Once called Greenwood the Great, the black forest of Mirkwood is the next setting for the upcoming Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood expansion, set for a December 1st release date. Up to now, adventurers helping combat the growing menace of the Dark Lord have done so in their own lands. Siege of Mirkwood will bring them closer to Sauron than ever before, as he himself built and occupied the fortress Dol Guldur, on the hill Amon Lanc.
Signs of a great war are increasing, so much so that Lady Galadriel herself has sent forth a call for aid against the shadow menace. Celeborn is assembling those that heed the call into The Golden Host of Lórien (Malledhrim), and sending it across the Anduin to directly oppose the defilers of Mirkwood, and to the very gates of Dol Guldur.
I was recently volunteered for a recon mission into Mirkwood, and thankfully managed to return in one piece to bring this report of what I saw, despite being assigned the task of a healer, for which I was horribly ill-suited. I only accomplished the mission with great aid from Rowan, a mighty dwarf who slew all our foes with incredible ferocity and talent. He was also my guide through the black forest, imparting much of the knowledge I gained during the mission.
I met Rowan on a distant pier in Lothlórien, where we made our introductions, discussed some lore of Mirkwood, and gazed across the Anduin at our destination. The elves there are more than helpful in seeing that those who dare take the boat to Mirkwood know what their tasks are, and are prepared for the encounters to come. Once on the Mirkwood shore, Rowan and I made our final preparations and set off on our venture.
Volume II Book 9: Fortress of the Nazgűl is where this stage of LotRO begins. Sauron no longer inhabits Dol Guldur, yet the power of his Nazgűl is more than enough to hold sway over the entire reach of the forest. Everywhere there is a black taint, a foul, oppressive weight that seeps into your very bones. All manner of creatures have succumbed to the evil here, and their ferocity seems matched only by their uncanny skills at combat, much more so than any other common beasts found on the other side of the Anduin. Countless bats flutter amongst the ugly and misshapen trees, and goblins seem to hide in every shadow. The wargs have especially taken on a much more dreadful nature, and are more ruthless in combat than I have ever seen. Be well prepared for even the smallest foes to take you to task when you come up against them here.
Dol Guldur lies in the southern region of Mirkwood. Starting from the Anduin shore, in the Mirk-eaves, the most direct path passes through Emyn Lum, the next place Rown and I visited. At almost exactly the halfway point on the way to Dol Guldur. Emyn Lum is home to the elven ruins of Ost Galadh, which they inhabit to keep watch on the main road. Similar to the other fortresses bearing the Ost name, this one also holds suppliers, craftsmen, stables, even a crafting hall, all the things needed to provide rest and recuperation for those in the Golden Host.
Leaving the relative safety of Ost Galadh, we continued our eastward journey, travelling north of the Wild Run, and south of the Scuttledells, stopping once again at Thangulhad. The road there is perilous, to say the least, well guarded by crows and scouts. Amongst the ruined siege engines is a very out-of-place looking camp of elves, and even a couple of dwarves. While there, I heard rumor of some new evil being stirred up a short distance north, in the ruins of Gathburz. Something about worms, and I do not think they were speaking of the fishing kind. Rowan hastened me on before I could inquire further, and we set off again in the direction of Dol Guldur, whose towering black walls are easily seen to the east of Thangulhad.