The Queen of Shadow - A Fourth Age Campaign

By Anders Blixt — Hägervä­gen 16, 122 39 Ens­kede, Sweden

Publi­shed in Other Hands #5

The cha­rac­ter of Aelin­dur, daugh­ter of Sauron, was crea­ted (without any RPG inten­tions) in 1989 by my friend Kathrin Ves­ter­gren. She had limi­ted her story to the Second Age, being somew­hat uncer­tain about what Isil­dur and Elrond would do with Sauron’s daugh­ter when she was dis­co­ve­red in the ruins of Mordor (per­haps sen­ding her to Amon to stand trial before Manwë). I, on the other hand, sug­ges­ted ins­tead that Aelin­dur would go into hiding in the East without being iden­ti­fied by the Lords of the Free Peoples, only to return from exile in a later Age to avenge her father’s defeat.

This pos­si­bi­lity was tou­ched upon brie­fly in part of my Beyond the Third Age” article in Other Hands 1 : 16–19. Here I offer a far more detai­led des­crip­tion of Aelindur’s plots and schemes, and of the gene­ral situa­tion in nor­th­wes­tern Middle-earth in the 151st year of the Fourth Age. It is inten­ded to serve as a star­ting-point for a series of adven­tures in these later tur­bu­lent years. The cam­paign would be inter­es­tin­gly open-ended, since the player-cha­rac­ters’ actions would have great bea­ring on whe­ther Aelin­dur suc­ceeds in her fell plans or not (Why not make them feel the weight of the world’s fate on their shoul­ders, just as Frodo did?).

I sang a night, a moon­lit night
of airy sea in dance
I sang of storm which made itself
to my mental lance
From beyond moon, beyond sun
power came to my mind :
on the beach beside Numen’s waves
arouse a necro­man­tic wind.
It blew under the stars
in Mordor’s night
to Barad-dûr on Gor­go­roth —
the black for­tress wall
where despair’s shadow broods hea­vily
each harsh and gloomy year —
and swept all around the steel towers :
thus died all hope of spring.

Northwestern Endor : FA 151

The reu­ni­ted King­dom of Gondor & Arnor pos­sesses de facto hege­mony over nor­th­wes­tern Endor. For­mally, the sister realms pos­sess the lands bet­ween the Ered Luin, Foro­chel, the Misty Moun­tains, Ephel Dúath, and Umbar (apart from the inde­pendent but allied state of Rohan and the semi-auto­no­mous Shire). In prac­tice, howe­ver, the King’s autho­ri­ties exer­cise very little control over the Dun­nish tribes of Ened­waith and each harsh and gloomy and swept around the thus died all hope of Drú­waith Iaur and the natives of spar­sely popu­la­ted Haron­dor.

Although united under the same monarch, Gondor and Arnor retain sepa­rate legis­la­tive, admi­nis­tra­tive, and mili­tary esta­blish­ments. King Elda­rion resides in Minas Tirith and has appoin­ted his son and heir Elda­car to the posi­tion of Vice­roy of Arnor at the rebuilt capi­tal of For­nost Erain. Tra­di­tio­nally, the King tra­vels north every summer to brie­fly sojourn in his nor­thern lands.


Arnor remains a spar­sely popu­la­ted land des­pite the King’s encou­ra­ge­ment of Gon­do­rian colo­ni­za­tion through advan­ta­geous taxa­tion poli­cies. Its popu­la­tion cen­ters are Lake Even­dim, and the Baran­duin and Lhûn val­leys. Its only major city is For­nost Erain, though there are serious plans to rebuild Thar­bad, whose bridge has already been re paired as has the Green­way run­ning from For­nost Erain to the Gap of Rohan. There is also a new for­tress at Wea­ther­top, built by the Dwarves of Moria some decades ago.


Gondor has chan­ged little since the War of the Ring. Ithi­lien is gra­dually being re-popu­la­ted under Prince Boro­mir, son of Éowyn and Fara­mir, who rules his fief from the newly built capi­tal Ost-in-En-Ernil in the Emyn Amen. Imrahil’s grand­daugh­ter Wil­wa­rin is Prin­cess of Dol Amroth and fief-holder of Dor-en-Ernil. Her cousin Edra­hil is Cap­tain of the Knights of Bel­fa­las. Minas Tirith’s for­ti­fi­ca­tions were repai­red and streng­the­ned by the Dwarves of Agla­rond in early Fourth Age, and the city is now the most well-defen­ded loca­tion in the region.

The city of Umbar and its rural sur­roun­dings are ruled by a gover­nor (cur­rently Prince Boromir’s bro­ther Beren) who is directly res­pon­sible to the King. The region has been slowly rein­te­gra­ted into Gondor’s ter­ri­tory, but King Elda­rion believes it will take more time before it can be turned into a regu­lar pro­vince of the realm. He is wor­ried about seces­sio­nist stri­vings among its locals, since the lea­ding citi­zens of Umbar, even without the inter­fe­rence of Sauron, clearly have other poli­ti­cal prio­ri­ties that Minas Tirith : Gondor looks to the nor­theast while Umbar looks to the south.


The Rid­der­mark has grown stron­ger over the past cen­tury due the demise of its sur­roun­ding foes in the War of the Ring, though the life­style of the riders has not chan­ged (apart from a gro­wing pride which occa­sio­nally takes chau­vi­nis­tic appea­rances). The realm is cur­rently ruled by the third King of the Third Line, the aged Elf­helm, son of Elf­winë. Out­side the Horn­burg, there is now a gro­wing town which serves as a center for West­fold. The Dwarves of Agla­rond have a thri­ving busi­ness in tools and wea­ponry, which they exchange for food and other sup­plies from the locals.

The Dunlendings

The Dun­nish clans are the domi­na­ting Man­nish group in the area bet­ween the Gwathló, the Misty Moun­tains, the White Moun­tains, and the Sea. Tech­ni­cally, they are sub­jects of the Winged Crown, and their chief­tains have occa­sio­nally expres­sed words of loyalty to the King in Minas Tirith. In prac­tice, they follow their own lea­ders and tra­di­tions. In secret, most harbor strong hatred towards the Dúne­dain and the Rohir­rim for denying them what they consi­der to be Dun­nish rights. Gondor de facto only controls the Green­way, the rest of the region being the natives’ turf, where unwary foreign tra­ve­lers have some­times disap­pea­red without a trace.


After the War of the Ring, King Eles­sar gave the land of Nurnen to its slaves. They esta­bli­shed the King­dom of Lith­lad, a den­sely popu­la­ted agri­cul­tu­ral coun­try. It is clo­sely allied to Gondor, and the popu­la­tion has a strong pro-Dúna­dan atti­tude in conse­quence of their recent libe­ra­tion. Gor­go­roth, howe­ver, is an aban­do­ned was­te­land. As far as eve­ryone knows, Sauron’s stron­gholds top­pled when his power was broken, and Oro­druin sleeps.


The peoples of the upper Anduin vale, Eryn Las­ga­len (for­merly Mirk­wood), the plains of Rho­va­nion, and Dor­wi­nion have resu­med many of their ancient contacts with Gondor. The disap­pea­rance of Dol Guldur’s Shadow has opened the region for trade and growth, and the North­men main­tain their old friend­ship with Gondor.

Rhûn and Harad

Little has chan­ged in the old realms of Rhûn and Harad. Their inha­bi­tants view Gondor with mixed fee­lings and worry about the pos­si­bi­lity of rene­wed Dúna­dan domi­na­tion, howe­ver bene­volent it might be. Many of the realms have long tra­di­tions of figh­ting the Dúne­dain and such cultu­ral memo­ries will linger for many cen­tu­ries.

The Elven Lands

The Elves of the Fourth Age show little concern for the affairs of Mor­tals, kno­wing that their power has waned with the depar­ture of their migh­tiest Lords and the des­truc­tion of the One Ring. Elves domi­nate four regions during the early Fourth Age : Lórien (which includes the sou­thern Eryn Las­ga­len, or East Lórien”), the nor­thern Eryn Las­ga­len, Lindon, and Riven­dell.

Ella­dan is Prince of Lórien. His Silvan-popu­la­ted realm encom­passes the ruins of Dol Guldur, which is kept under tight sur­veillance1. King Thran­duil conti­nues to rule his nor­thern woo­dland realm, which has suf­fe­red little change since the War of the Ring, save for a reduc­tion in the number of giant spi­ders and other fell crea­tures in the area. Lindon, whose people main­tain the Havens from which the Elves depart for Aman, is ruled by Círdan. Elro­hir has assu­med the posi­tion of Lord of Riven­dell, which conti­nues to serve as a refuge for the very few Noldor and Sindar that still dwell east of the Blue Moun­tains.

The Dwarven Realms

Moria has been re-popu­la­ted and is once again the most impor­tant Dwar­ven set­tle­ment in nor­th­wes­tern Middle-earth, and the Dwarves of the Blue Moun­tain dwindle in number as many migrate there. Agla­rond has grown into a small but pros­pe­rous enclave, while the Lonely Moun­tain and Iron Hills retain their former impor­tance.

The Servants of the Shadow

Sauron’s down­fall did not bring about the com­plete end of his ser­vants. Orcs and Trolls sur­vi­ved in many places, espe­cially in their moun­tain stron­gholds at Gun­da­bad and else where in the Hithae­glir. Since the War of the Ring, they have lacked a strong leader and have been redu­ced to squab­bling among them­selves, and the­re­fore do not pose a major threat to the Free Peoples. This, howe­ver, does not spell an end to the per­io­dic Orkish raids upon the upper Anduin vale. There is talk of Dra­gons and other hideous crea­tures in the nor­thern wastes, but they have so far proven mere rumors. But mat­ters might not be so well.

The Dark Queen

In the Second Age, Sauron came to the Elves of Hollin as Anna­tar, Lord of the Gifts, clai­ming to be an emis­sary of the Valar. Many belie­ved him, among them Celebrimbor’s sister Ariel, whom Sauron sedu­ced. Soon after his final depar­ture from Ere­gion, she bore a daugh­ter, Aelin­dur. Ariel died and the child was brought up by her uncle.

Many years later, when Sauron’s armies seized Celebrimbor’s smithy, Aelin­dur was cap­tu­red and brought to Mordor, where she was given a man­sion to dwell in by the shore of Nurnen. In its garden she culti­va­ted evil herbs and stu­died Nature’s lores. She fled to the East at Sauron’s defeat at the end of the Second Age, and went into hiding. Over the cen­tu­ries, Aelin­dur has become almost as evil as her father, if not as power­ful2.

When Sauron fell in the War of the Ring, Aelin­dur saw an oppor­tu­nity coming. The most power­ful foes — Gala­driel, Elrond and Gan­dalf — depar­ted from Middle-earth. The only cur­rent serious oppo­nents are the three remai­ning Istari, but of these only Rada­gast resides in nor­th­wes­tern Middle-earth, and his inter­est is mainly direc­ted to the nature. Pal­lando and Alatar long since depar­ted for eas­tern lands. Hence she would have no signi­fi­cant com­pe­ti­tors, or at least so she thought.

Her Dark Dreams

Unlike her father, Aelin­dur pos­sesses nei­ther a state nor an army, but ins­tead re lies on her black arts and cun­ning to achieve her ambi­tions3. She intends to in fluence the thoughts and actions of indi­vi­duals by fell means. She knows some very power­ful mind-ben­ding spells. Aelin­dur desires to throw Gondor into domes­tic chaos and then seize control over the rem­nants, using dis­con­ten­ted Sou­thron and Dúna­dan noble­men as her pri­mary tools.

When the Hara­drim revolt under the lea­der­ship of her priests, many Gon­do­rian nobles will turn against the King and civil war will ensue. The royal line will perish and many conten­ders will vie for the throne, cau­sing much hard­ship for the realm. Aelin­dur intends to appear as Gondor’s savior,” usurp the throne, and begin a long-las­ting Dark reign.

Aelin­dur pos­sesses the immor­ta­lity and patience of the First-born, and resides in the ruins of the ancient Númenó­rean harbor of Lond Daer at the mouth of the Gwathló (a loca­tion chosen so that both Dun­nish and Sou­thron agents can reach it easily), pre­ten­ding to be an ere­me­tic Elf4.

From this dwel­ling place, Aelin­dur care­fully pre­pares her schemes and pon­ders on reports from her trus­ted under­lings. Occa­sio­nally, she has to travel to some impor­tant place, since there are vital actions that her hench­men are unable to per­form. The most impor­tant ones being the appli­ca­tion of her sor­ce­rous will-brea­king with which she can compel loyalty in mor­tals5.

Ideological Strategies

Aelin­dur has clan­des­ti­nely esta­bli­shed a variant of Sauron’s old Mel­ko­rian cult among Gondor’s nobi­lity. Its priests preach the coming of a Moon Prin­cess, who will save the Dúne­dain from their cur­rent decadent ways, rees­ta­blish their ancient Númenó­rean powers and might, with death­less­ness for loyal fol­lo­wers6. Ano­ther variant of the cult is suc­cess­fully prea­ched among the Hara­drim, spea­king of oppo­sing the Dúne­dain and retur­ning to Sou­thron tra­di­tions7.

Military Strategies

Rohan’s éoherë is a serious pro­blem for Aelin­dur, because it is the most power­ful cavalry unit in nor­th­wes­tern Middle-earth and the Hara­drim are unable to field a mat­ching force. It must be neu­tra­li­zed or des­troyed, and Aelin­dur pur­sues seve­ral stra­te­gies to achieve this. One is to deve­lop a severe horse plague, a scheme which Aelin­dur would pursue from Lond Daer8. Ano­ther stra­tegy is poli­ti­cal : to entice the Dun­len­dings to once again strike at wes­tern Rid­der­mark to regain their ancient pos­ses­sions9.

Aelin­dur also tries to invent gun-powder wea­pons10. Saru­man was wor­king on it before he per­ished and Aelin­dur has lear­ned of his ambi­tions when visi­ting the ruins of Isen­gard. She believes that mus­kets and guns will have good effects on battle for­ma­tions and for­ti­fied posi­tions, espe­cially if they appear as a sur­prise. That research pro­ject is under­ta­ken by some dis­content Dwarves that have been recrui­ted by the lure of wealth and power, who work in an aban­do­ned set­tle­ment in sou­thern Ered Luin.

Troubles in Arnor

While Arnor lacks the strength to suc­cess­fully inter­vene in a Gon­do­rian civil war11, Aelin­dur never­the­less seeks to divert the atten­tion of any poten­tial nor­thern allies (inclu­ding the Beor­nings of the upper­most Anduin vale and Thran­duil). To this end, she has attemp­ted to streng­then the Orcs of Mount Gun­da­bad, in order to make them appear as signi­fi­cant a threat to deter Arnor’s Vice­roy from sen­ding an army to the aid of Gondor. Aelin­dur has also sent agents to look for Dra­gons in the far north12.

Development and Climax

The most chal­len­ging way to run this cam­paign would be to let the player-cha­rac­ters fight Aelindur’s schemes, though ini­tially not having the fain­test idea what they are up against. The PCs should per­haps not belong to the crust of Gondor’s poli­ti­cal elite, but rather to its middle layer, some of them being noble­men. The fol­lo­wing is an example how the cam­paign could be star­ted.

There are strange rumors coming out of Harad. Prince Boro­mir sends a team of trus­ted under­lings (the PCs) to Umbar to col­lect infor­ma­tion from Gover­nor Beren. When they reach the city Beren has just been mur­de­red under mys­te­rious cir­cum­stances, cau­sing wor­ries among the Dúne­dain. The PCs start inves­ti­gate the mat­ters and finds clues of the Great Queen cult.

When they return to Ithi­lien and tell their story to their patron, they sud­denly find that a lot of other noble­men are beco­ming cold or even hos­tile towards them. The PCs have acqui­red a number of see­min­gly uncon­nec­ted poli­ti­cal adver­sa­ries. This should be a bait for a conti­nued inves­ti­ga­tion, which, though dogged with nume­rous obs­tacles, would lead to dis­co­very of the Moon Prin­cess cult in Gondor.

Howe­ver, they are run­ning short on time for Aelindur’s plans are soon to mate­ria­lize. Inter­es­tin­gly, the PCs ini­tially do not know who their chief enemy is, nor does she know that the PCs are pur­suing her. Whe­ther they will find out about her before she learns of them depends enti­rely on how the adven­tures deve­lop. Suc­cess­ful players might be able to nip Aelindur’s plans in the bud, while less for­tu­nate ones would end up figh­ting in the civil war13. Aelin­dur hopes that her plans will mate­ria­lize approxi­ma­tely as fol­lows below :

Main events of the campaign

  1. The Sou­throns revolt and mas­sacre all Gon­do­rians they find. The local Gon­do­rian gar­ri­sons are in serious trouble.
  2. King Elda­rion orders the mobi­li­zing of an army near Pelar­gir to deal with the Harad troubles. Rohan is asked to pro­vide help.
  3. As King Elf­helm assembles an éoherë at Edoras to send to Gondor, the horse plague strikes the camp and kills most of Rohan’s war-horses.
  4. As Gondor’s noble­men mobi­lize their levies to send them to Pelar­gir, many of them rebel and ins­tead make war upon the King. Some seize impor­tant for­ti­fi­ca­tions by stra­ta­gem. A new Kin-strife has begun. (The rebels may also sud­denly pos­sess a lot of new fan­gled wea­pons never seen before in Gondor.)
  5. The whole royal family (pre­fe­ra­bly inclu­ding Prince Elda­car in For­nost Erain), is mur­de­red. There is no clear suc­ces­sor to the throne — the per­fect cause for a long civil war.
  6. The Dun­len­dings attack Rohan. (That does not require much inci­te­ment when they hear of the Forgoil’s horses dying.)
  7. The Orcs of Mount Gun­da­bad attack eas­tern Arnor to prevent an inter­ven­tion in the conflict. (Alter­na­tely, a Dragon strikes For­nost Erain.)
  8. Chaos ensues. Aelin­dur simply waits for an oppor­tune moment to step forth and take com­mand, using the armed might of ens­na­red noble­men to sup­press dis­content.

The Returning Helper Theme

(CF. OH 4 : 17–18)

In Other Hands 4, Gerrit Nuck­ton dis­cus­sed the recur­rent return from exile” theme in Tolkien’s works, brie­fly com­men­ting on its appli­ca­tion to this cam­paign. With refe­rence to my ori­gi­nal treat­ment of Aelin­dur, he sug­gests that one of the heroes of Arda’s past Ages, such as Elrond, Gala­driel, or Gan­dalf, might sur­pri­sin­gly return to Middle-earth to assist the Free Peoples in their struggle against the Dark Queen14. Per­so­nally, I would sug­gest that either Elrond or Rada­gast are selec­ted as hel­pers, or that the game­mas­ter intro­duce an enti­rely new NPC of his own design.

Rada­gast seems to have played a fairly small role during the Third Age, and it may well be that he is some kind of sur­prise kept hidden by the Valar. Consi­der the fol­lo­wing : Sauron was asso­cia­ted with the ele­ment of fire and so was Gan­dalf, the Wizard that even­tually became his chief adver­sary. Both Rada­gast and Aelin­dur are asso­cia­ted with the forces of nature and the ele­ment of earth.

Elrond is ano­ther good choice since there is plenty on him in The Lord of the Rings. He is fami­liar to the players and it is easy for the game­mas­ter to role-play him. Howe­ver, he is less power­ful now when Nenya has lost its power. Elrond is asso­cia­ted with the ele­ment of water and the game­mas­ter can easily modify parts of the des­crip­tion of Aelin­dur above to change her affi­lia­tion to that ele­ment, too. The retur­ning helper should act as Gan­dalf did during the Third Age : as an advi­ser with no inten­tion to compel his allies. It is still the res­pon­si­bi­lity of the peoples of the Fourth Age to defeat their foe.

  1. Men are not wel­come to visit Dol Guldur, since Ella­dan fears that there may be Sau­ro­nic secrets still hidden below the rubble. 

  2. Since she is part Noldo, she is bound to her phy­si­cal body. 

  3. She has grea­ter know­ledge of and talent with of magic than any Elf (save per­haps Lúthien, ano­ther Maia-Noldo child). 

  4. She radiates so much power that she cannot pre­tend to be a mere mortal. She has hidden most of her abode very well and see­min­gly lives in a modest cot­tage. Unlike most of Sauron’s ser­vants, she docs not fear the ocean (Per­haps Ulmo no longer inter­feres with the events of Middle-earth.). She knows how to sail and she has gone to many places by sea. 

  5. The game­mas­ter can use ano­ther lite­rary source as ins­pi­ra­tion when pre­pa­ring this cam­paign : the Mule in Isaac Asimov ori­gi­nal Foun­da­tion tri­logy is to a some extent com­pa­rable to Aelin­dur and cer­tain of his methods and talents can easily be moved to Middle-earth. 

  6. Their mes­sage is fun­da­men­tally the ideo­logy and dreams of the King’s Men of Núme­nor seven thou­sand years ago. Aelin­dur has not for­got­ten how effec­ti­vely her father used those ideas to topple the then migh­tiest realm in the known world. 

  7. Even­tually, the Sou­throns would break the sha­ckles of the North­men under the lea­der­ship of the free­dom-giving Great Queen” and retake what was lost one and a half cen­tury ago. 

  8. Aelin­dur is well-versed in animal and plant lore, and knows some of the secrets behind the Great Plague that the 1630’s of the Third Age devas­ta­ted much of Middle-earth, so she will pro­ba­bly not have to work for before fin­ding what she wants. 

  9. Aelin­dur uses the same methods that Saru­man once did : poli­ti­cal machi­na­tions and pro­pa­ganda to ignite the Dun­len­dings’ ancient hatred for the Straw­heads.” 

  10. This idea may feel too modern to suit many game­mas­ters’ and players’ concep­tion of Middle-earth. It is not impor­tant for the plot so feel free to remove it. 

  11. Both because of its small popu­la­tion and the hos­ti­lity of the Dun­len­dings. 

  12. If she could esta­blish contact with such a beast, she might per­suade it to strike For­nost Erain at an oppor­tune moment and create a grand diver­sion for her. 

  13. The shrewd Aelin­dur might actually feed the PCs false infor­ma­tion to divert them from the right track and turn them into her unwit­ting tools. 

  14. This idea is good and can cer­tainly be used the game­mas­ter ; howe­ver, one should consi­der some limi­ta­tions men­tio­ned in the pri­mary sources. Gan­dalf states clearly that his mis­sion has been com­ple­ted by Sauron’s down­fall and acts accor­din­gly. Gala­driel is par­do­ned by the Valar for wha­te­ver she did during the Flight of the Noldor in the First Age and is per­mit­ted to return to Vali­nor. Hence, it seems unli­kely that she once again would go to Middle-earth. 


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