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Escape from the Haven of Umbar: The Tale of Years – Part 6

Escape from the Haven of Umbar is the second instalment in the series of short campaigns Unfinished Tales of Middle-earth. Here the events that unfolded are recounted by the loremaster chronicler.

Continues from Part 5.

Oranor, 13th Lothron, afternoon

Waxing gibbous moon
Dark clouds in the sky

The battle was long and fierce. The fellowship came within inches of defeat. The orcs were organised and acted in concert. An evil will was moving them and a large captain spurred them on. Across the desolate landscape of the Ephel Caraesui the orcs had used the cruel display of the dead nomads to lure the group in a position of disadvantage. As some of the heroes started climbing the steep incline to reach the bodies, Orc archers started shooting at them from a high ridge west of them, while Orc soldiers poured into the scene from underground tunnels hidden in depressions throughout the plateau. 

With the group spread thin over a vast battlefield the environment seemed to conspire against them too. Seemingly out of nowhere dark clouds gathered blocking the sunlight almost entirely. Murders or desert crebains also circled over the fellowship harassing them at every opportunity. 

The battle took a turn for the worst when Cirion and Thuramarth were separated from Kolbeinn and Gerold, yet Thuramarth managed to engage the Orc captain and throw him off his vantage point. Without their leader, the Orcs lost their strategist and part of their vicious determination. The heroes rallied and showed their superior skills in combat. Once they regrouped they managed to fell the strongest enemies on their path and run away from the archers perched on the nearby ridges before more Orcs could find the courage to join the fray from their tunnels. 

After having made sure the attackers are not giving chase and comforted by the clearing sky, the four men rest briefly hidden as best they could and then resume their march across the Ephel Caraesui.

Orithil, 14th Lothron

Waxing gibbous moon
Clear sky

Restored after the short rest and rejoicing for the victorious battle, the group is once again guided by Gerold on the difficult mountainous landscape. The four men catch a  second wind that supports their efforts for a while, only to end soon thereafter. After having pushed one last march overnight, the party arrives spent in sight of An Pharaz.

Orgaladh, 15th Lothron

Waxing gibbous moon
Partially overcast sky

It is early morning when the group leaves their hiding spot not far from the main road to An Pharaz and ventures to its western gates. The group successfully poses as merchants, noting that the guards are quick to lose interest in them once it is apparent they have nothing of value.

The four men find a rather quiet town protected by strong, but ancient walls showing many signs of wear. Tired, they quickly find an inn and immediately lay down to rest. They then carefully and quietly ask around to find mounts and a guide. Despite the initial circospection of the locals, gold and persuasion help them succeed in their task. With whatever they had left on them, the group buys four mules and a guide willing to join them from the following morning and  brave the desert for three days with them.

Before dawn a sleepless Gerold overhears the innkeeper talk with an unknown voice about the party. Turamarth – warned by the former gladiator – also senses imminent peril in town. Careful to hide their departure and to confound the innkeeper they quickly join their guide and leave town on mules for the desert.

Ormenel, 16 and Oraearon, 17th Lothron

Full moon
Clear sky, strong winds

The party rides for two days on the rocky plateau that forms the northwestern end of the Dune Sea. The going is difficult and the men are not used to the beasts. Strong easterly winds fill the air with sand that make them uncomfortable. For two long days they ride deeper into the desert. An expanse of sandy dunes looms large on the horizon bringing feelings of both amazement and despair to the party.

Orbelain, 18th Lothron

Full moon
Clear sky

The party is still riding east when a group of men organised as a company without banners or insignia is spotted riding hard directly south. The group tries to hide but it is too late. The riding company’s lookouts notice the five men and close in to investigate. The party is quick to react and rides as fast as they can north in the hope not to be followed. The company however does give chase until dusk, when they turn back south leaving the five men tired and many miles off-track. The guide, visibly scared, leaves them the same night with little more than one word as soon as the third day they had paid for is over.

Orgilion, 19th Lothron

Full moon
Red clouds in the sky, strong winds

Alone in the desert the party does their best to keep the easternmost tip of the mountains protecting Umbar to their right. As they find rocky ground again they venture into a large canyon and proceed cautiously south. It is dark when lookouts of the Free Traders spot them. Exhausted and shaken by the long chase the fellowship is finally escorted to the outpost they have been seeking since leaving Kas Shafra. Naud, they are told, wants to see them immediately. 

Continues in Part 7.

Cover art by Steven Cormann.

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