We head to Eaworth – the chief settlement of the Entwash Vale – expecting trouble. Horn, one of our companions, is son to Reeve Ingbert. They did not part on friendly terms. We arrive in Eaworth to find it has seen better times – the fields outside its walls are blackened and burned and some houses within its pallisade have also been destroyed.
Eaworth is paralysed. Apparently King Theoden has decreed that the Riders should not go on the offensive against the orcs troubling their lands, and Reeve Ingbert through his loyalty to the King is obeying these orders. His other son, Ingmar, furiously disagrees with him. His daughter, Ingyth, was betrothed to Theodren whom fell on the Isen. Now Horn comes back, unlooked for, with a Dundlending woman and an elf – and me – and well, it is not the happiest of meetings. Looking on is Goda, matriarch, supporting the will of Theoden. A family drama worthy of any soap opera – and with the effect it leaves the folk of Eaworth leaderless.
Well, fortunately for the folk of Eaworth we have become very skilled at providing a bit of leadership. Undoubtedly my favourite of the Eaworth quests was helping a young girl stop a fight between two of her friends – a questline that ultimately has us slaying a load of drakes. Indeed there are two questlines – of which this is one – that lead into dungeons. Now, I have a slight bone to pick with the quest design because in both quests I stumbled into the dungeons before completing (what seemed to me) like a fairly arbitrary step of the questlines. This included (as I recall) a quest starting from a looted item. That does not so bad, but in these days where I tend to let loot build up “remotely” I did not trigger the quest until I had already been through the dungeon once. I will chalk this one up to “unintended consequences” of a new game mechanic, but it is not something I wish to see again in areas other than East Rohan. Annoying though this was, the dungeons were actually pretty good fun with neat little exploration deeds. Also I must praise the inclusion of open tapping which meant several times wholly ad hoc groups formed in particular places (no formal fellowships) with folks afterwards heartily cheering each other. Good to see. Barriers to grouping should be lowered – and open tapping is a great way to have done so.
At some point enough deeds have been done in Eaworth that Reeve Ingbert is forced to start taking us seriously. On the one hand this is good – on the other it involves counselling him between remaining loyal to Theoden’s order or taking a more active approach to the orcs. The way the story is written one’s choice is only a matter of roleplaying – though I do not know what consequences it may have down the road. In the event I advised him not to sit back and let the orcs run rampant, and that is first loyalty was to his people. This is the approach that Ingmar was arguing for all along, but impatient and brash he starts an attach on the orcish camp before all is prepared.
The ensuing battle is actually a lot of fun consisting of mounted and dismounted portions. The conclusion is that Ingmar is wounded, we are triumphant, but that a traitor is uncovered. This is sore news for the Reeve, but he is a man who has finally shown some back-bone and who is determined to stand up for his people. He is, dare I say it, a very good man. It is just a shame that his loyalty is misplaced.
Meanwhile in the epic questline Book 8 has reached its conclusion and Book 9 begins with a meeting with Eomer. He advises us to go north, to the site of his slaughter of some orcs. Meanwhile Reeve Ingbert too asks us to go north to find out what has happened to Thornhope, the other main settlement of the Vale. Aid was requested, and has not arrived.
What I particularly liked about my time in Eaworth was the reasoning given by the traitor. Theoden was a dotard, so at Grima Wormtongue’s urging submitting to Saruman seemed safer as Saruman offered to restore order. It is a seductive reasoning, and a good interpretation I feel to what Grima must have been doing to Rohan as the King became more debilitated.
We leave Eaworth in better state than we found it – but nevertheless it is still a troubled place. At least it has so far survived.