Saturday, May 25, 2013

034 - Everybody's life just got a notch more complicated

Entering the Ice-Bay of Forochel

Gwirith 24 FA 16

The Raven had finally weaved a difficult path through the ice floes into the Bay of Forochel. Forochel was created in the First-Age when the Valars came to destroy Mortgoth's fortress of Utumno. The place is the flooded site of the dark lord's gateway to the underdeep: a place so vast and and dark that Sauron managed to hide and survive the ordeal (with the results that we're all aware of). Keeping this in mind, the company members kept a close eye on the surrounding. The bay, in sharp contrast with the open sea left behind, was eerily quiet. A thick fog was covering the place. The light of day and night were no more than subtle variants in shades of blue.

A porpoise was circling the Raven, underneath Finbert's eyes. Something was out of sort, however. The porpoise was particularly skinny, if not bony. Finbert pointed out his observation to others, but no one could see the beast even when it passed under their eyes. The bony porpoise hit the hull of the ship a few times, but still no one but Finbert could hear the thuds. Finbert grew tired to be looked at as if he was insane. Nerve shot, he packed a pipe choke-full with Longbottom leaf and sat on a pile of ropes.  

Into the Fjord

Gwirith 26 FA 16

On the second day of navigation into Forochel, the Raven ran into solidly frozen waters. Beyond the ice, the coast couldn't be seen amid the fog. The Raven was ordered to sail South-East along its edge. The ship proceeded slowly in low-wind conditions. By the end of day, an opening in the ice had been found and the outline of a deep Fjord was drawing to the south. The Raven prudently halted in the Fjord's opening before night fall. 

On the following morning, the Raven sailed into the Fjord. the ice-free water became narrow. About 5 km into the Ford, Arnadil spotted some kayaks in the distance, heading away from the raven. Finbert and Irina climbed in the crow's nest to keep an eye on the surroundings. The Kayaks reached the end of the open-water and were pulled to the cliff side by fur covered men. 

An hour later, the Raven also reached the end of open-water. The company members disembarked and set out to follow the tracks of the kayaks in the snow. 

First contact with Lossoth hunters

The company was met by a band of Lossoth hunters that arrived from the south. There was about 25 men: tall and strong. When they got closer, all but three stopped and pulled short hooked swords from their garbs. Their demeanor was not particularly hostile, but they weren't taking any chances.

The leading hunter called the company members "Southrons", and asked what was their business in the Fjord of Laakvesi. Arnadil, Thannolf and Halin moved forward to meet with the leader. The dwarf seemed to be to the hunter a most unusual sight. Through Tahnnolf, Arnadil explained that they were looking for a temple. That in the temple there was something of theirs that they seek. The other hunters muttered between themselves and uttered the word Multkan, a place that Thannolf knew to be a Lossoth settlement.  The hunter kept a straight face, but Thannolf recognized a hint of excitement at the news that Southrons were looking for something of theirs in a temple. The leader told the Company to wait while their tribal chieftain was fetched.  Thannolf perceived in the hunters a sense that they had just run into an opportunity. He communicated his observations to the other who did not notice such reaction and thought that the hunter had the best poker face in the world.

While they were waiting, Finbert, Irina and Thannolf returned to the Raven to fetch some ale and a pouch of pipe-weed. They offered some to the hunters but were coldly ignored. The hunters' loss, Finbert argued: the ale and the pipe-weed was enjoyed by the three carousers.

The Chieftain of Talta

The Lossoth came back an hour later as a larger contingent. Women and children were in tow, and lead by an imposing man with the garb of a chieftain. The chief approached the company, peered all around. The company noticed a number of Lossoth hunters observing from the top of the cliffs on the Western side of the Fjord. The chief touted some an ivory amulet with his fingertips. He introduced himself as Chieftain Maabutinnen, leader of Talta. He demanded an explanation as to the presence of Southrons in his territory. Some tense exchanges followed in between Thannolf, Maabutinnen and Arnadil. Thannolf's native Northmen tongue was considered accented in Lossoth, and speaker of Westron can understand the Lossoth at the broken level.  The Lossoth were most intrigued by the presence of Halin (a dwarf) and the hobbits. Obviously, they had never seen nor heard of such people.

Arnadil asserted that they were on a mission to recover an artifact, an orb to be more precise, which belongs to the King of Gondor. Arnadil added that he believe the orb to be located in Multkan. Maabutinnen was unimpressed with the indiscretion of his hunters, asked a few questions. He claimed that the southron stones belonged to the Lossoth by right. That he did not understand why Arnadil thought that he had a claim on the artifacts anymore. Thannolf read through Maabuninnen bluff [ Thannolf has Empathy and succeeded his IQ check. ] [+]. Seemingly, Maabutinnen was sarcastic when he stated that the Southron stones belong to them. Maabutinnen invited the company to join him for a meal in the village. 

Eating blubber in Talta

About a kilometer to the south, the cliff side subsided into a gentle valley. On the bank of the frozen river, some 20-30 stone buildings were standing in a neatly packed arrangement. All around the village, dozens of totems were planted in no discernible patterns. Dark smoke rose from some of the stone huts. Maabutinnen took the company into one of the hut. They served them some fatty broth and salted meat. Coal fires were burning in small dents into the stone floor. The room was comfortable event by southerner's standards.

The conversation rapidly came back to he southron stones. First of all, the company noticed the pluralization of the term, which came as a surprise. Maabutinnen explained that the stones were nothing but trouble to the Lossoth people, but that the tribe in Multkan insisted that these were the seat of their power. Maabutinen himself expressed the wish to see these stones disappear for good.

For once, they are coveted by Farathui, a winter drake hatchling that has been obsessed with their acquisition. Farathui has raided the Lossoth for a few years, but failed to this day to take the southron stones from Multkan. A few months ago, Farathui attempted to invade from the West with a army of orcs and Northmen, but they were repelled by the Lossoths. "Farathui is a still today a hatchling. He will grow and he WILL get the stones. Soon enough, the Lossoth people will no longer be able to resist his spite." , stated Maabutninnen. Finbert mentionned the encounter that he, Halin and Irina had with Farathui a few months ago in the Shire. Maabutinnen had no idea that there was a "Shire" to the south.   

The company tried to assess whether the Western tribe in Mulkan would hand over the Palantirs. Maabutinnen faintly smiled: "I don't think that you should ask for it", he said while touting the hook of his sword absentmindedly. Maabutinnen explained that the Southron stones were also a focal point of another powerful spirit called Shapitui.  Shapitui was, however, under the control of a local Elder and so far the best defense against the drake and his army. The western Lossoth are holding on to the southron stone because without them, they would fall.

All men without a tribe are alone...

Finbert told the story of the bony porpoise to the Lossoth. They listen quietly, nodding. Maabutinnen told them that the Great White North was not for the faint hearted: that Southrons like them shouldn't be there in the first place, particularly not on land. "The terror is a thick fog that rolls from the cliffs to the South. When the terror sets in, all men without a tribe are alone." He explained that the bony porpoise that he saw was some kind of demons that only Finbert could see, bent on destroying him if he got the opportunity. "In the terror, no one can help you, unless you are part of a tribe."

Maabutinnen explained that the Elders had the power to bind living souls together as tribes. Once united, tribe members can support and protect each other. He pointed out the presence of totems around the village, and also the ivory amulet that all the villager were wearing. He told them that it is possible to become a tribe with the help of an Elder, but to do this they would need to harvest ivory, as a group, from any of the megabeast of Forochel.  He didn't know much more about the process, but directed them to return on their ship before nightfall and seek an elder called Tasso. Tasso could be found in a fishing village, some 10 leagues to the West. Maabutinnen offered that one of his hunter, Reitu, join the company in order to find the elder and avoid running into Multkan by accident. 

Daylight was starting to fade when they set out to get back to the Raven. Reitu was an inquisitive and friendly fellow. Despite the language barrier, he entertained awkward talks with many of the company member, particularly the hobbits.

Once on the Raven, the fog began rolling down the cliffs into the Fjord. Sir Galdor became agitated, he spotted something, large and hostile shadowing the Raven from the frozen shore. Galdor was restless: no one could see what he saw although there definitely was something stalking them in the dark. Reitu tried to calm him down: "What you see is real, you are not a fool...", he said, "and it is walking the earth just for you". This didn't made Sir Galdor feel better.

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