From The Wold the epic quest line leads us into Norcrofts, loosely following a party of Uruks. So it is we come to the town of Ethengels. Ethengels has suffered its fair share of recent tragedy. The thane was killed in battle with Orcs, and his heir also killed. The new thane, Mildreth, widow and bereaved mother, is doing her best to rally her people and guide them through these difficult times with no support from other lords, in particular from the Reeve of Norcrofts – “that coward Athelward” is how she refers to him. In such a situation, a hero from The Wold probably looks like a minor miracle.
In truth though there is only so much one can do to aid the folks of Ethengels – helping thin the numbers of orcs in its environs, gathering healing herbs, rescuing supplies are all useful, but hardly ground-breaking. More poignantly we recover the sword, shield, and helmet of the slain Thane on battlefield to the north. Whilst spending time in the tavern we learn that the Reeve of Norcrofts had challenged Mildreth’s son to a duel, with the son slain. Before this tale is complete however some orcs start an attack on Ethengels.
Once more than following instance felt it should be more like a skirmish, an offensive skirmish like “Thievery and Mischief”. There were a number of would-be control points where we fight alongside our trio of companions from Lothlorien. Alas for missed opportunities. The end result of the fight is two-fold however. The epic quest-line takes us towards the town of Cliving and the Reeve, whom we learn has made Mildreth’s daughter his ward. The regular quest-line – which I followed initially – has us helping a family of refugees leave Ethengels.
This last is another touching little quest as we help the family say their goodbyes to the folks they leaving behind, and we then escort them to a merchant’s encampment. Once there the merchants have a bit of work for us to do, which includes leading an attack on a camp of orcs to the south of Ethengels. We move onward to try to help some of the farmers left vulnerable by the Reeve’s lack of action (no one so far has spoken well of him). Mostly we are too late, only finding one survivor and his son. It appears some orcs have taken over an old Gondorian tower, so we slay the local orc chief. It feels too little too late. These people have a Reeve who is meant to be their protector.
After doing what we can to aid the farmer we go back to the Trader’s encampment, and they direct us to a man from Cliving who, it transpires, is the Reeve’s huntsman. This arrogant ponce is the first person to speak at all positively of Reeve Athelward. To put it politely, I am not convinced.
That is where I currently am in LOTRO – I hope to progress further this weekend. I generally follow the ordinary quests of an area, and do the epic quests along the way as I encounter them. Doing so has allowed a most wonderfully negative image of this Reeve build up. It is as good a characterisation of a npc in a game as think I have ever seen. I have yet to set eyes on this guy, or set foot in his city, and already I hate his guts.
Ethengels also offers us yet another viewpoint on war – just as Langhold, Harwick, and Floodwend have all displayed. Ethengels shows us grief and resiliency, and a determination to carry one even though one is not quite sure how. In the Ethengels quests I was reminded of England in June 1940. There is a spirit of hope and gritty determination, but no knowledge of how actually to triumph – just the solid and stubborn desire not to give in. I am suspecting that Cliving will show us a darker side of war, and it will be to Cliving that I shall soon be going. Looking over my shoulder however one cannot help but think of Mildreth. She has buried her husband and her son, and wears her mourning black, and she fears for her daughter. However, even in the pit of her despair she struggles on, leading her people and even sending what aid she can to The Wold. The folk of Ethengels have taken their cue from her, and are stalwart in their defence of their homes. It is an image that, for all its sorrow, is not without hope.