Naturally, our heroes want to investigate the corpse. For that matter, Captain Alphros wants to investigate as well. After all, it is not every day that a corpse appears in the wilderness of Eastern Eriador. However, the Rangers at Barad Naith have a rule that Alphros is loth to break: none shall cross the rivers in daylight lest foes discover the garrison. Alphros decides to lead a patrol the following morning to reconnoitre the far bank; he advises our heroes that they shall accompany him.
The five Rangers return to Barad Naith. Annûngûr, Emynion, and Tirithadan prepare their gear and attempt to rest whilst other members of the garrison prepare boats. The day and evening pass in a blur, our heroes enjoying varying degrees of success at sleeping thanks to their anticipation of a mission that may, in fact, involve real danger.
Sometime after midnight, our heroes assemble with Alphros and the men who will man the two boats to bear them across the river. The march takes nearly two hours in the dark. The heroes help carry the boats from their hiding place in a small draw a few hundred yards from the river bank, everyone sweating by the time the boats slide into the water. The crossing itself is fast; the boatmen do not look forward to carrying the boats upstream and want the journey to be as short as possible.
The party moves off the bank and some fifty yards into the grass and brush, Captain Alphros leading them to a small stand of beech trees where they pause for half an hour to permit their senses to grow accustomed to the early morning sounds on the west side of the river. The sound of oars slipping into the river soon fades and our heroes begin to notice the almost deafening roar of crickets, owls, and other night life. Finally, Alphros resumes movement, keen to be in position to investigate the scene when the sun rises.
In the moonlight, the party spots the black shape of the corpse without difficulty. The time passes slowly as they impatiently wait for sunrise for the second morning in a row. A fog washes over their position but dissipates after a short time. When the night gives way to morning twilight, Annûngûr and Tirithadan watch the bank and their trail whilst Alphros and Emynion clear the nearby trees and brush to ensure no enemy lies in wait. After satisfying himself that they may investigate the area unmolested, Alphros directs the party to begin its search for clues in earnest.
Unfortunately, the party can discern little from what evidence they discover. The corpse, swollen, stiff, and ripe from a day in the sun, is that of a man in his twenties or thirties, bearded and with long dark hair. Tirithadan believes him a Dunlending based on his dress – loose woollen leggings and shirt, the former in a cross-hatched pattern typically associated with the hill peoples who live south of Hollin and the Greyflood – an assessment with which the captain agrees. Tirithadan also identifies deep cuts on the man’s hands and a stab wound in his stomach.
The party also searches the wooded area along the river bank, finding indicators that a group of some size encamped at this location a day earlier. Based on the size and number of places where the grass is crushed and branches were broken or moved, the party estimates the size of the group as between a dozen and a score.
“Look!” Annûngûr points to a set of well-defined tracks on the edge of area occupied a day earlier. “They passed this way.”
“Ah, no…” Captain Alphros rubs his chin, briefly looking uncomfortable. “Those are your tracks, Annûngûr.”
The party finds nothing else of interest despite searching the area thoroughly. Nothing remains but to wait for the day to pass in the concealment and shade of the trees along the Hoarwell. It is little wonder that our heroes welcome the opportunity to rest. Once the sunsets, they waste no time marching back upstream where they meet the boats and return to the Angle.
Associated with Shadow on the Hoarwell.