Sam clutched his walking stick close to his chest as he blew into his cupped hands. The night had up until now been fairly warm, yet all of a sudden a feeling of cold seemed to have swept over him.
“Brrr, it’s getting a bit chilly,” grumbled Pippin, echoing Sam’s general sentiments. “I think we’d better find somewhere to stop and try and wrap ourselves up for the night, eh Frodo? Frodo?”
Sam paused when he realised that his master was not walking by them anymore. He had stopped several steps back, and looked as if he were listening intently for something. That in turn prompted Sam to listen, and as he did he froze like a statue. Hooves.
They were muffled slightly, as if falling on grass, but the sound was there. And not just hooves; there was also the clinking of stirrups and some other sound that Sam didn’t recognise. It was armour plates, clanking softly together.
Frodo signalled hurriedly to his friends to run for cover, and all three scrambled through a nearby line of bushes so as to get clear of the patch of open ground they were occupying. On the other side however was yet more open ground.
Sam suddenly felt an unpleasant urge telling him to look westwards. As he did his heart seemed to stick in his throat. There, framed upon a low hillside by the rising moon was a rider, all in black. The shadows about him seemed to pool, thick and rich down the sides of the grassy summit, until Sam lost sight of them below the line of trees.
Then a shriek went up, grim and terrible across the night. The rider had turned its horse to face them, and suddenly it was gone, vanishing like its shadow beneath the trees. The sound of hooves did not disappear along with it though; indeed it grew louder.
“Run!” cried Frodo, and the three hobbits began a frantic dash through the dark woodland.
Gildor Inglorion sat bolt upright as a scream like the wail of tortured souls rent the hitherto still night air. All of a sudden he felt a presence, black and cold like a wisp of midnight. Without a moment’s hesitation the elf leapt to his feat and dashed across the grassy floor of the elven wood hall. He paused just before leaving the shelter of the trees to snatch up an object from where it lay against one of the pale trunks.
Fastening the thing to his belt Gildor began to descend the hill, ignoring the questioning cries of his folk about him. Reaching one of the low ridges of the hill he took pause, just time enough to draw the sword at his waist.
This particular scenario annoyed me rather, and I felt my lack of access to any reference materials very keenly. Because no internet connection had yet been installed back at the time (it must have been early to mid February I think) when I played this, I had virtually no resources to consult besides the actual novel, which was of course not very helpful, as there was no actual fight in the original text. In the end I decided I would have a "mad dash" type situation similar to the hobbits' flight to the Buckleberry Ferry in the movie. I think it turned out okay after all, and proved to be reasonably fun (and that is the whole point really).
Two of the three Ringwraiths start at opposite ends of the road which runs along the southern board edge, while the third is in reserve and arrives on turn 2, as he is assumed to be chasing the hobbits and not far behind. The hobbits all start on the western board edge and have to exit the board via the hill on the eastern edge, at the foot of which Gildor starts. The Ringwraiths' objective is simple: kill Frodo and get the Ring.
This is no hobbit walking party! (from left to right: Peregrin Took, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee. Back row: Gildor Ingolrion)
On the Good side we have Frodo, Sam and Pippin, who all count as unarmed, contrary to their models. Gildor Inglorion is also present, being represented by a wood elf warrior with elven blade. I could have made up a paper model for Gildor, but I decided that I like using a real model better, even if it didn’t look quite the same.
The pursuing Black Riders (from left to right: The Betrayer, The Dark Marshal, The Shadow Lord)
On the Evil side we have three of the Nazgul: The Dark Marshal, The Betrayer and The Shadow Lord. I chose these three because both the Betrayer and the Dark Marshal still had decent totals of Will at 6 each, and the Shadow Lord had a whopping 7 Will, thanks to his early banishment in the last game.
I chose to have the Shadow Lord in pursuit of the hobbits and thus in reserve, while the other two wraiths patrolled on the road nearby
Good Priority (automatic)
The hobbits ran hurriedly forwards through the trees, glancing constantly over their shoulders to where they could discern a large shadowy figure approaching fast. As they entered a small clearing Sam called out, “Mr. Frodo! I can hear somethin’ else comin’! Away there towards the road!”
Sam was right. The Betrayer and the Dark Marshal had only just come into sight of each other on the dirt track, when the Shadow Lord’s cry had rent the air. Now they had swung their dark steeds off the road, and galloping through gaps in the hedges which lined the track they headed towards the trio of young hobbits.
Gildor meanwhile sprinted forwards as fast as he could, his keen elven eyes discerning the three hobbits and the shape of their dark pursuer in the shadows, though they were yet to see him.
The hobbits ran wildly into the clearing, eyes darting hither and thither. Now Sam was not the only one who could hear the newly approaching threat; they all could. Hooves pounded eagerly on leaves and rough grass, and armour clanked as the Dark Marshal drew nearer. And now behind them the hobbits could make out clearly the shape of their original pursuer not far behind. He was a towering figure with blue runes etched along the hem of his dark cloak, which parted at the chest to reveal his mail, glinting faintly in the rising moon.
Then suddenly a second rider burst into the clearing. The three hobbits could see his helm flashing a pale silver, but under its visor there was no face. Frodo felt his heart sink with dread at both rider’s appearance and his grim visage. He gasped suddenly as something dark and sharp whizzed from the rider’s hand towards him.
Suddenly there was a cry of “Elbereth!” from away in the darkness to the east, and the dark thing that had leapt towards Frodo fizzled and died. The three hobbits turned to see a third figure, this one on foot, and seeming to shine with a regal white radiance. “Get you gone, fiends!” cried Gildor, sword blade gleaming under the light of the moon, which struck him head on and seemed to wreathe itself about him. The Nazguls’ only response was to hiss in black hatred at the approaching elf.
Frodo could feel the desire to don the Ring clawing at him, but with a great effort he tore himself free. “Come on, run!” he called to Sam and Pippin, snapping them out of their stupors of fear at the terrible figure of the Dark Marshal. Frodo and Pippin hurried towards the nearby trees, but to Frodo’s horror he realised that Sam was not with them.
“You run sir, run!” cried Sam, clutching his walking stick tightly in both hands and charging towards the black rider before him. The Dark Marshal snarled in frustration; this was not the halfling he wanted. His sword lashed out, and despite Sam’s best efforts to parry it, the gardener cried out as it bit into his left shoulder. Even as Frodo cried out in horror, their original pursuer galloped into the clearing, horse rearing high as the rider paused to assess the situation.
Gildor meanwhile came to an abrupt halt as he heard the noise of hooves behind him. A third Ringwraith towered now above him in the shadows. “Foolish elf,” hissed the Betrayer, “These halflings belong to Sauron the Great.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” replied Gildor, unmoved.
“Eärendil!” cried Gildor, and sprang forwards suddenly, surprising the Betrayer who pulled his horse backwards. The two joined swords, and despite his surprise the Ringwraith was able to stave away the elf’s blade, though he flinched at the name of the Morning Star.
Pippin swallowed hard, and turning quickly to Frodo he gave his hand a squeeze. “Go Frodo,” he said, “run for it!” Then to Frodo’s horror he dashed out into the clearing brandishing his stick. The Shadow Lord pulled back in outright astonishment; this halfling was daring to attack him? At the same moment Sam gave a loud cry of defiance and charged the Dark Marshal yet again. This time the Ringwraith was angry, and struck out at the plucky gardener with the intent of removing his head. Yet by some twist of Fate, the blade caught on Sam’s cloak and did not lay a scratch on him, though it prompted him to fall flat on his backside in shock.
Pippin waved his stick at the rider, swinging wildly out of fear. Suddenly one of the horse’s hooves lashed out, and the hobbit felt a dull red pain on his forehead, before all went back and he fell to the ground, still. “No!” cried Frodo, as he scrambled out of the patch of woodland. The Shadow Lord hissed and turned his gaze on the Ringbear hungrily. The One was calling to him.
Sam wasn’t sure if his nerve was failing him, or if he was just thinking better of his decision to fight, but he made a mad scramble away from the black rider before him. “C’mon Mr. Frodo, run!” he called to his master. With difficulty Frodo managed to pull his gaze away from the unmoving form of his friend and eyes shut tight he ran with all his Might.
Infuriated that their prey might be escaping them, the two Ringwraiths let out hisses and galloped after the two fleeing hobbits. The Shadow Lord reached out his gauntleted hand, but the dart he hoped to bring Frodo down with stubbornly refused to materialise; the magic of the elves was in the air here, and the strength of the shadow was growing steadily less and less. The Dark Marshal however caught Sam, and slashed down with his sword, thinking to finally be rid of this troublesome hobbit. Sam wasn’t sure how he did it, but somehow he span round, and with his walking stick he smacked the pale blade aside. While the wild waving of Sam’s stick did little to harm the Dark Marshal, he could feel the exertion beginning to take its toll on him.
Barely a stone’s throw away the Betrayer gave a shriek as with a mighty effort Gildor’s blade found its way past his defences and bit deep into his unseen flesh. The Nazgul fell from his horse, and though he tried to loom menacingly before the elf, he knew he was finished. “Get you gone,” commanded Gildor, “return to your evil!” The Betrayer howled in hatred as his body was torn away by an unseen wind, white flames engulfing him.
Pulling up his inner strength Gildor dashed forwards. “Run Frodo!” he called, “Climb the hill; my people will protect you!” The two Ringwraiths snarled and hissed at the elf lord before them, even as the two hobbits drew further and further away from them. Unable to see a way past Gildor the Dark Marshal reared his black steed towards him, crying out for the Shadow Lord to ride forward and “seize the prize!”
“Master!” cried Sam in warning, as the Shadow Lord bolted past Gildor and headed for Frodo, sword coming in a wide arch towards him. But as Frodo turned, it was as if a great weakness fell upon the wraith’s sword arm, and somehow Frodo was able to fend the pale blade off with his stout stick (I rolled double ones for the Shadow Lord!).
Not daring to look back Frodo scrambled desperately up the hill, fearing that at any moment he would feel a black rider’s sword in his back. But he did not. When at last he dared to look over his shoulder he saw that Sam was hot on his heels, and that the two black riders were at bay about Gildor, whose blade sparkled in the moonlight and drove back the pale swords of the Ringwraiths.
Then suddenly Frodo found himself surrounded by people, many of whom rushed passed him. He could vaguely hear cries of “Elbereth!” as a crowd of a dozen or so fair folk rushed towards the Nazgul at the bottom of the hill. He was dimly aware of being lifted up by long arms, and then being set down somewhere soft and comfortable. The shouts of battle had died away, and were replaced by quiet yet earnest voices. Frodo thought there was a hobbit on either side of him, but he was so tired from his ordeal, that before he was fully aware of his surroundings, he was asleep.
When he awoke Frodo found himself seated with his back to a tall pale tree. He was inside some kind of hall he thought, yet the roof was made of the bending bows of trees, and the floor was soft green grass. Then he remembered the night now past, and tears came to his eyes. “Oh Pippin,” he murmured.
He started when a voice answered, “Yes?” away to his right. Frodo turned and his expression turned to one of joy. There was his young friend, sitting against another tree with a bandage of white linen wrapped around his head. “Hello Frodo,” said Pippin.
“You, you fool!” spluttered Frodo, before embracing the other hobbit.
And that brings us to the end of our second battle report. I was really worried for Pippin there when he was cut down by the Shadow Lord, but thankfully it seems that it was only a flesh wound, which he promptly recovered. However, recovery was not kind to our heroes in general. Sam didn’t recover his lost wound, or either of his lost Might, and Frodo only got back the one point of Might. The Evil side however did rather well for the most part, with the Shadow Lord recovering all three spent points of Will and the Dark Marshal recovering three of his four. Sauron must have been unhappy with the Betrayer for falling in battle though, since he recovered none.
The final tallies for characteristics are:
Frodo: Might 1, Will 3, Fate 3, Wounds 2
Sam: Might 0, Will 1, Fate 1, Wounds 1
Pippin: Fate 0, Wounds 1
Shadow Lord: Will 7
Dark Marshal: Will 5
Betrayer: Will 4
The scenario itself was a little bit hair raising at several points, but in the end Frodo managed to escape, unlike in my earlier test run where the Betrayer ended up cutting him down at the foot of the hill. So far the scenarios have managed to be reasonably close run things much to my enjoyment, and I hope that holds out when we come to the next one.
Speaking of which, the next scenario will be taken directly from the pages of Battle Games in Middle Earth issue 13. No really; the board I’ll be using is in those pages! For the next scenario we’ll be seeing Gandalf the Grey facing down his treacherous former master, the now Saruman of Many Colours. This scenario will be determining the participants for when the Ringwraiths attack Weathertop in A Knife in the Dark, so it’ll be somewhat important.
Should Gandalf win he will escape Orthanc and be present for that scenario, otherwise Saruman will hold him captive, and we won't be seeing him again until after the Council of Elrond.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this battle report, and I hope you’ll be back to read the next one.