At the Straddle gate, and after reclaiming a silly Hobbit’s bag from a rather angry bear, I met Lirwen who whisked me through Bree (it looks amazing but I only had a quick view and that was at night) and off into the Midgewater Marshes to practice my fighting skills on some horrible flying insects and rather annoying bugs called neekerbreekers. The Marshes are such a dank and horrible place (and it’s hats off to the designers for that!) that I found pretty much all the time I spent there to be uncomfortably squalid – so much so I really couldn’t wait to get out ;-D
Whilst in these marshes (which are quite large and border on the forest of Chetwood North near Combe) we began to run into goblins – just one or two at first and pretty easy to beat, but then in increasing numbers and some with the rather nasty surprise of Greek Fire! The little buggers lobbed burning pots at us which exploded on impact and set everything in a six foot radius (including us!) ablaze! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only good goblin is a dead goblin. Preferably several times dead, wrapped in chains thrown into the sea just to make sure.
As we fought these little sods we came across a small camp made by human trappers who asked if we could undertake a few quests for them, the biggest of which would see us go up against an infestation of *shudder* giant spiders and their queen! Ye gods what a horrible hack’n’slash that was – I hate spiders at the best of times but when I am foolish enough to wade into battle with a queen and her two protectors, each the size of a pit pony, then my revulsion-o-meter finds itself well and truly in the red! Not only that but in my haste to prove my worth to my companion against such a formidable foe I leapt in without Lirwen who had to bravely run to my defence but alas and alack it was too late – the spider venom did for me and I died for second time (and again by the jaws of a bloody arachnid!). I’m not exactly sure what penalty death generates in LOTRO, but I know I’ll never have the Undefeated title so many of the far better players sport above their proud, un-shame-hung heads. Ah well.
Lirwen and I parted after this and I went back to Combe to tackle some quests I had left uncompleted in my haste to follow Lirwen out into the Marshes, but before I end this account and turn to my dealings in Combe I’d like to mention the the ancient and ruined Dúnedain temple and altar I found in the muck and the mire of Midgewater. The world is full of the remains of the once great Dúnedain people of Arnor, with their ruins to be found atop hils and deep in forests wherever you wander, but there are also out that there are important several ruined structures in the game and finding them all unlocks certain character benefits as you re-connect to your noble, Mannish past. In Midgewater I found the altar and clicking on it allowed me to bow before the memory of my forefathers and I’m really looking forward to finding more because the way the designers have woven in the ruins of a once great civilisation is both stunning and, to me at least who can be a maudlin soul at the best of times, heart-rending. Here in this game I can see the final relics of the people I wanted to be when I was a kids and reading Tolkien’s books and I actually find myself wanting to clear the filth and corruption out of them even though I know the robbers and wolves and spiders just re-generate. Ah, what is it about a ruined castle & a half-burried stone circle that brings out the proud Celt in me? 😀