Saturday, March 9, 2013

017 - The ruins of Annuminas

October 29th, FA 15

The Southern wall of Annuminas and the hobbits' footprints
in the snow.
On the previous evening, the company was gathered at the farmstead of Old Bruck, a hobbit that Irina knew well. Old Bruck told them that orcs were in the habit of setting winter quarters in Annuminas. However, they rarely dared to approach the Shire. Nonethless, folks in Long-Cleaves were a cautious kind of people, most knowing very well how to fend off invaders.

They ate a fine meal, had a bit of singing. As the evening waned, Arnadil pulled form his travel bag a scroll case and laid its content on the table. 

It was a hand-drawn map of Annuminas. He summarized his reading into a single map, which turned out to be particularly well detailed [his research roll was successful by a +4 margin]. This is not a map of the ruins but a map of the city at its apogee. On the map, he also had annotated the three most likely buildings for the Royal Library, and also revealed two facts about the library:
  1. There appears that when the vault was sealed, a number of librarians were walled in. Their task was to tend the library over the coming years until the King of Arthedain returned (which he didn't).
  2. The vault will open with the right key, which the company has. The keyhole is hidden within the artwork of the main hall of the library. 

Not bad for a hand-drawn map. Good job, Arnadil.

Irina knew approximatively how to get to the ruins [Area Knowledge, Shire success]. It was decided that the company would travel on horseback to Annuminas, seeking first the shore of the lake as a guide, then veering east to get to the south-west entrance to the city. 

The day of travel went pretty much according to plan. Araliniel shared her horse with Irina. By lunch time, they could see the frozen surface of Lake Evendim. By mid afternoon, Irina directed the company to turn East. The snow cover was about 50cm, and still its was snowing lightly. There was no wind at all. The flatlands ahead were eerily quiet. Araliniel told the company that she had a persistent omen to seek a stone, or a wall, coming out of water. She believe the water to be Lake Evendim. She also had an omen warning the company of danger in the West.

There was a slight upward incline ahead. During a brief reprieve from the snow, the company could see that they were approaching the meeting point between Lake Evendim and the Brandywine river. Annuminas must then be ahead. Arnadil gathered in silence and uttered a few words in a language of old. As the heat was draining from his already frozen fingers, he began to feel that the road ahead was filled with danger and enmity. He reported his intuition to the company: "There must be orcs ahead". Many feared the drake more than orcs. The company paused and unhorsed. Finbert and Irina volunteered to scout on foot ahead and seek the ruins of the city. The snow was thick, particularly for hobbit feets and legs. 

The hobbits arrived to a place which looked like the remnants of a fortification. Peeking through the snow, three walls could be guessed to span from this location. On to the North and toward Lake Evendim, one to the North-East toward the city center and one to the East along the city's perimeter. The hobbits decided to follow the perimeter of the city and head East. Following the wall, they arrived to a larger structure, which probably was once the barbacane of one of the city gate.  The traces of a road, leaving a flatter surface on the ground, ran North-South into the city. Another Wall was heading North-Northeast towards the King's ground. The Hobbit kept on following this wall in hope to reach the inner fortress without getting lost.  

The wall led to the inner fortress. All that remains of this structure from their vantage point was a 3m high wall of stone and a large quantity of stone strewn around the surrounding frozen flats. The climb of this wall was trivial, although it would be impossible to lead the horses up. When the hobbits reached the crest of the wall, they discovered that the ground beyond was elevated and flush with the stony crest. Ahead, the silhouette of large buildings were drawn at the edge of their sight: white on white. They carefully proceeded forward until some 40m of a large building, half collapsed. Irina accidentally stepped on a sheet of crusty snow which gave under her foot, making a loud enough noise in the relative silence [rolled a 18 on a stealth check...]. Something stirred in the structure nearby: Finbert couldn't tell what it was. But amid the partially crumbled walls, a hint of movement was spotted. 

It could be a winter drake, orcs. The hobbits remained quietly in the snow, waiting for another sign of life which didn't come. They withdrew by slipped back over their previous footsteps. The rest of the company had arrived at the south gate barbacane (or footprint thereof). They had followed the footprints in the snow. Stealth in this landscape was nearly impossible. There was not much more than 1 1/2 hour of daylight left. The topography and terrain was flat, featureless. A campsite had to be found within the stone cold remains of Annuminas. The clock was ticking.

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