I thought we working our way through the MERP module, Goblin-Gate and Eagle’s Eyrie from ICE. Our DM of course is a tricky fellow and has created his own adventures around the same locations, so there are no spoilers below.
“So I’m packing my bags for the Misty Mountains
Where the spirits go now,
Over the hills where the spirits fly, ooh.
I really don’t know.”
— Led Zeppelin, Misty Mountain Hop
Our party had successfully killed two stone trolls and rescued a farmer’s son, so we had gained some fame in Maethelburg (for which we are using the map of Aberwyvern from David Macaulay’s Castle). From the sale of the troll treasure and the rewards garnered from the farmer and the local authorities, each party member had 36 silver marks. Tum drank himself silly and spent the first hour of play unconscious under the table. Jor gathered a number of free drinks by telling (and retelling, and retelling!) the story of our battle, while Araluth and Elentari sipped their wine and conserved their money (we still don’t have horses!). A guard in the pay of Aldarion, Captain of the Maethelburg Guard, summoned the Dunedain to talk to his master, who praised the Araluth and Elentari for their actions. Aldarion also shared his prejudices against the upcoming marriage of Eledan (son of Duke Valandil, a Dunedan) and Freya (daughter of Theign Osric, a Northman). While Araluth agreed with those prejudices (his family had long believed in marrying among the Dunedain, and he had been fortunate enough to find Elentari as his wife), he noted that the marriage was one of both political advantage and love, so it was a positive thing. When they left Aldarion’s chambers, they met Meneldur, the Duke’s seer, who questioned them about what Aldarion had said, and then offered to met them at the inn later.
Returning to the inn, they found Jor wrapping up, and the party was joined by Hamrammr, a Northman warrior seeking work. A wine merchant approached him and us seeking our employment as caravan guards on his annual trip to Moher in the foothills of the Misty Mountains. We agreed. Later, Meneldur joined us and identified the ring and dagger we found in the troll cave as being ancient items of Numenorian make. The ring was a +5 ring of protection, and went to Elentari. The dagger was a +10 throwing dagger of returning, which went to Tum.
In the morning, the party headed west on the north shore of the Sirros River, arriving at the keep of Tir-barad Doncirith (“Watch of the Dark Cleft” in Sindarin, though the humans call it “Watch Tower of the High Pass”) on the second night. From there they headed south to Moher, but on the way came across a massacre site. 30 men and 4 women of the Northmen were slain by Hillman arrows, and their caravan looted. The pennant of Theyn Osric still flew over the caravan, so it was clear that this was Freya’s bridal party headed for Maethelburg. The rangers investigated the site and discovered no tracks of attackers and also noted that the arrows did not seem to have come from a distance but instead were likely fired at close range and odd angles. Araluth surmised that the party was killed by someone they knew, probably a guard sent from Maethelburg, and the slaughter made to look like the Hillmen. Osric and Freya’s bodies were not found, so there was still hope for them.
The party returned to Tir-barad Doncirith where Araluth reported to Halidan (the Capt. of the Guard), and also spoke to the Dunedain he sent to Maethelburg to inform the Duke, and to the Northmen traders who left to tell their own people. To each he asserted that the attack was not the work of the Hillmen, though he made it clear he had no love for those people. He explained that the attack had been made to look like the work of the Hillmen, but that the true attackers were not yet known and that retribution would likely be against the wrong people if taken now. The Dunedain listened; the Northmen did not.
The party headed back to the ambush site and this time Elentari found a trail of broken branches (but no markings on the ground) heading west, which they followed. Tum found a helmet with a skull & moon sigil on it, similar to the emblem they had found on a shield in the trolls’ cave. They followed the trail for two days, but lost it in a rocky valley and were forced to turn back.
Back at Tir-barad Doncirith, they encountered Meneldur again, who told them of a hidden valley called Imlad Fuin (Sindarin, “Valley of Gloom” — there is another Imlad Fuin in Southern Gondor), which was ruled by a mad mage in the Second Age. His men used the skull & moon sigil, and he served Sauron. Meneldur told of a “Crooked Way” used to enter the hidden valley, and Jor, after spending the night reading Meneldur’s book on the subject, pointed out that there were three tests that had to be passed to enter the valley. The party shuddered when they heard the tests were likely tests of intelligence (not the party’s strong suit). Accompanied by the ranger Morwen, who knew of the location of the obelisk mentioned as the key to finding the Crooked Way, the party headed back into the Misty Mountains quite near where they had lost the trail the first time.
Finding a rough set of stairs carved into a cliff, they climbed the 500 feet up to the entrance to the Crooked Way, with Morwen staying behind to watch the horses nearby and await their hopeful return. The first test was quickly found, and the party trapped within by a sliding stone. They found themselves on of metal grillwork making up a human barbeque, with the flames rising as they attempted to solve a puzzle. Most prepared for the inevitable, but Tum tried to force his body into a tiny hole while Araluth kicked him out of the way in hopes that the ledge might be large enough to prevent immolation. Meanwhile, Elentari handily solved the puzzle, and the party was ready to continue.
The module, by the way, was created by Carl Willner back in 1984-1985, probably for about $1000. Unvisible Citedal has an interview with Carl where he talks about his work and how he was person who named Maethelburg.