of the asker, and his interest in the matter.
     
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  11. Usury Arcane

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    (A)(B)(D)(E) Here we go.

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    "The strangers, where are the strangers?" Culann whispered. "So many stinking vermin biting, clawing, scratching, knife-jerking. If Master Beregond had known their number, for sure we'd have fled, no matter the weary horses. Spiders crept among them, slimy and stilted. Did they kill all the strangers, all the tall men of Gondor?"

    The rhysmun grabbed his jaw and turned it so their eyes met. "Where is Mablung. Where is the old man. What does he seek?"

    Culann's eyes flickered about the tent. A tight rope bound his ankles together. One of the rhysmungard stood by the door flap with a naked axe in his hand. A full helmet concealed his expression but his fingers tapped the flat of his weapon. An amulet to ward against the evil eye looped around his neck, not too different from Llewyn's.

    "Who are you?" The clerk affected a sly smile as he switched to the Westron. "What do you care for our master?" He dropped his voice again. "They're cunning to speak to us in our native tongue, aren't they? What could they want of us?"

    "Culann!" The rhysmun shook him. "Hear me! You serve an old man, full of old learning, so wise as to challenge the wisdom. Where is the old man going?"

    "I don't know." He answered in the Burnt Speech and then muttered in the common tongue. "Musn't let him know, mustn't we? Musn't let him find master."

    The guard spoke up. "The man is mad as well as a traitor. May I chop off his head, mightiness?"

    "Stand down." The rhysmun buffeted his captive. "Where has Mablung gone?"

    "We don't know. Agh! North then. To the Mountains of Mist, he goes. To the tomb of the Rhysbidean. Much, much gold there."

    "Stop pretending. I know a liar when I hear one. You can tell me what I wish to know or I can cut out your tongue and leave you here for the creatures of the wood. Think on it."

    He left the tent and the guard followed. Through the canvas, came the sound of many horses stamping and many men bundling rolls while wrapping goods in sacks. The hoarse caws of crows bit at the air.

    "Oyez!" A voice hissed through the tent's side by Culann's ear. "I can get you away from this place. These fellows won't follow us into the forest."

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    (A) Accept the mysterious offer.
    (B) Expose the voice to the guards. Might earn their trust.
    (C) Refuse the offer. Attempt to convince the rhysmun of the truth.
    (D) Pretend to cooperate with the voice but, as soon as you can get a horse, follow the men the men of Gondor.
    (E) Something else______.
     
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  14. Gauldur's Bait Learned

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  15. oscar Tacticular Staff

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  16. Usury Arcane

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    As we're tied, I have been forced to decide through the hallowed RPG method of rolling a die. The result is: (A) accept the mysterious offer.

    You're going to die.​

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    [​IMG]

    "Yes, help me."

    A single edged iron blade punched through the canvas of the tent and began sawing down. The low chatter of the rhysmungard continued unabated. Culann kept on eye on the entry flap but no one approached. When the knife had torn a slit almost a yard in length, he squeezed through.

    The camp of the rhysmungard spread all around but two horses standing near the side of the tent partially blocked him from view. The Burnt Men might have noticed had they not been packing their saddlebags. A man in mixed greens and browns took Culann's arm and hoisted him up. He stumbled but the stranger caught his arm and boosted him onto a dappled grey steed and scrambled onto the other animal himself.

    "Hoy!" A guard called out. "That's my beast. Who do you think you may be? And you? Who might you... to arms! The traitor is loose, brothers!"

    Another warrior reached for a full quiver but the stranger yanked back his reins and swung his horse about. The hooves swung an inch past the man's nose. To the throbbing of his maimed thigh, the clerk pressed his hips together to urge his steed forward. The animal galloped between the tents and into the grassy plain with the stranger close behind.

    Five miles north, the forest waited - a green line in the distance. An arrow shot ahead of them. The stranger glanced over his shoulder and immediately veered left. More shafts rained around them. One pierced his saddle bag. The rhysmungard released arrows from the side of the camp but they did not give chase. A last arrow slammed into the stranger's side. Two inches farther right and it would have missed him altogether. He writhed a minute and then pulled it out through skin and leather jerkin in a spray of blood. He waved forward and continued to ride. Seeing no one behind them, they slowed.

    "You risked your life for me. Back home, fellows call me Culann Snake-eye."

    "Name's Cerwick." The other man smiled but quickly broke off into a grimace. "You were looking the other way but I've been shot. Give mercy and check your saddlebags for a salve, brother." His thin beard and wide brow were not uncommon to the Scorched Hills but he wore uncommon garb with close fitting boots and trim coat over his jerkin. He spoke the Burnt Speech with an eastern accent. "Will your friends be after us?"

    "I don't know. If they do, they won't be long. There are a few clean rags in this pouch but no salve. Why'd you help me?"

    "Those were Hwairfyn rhysmungard, weren't they? Only been to Hwairfyn once. After a whole spring in one of their moldering dungeon cells, those guards gave me this." He pulled back the layers of coat, jerkin, undershirt and a spider inscribed pendant. The brand of the thief showed on his clavicle. "Was journeying this way when I saw them take you. To the black land with me if I pass up a chance to bloody the nose of the Hwairfyn rhysmungard." He spat. "What about you?"

    "They don't want me at all." Culann said. "They want my master. He's a stone man from the south. A handful of his kin rode up to our town, near a week ago. That night - ai, you'd think I had a long tongue were I to tell you - well, the rhysmun has been after us since then."

    "Not much of a tale." Cerwick said. "What's a stone man doing mucking about up here? Southerners plaster the walls of their houses of their houses with gold. You ever seen Gondorian steel? Flashes like the dawn. Hold up a minute. No potions in my bags either. We stole the wrong horses. So where are your stone men friends?"

    "West. They seek the Mountains of Mist."

    The green-clad stranger waited. When the clerk added nothing, he rode closer.

    "Let me take a look at your leg. Shield us from the evil eye! This is a gory wound but bound up by someone with more than a little skill. You'll be walking again unaided in a few days. In the meantime, we'll need to get you a staff. The rhysmungard did this to you?"

    "Shadowspawn attacked my party by the border of the forest. The Gondorim fled but a goblin lanced a blade through my thigh. I put an arrow through his skull."

    Cerwick grinned. "So you're a man to stand by in a fight. I shan't forget that. We needn't fear for shadowspawn now. They can't abide sun's light. If the rhysmungard ride after us, we can shelter in the first few hundred yards of the wood. Goblins need to lurk farther back in this brightness."

    "You've been to Mirkwood?"

    "Aye. Used to run with an outfit, real tough lads. Chief reckoned we could hide our loot in the trees. Even if the guards tortured one of us, they wouldn't go into Mirkwood for any treasure. Guess the guards were a lot sharper than we were. Goblins got everyone else. I've always been a little luckly and very swift of foot. So what about you? Clever obedient fellow, never offended against the rhysmun's law? Hard to believe when you've got two score guards after you."

    "Well, we stole of his horses when we escaped?"

    "That's what I'm saying. You needed to escape in the first place. Look, I don't mind riding with a less than honest man but if you're the sort as would cook and eat me, we can part ways right now."

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    (A) Protest your innocence without explaining.
    (B) Explain Master Mablung seeks treasure.
    (C) Invent some crime______.

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

    The pair reached the forest in good time. Cerwick explained how he had effected the rescue. After creeping through the high grass, he simply stood up and walked into the center of the camp. The rhysmungard did not issue a uniform and he gave a close impression of a Hwairfyn accent, so nobody noticed until it was too late.

    The branches hung heavy with moss and the roots splayed out like spiderwebs. No birds sang but, from time to time, a crow croaked. Shafts of light hung between gaps in the trees without much brightening the place. Even at the fringe, the air clung thick and musty. A black squirrel watched them.

    "Look here, brother." Cerwick held his side. "The rhysmungard haven't followed us, so we could avoid the forest, but this wound festers. I can brew up a poultice from the dillwort but it only grows in there, in the damp and the shade. Could help your leg too. What do you say?"

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    (1) Agree to search Mirkwood forest for dillwort.
    (2) Insist on heading west.
    (3) Let Cerwick search while you wait outside the trees.
    (4) Something else_____.

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

    Cerwick:
    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]



     
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  17. Grimgravy Augur Patron

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    That's a trustworthy mug right there.


    A(1)

    edit - added vote for second option
     
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  18. oscar Tacticular Staff

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  19. Gauldur's Bait Learned

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  20. Storyfag Arcane

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  21. Usury Arcane

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    (A)(2) Protest your innocence without explaining and then insist on heading west. Pretty sure Oscar meant (B)(1) but we need a tiebreaker.

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    [​IMG]

    "Not going in there on any account." Culann said.

    "Glad to hear you say that." Cerwick nodded. "Mind you, we do need salves, but I don't like lingering near this blighted place. Well, I'm a free fellow. What do you say we go east?"

    "My friends went west." The scribe cantered off.

    "As you like it." The other man followed. "But we risk running into the rhysmungard again."

    They rode wordlessly along the edge of the wood until late noon. Green pines gave way to brown draped with dusky webbing. Dried out trunks leaned against the living trees white as bones.

    "Really though," Cerwick began, "what did you do? Two dozen rhysmungard? Never seen so many up in arms. Did you steal from the wisdom?" He winked. "Roll the rhysmun's wife?"

    "I did nothing wrong." Culann's voice rose. "He's after Master Mablung, not me."

    "What did he do, then? Where's he headed, eh?"

    The apprentice did not answer. His companion rode behind him, scowling. Towards dusk, the sun shone through the hills of Mirkwood, adding a golden tint to the trees. The land had been swelling up for some time when it abruptly cut off in a deep chasm. A leafless tree, all uprooted, spanned the gap. No horse could possibly cross.

    "No matter," Culann said, "it's time to journey south anyway. We don't want to be too close to the wood when dusk falls."

    The other man grabbed his belt and heaved him of his horse. The scribe slammed sideways into the hard dirt. The impact jolted through his whole body. The world seemed to heave. He gasped back his lost breath and pushed himself onto his good knee. A heavy boot kicked his upper spine, forcing his face into the dirt. He turned over and a leather heel crushed his nose.

    "I don't appreciate it one farthing when a man ignores my questions." Cerwick said. "You think you can brush me aside, you little worm?" He jammed his heel down between his victim's legs. "Where are the southerners journeying? What is Mablung's errand?"

    A scream tore out of Culann. "I don't know!"

    "You think you can lie to me?" His rescuer screamed back. "By the nine I'll pick the truth out of you." His right arm wrapped the neck of the fallen man as he dragged him over to the edge of the precipice and twisted him about to see the fifty foot drop. "A fine grave, don't you agree? Do you reckon the crebain will pick out your eyes first or the maggots will hatch upon them? Makes a fellow wonder. Now," he breathed in deeply, "why are men from Gondor traveling to the Mountains of Mist?"

    The arm around his throat choked out half of Culann's voice. The wound to his thigh throbbed madly. His nose was a bloody pulp. The pain beneath his stomach may well have crippled him had not the other ailments distracted from it. His whole body ached from the fall. His right arm was twisted behind his back but his left arm was free.

    He reached out wildly. His fingers fumbled around the hilt of a dagger. They tightened into a fist as he drew his adversary's own blade and slashed across the ribs. Cerwick released his neck and grabbed both arms. They rolled across the weeds and bracken, struggling for the dagger in the scribes hand. He leaned over and sank his teeth into Culann's wrist. The maimed man cried out and let go. At once, both of his rescuer's hand wrapped around his throat like a bear trap. As color and life drained from Culann's skin, he dimly recognized the carving on the hilt of his killer's sword, a sword worn not too long ago by a hooded figure all in green.

    ***​

    Cerwick stood up and wiped his face. The Hwairfyn man had more fight in his blood than might have been expected. In the end, though, he had been no more than an unarmed cripple who died far from all his friends. There was no real expression on his face, other than the seeming shock of bulging eyes. The blood rushed to Cerwick's head. Dizzy work, throttling a man. He sat down again and searched the corpse before pushing it over the edge.

    The horses had bolted. Stolen animals to begin with, further unsettled by the violence among their new masters and the malice of the woods. Cerwick hoped a pack of wolves would eat them. He walked into the forest where the sun's light had already faded.

    The darkness chittered all about. Mirkwood was far louder by moonlight. It was no mean journey to the Hill of Sorcery but it would not do to tarry. A goblin scout atop a giant rat peered at him. The rat sniffed the dried blood of his arrow wound and licked its lips at the fresh scent of his cut wound.

    "Step back, you vermin." Cerwick's sword clanged from its sheath. "I'm a match for ten of you. Scamper away now, or you'll be feeding your own broodkin. I'm expected in Dol Guldur."

    The scout faded into the darkness. The man fashioned a torch from a bundle of dried sticks and at last succeeded in lighting it with his flint. Only blackness surrounded the sputtering fire.

    An hour later, the chittering stopped. Cerwick advanced slowly. The faint outline of crooked branches was visible by torchlight but something darker waited among the thorns. Dol Guldur had come to him. The betrayer fell to his knees.

    "Glory to the great eye. May he reign with all the nine forever. My heart and my strength are his."

    [​IMG]

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Farewell Culann, wise among the Burnt Men. You suffered an agonizing death but you concealed your friends' intentions. Speaking of which, we'll need to choose our next character. The men of Gondor don't give up over one fallen barbarian.

    (A) Earnil of the White City
    Earnil is one of the four Gondorim (previously unnamed) who accompanied Beregond. He has been an earnest friend to Sir Damrod since they fought together in the Blood Rain. He sailed in Thorongil's raid on the Havens of Umbar, earning no small renown. He is:

    (1) A doughty swordsman capable of fending off very strong warriors when using his shield.
    (2) A notable archer who has twice won the silver arrow of Lamedon.
    (3) A skilled skirmisher who excels when wielding two swords.

    He bears:
    (x) Light armor and a shield.
    (y) Extra supplies in place of armor, which would slow him down.
    (z) A book of Lore pertaining to the Craglord and the Misty mountains, purchased at great expense.

    (B) Maedoc Black-breath
    The rhysmun trusts Maedoc as his right hand. Black-breath's reputation extends across the Scorched Hills as one who can swallow any amount of drink without drunkeness, who never falls ill and who has never faltered in obedience to his liege. The skulls of the men he has killed adorn the doorframe of his house. He has brought:

    (1) A bottle of red honey malt. A single of sip of this propitious liquor temporarily erases pain and chill.
    (2) The pickled heart of Ice Hag. The Ice Hag was a powerful wisdom who saved the town during the Long Winter. Sleeping near the remains of her heart sometimes offers prophetic insight.
    (3) Cingetix, Maedoc's first born son. After three girls, he was happy to have someone to honor his old age. The boy is strong but hasn't proved himself.

    Maedoc will:
    (x) Stay with the Rhysmun and pursue the Gondorim.
    (y) Lead four men after the escaped prisoner, (+) if one of them is his son.

    (C) Beorg Bearclaw

    Beorg is a skin changer of the Beornings. At times, and with great effort, he may transform into a bear. As it so happens, the men of Gondor are crossing his lands. The Beornings do not care for visitors.

    (1) Track them by stealth.
    (2) Question them.
    (3) Gather fellow Beornings to attack them.

    He is accompanied by:
    (x) An immenense stag-moose which bears his burdens.
    (y) Wasps which nest on his garments (and fur when he transforms).
    (z) A pigeon which scouts for him.

    (Grimgravy , we're tied. If you actually decide on one of your options, you could be tiebreaker.)
     
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    3,153
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    A See new vote below.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
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  23. oscar Tacticular Staff

    Infinitron
    Joined:
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    Location:
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    A
     
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