Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Redemption of the Feanorians: Essay, Part 1

The dawn of the Fourth Age in Middle-earth sees the departure of Gandalf and many of the Eldar; the renewal of the Numenorean kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor; and the end of the realm of Sauron. But though Sauron and the Nazgul are utterly vanquished, yet still the memory of Darkness troubles the lands. The fate of Urzahil of Umbar -- the Mouth of Sauron -- remains unknown. Horrors still walk the halls of Khazad-dum. The Goblin-king of Gundabad still holds the Angmar Plateau and the Gundalok Shelf under his sway. Evil spirits haunt the Tyrn Gorthad, the Barrow-downs, as they have for over fifteen hundred years. And Dragons still lodge in the Grey Mountains, and tryst upon the Withered Heath.

The Age of Men is beginning; but what power can mortal Men bring to bear against these ancient evils, legacies of Sauron and Morgoth? Gandalf is gone and the strength of the Three is but a memory. The remaining Wizard in the West, Radagast, is increasingly tied to his little home of Rhosgobel nigh the eaves of Greenwood the Great. Of the other Istari, Alatar and Pallando -- the Ithryn Luin, or Blue Wizards -- little more is known than a rumour of power and terror in the East of East. The remaining Eldarin lords -- among them Celeborn, Cirdan the Shipwright, and the sons of Elrond -- are more concerned with their own shrinking realms in these mortal lands. And the Valar... well, who beyond the Bent Seas can know the mind of Manwe?

But the thought of Manwe upon Taniquetil has not forsaken Middle-earth. Indeed his thought dwells ever upon it; and the more so after the return of Galadriel to the Undying Lands. And even as Elrond Half-elven walks the streets of Valinor with his kin, Olorin who was Gandalf, Mithrandir the Grey Pilgrim, comes to that high place, and there holds counsel with the King and Queen of Arda.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dark Times

Borden whole milk is $5.35/gallon at Wal-Mart. Gas is at $3.17/gallon and climbing here in Laurel. The news this morning for the housing market is not good: home values are posting record declines. I'm afraid much of the equity we had in our home is eroding away as I type this.

We in our arrogance thought we could police the world; we believed the military-industrial complex when it told us that war is a necessary evil. Now the war machine is draining us of blood and treasure, with no end in sight.

In our blindness we thought that capitalism is best left unchecked; now the system is devouring itself.

If you're not a gardener, now might be a good time to look into it. That, along with livestock farming. A mule might be a good investment in the near future.

Reverend Wright is correct: the chickens are coming home to roost.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gotta love the Royal Mail

Checked the mail today, and lo! A white parcel from Essex: Far Harad: the Scorched Land finally arrived unlooked-for. The seller had already pursued a claim with the Authorities. Glad this was resolved to my satisfaction, some three months after the auction close.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Last of the Feanorians

I have formulated a new approach for a Middle-earth campaign, one that could span hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years, and allow the player characters to be part of the Tolkien literary canon. Well, kind of.

I propose a Third Age campaign, with a party of adventurers consisting of what are usually a short-lived PC racial type: Noldor. Anyone who has participated in Middle-earth role-playing knows all too well the crippling limitations of a low level Noldo, regardless of profession. Noldor are, as "High Elves," handicapped by a very small number of background options that keeps them from becoming too powerful in the game, something the Turambar (Gamemaster) must be sensitive to, given that the Wise and the Great in Middle-earth -- especially in the familiar Third Age -- are so rare as to be legendary. (Remember Boromir's superstitions concerning the Lady Galadriel, the greatest of the Eldar still in Middle-earth? To him, she was little more than a witch, until he actually passed through Lothlorien.) You just don't typically meet the likes of a child of Finrod Felagund on the streets of Pelargir or Tharbad or (worse) Bree-hill.

That being said, I propose to abandon this careful approach almost altogether, and allow the beginning Noldo PC six (6) background options, instead of the usual two. This is in large part to allow for a realistic fleshing out of the character, due to the circumstances of their lineage; and here I must turn to some grey area, though it is largely an area where JRRT alone has held forth.

It is well known that all Quendi (Elves) can die, but that their spirits do not leave Middle-earth, as do the spirits of Men. Rather, they travel to the Halls of Mandos, until they are released back into the world. How this happens it not perfectly clear, but it can be assumed that they are reincarnated. I have no literary evidence to support this idea, but it is known that the Glorfindel we meet in The Fellowship of the Ring is in fact the same Glorfindel who dueled a Balrog to the death in the Cirith Thornonath. There is no reason evident to suppose otherwise, and it has further been written elsewhere (I disremember where) that he was released from Mandos, and returned to Middle-earth with the Wizards (Istari) in T.A. 1000. It can be supposed that he did not just walk bodily out of Mandos, but that he came into the world again through a natural birth-mother. Just the same, it can be supposed that his spirit was "gifted" a body to house it, the same as those Maiar who would become the Istari gained their bodies. Glorfindel died, but was allowed to come back into the physical world, and was somehow given a body towards that end.

Now, what I propose is a similar circumstance for my Noldo characters: they can actually become Elves that are written of in the Quenta Silmarillion. I am not yet sure just how such elven PC's would come into Middle-earth -- whether they are born to mothers there, or come over Sea after being given bodies again. That, ultimately, may not matter too much. What does matter is that they must be Noldor: for that plays into the heart of the adventure, their raison d'etre: the redemption of the Feanorians, by the last of the Feanorians.

I am not yet certain of the PC's goals. They will certainly have a Quest to achieve, or Quests. But it will be a campaign that could span an Age, and breathe new life into both my own circle of adventurers, and into characters mentioned only cryptically, some in passing, in the mythos of the greatest epic fantasy of all.
Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"