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 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.
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.
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
- The Southrons revolt and massacre all Gondorians they find. The local Gondorian garrisons are in serious trouble.
- King Eldarion orders the mobilizing of an army near Pelargir to deal with the Harad troubles. Rohan is asked to provide help.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- The Dunlendings attack Rohan. (That does not require much incitement when they hear of the Forgoil’s horses dying.)
- The Orcs of Mount Gundabad attack eastern Arnor to prevent an intervention in the conflict. (Alternately, a Dragon strikes Fornost Erain.)
- 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.
Men are not welcome to visit Dol Guldur, since Elladan fears that there may be Sauronic secrets still hidden below the rubble. ↩
Since she is part Noldo, she is bound to her physical body. ↩
She has greater knowledge of and talent with of magic than any Elf (save perhaps Lúthien, another Maia-Noldo child). ↩
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. ↩
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. ↩
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. ↩
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. ↩
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. ↩
Aelindur uses the same methods that Saruman once did : political machinations and propaganda to ignite the Dunlendings’ ancient hatred for “the Strawheads.” ↩
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. ↩
Both because of its small population and the hostility of the Dunlendings. ↩
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. ↩
The shrewd Aelindur might actually feed the PCs false information to divert them from the right track and turn them into her unwitting tools. ↩
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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