December 25, 2012

Bert, Tom, and Bill

[I just discovered that an article I had published long ago has apparently been sitting in draft form for a very long time!  I must have put it back into draft form somehow without realizing it, so keeping with the theme of The Hobbit movie release in the U.S., I guess the timing is good!]

Almost every player who has made it as far as the Trollshaws has come across Bilbo's Trolls - Bert, Tom, and Bill - at some point.  And most of us can remember how wonderful it was to discover such an iconic part of the Lore that ties us to both the Fellowship of the Ring and The Hobbit.  Right down to Bill still stooping over where the dawn caught him, to the bird's nest behind the ear of one of the others, they were such a treat to encounter.

One point of Lore that you don't often hear people mention, however, is the cave that the three trolls were using.  For it is indeed there, back up the path that heads northwest away from the three (and in the direction that the big boy, Dhit, paths for the bounty runs).

"They followed the tracks up the hill, until hidden by bushes they came on a big door of stone leading to a cave.  But they could not open it, not though they all pushed while Gandalf tried various incantations.  'Would this be any good?' asked Bilbo, when they were getting tired and angry.  'I found it on the ground where the trolls had their fight.'  He held out a largish key, though no doubt William had thought it very small and secret.  It must have fallen out of his pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.

'Why on earth didn't you mention it before?' they cried.  Gandalf grabbed it and fitted it into the key-hole.  Then the stone door swung back with one big push, and they all went inside.  There were bones on the floor and a nasty smell was in the air; but there was a good deal of food jumbled carelessly on shelves and on the ground, among an untidy litter of plunder, of all sorts from brass buttons to pots full of gold coins standing in a corner."

The troll cave is locked.
Among the treasure in this locked cave were various swords of all sizes and makes.  "Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful scabbards and jewelled hilts.  Gandalf and Thorin each took one of these; and Bilbo took a knife in a leather sheath."  Hello Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting.

The cave in LOTRO is unfortunately once again locked.  There does, however, remain one more bit of Lore attached to the three trolls which I have been unable to locate in the game, if it does even exist.  That is the spot where the company hid the treasure they took from the cave.

"Then they brought up their ponies, and carried away the pots of gold, and buried them very secretly not far from the rock by the river, putting a great many spells over them, just in case they ever had the chance to come back and recover them."

Late in The Fellowship of the Ring, Aragorn and the Hobbits pass this spot after finding the trolls.  "After a few miles they came out on the top of a high bank above the Road.  At this point the Road had left the Hoarwell far behind in its narrow valley, and now clung close to the feet of the hills, rolling and winding eastward among woods and heather-covered slopes towards the Ford and the Mountains.  Not far down the bank Strider pointed out a stone in the grass.  On it roughly cut and now much weathered could still be seen dwarf-runes and secret marks."

The terrain in the Trollshaws of LOTRO does of course differ from how it appears in the books - the place where the trolls were camped seems as if it should have been much closer to the River Hoarwell - so it is difficult to guess precisely where the treasure could potentially have been placed by the company.  With so many other wonderful Lore nuggets, I would be surprised if that bit was left out, but perhaps it was.  If anyone has ever come across the place where the company left their treasure, please let me know!

Sources:  The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring

December 15, 2012

Down, Down, to Goblin Town!

With the U.S. release of The Hobbit movie this weekend, how could I not focus on Hobbit-related content?  And what better place to do so than Goblin Town?  Ho, ho, my lad!

I have been re-reading The Hobbit in anticipation of the movie, and numerous times I have been struck with how well LOTRO incorporates descriptions from that book, such as Thorin's party making their way toward Rivendell.  My very first time I tried to find Rivendell, attempting a run on a much-too-small Hunter, I encountered my first real "roadless road" and got horribly lost as soon as I crossed the Bruinen.  And it took me several journeys before I finally grasped the way; the pathless, steep and wild slopes heading higher and higher into the mountains are dead on.  Sure, it seems clear enough now, but I was constantly getting lost at first!

The Black Crack
They did a fantastic job with Goblin Town, filling it with references to The Hobbit that are great fun for fans to encounter.  And of course we will get to see even more with Update 9 this Monday.

As it is now, it's a formidable place for toons in the upper 40's-50's, and can be a tedious maze even for level 85's who can otherwise pass unmolested.  It is also the perfect place to farm Rivendell reputation drops as well as pick up some interesting armour and shields with unique appearances.  Be sure to empty your bags before you go!  I have taken a few toons through to finish all of the quests and deeds now, and use a fantastic map I found on the LOTRO Vault website.

If we prepare properly for our trip to Goblin Town, we get to pick up some quests from old friends from The Hobbit before we leave.  We get to talk to Gloin and Dwalin before heading out.  Bilbo certainly has some special requests for us to take care of on his behalf.  One of his tasks starts a deed where we get to collect the buttons he lost while squeezing through a doorway to escape from Gollum and Goblin Town, which I have always thought to be one of the most charming connections to The Hobbit. "It was still ajar, but a goblin had pushed it nearly to.  Bilbo struggled but he could not move it.  He tried to squeeze through the crack.  He squeezed and squeezed, and he stuck!  It was awful.  His buttons had got wedged on the edge of the door and the door-post.... He gave a terrific squirm.  Buttons burst off in all directions.  He was through, with a torn coat and waistcoat, leaping down the steps like a goat, while bewildered goblins were still picking up his nice brass buttons on the doorstep."

Ever wonder what happened to the other surviving Dwarves from Thorin's expedition?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to encounter them at some point as well?  We were able to play as the doomed Ori during the session play "We Cannot Get Out."  We also got to encounter Dori briefly at a few points in LOTRO.  We know that Bifur, who survived the Battle of Five Armies and supposedly stayed in Erebor, is dad to our Bosi and granddad to Bori of LOTRO Moria fame.  And of course we see an ale called Bombur's Beard.  I wonder if any of the other survivors will be found in the new Erebor instances/raids that are slated to be released in the spring?  Several of them supposedly stuck around that area after the Battle of the Five Armies.

At any rate, back to Goblin Town!  Most know there are two routes in:  One through the Mountain's Throat and one through the more hidden Black Crack.  As the book states, "That, of course, is the dangerous part about caves: you don't now how far they go back, sometimes, or where a passage behind may lead to, or what is waiting for you inside."  Indeed.

Once inside we discover that Goblin Town is, naturally, again filled with Goblins.  There's a new Great Goblin in charge, with terrible posture.  And these Goblins and their friends have not forgotten how Thorin and company killed their prior Great Goblin, gave them the slip, and then trounced them during the Battle of Five Armies.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Deep inside Goblin Town can be found some wonderful cave art created by the goblins.  One picture commemorates a particularly frustrating moment for them, after the Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf had escaped and climbed up trees to escape them and the local Wargs.  We see a wonderful image of the company being rescued from the burning trees by the Eagles, cheating the Goblins and Wargs out of nice crispy fried Dwarf.

Further down the long, winding passages of Goblin Town, we encounter an image that shows us what Goblin nightmares might look like.  We of course know him as Gollum, or Sméagol.  To the Goblins, it was the hideous creature who lurked in the darkness, unseen, but preyed upon them as yummy snacks now and then.  I'd have nightmares, too.

One other piece of cave art has always puzzled me, and I have studied it several times trying to figure out exactly what it represents.  It is the image of what appears to be a large number of Goblins or Orcs battling Dwarves.  A particularly large Goblin, wearing what could be a crown, is shown dual-wielding two swords or daggers and stabbing a Dwarf.  The image appears to show what could be interpreted as rock formations, or the inside of a cave, and looks as if the Goblins are streaming out toward the Dwarves, who are running outside into a wooded area.  There seems to be a bit of fire going on inside as well.  When I first saw this art, I wasn't paying close attention, and thought it represented the Great Goblin attacking Thorin's party.  But on further inspection during subsequent visits to Goblin Town, I realized there are far more than 13 Dwarves represented here, and no Wizard or Hobbit, so I'm quite certain that isn't what it is meant to represent.

So I started thinking about other Goblin/Orc vs. Dwarf conflicts in the Lore.  There is of course the Battle of Five Armies with the Goblins led by Bolg, son of Azog, but again there are things missing that would be significant:  Men, Elves, Eagles, a representation of the Lonely Mountain.

I suspect the picture is set in Moria.  Several significant things have happened there, such as Thrór, Thorin's grandpa, venturing in with Nár as his sole companion (yes, our Nár from Nár's Peak!) and getting his head whacked off by Azog.  But that just involved the two Dwarves, and Nár escaped to tell of the tale.  "When Thrór came to Moria, the Gate was open.  Nár begged him to beware, but he took no heed of him, and walked proudly in as an heir that returns.  But he did not come back. Nár stayed near by for many days in hiding.  One day he heard a loud shout and the blare of a horn, and a body was flung out on the steps.  Fearing that it was Thrór, he began to creep near, but there came a voice from within the gate:  "Come on, beardling! We can see you.  But there is no need to be afraid today.  We need you as a messenger."  Thus Nár, after seeing the body and severed hear of Thrór with "AZOG" branded on the forehead, was allowed to live and carry the tale back to Thráin.  No wonder he was a little mad ever since.
Unhappy Dwarves and One Big Orc

There is of course also the ill-fated attempt of Balin, along with Ori and Óin and many other Dwarves, to resettle Moria.  They made it five years before Balin was killed by an Orc archer in the Dimrill Dale.  We know about this and the ensuing siege thanks to Ori and the book left in the Chamber of Mazarbul.  Except, as Ori made clear, they were stuck inside and could not get out, so this too does not match the images in this last cave painting.

Going back to the death of Thrór, Thráin decided to take revenge, and began the long War of the Dwarves and Orcs, routing out and killing Orcs "from Gundabad to the Gladden" as revenge and to try to find Azog.  Finally the remaining Orcs took refuge in Moria, and the large company of Dwarves arrived at Azanulbizar, what we also know as Nanduhirion or the Dimrill Dale.  At first the Orcs had the upper hand and fought mercilessly, and the Dwarves were "driven into a wood of great trees that then still grew not far from Kheled-zaram."  Thráin's son Frerin was slain (Frerin's Court, anyone?) as well as Fundin, and both Thráin and Thorin were wounded.  The arrival of the Dwarves from the Iron Hills, led by Náin, helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the Dwarves.  This drew out Azog, "a great Orc with an iron-clad head," who slew Náin but was in turn beheaded by his son Dáin, ending the Battle of Azanulbizar.  Although this Battle ended badly for the Orcs and particularly for Azog, I think there are enough clues in the picture to make this the  most likely event represented.  They just represented the part they liked to remember most.

Gollum's Island
In the far, far reaches of Goblin Town, we of course find Gollum's Cave.  Once you get to the creepy artwork above, you know you are close.  There inside the cave is the lake, and little island littered with fishbones.  And a hut.  Now, this hut - I have no memory of this hut.  In Rivendell, Bilbo even makes mention of having forgotten about it since he had never been too close to it when he bestows the quest to go write a description of Gollum's Cave.  I cannot find a hut mentioned anywhere I've looked in The Hobbit or in the Fellowship of the Ring.  Where am I missing this hut???  It's driving me crazy!

I'm looking forward to the new instance with the Great Goblin, and seeing how his area has been revamped.  I wish everyone enjoyment of the new movie as well as Update 9!

November 5, 2012

A Dunlending and Rohirrim Romance

This post is going to involve me doing a bit of predicting on where the epic line is going, but it is something that I have suspected since the Great River epic line.  If I'm right, I apologize for any spoilers!  And this will spoil things a bit if you have not done the epic line in Rohan.  If I'm wrong, I hope I at least end up entertaining people!

First we need to backtrack to Volume III, Book 2  of the epic line.  This volume had us heading south with the Grey Company into the hills and plains of Enedwaith, a region heavily populated by different factions of Dunlendings.  We met a Dunlending warrior named Wadu in Chapter 9 and gained his trust - a very difficult thing to do with Dunlending peoples.

In a subsequent quest in Chapter 11, while on a task for Saeradan, we discovered a sword with ancient markings.  Saeradan determines that this is a sword of the Rohirrim.  As you search to find the presumable man of Rohan who owned that sword, you discover the owner was actually the Dunlending Wadu, and he is dead.

Saeradan:  "I am sorry indeed to hear that Wadu has been slain, but I cannot understand how he came to possess the sword that was taken from him. It is without doubt a sword of the Rohirrim, and the Men of Rohan are no friend to the clans of Dunland. There is a long history of war between the two, and I fear that if Saruman's plans continue to bear fruit there will be war again. Why would Wadu have borne such a sword? And what brought him to that road to die? Was he so o'ermatched in number that even such a well-crafted sword could avail him nothing?"

Thanks Corudan so I don't feel like three's a crowd.
As we know, we see much more of Nona throughout Dunland and into the Great River area, and of course as we enter Rohan.  At the end of Volume III, Book 6, it even looks like we may lose Nona after she is harmed by the mount-less Nazgul in the Brown Lands, but we are able to take her, assisted by the kinder-hearted Rohirrim guard Horn, to Galadriel in Caras Galadhon to be healed.  In the company of Nona, Horn, and the Elf Corudan, you head off to the Falls of Rauros and then into Rohan.

But let's get back to that sword.  There is a lot of time spent on that sword back in the Chapters of Volume III, Book 2.  You find it, Saeradan analyzes it closely and comments on how it could possibly have ended up in the hands of a Dunlending warrior so far away from Rohan, you hunt it down for Nora after she left it under Wadu's favorite tree and she decides she wants to use it.  A lot of running around and attention for an old sword, and we still do not know where it came from, only that "it came to" her brother Wadu somehow.  However, in a bit of what I think is foreshadowing, in Book 6, Chapter 8, as Horn is contemplating the statue of Eorl the Young and Cirion, he muses about the great battle that took place on the Field of Celebrant, and has the feeling that the sword carried by Nona was present during that battle.  Hmmmm.....

Later as we begin to encounter the Rohirrim, we also encounter their great disdain for and stereotyping of the Dunlendings, even toward someone like Nona who is on their side as an enemy against the forces of darkness.  Even as she lies wounded in Stangard at the end of Book 6, several of the Rohirrim are disinclined to do anything to help and would have left her to die, if not for the assistance of Horn.  And she comes close to losing her sword to the Thane of Stangard at one point.  Again - that sword.

In the epic books that take us into the East Wall and Rohan, we see a growing romance between Nona of the Dunlendings and Horn of Rohan.  Ain't it always the way.  But I think this is symbolic of what I fully expect us to learn in future epic books:  that Nona is actually part Dunlending and part of Rohirrim descent, and that she and Horn will play a significant role in starting to bring together two groups of peoples who have hated each other for hundreds of years.

Map of Rohan, thanks to The Thain's Book
Where do I get the notion that Nona has Rohirrim ancestry?  We have also been exposed to a bit of the tale of Wulf - remember Wulf's Cleft south of the Starkmoors in Dunland? (Why do we not have a raid instance there?!?)  Nona also tells us the story herself, although she's sort of interrupted by being nearly killed by a Nazgul.

Helm Hammerhand was King of Rohan from 2691-2759 of the Third Age, over 200 years before the events of the War of the Ring.  During his rule there was a man in Rohan named Freca who owned large tracts of land on either side of the Adorn River, between the Isen and White Mountains, in the west of Rohan.  Freca is described as being rich and powerful, and though Helm included him in his councils, he disliked and mistrusted him.  Though a man of Rohan, Freca was also suspect of having "much Dunlendish blood, and was dark-haired."  Appendix A states he claimed to be descended from King Freawine, who would have been Helm's Great-Great-Grandfather, thus making the two of them distant cousins.

During one meeting at Edoras, Freca attended with a number of his men and asked Helm to give the hand of his daughter to Freca's son, Wulf.  Helm's response was "no thanks," although perhaps not delivered as diplomatically as it could have been:  "You have grown big since you were last here; but it is mostly fat, I guess."  All of the men of Edoras laughed.  After the meeting Helm took Freca outside and away from all of their men to speak privately, again basically told him he was stepping way outside his bounds, and punched him hard enough that Freca fell and soon after died.

Freca's son Wulf was furious, and led a large host of Dunlendings against Edoras and occupied it, slaying one of Helm's sons while Helm had retreated to the Hornburg (what we also know as "Helm's Deep").  At the same time, Rohan was again being invaded by Easterlings, and this time enemies of Gondor joined in Wulf's attack.  Rohan was completely overrun and its people fled to the mountains.  Wulf and the Dunlendings (sounds like the name of a garage band) occupied Edoras over the long winter of 2758-9, when all of Rohan lay under snow for almost 5 months.  Both the Rohirrim and their enemies in Edoras suffered.  Helm's second and last son, Hama, set forth from the Hornburg to retake Edoras, but was lost in the snow.  Finally Helm himself set out solo and barehanded to take on all of the Dunlendings in the belief that if he himself bore no weapons, no weapon could "bite" him.  This led to a Dunlending legend that Helm actually ate his enemies.  An interesting plan of Helm's but nevertheless he was found dead, frozen upright.  Anyone getting the impression that our noble Helm of Helm's Deep infamy was a bit nuts???

Finally the winter broke and a company of Rohirrim led by Frealaf, a nephew of Helm and ancestor of our King Theoden, retook Edoras and defeated Wulf. 

My theory is that Nona is somehow a descendant of Wulf and Freca, thus making her also part a descendant of King Freawine (not to mention a very, very, very distant counsin of Theoden, Eomer, and Eowyn) and so of Rohan blood as well as a woman of Dunland.  Somehow the sword will turn out to have belonged to Wulf, possibly handed down from King Freawine - maybe even from Eorl himself or at least someone else who was present at the Battle of Parth Celebrant, if we can trust the intuition of Horn.

A lot of backstory to get to my brief theory!  Only time will tell if I predict correctly or am way off the mark (and way off the Mark as well).  And I'm looking forward to it either way.  Yeah, I'm a Nona/Horn 'Shipper at heart.  Bring on the next Epic Book!

Sources: The Return of the Kings, Appendix A and Unfinished Tales

Cracked Eggs: Prostitution in Middle Earth???

I know, I know.  The Riders of Rohan expansion just came out; I took a several month hiatus away from blogging about Middle Earth lore in LOTRO.  And what do I choose to be my first topic upon return?  In my defense, it is the expansion that finally prodded me to cover this subject!

The Inn at Elthengels
No, this is obviously not a Lore-related post, hence my titling it as a "Cracked Egg" submission.  If you remember back to my early blogging days, the Cracked Eggs series are devoted to little non-Middle Earth jokes and Easter eggs.  I'm drawing a line in the sand and calling out the Dev's obsession with, yes, prostitution!  *WINK*

The impetus for this post actually came from exploring the early areas of the new Riders of Rohan expansion.  In the village of Elthengels in The Wold, they have a lovely tavern.  Being able to explore the insides of the very beautiful homes and buildings of the Rohirrim is something I particularly enjoy.  In Elthengels, we eventually get to go in and speak to some of the patrons.

The upstairs of this particular tavern is a busy place, with many men and women sitting at tables, enjoying the tavern fare.  Curiously there are two small bedrooms that open directly onto the tavern area, partitioned off only by hanging curtains.  One room has a large, full-sized bed; the other room has two small single beds.  *WINK*
"Walking the Streets" - Cosmetic LOTRO

Yes, yes I know what you are thinking:  these are the rooms of the tavern owners, or their servants.  Or the tavern also serves as an inn, and these are guest rooms.  It's Middle Earth!  These are the Rohirrim!  They wouldn't...!  They didn't...!  That seems entirely logical.  But not for me!  My first thought on seeing those rooms were that they are rooms meant to conduct business of generally fairly short duration, several times a night.  *WINK*   It isn't at all unheard of to see such rooms above taverns through history.  Of course, it is equally common to see true inns being run in taverns as well.  What can I say, sometimes the imagination runs and I have to let it.

OK, so maybe I'm be overly imaginative.  But what made me more inclined to make this leap of the imagination are the precedents set in Bree.  Yes, Bree.

In one of my first blog posts, I reference Wink the Cat *WINK* and the Cat House in Bree.  Much has already been discussed about this house, particularly in the LOTRO Forums over the years.  In one of those Forums, Turbine's Berephon is credited with stating this was an inside joke among the Devs.  Believe me, I'm not the first to speculate on exactly what that inside joke might be.  Let's think of different words for "cat."  When a number of one of those "cat" words are congregated together in one house, there could be several types of living situations possible.  And no, I'm not thinking of a sorority house.

Wink and the Other Cats in Bree
Visiting that house is of course part of Chicken Play.  Not to mention being ported there after getting stinking drunk using an Inn League keg - how often is that how most people get into a Cat House in the first place?  Or, sweetest of all, at least we used to be sent there with flowers during the spring festival (even if they really were meant for the "nice" lady next door).

So "cat" lovers *WINK* in LOTRO have always had a special place to go in Bree.  But what if a cat isn't your favorite animal?

Enter - the Turtle House! *WINK*  In the spring of 2012, a new series of quests was introduced to Bree, after teasing us for some time with what were locked doors that could presumably be opened some day.  This let us travel into the interior of a few more Bree buildings, in line with what the Great River area brought us in Stangard and beyond.

Scary little turtles!
But my little radar tells me it was more than this.  After years of having the Cat House in Bree, it was only fair that a Turtle House should open up.  After all, we are told in this quest line that "the mayor has been known to turn a blind eye to the keeping of numerous pets within homes in Bree."  We covered "cat" euphemisms earlier, now let's think about what "turtle" and "turtle shell" can be used to describe.  *WINK*  (Hey, I do try to keep my blog as family-friendly as possible, which is quite challenging with this particular subject.)  We meet the Hobbit Grobo in Staddle, who is clearly a...turtle-phobic?...Hobbit.  Just the thought of these turtles getting bigger fills him with dread.

All I can say is - three cheers for Mayor Graeme Tenderlarch for being Equal Opportunity in permitting fans of cats, or turtles, or both, to have places to visit in Bree!  After all, in the words of Quick-wit Culver in the instance The Infiltrator's Surprise, "Are you sure you're one of us? This has been a long time coming, and I don't want some outsider spoiling it."  Long time coming, indeed!  Fortunately all the turtles in Bree have a home with Artie Root (such a name), who happens to own the nicest window view in the whole town.

The Turtle House - Nicest window in Bree!
I understand, it appears I have my mind in the gutter and there could be all sorts of Freudian interpretations made about ME.  And that I could be accused of drawing these assumptions with very little concrete evidence.  But - meh - I call 'em as I see 'em!  And I see Devs who like to be playful and about as naughty as they probably dare be while still maintaining the integrity of Middle Earth.

Plus I wanted to return to my blog in a big way.  NOW on to Rohan....

Many thanks to Hymne from Cosmetic LOTRO for letting me post one of her early outfit designs, "Walking the Streets."  It has always stuck in my memory and I was pleased to be able to link to it here.  If you have never visited her site before, you are missing so much - please stop by!

August 2, 2012

No Rotten Eggs

I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for disappearing, and to also thank everyone for the very kind emails a number of you have sent over the last few months.  I truly appreciate hearing that others have enjoyed this blog.

I am not gone completely; life outside Middle Earth took a new turn this spring, but I'm slowly making my way back there.  I am looking forward to the release of Rohan, and hope to be posting new lore nuggets soon.

Thank you all!  In the meantime, enjoy the Farmer's Faire and upcoming Lithe Festival!


March 29, 2012

The Brown Lands Part II: The Blue Men Group

I am extremely pleased to submit a guest post by my Council of Eriador kinmate, Joel.  Hang on to somethin', he has uncovered some good stuff!


Hello folks, it is Joel. I have been playing LotRO for 5 years since the first public beta (commonly known as Founder’s Beta, which started on March 31, 2007). I am still a young hobbit in terms of arriving into the Tolkien scene, having done so in November 2002. One fateful night, a friend of mine had recently acquired the just-released Extended Edition of Fellowship of the Ring and had invited a bunch of us attending the University of Oregon at the time over to see it. I was instantly hooked at that point, and in the course of 9 months, until the end of that following summer, I had devoured the books, gone out and purchased my own set, and started nomming on The Silmarillion.

Since then, my love of Tolkien has grown by leaps and bounds. In April 2004, I joined a fanatics site called the Lord of the Rings Plaza, and was captivated by the ability to roleplay on their forums. Less than 3 years later, I heard this game was coming out within a few weeks, so of course I opted to try it out, not able to get enough of the world of Tolkien, even though I had just about every book concerning Middle Earth written by the Professor and his son.

So, when I stumbled across this blog a couple of months ago, after joining McFarlane’s kin, I fell in love with it. I love the lore, and seeing the lore come to life. I even secretly hoped to one day contribute. Well, I am honored to be given that chance with this guest post. I too, am a completionist, but more often than not, I get that satisfaction and chill when something obscure from the books is brought to life in the game in front of my eyes.

Long introduction aside, let’s get to the heart of this.

The other day, I was wrapping up questing in the new Great River region that came with the recent Update 6, and the last area left for me to do was The Brown Lands. There was a quest that takes you into this camp to burn down some banners flying around their camp. Sounds like a typical quest. I like to read quest text. It makes some folks that I group up with irritated. Even if I have done the quest before, I still love to read the quest. I’m glad I took the time, because for this particular quest, something caught my eye, and cue the “O.M.G. No Way!” reaction.

"The Khundolar have the gall to fly the banners of the Dark Lord at Lashkarg. I have heard that they serve Mordor in direct disregard for the mandates of their master, a man who calls himself Yirokhsar the Blue, a sorcerer of no small power, they say."

Wait. What?! A sorcerer of no small power? The Blue? If I am not mistaken, this could possibly be referencing one of the Blue Wizards that came over from Valinor with Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast. Together, with a second Blue Wizard (there were a total of 5 that came from Valinor), they journeyed to lands far in the East, but never returned to the west-lands, and not much was known about them.

So, I instantly grabbed my copy of The Unfinished Tales, all while excitedly speculating with our McFarlane, and found the following from Part Four, Chapter II: The Istari (also referred to as “the essay on the Istari”).

"Of the Blue little was known in the West, and they had no names save Ithryn Luin "the Blue Wizards;" for they passed into the east with Curunír, but they never returned, and whether they remained in the East, pursuing their the purposes for which they were sent; or perished; or as some hold were ensnared by Sauron and became his servants, is not now known(3). But none of these chances were impossible to be; for, strange indeed though this may seem, the Istari, being clad in bodies of Middle-Earth, might even as Men and Elves fall away from their purposes, and do evil, forgetting the good in the search for power to effect it."  There is a footnote in this passage (in the book it is the third such footnote, so I have left it as 3 in the quote above):

"In a letter written in 1958 my father said that he knew nothing about 'the other two,' since they were not concerned in the history of the North-west of Middle-earth. ’I think,' he wrote, 'they went as emissaries to distant regions, East and South, far out of Númenórean range: missionaries to enemy-occupied lands, as it were. What success they had I do not know; but I fear that they failed, as Saruman did, though doubtless in different ways; and I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and 'magic' traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron.'" (This is found in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 211, where he responds to a question about the color of the two wizards mentioned in LotR, but never named, among a multitude of other questions).

Hmmm, sounds a lot like the quest text description above, doesn’t it? “I have heard that they serve Mordor in direct disregard for the mandates of their master, a man who calls himself Yirokhsar the Blue, a sorcerer of no small power, they say."

Keep in mind, that the Istari, or “Wizards,” were sent to Middle-Earth by the Lords of the West in Valinor only to move Men and Elves to action against the rising of Sauron. There is so much we could delve into about that alone, but I’ll save that for another blog post that McFarlane can dive into if she wishes.

But while roaming around in the Brown Lands, you do come across Blue Caste Sorcerers. This may allude to one of the Blue Wizards, much like White Hand Orcs/Uruks are under the sway of Saruman the White. Only time will tell if we are able to confront one of these Blue Wizards in the future of LotRO, as this does open up many possibilities for future storylines, especially with not much information on them in the lore.

Sources: Unfinished Tales, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

March 24, 2012

Eregion Part II: The Ring Lore of Eregion

Or, "Why Exactly Did the Elves Help Sauron Make His Rings of Power?"

Or, "Sauron is Evil?  But He's Soooo CUTE!"

Who hasn't run the School and/or Library at Tham Mírdain over and over again?  Who hasn't read about the Doors to Moria and wondered what the text meant, beyond the simple translation?  Who hasn't sought after a Symbol, or Worn Symbol, of Celebrimbor in order to craft a yummy legendary item?  Who hasn't run through the latter Books of Volume I, encountering that rotten Amarthiel seeking her ring, Narchuil, and wondered how a nice Elf girl like Narmeleth could have ended up the way she did? 

The timeline of Appendix B to the Lord of the Rings shows us that Eregion was settled by the Noldor Elves in the year 750 of the Second Age.  Fortunately for us, we are able to learn more in other sources, usch as the Silmarillion.  However, the version here is largely from Unfinished Tales, and I love the extra details it provides on Eregion, Sauron's relationship with the Elves there, and the Rings of Power.  However, we do need to note that at times there are minor discrepancies between what appears in the account in Unfinished Tales and the information in Lord of the Rings, and I will try to point those instances out when they occur.

We learn that it was Galadriel and Celeborn who settled Eregion.  With them they brought a talented Elven smith named Celebrimbor, who is described as having "an almost dwarvish obsession with crafts," and who became the head crafter in Eregion.  His love of crafting made him a natural ally of the dwarves next door in Moria, particularly one named Narvi.  (Sound familiar?  "I, Narvi, made them.  Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs."  Some of the words found on the western door into Moria.)  A strong relationship was enjoyed between the Elves of Eregion and the Dwarves of Moria, with both sides benefiting immensely (although Celeborn still didn't care much for Dwarves).

This was taking place about 700 years after the end of the First Age and the overthrow of Morgoth.  One of his great Lieutenants, Sauron, had fled and laid low for a few hundred years.  At around year 500 of the Second Age, Sauron began to stir again and eventually became aware of the Elves settling in Eregion, establishing Mordor as his own "seat" of rule in the year 1000.  Sauron hated the Elves.  He did try to destroy them in the First Age, after all.  They just didn't care about Middle Earth in the way HE cared about it, you see.  In the Second Age he hoped to again attempt to bring them under his dominion.

Sauron as Anatheron
In the year 1200, Sauron went to visit the Elves of Eregion in the guise of Annatar, a beautiful emissary of the Valar, supposedly sent there to provide aid to the Elves.  Sauron used all of his charm and art to ingratiate himself with Celebrimbor and the other artisans of Eregion, who by this point had formed a tightly knit and powerful society called the Gwaith-i-Mírdain.  Somehow Galadriel and Celeborn, without of course realizing who he was, remained immune to him and maintained a suspicious view of him.

In this fair guise Sauron taught much to the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, drawing them closer and closer to him, and shockingly convinced them to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn.  According to Unfinished Tales this occurred some time between 1350 and 1400 of the Second Year.  At this point, Galadriel left Eregion, passing through Moria, into Lorien (this account indicates she took her daughter, Celebrian, AND her son, Amroth with her - for a history of Amroth and whether or not he was really a child of Galadriel and Celeborn see my prior post on Lothlorien).  Celeborn, however, was a Dwarf-hater and would not enter Moria, thus staying behind in Eregion, scorned by Celebrimbor.  It was at this time that Sauron had the Gwaith-i-Mírdain begin forging the Rings of Power, without their knowledge of what they were being created for.

Sauron then returned to Mordor, and crafted the One Ring in the fires of Orodruin.  Celebrimbor, who had been blind but never "corrupted in heart or faith," now learned who Annatar was and of the existence of the One Ring, and went to Galadriel for guidance.  They unfortunately "failed to find the strength" to destroy the Rings of Power.  Galadriel instructed him to give the Three for the Elves, since they were made by Celebrimbor alone, without the aid of Sauron, to Elves for safekeeping.  Hence she received Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and the other two Rings were given to Gil-Galad.  Gil-Galad later passed Vilya, the Ring of Air, to Elrond and Narya, the Ring of Fire to Cirdan the Shipwright, who then passed it to Gandalf.

Mural venerating Anatheron.
Once Sauron learned his disguise was blown and Celebrimbor had abandoned him, he became enraged and set forth to attack and destroy Eregion.  Gil-Galad learned of the plan, and sent Elrond forth with a host to help defend Eregion, but they were too far away and too late.  Celeborn briefly drove Sauron's vanguard back, but the main host was too large and powerful - the devastation of Eregion thus occurred.  Sauron was able to capture "the House of the Mírdain, where were their smithies and their treasures"  and took the Nine Rings for Men, but did not find the Seven for the Dwarves (for the first time ever, Snow White just popped into my mind) or the Three for the Elves.  He captured Celebrimbor and, under torture, learned where the Seven were.  (Appendix A indicates the belief of the Dwarves that the Ring received by Durin was not among those tainted by Sauron.)  Celebrimbor would not reveal the location of the Three, however, and was killed by Sauron.

"In black anger he turned back to battle; and bearing as a banner Celebrimbor's body hung upon a pole, shot through with Orc-arrows, he turned upon the forces of Elrond.  Elrond had gathered such few of the Elves of Eregion as had escaped, but he had no force to withstand the onset.  He would indeed have been overwhelmed had no Sauron's host been attacked in the rear; for Durin sent out a force of Dwarves from Khazad-dum, and with them came Elves of Lorinand led by Amroth.  Elrond was able to extricate himself, but he was forced away northwards, and it was at that time (in the year 1697, according to the Tale of Years) that he established a refuge and stronghold at Imladris.  Sauron withdrew the pursuit of Elrond and turned upon the Dwarves and the Elves of Lorinand, whom he drove back; but the Gates of Moria were shut, and he could not enter.  Ever afterwards Moria had Sauron's hate, and all Orcs were commanded to harry Dwarves whenever they might."

In LOTRO, Turbine could not use the name Annatar because it is not mentioned in the LotR; instead we get to meet him as Anatheron in the Session Play "Daughter of Strife" - where we see the LOTRO character Narmeleth representing how easily swayed the Gwaith-i-Mírdain must have been.  Thanks to LOTRO-Wiki for the photo as I can't get back in there to take one myself!  Also thanks to One Wiki to Rule them All for the mural photo.

So much Lore tied to Eregion - how it was first settled by Elves and what drove Galadriel and Celeborn to later move to Lorien, the roots of the brief good relationship between them and the Dwarves of Moria, how the Rings of Power came to be crafted and the Three ending up with their eventual owners, even the origins of Imladris tie in here.

Sources:  Lord of the Rings Appendix A, Appendix B; Unfinished Tales, The Silmarillion

March 21, 2012

The Brown Lands

Despite every expectation that the name might convey, it was a joy to be able to enter and quest in this area.  As is the case with my entire blog, Here Be Spoilers.  If you haven't ventured this far in your questing and don't wish to be disappointed, read at your peril!

The Brown Lands feature on various maps of Middle Earth created by Professor Tolkien, and certainly served as the locale for certain points of Lore.  When I first learned the term "scorched earth policy" in a history class long ago, I carried that image into every reading of LotR ever after.  This region personifies that - this isn't the healthy, earthy brown hues of living things; this is the brown of death.  Even the air is tinted brown.

The Desolation of the Gardens
Our main ally post in the Brown Lands is Etheburg.  This makes me think of a passage from Unfinished Tales, where Eorl the Young talks about returning after Cirion had granted to him the lands that would become Rohan, leaving some men behind to keep order while others returned home to gather their families and belongings.  "....the main force shall remain in the North-east to guard above all the place where the Balchoth made a crossing of the Anduin out of the Brown Lands; for there is still the greatest danger, and there also is my chief hope, if I return, of leading my people into their new land with as little grief and loss as may be."  For he planned to bring his people back down the east side of the Anduin (choosing this side despite having to travel in the shadow of Dol Guldur, avoiding travel down the western side of Anduin in part due to it not being easily traveled by horses/wagons but also because it would take them near the "Dwimordene where dwells the White Lady and weaves nets that no mortal can pass" - such a reputation Galadriel built up for herself!).

The Brown Lands have been so for 3000 years - Treebeard references traveling here during the time of the "war between Sauron and the Men of the Sea" to find "a desert:  it was all burned and uprooted, for war had passed over it." 

Nice blind shot, Legolas!
This is also the place Turbine has chosen to have the Company  encounter the Nazgûl and shoot down him and his mount on their trip down the Anduin, not knowing what manner of foe it was (though Frodo of course had his suspicions).  "Suddenly the great bow of Lorien sang.  Shrill went the arrow from the elven-string.  Frodo looked up.  Almost above him the winged shape swerved.  There was a harsh croaking scream, as it fell out of the air, vanishing down into the gloom of the eastern shore.  The sky was clean again.  There was a tumult of many voices far away, cursing and wailing in the darkness, and then silence.  Neither shaft nor cry came again from the east that night."  Too bad it hadn't fallen just a littttttle more to the west.

But of course the big draw for me to the Brown Lands was the chance of hearing more about the Entwives, and this did not disappoint at all.

As Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin, when the world was young the Ents and Entwives walked together and housed together, but their "hearts did not go on growing in the same way" - what a wonderful way to put it!  The Entwives became most concerned with growing things that produced seeds and berries and nuts that could be harvested, things that could be cultivated and trained.  The Entwives sought "order, and plenty, and peace (by which they meant that things should remain where they had set them)."  Another wonderful description!  At the time when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Anduin to plant gardens and fields, and taught their knowledge and skills to Men.  But the Ents and Entwives saw less and less of each other as the years passed, until the visit Treebeard made to discover they were gone.

As far as the Ents were concerned, they were gone, not dead.  He makes this very clear to Pippin and Merry.  As he states, songs were made of the search of the Ents for the Entwives.  Some people said they saw them heading west, or east; others said south.  Some never saw them at all.  Nowhere could the Ents find any trace of them, however, and they eventually returned to their forests.  Ent legend holds that the two will meet again some day in a new land where both can be happy, but that it cannot happen until both have lost everything dear to them.

This is why Treebeard is particularly interested in learning more about the Shire; based on the description he gets from Merry and Pippin, it naturally sounds like a place the Entwives would have dearly loved.

In my post on the Old Forest, I talk about how Turbine cleverly found a semi-resting place for these highly sought Entwives.  Truly, do the Flowers of the Old Forest quest - use a map if it makes you crazy, several good ones exist! - and most importantly hover over each flower's deed once you complete it.  I had always noted that a flower for one famous name was missing, and I wondered why - until now.  I won't spoil this, and will instead leave it for you to find in the Brown Lands.

We also see more mention of the Entwives in the dialogue that appears in the green haven, Limlight Glade, you eventually reach when visiting the Limlight Gorge to knock out the quests in that region.  If you stay to listen, you also encounter some very neat dialogue between one of the Ents here and an Elf, Ordhrien (who reveals himself to be over 3000 years old), including the following:

Ordhrien says, ''Have you considered the Lady's offer yet Thickbark?''
Ordhrien says, ''Such an alliance could protect both our forests.''
Thickbark says, ''Oh? Indeed. Hrrm...''
Thickbark says, ''Then tell me, where were the Galadhrim when our Gardens were despoiled by the enemy?''
Ordhrien says, ''What?''
Ordhrien says, ''We were fighting... *I* was fighting - on the very slopes of Mount Doom!''
Thickbark says, ''Haroom... No doubt. No doubt. You are a great warrior. That much I can see.''
Thickbark says, ''But Mount Doom was a long way away from the Gardens... a long way indeed.''
Thickbark says, ''Too far and too late, I am afraid, to be of any help to us.''
Ordhrien says, ''Nothing I say can change what happened then. But we can still help each other now.''
Thickbark says, ''Hrrmm... I suppose we could help you, yes. We are still strong. Strong enough for orcs.''
Thickbark says, ''But I do not think you can help us. Hrrumm... It has been too late for that for a long time now.''

The real Lore about the Entwives is less encouraging.  Fortunately this isn't mentioned in the Lord of the Rings, so it leaves the ability to conjecture in the LOTRO storyline.  Yet Professor Tolkien was frequently asked about the fate of the Entwives.  In a letter (Letter 144) the fate of the Entwives does not sound promising:  "What happened to them is not resolved in this book. ... I think that in fact the Entwives had disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance (Second Age 3429-3441) when Sauron pursued a scorched earth policy and burned their land against the advance of the Allies down the Anduin. They survived only in the 'agriculture' transmitted to Men (and Hobbits). Some, of course, may have fled east, or even have become enslaved: tyrants even in such tales must have an economic and agricultural background to their soldiers and metal-workers. If any survived so, they would indeed be far estranged from the Ents, and any rapprochement would be difficult -- unless experience of industrialised and militarised agriculture had made them a little more anarchic. I hope so. I don't know."  Readers can and do still debate what this all means, but in the end, I myself am left with little hope that they survived.

That's why I'm so glad Turbine is able to give us a way to experience a happier ending for this great story.

Sources:  Unfinished Tales, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

March 13, 2012

Eorl the Young and Cirion, Steward of Gondor

How is everyone enjoying Update 6 so far?  I am loving it!  Yes, I had the day off yesterday and spent many hours exploring from the moment my update completed.  Some kinmates and I even tried out the new instance last night on Tier 2 - easy it ain't!  We worked out how to get past the first boss, but the last boss...I'll just leave that to you all to discover on your own!

New content is always exciting, but particularly with this latest update I expected lore to be abundant in this new area, and already on the first day I have not been disappointed.  There is so much lore in previous areas I have yet to cover, and I don't want to engage in spoilers for the new content since it is only a day old.

But just ONE couldn't hurt, right?  At any rate, I can't resist.  I'm not even going to try to resist.

Let me say I absolutely love the village of Stangard.  That's ALL I'll say about it for now.  But as I traveled to the west of Stangard, I encountered a truly breathtaking sight - two humongous statues so large it was difficult to fit them in my screen or find a good spot to view them from.  It felt like standing underneath a miniature version of the Argonath.

As we learn in a quest line, these noble statues represent Eorl the Young and Cirion, Steward of Gondor, and celebrates the victory on the Field of Celebrant in year 2510 of the Third Age, and the forging of a mighty union that would last over 500 years.

So who exactly were these two, and what was the battle on the Field of Celebrant, and why do we need to know about them?

Cirion was the Steward of Gondor, 12th in line after the last King of Gondor, Eärnur, died/disappeared without an heir (and my goodness, is THAT a story for some other time - although we aren't anywhere near the point of seeing lore about him yet in LOTRO-see my comments below) in year 2050 of the Third Age.

During the time of Cirion's Stewardship Gondor was invaded both by Easterlings as well as Orcs from the Misty Mountains.  The host from Gondor was threatened and defeated in one area and driven toward the Limlight, with things looking dire indeed.  Cirion had sent a call to help to the north to a people who were led by a man named Eorl the Young.

"Eorl the Young was lord of the Men of Éothéod.  That land lay near the sources of Anduin, between the furthest ranges of the Misty Mountains and the northernmost parts of Mirkwood.  The Éothéod had moved to those regions in the days of King Eärnil II from lands in the vales of Anduin between the Carrock and the Gladden, and they were in origin close akin to the Beornings and the men of the west-eaves of the forest.  The forefathers of Eorl claimed descent from the kings of Rhovanion, whose realm lay beyond Mirkwood before the invasions of the Wainriders, and thus they accounted themselves kinsmen of the kings of Gondor descended from Eldacar." [note from McF:  this is NOT the same Eldacar who was a king of Arnor and part of the Tombs of Elendil tour]

Once Eorl heard of the need of his friends to the south, he led a large host of riders and came to the Field of Celebrant - or Parth Celebrant (hey, one of the areas in Update 6!) - as was called the land that lay between the Silverlode and Limlight.  The riders from the north helped Gondor utterly defeat the invading hosts.

"Cirion, therefore, in reward for his aid, gave Calenardhon  between Anduin and Isen to Eorl and his people; and they sent north for their wives and children and their goods and settled in that land.  They named it anew the Mark of the Riders, and they called themselves the Eorlingas; but in Gondor their land was called Rohan, and its people the Rohirrim (that is, the Horse-lords).  Thus Eorl became the first King of the Mark, and he chose for his dwelling a green hill before the feet of the White Mountains that were the south-wall of his land.  There the Rohirrim lived afterwards as free men under their own kings and laws, but in perpetual alliance with Gondor."

Was the land completely empty when Cirion gifted it to Eorl and his people?  Hardly.  Ever wonder why the Dunlendings hate the Horse-lords so much?  Here lies the root of that hate.  As is always the case with history, there's more than one side to a story.

This is why I find Turbine doing such a wonderful job in examining the great events of Middle Earth from more than one perspective.  I can't wait to see what I find around the next corner.

Sources:  Lord of the Rings Appendices A and B

March 12, 2012

Happy Update 6!

Happy Update 6 day everyone!

A whole new area full of lore to explore.  It's awesome being able to move into the lore of the southern regions and peoples, which is often less well known.

Have fun exploring!

March 11, 2012

Eregion Part I: The Ring Goes South

Entering Hollin
Eregion is one of my favorite places to quest.  Maybe it's the bright red holly trees that dot the landscape and look so cheerful.  Or the view of the famous three peaks of the Misty Mountains off in the distance.  Or the suddenly overcast skies that bring a long downpour.  Or the blinding snowstorms on the slopes of Tal Caradhras.  I admit to sometimes being a weather-mood player - sometimes I just want to go play in an area because I'm in the mood for the particular weather or landscape it provides.  Or perhaps it is as Gandalf said, "Much evil must befall a country before it wholly forgets the Elves, if once they dwelt there"  - there is a wholesome feeling in this part of Eregion (at least until you hit the wood trolls).  In fact we'll look more at the Elves who dwelt here long ago in a future post.  But most importantly, Eregion is a pivotal location in both the LOTRO game and  Middle Earth lore.

I like that Eregion permits us to so closely follow the path of the Fellowship.  Starting with that left turn at the Ford of Bruinen and heading south toward Hollin (although in the Fellowship of the Ring, it took the group about two weeks to reach Hollin!), climbing up the ridge to see the trees with their dark green leaves and berries glowing red in the sun, catching the first glimpse of the mountain peaks, just as the Fellowship did.

In fact, the deed "The Ring Goes South" (named after that chapter of the Fellowship of the Ring, of course) takes us to five important points that follow the journey of the Fellowship through Eregion.

The High Hollin Campsite

Our Deed Tracker tells us:  "This campsite marks a place where the Company of the Ring stayed during their journey through Hollin.  A careless Hobbit left his mark as well."

The High Hollin Campsite
The Fellowship of the Rings tells us:  "That morning they lit a fire in a deep hollow shrouded by great bushes of holly, and their supper-breakfast was merrier than it had been since they set out."  The company had intended to rest a day in this spot and not travel again until the following night.  They made a fire, and Sam and Aragorn sat up watching while the others rested.  It was in this spot that Aragorn noted the unusual silence - no bird calls or sounds of any other animals.  This was also the location in which the scouting flock of crebain passed overhead.

In LOTRO, a quest out of Gwingris will send you to this campsite where you can learn exactly what was left behind, and also open the location deed (+1 Honesty, 5 Tubine Points, and Rivendell rep!)

The Tal Caradhras Campsite
The Tal Caradhras Campsite

Our Deed Tracker tells us:  "The Company of the Ring rested here before continuing on to the Redhorn Gate.  Sam Gamgee clearly took the opportunity to provide a fine meal for the Company...."

In the book, the Company left the prior site in Hollin and, guided by Aragorn, came across what appeared to be the remains of an old road that lead toward the Redhorn Gate.  They travelled in this direction for a couple days, at one point feeling a shadow pass over them in the cold darkness just before dawn.  They stop for one last rest and make another camp before tackling the long cold climb up to the Pass.  It is here that Gandalf and Aragorn go aside to quietly debate the wisdom of taking this path vs. Moria, and also here that Boromir proposes they gather firewood for each to carry in case it is needed up on the mountain.

The Redhorn Gate
In LOTRO, a quest line from Echad Eregion will send you to this site - again to track something a careless Hobbit left behind, you'd think Gandalf would be smacking Hobbits with his staff by now.

The Caradhras Campfire

Our Deed Tracker tells us:  "It was here that the Company of the Ring set camp in the Redhorn Gate. Gandalf was forced to show forth his power to light the fire, revealing himself to all who had the ability to recognize it, putting the Company in jeopardy."

Everyone knows the journey up the path of Caradhras the Cruel, with the increasing snow, the fell voices on the wind, the falling rocks.  The Company rested against the side of a cliff, with some of the Hobbits falling asleep and coming close to freezing to death.  It was here that Gandalf gave everyone a sip of miruvor, a drink from Imladris, which brought a renewed sense of strength and vigour. It was also the place where they decided to risk discovery in order to light a life-saving campfire.
The Caradhras Campsite

"At last reluctantly Gandalf himself took a hand.  Picking up a faggot he held it aloft for a moment, and then with a word of command, naur an endraith ammen! He thrust the end of his staff into the midst of it.  At once a great spout of green and blue flame sprang out, and the wood flared and sputtered.

" 'If there are any to see, then I at least am revealed to them,' he said. 'I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.' "

But the snow and wind didn't stop, while the wood burned away.  Eventually the Company retreated.  Caradhras would not yield.

This site can of course be visited as well, and is a much more challenging place to see given that it is surrounded by ice grims and blinding snow.  Nothing seems to have been left behind here, however, other than the remains of the campfire.

After this, the Company continued south and elected to let the Ring Bearer choose whether they would proceed through Moria, or south to Rohan.  In the midst of their discussion in their new location, Frodo noted, "How the wind howls!"
The Burnt Tor


The Burnt Tor

Our Deed Tracker tells us:  "Here it was that the Company of the Ring fended off a pack of shadow-wargs sent by Sauron to hunt down the Ring.  The wargs were at least driven off when Gandalf the Grey caused a powerful fire to blaze forth, a fire which ruined the wooded hilltop."

The wind was howling with the voices of wargs, of course.  This was the deciding factor to turn them all in favor of Moria - shut themselves off from pursuit from these or other wargs or beasts that may be sent after them.

But first they had to escape from this imminent problem.  "For their defence in the night the Company climbed to the top of the small hill under which they had been sheltering.  It was crowned with a knot of old and twisted trees, about which lay a broken circle of boulder-stones.  In the midst of this they lit a fire, for there was no hope that darkness and silence would keep their trail from discovery by the hunting packs."

After a second siege surrounded by wargs, Gandalf again takes matters into his hands, speaking some familiar words:  " 'Naur an endraith ammen!  Naur dan i ngaurhoth!' he cried.  There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame.  The first leapt from tree-top to tree-top.  The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light."

I particularly like how embers are still glowing in the tree trunks, showing us that the Fellowship was here very, very recently.  The attack by the wargs occurs on January 13 in the book.  I am not aware specifically what the date is meant to be in the game at the point we are journeying through Eregion - January 14? 15? - and if anyone does know I would enjoy hearing.

The Sirannon Gate to the right.
The Sirannon Gate

Our Deed Tracker tells us:  "This gateway leads up the Sirannon to the Hollin Gate."

On this same day, the Fellowship hastens to find the entrance to Moria, going astray for a few hours that morning because they cannot find the Sirannon, the Gate-stream, that would lead them to the entrance.  Finally Gimli spots it, but it is not as they expect - instead of a flowing stream, it is a rocky, dry riverbed.

In LOTRO the transition to the Walls of Moria area is marked by an actual gate between Echad Dunann and the Sirannon, which is also the point to pick up the quests to start Volume II. Legendary Items here we come!

The discovery deed for The Ring Goes South is now complete.  However, there are still a few important points of interest that also lay on the Fellowship's trail.

The Stair Falls

The Stairs and the dry Stair Falls.
This once marked the spot where the water of the Sirannon flowed down from a small valley that lay in front of the Walls of Moria.  The Sirannon flowed out of Moria, and a road followed it.  A series of steep stairs were carved into the rock leading up to the valley.

The Black Pool

The Black Pool - NOT what the Company expected.
Of course the waters of the Sirannon have been dammed, and nothing flows now over the Falls except a small trickle.  A quick climb to the top of the Stairs shows us why - the valley in front of the Walls of Moria is filled with stagnant slimy water and...well, we know what else.

Far across the Black Pool we see the shadow that is the flung-open doors to Moria.  We'll be visiting them very soon.

I have always enjoyed that sense of being one step behind the Fellowship as I traveled across Eregion.  Sure, we actually got to see them and interact with them in Rivendell, but this is different.  It's being so close to the real action of the Fellowship.  No matter how many times I do these quests and visit these sites, that feeling never goes away.

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring; Lord of the Rings Appendix B

February 26, 2012

The Tombs of Evendim

My apologies for the long time since my last post; my pesky profession outside Middle Earth got the better of me for a while.  I like it much better here!

My Captain, Leeowyn, has been finishing quests and deeds in Evendim.  I really enjoy playing in that area, particularly since the update last year.  Admittedly it helps to get things done in Annúminas if you are 75!  It allows plenty of opportunity to linger and take in the sights.

Just outside of Annúminas is Men Erain, the "Way of the Kings," where the tombs of many of the Kings of Arnor can be found.  The deed, "The Tombs of Evendim," will take you here to explore the location of each tomb.  LOTRO has it right, these were indeed the rulers of Arnor, but let's look a bit more at the history of each king of who lies here, as well as those who do not.

Names with Bold/Underline are part of the Tombs of Evendim exploration deed (+1 Fidelity and 5 Turbine  Points!). The dates reflect the start and end of rule for each king.  The description for some of the kings indicate a "premature death," which is defined in Appendix A as follows:  "premature death, in battle or otherwise, though an annal of the event is not always included."

Haudh Elendil
1. Elendil - 3320-3441 Second Age (premature death).  Elendil was born in 3119 of the Second Age, in Númenor.  His father was named Valandil, and was the chief of the party of Elf-friends.  After the fall of Númenor in 3319, Elendil established the "realms in exile" in Middle Earth - Arnor in the north, with the ruling seat located at Annúminas, and Gondor in the South, with the ruling seat at Osgiliath.  His rule lasted over 100 years, until the time of the Last Alliance.  What many do not realize is the Siege of Barad-dûr took 7 long years, starting in 3434 and ending with the overthrow of Sauron in 3441.  Both Elendil and Gil-galad were slain.  Elendil's remains were never brought back north to Annúminas. Instead he was buried secretly in a spot known to the Rohirrim as Halifirien, and in Sindarin as Amon Anwar - a beacon hill in the White Mountains in Gondor, which at that time was the center of the kingdom of Gondor.  When Rohan was granted to Eorl in 2510 of the Third Age, the remains of Elendil were then reinterred in the Hallows of Minas Tirith.  Hence the Tomb that gives us an incredible 6-man instance around level 40, was always an empty one.  Doesn't matter, do the instance anyway!  It is one of the longest quest chains in the game, with a LOT of running back and forth, but well worth it in the end.  You will be doing a great service to Aragorn, Heir of Elendil, if you do!

2. Isildur - 3441 Second Age-2 Third Age (premature death).  Isildur was the eldest son of Elendil, and like his father, was born in Númenor before it fell.  His brother was Anárion, and after their exile to the west of Middle Earth, the brothers were given rule of Gondor by their father.  It was Isildur who planted a seed from the White Tree of Avallon in Minas Ithil (the Tower of the Moon), which later became known as Minas Morgul after Minas Ithil was conquered by Sauron in 3429 of the Second Age.  Isildur and his family escaped and fled north to Elendil, bearing a seedling of the White Tree that he had planted in Minas Ithil.  After the overthrow of Sauron in 3441, and the death of his brother Anárion the year before, Isildur gives Gondor to Anárion's son Meneldil, and replants this last seedling of the White Tree in Minas Anor (Tower of the Setting Sun, renamed Minas Tirith).  Intending to return north to assume the rule of Arnor, Isildur and his three oldest sons are slain by orcs in the Gladden Fields, and the Ring is lost.  Before being overrun, Isildur commanded one of his squires, Ohtar, to flee with the shards of Narsil to Rivendell so the heirlooms of the house of Elendil would survive.

But hold on - if you search Annúminas, you will eventually discover - there is no tomb for Isildur. He is the only one of the Kings of Arnor who has no tomb here in LOTRO.  Why is this?  Elendil got one - and a nice big one, too - even though his remains were never brought here.  Possibly because the remains of Isildur were never recovered?  Possibly because his heirs were extremely cheezed about him losing the One Ring?  Your guess here is as good as mine!

Haudh Valandil
3. Valandil - 10-249 Third Age - Valandil was born in year 3430 of the Second Age in Imladris, the fourth and youngest son of Isildur.  His father and three older brothers were killed in the Gladden Fields when Valandil was 11 years of age.  He did not, however, assume the kingship until the year 10 of the Third Age (his father died in either Year 1 or Year 2; The Peoples of Middle Earth vs. Appendix A of the Lord of the Rings give contradictory dates).  After his death in 249 of the Third Age, Valandil was buried in Annúminas.  His tomb is actually in the center of the city, instead of being out east of town in Men Erain.  I do not know the reason for this - possibly the dwindling people of Annúminas were happy to finally have the physical remains of a king to bury?  It is a lavish tomb, and also the setting of what is an extremely challenging instance for level 50 characters.  His history of losing his father and brothers at such a young age may make you feel a bit guilty that, due to some nasty sorcerers who bring him back from the dead as a Wight, you have to go smack him down in this instance.  I'm sure he would have wanted it that way.

4. Eldacar - 249-339 Third Age

5. Arantar - 339-435 Third Age

6. Tarcil - 435-515 Third Age

7. Tarondor - 515-602 Third Age
Haudh Valandur

8. Valandur - 602-652 Third Age (premature death) - Like several of his predecessors, we know virtually nothing about Valandur, except that he was slain at the relatively young age of 190, after ruling Arnor for only 50 years.  Players who had been around both before and after the Evendim revamp know that the tomb of this short-reigning king was turned into kergrim central.  Two quests take us into the tomb to kill a number of kergrim and to recover what would have been Valandur's sceptre from the chief kergrim, Bone Eater.  It is also a wonderful place to grind out the kergrim slayer deeds in Evendim, due to the very fast respawn rate - by the time you get to the bottom and kill the last kergrim, the first ones are ready to pop right back up.

9. Elendur - 652-777 Third Age

Haudh Eärendur
10. Eärendur - 777-861   Eärendur has the dubious distinction to be the last king of Arnor.   Upon his death Arnor was divided into the three smaller independent kingdoms of Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan, which I have discussed in other articles elsewhere.

What strikes me is how much smaller and considerably less lavish the tombs of the later kings became.  Possibly that may be due in part to them not taking part in such great deeds as their earlier sires.  But it more likely reflects that even as soon as the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, the Men of Westernesse began to dwindle, as stated by Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring.  Eventually the heirs of Valandil abandoned Annúminas and shifted the ruling seat to Fornost, leaving behind a glorious city that would fall into ruin.

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring, Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings; The History of Middle Earth (Volume XII:  The Peoples of Middle Earth, The Heirs of Elendil); Unfinished Tales

February 13, 2012

Valentine's in Lorien - Cerin Amroth

Woe to the Elf in LOTRO who told his beloved he'd meet her at Cerin Amroth - possibly the most romantic spot in all of Lothlórien if not all of Middle Earth - on Valentine's Day February 14, but who is doomed to arrive a day late.  For every day on Cerin Amroth is February 15.

Visitors to Cerin Amroth are even reminded of this fact each time they run up the hill - large white text appears to tell you, "Cerin Amroth - February 15th."  So what is so significant about that date?  What is the history of Cerin Amroth?

Cerin Amroth, February 15th
In the Lord of the Rings, it is the day before the company, now led by Aragorn, takes leave of Lórien.  It is also the day after Frodo and Sam look into the Mirror of Galadriel, and the day after Gandalf "returns to life."  If you climb to the top of the flet on Cerin Amroth, you find Gimli and Legolas are there;we encounter other members of the Fellowship scattered throughout Lórien.  This is the game's way of giving us a reference point in the storyline of the Fellowship, explaining why things are the way they are at this point in time when we as LOTRO time travellers visit Lórien.

Cerin Amroth is named after Amroth, a ruler of Lothlórien.  We hear mention of the ill-fated tale of Amroth and Nimrodel in the Fellowship of the Ring, when Legolas sings of them soon after they arrive in Lothlórien. Amroth is represented as a son of Celeborn and Galadriel in some of Tolkien's writings (Unfinished Tales), but this was ultimately rejected and in other writings is shown as the son of a prior ruler of Lothlórien named Amdír (Familiar name, huh? But of course a totally different character!).  This version states that Amdír perished in the war of the Last Alliance and Amroth then took over rule of Lórien after him.  At any rate, Amroth, though King of Lothlórien (Silvan Elves), was Sindar (not an uncommon practice, referred to as "Sindarizing," such as Thranduil, who is also Sindar, being King of the Woodland Realm and ruling over a bunch of Silvan elves and likewise Celeborn, also Sindar; Galadriel was of the Noldor)

Amroth fell in love with the Silvan maiden Nimrodel (just like the river she sat beside).  Accounts of Nimrodel make her sound rather like a Xenophobe to me - she was not open to outsiders coming to Lórien, such as the Sindar, because they were all trouble makers. She insisted on speaking only her own Silvan language even after it was fallen into disuse in Lórien.  And once those dirty Dwarves stirred up trouble in Moria - well, there wasn't a suburb of Lórien remote enough for her.  So she ran away to Fangorn, but wouldn't enter because the trees there seemed just a little tooooo...well, you know how trees like THOSE are.  So Amroth had to go save her superior self, at which point she promised to marry him if he would take her away from all the ragtag beginning to clutter Middle Earth.  They agreed to head south to the refuge of Edhellond, south of Gondor on the Bay of Belfalas.  Somehow they managed to get separated, and Amroth and his company got there but Nimrodel did not.  The remaining Sindar Elves that Amroth had hoped to sail with did grudgingly cooperate a bit and waited a while (only Eru knows why) until nature took the matter out of their hands and blew the ship out to sea during a spectacular storm.  Amroth couldn't bear it, jumped ship, and was never seen again.  You would expect an Elf, so wise and valiant a ruler as he is described and who has been around a few thousand years, would have a bit more sense.  As for Nimrodel, no one ever saw her again either.
A day late, but don't jump!

But wait, I'm getting away from the "romance" of Cerin Amroth. Cerin Amroth is also a very important place in the lore of Aragorn and Arwen.  When Aragorn was 49, he passed through Lothlórien on the way back to Rivendell, not knowing Arwen was there.  This was after any romance between the two of them had been strongly discouraged by Elrond.  When Arwen saw Aragorn in Caras Galadhon, "her choice was made and her doom appointed."

"Then for a season they wandered together in the glades of Lothlórien, until it was time for him to depart.  And on the evening of Midsummer, Aragorn Arathorn's son, and Arwen daughter of Elrond went to the fair hill, Cerin Amroth, in the midst of the land, and they walked about unshod on the undying grass with elandor and niphredil about their feet.  And there upon that hill they looked east to the Shadow and west to the Twilight, and they plighted their troth and were glad."

Elrond, though he loved Aragorn, was not fond of her decision, and refused to let them marry until and unless Aragorn assumed his right to the throne of Arnor and Gondor, saying that he would not permit Arwen to abandon her immortality for anything less.  When we see Aragorn and the Fellowship spending time on Cerin Amorth during their brief stay in Lothlórien, we see him reliving the memories of their betrothal and undoubtedly wondering what the future holds, if he will be able to win that to which he is rightful heir and win Arwen as a result.

In the Lord of the Rings, we see that Aragorn never returned to Cerin Amroth.  In LOTRO, you will see a quest in Lórien that hints at his refusal to go back to Cerin Amroth until his "long road is ended."  And as a neat addition, we see Issuriel in one of the Volume II, Book 9 Epilogues sending you off to Bróin in Moria with a blossom of elanor.

So maybe Cerin Amroth is not the most romantic spot in all of Middle Earth.  Maybe it is sort of a depressing spot good only for remembering past moments and worrying about the future - just like anyone doomed to always arrive there on February 15 in LOTRO!

Sources:  The Fellowship of the Ring; Appendix B, Appendix F of the Lord of the Rings; Unfinished Tales