Friday, 31 July 2009

The Mistress, Chapter II: The Champion of Angmar

The next circa 3500 years*** in the story of Narmeleth are very vague. We know that Sauron broke her mind and we can suspect that the ring of power she forged for herself (either while still in Eregion, or after she left, which is either way irrelevant) , as linked to the One Ring, could have played a role in that (like the Nine Rings broke the Nine Kings until they became the Nazgul). When her spirit was broken and she herself became corrupted, Sauron named her Amarthiel. I would suspect that she was tied with the other Servants of the Rings and that she was present when the Witch-King founded Angmar at circa T.A. 1300. As her ring Narchuil was of a lesser power than the nine given to the kings of men, she was less powerful that the Nazgul were, but still she bore a great power which gained her the name Champion of Angmar. She was eager to fight even as Narmeleth (And father says I am not ready to fight in the wars. See how they fall before me!, as she comments to her elf friend in her session play), and so she probably did in the wars wrought by the Witch-King on the bidding of Sauron, until the Battle of Fornost, where the armies of Angmar were driven forth and Amarthiel, the Champion of Angmar, struck down.

Here comes the twist (kinda): at first we are led by Laerdan to believe that Narmeleth and Amarthiel are not the same person and that his daughter’s hand bore the sword that struck Amarthiel down, but Champion of Angmar’s malicious spirit was so powerful that it possessed his daughter. The first part of the story – the one I described above – player only learns much later. But as they are one – as Narmeleth herself claims and we know she does not lie because Glorfindel admits that he senses no lies in her words – Laerdan’s first version of the story can not be true.
What exactly happened is never revealed, we only know that Amarthiel was defeated and Laerdan took her captive with her ring. Maybe when Amarthiel catched a glimpse of her father in the heat of the battle it gave the spirit of Narmeleth strength to break from the spell temporary and surrender herself to him? This would mean that the first version of the story players get to know still holds a piece of truth – it would be Narmeleth that bested Amarthiel. This would also explain why Laerdan fell so easily for her decoy, when Champion of Angmar assumed the apperance of Narmeleth claiming that she managed to take over her evil spirit just for time long enough to tell him that if he gets Narchuil back to her, she could set free of it forever... After all, Laerdan would have seen her doing it before.

Whatever happened during the battle, only the outcome was certain. The army of the Witch King was driven forth in the pyrrhus victory of North in the Battle of Fornost and Laerdan captured Narmeleth barely recovered from under the control of Amarthiel as well as her ring Narchuil. Laerdan attempted to destroy it to set his daughter free from the shadows, but as the task was beyond him and he only managed to break it in two, he decided to secure the pieces in the best way he could. One f the fragments he gave to his friend, a warrior in King Earnur’s forces who will, after Earnur’s dissaperrance, serve his son Arvedui and perish with him in Forochel. The other half he kept himself.

Believing that Elrond would sentence his daughter to death and certain that only his love and care and her seclusion can recover his daughter from under the control of Sauron, Laerdan hid Narmeleth away in desolate area of Trollshaws. There, he locked her up in Sithad - now known as Delossad - assigning a long line of riverfolk (my guess, judging from Sara Oakheart’s appearance and from the fact that riverfolk – like hobbits – are resistant to corruption) as her guardians. He also hides his half of Narchuil there. Meanwhile Narmeleth shows little signs of recovery, often struggling between Amarthiel and her noble self and complaining that she doesn’t remember anything good and pure from the time before Sauron broke her mind – that she doesn’t remember flowers, only blood. This continue for a while, until one day, at the absence of Laerdan, Mordrith, a regent of Witch King, appears in Delossad and sets the Champion of Angmar free, allowing Amarthiel to take control of Narmeleth again. Out of malice, she kills her last guardian, docile Sara Oakheart and burns her cottage down.

The timeline for this event for not entirely clear – it had to happen between T.A. 2050 (this is when Eärnur, son of King Eärnil of Gondor shamed at Fornost accepts Witch-Kings challenge to duel and, as game-lore tells us, is captured, his spirit broken and he himself becomes Mordrith) and T.A. 3001 (when Frodo becomes the Ring-bearer). Actually at least a century before that, because the fisherman family in Trollshaws states that the remains of Sara Oakheart’s house were a ruin for as long as anyone can remember.

*** Rings were forged around S.A. 1900. Second Age Ended 3441, Battle of Fornost took place in T.A. 1974

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Mistress, Chapter I: Smith of too great skill

It’s hard for me even to start writing about Amarthiel because I feel that my word-smith skills are not sufficient to address a subject so complicated and so important for me. This piece lore, even though coming completely from Turbine, not only seems to fit perfectly into the puzzle of lore left by Tolkien, but also – at least in my humble opinion – is worthy of other works of the Master.

I also must admit that I got mesmerized by Amarthiel – I have a soft spot for villains in general and it grows even softer for beautiful, strong femme fatale. And the Lady in Red – well, she hit right into the bull’s eye… I can remember exactly the first time she sent a little shiver down my spine, long ago when my Silirien was still wielding a bow and when she first reached Fornost – and I didn’t even got to know her name back then, nor if she was anyone important. A shade of a traitorous warrior from the time of the Battle of Fornost mentioned a Champion of Angmar for whom he betrayed, using a she as a reference. I picked that line immediately, because the lore of Middle Earth is characterized by a strange absence of female characters.

The story evolved slowly, first as a background-lore of side quests and later taking over the main stream of epic books by storm. I also well remember the confusion once it turned out that both currents of the story seemed to differ from each other. But as I began to give the story more and more thought, I began to think that even if this difference was due to a mistake Turbine storywriters made, it didn’t compromise the tale, but in fact it gave it more depth. But I shall keep those remarks for later. I gave in into by boyfriend's plea to publish the story in chapters; maybe this will motivate me to elaborate a bit more on the story covered by epic books - I didn't see much need in going into details of something everyone can dig up easily and at first I simply concentrated on the facts hidden between the lines.
I'm also holding back an awesome character design made by Gorrem, it will make the last chapter.

The tale of Amarthiel begins in Eregion of the Second Age, where a Noldor* maiden by the Name of Narmeleth, daughter of Laerdan lived in Mirobel**. She was a Forge-Maiden (as Glorfindel refers to her when he tests her heart few thousand years later), a Smith of too great skill by the words of her father who, like many artisans of Eregion, fell under the spell of Sauron.
For somewhere in the around year 1900 of the Second Age, after recovering from the loss of his Master, Sauron initiated a scheme that he hoped would enable him to subjugate the Elves to his power. Assuming a beautiful appearance and calling himself Annatar "Lord of Gifts" (Antheron “Gift-lord” in game) Sauron befriended the Elven-smiths of Eregion, led by Celebrimbor, and counselled them in arts and magic. Some of the Elves distrusted him, especially the Lady Galadriel and Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor. The Elves in Eregion, however, did not heed their warnings.
Among them was Narmeleth, who – as I dare to say, even though no direct hints to this have been given in the game lore – fell for him not only like an apprentice falls for the Master and his knowledge as he promised to show her how to make things not even the mind of Fëanor has imagined, but also like a woman falling for a man. How else would one break a woman’s spirit so completely, if not through love? Was there any other reason for Tolkien’s heroines to disobey their fathers to such extent, if not love? But in the end, the reasons are of lesser importance here. In her session play, we see Narmeleth sneaking out into the woods to meet Sauron, disobeying her father who already forbade her to speak with the Gift-lord – still in his beautiful appearance – secretly, but followed by Laerdan. After a confrontation, Narmeleth decides to leave with Sauron against her father’s wishes, and Laerdan doesn’t stop her. As I believe, they then set out for the Mount Doom in Mordor, because once Sauron left Eregion to forge The One Ring, he never returned: as soon as he wore the Ring, the Elves became aware of his true intent. While they are leaving, Sauron promises her that They shall begin her learning immediately - how bitter this sentence sounds! Narmeleth herself confesses in Book 15 Sauron took me away... and broke my mind…

* Not only were the elves of Eregion of the Noldor lineage, but also Narmeleth herself in her session play comments 'Dost thou see? No uruk can withstand the might of the Noldor!'
** Also in Narmeleth session play Laerdan urges her ‘Come, Narmeleth. We are returning to Mirobel at once!’

Monday, 20 July 2009

Lord of Gifts UPDATED!

Men he found the easiest to sway of all the peoples of the Earth; but long he sought to persuade the Elves to his service, for he knew that the Firstborn had the greater power; and he went far and wide among them, and his hue was still that of one both fair and wise. Only to Lindon he did not come, for Gil-galad and Elrond doubted him and his fair-seeming, and though they knew not who in truth he was they would not admit him to that land. But elsewhere the Elves received him gladly, and few among them hearkened to the messengers from Lindon bidding them beware; for Sauron took to himself the name of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and they had at first much profit from his friendship. (...)

It was in Eregion that the counsels of Sauron were most gladly received, for in that land the Noldor desired ever to increase the skill and subtlety of their works. (...)

J.R.R. Tolkien The Silmarillion

I have such a soft spot for villains *.*" Probably because they are usually way more interesting than the plain old borring good-guys... So yes, I totally understand how could Narmeleth fall for him, I would probably fall for him too...

I also find his outfit very interesting... those red adorns looks like blood flowing over him and certainly do make him look like a predator.

Some of you might wonder why is he not named Annatar in game - my guess would be it is due to the fact that Turbine doesn't own rights to Silmarillion, but they somehow wanted to point LotR fans towards the right track in Narmeleth's history.

Edit: A visit to the Forges of Mirobel payed off in us discovering this painting of the Gift-lord. One of the more remarkable pieces found in LotRO, if I may say so myself - the details are astounding. I love how the typical red-leafed trees of Mirobel look like flames behind Sauron... We can see (at least I believe so) the three rings of the Elves, but also - I guess - the One Ring already. But the elves were not aware of Sauron's intentions before One Ring was created...

I guess the writing on the wall paint would shed some more light on why and when it was created. I can't really decipher it well, I think the first word means something along the lines of "the one who creates and spreads jewels" or simpler "the creator and giver of jewels" and middle word "elf-friend" or "everyone's friend", but I'm not sure, neither I'm any sure of the last word which I translated as "story-teller". But if my very sturdy knowledge of elvish (and to think that I'm an elf!) are any good, this should indicate (the middle-word at least) that it was created before Sauron forged The One. And thus The One should not really be there on this wall ;)

And of course it's worth-wile to notice the dread - even if you don't know who he was, a mere reference to him gives you more dread than any elf-stone can cure!

Friday, 17 July 2009

A pot lid that had An Adventure

How this shield (or rather lid?) made it's way all overfrom the Shire and through Fornost not only to the Rift, but to the very Balrog's chest?

Concerning the Shire, Gandalf said to the dwarves at the very beginning of The Hobbit: Swords in these parts are mostly blunt, and axes are used for trees, and shields as cradles or dish-covers (...).
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Angarim Nomad by Jeff Murchie

I used to regard Angarim girls as the prettiest in game - before Amarthiel/Narmeleth, there was nothing that could compare with them; defenetly not the poor version of Arwen standing somewhere in Rivendell - at least they've done the poor soul a favor and they keep her somewhere out of sight... Angarim girls however have genuinely beautiful faces and very feminine outfits (how I envied them their dresses!). The design came from Jeff Murchie; he posted it on his blog over 2 years ago. It's fun to see (yet again!) how art department carefully reproduces the basic design into the actual game skin; the funniest part is the chain hanging at Nomad's belt - originally, it was purposeful and was meant as a handle for sword cover, but as NPCs in game simply hold their weapons in their hand or they magically dissapear, it became purely ornamental. Noone bothered to alter it in any way though, so it still looks like a sword-cover chain hanging there and waiting for the weapon... :)

Jeff Murchie's post with the design can be found here.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Palantir of Fornost

Silirien and Rhyaewald payed a visit to Fornost recently. A pair of tourists lost in a big, unwelcoming city... I must say it was really fun, especially because I love exploring so much.

When we got inside the main tower, I got startled by an unusual view: in a spacious room, a large group of evil spirits was standing in circle, watching a construction in the center without a word.
The construction was in fact a pedestal, one I've seen in Middle-Earth several times before: in Annuminas, in Carn Dum... Palantir! But the pedestal was empty, ghosts were peering into nothingness.

I asked Rhy Did there used to be a Palantir in Fornost? He answered that yes, Arvedui brought the stone from Annuminas to Fornost when he fled the White City. I wanted to make a picture of the council of ghosts watching the pedestal, the sight was truly amazing, but before I had chance to do so, a patrol of spirits noticed us and as all ghosts in the room attacked us ferociously. The battle was long and hard, even for the pair of us, so experienced, because of the sheer number of enemies, but in the end we prevailed. Only than I got a chance to make a screenshot.

I do hope we will go there some day again so I can make the picture I really wanted!

But that experience got me thinking, and researching.
According to some internet Encyclopedia of Arda (I didn't have time to browse through books yet), two seeing stones 'took refuge' in Fornost. Long before this city fell (some 3000 years), the stone from Amon Sul (Weathertop) - one of greater power than the stone of Annuminas' Kings, in fact - was rescued and brought there. Than, Arvedui brought the Evendim stone when he run. He allegedly took both of them with him to Forochel, where they were lost.