Evonne's Trollshaws diary: Day 1

Day 1

There was nothing of much note to record from our journey from the Forsaken Inn to the Last Bridge, though the venture took several days. I should mention however that this entry is not strictly Day 1 - but to be totally honest I have lost track of the exact number of days we have been in the wilds. Therefore I have started my numbering from scratch from today and will reconcile the days when we return to civilisation.

‘Day 1’ in any case has been eventful. We set out at dawn from our campsite on the west side of the Last Bridge, and crossed into the country known as the Trollshaws. We travelled east, and then turned north, seeking the Wovenvales, with Alcott of the Eglain as our guide. Everywhere were signs of the giant spiders which must have given the vale its name - we fancied at times we could even hear them, chittering around and above us in their own language, watching us; however we actually encountered very few - a surprise, but a merciful one. We searched everywhere for some sign the key or box - painfully aware that something so small could be almost anywhere. Our search revealed only a scarlet quill, dropped perhaps by some strange bird of those parts... unimportant, but it will make a fine pen.

As we traversed the ruins, we began to hear the sounds of a struggle: we came upon (of all things) a solitary spider, battling half a dozen orcs. Although no expert,  I have seen enough of the great spiders to know that this was of an unusual variety: small, spindly, but extremely fast and agile, for a long time it easily dodged the attacks of the orcs, holding them at bay.

From hiding, we allowed the two sides to wear one another down; but once it appeared the orcs were likely to win, the company finished off the remaining orcs. Fiontann and Morfryn interrogated the last orc, which told us - after some persuasion - that the main orc camp was to the east; and that the key to the box was in fact the blood of this particular spider, which is why they were fighting it. Most importantly, it also claimed that the box contained something that would cause all orcs to follow the one who opened it.

We did not remain in the Wovenvales longer than we had to; we had found what we needed. Taking a phial of the spider’s blood, we made our way back out of the spiders’ den; no sooner had we emerged back into the forest, we came upon a massacre of orcs. All around us their carcasses were scattered in scores - it must have been the remains of the camp the dying orc had spoken of. Exploring the area, Fiontann found a shackled Hobbit from Swanfleet, Anita of the Stoors: she had been a captive of the orcs, but had not seen what slew them all, wisely remaining hidden in a bush when the attack started.

We also recovered from the orc camp a significant hoard of gold coins, the details of which I have recorded separately; and a beautiful dagger taken from Morfryn in Naerost, which he swiftly lent to Anita, whose equipment had been taken.

And that long and eventful day brings us to tonight. We have just made camp - I am being a little unsociable, but I wanted to get this all down while the memories are fresh. We have made a camp, away from the stench of the orcs, sheltered in the roots of some great old oak.

Although this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, I have never been to the Trollshaws before. Despite the name - and the events outlined above - it is by and large a ruggedly beautiful country: the woodlands are not so different from those of Bree-land, with most of the same kinds of trees; but indeed, when we first crossed the border I had the most curious sensation of coming home after that great expanse - some forty or fifty leagues - of yellow moor between the Forsaken Inn and the Last Bridge. What certainly is different is the number of rocks - one can barely go a dozen yards without encountering some new great lichen-covered boulder, taller than two men. When we turned north, breaking from the road into the wilderness towards the Wovenvales, the trees and rocks began to change: pines gradually replaced the broadleaf trees, and the rocks looked darker and sharper, almost like teeth. Strange symbols were carved on some of them - arrays of scratched lines, perhaps in some forgotten runic script; no one appeared to recognise it.

As for the Wovenvales themselves… they are something else. Disgusting great webs cling to the towering dead trees and the ruined stoneworks all around you, creating thick, quivering bridges above your head, or thin tendrils snaking across the earth beneath your feet. I shall not be sad if I never see those crawling ruins again.