On the very edge of fortress Dol Guldur, a small band of allies have set up yet another camp, called Helethir. Behind it winds a steep path up Amon Lanc, leading to an unguarded portcullis directly into Dol Guldur. However, once inside, remaining unnoticed could only be accomplished by masters of stealth, and we were not that.
The Nazgūl's minions are everywhere, and they are well suited for combat. High overheard, the wails of the Nazgūl flying watch over Dol Guldur seemed to enforce the fighting will of their beasts below, giving us barely time to catch our breath before being set upon again. Slowly, and with no small thanks to Rowan's fighting prowess, we made our way deeper into the fortress. It was then that we entered into one of the newest elements brought on by necessity in Mirkwood - the Skirmish.
Skirmishes are small instances where the call to war is directed specifically against Sauron's forces. Skirmish camps can be found throughout Mirkwood, and are where veteran warriors and the Free Peoples come to band together to help the Golden Host accomplish a specific military objective. Trainers, weapon-smiths, armourers, and others make up these camps, designed to assist the Host with the mission at hand. Once a veteran has gone through the training, they are assigned Skirmish Soldier to accompany them into battle.
Rowan showed me how to call for the aid of my own Soldier, an alchemist trained in the basic healing arts. Together with his own Soldier, an archer, we were tasked the mission of clearing and securing the outer baileys of Dol Guldur so that a larger force could then assault the main gate. Honestly, how we lived through it remains a mystery! The enemy was against us at every step, in both strength and numbers. And these were no ordinary creatures, either. They employed all their weapons and black magic with deadly precision, and skillfully knew when to press their offensive and when to call for aid.
Bravely (or was it foolhardy?) we fought on, slowly making ground towards the objective, a banner pole set into the ground of the bailey. My Soldier could only execute a few basic commands, halted mostly by my own lack of understanding of how to properly coordinate her skills with my own, which I didn't fully understand. Once we arrived and had the place sufficiently clear, we were reinforced with a couple more brave (foolhardy?) allies, and just in time for the enemy's counterattack. Rowan quickly explained that as long as we held the area around the banner, victory could be ours. If we were to be pushed back, the enemy would claim the banner as their own, and we would be faced with mounting our own counterattack, should our will to hold. This time, they were accompanied by one of their lieutenants, a tremendously powerful troll who very nearly turned the tide against us, had it not once again been for Rowan's martial skills.
With our objective met and the main force en route, Rowan and I retreated back to a skirmish camp for rest and debriefing. He continued to impart his vast knowledge of Middle-earth to me, telling me more about the skirmish camps. With coordinated military actions increasing from the enemy, there is a greater need for the Free People's to respond in kind, and these camps are one of those responses. He said they are being established outside of Mirkwood, as well, mostly near major cities, like Bree. The enemy has agents everywhere, it seems, and so we must call to all those to fight where they are, against bandits and brigands alike.
Rowan also showed me marks he had collected from slain enemies, marks he said could be turned in to collectors at skirmish camps in exchange for reward weapons and equipment. At the same time, your reputation could increase with the Golden Host, if you were to continue fighting with them. Rowan also spoke of advancing the skill and equipment of your Skirmish Soldier. The Trainers at the camps are able to teach them better skills, as well as help you increase you use of tactics and traits with them, in exchange for these marks.
All said, it was a lot of information to take in, and so after I thanked Rowan for his help and parted ways, I settled in by the campfire to ponder it all, and to write my report. Once that was complete, I could sense a deeper resolve within myself to join the Golden Host again and again on another mission, despite being pitted against the very forces of the Nazgūl. My wish is that I will not go alone. Will you answer the call to war?