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Many eyes were turned on Rivendell, and the words of Gandalf the grey were heard far beyond the walls of Imladris.
Revealed in his treachery, Sauruman declared himself openly in Orthanc, and the Legions of the white hand began massing in Dunland. In Mordor uncounted orcs and trolls were driven west to the river under the scourge of the Nazgul, while, though not yet openly defying the ancient peace, a vast army of Haradrim assembled on the Southern flank of Gondor.
In great stealth the Fellowship departed the last homely house, destined for, who knew where, but after her uncounted years of hiding Galadriel openly took up the white ring in wrath, hoping perhaps to provoke Saurons ire and hold his infernal gaze on the elves as the last queen of the Noldor summoned her kinfolk to war.
As Mount Doom burst once more into flame, the captain of Mordor's host was revealed as none other than the fell king of Angmar arisen again, and before his sorcery even the brave might quail. The outlying garrisons of Osgilaith fled from him, despite the valour of the Stewards son, but even as the dark horde closed upon the White city, a single rider came galloping across the plains of Rohan, a man of the North bearing the sword of Elendil, and the star of the Dunedain – a king returned from the wilderness, to rescue and unite Gondor in its darkest hour.
As if to honour king Aragorn, the Eagles of Manwe swept across the skies
and drove off the Nazgul, leaving the dark host cowering, but the Nine were soon returned, more fearful for the wrath of their master, and threw their host at the walls with reckless abandon. Inspired, the men of Gondor matched them hate for hate, and when a new dawn broke, scant remnants of the great army of Mordor remained upon the field, and the Black captain himself fled into the North.
Pelargir  and all Southern Gondor had however been overrun by the forces of the Haradrim and its people swept before a cruel tide into the walls of Dol Amroth, and there they might have perished had help unlooked for not come from the sea. A fleet of Elven ships bearing the Warriors of Cirdan arrived from the havens in the very nick of time. No longer strong enough to storm the fortress, the dark men settled to an uneasy siege.
In the North too, although there was as yet no open war, there was little peace. Uruk Hai of the White hand and the fierce Hillmen of Dunland roamed unchecked across Eriador, while the men of Dale herd rumour of the coming of a further great host from the East. Only in Rohan was there peace, and all the while on its borders Isengard remained closed as the White Wizard pondered some new and unknown malice.
It was the return of Legolas to report the words of Elrond to his father in the Woodland Realm that galvanised the free peoples. The Dwarves put aside their ancient emnity and donned their armour, the men of Dale and Bree cleaned off their rusted swords, and the folk of the Woodland prepared to do battle on behalf of their neighbours. Meanwhile beneath the golden boughs of Lorien, Gandalf took council with Galadriel, then lead the fellowship on into the night.
Confident in the strength of their seven walls the men of Minas Tirth did not forsee the suddenness of the second great assault. New forces brought from the very pits of Mordor assembled in hidden vales, concealed by fogs and smokes, they came on again in a new darkness. The vigilance of the king, relaxed from his earlier victory, granted the enemy the weapon of surprise, and though ten orcs fell for every man of the citadel, it was not enough. So perished Aragorn the first and last of Gondor, and all the white city was put the sword .
West of the mountains the petty kingdom of the Shire was overrun by the Hillmen and allies, while the Witch king revealed himself anew as his army spilled south from mount Gundabad, causing Elrod and Cirdan to draw their forces close for fear of an attack. From the dark fastness of Dol Guldur yet more orcs streamed North to the borders of the Woodland Realm, and the men of Dale, seeing themselves weak and menaced on two fronts, surrendered their kingdom, and sought refuge among the elves.
It was at this moment that a chance encounter revealed the Fellowship, now threading their way through Dead Marshes. That Gandalf was there was reason enough for the shadow powers to throw their efforts into a higher gear.
From Isenguard a host of new bred Wargs and Uruks burst forth across unsuspecting Rohan. Lulled to complacency by Saurmans words, the Horse Lords were swiftly overrun, and Helms Deep having fallen, the Eored fled from Edoras to escape further carnage.
The Black Captain revealed the forces of Angmar to be no more than a feint, and instead joined himself to lead the army of DolGuldur, first through defenceless Dale, thence on to besiege Erebor, but he did not wield the same terror over Dwarves that he inflicted on the hearts of men, and there, against a hardy and valorous people, skilled in the ways of siege warfare, his forces stalled.
Unseen at the very borders of Mordor, Gandalf, Frodo,Sam, Gimli and Merry met the wretched and repentant figure of Smeagol, who offered to guide them into the Black Land, and still the Eye attended only to its far wars and did not perceive the peril close at hand.
In Dol Amroth, the end came, as salvation had earlier come, from the sea. Without warning the Corsairs brought a further host of Haradrim from their ancient stronghold of Umbar, storming the less watched coastal gates, the last stronghold of men fell . Frodo quaked on the slopes of Mount Doom, but could go no further mid the victorious fires erupting,
but one final army of men remained.
The Folk of Dale, spurred on perhaps by the will of Gandalf or Galadriel, and with the folk of Thranduil at their side, sallied forth with such fervour that they regained their city from the Easterlings encamped there .
But amid the smokes and quakes of Orodruin the fellowship could make no progress, and so the Black Captain abandoned his fruitless siege of the Lonely mountain, and with the full muster of the Nazgul in his wake, moved South to overwhelm the last vestige of the realms of men .
This was our third outing of the four player game -keeping the same teams.
The Shadow players finally got a handle on the different pace needed with this game. Most especially the need for both players to develop several armies so that action dice were not wasted.
Again it was still a close game, with the Fellowship on the slopes of Mount Doom,and having little corruption.One more turn would certainly have seen them dunk the ring (barring amazingly bad luck), so if they could have hung onto Dale - or anywhere it would have been enough.
As it was they allowed themselves to be delayed by a couple of turns where many Eyes were rolled. Had they pushed on in the face of the risk, they would probably have made it.
I remain uncertain of the bias in the four player ganme, but I still think it tends to favour the Fellowship (whether it favours them too much is a different question). It certainly seems easier to adapt to playing the FP with two, although it did not help this time.