Chapter 5.

Morning in Fornost was cold and cloudy. The spellcasters had only recovered a few spells last night before sleeping, becasue they knew that time was pressing and they needed to get to Rivendell and beyond. Aragorn issued final instructions to the Ranger leadership before mounting his horse. Meanwhile Thing2 and Galdor also mounted and Thing2 cast his teleportation spell. They appeared where not in Hobbiton, but north, where they had met Drogo. "Not far, if they are indeed in Hobbiton still" said Galdor. "Looks peaceful enough. Well, no time to waste, follow me" and Galdor galloped off with Thing2 close behind. Indeed, there were no signs of orcs or such as they rode to Hobbiton, which they reached before noon. The halflings that saw them stepped clear, and there did seem an air of some fear in them, but Galdor approached a young hobbit just outside Hobbiton. "excuse me master hobbit, but can you..."

"Oh you want your friends, sure, they are just ahead in the town center. We want to thank you for chasing off the orcs anyway." Galdor and Thing2 nodded as they rode on. Indeed, E.F., and Sarge were looking at some of the foodstuffs for sale. Igor was not seen.

Rock happened to see them first and smiled. "They have EXCELLENT tobacco here! But you have to use a pipe, still worth it anyway.

Thing2 nodded but said "No thanks, Sarge. E.F., return everything you didn't pay for, please." E.F. learned long ago not to argue with a wizard about his need to practice to keep his skills up, and to supplement their supplies. Halflings had to eat, didn't they realize that? He went from booth to booth giving silver coins to the merchants, who had not noticed their missing wares till he informed them. "Where is Igor?"

"Patrolling by his broom, he should be back shortly anway. The hobbits are aware of the threat now, and the "elders" are debating some type of militia and patrol system now." said Rock. Our wagons and horses are just over there. rested and ready." Indeed, Igor cruised in an hour or so later, having spotted Thing2 also.

"How did it go? Lots of dead trolls? We have had no incidents here, I think the "dragon" scared those orcs for quite a while."

"We are all fine, and yes, we killed a few trolls. Remember, they are called trolls, but think more like hill giants. We also found Aragorn. The rest are going directly to Bree, and we are to do the same, Galdor knows the way. Really we can just take this main road. I guess we can keep one wagon with us, Sarge and E.F. don't really like riding horseback anyway. Galdor leads, myself behind him, then the wagon with Sarge and E.F., followed by Tarkin and Igor."

"Good. I will keep us north of the Old Forest,even in good times there are strange things in there, which would at best delay us. I don't like dividing ourselves despite your abilities. The sooner we meet at Bree the better. We can get there the night following tomorrow night assuming no trouble, and if you magically help the horses even a little. The path from Fornost is less traveled and less amenable to horses. With luck we beat them there and get the best rooms at the Prancing Pony!" chimed in Galdor. With that they saddled up and were soon on the road.

The group in Fornost was now Morel, Sysnik, Arak, Boling, Cazoo, Zapboy, Enos, and Aragorn. They set out in fact a bit later that morning as Aragorn had final orders and goodbyes to say to his kinsmen. Morel studied a map given to him by the Rangers and memorized a few spells before they set out. Cloudy and damp again, depressing. Aragorn said he hoped to make Bree late the third day or early the fourth if there were no "problems". Morel still was shy several spells and did not want to push the men or horses, so the first day they set camp early. To their left they could make out the northern part of the Weather Hills, crawling with goblins, orcs, and wargs according to Aragorn. Oddly he found almost no tracks of the monsters here, even less than the usual amount in the past few years. Aragorn had brought tents and Sysnik pray for the food they needed,except for the horses, who could forage some here. Watch was kept in pairs, with the perimeter covered by the lit coins. The party traded stealth for warning time, as only those on watch would wear armor. The first night they heard the baying of wargs from the hills but none approached. Morel was able to recover his full spell spectrum. The next day started with a heavy downpour that cut their speed in half. They considered a Control Weather spell, but the area of effect was limited and they wanted to be moving, not sitting. The rain stopped before noon but the dark clouds persisted through the day and into the night. Again camp was set early and the party was falling behind schedule to reach the comfort of Bree. As a fog rolled in, the gold pieces needed to be moved into about 100 yards from camp. A burning hands spell got the fire started easy enough though, and the first watch was given to Enos and Zapboy. The rest settled down to sleep, which was easier to come by as there were no wargs howling in the distance. The others were solidly asleep when Zapboy thought he heard somthing coming, from the north. Just a second later, however, Enos's sword gave a shout "Something wicked this way comes! From the south, many many to send to final rest! Oh it is time!". Enos shouted "Attack, multiple undead, from the south" Indeed the light seemed to dim even from the continual light spells in that direction, but Zapboy also had bad news.

"We may be surrounded, as I heard rustling from the north." I will keep an eye in all directions." Meanwhile Arak, Boling, and Cazoo were hastily attaching their armor, they needed a delaying action fast. On second thought, just grab shields and weapons. Sysnik decided against armor but this darkness was not going stand.

"Oh mighty Saint, through your glorious Mace, lighten the sky and our hearts, so we may see our foes" And there was light, to be sure, though not the full daylight it usually gave. That had to mean strong evil magic at work here. Time to earn their pay, Sysnik thought. Aragorn had grabbed a burning log and his sword quickly, not the first time he had been called to action at the drop of a hat. the increased light showed the party that Zapboy was right, not that there was reason to cheer. Goblins on wargs, maybe 100, were about 20 seconds away coming in full steam, from the north. Meanwhile a dozen wights approached from the south, but the worst news was the presence of three Nazgul, apparently on something like wyverns. They gave a fear inducing screech and swooped down, 2 at Morel and one at Aragorn. Of all things, thought Aragorn, why was Boling blowing a silver horn? Meanwhile Morel was casting a spell. Invisble stalker was a good choice to shapechange into and he sped straight up, as the beasts hit the ground where he had been seconds before. Yet the wringwraiths sensed his presence above and commanded their beasts to rise in chase. Aragorn just dodged the nazgul and lost his torch in the dive he took. Still a sword, though, anmd at least it was light enough to see. Enos figured the wights were his to dispose of but they were maybe 2 rounds away. The 2 wraiths were too far away and would climb away soon, but Aragorn could use the help. A big whack with a big sword and the fell beast lost a hind leg and screamed in rage, or pain, who knew? Maybe both. It wheeled its head around which was the last mistake it made, as Aragorn's Westernesse blade dug into its neck deep. The spasm the beast made, though yanked the blade from Aragorn, who was now empty handed with an angry Nazgul (redundant, thought Aragorn) hopping off showing great athleticism, it must be noted. The wraith raised its sword quickly for a killing blow when a big axe took it square in the back. Cazoo to the rescue! Nazgul did not feel pain or fear, but surprise, yes this one did.

Meanwhile Zapboy was thinking, 100 goblins, 100 wargs, lets get it on, and threw the axe as soon as the light from the Mace showed him a target. A hit in the throat of a warg and the warg was finshed, and the goblin thrown off and stunned.

Brash, local goblin leader was confident. These creepy ghoul things were sure to take these few out, and we sneak in from behind for the mop up. So said the red eyed demon on the mini dragon anyway. Oh a dwarf, Brash would get first choce of what leg to eat from that runt! Oh the light, they said the light woudln't be this bad! Never trust a demon anyway. Still, kill dwarf, eat dwarf, good day. Now 5 guys just came up out of the ground?

Arak and Boling decided against the armor and moved to help Zapboy. They used the 5 summoned barbarians from thehorn of Valhalla as protection for their rear as they waded into the charge of the wargs. But first, Arak tossed a javelin that quickly became a lightning bolt, frying 3 wargs and their riders in a flash. Dodge, swing, and kill. Careful with no armor now, we are going to take some hits for sure.

The wounded Nazgul wheeled to face Cazoo now. Oh that axe of his, powerful magic in that thing, like Eol himself crafted it. Well. I have a morgul blade, and Black Breath, and centuries of experience. Sauron will be wanting that axe I think... Oh that cursed dunedain. Burning me, fire, fire. Get me away and I can stop, drop, and roll...

Sysnik knew his strength lay in fighting the undead. Morel needed no help against a few wraiths once he got separation, but these wights were ripe for the destruction. "FACE YOUR OBLITERATION, WORTHLESS DREGS". 10 barrow wights blinked out of existence. Enos faced the remaining 2, knowing this wouldn't take long.

Morel made sure he had a few hundred yards between the Nazgul and him and then changed into an ancient gold dragon once again. When you succeed, you try to repeat, thought Morel. Now, these Nazgul had not gotten word from Shanator, who was still hiking back, soon to be met by Khamul with his mount. All they knew going in was that some powerful force was up here that could disrupt the attack of a Nazgul and his troll minions. Maybe an elf lord or 2, along with the Dunedain. Also Gandalf was presently unaccounted for. The plan was solid, for the fools had showed thw whole world where they were with this light, not to mention the only fire within 50 miles after the storm. So, send the goblins and wargs around to the rear, the barrow wights attack from the front, and we terrorize from the air. What could go wrong?

Ancient gold dragon, that's what went wrong. The fell beasts tried an immediate stop like a hawk would, but by the time Morel had changed and became visible as the dragon, they wre within breath range. The incinerating blast fried both fell beasts and exterminated one of the wraiths. The other was only badly burned and the beast's body blocked some of the flames. Still, it was going to fall to the ground hard too.

Brash was into it now. That dwarf was a killing machine for sure, and armor he could not penetrate. The humans had only shields and were taking damage, shouldn't be long now. Still they have this light magic, and lightning too. Too late now, we still had them outnumbered 7 to 1 or so. Still, that one had a sword of fire and was cutting wargs in half.

OK, so I got hacked in the back, my beast got delimbed and dethroated, and i got torched. Still have a sword and my honor... no lost that when I took that ring as a gift. Time to get back into the fight, here is one overconfident human coming after me. A mace is no match in melee, what is he mumbling now, oh great, now I am blind, deaf, and paralyzed. The Nazgul did not see the Mace come down for the finishing blow.

The remaining wraith sensed the snuffing out of his 2 fellow wraiths. What to do, against a dragon? And none of these enemies seemed to know fear at all. He still had the ability, he believed, to "walk unseen among men", so he fled. This mission may have ended badly, but one thing was accomplished.

Morel chose to use the terror of his dragon form, along with the teeth, claws, and tail, against the goblins and wargs. Enos had already moved in that direction, having dispatched the last 2 wights and his sword not sensing any other undead nearby. Aragorn meanwhile had recovered his sword and had already joined the others, as the summoned berserkers were already "killed".

Brash had scored 2 hits on that dwarf from behind, the only one to wound him. The other humans had no armor and were bleeding badly now, and those demons from the ground were all killed. No sign of our own demons either though...hey looks like we have a dragon on our side! Why is it looking at me, careful now, NOOO!

The panic began as Brash was bit in half and spit out as his warg was clawed fatally a second later. 30 wargs and 12 goblins were all that made it safely away, back to their cave system in the Weather Hills. Arak, Boling, and Cazoo were all seriously wounded and all 3 drank healing potions even before Sysnik got to them to pray them back to health. The wights had scored no draining hits, nor had any suffered the Black Breath, but Aragorn and Morel were the only ones unwounded. Morel summoned once again his lions and djinni to take watch now as they discussed the plan from this point. They were still 60 miles north of Bree with a muddy hilly path in front of them. Sysnik used every healing spell he had and the entire party was then all, if not fully healed, then more than half strength. They had more strong potions of healing in reserve but decided to save them as Sysnik could rest and pray and cast more healing soon. Tomorrow they would try for only 20 miles tops, rest more, and then they might make Bree by nightfall the following day, a day behind. The question turned to what were these monsters doing here? Aragorn felt certain these were wargs and goblins of the Weather Hills, and the wights were barrow wights from the Barrow Downs. Now a line drawn from the Barrow Downs to the Weather Hills would pass right through Bree! At this Aragorn was filled with horror, and explained why. "Bree is defended weakly except by thin walls, the Rangers, and a few town guards. You know over half the Rangers are north of us."

Morel considered this but was skeptical. "True, Sauron is cruel and wants dominion over all, but why send 3 wraiths and the wights to Bree? Sure, it sits on and controls the East West Road, but does he really fear an army of elves from the Grey Havens will travel that road to aid Gondor, Rohan, or Rivendell? There aren't that many there to defend themselves, let alone relieve those far away that they have had little contact with for centuries. Or he fears an army of halflings marching east? I think he wanted us, the Overdogs, or you, the heir of Isildur, or both. He has spies everywhere, Manwe said. He must have found out about our coming to Middle Earth, or your existence. After all it was your ancestor who cut his hand off before. Just as he is our prize, we are his prize, after the Ring of course.

"Bree had more worth, both to us, and to Sauron. Most of the Rangers had families there, children. Sure there are others scattered through the old lands of Arnor, but the Dunedain future is near extinction if those Nazgul attacked Bree." The camp had a dour day but, it was figured, nothing could be done now. The other group should reach Bree first and defend it well from other attackers, even Nazgul. There was good news in that 2 Nazgul were wiped out, as well as over a fourth of the goblins and wargs of the Weather Hills.

Morel was dismayed at this. "Then, we do what we can. We ride as fast as we can to Bree, and hope Igor's group got there to rescue some, or better, protect the town. They could even now be beseiged. We ride the horses to their limits and on foot for the rest, agreed?" Aragorn was quick to nod, and they were soon off, with Sysnik expending his remaining endurance prayers on the worst off horses.

Sauron through his palantir could not hear the conversations of the Overdogs but could have told Morel that Aragorn had it right. The Dunedain of Bree had been the target of the Nazgul. And that mission he deemed a success. Only afterwards had sent them north to find what happened to Shanator. Now these warriors, and sorcerors, for there seemed 2 at least that could summon a dragon, fly, disappear, ignore the terror of the Nazgul, and obliterate the barrow wights, were something he must assess. Curumo said that 4 other maier had been sent, but that he was greatest. Of course Curumo was a braggart. Olorin, a.k.a. Gandalf or Mithrandir, that great blowhard, was somewhere out there, but they didn't look like any form he had taken, and no dragon Morgoth ever bred would listen to that old fool. Aiwendil, or Radagast as he was called? Per Saruman he was weak, and Mairon knew him to be easily distracted by burrerflies. That left Alatar and Palando. Curumo claimed little knowledge of them. His allies and spies in the Far Harad frequently mentioned acts of sorcery strong enough to be them. Hmmm. Perhaps they held 2 of the Elven Rings? No, for these were removed once he had put his precious on. Oh yes, precious indeed, and thank that nothing Smeagol-Gollum for the name of "Baggins". Speaking of worms, that spy of Curumo really was the key, directing my attention to the Shire... It could be that Alatar and Palando were the cause of this setback. They had centuries to make their own rings, or what have you. 2 dead Nazgul, time to get 2 more Black Numenoreans their chance at the big time. Of course they would not be as effective as the centuries old veteran Nazgul. Oh, I had to seduce the great men of old with deceit, whereas now so many willingly take up a living death. Morgoth was so right, Men were useful only as dupes or slaves. Having said that, though, these new threats looked like men but for a dwarf, and oh, almost forgot, a peredhil? Not many of those around. Child of that boot licker Elrond? One of the Three was certainly removed in Rivendell. The warriors mostly dressed as Rangers, so Dunedain for sure, but it seemed the greatest were different, and the weapons they possessed would make Eol proud. Worthy slaves they ould make if tempted by... now what do I have lying around here that could tempt humans or dwarves? Need to get to work on that right away...