NAVAH: The Winter Wolves

A new party started in Navah. Ian Fantron (warrior from Gardall) led two mercs from Anthavar — Josette (Spiritologist) and Ignar (burglar) — into the snowy hills to track six wolves that killed a little girl recently. Ian brought 2 guard dogs and a hunting dog. Josette brought a Selkie, a horny demon, and a small fire elemental. On their first foray, they rescued Gurney, the survivor from the previous merc group, who had been hiding in a tree for 2 days. His three comrades (Jerak, Lorosh, and Farttal) had been killed by the wolves, and his stories put fear into the party, and they refused to go out again by themselves. Ragnil (town guard), Brice (Ranger), and Francis (Ranger) went out with them, and set wolf traps with silver tracings around the tree. The wolves chose that moment to attack, and in the battle Brice put one down, Ignar put another down, and Ragnil put down a third. Francis went down with an abdominal wound, and Ian shot into melee, killing the one guard dog that had been attacking the wolves.

The party went to follow the two survivors and found that Ignar’s wolf was gone. They began tracking it, but Ian stayed, convinced by a fumbled roll that the wolves had gone a different way completely. As a result, the three surviving wolves circled back and came after Ian. The other guard dog ran for its life, but the hunting dog tackled one of the wolves and got its leg broken defending his master. Ian proved his worth, and killed three of them. One of them he killed twice, because it got back up and started fighting him. When the rest of the people arrived, he was hacking off its head, just to be sure.

The party returned to town, where the two mercs from Anthavar received 200 s. for their effort and Ian received a pat on the back. He was pissed, and started complaining, a LOT, despite the fact that Ragnil and Brice were giving him big props. He was complaining so much that I made him roll 1d10 when Stanbern came to reward him with a lovely +2 to hit, +1 damage backsword. If he had rolled low, Stanbern would have been offended and not offered the sword, but he rolled high, and got his sword, which made him much sunnier in disposition.

There’s one more winter wolf out there, and the party hopes to kill it before winter festival. Next time.


PS: As a test of the revised Journeyman system, the adventure worked very well. Combat went very fast but each hit still had character and added to the roleplaying, thanks to eliminating hit points and instead using four levels of wounds. Plus it all worked with the existing information both in Combat and in the Foes description. Kudos to MERP for inspiring the changes!

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TRAVELLER: Trojan Reach

Our party was small — just myself (a Vargr corsair with 2 Starburst for Extraordinary Heroism) and a Qwab (Newt) diplomat on Pallindrome. We were embedded with 2nd squad in the servant of Baroness Gloriana, along with another Vargr, and a bunch of humans. Our first week we avoided a bar fight one of the locals attempted to goad us into, and Biwa (the Qwab) order a biwa at the local music store. Next week, both squads struck a deserted downport that was being used by human smugglers from Theev. It was an easy strike, and we took out their two laser emplacements first, then kneecapped anyone not dropping their weapons. They dropped their weapons quickly. Turns out they were trying to harvest pharmaceuticals from the bio-engineered plants that were producing atmosphere. We captured 80 smugglers, a modular cutter, and an ATV, among other things, for our employer. That earned us a 3,000 cr. bonus. Nice.

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TRAVELLER: Preparing for Old School game in Trojan Reach

So we’re getting ready for a Classic Traveller game set in the Trojan Reach. I dug around and found my copy of Galactic 24c so I can act as navigator on my laptop, where I’ve installed dosbox. I’m looking forward to it. Now I need to roll a Vargr character. Hope he survives character generation! Ah, the thrill of Traveller.


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MERP: The Most Fun I’ve had in Years

In the MERP campaign, our players explored the dungeon under the castle, after killing the orc guards last time. Elentari healed herself, Hammrammr, and then Araluth. Then we barricaded the doors up, then searched the orcs for money, and then freed the three Northmen prisoners held captive. The Theyn and his daughter were not among them. We armed the Northmen with orcish swords and shields and then returned to the storerooms, instructing them to build rafts of the barrels and rope in the storeroom so we would have an escape route should things go poorly. We tied the handles of the double door together (there were orcs on the other side) and then ascended the spiral stairs. The next level held the tunnel where the cave troll was being held, the door barred on our side and dire orcish runes against removing the bar were incised above it.

A group of orcs came down from above, and we gave battle, killing the first three and then engaging another four. Jor cast a lightning bolt into one orc, and then pulled back waiting for another chance. Araluth yelled “Free the Troll” to Jor and Tum. Tum assented and Jor went to help, and then had second thoughts and tried to stop Tum. Jor fumbled, fell on the floor, and screamed at Tum as the hobbit opened the door to the Troll lair. Tum vanished up a set of stairs on the other side of the room, the opposite direction that Araluth had hoped (Araluth had expected them to come back and take shelter in the spiral staircase where the troll couldn’t reach). Jor stood indecisively long enough for the troll to notice him and give chase. Tum came back to find out what was happening with Jor, and also was noticed. Both ran up the stairs and almost into the five orcs coming down. Tum and Jor went left and entered the dining hall just as the five orcs left it and went down the other stairs and ran into the troll. Two orcs died, and the rest chased Tum and Jor.

The troll munched on the dead orcs, but then heard Araluth singing “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” in Sindarin very loudly and came to investigate. Hammrammr had fought the orcs upward, and two of them were now in the room with the troll. He ate them, though they tried to escape, and the other orcs ran up the stairs while the warriors went down, with Araluth getting one cut in on the troll’s hand as it reached for them in the stairs.

Pursued by the remaining orcs, Jor cast Shade, which did little. Tum cut open his backpack in hopes that the orcs would fight over the silver he had stolen from the party several sessions back. Then Jor and Tum fled again, closing a door in the face of the sole orc still pursuing them. They found themselves on the balcony of the cathedral, and after bracing the door with chairs, Tum lowered himself over the side and slid down a rope. Jor waited too long and was forced to fling himself over the rail, where he pancaked 30 feet below and exploded his lungs and heart. Using a Fate point, he tried that again, this time climbing down the rope. At the bottom they found themselves in the cathedral where they had seen a Northman slaughtered and eaten by the troll. Not good. Even worse, the portcullis was down. Tum squeezed through but Jor could not. Tum tried to sneak up on the troll, and failed, then tried to slide through his legs and died. Another Fate point, and this time the hobbit made it back to the spiral stairs, which he proceeded to descend.

Unbeknownst to him, four orcs had come up from the dungeons after the warriors, who now were hiding in the storage room. Araluth spilled his provisions on the stairs going up, and left the bag, as if someone had dropped it while running upward. The warriors closed the door to the spiral staircase and then hid on either side in case the orcs entered the storeroom. Luckily, the orcs followed the bait, and now were aimed straight at the descending hobbit.

Araluth led the warriors to the rear of the ascending orcs and with huge bonuses, managed to muck it up again. The warriors became locked in a battle with the four orcs, managing to kill one as they fought in retreat.

Tum heard the orcs and turned around, running upward, going higher and higher in the tower.

Jor was dismayed when the orcs raised the portcullis, which summoned the troll back to its lair. He ran under the portcullis and then was forced to hide himself in the troll feces when the creature returned. It went past him and he then stood up, realizing that the orcs were closing the double doors that sealed the troll in with him. Screaming and covered with poo, he ran out among them, fumbled, and found himself at the bottom of a pile of orcs while a few more barred the troll back into its lair.

Final scores so far: 17 orcs killed, 3 Northmen rescued (for now). And so much ridiculousness that we were laughing hysterically most of the time.  Good times!

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Enjoying “The Expanse”

We started watching The Expanse this weekend, and are greatly enjoying it. A complex story with few major problems (so far). It is a SyFy channel series, and is a hard sf space opera involving a Cold War between Earth and Mars, with the Belters caught in the middle and unhappy about it. Best of all, it is a Traveller campaign set at about TL12, but without jump. The player characters are a cashiered Terran Navy officer, a Mars Navy veteran, a brawny Merc raised in a brothel, a cowardly Medical Officer on the run from his drug dealers, and a skilled and beautiful Engineer who may have ties to the Belter terrorist organization. They start off in a dodgy old mining pinnace, and quickly upgrade to a military 200 ton frigate, complete with Martian battle armor and 12G acceleration. So if you like Traveller and hard sf, you should check out the series. We watch it on Amazon Prime. I liked it so much I’m going to start reading the books it is based on by James S.A. Corey (a pseudonym for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).

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MERP: The Dark Dark Valley

The party faced two more challenges from the mad wizard, namely a room that threatened to electrocute them and then another that tried to freeze them. In both they solved the puzzles of the crooked way and so came to a dark wood in box canyon five miles long and three miles wide. The valley was perpetually in gloom due to a malevolent mist that hung over it at all times. A well-traveled footpath led from the Straight Path (at the cliff’s bottom) to a tall castle surrounded by a 100′ foot deep chasm and perched precariously on a single spire of rock. The party entered with much trepidation, walking straight through the front door for lack of a better idea. Avoiding wargs and orcs, they did not enter the keep itself, but circled it, coming at last to the back where they lifted the hobbit up to a ruined cathedral window. Inside, he saw a cave troll chase and devour a Northman while over 50 orcs applauded and cheered from the balcony. The party went to the rear terrace, and slipped over the side to avoid the wargs which had now spotted them and were barking away. They dropped 50′ into the winch room, and then made their way through the storerooms, killing 4 orcs. Then down a long winding stair to the dungeon, where they killed another 5 orcs. Hammrammr was killed by a large orc in chainmail, and so was forced to spend a fate point. And there ended the night.


Next time, we hope to rescue the Thain and his daughter, return up the spiral stairs and use the barrels in the storerooms to make our escape from the winchroom into the river and away.

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MUTANT WORLD: A Problem for the Party

At the end of the game last week, the party was stopped by a force that turned anything that crossed the final feet of the tunnel into a cloud of powder. Here’s the problem they face:

A mile-long steam tunnel leads down to the upper level of an open area that is well-lit. The last few feet of the tunnel feature a unique feature. An angled area of the tunnel looks much fresher, clear of any moss or dirt, and perhaps a little deeper than the rest of the tunnel. A pair of human boots lays at the edge of the area,  with a skeletal tibia and fibula sticking out of each. The bones are cut off cleaning, as if with a hacksaw, just where the floor changes color. Looking around one finds other similar artifacts: a rat’s tails, bugs cut in half, etc.  The angle of the area indicated that whatever was doing this was to the left, out of side around the corner of the corridor, and probably on the ceiling of the next space. The top of the tunnel is the same height as the ceiling of the next area.

The party begins experimenting by tossing sticks into the area, trying to throw them past the opening of the area beyond. Initially there was a scraping sound and then the thrown item disappeared in a puff of powder. When they continued their experiments, there was no scraping, but the items still disappeared. They put a hatchet into the area. The metal part of the hatchet was unaffected, but the handle disappeared, including the part inside the hatchet blade, which was fully surrounded by metal. A metal sheet was put into the area next, and was unaffected. They tossed a rock in, and it was unaffected. When they put a piece of wood behind a rock and shoved it in, the wood was disintegrated. After testing with various rocks, they found that a foot of stone would protect the wood. They hypothesized they might built up a pile of stones that would stop the unseen force. I ruled that piling up rocks would take a pretty long time. They have a mile long tunnel they would have to traverse, and the pile would not be just one foot thick at the base. I estimated it would take them about 16 wheelbarrows of rocks and 8 hours to do the job, and without a wheelbarrow or a ready pile of rocks, it would take about 4-8 times as long, which meant 3 to 6 days of work, working 12 hours each day.

An alternate plan of using the pyrotechnic fuse blasting caps they had found to tunnel through the concrete walls of the tunnel and go around the force. This had several problems. First, these caps are very small explosives, and they probably don’t have enough of them to do the job. If they returned to Mourne to purchase explosives, it still might not be a good idea to blow up sections of the material that keeps the hill from falling on them.

So, they have observed that non-organic objects seem unaffected by the unseen force, but organic objects, even sticks and rope, are utterly obliterated. As they continue to experiment, they notice that sometimes the item behind thick steel will be unaffected, at other times, it will be completely destroyed. The inorganic material does not reliably shield against the force. They hypothesize (Molecular Understanding) that the inorganic material does not so much stop the force as deflect it. For whatever reason, they don’t think it reliably protects them, which makes them worried about the tunnel walls themselves. They also suspect (Sense skill) that the rock they put in the danger zone as an original test is getting thinner, but they are not yet sure. The only mirror they have is a signal mirror, which has a hole in the center for directing the beam. Still, they put the mirror into the area, being careful to aim the reflective surface away from them. The stick supporting the mirror again disappears, but much slower this time. They can actually see the stick dwindle and then disappear, gnawed away by an invisible force.

Please feel free to offer suggestions to the party about how they can get around this obstacle. I’m not sure they actually can!

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MERP: Eastward to Ostenfeld

After their abortive efforts at Eagle’s Nest last time, the party headed south on the trails and then eastwards, following the missing scouting party of the year before. They encountered thicker vegetation than they expected, so they took a side trip to Sittard to pick up falchions and other other instruments. On the way there, they encountered a Soul Besh, or rather, the Soul Besh encountered the front grate of a grav truck traveling at 45 mph. It survived, but just barely, and dragged itself into the forest while the party cleaned a lot of gunk off the windshield. On the way back, the bear was attacked by a Buzzer (Giant Wasp) but they fought it off.

After travelling east and chopping vegetation in the August heat, the party was approached by a voice in their heads, a voice that emanated from Berberis, a mobile and sentient Warty Barberry. Berberis warned them of the Blue Winseen they were about to enter, and the two Parn that lay beyond. Wrench burned the Winseen with his radiated eyes, and finished it off by building a fire on the final five foot ring. When the Parn attacked, they tore through Growler’s force field and did great damage to both Growler and Wrench before they died. Afterwards, the party found the bodies of three of last year’s scouts and their gear, and Berberis explained that Rowlff and Phero had escaped but never returned.

The party brought Berberis with them. Their next encounter was a river that needed fording. The grav truck could cross, but not the mechanic’s cart they were towing behind it. A hasty raft was built and the cart put on it, with the grav truck pulling it into the water. The tow rope snapped and the raft headed downstream. Wrench jumped overboard thinking he would tow it to shore, but he forgot he was wearing all his armor and metal equipment and went straight to the bottom. He cut off much of his gear and managed to make it to the surface, where Berberis rescued him with telekinetic flight. Meanwhile, Corinne tried to use the truck to stop the cart, forgetting that the truck floated about two feet off the surface and therefore began to push the cart off the raft rather than pushing the raft. She backed off, and tried a number of stratagems to direct the raft to the opposite shore, with Berberis joining her in that effort as the raft floated across the lake downstream. They reached the other shore, but like Wrench before her, Corrine jumped into the water and slipped on the rocks as the raft ground over her. She managed to squirm out before she drowned, and then she and Berberis managed to hook up the cart again and tow it to safety some hundred years upstream on the shore and then 100 yards inland, where they found another overgrown trail (or perhaps the same one?). When they recovered, they took the grav truck back across the lake and picked up Growler and Wrench. The whole time, I was rolling for lake encounters. Everyone knows that the waters of Mutant World are one of the most dangerous places to be, but no encounters came up, despite many rolls for them.

That night two Dabbers fooled Wrench into giving three power cells to the “Spirit of the Glade.” They also stole items out of the truck’s glove box. The party would not leave the truck unlocked again. In the morning, the truck was able to show the faces of the thieves (captured by its cab camera) to its owner.

A bit wiser, the party continued on to Ostenfeld, an enormous village surrounded by dangerous plants and protected by hundreds of spear-wielding warriors with six arms. Boipelo, a PSH and one of the Council of the Six, came out to speak with the party and convinced the rest of the Council not to kill them that night. Instead, Boipelo argued that they might be useful allies, and pumped the party for information before frankly telling them that the party would not be allowed into Ostenfeld until they proved their worth, especially because they were accompanied by a bear from the north, where they had heard of the attacks by Spartak on PSH settlements.

The night ended with the party continuing south on the trail, and happening across a steam tunnel that under normal circumstances would have been unseen. They hid the truck, put Glysock inside of it, locked the doors, and camouflaged it. Berberis stayed with the truck because he did not function well in the dark, but Corinne, Wrench, and Growler entered the long tunnel. At the end they were stopped by a force that turned anything that crossed the final feet into a cloud of powder. The party will spend the next week or so until the next game trying to think of a solution.

The party was supposed to encountered Ostenfeld much earlier in their careers, when they were less well-armed and therefore less suspicious to the Council. Sheldon had led the party west rather than east, so their arrival was delayed long enough for them to be viewed as a threat. Luckily, they were not ambushed by the 400 warriors that might have attacked if Boipelo had not convinced the Council to wait and see.

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MERP: Westward, to the Misty Mountains

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.

Cover of Goblin-Gate & Eagle's Eyrie

“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 the person who named Maethelburg.

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MERP: 1st Adventure in Middle Earth

We started a new campaign today in the northern reaches of Gondor, in the March of Maethelburg. Mike was the DM, with a modified MERP rpg system. The characters were Araluth of Rhudaur (Dakin), a ranger; his wife Elentari (Jennifer), also a ranger; Tum Hardfoot (Ryan), a hobbit thief; and Joranilithin of Rivendell (Ben), a half-elven mage. Uniformly down on our luck, we met in the proverbial inn, and offered our services to a drunk farmer who claimed trolls were raiding his land. He offered us 42 s. for the service, and since we had nearly 1 s. among us when we put our coins together, that looked pretty good.

Arriving at his farm, we learned that Rub, his son, had been abducted the night before. There were only a few hours before dusk, but we tracked the troll to a cave in the mountain. A huge rock blocked the entrance, so our efforts at an ambush were delayed. Araluth used Lofty Movement spells to limb-run into position in the trees, while Elentari and Jor climbed trees on the other side of the clearing. Not one, but two trolls emerged (Bert & Ernie of course) and prepared a fire and some mutton before eating the tasty manflesh in the cave, which we assumed was Rub.


Tum snuck into the cave and, after plundering the gold in the chest, found another rock blocking Rub in a small cave. After berating Rub for not freeing himself, Tum left the poor sot to his fate, and emerged from the cave. Rub strained until he actually did free himself, and stumbled afterwards.

Meanwhile, Araluth, Jor, & Elentari ambushed the trolls, doing minor damage. The trolls shook the trees of the three, until Araluth prepared another limb-running spell and drew them away by taunting them from the trees. Jor and Elentari started to land hits on Bert, so he turned back to attack them. Tum decided to climb up Bert’s back, and found himself hanging from Bert’s loincloth, his face in Bert’s crack. Bert didn’t notice. Elentari killed Bert with a well-placed shot, and the troll fell backwards onto Tum, trapping his leg. Ernie heard Bert’s anguish cry and ran up to him. Tum hid deeper in the loincloth, failed, and then ran through Ernie’s legs, escaping. Ernie turned his attention to Elentari, who fell from the tree when he shook it. He then pummeled her mercilessly. Ben snuck down from his tree and tried to keep Rub from coming where the troll could see him. Araluth shot uselessly from the trees until he abandoned his bow and drew sword and shield as he descended to earth. Meanwhile Tum returned and severed the troll’s spine, causing him to fall on Elentari this time. Araluth delivered the coup de grace and rescued his wife.

And there we ended for the night.

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