Face to face with the enemy

Middle-earth time is:
Mid Afternoon on Highday, Day 30 of March.
Real time is: 19:28:39 MDT on Fri Sep 19 2003.

West bank of the Forest river
The forest-path bends to the southeast here, following the river downstream. A less travelled track lies to the northeast. The chuckling river masks nearly all forest noises. Only an occasional screech from the squirrels above can be heard. The dim and greenish light hurts your eyes a little, but you can see the track clearly.
The thin piece of exposed mid afternoon sky overhead is covered with dark clouds and it is raining. Travelling in the cool spring air is unpleasant today and you are soon drenched in the rain.

Scouting party

A chill, spring air has descended over Mirkwood and all the creatures dwelling within, enveloping them in the coming season. As a herald to the winter's thaw, cascades of cold rain fall upon a party of elves travelling along the forest path at a quick pace, their voces low save one. "We are near home," the one that the others have been addressing as 'Gliridis Aranellome' speaks cheerily, pausing momentarily. A note of longing underlies her speech, and she says, "I can feel it as surely as I breathe." Shifting her spear from one hand to the other, the elleth resumes a brisk pace.

Even in the mid-afternoon, the light does not penetrate deep into the trees, and the thick cloud cover only makes the already gloomy forest even darker. In the shadows of the great boughs, between the thick trunks, it is always night, and the creatures of night roam free and heedless of the time of day. Above, on the thinner branches and close to the light, squirrels screech and birds chirp, but down here, near the ground, it's quiet. Only a fleeting shadow of a bat dashes from tree to tree, and some predator's glowing eyes flicker like fading ambers.
At a distance, on the path along the river, a dry branch breacks with a sharp crack under someone's heavy step.

Separated only briefly from the others because of her pause, Aranellome glances around, keen eyes seeing far into the forest despite the gloom. But with equally sharp hearing, the cracking branch causes a swift reaction in her stance and mood. Her head, cloaked by a deep green hood, swivels rapidly, orbs trying to find the source of the noise. The hood slips easily off, revealing silver hair, and the rain quickly drenches it to a darker hue. The mood of the journey already uneasy, the Gliridis does not hesitate to catch up with the last straggling group of elves. "I heard something," she states, gaze still dancing nervously about.

Something is definitely following the elven group, and it's gaining on you. Another branch breaks underfoot, then a sound of iron striking a loose rock, then the steps become wet squishy splashes as the pursuer follows a more open part of the path where the rain already turned it into mud. Through the thick underbroosh you can see the outline of a horse. It is a black stallion of formidable size and posture, but it is riderless as it walks along the path.

Her statement has the desired effect, and the elves straggling behind hurry to catch up with the rest of the group, Aranellome right behind them. Though, before she quickens her pace, the Gliridis sends a cautionary glance to the path behind her. And at the sight, and sound, of the fearsome mount, her green eyes widen, and she calls out ahead of her, "Ai, be wary! There is trouble afoot here, and we dare not linger! Have your weapons at the ready!" With the skill of one used to her spear, the elleth shifts it lengthwise in front of her, turning to always keep the stallion in view. "Faster, now," she calls, heeding her own words.

The stallion forces its way through the muddy path and onto a drier road shielded by layers of leaves and branches from the pooring rain, and now is really gaining on the group. Still, there is no sight of the rider. The saddle is on the horse's back, but it is empty. A black robe lies in a heap on top of it, and a black scabbard hands from the side, sword still in it. Even from a distance it emits powerful sense of cold.

The chill of the riderless mount seems to permeate even elven skin, and Aranellome shivers with as much cold as fear. Her voice seems to have deserted her, but it does not matter as the group is already making swifter progress at her words of warning. All who can have armed themselves now, though none seem to know exactly why. Whispers filter through the group of the black stallion, and the talk serves to increase their speed by immeasurable amount. The Gliridis, eyes narrowed in suspicion, stops for the briefest of seconds, to look closely at the horse. "There is no rider," she murmurs to herself, backing up even as she speaks. "Why is there no rider" Shrugging back the sleeves of her greatcloak, the elleth stumbles a step, losing valuable distance.

Even without the rider, on its own volition or guided by some unseen will, the horse is chasing after the group along the path at a steady pace. The black heap on its back shifts and wobbles with every step, and now that it is closer, you can hear the faint clinging of interwoven metal rings, and even catch a glimpse of a chain mail, also tossed onto the saddle.
A wave of dread, cold, and terror assaults your senses. It washes over you like an icy flood, a presence of great power and great hate right next to you... and then it passes. But the wave did not come from the horse, it came from the opposite direction.
The pile oof black robes on the horse's back stirs, as if it too was touched by the cold wave.

Visibly unnerved by the wave, and closest to the horse, Aranellome stumbles momentarily. But, just as quickly, the elf gathers her wits, holding her spear ready, as if to ward off the unpleasant crawling sensation of hate and evil. "It does not have a rider!" she cries out to the others, up ahead on the path. "Be careful! It could be anywhere!" But still not taking her chances, the elleth spins and makes a dash to the rear of the receding company of elves, all headed to the east. Once she has caught up, she risks a look back, and seeing that the horse is not far away at all, and that the robes have moved when there was nothing to move them, sets seeming spurs to her heels. "Move! Ai, if you have a head about you at all, run!"

Narufumelle glances over her shoulder briefly to the elleth. "All my plans for when I again met the black rider are as unseated as /he/ is," she complains. "Yet it seems he could be vulnerable without his steed, and his steed without him!" She says to encourage Aranellome and fairly leaps over a fallen log without losing her stride. Just then though, that same gut-wrenching feeling hits quite suddenly, almost familiar by now, and it /would/ have been much more easily resisted, but for the fact that is seems not to come from the direction of the horse at all, but ahead of the group. "Wait! Hold!" she exclaims, but none seem to listen. Narufumelle pauses a bit, with elves passing her by, but then she leaps forward again attempting to regain the lead. "Wait!" she calls as she finally overtakes the eledh.

Those who turn their heads back to look at the horse are treated to a sight both terrible and unnatural. The black robes on the horse's back stir and raise, as if inflated. As they gain shape, a man-like outline, a great black horned helm raises from the awakening heap of armor to rest above the robes atop an invisible head. Black glove, hanging on the rein as a folded piece of leather suddenly gains substance and bulk, its wrinkled fingers stretch and grip the reins.

The sun sinks in the sky and falls below the horizon. Nighttime takes over.

Startled beyond words, evidently, because she says nothing, other than her sharp indrawn breath, Aranellome calls to Narufumelle, and the others. "No! Keep going! And as if the very powers of evil were behind you, because they are!" After that, she says nothing, and drops her spear to her side, running on swift, silent elven feet.

A man-like shape is fully formed in the saddle of the black horse, and, with a tug of the black-gloved hand on the reins it sends the beast forward, leaping over a fallen log. The other hand reaches for the hilt of the sword... The pale brand of steel shines cold like a crystal, a shard of ice glimmering in the last rays of dusk. As the weapon is unsheathed, a great wave of cold is unleashed together with it.

The rider atop the black horse is almost upon the elven party, chasing after them along the wet and muddy path. The sword shines and bright in his hand, and cchill spreads from it in waves. Aranellome is running forward along the path, and few more elves are ahead of her, but Narufumelle appears to be hesitating.

Jumping up to the trees Naru stands on a branch over the path and draws her bow, hesitating at the strange sight of the robes filling themselves into the shape of a man. Firming up her resolve she aims carefully at the rider, but at the last moment, changes her aim, and looses her arrow at the great black horse instead.

Narufumelle loosens the buckler's laces and slips them off.
Narufumelle wields a longbow
Narufumelle launches an arrow...
Ow! You've been injured for 1 hp's by the bowshot.
ARB: Please RP this injury accordingly.

Seeing Naru shoot up a tree, Sulas follows suit and climbs up a tree on the other side of the path, spear readied to take a swipe at the approaching darkness from a well-concealed position within the branches. He glances at Naru, who is a little further down the path toward danger than he is and waits.

The arrow disappears into the darkness surrounding the rider, but the horse misses a step and stumbles momentarily. The rider responds with a curse which you sense more than hear, a feeling of overwhelming hate weighting greatly onto you. The helm falls backwards on the robed black shoulders, as if the rider looks up into the trees, but there are no eyes under its visor, just emptyness of a black void. The elf may well be out of terror's reach, but the cold cruel sword in the black hand strikes at the living branch, the one supporting Narufumelle.

You attack Narufumelle with your Longsword...
Narufumelle's bow is knocked out of her hand!
Your attack against Narufumelle mildly wounds her!

The sword striking the branch upon which Narufumelle stands cuts it cleanly off, and though the elleth was was prepared to jump away as the rider approached, the faceless gaze and the absent eyes cause her to pause, trance-like, till it is too late, and she has naught to jump from. Branch and elleth fall through the lesser branches, tearing her bow out of her hand as she goes. She lands on the ground just as the horse and rider pass under. Quickly she scrambles to her feet.

As a strike is made at the limb Naru stands on, Sulas has been making his way stealthily toward one of the overhanging branches close to the Nazgul. Not sure he can actually wound the thing, he too aims for the horse, of course with a spear instead of a bow.

Few smaller branches and a shower of leaves, broken off the tree by the fall of the larger branch, rain on the black rider as he charges along the path after the elves who are escaping him and gaining distance while he was delayed by the archer.

Sulas attacks you with his Spear!...
...and he misses!

The spear flies across the path behind the charging horse and embeds its point in a tree. The rider glances over his shoulder at the elf, or at least appears to do so by the movement of his helm and shoulders, for there is no face in the darkness below the helm.

Narufumelle looks up at her bow, wishing it would fall as it dangles on the branch, little more than a twig. Unwilling to wait to see if it will fall, Naru draws her sword. But as Sulas' throw misses, and the rider continues on toward the fleeing elves, she looks again at the dangling bow. On a snap decision, the throws the sword at the twig, which snaps easily at the force, and the bow falls to her awaiting hands. In one blurred motion, Narufumelle draws the bow again and aims at the rider. She looses her arrow at him.

Narufumelle puts down a Longsword.
Narufumelle picks up a Longbow.
Narufumelle wields a longbow
Narufumelle launches an arrow...
Narufumelle's bowshot hits Sulas, lightly wounding him.

The elves ahead take into the trees, but keep running almost without losing pace. Every tree, every root, every hidden passage is known to them, welcomes them and offers a chance to hide, to escape. With the prey ahead of him seemingly out of his grasp, the black rider halts his horse. He does not turn in the saddle, but you have the sudden sense of being watched, with no feelings other than deep hate and evil malice.

Having missed his target, Sulas manages to hold onto the limb he hangs from, though the glance given him by the rider causes him to stare briefly. This little hesitation leaves him directly behind the rider and in line with Naru's aim. Her arrow comes directly at him and he has no time to react as it slices through his shoulder, though only nicking the top, enough to draw more blood than just a normal scrape, but not enough to stick. Somehow, he manages to hold onto the spear, but he is unable to pull it out of the tree it stuck into, forced him to switch hands and only barely just yank it out of its spot.

Narufumelle's face turns ashen as the arrow strikes her kin. "Sulas!" She cries as she runs toward him, sword forgotten momentarily. She curses herself under her breath as she flies over the distance, that she did not take longer to aim. But as the ebon horse stops, and the hatred grows, she also halts her progress. Crouching down low, Narufumelle draws her bow horizontally and aims once again at the black steed. "Go back to your master! You are tresspassing here!" she says, trying to sound confident, though her voice wavers. She holds her breath, and once again, looses the arrow.

Narufumelle launches an arrow...
Narufumelle's arrow flies wide, doing no harm.

The rider jerks the reins and kicks the horse in the side with the black boot, urging it to turn. The stallion's hooves slip and slide in the mud as it tries to turn on the soaked narrow path. A sense of overwhelming hatred for all and any life, for anything which lives, radiates from the rider.

Seeing the rider turn, Sulas looks to the nearest tree, choosing a tall one, and starts up it with all urgency, calling out to Naru to follow. "Come on, mellon. The others have escaped, now it's our turn!"

You forego your chance to attack.

Sulas tries to flee from Gothmog, but he fails!

Gothmog tries to reach out for the elf with the tip of his sword. His prey is so near, and seems to be almost frozen in fear, moving away only slowly. But the soaked mud gives way under the heavy horse, and its hind legs slide into the shalow waters. The evil weapon missed the elf by a hair.

You feign an attack against Sulas with your Longsword...
Sulas dodges your attack.

The horse slipping and the sword whizzing so close by seem to provide the ellon with some degree of motivation as he begins moving faster with a fearful expression on his face. His climbing gains speed despite his wounded shoulder and he soon disappears from sight into the upper branches.

Hearing Sulas' warning cry, Narufumelle looks about, and realises that the elves have indeed, long disappeared, and that she is crouched in a puddle on a lonely path, made even lonlier by the evil being that also occupies it. Leaping to her feet, Narufumelle looks to the nearest tree, and runs for it. But at the last second, she changes course, and runs instead towards the place near the first tree where her sword fell.

ARB: Narufumelle has "passed" on her turn to attack.

With great strain, urged on by the merciless rider, the black stallion pushes itself forward and up, and out of the water. The mighty leap sends it forward along the path, back to where it came from and toward the last of the elves to remain here. The horse struggles to catch its footing. The black rider emits a venomous hiss which makes the horse's ears twitch and inflicts sharp pain on anyone who hears it, then slams the hilt of the sword into the horse's neck. With the last of its strength brought out by the maddening pain, the horse steadies itself on the path, once again under control of the rider. Another step forward, quick and sure this time, and an iron-shod hoof comes to rest on top of the sword, crushing it into the muddy ground.

The elleth can barely maintain her footing as she skids to a halt in the mud, her eyes wide as the sword sinks into the deep mud under the great weight of the black steed. The tip bends up unnaturally, then shudders as a metallic note, muffled in the mud, heralds its destruction, and the path, nearly liquid from the rain, settles over it, hiding it completely from view. Narufumelle purses her lips, and draws her bow once again, and aims it towards the head of the black rider, but not quite. The bow sings as the arrow flies over the shoulder of the dark one, and embeds into the tree behind. Then the elleth races for the nearest tree.

Narufumelle tries to flee from Gothmog, but she fails!

The horse's foot sinks into the mud, but its slippery lining delays the fleeing elf. The rider raises from the saddle, and stands in the stirrups, leaning forward. A single word rolls from the unseen lips, carried forward in a hiss of escaping breath, and in response the tip of the sword flickers like an icicle when it catches a ray of sunlight, and the blade thrusts forward.

You attack Narufumelle with your Longsword...
Narufumelle's bow is knocked out of her hand!
Your attack against Narufumelle mildly wounds her!

The fell swordstrikes out at the elleth, but by happenchance, the bow she carries gets in the way, and partially deflects the blow while, at the same time, knocks it into the mud. Still, the blade scratches along her back, but the cold wound in unfelt as the elleth grasps the bow again, and with renewed haste, makes again for the tree.

Another wave or dark malice rolls forward from the rider, and its echo hangs in the shadows between the trees, a lingering cold touch which stirs vague despair in anyone who passes through, but the elf is gone, safe in the trees it knows so well, and out of reach of the evil... save for that final touch of the cursed blade. The rider steadies its horse on the path, and scans the wall of trees, now silent.