RUN OUT OF TOWN
Two men were standing over a map, carved wooden figurines on the table with them. One of them had a (relatively) straight edge, and was marking out paths on the map. They seemed to go far in one direction, then would suddenly turn around and go far in the other direction. The bard looked over their shoulders for a brief moment, then realized what he was looking at and snorted derisively before continuing on into a back room of the Prancing Pony.
The children bustled up to the table. “What’s going on here?”
“It’s a game we play,” one of them replied, smiling down. He shifted so the kids would have a better view. “We use these figurines to represent soldiers at battle on this map. We mark out each turn how they move, and then we roll these pips to simulate their skill in combat. Whoever rolls the cube and has more pips facing upward is the winner of that encounter and it starts all over again.”
“That’s pretty cool!” one of the boys said.
“I don’t get it,” said the other. “Why are they fighting?”
“They’re not actually fighting,” explained the other man at the table. “They’re just wooden pieces. You have to imagine the intensity of the combat, the stress in the ranks, the scope of the terrain…which incidentally is represented by the map. This is the Battle of Trestlebridge.”
“What’s this piece called?”
“That represents an Orc Sapper™, which throws fire at his enemies,” one man said.
“I call him ‘Kevin’,” the other man said.
“You can’t call him ‘Kevin’…he’s an orc! He should be called ‘Nikabrik’ or something.”
“That sounds more like a Black Dwarf.”
“That doesn’t sound like something from Middle-earth.”
“It probably isn’t. I made it up just now on the spot.”
“We’re forgetting about the kids.”
“Ah, of course.” The pair turned back from their side discussion to the children, who were looking at them as though they were a couple of marbles short of a full collection. “I know we probably look like we’re a couple of marbles short of a full collection,” apologized the speaker, “but we’re just very passionate about our hobby.”
“It started out as a tactic to study conflicts by recreating them, you know,” his friend interjected. “That’s essentially what we’re doing here, with the Battle of Trestlebridge.”
“Who knows? Maybe one day someone will figure out how to set up rules for this game so that we could incorporate some sort of story to the simulation. Then maybe what’s-his-name would join us. Where is he?” The man looked around for the bard, who was nowhere to be seen. “He tells great stories. Don’t tell him I said that.”
“Where is Trestlebridge?” the oldest girl and voice of reason in this madhouse of a town asked.
“It’s a town up the Greenway from here.”
“Oh! That Trestlebridge?” The girl looked at her friends with shock. “There was a battle up there? The bard was just telling us about that town!”
The two men shared a look. “There have been many battles all around this land,” one said gravely. “The War of the Ring was not limited to the great kingdoms far away. I doubt there has been a place untouched by the troubles of doom.”
The bard came back hurriedly. “I have good news and bad news, kids. The bad news is, apparently Butterbur doesn’t want me sleeping with the horses. So it’s off on the road I go!”
“But then we won’t get to hear the end of the story!” complained one of the girls.
“Ah, ah, ah…I haven’t told the good news yet: your parents are letting me come along with you kids to Archet!” He beamed. “I know people in Archet, and then there’s…Ned and Polly.” His voice trailed off.
The kids didn’t notice. “What happened at Trestlebridge?” they demanded. “These two said there was a battle there — but that’s where those adventurers went after the farm!”
“What have Helmuth and Gary been telling you?” He eyed them suspiciously. “Have they been spoiling my story? It wouldn’t be the first time…”
Helmuth raised his hands. “Hey, we didn’t know that you were recounting the story of Old Bloodtusk that time! We weren’t trying to muscle in on your story!”
The bard laughed and waved a hand. “I was hardly being serious, my friends. I’ll be back eventually and we can pick up our last match again. But for now I have children to entertain.”
He gazed off into the distance. “It’s a small world, they say. You never know who you’re going to meet…”
Written by GreyMaster
Be sure to join us tonight for the fifth episode right after LOTRO Players News.