1st Nenime - Of Success, Failure, Suspicion and Death
We have failed. The palantiri have been taken from us, the Evenstar has been taken from us, Turibor has been taken from us, and we are without hope.
My script will be less legible than usual, partly as a result of the regular shivering that wracks my body, and partly from the shaking that is the result of the mix of depression and fury that seeks to tear my heart. I sit with Erethor, Moth and Yawinawen, huddled in furs in the beautifully carved chamber in which a few hours ago lay two palantir. There is an emptiness within.
Moth had done some divination regarding the Grey Swan, but with little success. We believed that it either had previously been, or will in the future, be in this bay. As it turns out it is likely that it was brought to the bay and sunk, its crew then awaiting and watching us upon our arrival.
We left in the boats in early light, although days are short now. I shared a boat with Erethor, and the Marines. It seems I have a gift for rowing. Once we reached the ice I had little difficulty, although Erethor carried my shield for speed of travel. Moth looked uneasy. The marines stayed with the boats that they had dragged up onto the ice. Turibor, poor Turibor, came with us.
We could see the peninsular that we needed some mile or so distant, and Erethor picked out the best route for our journey, although there was still a degree of climbing. The peninsula is about 30ft above the shoreline. There is a promontory, and upon it a huge cairn. On three sides there are cliffs, dropping straight to the sea. On the land side there is an opening 5foot wide, and perhaps 6 high. Through it, and the short manmade tunnel beyond a wind howls this night.
Erethor spied no tracks; I could find no traps; Moth could detect no presence of people with her mind senses, and Yawinawen called her lights to her to aid us. Yawinawen. How little I trust her now. Turibor remained at the door, and now he sleeps some short distance further, his cold form blanketed in white snow.
I entered the cairn first. Beyond the tunnel lay this chamber we huddle in, circular and maybe 10ft diameter. It is exquisitely carved. At the far end is a large marble altar in the top of which are carved two bowls of disparate sizes, and it was in these that the two palantir lay. Around the chamber are two bands of illustration, each punctured by a series of small holes.
Upon entering the chamber we saw not only the palantir, but also two bodies. The palantir are very large, and each holds moving swirling colours that draw the eye. If we survive this ordeal, I will see them again, for I will track these men down as long as a breath remains in my body. The palantir are about 1 foot and 2 foot in diameter respectively. The bodies lay before the palantir. Altogether there were 10 darts in the two bodies. We looked with suspicion at the 15 holes in the walls. This was a trap I could fathom. I explained my idea to Erethor, and he and I went to collect pebbles with which to block the holes. Upon our return we found that Moth had been divining. Erethor believed this to be very unwise in the presence of the stones. Moth did not appreciate the criticism. It is such small things that divide us, and yet great tragedies that bring us back together.
After we had filled the holes with pebbles, wedging them in place as best we could, there was much discussion about how best to move the palantir; what would be the safest way. After a period of this bickering, a madness overcame me and I strode forward and lifted the smaller of the stones. Unfortunately, our pebbles had not completely succeeded and one bolt passed the rocks. It skewered my upper left arm, causing me to drop the stone. I understand that palantir are nigh on unbreakable, but Erethor was taking no chances, and leapt forward to catch it.
I retired to one side, Moth helped me bandage my wound, and I called and prayed to Aule to heal me. Like Erethor, he was also not happy with my decision, as it took about 15 minutes of constant praying to fully heal the arm.
It was decided that we would move the large stone off the altar, and then take the smaller one back to the ship. We would then discuss how best to move it. Ah, the best laid plans of Elves and Men aft gan aglay, as one old loremaster used to say. The larger stone is many times heavier than the smaller. Alas our enemies had little difficulty in moving them. We pulled the large stone off the altar with a crude harness, and we had positioned the bodies underneath to cushion its fall. I was not too happy with this arrangement, and even less happy with Yawinawen's snigger as the great palantir hit them. As recompense I insisted that she help me lay the bodies to rest. I feel now that this laugh was an element of her dark past reaffirming itself. Erethor, Moth and I together could move the large stone, now wrapped in furs, but it was clear that progress would be slow.
And that was the moment when it all changed. We emerged from the entrance to find the pointy bearded man who has dogged our steps. With him were 25 brigands. Turibor was being restrained, our equipment had been moved beyond our reach, and over half of the men had bows, their strings taught, arrows aimed. There was nothing we could do. To resist would have been certain death for all of us. And yet now I wonder whether that would have been preferable rather than the long slow death of cold. Men came forward and removed the two palantir from us.
And we yet live. And why? Because Yawinawen was with us. Had I not said that she had a dark history, that there was malice in her? The bearded fiend even thought that we may have been working for his master because he had seen Yawinawen with us!
We were left here to die. He has also left much of our equipment, knowing that it will do us little good. One cannot fight cold with an axe and shield. In the hours to follow there was much discussion and accusation regarding Yawinawen and her past. Erethor assures us that Yawinawen has no memory of her previous life, and that Elrond himself vouched for her. But it is all one now. We are in the same situation, facing a death of cold and hunger.
When the thieves had left, we emerged. I prayed over the two dead that had been found in the cairn, and then we found Turibor a little further down the hill also dead. I prayed long over his body, and we covered it in the snow that was all the covering our circumstances would allow. The ship has gone. The palantir have gone. Our quest is sundered.
2nd Nemine - destruction and hope.
Today we passed through a village that had seen fire and death, and yet it gave us food and hope.
We had no food last night, and awoke to a bleak prospect. As mentioned the men and ship had departed. Though we scoured the beach upon which we had landed, there was nothing there of any assistance. There was some discussion concerning our best options. It was decided to head due south. Moth has an image of the map in her mind, and with Erethor's expertise there is a slim chance that we may survive. Even so it may take somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks to reach the river and civilization.
In days past my short legs and lumbering gait have been a small thing, a mild amusement for my companions, and I could join in their humour. Now however it is a thing of direst consequences. At first Erethor carried my shield for me, and this aided my speed, but as the depth of snow increased, so our progress became less and less. I have had to swallow my pride and allow Erethor to carry me over some of the harder terrain for the good of the party. I cannot afford to slow them down. Every extra day that we stay in this bitter cold is another day closer to death.
On our way south we came across a village. The local natives are called Lossoth. Unfortunately this was not to be our chance to meet or trade with them. The village was empty, the people dead. We were able to stock up on food, meat and fish, and we have had a large fire and cooked much meat which we can carry with us. At least, the temperature being what it is, none of the food is likely to spoil.
We have not made a fire this night. I have had to melt the ink a little by warming it tucked inside my furs. We warmed ourselves well yesterday, and ate well also. Erethor is eeking out the food in order that it will last for the expected length of our journey. Tonight we had only half rations, although, unknowing, we ensured that Moth had much more. She has no fat upon her, and being of low human bloodline, is suffering more from the cold than the rest of us. Erethor did a fine job creating a bivouac for us, but always the cold gnaws at my bones. Aule be with us.
The morning greeted us with fresh snow. Moth slept badly last night, and Erethor woke with frostbite. He used his own rangers healing skills to cure himself, however it is a taste of things to come. Tonight we are in a cave that Erethor has found. Additionally Erethor succeeded in killing a young Caru, a type of small elk, during our travel. Were it not for the ranger, we three would maybe be dead already. His skills have been essential, and my respect for his abilities grows daily. We have a fire, and its warmth is like the golden light of Aule himself. We have all eaten our fill, and feel enlivened.
We have found people, Losoth. We are now in a hut in their village. The last 2 nights we have spent as prisoners, but now there is a degree of trust and understanding I believe.
On the 5th there was no snow, and we made good progress. The cold was starting to really affect our faces and hands, so we wrapped them in strips of cloth to protect them. The village appeared first as raised mounds in the distance, but soon we heard the bay of the sled dogs, and people came to meet us. They were unfriendly and armed with harpoons. Eventually we met a scarred young man who spoke Westron. He told us to relinquish our weapons. This we did. We were bound and gagged, and placed in a guarded hut. Although I had no intention of making a run for it, or indeed of stirring up trouble, I broke my bonds as quickly as possible that I would be free to act should the scene turn bloody.
As we had passed through the village, at harpoon point, we had seen many activities, scraping of skins, preparation of food, and the like. The buildings appear to be made on a frame of whale and moose bone.
A man who identified himself as Lufson came to us, and spoke to us in Westron. The town's people were to hold a meeting to discuss what was to be done with us. He fed us a little meat, and left us for the night.
On the morning of the 6th Lufson came to us again, and fed us a little more meat. And I was taken to the meeting to represent my companions. In their great hall, roofed with arched bones and skins, their headman, their King, argued with 2 young men. One whose name may be Culnen was trying to persuade the group to kill us. The other argued that we should be freed. There was also a man from the destroyed village who, thankfully, confirmed that we were not responsible for the slaughter of his village. I said my piece, and was led back to the hut. It seems however that Culnen was not so happy with these democratic processes. We were woken in the middle of last night by a disturbance. Culnen came to the hut with murder in his eyes. He was stopped. Finally Lufson came to us again, and informed us that we were free to go. He loosed our bonds, what there was of them. We slept more at ease once we knew that the danger was passed.
And today, the 7th, we have learned much and discussed much. We have seen Lufson, and the Elders, including Tremani. We have bartered for a sled and dogs, although it turned out that we would be unlikely to be able to control it or them. Erethor offered his longsword as barter. Moth offered trinkets and herbs, but the Lossoth were far more intrigued by the offer of a divination. Moth divined that there were Lossander, big deer, 4 days to the North West. Yawinawen offered her extensive musical skills.
We have stayed with the villagers all day. Erethor went hunting to learn their ways. I met and worked with their hide worker. Yawinawen has sung and played, and started to learn some of their songs.
Later this afternoon Moth tried some further divining with the help of the tribe's elderly seer, and a strange yellow liquid. I rushed to her side to help her as she was gibbering and shaking, but was assured that this was how their seers saw visions. I think Moth's techniques are safer. She may pass out from time to time, but at least she is unlikely to bite her own tongue off.
Aule be praised. We have made alliances in the wilderness, and will undoubtedly be able to leave here with food and guidance.
Although tonight's supper was cold, and the bivouac aromatic with the smells of skins and bodies, yet we are happier. We were sent on our way from the village today with 4 days worth of additional food, and warm fur gloves. The afternoon has been clear and bright, and our spirits are lifted. Lufson spoke to us after breakfast. The village is yet to decide what to do about Culnen. It is, however, clearly for the village to decide.
The village's oldest woman it was who told Tremani that it was our destiny to leave the village today, and on foot. We agreed with her.
In addition to the food and gloves, I now carry a waterskin that I made with the aid of the village's leatherworker.
9th Nenime - Of Bears and Spies.
It is late. There are bears in the cave beneath us. We have come across a most unusual residence.
We trudged on through the day, travelling uphill for some time. Yawinawen seemed to feel the cold today more than usual. As the light began to fade we came across a cave. There were two signs. One was the bear tracks visible leading up to the cave, and the other was a small unobtrusive symbol scratched into the wall next to the entrance. I had not seen its like before. Moth recognised it as a spy symbol, by which messages could be left. Disconcertingly Yawinawen was able to recognise it. She says that it translates as "good place to rest". The more we learn of Yawinawen, the less I trust her.
We could see above the bear cave, in the rock, there were holes, windows, and beyond them a smooth walled space with furniture. It was clear that we would have to sneak past any bears that may be in the cave in order to reach this haven.
Erethor entered the cave first, and all seemed well. Then as I listened I heard a cry, cut off sharply. Something had gone wrong. I informed Moth that there was a problem, and she used her mind magics to both locate Erethor, and speak with him. She is a very handy lass to have around!
Erethor had fallen into a pit, a spiked pit. The three of us decided to head in, to rescue the fallen ranger. We could smell the bears and hear the low snoring, but managed to finally locate the hole in the back wall of the cave. Beyond was a manmade passage. I nearly awoke the bear or bears by kicking a stone, and I know not whether the "bear noises" that Yawinawen was making were a pro or con. I think that it is well that northern bears sleep so deeply.
Along the passageway we found stairs ascending, but no pit. Moth mind-spoke to Erethor once again, and discovered that he was on the steps when he fell. I managed to locate the trapped step, and, holding onto Yawinawen for safety attempted to set off the trap by kicking the step. This procedure did not work. I did manage to set the trap off shortly afterwards however, by turning around and accidentally stepping on the step. The trap door swung open, and I fell, landing on Erethor at the bottom of the shaft. Fortunately the spikes are old and well spaced, and we both missed their points. Neither of us was hurt, although I admit to being somewhat embarrassed.
Erethor had a rope upon his person, and passed it to Moth and Yawinawen by attaching it to an arrow, which he then fired back up the shaft. Once the rope was secured it was a simple task to climb up, pull the rope up, and kick the catch to release the stairs and secure them in place. I think that Erethor may have bruised or strained himself in the fall, as he climbed with some difficulty.
At the top of the stair was a door, upon which was a line of text of a language unknown to me. Moth checked the door for traps, and did not find any. Fortunately Yawinawen was able to read the text, which apparently says "don't turn the handle, just push". This we did, and thus we are here.
The room is a large oval chamber, with a window on the opposite side. There are many items here. It is difficult to tell when last the room was occupied. The trap on the stair is clearly able to reset itself, and the cold means that little degrades. We have found a bed, and a cabinet, white coats and trousers, a telescope, firewood, animal hides, cooking pots, a pair of ski's, 24 candles, 2 lanterns, an empty oil flask, 2 maps of Northern Eriador, and some 8 jars containing some herbage in liquid. I had to explain what the skis were, as even Erethor had not come across this idea, but some of my kin in the far northern ranges use similar contrivances.
In addition there were 3 journals. They are yet to be read, but I would surmise that this is indeed a spy outpost. It is well hidden, well stocked, and the telescope, an expensive item, was here for the watching of something or someone. Let us hope that the journals contain the answers.
Aule be praised for once again leading us to shelter in this cold harsh land.