A Sentinel of the Woodland Realm makes his presence heard.
The dust has barely settled on the gravemound beneath the lone red pine on the Sirannon plain northwest of Porth Cadlus near Torech Andraug, when the sound of echoing horns reaches the ears of Eadirin, Cirdoliel and Finnehas. Still puzzled as to the meaning of their cryptic clue, the startled elves look up to see a rider approaching — one decked in the regalia of Eryn Lasgalen, King Thranduil’s Woodland Realm — and not alone, but accompanied by a contingent of similarly dressed Wardens. But what purpose could draw such kind to the plains of Eregion? In turn, the Sentinel wonders at the rough appearance of the small party, and their business in contested lands — are they Moriquendi, descended from those who refused Oromë’s summons?
We may be scruffily attired but that doesn't make us Moriquendi ...
As quick introductions are made amid the contingent’s swift setting up of camp, it soon becomes clear that the Sentinel Taurithon commands a retinue bound West to Mithlond, and thence across the Sea, the safety escort for two regally beautiful elf-maidens — sisters? twins? perhaps even mother and daughter of the royal household of Eryn Lasgalen. Taurithon learns of the company’s quest and is bid remain behind to assist them.
But before they can turn back to the mysterious clue, the peace of the camp is rudely shattered!
A frenzied call sounds from afar, fluent Sindarin reaching them on the wind, along with the furious thudding of hooves. 'Is that another of your company, Hir Taurithon?' Finnehas asks.
Cirdoliel bites at her bottom lip, a usual habit of hers when slightly anxious. She looks back at the two hiril feeling her heart stop as they meet her eyes. Tearing her gaze away she looks to Finnehas with a curious brow.
Taurithon 's ears perk. Barking out a distinct command word in a rather harsh dialect of Nandorin Elvish. The return call is one of negative affirmation. "It is not!"
From northward, kicking up the dust of the Sirannon plain as he rides, speeds a figure in light armour of distinctly elven make. The rider, no more than twenty paces from them now, is recognisable to all who have visited Echad Dunann ... It is the elf Perimbant! Holding a hand high as if time is of the essence, his steed rearing to a halt, his words fall on the air haphazardly, tumbling out in desperate breaths. 'Eldar I call upon your loyalty to the House of Elrond of Imladris! Dunlendings have besieged our company at Barad Morlas, locked them in battle. You are the closest that may render aid!'
Their decision to help is reached with one startling revelation: Perimbant’s army has acted on the orders of Elrond Halfelven — to extract a certain halfling alive from Barad Morlas! As the Tawarwaith camp evaporates as magically as it appeared, Taurithon pledges his aid to break the siege, and Perimbant leads the company at full gallop north towards Barad Morlas, the sounds of battle reaching them as they approach: steel clashing, tortured shouts and moans, elven cries mingled with the grunts of Dunlendings.
They agree in haste on a strategy as Perimbant outlines the obstacles: three manned siege-engines atop the ramparts; two sentries guarding the stronghold’s entrance, but a safe line of approach affording some cover for Eadirin, Cirdoliel and Finnehas if Taurithon and Perimbant can keep the siege crew distracted from afar.
The attack begins well, with the first Dunlending on the wall dispatched with a single arrow to the jugular unleashed from Taurithon’s bow, and Cirdoliel making short work of the luckless sentry assigned to her lethal dagger.
But alerted, the siege engineers kindle their efforts now and the tide turns against the eldar as Taurithon suffers debilitating burns, the fever pitch of a projectile exploding too close. Finnehas’ charge goes awry when his thrust is parried and the second Dunlending sentry’s blade sinks deep into his side. Not for the first time does Cirdoliel come to the rescue, efficiently rendering his opponent unconscious, giving Eadirin access to the stronghold!
Barad Morlas in Eregion, as it really is
The sounds of battle around are louder than ever now, surrounding Eadirin, Finnehas and Cirdoliel, elf-steel clashing against wooden shields, cleaving many asunder. Bodies of both races are strewn throughout the stronghold. No sign of the Warlord who must be in charge.
The group splits up to find him but Eadirin returns when he notices Finnehas unable to continue, the wound in his side seeping the lifeblood from him. Decisively, Eadirin removes the embedded blade, compressing and then bandaging the wound. But precious time has been lost in tending to Finnehas, and a Dunlending warrior, having cleft the helm of his elf opponent, now turns and charges towards Eadirin and Finnehas. Sidestepping the swinging axe of the Dunlending, Eadirin unleashes his blade Nimfuin, slicing clean through the Man's torso.
From high above a whistling sound reaches the elves' ears, together with cries from some distance outside the fortress walls - Perimbant in loud Sindarin shouting a warning - before the ground shakes with an explosion of great force - another rock of flaming pitch fired at the elven archers outside the stronghold. But the Valar smile on the archers. Perimbant's retaliation is swift, toppling the last of the siege engineers and now as the war machines fall silent, a horn in the distance sounds reinforcements from Echad Dúnann! Fear begins to grip the remaining Dunlendings.
At the heart of the fortress, the sounds of battle are now scanter, but the groans of the wounded more gut-wrenching. The scene that greets the elves in this inner chamber is mainly of carnage. A lone elf, wounded, is slumped against a central pillar. He points south. 'The Warlord ... he has fled ... that way ... with the halfling...'
Eadirin and Finnehas lead a small band of Perimbant's company in pursuit of the Dunlending chief and finally corner him, blocking off his escape route.
The Dunlending warlord bears an uncanny resemblance to Morley the Fierce, and the elves display their skills in hostage negotiation, during which Nimfuin proves handy.
At last, the Eldar win the day. The perian is revealed to be Trucco, a brother of the dead and also of the original traitor, Occo. When he sees that Eadirin's card, taken from the dead halfling at Porth Cadlus, matches that of his own, Trucco reveals their true employer and his plan to amass armies in two key places — Orthanc and Moria!
The Gwaith-i-Mirdain take Trucco into custody, first faking his death to free him from his employer's tyranny. It seems they would counsel Eadirin and Finnehas to abandon the pursuit of Occo, the entire operation being delicate and already in jeopardy. But the company's intentions remain their own.