Ready-To-Run Adventures

Minas-Brethil

Introduction

Phillip Gladney ©1999

Minas Brethil
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High upon a bleak, windswept hill in southern Rhudaur lies the ruin of Minas Brethil. Dominating the nearby river valley, the castle stands as a testament to the fallen glory of the elder days of Arnor. It commands a great view of the Mitheithel River, the untilled farmlands to the south and the "hedge-wall" of Cardolan, better known as the Hagavorl. Rising approximately one hundred and eighty feet above the sparse trees of the river valley, it can be seen for miles. Now, however, all that is left of the once mighty fortress are a few broken walls and crumbling towers. Ivy covers the stone walls and weeds grow in the courtyard where children once played. An ominous sense of gloom pervades the air, reminding one of the tragedies that occurred here in Ages Past. Yet there is still beauty present, for flowers bloom in the overgrown gardens and small animals can be seen scurrying from stone to stone. Be not deceived, however, for Minas Brethil has become home to an unseen evil. The Dead walk the halls below the decaying edifice.

History
Minas Brethil was once the ancestral home of the Melosse family. A wise and benevolent House, their Lords ruled much of the area of southern Rhudaur known as the Angle until the Great Northern War. The Aran-onen-Egladil (S. "Lord of the Angle") was one of the five Great Nobles of Rhudaur and consequently one of the most powerful men in the realm. The Melosse lands, while not as large as the holdings of some of the northern noble families, were the most economically important, since they provided much of the grain and almost all of the wool that sustained Rhudaur. The Angle also saw a fair amount of mercantile traffic and those tolls along with the taxes of the relatively prosperous common folk made the Lords of Minas Brethil quite rich. This wealth and influence manifested itself, for the heads of the Melosse family often counseled the King and served in powerful positions. Frequently the Aran-onen-Egladil also claimed the second most powerful title in Rhudaur, that of Warden.

So it was in the early years of the Fourteenth century when Rhudaur began its descent into depravity and its alliance with Angmar. Celebindel Melosse was Lord of the Angle and served as Warden of Rhudaur. Aldor was his king and a pawn of the Witch-king. Celebindel saw the evil of Angmar for what it was and did not succumb to the subtle temptations it offered like so many of his brethren. Celebindel rebelled against his corrupt King and took with him many of the Northron mercenaries who had served under him as Warden. He repeatedly rebuffed the attempts by the Rhudauri leaders at reclaiming his strategic lands. Constantly skirmishing tribal Dunlendings and mercenaries from the other side of the Misty Mountains, the Lord of the Angle held out until the First Northern War began in 1352. This year saw the largest orcish military presence in Rhudaur since the War between the Elves and Sauron in the Second Age. The Witch-king pushed his main army into Eredoriath all the way to Amon Sul where a great battle was fought. This all had little to do with the Angle except that the Witch-king's line of supply went over the Last Bridge. Fearing a threat from the southern Angle to his exposed supply line, the Necromancers chief lieutenant sent a small fraction of his army (a few thousand Orcs and Men) towards Fennas Drunin to eliminate this menace to his flank. Celebindel, knowing the futility of resistance, sent the non-combatants of the region south into Cardolan. He then proceeded to fight a delaying action, allowing many of the commoners to flee to safety. Eventually the forces of Angmar, under a general named Urvacs, forced Celebindel and the remnants of his army to retreat to Minas Brethil. The Angmarim and Orcs besieged the castle and began constructing engines of war. The ensuing siege was short and bloody as the army from Angmar destroyed the front gate at great cost and poured through the breaches into the bailey. The survivors holed up in the tower, but within a week and a half the catapults and onagers reduced the defensibility of Celebindel's last refuge enough to allow a single siege tower to overthrow the defenders on the roof. Celebindel, his sons and a small percentage of his original army were captured and brought before the priests of the Witch-king. The statue of the founder of House Melosse that had for so long stood in the middle of the bailey was thrown down and a stone altar was erected in its place. Over the course of the next few days all of the captives were sacrificed on the altar to the ritual chanting of the warrior-priests of Angmar. The last to be sacrificed were Celebindel's sons followed by Celebindel himself. Cursing the men who had allied themselves to the Witch-king, the last Lord of the Angle died on the altar by the sacrificial knives of his enemy's priests.

Over the next two centuries Minas Brethil and the vale it stands in have been deserted. Stories of Undead coupled with the overall lack of population in this region have been more than enough to keep people from returning to this fertile valley. Occasionally shepherds will wander into the valley looking for fodder for their sheep or shelter from a storm. Sometimes those shepherds do not return. These disappearances and the strange lights emanating from the burned out castle are all the proof the residents of the Angle need to spread rumors about its haunting. Everyone living in this area will warn travelers of the tragic history of this castle and advise them to stay away.

The Plot
For years the Witch-king has coveted the lands of the Angle. He knows how strategic the area is and would dearly love to possess it. The rulers of Arthedain and the Elves of Rivendell also know how important the Angle is and are determined to keep it from the hands of Sauron's lieutenant. Years ago Ermegil Stonearm, the present king of Rhudaur, controlled most of the Angle including Fennas Drunin. He invaded with a fairly large army and even had the advantage of surprise, but was rebuffed by the Cantons of Feotar under the leadership of Bemakinda. This war lasted several years and cost Ermegil much respect within the circles of Rhudaur and Angmar. Ermegil has desired vengeance for those affronts ever since. Soon he will have a chance to make amends.

Ermegil will have an opportunity for another fight because some information has reached the ears of the Witch-king, which makes this area more strategic than many think, including the rulers of the Free Peoples. An Orcish scouting party seeking refuge from the sun discovered a large cavern system underneath Minas Brethil. Minas Brethil was a regular resting-place for Angmarean reconnaissance parties for some time (this explains the mysterious lights), however the underground caves were found only recently. This system extends for a few miles towards the Mitheithel River and is known to no one except the scouting party that found it and the Witch-king's closest advisors. Engineers working for Angmar quickly grasped the implications of this and began a plan to enlarge these caverns. If they succeed in creating a tunnel underneath the otherwise uncrossable river it could mean disaster for the inhabitants of Cardolan. Unfortunately for the original scouting party, Minas Brethil has some indigenous dangers of its own. The Undead spirit of the last ruler of the En Egladil and his followers has taken up residence in the forgotten caverns. The result of the unholy rituals centuries before is now being realized and they will have to be dealt with before any construction can begin, however, the Witch-king has prepared a special means of dealing with this obstacle.

Normally the only places to cross the Hoarwell south of Angmar are the Last Bridge and Fennas Drunin. These two places are always either watched or defended. A secret tunnel underneath the rough waterway would enable the forces of Angmar to invade Cardolan without having to take Fennas Drunin or cross the Last Bridge. The Witch-king has devoted a lot of time to this endeavor and is determined for it to succeed. To this end he has developed a grand scheme to divert attention away from this particular location so his minions can work unhindered. If word of this plot were to reach the ears of Elrond or Argeleb they would react with alarming speed to counter it. He does not want this to happen, for if he can build a passage under the river at Minas Brethil Cardolan is doomed.

Currently there are two obstacles to this plan. The fortresses Thuin Boid and Harnalda stand in the way of the Witch-king's proposed path. These must both be taken before any army from Angmar can pass into Cardolan. One, Thuin Boid, is located rather near to the ruins of Minas Brethil and is the local seat of the so-called government that presides over this border frontier. The other, Harnalda, defends the other side of the Angle. It is not as strong or important as Thuin Boid and is defended more lightly. Both are regular sites for skirmishes between the mercenaries from Cardolan manning the castles and the Dunlending and Hillman marauders who routinely raid south. The military advisors to the Witch-king correctly believe that any attack on Harnalda would bring relief from Thuin Boid and Fennas Drunin if it were large enough to attract attention. At the same time if it were too large it would attract attention from places that the Witch-king would rather leave alone, namely Rivendell and Fornost. For this reason the military leaders of Angmar have decided to limit the members of this attacking force to men under King Ermegil Stonearm. If a large amount of orcs were involved it would alert the wrong individuals, letting them know that Angmar was somehow involved. This also gives Ermegil a chance to prove himself worthy and seek revenge for his past defeats. Stonearm's advance would look like any other campaign directed towards the Angle.

While the army of Ermegil is drawing everyone's attention eastward, a small number of handpicked servants of the Witch-king will move into the ruins of Minas Brethil and begin work. The armies of Angmar will also begin mobilizing behind this screen of border skirmishing for the future invasion of Cardolan. Obviously, the most important aspect of this plan is the work at Minas Brethil. If the Witch-kings troops do not have a passage across the river, all of this planning is for naught. Being no fool, the Witch-king has assigned some of his most powerful followers to this project. Utilizing the mining abilities of some of his more civilized orcish tribes coupled with the woodland knowledge of the Hillmen, the leaders of Angmar have assembled an impressive contingent. Led by a Logath Easterling aristocrat with a reputation for success and including several users of magic, this company numbers less than fifty and is well equipped to deal with the Undead that walk the lower halls. They all know the price for failure and the rewards of success and so will work together to accomplish the task set before them.

Knowing that a random border raid will not take everyone's attention away from the eastern part of the Angle, the Witch-king has also sent other minions into southern Rhudaur to help alienate some of the other factions that might cause trouble. The Hobbits who dwell along the Bruinen are usually content to mind their own affairs. Recently, however, they have acquired an unlikely group of allies who would be greatly troubled by an invasion into Cardolan. A mid-sized number of Dwarves from Khazad-Dum have made a mining colony in the eastern hills of the Angle. They mine for iron and forge a small amount of weaponry for the men who inhabit the En Egladil. Their colony, named Smallforge, is located near the largest Hobbit settlement in the area and they enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with the Halflings. The Dwarves provide the Hobbits with farm tools, arrowheads and protection, while the Hobbits give the Dwarves provender and other supplies they cannot create. Needless to say, any invasion into Cardolan would concern these Dwarves and they would immediately send a messenger to their mountain home. This would in turn instigate a reaction from the Dwarf Lords who would be worried about their trade into Cardolan. In a worse case scenario for the Witch-king, they would send an army to help in the defense of Tharbad and Cardolan. The Witch-king is hoping that a fairly large number of wolves, led by one true Warg, will keep the Hobbits and Dwarves occupied. These wolves will infiltrate the woodlands where the two settlements are situated and create as much havoc as possible without causing a mobilization of their military forces. The generals of Angmar believe that this will be enough to focus their attention on the matters at hand, instead of the greater picture.

The Northmen who live in Fennas Drunin would hopefully be drawn into battle at Harnalda, but there is still a goodly population of Men who would stay. These older mercenaries and militiamen might present a problem later in the campaign, so the Witch-king's counselors have concluded that a resurgence of brigandage might keep their concentration elsewhere. To this end he has ordered the Hillman who have accompanied the contingent to Minas Brethil, to harass and attack the caravans travelling the road to Thuin Boid for the defense of Harnalda. They will also get supplies this way since the leading merchant in Fennas Drunin is a powerful agent of Angmar. He will send the provisions the group at Minas Brethil needs to Thuin Boid. He will also give the caravan information to his servants, who will transport it to Minas Brethil. The Minas Brethil expedition will then attack the caravan holding Harnalda's war provisions with accuracy and precision. The Hillmen and Angmarim men-at-arms will not only receive the supplies they need for the mining and construction projects, such as timber, nails, tools and food, but also eliminate the mercenary guards who are not in allegiance with Angmar and weaken Harnalda's overall defense.

The Witch-king's plan is an intricate scheme, yet it is also well prepared. There is a good chance his minions will succeed in their tasks and overthrow the Angle, which is the last defense of Cardolan. His other agents have already weakened the lost kingdom through constant warfare between the remaining Lords. They will not be able to repel an invasion, even with help from Arthedain and the Gondorian garrison at Tharbad, if the Witch-king can enter their land unannounced. Such is the plight of Cardolan and its people.

Adventure Guidelines
This adventure will propel characters into the thick of one of the Witch-king's plans for conquest. It is a good way for characters to meet powerful individuals in the time around 1640. It also allows GM's to involve group members in large-scale engagements and use War Law. The numbers of troops in both sides of the conflict are not too great and a gamemaster should not have much trouble keeping up with the battles. The major battle in this adventure would be located in and around Harnalda but Minas Brethil could also be the site of a larger-than-normal conflict, as both sides rush available troops to reinforce their armies. Since little has been written about the Angle it would an exciting region to run a campaign in. More would be learned of the relationship between the Northmen who protect the Cantons and the Eriadorans who live there. The benefit of this particular war is that it would never involve really large numbers of warriors on either side, while the battles were fought both on the plains, where cavalry would dominate, and at castles and towns, where siege strategies could come into play. The GM would have a lot of freedom in directing this regional campaign. The gamemaster would also have back-ups in case the characters are not successful, including Elves, Dwarves or Rangers of Arthedain. These could come to aid the characters in keeping the Witch-king's plot from succeeding, so no paradox would occur (in the history of Middle-earth, the Witch-king never truly conquered Cardolan, although the characters do not know that in their present time).

The Dwarven colony of Smallforge could be a means of showing how Dwarves interact outside the refuge of their mountain fortresses. The only other instance of small a Dwarven settlement is provided in the module Trolls of the Misty Mountains™, and this settlement was already overrun by said Trolls. Adventure in the Angle could show how a small Dwarven colony operates. They chose to move here because of the constant conflict in the En Egladil. It is a perfect place for them to do business since they have all the customers they need right in the area. They would still be secretive, but adventurers helping them would have a way of meeting more Dwarves in Khazad-Dum or elsewhere. This could in turn lead to more adventures in other modules. Without any prior contact, how could adventurers meet important Dwarven leaders and be allowed into any Dwarven settlements? Becoming a Dwarf-friend is important for players if they plan on any adventures in the Misty Mountains.

There are many and sundry possibilities in using this region for a "grand campaign. " It is central to several areas well defined in already-published ICE source material, including Rhudaur, Cardolan, the Misty Mountains, and Arthedain. The plot is varied enough to provide several different outcomes within the confines of a well-structured story line. Lead-ins from other campaigns can be very simple. Mercenaries, merchants, and travelers would be a common sight in Fennas Drunin, or even in the northern border areas (the Great Road, for instance).

Conclusion
The following several issues will provide specific adventures and more detailed descriptions within the background, and will be released in a serial fashion. It is suggested that since the release schedule of The Guild Companion is set, an interested gamemaster should wait at least a couple of issues into the serial before beginning a campaign (unless your group meets every 3 months or less). That is not to say that a particularly ambitious gamemaster could not provide her own series of prologue adventures to familiarize her group with the area.