Mid-May, TE 2946
The Halls of the Elf-King, Mirkwood
The Companions, a group of young, daring heroes, gathers outside of the Halls of Thranduil, the Elf-King of Mirkwood. They wait upon word from community leaders, who have come to attend a gathering of a Council of Rhovanion – which aims to guide the recovery of the Wilderland following the death of Smaug the Mighty.
After a few days of waiting, it is apparent that the elf guards will only be admitting the senior members of the envoys and boredom quickly settles in. They are relieved to meet Halfdan of the Lake, a Lakeman they have all met previously.
Despite his friendly demeanor, they are quick to discern his worry over some matter. Querying him, they discover he worries over some missing traders. They were due to meet him upon the road but never appeared. As the trails they travel are perilous, he is preparing to set out to find whence they might have gone. Noting their interest, he speaks plain and tells them he would appreciate their company upon the journey. They quickly agree and set out the next day, after informing other members of their delegations.
The journey is fairly easy. Early spring the trails along the eastern shores of the River Running are in bloom. As they progress further south, the journey becomes more rugged and a strange lack of game means the party begins to go hungry.
On the evening on the fifth night, they spot a steading – by its looks of Beorning build. Astrythe recognizes it as the hold of Halmar Kinslayer, a renegade from Beorning justice (who killed his brother over a woman). Grimbald had participated in the pursuit through the Mirkwood some two years prior.
Realizing the presence of a Beorning might agitate the “bandit chief”, Grimbald decides to take shelter outside – Halfdan stays with him. At the gates of the holding, the group negotiates for food and provisions and are put up in the barn. Halmar appears gruff, but not unwelcoming. Outside the gates, a skulking patrol of orcs happens upon the cold camp of the two companions. Halfdan hides, but Grimbald issues a roar of challenge. As the number of orcs appears greater than he might have thought, the two warriors flee.
From within the holding, the bellow is clearly heard and everyone gears for war. Grimbald and Halfdan make for the holding and is greeted by a glowering Halmar. His is clearly angry at the companions for deceiving him about their company composition, but is calmed by the group and grudgingly offers hospitality to Grimbald – but his must sleep with the dogs – a punishment for sending “soft Bardings” to buy food and avoid a conflict.
The following day, Ravyn offers to fix the roof of the steading as payment. Halfdan is anxious to be off, but agrees with paying the debt of hospitality. Though Halmar is originally adamant against it, Ravyn’s persuasive voice (and the scowl of Halmar’s wife) convince the chieftain to spend the day hunting. The companions all pitch in and make many necessary repairs and are rewarded with a marsh deer supper provided by Halmar and his hunters. After an evening of songs and news, the companions retire.
They set out on the road the next morning. By changing Halmar’s disposition they manage a boon: Halmar gives them directions, helping their travels. Leaving the steading behind, they are convinced they have left behind a holding that may not be friends, but at least are not enemies.
Following the broken trail south, they come upon the wreckage of two carts just two days after leaving the steading. It is obvious it has been attacked: a broken blade lies near the cart and there are claw marks. The hunters in the party cannot identify the beast which made them. The carts themselves appear unspoiled – toppled, but not plundered. A broken trail marks the path the attackers left upon.
After securing what valuables are left in the wagon, the companions follow the trail into the marsh. After nearly a day of travel, they spot a hill in the distance through the stinking mist. Kelda’s Old Lore identifies this place as the Amon Aegcarch (Hill of Sharp Teeth) – a mythic place with a reputation of great magic.
Undeterred, the companion press on and up. Approaching quietly, they surprise a hunch-backed creature with great claws. Ravyn knows this is a marsh dweller – a form of undead created by Sauron’s curse upon Mirkwood. Braving the unknown, they attack the creatures with arrows. The arrows find their mark and the creature falls into a pit at the apex of the hill.
The hurry up to see. There they find an old foundation and a great sinkhole. The edge of the sinkhole is scarred with many claw-marks and blood stains the area. Below they can see a drop (of about fifty feet) to water-filled cavern below. Directly below the sinkhole is a small island and the broken form of the creature lies there. Ravyn drops a torch. In the darkness they see movement.
Halfdan is anxious for the lives of the carters and digs rope out of his pack. The companions debate the wisdom of descending into a den of the creatures. Steeling his nerve, Grimbald and Halfdan prepare to descend the rope into the cavern while the rest of the company covers them with arrows…