Ûvatha the Horseman
Chris Pheby — Hadspen Cottage, Hadspen Castle Cary, Somerset 11A7 7L11 England
This MERP adventure is spawned ly a simple mishap, but presents complex problems into which the characters (preferably strangers) are thrown. The player-characters are given the chance to meet one another, gossip and pick up rumors. Very quickly, they will realize that there is evil afoot and that dark things have stirred in a nearby forest. Together, they must find a missing child, battle with Trolls, and even pursue Ûvatha the Horseman, one of the nine Nazgûl.
Sounds difficult? That depends on how the problem is tackled. The characters are given a chance to discover how their tactics and planning might affect the final outcome. For those used to a simple dungeon-bash, they will not get that here. Assuming their common sense prevails, this scenario can be completed by three to five characters of fifth to seventh level, and should last between three and five hours. Timing plays a vital role in this adventure, because the time available to the characters for realizing their objective is limited.
“Curtains rise” on the 13th of October, T.A. 3017. It’s a wet, blustery day on the Great Road joining Rohan and Anórien. The common room at the Inn of Greys billed as the first and last inn of Rohan is understandably crowded. Imagine The Prancing Pony, and you’re nearly there.
A Tale of Two Trolls and a Nazgûl
Gnash-nash and Bognog are a pair of Hill Trolls who just want a little peace. Having fled their home in the Drear Hills in an attempt to escape the raiding scum of the White Hand, the two Trolls have found refuge in the Firien Wood of Anórien, where they have holed up in an abandoned cave.
For a brief while, they found the peace that they sought, being able to live off the odd sheep, rabbit or even bear they happened upon. They weren’t bold enough to sample man flesh, but at least none of the Horse-men tried to catch them, although one ferret-like man did follow them to their hole.
All this changed a few days ago when the Eye of Sauron found fit to call upon them. Ûvatha the Ringwraith had been sent to ensure that they weren’t wavering in the cause of Mordor, and was prepared to use violence to bend them back to his will if necessary. He had one simple task for the Trolls: to find him a suitable steed. The reason for this was very simple Ûvatha had lost his mount shortly after crossing the Anduin in the course of the hunt for the One Ring.
This unfortunate accident was quite unusual. The animal died from fatigue, for all nine had pushed their horses too hard in a desperate race for Sam Ford. Ûvatha’s comrade Khamûl helped him as far as the Mering Stream, but could not afford to tarry much longer as his own horse was also about to expire. A rendezvous point beside the Isen was arranged, and Ûvatha was left to fend for himself.
The Ringwraith quickly sensed the presence of the Trolls, and made himself known to them. They were stupid creatures indeed, but smart enough to obey him. While Ûvatha watched the road for a suitable black steed, the Trolls hunted for food and guarded their new, if temporary, master. In a short time, the Ringwraith had devised a plan to acquire a new mount.
Ûvatha espied the very traveler he required: a horse-trader on his way to Minas Tirith with seven fine Rohirric steeds. The traveler stabled his horses at the Inn of Greys and, later that night, Ûvatha and his newfound minions staged a raid, stealing two horses.
All was going smoothly until the raiders were spotted by the innkeeper’s young son as he was emerging from the latrine. Ûvatha had the lad abducted as a suitable reward for the Trolls’ loyalty. Once out of sight of the inn, Ûvatha examined the newly acquired horses, allowing the Trolls to kill the one he found to be of no use and hiding the other in a nearby valley in preparation for his ride.
Unless events force an earlier departure, Ûvatha plans to leave the area at dawn on the 15th of the month. Should the player-characters fail to locate the innkeeper’s missing son over the course of the preceding two days, Ûvatha will leave his hideout and ride like the wind for the Fords of Isen to rendezvous with his brethren (in which case, the adventure will be effectively over at least as far as the Ringwraith is concerned). With Ûvatha gone, the characters will be able to attack the Troll-hole in relative safety, though Trolls are not the easiest of opponents.
Gnash-nash thought his luck had changed for the good until the frightening Dead-thing came. He knows that the Rider will only attract the Dúnedain a choice between two evils but there’s no choice but to do what it says, though he’d like very much to get away from Ûvatha. Bognog, his companion is extremely dim-witted (even for a Troll) and is content to attach himself to Gnash-nash and let him do the thinking. He isn’t even frightened of Ûvatha and thinks that his bravado even impresses the creature foolish thing! He’s quite happy here, and his current preoccupation is his expectation of making a hearty meal out of the innkeeper’s son.
The Inn of Greys
The Inn of Greys is a favorite of travelers along the Great West Road, and tonight is no exception. The blustery autumn winds are setting in, bringing with them the rain and biting cold temperatures. This is the norm for this time of year, but for many the journey is one that cannot be avoided. Inside the common room, bleary-eyed travelers exchange glasses and make small-talk. Although early, it seems that for many the arctic cold outside is but a passing memory, and the evening is already merry. The ale taps are open, and a warm fire blazes in the hearth. A few quieter ones shiver by the fire.
“Built by three brothers in T.A. 2745, the Inn of Greys rests on a shelf of rock beside the Firien Wood Bridge. Here, the Great West Road crosses the Mering Stream, which forms the border between Rohan and Anórien. All around the three-story inn is the Firien Wood. A nearby stand of huge, peculiar grey oaks, once holy to the Drúgs of the forest, gives the Inn its name. Sixty feet below the Inn and the road, the stream tumbles over mossy rocks on its way toward the Mouths of the Entwash… Only comfortable rooms grace this well built, grey-stone structure (Riders of Rohan: 55).”
Acquainting the characters
A good way to start the adventure is to encourage the player-characters to introduce themselves to one another. Depending on their temperament, the characters may be crouched around the fire, or seated at the bar or around a table although they might avoid the bar, being relatively hard up! Once greetings are complete, they will have an opportunity to get their bearings and mingle with the other guests.
The other travelers are a varied bunch, and can be brought into contact with the characters as needed. On the whole, attention should be drawn to their carousing, drinking and laughter, so that the characters are encouraged to join in. It is important to keep the characters plied with drink and food, as well as highlighting the spirit of the room. Once the characters are very drunk, the way is open for embarrassing and potentially unfortunate events. Should an unprecedented combat develop, second to fifth level warrior stats should be used for the antagonists.
The innkeeper and his family
Leofric, the proprietor, will be the first to draw the characters into conversation with the other guests. He will stroll past them with a tray of drinks, his hearty cry of “Ale!” rising above the throng. “Here we are, sirs. My, you look a little bedraggled.” He offers a chair. “Here, nestle down by the fire.” Leofric is capable of a continuous stream of conversation, and will repeatedly question the characters about their journey, errand and well-being.
Although often mistaken for a Rohir because of his blond hair, Leofric is in fact of mixed Dúnadan descent. He has lived here with his family for many years and is always at home, despite the bustle. One thing Leofric can’t abide is weapons. If any are openly displayed, he will ask that they be kept under the bar (where he keeps his club). Leofric himself has seen a good many fights in his time, and can handle himself if he needs to. He may be treated as a 5th level Warrior/Fighter.
The innkeeper’s daughter, Leosine, may be of particular interest to male player-characters. She is a comely lass (Ap 87) and a bit of a flirt, being none too concerned about her father’s presence. This aspect of her character should be used to the full to distract characters and prevent their venturing outside and who would want to? In this respect, Leosine’s presence is essential, because it will help prevent the characters from discovering and preventing the kidnapping of Leofric’s son, Leorl, by Ûvatha and the Trolls.
Aris, Leofric’s wife, will not be seen in the common room until after Leorl’s abduction. Prior to that event, she will be around in back locking the stables, cleaning the floors, tidying rooms, or in the kitchen or cellar, and will be unavailable for more than momentary conversation. Not much will be seen of Leorl either. The characters might remember him as “the quiet, young one, seated in the corner all evening; not really sullen, just sober.”
Leorl is a skinny youth, young but determined and hard-working. He is well-liked by his family, although customers find him a bit odd. He doesn’t seem to enjoy drinking and dancing as much as they do, perhaps. Shortly after Leosine departs with her newfound friend, he too will depart.
Hansen, a local Brewer, is as drunk tonight on his own beer as his customers are. He is a balding man in his late thirties, and has a large paunch which he does nothing to hide. His main role is as a figure of fun he cavorts about, upturns chairs, walks into doors, attacks the floor and makes uncalled-for remarks. When he begins to wear a bit thin, he collapses into merciful unconsciousness.
Angris is a cartographer who has traveled from Minas Tirith in order to map the Great West Road, between Rohan and Mundburg. He is a young man with black hair and a short but equally black beard. He is putting the finishing touches to his map during the evening, and will drink only small amounts of beer early on in the evening. He is able to stay pretty much sober. After about two hours, Angris will pack up for the night (What work he has left can wait until the morning). He will then actively seek conversation with the characters, and will proudly display his Steward’s Commission and nearly complete map. Angris is a 3rd level Bard.
Harlswine is the horse-trader whose steeds have fallen prey to Ûvatha. He was traveling to Minas Tirith with seven horses for the depleted cavalry battalions there. Rohirric horses are worth gold dust in these parts, and he is confident of a good sale. Devious characters may consider stealing one of Harlswine’s fine steeds (lesser war-horses); but be warned, they are guarded at all times by a servant (4th level warrior). Harswine won’t let many people know this, so would-be thieves may get a nasty surprise.
Also in the common room are several regulars local yokels with a penchant for haranguing, menacing, insulting, or even roughing up anyone who doesn’t “give as good as they get” ample opportunities for a brawl. On the other hand, anyone who leaves a good impression may gain their confidence and, perhaps, some rumors as well.
Breaking up the party
Shortly after dark, as the locals are beginning to filter home, Aris comes running into the room. She is a slightly chubby matron, and has reached her early forties. She shouts loudly across the room several times: “Leorl!” When there is no answer, she bangs on the table several times until there is quiet in the room. “Has anyone seen Leorl?” she asks. Some drunken reveler at the back continues to sing and Leofric throws him out, giving him a kick to help him on his way his wife is obviously distraught. Everyone else watches him silently.
The first to leave the room is Harlswine, making some excuse about checking up on his horses. No one else moves. If the characters remain, then Leofric pronounces the bar closed, and the remaining Yokels file out, leaving only the patrons who are staying for the night (or longer).
Shortly after this, Harlswine returns. Léofric stares at him accusingly and everyone knows what the stare means. Harlswine is unperturbed, and he has a strange story to tell:
“The reason I just left the common room was to check up on my horses as some of you may know, I am a horse-trader and was traveling to Minas Tirith. I say was, because two of my horses are missing, and the others are aggravated. My own servant whom I set to guard these beasts saw nothing, him having taken a rest in his room, reckoning that none of this crowd, pardon the language, kind sirs were thieves. I am afraid he was wrong. One amongst us is a thief and a kidnapper.”
Everyone will now be suspecting everyone else of theft, abduction, or both. Harlswine will try to answer any questions as truthfully as he can, but the following warrant particular notice:
“Was the stable open?”
“No, the doors were forced open.”
“Which horses were taken?”
“One grey, one black.”
“When did you servant return to his room?” “One hour ago (he says).”
The servant can provide one valuable piece of information. He passed a young man as he was returning from the stables, and saw him walking in the direction of the latrine hut. This last piece of information will not be revealed unless absolutely necessary, since the servant is now under suspicion of horse-theft and because he at any rate failed to guard the horses. Although smart characters might assume that Léorl himself took the horses, they don’t know how wrong they would be!
Léofric has one final solution. He locks the door, tells everyone to go to their rooms, and prepares to sit up all night, waiting for his son’s return.
Tying up loose ends
If anyone takes a trip outside to the latrine, they will find that the hut is undamaged, but outside the door there is evidence of a scuffle: a snag of cloth on the wood, which the proprietor will correctly identify as his son’s. There is an area of deeply rutted mud around the stables, and a Hard (actually –40, due to poor light) perception roll will identify deep booted footprints. An absolute success will reveal two large taloned footprints, different enough only to be from two creatures of the same species.
One final dilemma with which the characters may have to cope is their state of drunkenness. Everyone unless they took care not to drink at all will be drunk. The question is, how drunk? Each player should roll 1D100 against their Constitution. If successful, they will suffer a penalty of 15 to all Ag, Ig, It, Pr, Em, Me, Re, and Sd based skills until they get a night’s sleep. A failed roll increases this penalty to –25, and means that the character will awake the next morning with a splitting headache, suffering-10 to Ig, It, Em, Me, Re and Sd based skills for the remainder of that day.
Before we finally go to sleep, let’s consider one final aspect of the evening. Rumors and gossip are omnipresent throughout the night and will persist straight through the morning after and beyond. They all but increase after Léorl goes missing — that is the way rumors occur.
The twelve rumors (see table below) may be dropped into conversations at optimum times (Rumors 8 to 12 should only be used after Léorl vanishes.)
The morning after
When the characters get up the following morning, things will not be going too well. They may be suffering from a bad hangover, caused no doubt by the previous night’s merrymaking. On top of this, they are all potential suspects for kidnap or murder or horse-theft. Smart characters may already suspect the truth, and this morning will serve to confirm it (if they are quick enough!).
Most characters will want to take a look outside. As before, a Hard (-10) perception roll will reveal the booted footprints outside the stable, with absolute success revealing the two Trollish footprints (for that is indeed what they are). A second Hard (-10) perception roll will reveal that the booted footprints lead out of the stable yard and towards the road.
A tracking roll will be needed to follow the trail any further. This will be Very Hard (-20) because, in addition to the subsequent rain and poor weather throughout the night, the culprits have taken care to disguise their tracks. However, if a success is achieved, the trail will be found to follow the river for about a hundred yards, at which point the tracks vanish. If anyone thinks to cross the river and search the far bank they will find, about fifty yards further downstream, the body of the grey, trapped in some concealing reeds on the far bank. It has been partly eaten. A Light (+10) perception roll will reveal that whatever ate it was very large.
These new discoveries will clear everyone’s name and save a lot of time pursuing innocent revelers from the inn. It will also give characters the opportunity to equip themselves and plan a foray into the woods. There is only one other place where the characters might possibly collect information, and if this doesn’t occur to them, have one of the NPC’s suggest it.
This is the beacon tower which lies on a low foothill near the source of the Mering Stream: the Halifirien beacon, the seventh and last of Gondor which now marks the border with Rohan. As the characters approach the beacon tower, their first sight will be its crenellations towering sixty feet above the tree-tops. This is clearly a well-fortified place, and must offer a commanding view of the area. A bend of the stream, and they are there.
To reach the beacon, the characters are advised to follow the stream until it becomes clearly visible through the trees. The irony of this is the very fact that in doing this they will be walking right above their quarry (see below). Not only are the soldiers at the beacon a good source of equipment, but they have some useful advice and are in any case interested in the elimination of the Trolls.
Halifirien is part of the most heavily wooded area of Rohan. However, both the Great West Road and the Mering Stream cut through here on their way to Minas Tirith and the Entwash respectively. There are numerous caves in the foothills, many of which are inhabited. Several Wose-tribes inhabit the mountains above, though they are also drought to inhabit the forest as well.
The rich flora and fauna that may be encountered within the Firien Wood is certainly worth comment. Wild Boar and Grey Wolves lurk in the deep forest, and Grass Cats are often seen close to the road, along with the deadly Green Asp on warm days. From the higher mountains, black, brown or blue bears often descend to search for the nests of ground bees, which are rich in honey. Trout can be found a plenty in the waters. Other animals include red and white foxes, and myriad birds. It is thought that there are Great Eagles in the higher mountains.
- The roads are becoming more and more dangerous I lost two guards during this journey to bandits. I don’t know if I’ll attempt the journey again unless I have to.
- Angris The Drear Hills are not a good place mark my words. All manner of fell things come from them, and mar the horse-lands. A real pity, but what do you expect of a place so close to the Great River.
- My cousin Hal said he saw an elm tree walking up in the mountains. Hah! Sounds about as likely as the war!
- Hmm, if it’s horses you want, I’d try the Halifirien beacon they always have horses there, but watch out, as things are they’d probably sooner shoot you.
- very drunken person If I could do what I really wanted to, I’d build a cabin in the mountains fish, keep bees and hunt boar.
- If you find yourself venturing into the forest, keep half an eye on the stream you can always follow to find your way back here.
- Listen here; but listen well, for these things don’t deserve to be said ’loud, like. I’ve stayed here a week now, and I’ve realized something I shouldn’t when I first arrived this place was silent with fear, for the Black Riders had passed that very day. Everyone was dumb-struck. Now, if I know the stories right there are Nine Wraiths, and one’s not accounted for. Well, I expect that you can draw your own conclusions.
- Leorl was always a quiet boy. It’s quite possible that he did actually run away. But that would show a pretty devious mind, wouldn’t it? And why would he take two horses?
- I’ll bet this tankard there’s something we don’t know about Harlswine and I know I’ll win.
- Remember what I said about the Riders? The Wraith did this I know. May the Valar save us! Ilúvatar’s final hour is nigh!
- Someone here did this if only we knew who!
- Serves the idiot right, I bet th’Trolls did it. Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Haaaa!
The halifirien beacon
The Halifirien beacon is one of the signal-towers of Gondor that run along the northern flanks of the White Mountains. “The towers replaced earlier platforms, which were little more than open fireplaces. Tall, stone structures, the signal-towers were designed as watch-towers and way-stations, and had accommodation for small, resident garrisons. Fire cages crowned their roofs, permitting the watch-men a means of signaling the neighboring stations. Twenty-five miles apart, they could relay a fire-light distress call from Ostiras to Minas Tirith in less than one half hour (Riders of Rohan: 52).”
Halifirien is vital in the beacon chain, being the last of the beacon towers before Rohan. It was erected there in T.A. 2510, after Cirion the Steward removed the hallow of Elendil from its summit. In recent years, the Halifirien beacon has seen constant use, and is untouched by the decline of Gondor. Nevertheless, by order of the Stewards, the path leading to the beacon has for a long time been left untended with the result that it is extremely well hidden at both ends.
The tower is tall, and its hard-faced stone rises to a great height. Upon the battlements, appearing little larger than a pin, lounges a lone sentry. He doesn’t appear to notice the characters for a while, but before they can call him, he turns and loudly demands their names and business. Any legitimate reason will have the guard scurrying downstairs.
After an agonizing wait of several minutes, he will appear and open a small iron-faced door in the tower’s base. He is about thirty coal-haired and tired. He is an unfit middle-aged man who came here for a quiet life and little else not one of the famed Gondorian soldiers.
He and his three comrades have served at the beacon for a number of years, and are experienced if aging warriors. They use broadswords, daggers, long bows, and wear chainmail, greaves and shields. They are prepared to offer five gold crowns for substantial news of the Wraith. Though they obviously don’t expect the characters to attempt to kill such a thing that would be stupid!
One of the guards, Baramar, has traced the Trolls back to their lair and can give reasonably accurate directions, along with the following rough description:
“I traced the Trolls to their lair last week, but we were first aware of them three or four weeks ago. We don’t really know where they came from, but my guess is the Emyn Muil, that real rough country. They appear to be quite intelligent, for they use the Black Speech; but what I find rather odd is that they are using a limestone river cave that’s partially flooded, so they would have to go into the river to enter it.
“Our records state mat the cave was in fact utilized as a store-room of sorts by men from this garrison thirty years ago. The cave isn’t far from here on foot. You need only follow the stream until it enters the forest. You will find it lying on the near bank.”
If anyone asks about the Black Riders, the guards will be most forthcoming: “You’ve hit the nail on the head there. We were planning to raid the hole ourselves until those Rider-fellows turned up. You see, when we were little children, we were told tales about these things, and now the legend rides abroad. These Nazgûl are important news at the capital though, so we’d quite like to know a little more. It’s a little frightening having one of these things on your doorstep!”
A good selection of quality weapons is available here from the armory. There is a 50% chance that any ordinary edged or missile weapon is available, and a 30% chance for any other ordinary weapon. The guards will only part with them for 1.5 times the norm, but are all of +5 quality (non-magical). Horses can be hired at a rate of 1 gp per week, but the deposit of a sword or some equivalent valuable is expected. There are three lesser war-horses (speed 180 ft/rnd, carry 350 lbs, riding skill bonus +15).
Where to now?
The characters have two options (or three, if they are planning on doing nothing at all and letting all the problems flow past them): 1) pressing on to the Troll-cave immediately, or 2) returning to the inn to check up on developments there. If they choose the latter, they will quickly hear that Leofric has put up a reward of five gold coins to be shared between anyone who rescues his son. The characters shouldn’t need any more encouragement, but it you feel they need it, Angris or Harlswine may offer to accompany them, as may a soldier from the beacon tower.
Planning the attack
The characters are very unlikely to simply charge in and attack the hole in an open battle. They are going to want to use as much cunning and tactics as they can, especially if they have gathered what they are up against Some particular factors need looking-at in detail:
- Timing. Will the attack occur by day or by night? It the attack occurs after ten at night, only a single Troll will be present (the other will be out looking for food), but (Ûvathia will be found within his chambers. Some source of light (apart from the moon) will be required for a nocturnal foray.
- Approach. Do the characters approach along the near bank, or do they approach from the other side, swimming or wading across the stream?
- Equipment. Are the characters taking all their equipment, or will they travel light? Make sure you know exactly what each character brings along.
- Communication. Once the characters approach the hole, silence will be essential. For this reason, they had better have worked out a good plan in advance. It they discuss plans during the approach, you may assume the Troll inside is aware of them.
The Troll-lair is hidden neatly under the bank, and cannot be seen from the near side of the river. Two innocuous holes are visible from the opposite bank, but little light actually penetrates into the hole. If characters have directions form Baramar, they should be able to identify the general location of the lair, but they may yet need to look around (The characters may have walked along this stretch of river a little earlier.).
The stream must be partly swum and partly waded in order to reach the holes, a Routine maneuver for unarmored characters (AT 1 – 4), Easy for those in soft learner (AT 5 – 8), Light for rigid leather (AT 9 – 12), Medium for chain (AT 13 – 16), and Extremely Hard for those in plate armor (AT 17 – 20). If made successfully, the character(s) may now attempt to enter the holes, which are roughly two to three feet in height and flooded to a depth of eighteen inches. While characters may enter simply by crawling, it will become pretty obvious that these entrances are far too small for the Trolls.
The main entrance used by the Trolls lies on the surface above the hole. If only they were a fraction more vigilant and informed, the beacon-guards could have shown it to the characters (having originally been made by men from Halifirien). Hidden beneath the woodland floor, this entrance is concealed by a small, rough log which is Hard (-10) to find if actively searched for. The hole is just wide enough for two people to descend at once, if a rope is used as well as the pitted ladder. It is only seven-and-a-half feet to the base of the ladder (see #8 below).
This cave of well-worked stone was once clean and wholesome, with fresh straw strewn on the floor and sweet-smelling air. In the few weeks that the Trolls have occupied the cave, all this has changed. There is a foul reek in the air, the floors and walls are grimy, and bones litter the place. That is not to say that some areas aren’t tidy (Several small chambers have been left relatively untouched.).
During daylight hours, both Bognog and Gnash-nash will be confined to the lair (Their exact positioning is up to you, but there is a 50% chance that at least one will be sleeping in area # 1. By night, there is a 20% chance that one of the Trolls will be in the lair, while the other is off hunting. It will be Very Hard (-30, due to poor light) to track this Troll. If both happen to be outside the hole, there’s half a chance that one of them will be hidden.
Ûvatha, on the other hand, will be absent from the cave by day, observing the road. He is extremely skilled in the wild and cannot be tracked. By night, Ûvatha will be within his room, and there is a 25% chance that he will be snatching some form of meditative trance (He needs to rest for around four hours daily.). The rest of the time he will be relaxing in his chamber, the door to which will be closed and wedged from within. It can easily be forced, but this will wake him.
- 1 — Entrance
- The mouth of the cave has an extremely low roof (between two and four feet) and is flooded to a depth of eighteen inches. Movement is either bent double or crawling. The water’s edge is sandy and quite safe to walk on. The northern cavern contains a small raft, made of lashed timbers, but is extremely old and rotten. It is fastened to the cave wall by a rope, which is in turn attached to an iron ring embedded in the rock one foot up. This part of the cave is, in fact, actually quite clean and apparently untouched by the Trolls.
- 2 — Iron Door
- The door has been constructed of corroded iron, and although sagging on its hinges from age, it is stoutly barred from within. The door is approximately four inches thick. The bar is easily removed from location #4. On this side, however, a Very Hard (-20) General Static Maneuver (using Strength as the relevant bonus) is required. If the door is successfully opened, the sound will alert any inhabitants within.
- 3 — Troll Living Area
- This corner of the cavern has been taken over by the Trolls as a living and sleeping area, where before a plain bed had sheltered a member of the garrison during times of necessity. The floor is a disgusting mess a mixture of rotting straw, grass, clothing and all the other grotesque mess that accompanies such creatures.
- 4 — Cooking Fire
- The Trolls show their enormous endurance by placing their cooking fire in a poorly ventilated area, the ashes of which will still be warm from their latest meal. Scattered about the fire are various bones from their feast. Anyone who has seen such items before will recognize rabbit, sheep and bear bones. A clay jar contains a brown, sludge-like jelly.
- 5 — Nazgul’s Chamber
- The chamber roof increases to a height of ten feet. A Gondorian bed, table and small cupboard have been laid out here in some semblance of order. A torch has been bracketed on the wall and will be burning when the Nazgûl is near (Ûvatha prefers a little light.). A spare supply of torches lies neatly in one corner. Within the cupboard lies a bundle of hooded robes, and wrapped up in these are two Morgûl-knives (see below). While he is within the cavern, Ûvatha’s lance will be propped against the way, his bow hung on a outcrop in the wall, and his helm placed neatly on the table.
- 6 — Treasure Chamber
- The entrance to this room is blocked by a large rock. A combined Strength of 105 is required to roll it aside (The Trolls can do so unaided.). The treasure consists of a + 10 non-magical broadsword, a collection of assorted coins which, if counted, amount to 50 cp, 35 sp and 13 gp, a dark jar containing a yellow, honey-scented liquid. If imbibed, it will be found to be a potion of True Armor (RM) or Heat Resistance and Cold Resistance (MERP). Finally, the Troll’s small collection includes a dead mouse and a locket left by one of the cave’s previous inhabitants.
- 7 — Captive Area
- This alcove is also sealed by a boulder requiring a combined Strength of 155 to shift (Both Trolls are needed.). Currently, the chamber contains only a single captive Leorl along with a number of moldering animal bones (although characters may know no better!). Leorl will not look too bad, given the brevity of his captivity. He is very grimy though, and could do with a good wash to remove the vicious Troll-odor. Before he can be freed, his arm and leg irons must first be removed (They have been hammered into the wall with pegs by the Trolls.). Their locks may be picked (each Hard at –10) or broken off by an edged weapon (Treat as a normal attack against a defensive bonus of 0, but with plate armor any hit causing a D critical or greater will break one chain.). As his last chain is broken off, Leorl will cry out in relief, unable to stifle his joy, and characters hoping to escape must move fast lest evil ears may also hear the glad tidings.
- 8 — Ladder
- This leads to the concealed entrance which the Trolls habitually use.
Once cleansed of Trolls and Nazgûl, the soldiers at the beacon will immediately set to sealing the hole, and will take down full details of it for future reference, so that this kind of occurrence won’t happen so easily again. Whether they take the characters’ report as substantial evidence depends entirely on whether or not you want to annoy them by having the guards give them only three or four gold coins.
Unless he is further delayed by being robbed of his new mount, Ûvatha will have departed on the morning of the 15th. Read the following to the characters: “When you awake, you feel invigorated. Something inside you tells you that a lesser part of the Great Shadow has just departed. Even so, your heart is heavy, and you know that this can only signify a greater evil.” The nature of that greater evil is left to the characters’ imaginations, but by noon, unless rescued, Leorl will be no more. The Trolls will have lunched well!
If Leorl has been rescued, the characters may now collect their rewards, thanks. If eaten, they can give his parents and sister their commiserations (E.g., “Well, I couldn’t bring him back; but here’s the brute that ate him.”). If the characters returned to the inn, and Leofric offered them the reward, he will, true to his word, pay a successful party. His wife Aris will shower the characters with thanks and offer to treat any wounded characters (she is a 4th level Animist). Leosine will be more forward in her thanks. And finally, the characters get to take a hard-earned night’s sleep!
NPC Profiles (MERP Stats)
The Beacon — Guards
Hit Points: 90
Armor Type: CH/14
Def Bonus: +15
Melee OB: +95 Broadsword
Missile OB: +65 Long Bow
General Skills: +45
Mov M/Speed: +15
Gnash — NNash
Race: Hill Troll
Hit Points: 175
Armor Type: RL/11
Def Bonus: +20
Melee OB: +95 Large Bash
+85 Large Claw
Missile OB: +60 Rock (120’ Large Crush)
General Skills: +15
Mov M/Speed: Medium
Race: Hill Troll
Hit Points: 190
Armor Type: RL/11
Defensive Bonus +1 5
Melee OB: +100 Large Bash
+90 Large Claw
Missile OB: +45 Rock (120’ Large Crush)
General Skills: +10
Mov M/Speed: Slow
Note: Hill Trolls are a variety of the dark creatures bred by Morgoth in mockery of the Ents, and they are as tough and stupid as the earth they were bred from. They invariably hate all other creatures, and will revert to stone in the light of day, for the Sun can unmake the spell of their creation. The Trolls are easily confused and will become quarrelsome if bemused. They are capable of conversing in Black Speech as well as a broken form of Westrond.
Ûvatha the Horseman, the Ninth
(See Lords of Middle-Earth II 96 – 98)
Born a Variag, few people are aware of Ûvatha’s past, and those that are, are dead. Over the course of his “lifetime,” Ûvatha has ruled Khand many times as King of the Variags, and shares in that people’s cruel demeanor. As a wraith, Ûvatha’s physical visage cannot normally be perceived, though he retains his native prowess. As a momento of his mortal life, Ûvatha garbs himself in black or dark grey with a red, kine-skin breastplate.
Race: Variag (Nazgûl)
Hit Points: 180
Armor Type: SL/4
Defensive Bonus: +100
Melee OB: +180 Mounted Lance
Missile OB: +240 Short Bow
General Skills: +40
Mov M/Speed: +25
Any criticals scored against Ûvatha use the Large Creature Critical Table.
Non-magical weapons break on contact with the creature.
Drains 20 Con points per round on touch (RR versus 31st level).
Causes Fear at 6th level.
Has 31 PP and two Spell Lists: Nature’s Law and Sound/Light Ways (MERP) or Light’s Wcy and Sound’s Wcy (RM) to 5th level.
Can throw knives up to double the normal range.
Ûvatha cannot enter the Mering Stream.
His level and bonuses are halved by day.
Weapons and Armor:
Lance: +40 Horse-slaying. If set in a track made within 31 days, it gives a +40 tracking bonus.
Bow: + 20 short bow that strikes as a heavy crossbow. Neither the arrow’s flight nor the archer’s arm will be affected by the wind or weather.
Helm: +15 helmet shaped like a bat. Covers ears and neck. Gives wearer bat senses, including 2 x normal smell and radar sense.
Morgul Knife: +10 knife. Ûvatha will be loathe to use this.
Léorl will initially be extremely grateful upon being released, but if it looks like he’ll have to fight, things change. He has been extremely terrified by his captors and this should be made evident. Should he set eyes on Ûvatha again, he will instinctively shrink away.
Hit Points:: 29 (in Troll-lair; his total is 43)
Armor Type: NO/1
Def Bonus: +15
Melee OB: +63 any weapon
Missile OB: +24 any weapon
General Skills: +30
Mov M/Speed: +25
Buying goods and services
A variety of goods and services are available at the Inn of Greys here’s a quick list, together with full prices (numbers in parentheses indicate availability).
Beer and Ale, pint 2tp
Brandy, half-pint 15tp
Mead pint 5tp
Light Meal 9tp
Normal Meal 2cp Normal Rations,
I week, spoil, 18 lbs. 7cp Lodging in Room (one to four person) 3cp
Private Suite 6cp
+5 non-magical Broadsword (1) 30sp
Broadswords (2) 20sp
Daggers (3) 6sp
Sling (1) 15bp
Spears (3) 30bp
Shield (1) 75bp
Water skin lcp
Flint and Steel 2bp
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