Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Blessing of Fionwe

My new Middle-earth short story is up at the Green Dragon Inn. In a clever attempt at cross-marketing, I put my Author's Notes for the piece here.

This story began as a way of explaining the fact that our kinship chat channel is In Character. This question is perhaps best phrased as: “If our kinship chat is IC, how can people in Ered Luin and Rivendell be talking to one another?” Different kinships have different solutions to this problem. Some insist that kinship chat must be OOC. Others presume that IC chat takes place “in the tavern” between adventures. Other kinships simply state that every member has a “mini-palantir” (what I derisively call the iPal) and this allows them to talk to one another.

This is my solution: Through the blessing of a Maia wind-lord, any member of the Red Arrows can choose to have his words carried on magic breezes to the ears of any other Arrow. Before any member of the Arrows can enjoy this benefit, they must be brought to the peak of Weathertop and introduced to Fiönwë , who manifests before them. (We can presume that all members present at the date of this story’s publication have had this experience.) To some, this will seem little different than the iPal, but to me it is entirely different. For one thing, this solution has a story, and it creates more stories. Fiönwë is a rival of the Witch-king, whom he considers an old foe. He (and therefore the blessing) is vulnerable to a magic ring coveted by a Rhudaurian sorcerer. The battle to free Fiönwë also incurred the wrath of other minions of Sauron who could return to plague the Arrows later. Every new member of the Arrows also has a great excuse for a short little magical-social RP when they are brought to Weathertop and introduced to Fiönwë . In short, the Blessing of Fiönwë is not just a cheap solution to a problem, it is a story-based solution that creates spin offs.

A note on the timeline. Gandalf battled the Nine atop Weathertop on Oct 3 and Aragorn and the Hobbits arrived there Oct 6. This story takes place in the early morning hours of Oct 4, after Gandalf’s hasty departure. This sets the story firmly in the “early days” of the Red Arrows. Since the Epic Quest of LotRO allows you to meet Gandalf in Bree on the night of September 30th, “The Blessing of Fiönwë” must take place very soon after that point, which is the Prologue to Epic Quest Book II: the Red Maid. This is also a convenient point for me to note that this story allowed me to solve another problem that had been niggling me for, oh, about 20 years. You see, I could never really understand how Gandalf could fight off all the Nine at once on Weathertop, and later have so much trouble with the Witch-king alone. Also, it has long seemed to me that Aragorn’s ability to fend off the Nine with nothing but a couple of torches was problematic. I am aware of the many defenses and rationalizations for these plot points, and I can even agree with most of them. But by placing a fallen Maia on Weathertop (who could secretly lend his might to Gandalf, and whose presence might give the Witch-king pause) I was able to personally patch a rough spot in the novel which, I admit, seemed to matter only to me.

A few notes on specific characters and their story roles follow.

Fiönwë is a Maia, a fallen servant of Manwë who has become trapped here in Eriador. His name is taken from Tolkien; it was the original name of the character written of in the Silmarillion as Eönwë, the Herald of Manwë. The “Fiönwë” name dates from the time when Tolkien envisaged the character as Manwë’s son. The concept of the “children of the Valar” was later dropped.

Lagasuk-najor is Rhudaurian for “magical hill-man.” (My Rhudaurian is taken from the MERP module Angmar, now out of print. I recall that it is stolen from a real world Asian language, but I could not tell you which.) He is conceived as a recurring villain for Red Arrow storylines. Trained in sorcery by the Witch-king himself, he is missing both his hand and his magic ring, the latter of which he would stop at nothing to regain. Lagasuk-najor is best for storylines and plots in which he is not required to actually appear in game, since it is not possible at this moment for us to make sorcerers in Monster Play. Think of him as an offstage mastermind.

Shalkafsog is Rhudaurian for “leg biter.” He is a monstrous Warg intended as a recurring foe and he is ideally suited for Monster Play since any one of us could make a Warg Stalker with this name. He would not be a master villain, but makes a great thug or lieutenant.

Shakalam-hom is Rhudaurian for “ass-kicker” or “kicker of ass.” He is an Uruk warleader ideally suited to PvMP play. He could easily take on the role of recurring foe for the Arrows. Cunning and strong in battle, he is a match for any of the Arrows in hand to hand combat and he commands a legion of orcs. He makes for an excellent leader figure, but can also be a “second in command” or lieutenant to Lagasuk-najor or any other high ranking minion of Sauron or the Witch-king.

Anghithya is the Iron Ring of Mist (the name is, of course, Sindarin). This lesser ring was crafted by some talented minion of Sauron, probably in the time of the first rise of Angmar in the Third Age. The powers of the ring are not entirely known, but although it was made as a trap for Fiönwë we can presume that it has other powers. The ring is now kept by the Red Arrows, and they are on guard against efforts by Lagasuk-najor to reclaim it.

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