Poor the Dwarf… Ranhold’s been having so much fun in the Barrows and the Old Forest (and even the Shire, despite it being overrun with bloody dippy Hobbits) that Gorfrik’s not had much of a look in lately. He has, however, managed to get to level 11 by grinding the bejesus out of the Erid Luin quests. Take some armour here, shoot down some birds there, hack a few goblins everywhere… all good, clean family fun but some were a little dull when compared with the bloody great walking trees Ranhold was facing in the Old Forest(*). The real highlight were the three runs into the goblin infested fortress of Orodost, but I’ll let young Gorfrik tell you about those himself in an extract from a letter home to his old granddad, Greem the Stonebiter:
The first time I saw it from the Vale of Thain (May the Stones bless his Name) I was really impressed by the huge stairs leading up, lovely bit of craftsmanship even if it was by those dullards the Dourhands, but I was a little less impressed at around half way up when my lungs were fit to burst! Still, I soon forgot them as some lunatic Elf on a horse galloped past at full speed and nearly ran me down heading out of the fort and down into the valley. What could be driving him to take such a risk, thought I? What could cause him to put both himself and his horse in such danger? The answer to my question came in the form of nearly ten yelping and screeching Blue Crag Goblins charging down the steps after him. I remembered your advice Gramps and I kept my head down, my mouth shut and waited for them to pass – like you say, “No sense in getting your fool skull dented for whatever some other fool had done to piss a troll off!”. No, instead I decided to take this opportunity to run full pelt into the now partially empty fort and complete my quest whilst the residents of this charming Dourhand dump were otherwise engaged chasing Captain Pointy Ears right out of the Vale of Thain (May the Stones bless his Name) and back to his trees where no doubt he’d have a ruddy good cry!
The first few areas were indeed empty, their occupants busy bellowing insults down the great stairway behind me (and for goblins they had a surprising understanding of how an Elf reproduces, let me tell you Gramps!), but the next areas weren’t and I had quite a few toe-to-toe scraps as the layout up there is not all that kind to a hunter like me. Luckily I made it through and reached the top area. Unluckily it was crawling with goblin scum! But then the lucky-unlucky see-saw tipped my way again and I saw another fella, a Man this time, scanning the place as well. I sidled on over and proposed we pool our resources to form a Fellowship. Together we were able to handle the mobs that came running at us and we sailed through our quests with ease and were soon heading down the steps in a far more dignified fashion than the silly sod I had passed on my way in. Back in the Vale of Thain (May the Stones bless his Name) at the bottom we split the Fellowship, said our thanks and went our separate ways. Done & dusted. Or so I thought!
Imagine my face when I found out my very next quest was to go back there again! The see-saw of fate had tipped back and caught me right in the shin this time! It was with a heavy heart I trudged into the Vale of Thain (May the Stones bless him) and stealthily made my way past patrolling guards to the cyclopean steps once more. But I must have been wearing my lucky codpiece because yet another Dwarf brother was heading the same way and so we formed a Fellowship bound of a common cause (1).
We shot, sliced, hacked and harangued the stinking goblin filth until we had completed another quest and could once more dance and sing our way down the stairs and into the Vale, casually offing unsuspecting goblins as we went out of a spirit of pure joie de vivre (2) before we too split and travelled our different paths out of the Vale of Thain (May the Stones bless etc). You’d have been proud of me Gramps, and I just know you’d have joined in if your back hadn’t gone lifting that ruddy great boulder. How is Gran anyhow?
So there I was, two trips into Ordost with two wins (no defeats, no submissions) under my belt when my quest handler hit me with a thunderbolt from Thror’s own hammer! I had to go back a third time and recover stolen gold! Now I like gold as much as the next Dwarf, you know that Gramps. Gold is where it’s at. Gold is the stuff. Gold gives me goosebumps. But did I really want to chance my arm a third time for a bag of someone else’s? Yet I had to. Dwalin himself wanted me to see this quest through and there was bugger all I could do to get out of it. I strapped my codpiece tight and set off once more to the bloody Vale of Bloody Thain (May the Bloody Stones Bless the Bugger Once and for BLOODY ALL!).
This time there was no one else around, no other Dwarf or Man I could join with, not even a pointy ear or one of those small, annoying buggers from the Shire, you know who I mean, the ones who keep yammering on and on about food and wittering about their family relations and gossiping about Thorin knows what until you want to slap them clean off a cliff! Well not even one of those useless sods, just me, my bow and my two axes. This was going to be tough, but you know me Gramps, I’ve never let a goblin best me yet and I wasn’t about to start. I was going to use all my cunning and stealth and traps and arrows to silently enter the place and sneak up to the Dourhand who had the gold and relieve him of it (along with his lungs).
So when I woke up ten minutes later reeking of goblin spit and with a Dourhand warhammer imprint on my face, I began to suspect I may have let my natural Dwarven optimism get the better of me. What I needed was a plan… a plan that had already proved itself as a winner, a plan that could guarantee the planner success and a face free of goblin knuckles. So far I had only seen two plans work in this acursed place – one was to go in mob-handed and revel and the other… well the other was a shameful event I was now contemplating with all seriousness.
Kaarak, the small pony I’d bought with the money you sent to Thorin’s Hall for me, was not convinced of my plan, but then neither was I. Still, it was the only plan we had if we wanted this Caveclaw Day nightmare to be over so I checked my weapons, strapped up my armour and began to read from the book of elf magic I’d been given for helping get the Dourhands out of Thorin’s Hall. The tome did its job and Kaarak reared up and shot off like a greased pickaxe! We raced past the surprised goblin guards, up the steps, around the goblin holes, up more steps and through the middle of the Dourhand camp! Of course they chased us but we were long gone and they soon gave up and returned to their posts… except we weren’t gone at all, merely hiding! You’ll have to forgive me Gramps, we Hunters have to do things differently from old Guardians like you or Champions like Gran, you understand don’t you? Anyway, I waited for the guards to retreat and things to calm down again before I lobbed a small stone over the bushes and at traitorous Dourhand’s great fat head. He strode out furiously looking for whoever had dared attack him and this arrogance cost him dear! I leapt up and shoved the tip of an arrow through his eye and the edge of my axe through his belly before grabbing the gold he had stolen and jumping back on Kaarak and running like buggery through the furious goblins! Even Kaarak split a few of their skulls with his hooves as we leapt over them!
There you have it Gramps, it wasn’t my most honourable hour I’ll agree but at least I retrieved the gold, dispatched a Dourhand and thinned out the goblins some more. And honestly, it wasn’t the most shameful thing I did that day… that was when I dropped my britches and showed the howling goblins my great hairy arse as I rode away, but don’t tell Gran that bit, will you?
Yours in need of a good ale,
(1) Namely killing goblins before they could kill us.
(2) I think it’s an Elf term… sounds all fancy and pretty, just like something a blimin’ pointy ear would say.
So there you have it folks. Ranhold’s dodging wolves and bears and walking trees in the woods whilst Gorfrik’s mooning the enemy during a tactical withdrawal… Dwarves are so classy!
(*) More of that in a future post, suffice to say they don’t call Ranhold “The Woodsman” for just one reason only, you know 😉