Category Archives: Once upon a time…

A Tale of Wide-Eyed Wonder – 3

Ladies and gentlemen, time has come for the third episode of A Tale of Wide-Eyed Wonder. Join us as we set out to explore the wonders of this forgotten land, to misty mountains and cavernous halls; mysterious forests and the green hills of the Shire. We’re going on an adventure !




A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder

EPISODE III – Arthedain


Two days and several dozen miles later, Niphredil and Thorbjörn reached the city of Bree. Bree was an important trading center between Men and the hobbits of the Shire, a small town where the Big and the Little People coexisted in a unique but most excellent arrangement. The town was set on the most important crossroads of Eriador, the north-western lands of Middle-Earth. Two roads crossed there, the Great East road, which stretched from the lands of Elves far to the West, towards the Misty Mountains in the East; and the Greenway, a north-south axis connecting the lands of Men in the North, Arnor, to Gondor in the South.

“What peculiar houses !” said Niphredil.

“Never seen what normal housing looks like ?”, ironized Thorbjörn.

“I haven’t, so what ?”, she grumbled quietly.

A few hundred stone houses stood on the Bree-hill, the only height in a hundred miles radius. A deep dike before a wooden wall encircled it, with gates breaking it up at regular intervals. The fortifications were derelict and in parts in ruin. The life in Bree was calm, and away from danger.

Many roads led to Bree, yet most of them were empty at this time of day. In the noon of night, the gibbous moon was at its highest. The glittering stars made for a bewitching firmament. The ghostly moonlight gave an odd atmosphere to the landscape below. From the many lights flickering at the houses’ windows, emanated a warm feeling, and the two companions hastened their pace towards them. Towards the inn, at last. A warm meal and a bed. What luxury.

After a well-earned night’s rest, Niphredil and Thorbjörn were ready for their morning preparations. They had decided to make some purchases in Bree, for the rest of the road would lead them for many days into Wilderness and uninhabited lands. The merchant stalls were already open, and they found a grocer that seemed to suit their needs.

“Good day to you ! Everything’s for sale my friend. Everything ! ‘f I had a sister, I’d sell her in a second !”

“Ehm, right. We’re only going to need food, enough for-”

“I’d even buy one of your relatives, if you’re looking to sell. Ha ha ha ha. That’s a little joke.”

“Yes, no.”, stammered Niphredil, less and less convinced now that this was the right shop. Or indeed a shop at all. “We’re just looking to buy enough food for a fortnight’s travel”.

“Well why didn’t you say so ? I’ve got just what you need.”

After a substantial monetary exchange, Niphredil and Thorbjörn were now in possession of enough equipment and victuals for a long journey.

“Do come back !” called the shopkeeper after them.

“What a queer man.” commented Niphredil.

The two travellers started walking towards the southern end of the city. In the morning light, Niphredil could finally observe her surroundings. In the lower half of Bree, the stone and thatch houses were built on fairly flat ground. Sturdy yet ancient looking, with mossy roofs and ivy-covered walls, they blended in with the wilderness beyond. Wild patches of color distinguished them, formed by rhododendrons and anemones growing freely around them; thereby dotting the landscape with warm shades of pink, blue and purple.

Shortly after leaving Bree, all traces of human settlement disappeared from the landscape, save for the road, ever present, a testimony of civilization in a desperately flat and empty land. These lands, home to the descendants of Númenor, once the greatest kingdom of Men beyond the Sea, were now slowly declining into nothingness. The might of the Dúnedain, bearers of the blood of old Númenor, was waning against the growing darkness cast by the Shadow of Angmar.

For many days they walked the Great South Road. They passed through the defile of Andrath, between the Barrow-Downs and the South Downs. The Downs were two series of low, barren hills, home to the remains of the old kings of Arnor. Here and there, megaliths stood upon the hills, looming in the distance. From the Downs, they followed the road into a deserted and sullen land, where vegetation scarcely grew, for many miles.

A long voyage, with nothing to differentiate one day from the other. A featureless and desolate landscape, whose brown dirt was darkened by an equally featureless layer of clouds above.

“This region feels dead. As devoid of life as the people who used to live in this land and are now buried beneath it.”, said Niphredil drily.

“Didn’t know you were into this kind of humour. Harrowing dark thoughts like that won’t help the atmosphere of the place much.”, answered Thorbjörn with a wry smile.

“It’s just tiring to be there, is all.”, she said blearily.

The solitude in this empty land would have been unbearable if she were travelling alone, thought Niphredil. She was glad to have someone she could talk to, remind her she wasn’t stuck in some neverending nightmare.

A little less than a fortnight later, Niphredil and Thorbjörn finally came into sight of a city.

“This must be Tharbad, if our feet haven’t strayed off the path we were supposed to take. Whatever it is, I am glad to be out of these Downs.”, said Thorbjörn.

“I think it is. A city built on either side of the Mitheithel River, the innkeeper told us in Bree. I don’t know if this is the Mitheithel River, but it certainly is a city built on either side of a river. We should at least be able to replenish our victuals here.”

“Not many roads our paths could have strayed off anyways. What a depressing place. How you people can bear to live in this wasteland is beyond my comprehension.”

“They’re not my people. If I remember my history right, there were hobbits here for a long time, but they’ve left for the Shire about 200 years ago.”, said Niphredil.

“You know much, O Wise One. It’s all old nonsense to me. The lore of smithing though, that I can comprehend. What do you say to a mug of beer and a comfortable bed for the night ?”, answered Thorbjörn, apparently insensible to the charms of hobbit genealogy.

Indeed had the foundation of Tharbad been lost in the mists of time to all but masters of lore, many centuries ago. It had been built by the sea-faring Númenoreans to protect their shipyards and wood-stores from the local population, whose forests they were exploiting. In their efforts to conquer these lands, the fortress promptly became a great river-port, built on one of the most expeditious routes between Arnor in the North and Gondor in the South, in the early days of both kingdoms. A fortified town and haven grew on either side of the Mitheithel River, home to a great garrison of soldiers, mariners and engineers. Symbol of the skill of the Númenorean builders and masons, a graceful bridge of white stone spanned across the flowing river. Upon it rode the Great South Road, itself another connection between the North and the South.

This road would Niphredil and Thorbjörn follow, to reach the Halls of Durin in Khazad-Dûm.

After a mug of beer (only tea for Niphredil) and a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, the two companions were ready to take the road again. Their bags were stocked with food for the rest of the journey.

“If I understood correctly what the innkeeper told me, we must now travel through the Nîn-in-Eilph fenland, north of Tharbad; then follow the Sirannon stream that flows into it, until we reach it’s source, conveniently right under the door of Khazad-Dûm.”, explained Thorbjörn.

“So we must leave the road ?”, said Niphredil.

“Roads ? Where we’re going we don’t need roads. That is, there are none.”, retorted Thorbjörn.

“Well then, better get going quick. We can make it to the Halls of Durin in two days if we hurry.”

They left when the Sun started cresting the Misty Mountains, away to the East, and headed in that direction, their shadows stretching long on the road behind them. The fenland bore its name well : Nîn-in-Eilph, water-land of the Swans; home to many of the white wingéd bird. On the west of the marsh lay Tharbad, on the northern borders flowed the Mitheithel. Towards the eastern end of the mire, a waterfall rushed down, and beyond it was a ford over the Glanduin. Out of these lowlands and into the plain beyond, the road led to the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil. Another once mighty city, now lost to time, of which only ruins remained to this day.

Arriving to the ruins, Niphredil and Thorbjörn were surprised to see a man there. He was sitting on a tree stump, under the cover of a tent stretched between four wooden poles. His disheveled white hair and beard shone in the sun. Before him was a wide slab of white stone, probably fallen from a building long ago. He was writing on a sheet of paper, a half-filled inkwell beside him on the desk. Many more books and paper sheets were stacked in improbable piles all over the stony floor of his makeshift office. Hearing their footsteps, he turned to say :

“Well met, travelers. Are you lost ? It is rare to see visitors coming to this forsaken place.”

“Well met. I don’t believe we are lost. We’re on the way to Khazad-Dûm. Is this Ost-in-Edhil ?”

The old man smiled, his eyes tinted with melancholy. “This is indeed what remains of Ost-in-Edhil, the ancient elven capital of Eregion. Allow me to present myself, I am Alwis Peredhil, member of the guild of historians in Tharbad.”

“I am Thorbjörn son of Thorgald, and this is Niphredil.”, said Thorbjörn with a slight bow.

Niphredil had always been curious about the Elves. That these ruins were originated from the Fair Folk ignited her curiosity.

“If you don’t mind my asking, what is your purpose here ? What is Eregion ? And why are there no elves here today ?”

“So many questions ! I wish my students were so eager to learn.”, answered the historian, amused. “The story you wish to hear would take me many hours to tell in full. The history behind this city spans many millennia.”

“To answer your questions, I come here regularly in order to learn more about the inhabitants of Eregion. Eregion is the region west of the Misty Mountains and east of the Mitheithel river. You may know it under the name of Hollin.

The story begins in the early days of the Second Age, when Galadriel and Celeborn, Lady and Lord of the Lothlórien, founded Ost-in-Edhil. It was meant to become a trade center with both the Dwarves of Khazad-Dûm to the east, and the Men of Númenor to the west. In its time, it was a beautiful city, the gem of the West. Imagine a city filled with many fountains and statues finely carved by skilled craftsmen. A city of slender spires, towering to the sky, and houses of white stone, that held the sun’s light long after evening fell. It was home to the greatest smiths in Middle-Earth, and the greatest of all was the unrivaled Celebrimbor.

Ost-in-Edhil ultimately met its doom at the peak of its glory, at the hand of Sauron himself. Under the guise of a craftsman named Annatar, Sauron befriended the elvish smiths of Eregion, easier to mislead because of their thirst for knowledge. But a knowledge gained without wisdom comes at a price. Through cunning lies and insidious persuasion, he taught the Elves dangerous secrets for 400 years, and together with Celebrimbor, he forged the Rings of Power. Then Annatar revealed himself as Sauron by forging The One Ring and declaring war on all that was living, and Ost-in-Edhil fell shortly thereafter. Thus started the War of Elves and Sauron, and it was long and bloody, leaving all of Eriador ravaged and broken.

Dwarves, Elves and Men alike suffered heavy casualties, and many fair cities were destroyed by the forces of Sauron. He was eventually defeated near Tharbad at the Battle of Gwathló; his army routed by the combined forces of the Elves, led by Gil-galad, and Men of Númenor, who had sent a great fleet across the sea to their aid.

Ost-in-Edhil was never rebuilt, a symbol of its smith’s folly in their lust for knowledge. Forgotten by Men and forsaken by Elves, it came to us today, a ruin full of the glory and regrets of the past.”

Alwis was silent for a while, as if lost in his own story. Niphredil eventually spoke up.

“Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t born in the wrong time. Stories of the old days fascinate me. It seems like the world was so full of powers and magic beyond the reach of Man, a strength that has now departed and been lost forever. A world vividly alive, terrible and wonderful. Perilous without a doubt, yet today we relish in the marvels of those times, gazing longingly at this grandiose past.

In any case, I thank you for the tale, loremaster.”

“I am no loremaster. Though some call me half-elven because of my fascination for the lore of the Fair Folk, I have nowhere near the depth of knowledge of the only true half-elven loremaster there is : Elrond of Imladris. I am however glad you appreciated the lesson. Perhaps we’ll have the occasion of talking again if you come here on your return journey.”

The return journey. The words had a distant yet heartening feel to them. Filled with determination, Niphredil turned away from the ruins and started walking towards the road leading from the ancient elven city to the mines of Khazad-Dûm. Thorbjörn had taken the lead, uninterested by a past that was already gone anyways, and impatient of reaching his kinfolks’ dwellings.


This, dear listeners, was the third episode of A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder. Comb your beards, pick up your helmets and sharpen your axes, we are headed to the fourth episode : to the dwarven halls of Khazad-Dûm.

A Tale of Wide-Eyed Wonder – 2

Ladies and gentlemen, time has come for the second episode of A Tale of Wide-Eyed Wonder. Join us as we set out to explore the wonders of this forgotten land, to misty mountains and cavernous halls; mysterious forests and the green hills of the Shire. We’re going on an adventure !




A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder

EPISODE II – The Old Forest


Today was the day. She was an adult, and ready to abandon the Shire. Her backpack filled to the brim with victuals, a blanket and a towel, Niphredil closed the round door of her smial; her parents still asleep behind. No point in waking them up, she thought.

She now stood on top of The Hill, the main residential district of Hobbiton. Her long chestnut hair waving in the wind, chin up and gaze set on the horizon, she felt great joy and hope, for the first time in long years. Determined, she took her first step forward, out of her smial and out of her previous life, thus leaving the hurtful memories of her parents behind.
Towards a new life of adventure, where glory and mayhaps even love awaited her.

Walking down the streets she had known since forever, every step memories resurfaced and appeared before her eyes. Every step she chased them, freeing her mind of these shackles. She wanted to convince herself this was the right choice, the only choice, to get away from this land she desperately needed to hate.
The gardens of the Shire, always peaceful and still green despite the progressing Autumn, shone under the rising Sun. Quiet they were yet, only troubled by the rustle of leaves and the swishing of the grass blades in the wind.
On the edge of Hobbiton, near the Bywater river, she met the first person that was already awake in all the Shire, beside herself. Petula Brockhouse was already working her garden, trimming the cypress hedge.
“Hullo there ! Why, aren’t you out early today, Niphredil ? Going for a walk ?”
“Hmm ? Oh, yes. Something like that.” answered Niphredil, taken aback by the sudden interruption of her thoughts. Regaining her composure, she continued, “Yes. I’m going for a long, long walk. I don’t think I’ll be back this evening. In fact, I don’t plan to come back at all.”
It is known, hobbits are a simple people, and have difficulty finding an interest to the world outside of the Bounds of the Shire, or imagining why anyone would want to live in the troublesome lands of the Big People, Men. They call it simply Outside, and the farthest points of the Shire reflect this : the South, West, East and North Farthings. Beyond are things that are too far to be considered a matter of worry for decent and definitely-not-interested-by-adventure hobbits.
Petula’s answer will therefore come as a surprise to no one.
“Oh really, is that so ? Well, do be careful, eh ? Seems like the weather won’t hold for long. Oh, should you find any, would you be so kind and bring a handful of mushrooms back ? I’d like to cook something special tomorrow. See, ‘t’ll be the old Balbo’s birthday ! His 85th birthday already. How time flies, eh ! Ah, but I’m sure you young’uns only think it too slow. Always in a hurry instead of enjoying yourselves.”
Not wanting to engage in further fruitless conversation of which hobbits are so fond of, Niphredil simply nodded and went on her way.

She walked tirelessly the rest of the day and the day that followed, towards the East Farthing. She only stopped to rest at an inn in Frogmorton, before resuming her journey to the border of the Shire, through Whitfurrows and to the Bridge of the Brandywine river. There she finally marked a pause in her steps, for this was the farthest she’d ever been from home. On the other side of the bridge, the wooden fences on either side of the road quickly yielded to the sprawling vegetation, then succumbed under tall grasses, before disappearing entirely, consumed by briar and brambles. Unpruned, beech trees arched over the road. The rutted tracks thus faded, covered by a blanket of yellow and brown leaves. The road itself was however in very good shape. It was the main road in and out of the Shire, chiefly to Bree, the closest city of Men in the vicinity and principal trade partner of Hobbits. After a short meal, she took to the road once more, advancing swiftly.
Wilderness, at last. Beyond the Brandywine river was the Old Forest, though the road only traversed its outskirts. Most of the forest lay further south. An old forest indeed, left untouched since millennia uncounted. Only remnant of a once much greater primordial forest that spanned almost all of the continent. It had been awakened by Elves in the Elder Days, and Ents had roamed its paths, though none had remained to this day.

The forest seemed to stretch itself around the road indefinitely. Rows upon rows of moss covered trunks and roots wherever the eye could see. When the light grew dim, on her third day since she closed the door to her previous life, Niphredil set up camp in a small glen. A small brook burbled quietly in the distance. Tired but content from her first days of march, she ate, then unfurled her blanket and went to sleep.
Quickly, she realized that the forest wasn’t so still as it seemed at first. Noises of the night surrounded her. The sound of water, acorns falling and leaves whispering prevented her from sleeping. Although these were but the outskirts of the Old Forest, it remained a wild and peculiar place. Hobbits believed the trees of the Old Forest were in some manner “awake”. They would sway when there is no wind, whisper at night, and mislead and waylay travelers. These tales were of no concern to Niphredil, so she eventually fell asleep. For a while.
A particularly irritating child threw little pebbles on the window of her smial. The pebbles, clattering, formed a maddeningly irritating noise. It seemed that child had also emptied a bucket of water on her, for she was dripping wet. Drowsy and tired, she awoke from her dream, disturbed by an omnipresently annoying noise environing her. Accompanied by a very distinct sensation of sogginess. Sogged to the bone, that is.
It was bucketing down, and had been for a little while now, judging from the swamped ground. It pounded the trees, it churned and slopped the scrubby land into a mudbath.
“Ugh.” was the only sound she could utter, before gathering her things and running to the closest semblant of a shelter : a small hollow under the roots of a great oak. She lay there shivering, in a transitory state between sleep and waking.

Morning come, she was tired and sick but determined to go on.
“I was naive to think adventure would be easy”, she thought, looking with apprehension upon the muddy road before her. The road was submerged in parts, making her advance slower.
Come evening, her feet were covered in mud and she wished only for a warm meal in her smial, in front of a good chimney. With tea. She liked tea.
This time she searched for a proper place to sleep, and found a small burrow, not too far from the road. Exhausted, her mind didn’t have time to focus on anything other than a blissful void before her body plunged into a deep slumber.

The next day, the sun was shining again, and the water had already receded from the road. She realized she hadn’t yet looked at the forest around her, occupied as she was with avoiding to slip in the mud or thinking about her future.
With the humidity of the previous day’s draught, the forest sprang to life. Bright green moss sprawled on the ground between the trees. Brown, red and white capped mushrooms were scattered all over. She walked all day long, until the sun started westering.
At a turn of the road, she suddenly stopped in wonder, awestruck by the heavenly scenery that lay before her. Time halted.
Under the razing light of the westering Sun, colour and light were weaved into a vibrant tapestry, as the green foliage, forming a ceiling over the road, glowed with shades of red, orange and gold.
The road, straight ahead, was wreathed in the shade of linden trees. Dim should the pathway have been, yet it shone as if from its own light. As if no darkness was to be in this timeless place.
Further along the road, the forest dwindled and opened into a glen. The Sun shone through the opening upon the path, a circle of light like a portal to another time and place.
Shimmering leaves fell whispering, brought down by a slight breeze from the trees. Catching the westering rays of the sun through the foliage, they shone like so many sparks of light.
This warm, impossibly bright light gave an eerie feeling to the scene, and Niphredil felt as if she didn’t belong there. Or rather, that this scenery couldn’t belong to this world. For a fleeting moment you could catch a glimpse of a time that was to be no more, long gone countless millennia ago.
The moment passed. The Sun was hidden by clouds, the birds started chirping again, and Niphredil realized she had been holding her breath for, well she had lost count of time, but enough for her to need air. Quickly.

It took her a moment to realize someone else was standing there, in the middle of the road. A small man, seemingly middle-aged, red-haired.
“Pretty, ain’t it ?” he said, matter-of-factly.
Niphredil could but nod, speechless as she was. It was quite impressive that the man could speak at all, after such a moment.
“I didn’t know woods could be this beautiful.” he said, entering the pathway. “Looks like we’re going the same way, where are you headed ?”.
“Nowhere in particular.” answered the hobbit, finally finding her words.
“Oh. Well that’s as good a destination as any, I suppose. I am Thorbjörn, son of Thorgald. Shall we walk together towards nowhere in particular, for a while ?”
“That name doesn’t sound very hobbitish at all. It sounds very dwarfish, in fact.”
“Makes sense, I’m a dwarf. I come from the Ered Luin, far to the East. I believe you call them the Blue Mountains here.”
“You’re a dwarf ? But, you have no-”
“-beard, yes, I know. I’m a very young dwarf. And you, are a very impolite young lady. What’s your name ?”
“I am Niphredil, from the Shire.”
“A hobbit ? That much is obvious, I suppose, what with the walking-barefoot-in-the-forest business. But a hobbit with an elvish name ? Now that’s peculiar.”
“My parents used to travel a lot.” she said, not wanting to discuss this particular subject. “The Blue Mountains are very distant from here, what could you be looking for in the Shire ?”
“Nothing in particular. I’m merely passing through these lands on my way to the ancient capital of the dwarves, towards the vast halls of Khazad-Dûm. There, my folk is most numerous in all of Middle-Earth, and I hope to learn much from them in the arts of craftsmanship and lore. There is mithril in them darn mines. Can you imagine that ? Mithril !”
At the mere mention of mithril and highly-skilled smiths, Thorbjörn brimmed with anticipation. His brow twitched strangely, until he calmed down a little.
“Khazad-Dûm ? Would you mind if I accompanied you there ? I want to see the world, and what better way to discover the realm of the dwarves than guided by a dwarf ?”
“I see no reason to refuse. If we’re going the same way, might as well travel together.”
All the while talking, they had already reached the edge of the northern end of the Old Forest, which wasn’t very far from where they started off.
From there they now had to follow the Great East road (named from the Shire’s point of view), towards the city of Bree, and through the realms of Men. A long journey awaited them in these peaceful lands, until they finally reached Khazad-Dûm, jewel of the kingdoms of the Dwarves.
But that, is a story for another day.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

This, dear listeners, was the second episode of A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder. Next week (or two ?), we’ll follow Niphredil and Thorbjörn to the third episode of their tale, to the realms of men, in Arthedain.

A Tale of Wide-Eyed Wonder – 1

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first episode of our journey to the lands of Middle-Earth. Join us as we set out to explore the wonders of this forgotten land, to misty mountains and cavernous halls; mysterious forests and the green hills of the Shire. We’re going on an adventure !




A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder

EPISODE I – The Shire


Third Age 1800. Eriador, The Shire.

Niphredil woke up in the early hours of the morning. Like every day, she woke before her parents, who were still fast asleep in the room adjacent to hers. She slipped quietly in her clothes and opened wide the windows of her bedroom, letting a refreshing breeze in the smial. Leaning on the window sill, she closed her eyes and let her thoughts wander.

She liked these quiet early mornings, alone at her window. Soon, the Shire would rouse from its slumber and life would fill the streets of Hobbiton. Until then, it was as if time had decided to slow down for a while and the world belonged only to her and the bird’s chirping. Scents of ripening fields filled her lungs. It was already Autumn, and the harvest-time was nigh.

She opened her eyes again. Far to the East, the Sun was already starting to cast her light over the crest of the hills. Everywhere, trees and leaves and flowers started glittering, as the sunrays were scattered by the morning dew. Like a prism of light, the red and gold shades of the falling leaves mingled with the green of the grass of the Shire. The rising mists enshrouding the rolling hills of the Shire truly were a sight to behold. Yet Niphredil saw it not, as her eyes looked beyond the hills, her gaze attempting to pierce the haze and see what lies beyond. Beyond her village of Hobbiton, beyond the Bywater river, beyond Frogmorton, Whitfurrows and the bridge of Stonebows that crossed the Brandywine and was the eastern border of the Shire. Beyond that even, far to the East, to mythical lands, lost forests and cities you could easily get lost in.

Unheeding, time went on and the Sun continued its ascension, and the Shire arose with the cries of the roosters. Yet another day, thought Niphredil. Another day in the Shire. Nothing unexpected ever happened here. Only trees, gardens and fields as far as the eye could see. Its people were little more interesting, peaceful and content with their quiet lives.

She loathed this simple and rustic beauty, for she had never seen anything else. She was tired of peace and calm, and wished to seek adventure beyond the border of the Shire. Explore the world, and maybe, hopefully, see some of the Fair People, the Elves.

Wearyingly dull were the days here, ever the same, ever unchanging, month after month, year after year. 33 years it had been already. Well, not quite. Tomorrow was to be her 33rd birthday. Tomorrow she would become an adult, as hobbit tradition wants it. Incidentally, she would become free to leave the Shire and live a life of adventure like her ancestors.

Always she had dreamt of adventure. To flee the heady atmosphere of her parents smial on the hillside of Hobbiton. To walk in the tracks of her legendary ancestors.

When she was but a young hobbit lass, she marvelled at the tale of the history of the ancient forefathers of the hobbits of the Shire. Indeed had the Shire not always been inhabited by hobbits. They originally lived in the upper vales of the river Anduin, which flowed east of the Misty Mountains, from the far northern mountains of Ered Mithrin to Gondor in the South.

About 200 years ago, gentlehobbits of great strength and honor led their people into a long voyage from their initial homes into the West, towards the Misty Mountains. To flee the rising evil of Mirkwood and the increasing number of Men, they began their wandering days.

Three hobbit kindreds, the Fallohides, Harfoots and Stoors, took three different roads. The Fallohides, people of the woods, crossed the Misty Mountains and met the Elves by Rivendell. The Stoors, people of the rivers, climbed the Redhorn Pass above the dwarven capital of Khazad-Dûm, which would later be known as the Moria. The Harfoots, people of the hills and closest to the hobbits we know, wandered further into the West, into Wilderland, until they finally settled into what we know today as the Shire.

Such a rich history, full of great deeds and accomplishments. Yet the hobbits of today were nothing like their wandering ancestors. Preferring peace and quiet to the risks and dangers of adventure, the old gaffers and gammers of Hobbiton said to her when she told them of her plans :

“You’re like all the young’uns now’days, restless young lass. Ye better worry ‘bout yer future, yer family and yer land instead of worrying ‘bout queer places you’re not meant to go. We don’t want no adventures here, thank you, brings only trouble and disquiet”.

As for her parents, well, they hadn’t answered when she told them of her plans of travel. Though that was as she had expected. They hadn’t uttered a word since they had returned from their own journey, to visit distant relatives in the East. Though that was almost 20 years ago now, they had remained obstinately mute and indifferent to the world around them ever since; accomplishing only daily tasks in the fields to assure their survival, like automats.

Their own daughter they ignored. The initial happiness to see them return quickly turned into tears, the tears into despair. She cried and wailed, in vain. The smiling and loving parents that had left her for their many months long journey in the East would never return. She’d never feel their embrace again. She mourned for weeks as desolation struck her. Eventually, she recovered, finding strength in the memories she reminisced of her parents before their doomed journey.

Thus she had to repress her excruciating loneliness and heartrending despair to live on, and for the better part of her late childhood, she had to care for herself alone. Even though she still lived in the same house as her parents, she was now living with strangers. Every now and then, the empty eyes of her parents woke the painful emotions she thought she had hidden far enough in her mind, never to be seen again. She wanted to be strong to be able to flee the Shire, now synonym of a lost times of happiness and an unending sorrow.

Friends came to see them and were met only with silence. Even today, she still remembers how apathetic her parents were against the increasing concern from their neighbours, despite the unease their state caused around them. Wholly detached from their environment they seemed to be, as if they didn’t belong to this world anymore.

After the final attempt the friends of Veryan and Nostariel Took made at making them reconnect with their surroundings, they gathered at their doorstep to decide what was to be done. Apprehending her parents absence of reaction, Niphredil had hidden herself when the four hobbits had arrived, but overheard their conversation when finally they came out, discouraged by the obtuse silence opposed to them. Bruno Bracegirdle, Pansy Proudfoot, Goldilocks Goodenough and Mirabella Mugwort shared their thoughts :

“I don’t understand what’s happened with them. Used to be very respectable folk. Very nice, well-spoken gentlehobbits. They were always ready to help me out in the fields, come harvest season. And their daughter was so sweet, as nice a young hobbit as you could wish to meet.” said Mirabella.

“They’ve been like that since they returned. All this adventuring must have knocked the senses outta them. Their relatives beyond the Brandywine River, they’re queer folk. Fool about with boats on that big river. Anduin they call it, or so I heard. There’re dark places out there, if all tales be true.” agreed Pansy.

“T’is what you get for leaving your home, going off to odd places with queer people and just altogether meddling with strange and unnatural things. Small wonder trouble came of it, I say.” said Goldilocks.

“Beats me why they left their young daughter alone, too. Poor thing.” vituperated Mirabella.

“Bloody adventures. Hate them.” put in Bruno.

“I think we better leave them alone. Can’t do much about their current state anyways, I figure.” Pansy, one of the longest friends of Veryan, Niphredil’s father, further added, “Never saw anything like them empty eyes of theirs, gave me shivers.”

They parted on these words.

Niphredil had wanted to hate her parents for leaving her alone, but could not. Instead, she hated this artefact they had brought back in their linen sack. One night she went with a torch to the hidden room her parents had stashed it away, out of sight. She wanted to burn the vile thing, to destroy the symbol of her parents doom. Opening the sack however, she saw nothing unusual, only an old parchment, similar to those she used to see her father write on. On the parchment lay several verses of an old traditional poem, scribbled down in the neat and tidy handwriting of her father. Determined, she had closed the sack and extinguished the torch. She couldn’t destroy the last token of her parent’s sanity. To this day, she remembers the entirety of the poem.

So it began.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

And so it goes. Tomorrow, she will set out at dawn.

This, dear listeners, was the first episode of our voyage in Middle-Earth; A Tale Of Wide-Eyed Wonder. Pack your bags, we’re going on an adventure ! Tune in next week for the second episode : The Old Forest.

Down the hill

I was running for my life. Down the hill, to the woods, throwing frightened glances over my shoulders. I had no idea what was coming for me but I knew it definitely was. My legs felt numb, heavy like stone, but the adrenalin rushing into my veins kept me moving forward. I did not know why but I had the feeling to have already done this a thousand times before. The feeling of a life-threatening danger , the certainty of something worse than death coming for me, it was as if it was nothing but a far too familiar sensation. My body knew exactly how to move into the darkness of the forest, so complete, only troubled by scarce rays of light due to the crescent moon. I did not have to think about anything, my instinct was doing it for me. Run, do not stop, rush through the woods in the direction of the river, it will give you a tiny chance to escape, to survive, do not stop. I was moving silently, efficiently, with a motion economy that only an automaton could reach. But I was no robot. I was something else. I did not have any idea what I could be, my memories were still blurry, but deep inside I knew that this was my main goal, my only purpose. To survive in hostile territory. But even if I had been created for it, I had the impression that I was not going to make it this time. It was such a strong déjà-vu, me trying desperately to escape while destiny was coming, slowly but inexorably, gaining ground on me every step I took. Suddenly it was here, the river I had been running to. Hope felt like a breath of fresh air. Except it was a very little, tiny, breath, which stopped at the exact same time as me. I have no idea how a perfectly built machine like me could have tripped over anything. It was impossible. Impossible but true. My body was betraying me, I could not do anything but crawl on the grass, towards the dark glittering mass of water. My strength was leaving me, I could not feel my legs anymore, it felt like something was sucking up all the energy I had left. Blood was rushing to my head, all my senses were screaming to me that danger was way too close. I almost made it. I had finally attained my goal, the calm waters of the river and was trying to slip my useless body into the water when I turned around and saw what was after me. I was running from me from the very beginning. I felt an intense pain in my forehead and the whole world shattered before me. Then, everything went black.


– “Well. Seems like this one is a failure too. Every time it comes to face himself it just shatters and loses every sense of survival instinct. But we still have to run that test several times to figure out the problem.

– Yes Captain. However it’s interesting how this model headed for the river, it’s the first one who’s ever done that.

– Hmm. It might be due to the fact that we don’t seem to be able to erase his memory entirely as we were with the previous ones. It seems he still has latent memories of his past lives and that sometimes they just resurface when in stimulating conditions.

– I think we can hold a deviant gene for this problem.

– Yes, you must be right. About that, when will the next generation be ready?

– The incubation period is almost coming to its end, we should be able to start the testing process in a few weeks.

– That’s great news, we need more of them for the upcoming events. Erase the memory of this one, heal it and re-run the escape test. Good job, doctor.

– Thank you, Captain.”

Sossagradulida Adventures Part II

So our mighty adventurers decided to head for to the farm to help the farmers solve their goblins problems.

When we arrived at the farm, there were no farmers anymore. They had probably all finished their work for the day being. Since we had no better plan, we decided to hide to try a surprise attack when the gobelin came. The dwarf found a hole which fitted perfectly his height, while I and SossaMasta were hiding behind a house.
As the night was falling, they guided me to the farm and we hid wherever we could.
I found a hole in the ground and managed to get in, while the two others just ran behind a wall.
It’s calm, really calm, all the farmers have left, we are close to a house and hiding, we will surprise them, Lidda is behind me and Gradule is not very far.

After almost an hour waiting, we finally started to hear light sounds coming from the forest, and a short moment after, we saw a big mass coming out from the dark, with strange noises like “ratata ! ratata !”. Seven gobelins and one orc came from behind the trees. An orc ! Damnit ! Those stupid farmers didn’t tell us anything about an orc !
Holy Sausage, there are 8 of them ! 7 gobelins, they look prettt stupid, but there is an orc. A damned orc !

After some time, we all heard noises and the noise was moving towards us. They walked above my head and were running to the farm. I took the time to make sure there was no gem or anything precious in the surrounding dirt, and decided to get out of my cache. I saw seven gobelins and an orc, running to my mates on the farm. I went after them but couldn’t catch up… Well, dwarves are not sprinters after all.

It seemed they hadn’t seen us for now. They hadn’t even seen the dwarf, who came out of his hole once he was sure he was behind the enemies. The priest, to take advantage of surprise, came out and cast a strong spell right on the orc ! Well, at least, he tried to. The spell remarkably missed, and the orc was shouting something like “kill him” while pointing at the priest. It hadn’t started very very well, that was the least we could say. Our better hope was the dwarf, running towards enemies. Meanwhile, I decided to stay hidden just a little bit longer.
The dwarf is a bit drunk so I think I will pull them, Adathie give me strength !
“Coup de fourchette” is my most powerful spell, I should focus the orc.
“FOR ADATHIE ! COUP DE FOURCHETTE” – I missed… it went right near his ear… Good point is that I got their attention… But the 8 of them are looking at me… and… what… is behind them? Oh it’s the dwarf…

I didn’t stay hidden for a long time and was quickly forced back into the battle. The priest was doing pretty well hitting and dodging, while I missed my attack and was hit. I was not badly hurt, but still, it really didn’t start well for me. Hopefully I managed to block another attack. I think I should be more careful in the battles. In the background, I can see the orc trying to hit the dwarf, ending up hitting himself. I’m a not very good, but he was even worse ! It appeared that the gobelins were not very good either.
Once they started fighting with Lidda, I sneaked behind the orc for a backstab but failed. He noticed me and tried to hit me but managed to hit his leg instead. Everything was going well according to my plan… Gobs were beating up the halfling, while SossaMasta was dodging the assault.
There are a lot of them but me and Lidda are fighting pretty tough, we are of course inevitably getting hit and beaten but I managed to smash some with my staff, the dwarf is taking on the orc.

They can’t hit me, and one of them even cut his own leg, falling dead.
I think I just saw a gobelin cutting his own leg. It’s frustrating, I recognized him as the one I had smashed earlier !
One of them stabbed his leg instead of the priest, and ended up dying. Are they all retarded ? Well they are greenskins anyway…

The fight is tough ! *splitting a gobelin in half* Oh it’s mushy.
Unfortunately, it distracted me for a sec, and I took another hit. Damn, I really should have paid more attention ! If the situation got worse, I might have some serious wounds. Meanwhile, it looked like the priest killed a gobelin too, as for the dwarf… Did the orc really hurt himself again ?!
I just stopped trying, and waited for them to commit suicide. And it actually happened. The orc fell after hitting himself for the second time, and I saw SossaMasta slicing two gobs in half… With a staff ? Nevermind.

After that, all I could remember was my vision fading and me falling and fainting. I suppose they hit me another time and I fell unconscious.
Nooo Lidda just fainted ! “ AADAAATHIIIIE ! You evil creatures, you will pay for this !” *smashing the skull of another gobelin*

The last gobs ran away, probably afraid at the sight of my beard, or the fact that I killed what seemed to be their captain. Result of the battle: I killed an orc. The priest is so proud because he killed two gobs (not so bad for a priest, I guess), and… the halfling is half dead, lying on the ground. Damn.
The other gobelin already went elsewhere, Okay we are safe, the orc is dead. We have to bring Lidda to the doctor.
I think these gobelins and this orc where worshipping some god of suicide or self-mutilation, I’ve seen one gobelin cut himself to death and the orc did too.

Sossagradulida Adventures Part I

Here begins the journey of our newly formed adventurers : this story is the story of a Halfing, a Dwarf and a Human, obviously trying to be famous and really rich. But, even the mightiest adventurers need to begin somewhere in a literally dirty place like a little farming village. We are in Terre de Fangh, 10 km away in the South from the huge Forest of Schlipak.

  I’m Lidda, a small rogue halfling. I belong to the SossaGraduLidda Company, a small group of adventurers, with Gradule the warrior dwarf and SossoMasta the human, priest of the Holy Sausage and Justice.
This adventure takes place in a small village, so small we didn’t pay attention to the name. We arrived quite early in the afternoon and immediately went to the tavern, like every company does, looking for a quest to have epic battles and gold. Well, we wanted the gold more than the battle, I must admit.

Every adventure starts in a tavern. This one is no exception. We were in a small village of farmers, waiting for gold to fall from the sky or whatever.
I don’t know why I’m in this tavern, and I don’t know why I’m travelling with a dwarf, Dragule, and a halfling, Lidda… After all, it’s not that bad… but hey ! Why are we called the SossaGraduLidda Company? It is lame ! Argh, I still have to find the Mighty Sausage Fork, oh Adathie I am sorry I still haven’t found it. But I will ! I promise!

  There were not many people inside the building, and the impression of emptiness was increase by the huge size of the room. Without hesitation, we addressed to the bartender and asked if there were any problem we could take care of. He couldn’t give us any informations, but said the farmers might have something for us. We ordered some drinks and went to the villagers’ table. Well, me and the priest went to the table, while the dwarf was staying drinking beer at the opposite at the tavern. Hope we still have some money left after that…
The tavern was quite empty, but I was having a good time getting drunk and spending my last gold coins in some tankards of the local beer. I was part of the SossaGraduLidda Company, with a sausage-fanatic called SossaMasta, and a half(weak)ling called Lidda. It seemed like they found something to do but…
The dwarf is drinking, he will lose some gold I think… Again. I hate it when he lose gold like this, but if there was a sausage I wouldn’t resist to buy it. Okay, at the moment we need a job, let’s ask the bartender !
The bartender told us to go to the farm, they are being raided by gobelins, at the East of the town. Fucking dwarf ! He is too drunk to come with us, well it’s better for us if he doesn’t come drunk.

  We spend some time speaking with the farmers and they told us they had a gobelin problem. Every week, a group of those ugly / stupid / stinky creatures were raiding the farm and stealing crops. A group of gobelin was a perfect occasion to have some fight and rewards for a company like ours. They also said they camp was in the eastern forest, and that the next raid would be this night or tomorrow. It was a pretty good timing. We thanked the villagers and decided to go see the farms, letting the dwarf spending our last gold drinking.
Too drunk to go, I stayed at the tavern. They tried to grab me out, but you can’t force a dwarf to leave a tavern. You just can’t. What I remember is that a boy tried to scam me, selling me a shitty weapon. I may be drunk, but I’m no fool, and somehow managed to sell him his own weapon for 10 golds.
More beer for me, yay !

  On the way, I started to think about setting a trap. The priest wasn’t very enthousiast about it but I was sure it could work. We finally made it to the farms and started to have a look to the situation. There was a small empty area between the forest and the farm, it could be perfect to dig a great hole there ! Since it was too difficult for only two people, I called all the villagers to help. With my great charisma, I managed to make all of them listen to me. But no one took care of it. I didn’t know if it was because they had already tried or if my idea was just bad but I didn’t have the results I was excepting.
Lidda wanted the farmers to dig some trench, they ignored her. *HAHA* too bad, it could have been a great start for a trap.

  A little bit disappointed, I started to search for a new idea to make tonight’s fight a little bit easier. And so I tried to climb up on a building, but this time, the farmers were trying to make me fall ! They said it was dangerous for me to go up. They are the one who are dangerous for me ! I had no risk of falling without them ! Since it didn’t offered me a good point of view anyway, I accepted to go down, grumbling about how stupid they were. If they wasn’t a reward, I’m not sure I would have continued to help them…
Lidda wanted to climb to a grain silo, I don’t know why, maybe it’s to get a better view of the future battlefield. At the same time, farmers were putting down the damn silo, so yeah, *facepalm*
I don’t remember who asked the farmers, but we are now in charge of protecting the crops tonight, the monsters will surely come when the night is dark and full of terror.
Shit, we have to pick up Gradule, I forgot him…

  We had nothing else to do until nighttime and decided to go back to the tavern and try to take the dwarf -even drunk, he would be more useful than those farmers ! And, yes, he was drunk, and maybe thanks to that, he agreed to stop drinking and came with us. His purse seemed bigger than it should be, did he managed to earn money while we were not here ? Anyway, we could see the orange light of sunset by the window, it was time for the SossaGraduLidda to go !
A little later, my companions came back to me, and as they really needed me on this one, I decided to give them a piece of my attention. Some farmers were having trouble, involving orcs and gobs, of course I was in !
He is still drinking…Maybe I can convince him to come…
“Come on Gradule, time to kill some gobelins” I told to him.
I don’t know how but he stood up and came with us ! He must like to genocide some gobelins Let’s go to the farm, it’s getting darker.

The Fallen Star – Chapter 2

“I told you this was a bad idea… And why did you rush in like that Shayitah?!” exclaimed Bowdoc.
“Duncan said let’s go, so I go. Why didn’t YOU rush in?”
“Hey! I only suggested that maybe we could take our chances, but Thaufar had to push things, like he always does!”
“Oh, I push things?”
“Did you suddenly start to notice?” added Círeth.
“What? Don’t you dare speak to me like that, elf!”
“And here he goes again… Anyway, just be quiet, everyone. I hear something.”

“Snort snort snart! Oïïïïnk!”

“Was that a werepig?”
“A werepig? Are you still drunk or what? Plus, it’s not nighttime yet.”
“Anyway… *sigh* Let’s just move on.”

The insides of the star were made out of pure metal. The walls were veined with grey conduits, cables and screws. Occasionally, bursts of steam came out of the tubes, leaving large trails in the thickening air. As they advanced in the corridor, the sound of their steps resounding deeply through the ship, they found themselves surrounded by a dim orange light.

“What is that, Duncan?”, nervously asked Círeth.
“I don’t know, but I can see an intersection up ahead. Let’s go check it out.”

They arrived at the crossing, and what was meant to happen… happened…

“Which way should we go? Left or right?” asked Duncan.
“Lrifth!” they said.

“Okay, so let me put it this way then: left XOR right?”
“Right.” said Shayitah.
“We can’t go right, the corridor is burning! And zapping like crazy.”
“That’s why I wanted to go right Bowdoc.”
“But… When… How even? Okay, I give up. We can’t go right, let’s go to the left first, and then we’ll go right so you can meet your friendly flames.”
“What is that glowing green light? It seems to come from the left corridor…”, asked Círeth.
“I don’t know, let’s go check it out.”

Following the light like summer flies, they trod through more moist passageways, and eventually made it to a closed door. Onto it was painted an enormous animal. After several minutes of close inspection, they realized that the so called beast was in fact a cute kitten, playing with a ball of yarn. Hanging next to the closed door, a rope disappeared through a hole in the wall.

“Great, what do we do now?” asked Shayitah.
“It’s obvious! We pull the rope, and the door opens. Easy.” said Bowdoc, proud of himself for being so manly…
“How do you know that?”
“I’m a rogue, I know how doors work… Didn’t you ever hear ‘Pull the hanging rope, and the door shall open’?”
“We don’t have doors in my tribe.”
“Just pull it Bowdoc!” pushed Thaufar.

Upon pulling the rope, the door slowly slid sideways.

They entered the room, and immediately noticed a big buzzing machine, right in the middle. It had a small drawing on it, ‘E-Kitty’. The machine exhaled green vapor from a panel on its left side. On the right side, a series of buttons and symbols gloomily beeped in loneliness. They started to examine he room, looking for anything that could prove either useful, or valuable.

“~ What does the button say? ~” hummed Shayitah, while forcing a big red emergency button down on the reactor’s control panel.

”Processus de réparation automatique de la coque enclenché. Veuillez vous éloigner des parois pendant que nos robots de maintenance résolvent les problèmes.”

“Oh great, couldn’t you have used your brain for once? Just for once! Didn’t you see the writing? It reads ‘Emergency case only’” said Thaufar with exasperation.
“No it doesn’t, it’s something more like ‘Life Renewal’”.
“Oh, and of course you elves know that better than everyone else?”
“As a matter of fact, yes! I know how to read, and you don’t. It looks like infernal to me.”

“I’m bored! I go back to corridor!” concluded Shayitah.
“Good, we don’t need you here! Go burn yourself!”
“And get zapped too!”
“Guys we can’t let her go on her own to that other path, plus there is nothing left to see here. Let’s go check it out.”
“Gosh! Is that all you ever say, Duncan?”
“Say what? Let’s just go, and check it out.”

As they left the room, a panel on the ceiling opened and plated boots descended towards the floor. Unfortunately, our adventurers were already far when the 8 feet tall maintenance robot turned on and started examining the damaged walls.

They made it to the intersection, only to discover that the burning corridor was now fully repaired.

“Hey Shayitah, what did you do with the corridor? Why isn’t it burning, nor zapping?” asked Duncan.
“I don’t know, it was that way when I came back. I was kind of disappointed, you know…”
“Yeah, I’m sorry Shayitah, but maybe there’s fire elsewhere on this ship?”
“There’s only one way to find out, let’s continue exploring.”

Several corridors later, the group arrived into a large room, with huge windows and a lot of seats. On the walls, countless dials, measurement devices and screens we flashing, red, blue, green, and teal.

“Look at these!” exclaimed Círeth.
“I know right? All this technology seems very advanced compared to what we have at home… Stars are definitely strange things…” pondered Duncan.
“What? No I mean: look at those seats, they are so comfortable!”
And as Círeth lazily sat in the central chair, the flashing suddenly stopped, and a deafening metallic sound came from the corridor they just left.

“What NOW?!” screamed Círeth.
“Can’t stop for even a minute, there’s always something to disturb you!”
“That’s why it’s called ‘adventure’, Círeth… You know, things wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.”
“Please, not that debate again, I tell you my point of view: you can’t know this because things have NEVER BEEN easy Duncan, so how can you tell? Plus, easy adventure means safe adventure, no random events, no extra-planar travelers to teleport on you…”
“Is she barging against the odds again?” asked Bowdoc, as Círeth continued on with her monologue.
“Yeah… Just leave it be, in one minute she’ll stand and shout at us for not being motivated…”
“And I am the only motivated person around, none of you really want to be exploring dungeons and fighting for our lives!”
“See? I told you…”

“I guess I shouldn’t feel bad about it. After all, I am the only elf around, surrounded by dwarves, orcs and humans… What a fate!”
“Listen everybody, there was a sound, so let’s go and check it out. Círeth you’re free to stay…”
“Fine, I come. Otherwise you would just get yourselves killed, and I would have to live with it. Move on already!”

As they arrived at the intersection, the noises got louder. It seemed to come from the reactor room. Slowly, they approached the door.

“There’s definitely something inside.” said Duncan.
“Sure, but what? I can recognize these sounds…” whispered Círeth.
“It sounds like, … like in a smith’s shop. You know, like someone is hammering stuff. Hard.” said Thaufar.
“Everybody’s ready? I’m opening the door.”

Duncan pulled down the rope, and the door slid open in a screechy sound. As they entered, they finally discovered the source of all this noise.

“What in the seven mountains?!”

Before them, an 8 feet tall maintenance robot was hammering down the deformed walls, trying to reshape them anew. On its back were written letters: ‘ER4-04PNF’. So far it had done a very good job, for the room was now very clean, and freshly painted. Only the south wall was left to attend to.

Suddenly, the robot froze. After several seconds, he dropped his hammer, which fell to the ground in a blast, echoed by the corridors of the fallen star. And before they could realize was what happening, ER4-04PNF turned around,  aimed at them with his spray-paint machine from which teal drops were still leaking out, and pressed the trigger…

To be continued…

By Axel Caro and Quentin Dauchy

The Fallen Star – Chapter One

Every now and then, strange things can occur. Everybody has experienced such an event in their lives. But what could possibly be found strange in a world of magic? Our story takes place in a small village, where the main activity consists in taking care of cattle and sowing the fields. Interestingly enough, this village has nothing to do with the Island of Sorrow, even though those two locations are only distant by two hundred miles, that is to say nothing for a brave group of adventurers.

Amongst the locals’ habits, the most popular ones certainly are brawling, something else that we cannot decently describe here, and of course, drinking contests. So what better place to start our adventure than… an overcrowded tavern?

Like every other night, the Green Eel’s inn is filled with peasants and guards, most of them tired after the harsh labor of the day, but still willing to spend a good evening with each other. At the tables, some drink, some sleep, and some try to sleep but fail because of the ambient noise. The bartender keeps his customers fed, and his tankards clean… sort of.

In one of the corners of the room, a small group of people is gathered around a table, where a man has challenged a half-orc barbarian into a drinking duel. The glasses are quickly drank, and the bets go higher each time they’re refilled. They’ve been almost thirty minutes in the duel, and both contestants are showing signs of weakness.

“Is that all you’ve got?!” shouted the inebriated farmer, violently putting down yet another glass on the table.
“Don’t make me laugh! I’m just getting started!” replied his orcish opponent.

“Is she done yet? We haven’t got all night. I know she has to defend her pride, but… man, this guy is a tough one!”
“And what would you do? Try to stop her? She has orc blood in her veins, and you, you’re just a dwarf. I don’t want to be rude, but who’s the one who drank all that beer again?”
“Watch your tongue, priest! I am Thaufar, son of Rabrann of the Great Mountain clan, and no one talks to me like that. Not even you, Duncan.”
“Okay, you’re right. Forget what I said. But I also have my pride, and you should remember that I’m a monk, not a priest.”
“Monks, priests, they’re all the same. You’re not as bad as those elves when it comes to fighting, but nothing can replace a well forged axe, made of good steel!”

“CHEAT!” screamed the barbarian. Thaufar and Duncan just had the time to turn around to see their companion grab her wooden tankard, and smash it onto the farmer’s face.
“Ain’t talking funny no more, hey?”

As his body hit the ground with an overly loud thud, the little crowd cheered their winner, and moved towards the counter to spend their newly acquired gold.
“What was that?” asked Duncan.
“What’s what?” replied the half-orc, as she collected the losing bets.
“He tried to give up the duel, the cheater! True men drink and faint on spot, that one was nothing but a cheater!”
“No I mean: what was that sound? There’s no way this guy’s that heavy! There must be something going on outside.”

At that precise moment, the entrance doors of the Green Eel opened wide, and a man rushed into the bar.
“They’re here! I told you they would come! I told you but no one believed me! Now they’re here and nothing can save us from them. Repent! Repent while you still have time!”
And he left, screaming his way through the streets.

“What the hell? There really must be something going on outside. That guy was completely panicking!” said Duncan.
“Hey Duncan, would you really have faith in a man half naked, shouting and running all over the place, with a fur hat and a wooden ladle in his hands? You’re the odd one here!”
“Well, if you put it this way… I mean… Okay, fine, he’s weird, but I heard a noise and whatever happened, it could be… Well, you know… An opportunity!”
“An opportunity?” said the barbarian.
“Yes Shayitah. Think about it. How long has it been since we last went exploring a dungeon? Five, six months? This may be our chance, right here, we have to seize it!”

“Oh no!” said a high pitched voice.

The voice came from a tall elven woman, who had remained silent during the drinking contest, and had just enjoyed her hyacinth cocktail. Near her, a halfling was sleeping, his head laying on his crossed arms. His leather outfit was clearly not suited for combat but he somewhat managed to make it this far.

“What do you mean ‘Oh no?’” asked Duncan.
“Sorry, I was just thinking.”
“Hahahaha! You were what?!” replied Thaufar.
“I was thinking, you stinky barrel.”
“What’s the problem Círeth?” enquired Duncan, while Thaufar continued laughing.

“Well, here’s the thing: all the priests of the city have been talking about the upcoming fulfillment of an ancient prophecy for months. It sounded like ‘And the stars shall fall upon thee’ or something… But the real problem is that they actually noticed a brilliant star shining in the sky yesterday, that could be seen even during daylight. And today’s the day the prophecy should realize…”
“So that’s why that man was all shaken up. I guess every single sect and cult of the city must be willing to relate this event to their own beliefs…”
“I don’t believe in prophecies!” intervened Shayitah.
“Well neither do I, but if the farmers do, we can take advantage of it. Let’s head out and see what’s what!” said Duncan.
“What do we do about Bowdoc? He’s still asleep.” asked Círeth.
“Just slap his face! Shayitah, would you…?” exclaimed Thaufar.

As she approached the halfling, he suddenly chocked upon seeing the fists of Shayitah, and quickly stood up.
“What’s going on? Can’t we just sleep in peace here?!”
“Not anymore, Bowdoc.” replied Duncan, “Adventure awaits, and I can smell fame and glory from here! Let’s go!”

The small group left the Green Eel’s inn, and was immediately caught in a human stream, leading them towards what seemed to be the center of interest.

“What’s happening?” shouted Duncan to a nearby fisherman, trying to overcome the ambient noise.
“Don’t you know? A star has fallen into the western fields! Hurry up if you don’t want to miss anything!”
“A star you said?!” but the man was already out of sight.

The group kept pushing forward with the crowd, and eventually made it to the western fields. Once peaceful, those were now partially ablaze, the earth had been pushed around here and there, and a small hill seemed to have appeared. Carefully bypassing the burning wheat, they reached the other side of the hill.

Here they could see the star, which had destroyed a major part of the village’s arable lands, scaring the cattle away. Now all that was left was that… thing, which had crashed so violently onto the earth that it had created the small hill.

It didn’t really look like a star, or at least, what they thought a star would look like. It was big of course, but it was made of some sort of metal. It was round shaped but plane at the same time, like a plate, and it had windows circling a bump at its top. On its side, they could see a door, an opening into the star. What could be hiding in here? Nobody knew, and nobody ever had the chance to know.

“Oh shit!”, “Jeez!”, “I don’t believe it!”, was all they could hear. All around them, the farmers were astonished by what they were seeing. Duncan finally spoke out loud:

“Guys, this is it! I told you, this is our chance! No one have ever had the chance to see the insides of a star. This is a one in a lifetime chance that is given to us, we must seize it!”
“Are you crazy Duncan?” shouted Bowdoc, “We don’t know anything about that thing! It could be dangerous, it could even be deadly! There’s no way I’m getting inside!”
“You’re just a coward, that’s all! All rogues are! We’re lucky no one has entered it yet, now quit talking, and go!” pressed Thaufar.
“Eh guys, I don’t want to interrupt you but Shayitah is already gone!” said the elf.
Indeed, the half-orc barbarian had had enough of all this talking, and decided to go on her own. If the others were not able to see how unique this adventure was, then to Hell with them!

“Everyone, run!” shouted Duncan.

And they all started to run towards the gaping side of the metal star, trying to catch up with Shayitah, as the crowd cheered them on, happy to see that the problem was finally being dealt with. The group arrived at the door, and hesitated for a second.

“Are we sure we want to do this…?”
“Yes we are. Now let’s go, Adventure awaits us!” concluded Duncan.

They entered the star, leaving the crowd behind them and diving into the darkness.

And as they did so, the door shut tight behind them with a smothered sound, only leaving a dim, eerie light, and a deep silence, contrasting with the cheers of the crowd that was now out of sight.

“Great! Now we’re trapped!” sighed Bowdoc.

The group slowly started to realize that this adventure would not be an easy one…

To be continued…

By Axel Caro and Quentin Dauchy