Well, I guess the title spoils what happened during this session. This was once again my second TOR campaign (the one that's actually active), so it follows the adventures of Grimwine the Beorning, Ranulf the Barding, and Lowthesis the Dwarf of Erebor.
In Pursuit of Orcs
Just to re-cap, at the end of the previous session the company was ambushed by orcs and wargs, with the surviving orcs fleeing north. Attempts to catch/track these guys failed, and so the heroes were forced to simply head in that general direction. They eventually reach the ridge-top that Ranulf saw when he climbed a tree to get a better view of the land, and Grimwine noticed an area near a cliff with some charred trees. Heading that way, they reached what looked like the main orc encampment. A "lawn" of burnt and trampled vegetation strewn with junk lay about the bottom of the cliff, with the tall surrounding trees left intact (to provide a canopy that the orcs could use to move about during the day). Grimwine approached the wide cave opening leading to a single large chamber while Lowthesis rifled through the junk looking for anything of interest (or value). Finding nothing, he and Ranulf joined Grimwine as he entered the cave. It was empty, and also strewn with more orc-trash. Grimwine surmised by examining fresh droppings that the orcs were here within the last day or two, while Lowthesis searched the cavern. He found a small stash of loot (1 treasure point), which he kept. Since he'd already loaded up to full carrying capacity on treasure in the cave, Grimwine had to carry it for him. Finding nothing else, they left the cave and Grimwine searched the area for tracks. It looked like the group had scattered, singly or in twos and threes taking separate paths generally north through the forest. As Grimwine examined the tracks, the group heard a Woodmen horn blowing a distress signal in the distance.
The company rushed toward the source of the sound, finding Grimwine's hunting companion Hathus taking down an orc, with two orc bodies and 1 Woodmen lying dead on the ground. Hathus bound this orc, intent on interrogating him. Grimwine rushed up to aid him, and rolled an extraordinary success (with a Gandalf too, I think) on his Awe roll to intimidate the goblin. With one hand he held up his greataxe menacingly, and with the other snatched up the goblin and threw him to the ground. Moisture appeared from the crotch of the goblin's pants. The company learned that the orc chieftain, Gazmog, had ordered the group to disperse and head north. When questioned about the artifact stolen from the cave, they learned that "The Mistress" had bade Gazmog to hide "the Egg," and Gazmog took it himself. The egg was described to be large, heavy, and shiny like mithril. Being of no further use, Grimwine slayed the captive (in hindsight I probably should have given him a shadow point for this).
Sending Hathus back to Woodland Hall with this new information, the company headed back to the orc encampment to pick up one of the trails. Grimwine searched for larger tracks, and finding a set he followed them. What followed was a pursuit that was never meant to be successful given the full day's head start that the orcs had. Grimwine pushed full steam ahead, however, leaving Lowthesis and eventually Ranulf behind. A hazard was rolled, in which I invoked Lowthesis' "Grasping" flaw. Basically, they heroes had to climb a waterfall out of a shallow gorge, and while climbing a piece of treasure slipped out of Lowthesis' pack. He tried to catch it, throwing himself off balance and falling onto the slippery rocks below. He was wounded with a sprained wrist (luckily his full endurance allowed him to recover with one night's rest, but it did prevent Grimwine from regaining a point of Hope at the end of the session). The orcs were tracked for a full 7 days with Grimwine getting the bare minimum amount of sleep and leaving Ranulf trailing a full day behind, and Lowthesis, who eventually gave up and built himself a bed, even further. Finding signs that he was gaining on his quarry, Grimwine was relentless in his pursuit, which eventually led him to a pair of orcs. He slayed them, but after searching the bodies didn't find an egg. He collapsed from exhaustion, was joined shortly by Ranulf who eventually caught up, and then the two eventually met up with Lowthesis on the journey back to Woodland Hall (which took 10 days).
The heroes reached Woodland Hall to learn that the elders were all away at Woodmen Town for the Folk-Moot that would decide who was to represent their people at the Council of the North. The journey south was relatively uneventful, though they did meet a pair of hunters, one of whom gave Grimwine a hunting knife in appreciation for tales of his valorous deeds. When they reached town, the guards in front of the Hall of Balthi would not admit them since the Moot was currently in progress. Impressed by Grimwine's awesome bearing (literally, resulting from his high Awe roll), he offered the company refreshments in the guard house and sent a messenger to them as soon as the meeting was adjourned. They met with Beranhild (The Sage), who didn't recognize the orc's description of the Egg. When shown Ranulf's rubbings of the names from the cave, she visibly blanched at the sight of the circled name, from the fake sarcophagus that the egg was mounted on: Akhorahil. She simply said that he was an ancient terror from deep in the forest beyond the ruins that Grimwine stumbled upon. She could not aid them further, and bid them to seek Radagast for advice. Despite being quiet in the background, Lowthesis surmised from a good Riddle roll that she was truly terrified, and probably knew more than she was letting on but didn't trust herself to give counsel on what was clearly a very important matter.
The company rested for a day in Woodmen Town, with Ranulf traveling to the Dusky River to nap in a boat (fishing without bait), Grimwine working on a leather sheath for his new hunting knife, and Lowthesis moping over the general lack of forges in these lands. During their evening meal they were joined by Walcaud (The Shepherd), the elder from Woodland Hall, and learned that he would be traveling to Dale with Amand (The Tall), an elder from Woodmen Town who was chosen to be the representative at the Council of the North.
Back to Rhosgobel
The journey to Rhosgobel was punctuated only by an encounter with a merchant from Mountain Hall, Amalina. She had just dropped off a shipment of weapons and armor in Rhosgobel and was traveling back home to do some smith-work. Lowthesis noted this, offering to teach her some Dwarven techniques if he ever made it her way. After finally reaching Rhosgobel and heading straight for Radagast's hut near the hedge, the company sees an old man cloaked in grey sitting around and smoking with 4 Dwarves. As they approach he introduces himself as Gandalf the Grey, and chuckling in amusement at Grimwine's attempt to Awe him. The Dwarves introduce themselves as Dwalin, Balin, Ori, and Oin, all bowing low. They exchange pleasantries and brief tales while waiting for Radagast to return (Lowthesis in a visibly better mood resulting from the companionship of some of his kinsmen). At one point Gandalf blows smoke rings that take the form of an orc, and then followed by an axe that "decapitates" the orc-shape. Laughing, he tells Grimwine "I got one, too!" Grimwine replied with "mine had more blood," to which Gandalf responded with a sparkling display of red flashes that emanated from the smoke-shape of the orc.
Once Radagast returned the company began to discuss their recent adventures, asking specifically about The Mistress (which Radagast had not heard of, but noted that Mirkwood is filled with many dark creatures that could potentially organize orcs) and Akhorahil. Gandalf blanched at that name, explaining that he was a deadly servant of Gorthu (Sauron) - a Black Numenorean given one of the Nine Rings. He explained that Akhorahil still walks the earth in wraith-form, and is rumored to be in Mordor with the other Nazgul. He was deeply concerned that the orcs were seeking an artifact of his house on the orders of this Mistress.
Gandalf insisted that the heroes accompany him to Dale to report their tale during the Council of the North. This was clearly a major development, and input from the leaders of all the northern peoples was critical. He told them that Radagast would be leaving for the northern route around Mirkwood in about a week with Amand The Tall, Walcaud The Shepherd, and a retinue of Woodmen guards (Grimwine told Radagast that his friend Hathus should be considered for membership in this elite guard). Meanwhile, he had planned on assisting the Dwarves with their mission to scout out the viability of the Old Forest Road. They had planned on meeting up with Oin's nephew, Gimli, who would be waiting for them with boats in the Long Marshes.
After making preparations for 3 days, Gandalf and the Dwarves departed with the company of heroes, along with a pack pony (Folí) and Gandalf's horse, Bregolad. The week-long journey from Rhosgobel to the road as it emerged from western Mirkwood was relatively uneventful, but the heavy rains did fatigue Grimwine and Ranulf. When they reached the road they saw a stark contrast with the relatively well-maintained road to their left (leading to major paths north, to the land of the Beornings, and south, to the realm of the Woodmen) and the overgrown mess (leading into Mirkwood) to their right.
During their first few days they encountered a few old ruins (of Dwarven make) along the road, which broke up the monotony of clearing a path through the overgrown vegetation and logs (for the horse and pony) and dealing with the dark, stifling air of Mirkwood. At one point they encountered spiderwebs, including a large one across the road. Though its sticky strands proved difficult to burn with torches or hack with axes, Gandalf casually tossed a flaming pine cone at it to clear the way. He advised them "don't look left, it'll only worry you," at which point Ranulf looked left and saw several sets of large spider-eyes retreating into the shadows. Shortly afterwards the air got even darker and stuffier, and they passed ruins of jet-black rock which Gandalf urged them past quickly, though they hardly needed his help after sensing the malice of that area for themselves (corruption test). Gandalf marched them until almost midnight before they made camp (not that they could see the sky to be sure, in this gloom). The next day (well into their fourth day in Mirkwood they heard a loud, piercing wail too close for comfort. Gandalf stood stock-still, the heroes made Fear tests, and all the Dwarves but Balin were paralyzed with fright (Balin ran up to Folí to restrain him, as he was struggling to run ahead). Lowthesis ran to Balin's aid, while Ranulf nocked an arrow and Grimwine drew his axe. Gandalf looked at them briefly and yelled "what are you doing? Fly you fools!" As they turned to run Gandalf added "and take those Dwarves!" At this point Grimwine tried to inspire them to make a stand against this foe, and a ridiculous extraordinary success combined with a Gandalf inspired me to cause Dwalin to temporarily reach for his Mattock, but then regain his senses and, recovered from his swoon, aid the heroes in getting Ori and Oin moving.
As soon as they were just about ready to flee they all heard another wail, this time much closer and accompanied by a strange clicking noise. Gandalf mounted Bregolad. A Nazgul burst through the trees onto the road riding a giant spider (whose chitonous joints were making the clicking noise)!!! A quick exhale pointed in the direction of the travelers called for corruption checks. All but Lowthesis fell into a swoon from the Black Breath (and gained 2 Shadow points), but even the stout Dwarf was partially frozen and still gained 1 Shadow despite his strong will in the face of this servant of Sauron. Ranulf and Grimwine both drained a point from the Fellowship pool to avoid becoming Miserable. The pony bolted. With a bright shaft of light from his staff and a quick slash at the spider's leg from Glamdring, Gandalf drove the Nazgul off. He quickly turned to Lowthesis and commanded him to guard his companions and make sure that the mission got completed. He then sped off after the Nazgul, leaving a very frightened Lowthesis guarding his unconscious friends and kinsmen. They finally came to after nearly 5 hours, during which Lowthesis build a fire. The "camp" was soon surrounded by spiders, but being a smaller variety (by Mirkwood standards) they refrained from attacking.
And that's where we ended. Exciting stuff!