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Hero’s Guide to the Lone-lands

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Hero’s Guide to the Lone-lands

The folks at Lord of the Rings Online have published a new guide to aid players on their journey through Middle Earth, focusing on the region known as the Lone-lands.

From the edge of Bree-land in the west to the verge of the Trollshaws in the east, the hills and swamps of the Lone-lands bear the ruins of kingdoms long dead. This land’s long history of war and woe has cut deep scars into its landscape and its people. The lonely road that gives the region its shape and purpose today is desolate at best and dangerous at worst. Even the road is a ruin from another time, passing beneath noble stone and broken rubble on its way from the civilization of Bree-land to the perilous woods of the Trollshaws and beyond.

The most regal and prominent of the Lone-lands’ many ruins rises above the road like a symbol of the land’s sad legacy: Weathertop. Once known as Amon Sûl, it was a proud tower of vision and vigilance, but it fell in battle and sat derelict in the wild until now. Today, countless Orcs prowl through the place’s rubble, and the few Rangers who defend it cannot often deter them.

Far along the road in either direction, the shape of Weathertop stands stark against the sky, like a head wearing a battle-worn crown, reminding travelers and adventurers that the hills beneath their feet were once walked by kings and heroes—and may be again. Travelers in search of safe passage through the Lone-lands are wise to stick to the road, but it’s the accounts of those timid souls who travel only via the road that feed the region’s reputation for somber desolation and wide, bleak hills. Off the road, to the north and south, the Lone-lands hide rivers and bogs, breathtaking landscapes and sprawling ruined castles. But as you travel off the road, you venture toward ever more fearsome foes.

The darkest corner of this land hides an enemy so fell and terrible it chills even a Wizard’s blood.

A History of Strife and Sorrow

On its face, as a borderland region of quests and monsters for up-and-coming adventurers on their first steps away from the relative safety of Bree-land, the excitement of the Lone-lands seems to stem from enjoying a change of scenery and tackling higher-level foes. Like so much of Middle-earth, however, its current threats have deep roots in its long history. Your adventures are part of a larger saga hinted at by ruins and shades throughout the Lone-lands and revealed in part here.

The East Road runs through the Lone-lands like an artery, and it has served more than one ancient kingdom as highway and borderline. Thousands of years ago, it connected the Dúnedain kingdom of Arnor—sister kingdom of Gondor—to Rivendell, the Misty Mountains, and lands east. It intersected the North-South Road (now called the Greenway) near the heart of Arnor, where Bree stands now.

Soldiers and knights stationed at the Tower of Amon Sûl—built on Weathertop, the highest of the Weather Hills—kept watch over the East Road from their high vantage point. Amon Sûl, in those days, lay well within Arnor’s borders and housed a palantir, or seeing-stone, like the kind kept now at Isengard. With it, this land and its leaders could communicate with the far-off Arnorian capital of Annúminas. This created an era of security and nobility for the Lone-lands—few remnants of which now remain, save for the ruins of Amon Sûl and the Last Bridge.

As you cross the Lone-lands, notice how different Weathertop’s ruins look from those scattered elsewhere in the region. The scale and precision of the stonework of Amon Sûl is unmatched by the lesser, later keeps and castles. When you reach the easternmost edge of the Lone-lands, then, take special notice of the Last Bridge, another rare relic of Arnor in this area.

Long has the Last Bridge stood on this, the only safe crossing of the Hoarwell (called the River Mitheithel by the Elves). It has endured millennia of wars and neglect. Many have walked these stones—ancient kings and savage armies, Elf-lords and Nazgúl—and now your hero has that honor as well.

A Time of Warring Kingdoms

Just over two thousand years ago, in a feud over rights of succession, Arnor was broken into three kingdoms. In the west formed the kingdom of Arthedain, from which Aragorn claims his birthright. In the south sat Cardolan, whose princes lie buried in the Barrow-downs. In the east plotted Rhudaur, who would bring ruin to the land. Weathertop stands where the borders of these three kingdoms met.

Before long, Rhudaur’s royal line of Dúnadan kings died out. In their absence, a tribe of Hill-men in league with Angmar to the north won that throne. Under their rule, Rhudaur consorted with the Witch-king’s minions to defeat both Arthedain and Cardolan. It was in these wars that Weathertop fell, along with many other fortresses across the Lone-lands.

When the armies of Gondor came north and broke Angmar’s hold on the former lands of Arnor, they broke Rhudaur’s forces, along with those of the Witch-king’s. To this day, Rhudaur’s vassalage to Angmar has left its descendants dwelling in shadows and mires.

The Lonely Road

Today, a mix of refugees, travelers, and intruders people the Lone-lands. Some come to trade with local folk, a few venture here to seek adventure or treasure in the ruins, and others hope only to cross the land alive.

Travelers along the road from Bree-land know they’ve reached the Lone-lands when the hills fade from green to brown—and when they catch sight of the Forsaken Inn. Last of the country inns that once stood between Bree and Rivendell, it’s a glum place with a broken roof and scant pride, run by a woebegone innkeeper named Anlaf. Still, the Forsaken Inn promises a warm fire, a Stable-master, a mailbox, a few merchants, and cheap swill, all of which are uncommon luxuries in the Lone-lands.

The Forsaken Inn also serves as a vital meeting place and trading post. Out front, the outmatched constable, Bram Ashleaf, seeks sword-arms willing to confront the invading Goblins. Inside, the great hall houses a motley collection of both schemers and good-hearted folk looking for ready adventurers to help them get rich or just get by.

Some of these folk hail from Bree-land, while others come from a local tribe of Men called the Eglain. Peaceful but imperiled, the Eglain are rustic vagabonds who live off the land and its ruins, trading antiques and artifacts for wares from Bree and beyond. It’s the Eglain who maintain the fortified haven of Ost Guruth, north of the East Road about halfway between Weathertop and the Last Bridge. It’s the only safe place for commerce, mail, and a Stable-master between the Forsaken Inn and the Trollshaws.

The region’s long, open border with Bree-land in the west allows adventurers to wander in from the Midgewater Marshes—and Orc-kind to sneak out into the Far Chetwood. (Strider crossed this open border with Frodo and the Hobbits to avoid the eyes on the road.) Orcs bearing the mark of the White Hand have come to ruins and valleys all along the road. Trolls have crept from the nearby Trollshaws into the marshes of Harloeg, south of the East Road. Even treacherous Dwarves of the Dourhand clan have claimed a cluster of local ruins, where they dig for treasures from the vanished kingdoms.

But not every newcomer is an enemy. Rangers from the north have quietly come in Strider’s wake to disrupt the Enemy and protect the honor of Amon Sûl. One particular and unexpected pilgrim in the Lone-lands has come to rally the free folk and organize a new defense against the evils gaining strength amidst the Rhudauran Hill-men. He is the Wizard called Radagast the Brown, and even he fears the dreadful plans that Angmar may have for the Lone-lands now.

Battles for the Lone-lands

From the Forsaken Inn to the Last Bridge, the Lone-lands brim with danger. Varied foes, with varied goals, lurk in the shadows and swamps off the East Road, and while they do not all serve the same masters, they all oppose the Free Peoples. There are many serpents to behead before the Lone-lands can be counted safe.

Don’t tarry long in the Lone-lands before you seek out Candaith, a Ranger camped near the western foot of Weathertop. He’s been watching the White Hand Orcs, come recently from the south, and has troubling news of their visits to the top of Amon Sûl. He needs a fellowship to help him retake Weathertop.

Expect to make several trips into places like Minas Eriol, hidden in a canyon south of the Forsaken Inn, where goblins and Wargs dwell amidst ancient ruins above a pit of nesting spiders. That’s the retreat of the goblin war-chief Nishrûk, who brought his hordes out of the north only for the Orcs of the White Hand to press them into service.

Near the eastern edge of the region, two great swamps stretch away from the East Road. To the south sprawls Harloeg, its woods teeming with trolls, its deepest ruins haunted by the tortured shades of Arthedain soldiers and ruled by undead bog-lords. To the north, just below Ost Guruth, squat Haragmar and—beyond the Red Pass—the gruesome swamps of Agamaur and Garth Agarwen, where the last of the Hill-men of Rhudaur dwell amongst twisted spirits and walking dead.

Though they no longer bear the full force of Angmar’s armies behind them, the Hill-men work in league with rare evils—including the wight-raising Gaunt-lord and servant of Angmar called Ivar the Bloodhand, who you may have encountered earlier in the Great Barrow or in Skorgrím’s Tomb. This tortured ground is what drew the Wizard Radagast to Ost Guruth.

Haragmar, Agamaur, and Garth Agarwen bore witness to many bloody battles in the wars between Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur. Countless warriors, from each kingdom, bled for the ground guarded by these Arnorian and Rhudauran strongholds. The swamp ran red.

But the land was not home only to Men. A woman called Naruhel, who dwelt there in the lands near the Hoarwell, heard the cries of dying soldiers and saw the blood spilling from their broken bodies. She was a River-daughter—kin to Goldberry, the maid of the Withywindle in the Old Forest—and River-daughters share a bond with their lands. The suffering on her banks broke Naruhel’s heart, leaving her and her lands vulnerable to the corrupting influence of Angmar.

Over time, her spirit twisted into a cruel and vile parody of life and love, stained red as blood and black as a bruise. The swamp twisted with her. Even the trees and the water of her homeland now hunger to add more bodies to the mire.

She is the Red Maid now, and her power is but a taste of what Angmar has in mind for Eriador. Radagast is determined to save the birds, beasts, and folk of the Lone-lands from the sad fate of Agamaur, but he cannot do it alone. He needs resolute souls ready to band together to brave the bloody swamps, fight through the Hill-men stronghold, and vanquish Ivar and the Red Maid.

Tips for the Lone-lands

From boars and birds, goblins and Orcs, wights and spiders, the Lone-lands teem with monsters and solo quests suitable for characters of level 15 to 30. Keep your Quest Log full, and you’ll find it easy to complete two or three quests at a time by, for example, hunting Wargs and lynx on your way to and from gathering Orc-sword trophies. It’s worth the risk to take the road east to Ost Guruth early, around level 20, and get started on its quests, which involve sites and enemies both east and west.

Dramatic fellowship quests abound here. From simple expeditions to slay Elite monsters—like the trolls of Harloeg—to the retaking of Weathertop, to the sprawling instance of Garth Agarwen, the Lone-lands offer challenges and rewards for fellowships up to level 35 and beyond. Seek out Gandalf the Grey in the Prancing Pony, or Radagast the Brown at Ost Guruth, prior to level 26 to begin the epic quests of Volume I, Book II: The Red Maid.

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