Memoirs of a Nandor Elf Newbie
By Sarah "Nandor Elf" Bloy

Part Five: “Let the Game Begin” or “The Eryn Galen People Are Wearing WHAT!?!”

NOTE: this part comes with a map-guide to follow along with.  Click here to open it in a new window!

     The first sensation I was conscious enough to remember on the morning of game day was a quite obnoxious (at least I found it so at the time… I was sleeping) rustling of the tent about two inches away from my head.
     What in god’s name was someone doing trying to wake me up at this hour?
     “Time to get up, if you wanna watch the sunrise.”
     Oh yes, that was it.
     As my brain lifted itself out of its sleep-induced fog, ever so slowly, I recalled that there had been talk the night before of hiking up Mount Doom (er… Barad-Dur) to watch the sunrise.  For some inconceivable reason, I had piped up and said that I had wanted to go as well.
     “Mmmph,” I answered the voice outside, which I now recognized as belonging to Margaret.
     “You told me to wake you up,” Margaret said.
     “I know, I know,” I moaned back, rolling over and pushing myself up off my pillow.  I heard steps outside as Margaret went over to Roz’s tent to roust Megan and Caroline.
     I poked Sarah, still curled up in her sleeping bag next to me.  “Hey, you going up for the sunrise?”
     “No,” she muttered back, refusing to be awake, “you’re crazy.”
     And as soon as I had gotten dressed and stepped outside the tent, I realized that she was right.  It was cold outside!
     I shivered as I levered my dew-moist shoes onto my feet and then Megan, Caroline, Margaret, Creighton, and I took off into the woods once again, following that now familiar water runoff path up the hill.
     “Shoulda brought my staff along,” I wheezed out as we all plopped down on the triangular ledge of rock.
     “Ah look!” Creighton said.  “From here, we can see the sun rise on our glorious day of victory!”
     Oh yes… everyone there was on the evil team.  It was too early in the morning to have noticed that.  But, might as well make the best of it.
     “Dream on!” I responded to the smack talk.  “You’re just sore because I came along to prevent you guys from plotting.”  I got up from my place on the ledge and went to the cliff’s backside.  From between the two pillar-like columns of stone there, I looked east and saw the orange sky where the sun would come up.  Suddenly, a thought occurred to me.  “I can see cleeeeeaaarly now, the raaaiiin is goooonee!”
     “Oh yes,” Megan said, pulling a few pieces of black leather out of her backpack, “as the Dark Lord, I have declared this a no-song zone.”
     “Yes, but I’m on the good team, so I don’t have to listen,” I shot back.
     “Well, then we’ve taken you prisoner,” said Creighton, “which means you can’t talk.”
     “Or, since we have Sauron here, we can interrogate you,” Caroline offered.
     “Yes!” Megan agreed, pulling a needle and thread through a metal washer and attaching it to the leather.  “What is the good team’s plan?”
     I dramatically put my hands on my hips.  “To get them!” I scoffed out.  “It takes guts!”
     “Yes, Lina, thank you,” Creighton said in his trademark mock placation.
     We stayed up there for about an hour.  Around 7:00, when the sun was just clearing the top of the mountainside to the east, we made the hike back down to campsite H where everyone else was now awake, in motion, and eating breakfast.
     “What in the world possessed you guys to get up so early?” was the first question asked.
     “We wanted to see the sunrise,” Margaret offered, opening a packet of pop-tarts.
     “You guys are crazy,” Sarah responded.
     After breakfast was chowed, we spent the next hour and a half or so getting into costume.  The actual dressing part was easy enough, and getting my hair tamed wasn’t so bad, despite the fact that my only styling tools were a brush, a towel, and a water fountain down the road.
     One by one, the other players who had camped out disappeared off to the judging area, leaving only our small band of perpetual lateness.  Megan helped me with my prosthetic Elf ears and that initiated an assembly line of them.  Sarah’s Elf ears were next, followed closely by Margaret’s Troll ears.  Then came a full half hour of makeup and other messy things.
     Creighton scooped up a handful of the ashes from the fire pit and smeared it all over his face.  Margaret and Kimisha made themselves a little muddy to fit their Troll personas.  Megan and Caroline busied themselves with things such as red eye-liner and black lipstick.
     Somewhere amidst all of this, the lady who was playing Elrond (real name unknown to the newbie that is me…) materialized at the campsite, still getting herself into costume as well and in need of a ride out to the judging area.  So, she joined us in our perpetually late glory.
     The Whale Mobile and the Car of Doom finally pulled into the parking lot near the judging area only a scant few minutes before the judging began.  We all got into our respective check-in lines and waited our turns.
Kimisha and Margaret; Trolls with a Warg!     “TROOOOOLLLL!!!”
     The exclamation split the air and caused several people to jump or cover their ears.  Margaret suddenly streaked by with the large piece of wood she was using as a club held high in the air.
     Next to me, Sarah cringed.  “Oh boy, here we go,” she muttered.
     Kimisha followed Margaret, shouting out a similar sentiment (although, thankfully not so loudly) as they both went up to the evil team check in.
     “TROOOLLL!!”  Margaret shrieked out once again, thumping her chest with the hand that held her rock.
     “Just let her get it out of her system,” I mumbled.
     “You know them?” someone asked us.
     “Yeah,” I responded, “the loud one is Sauron’s little sister.  Make her cry.”
     “Well, no problem finding her if she keeps that up,” Sarah stated.
     Well, with the cacophonic background of the one very, very loud Troll quite firmly in character, everyone eventually got through the judging process.  When all was said and done, I came through with a fairly respectable ten costume points and seven points for armor and weapons to add to my 25 base points.  That got me a total of 42.
     Ah!  Life, the universe, and everything!  It was good to be an Elf!
     Except that I had to contend with that every few minutes.
Creighton: Ar-Pharazon the GoldenThe Black Numenorians: The Army of Cuteness!

    In short order, the players all broke up into their respective teams and pictures of everyone’s costumes were taken so that everyone could remember what they looked like before they got torn up by the woods.  Over amongst the evil team, I spotted Creighton (in his ten-points worth of Ar-Pharazon costume) already contending with the three kids playing the Black Numenorians.  Two of them were dressed in costumes that looked to be quite formidable, but the third was dressed in nothing but a cut-off choir robe.
     “No armor, no weapons!”  The kid exclaimed.  “I’m going to get the Horn of Orome!”
     I blinked.  The kid was actually trying to have the lowest point total of the entire game!?!?!
     Well, whatever floated his boat.
Megan: Sauron the Dark LordCaroline: Gothmog the Captain of the Red Eye Orcs     Except for her excitable sister, Megan was already engaged in gathering her evil minions.  Dressed up in her Sauron costume, she looked ready for the job she had ahead of her.  Caroline, in her Gothmog outfit, was already consulting with her on matters of importance.
     “Man, they look so organized,” I said to Sarah as we both went back to the gathering good team and joined them.
     “Yeah, but we’re calm,” she responded.

Sarah L and Sarah B: the Nandor Elves of Eryn Galen

   That was when we hooked up with the lady playing Galadriel for the first time.  Otto pointed her out to us and we grouped up with her around the same time as the guy playing Amroth did.
     And that was when I knew we were in trouble.
     Now, I was a newbie to all of this, true, but I had tromped around in the woods enough to know what my costume should consist of.  The hikes up Barad-Dur-AKA-Mount Doom had already convinced me that the leggings I had planned for myself were impractical.  I had switched to a pair of green jeans Sarah had lent me instead and my day was much the happier for it.

Galadriel: carrier of the Elf Ring Nenya

    Galadriel, I knew, had been in a few Ring Games before, so what she was wearing puzzled the hell outta me.  Her green, slit-up-to-the-thighs skirt, belly-exposing tube top, and four-inch heeled boots were really cool looking, to be sure.  But practical for running around in the woods?  Somehow I doubted it.
     “You’re going to need a blood transfusion by the time the day is done,” a good team passerby said to her.
     “Oh, I’ll be fine,” she said, “I’ve had far worse than a few scrapes on my legs.”

Amroth: the homeless Elf!

    Amroth was another story, no doubt about it.  I’m not sure what I expected from the character description in the booklet, but it certainly didn’t include wearing a potato sack over his shirt and a bucket on his head.  And yet, it was a brilliantly clever costume.  A homeless Amroth was just as clever as a crippled Ar-Pharazon, I had to admit.  And the hitchhiker’s sign that read “Mordor Battle” in both English and Elvish was hilarious.  The bucket concerned me a bit, when it came to hiding, though; it was bright silver.

Stacy: Thranduil the Elf Captain of Eryn Galen     Thranduil (Stacy!  I remember her name!  See?  I can do it!) relieved me, somewhat, when she joined us.  She was dressed rather more sanely in green with long sleeves and full-length pants, covered in places by leather (I mean, leather, people!  Not just leather.) and lighter green cloth accents that had obviously taken some effort.  She carried a full-length, unstrung bow and I could now see why she was a costume judge.
     And that made up the part of the good army that was starting at Eryn Galen.
     Ah, Margaret had found a new thing to shout at the top of her lungs.
     “Did she name her club?” Sarah asked.
     Sure enough, Margaret was holding up her big piece of wood and repeating the name over and over (and over and over and over) again.
     “Okay, that’s starting to get a little old,” Amroth said.
     “Yes, this is what we have to put up with all the time,” I said, scrubbing my face with a hand.
     Oh, now she was tormenting the poor rat.
     “Well, Megan longer than us,” Sarah pointed out, “she’s her sister, after all.”
     Thankfully, character introductions happened not long after that, giving Margaret only one more chance to be loud when she and Kimisha were introduced as the Trolls.  Tokens were passed out to players; the Horn of Orome indeed went to the relatively pointless Black Numenorian kid, and no less than ten tokens were hung around Megan’s neck including the One Ring and all the Nazgul Rings.
     After that, various players piled into various cars to get to their starting places and I was off to Eryn Galen with Sarah, Galadriel, Thranduil, and Amroth.
     Eryn Galen was marked by a green flag sticking up out of a field near Governor Dodge park’s campsite A which was inhabited by a camping group of some sort or another that was not associated with Second Age Game.  Getting the strange looks was fun.
     Thranduil let us out of her car (“The one with the Rebel Alliance sticker on it!”) and went back down the road to park at campsite H near Barad-Dur (Mount Doom).  She hitched a ride back with one of the judges and the five of us awaited the starting time of noon while sitting on the large rock under the flag.
     I had been munching on a muffin that I had bummed from someone on the way to the citadel and I suddenly realized that I had lost my gloves.  Tracking back through the long grass, I found them just in time to have them when the game started, but it was still not a good sign.
     We had no clear-cut orders from any of the players who were the technical leaders of the team other than that one of us was to make our way to campsite D to retrieve the Arkenstone token, which could be used to turn a Dwarf to our side.  Amroth snatched up that job, leaving the rest of us to make our way to Osgiliath by way of Fornost, down the road.
     Noon hit and we left Eryn Galen.  When we hit the road, Amroth bid us farewell and made his silver bucket-headed way, cross country, up the mountain immediately to our north.  The other four of us struck out for Fornost, careful to stay within twenty-five paces of Galadriel and her Elf Ring token.  We hadn’t even gotten to the intersection yet when it happened.
     “BALROG!!!”  Crashthudtinklerustlewhump.
     The four of us Elves all froze for an instant, hearing Amroth’s panicked cry of warning from the woods.  An instant later, as he tumbled out of the woods, practically end-over-end, we all raced back into the long grass around Eryn Galen.  Galadriel stumbled and came to a stop in the ground next to me, so I dropped as well, trying to cover myself with long grass and my green cloak.
     We stayed there, all hiding in the grass, for a moment of silence before we realized that the Balrog wasn’t going to come out of the woods after us… yet.
     Slowly, we all got to our feet once again and regrouped on the road.
     “Ow!” Galadriel exclaimed.  “That really hurt.”
     “What happened?” I asked, being the closest.
     “I twisted my knee,” she answered, beginning to take off her heeled boots, “if I keep wearing these, they’ll make it worse.”
     “So, you’re just going to go barefoot?” Sarah asked.
     “Better than becoming a cripple,” Galadriel answered, “I wanna be able to play in the fall Ring Game.”
     Cautiously, we set out for Fornost again, grouped tightly around Galadriel.
     “What about the Arkenstone?” Amroth asked in a hushed tone.
     “We can’t get it with the Balrog up there,” Thranduil answered in kind, “and besides, the Dwarves that started up there have probably already been attacked by the Balrog, so they’re going to be on our team.  Let’s just get to Fornost and figure out what we’re going to do from there.”
     Bringing up the rear, I kept a lookout along the edge of the road for the Balrog.  I didn’t know which one it was, so I wasn’t certain whether to expect an orange shirt or a red shirt.  Before long, I had my answer as a whip of bright, electric orange showed itself along the edge of the road behind us in the long grass.
A creature of fire and shadow: the Balrog of the North!     “I see him,” I said, lowering my voice even further.
     “Okay, I’ll stall him here,” Thranduil said, “you guys go with Galadriel and get to Fornost as fast as you can.”
     “I’ll stay back, too,” I said, figuring that we could stall him if we had to add up points.  Not that we wouldn’t know the outcome before hand; the Balrogs had 300 points just as their base.
     The Balrog left the concealment of the grass and charged at us.
     “BALROG!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs, caught up in the moment and hoping to warn any good team members near Fornost.
     Sarah, Galadriel, and Amroth all took off at their top speeds and Thranduil and I ran at a slower pace, letting the Balrog tag first her, then me a moment later.
     “Oh, just count us together, I’m in on the battle,” I said as we grouped up with the Balrog for the point totaling.  I stalled as long as I could, mumbling something about how I couldn’t remember my point total and fumbled with my point sheet.
     And then, I was officially bounced for the very first time.  I now had a place where I could point and say “I remember this place!  I died here!”
     As the Balrog took off toward the other three Elves, I turned around to track their progress.
     They were walking!!!
     “GO!” I shrieked in frustration, clamping a hand over my mouth just after.
     Oops.  Supposed to be dead.  Call it my noble, dying breath.
     Stacy took note of my sheepish expression as we both plopped down by the side of the road.  “Don’t worry about it.  He’d get them anyway.”
     The other three Elves had disappeared around the bend of the road, so we didn’t know what had happened to them.  But, I managed to spot Amroth’s silver bucket as he, too, plopped down on the road.
     I looked at my watch in preparation to wait out our required fifteen minutes.  It was 12:07.
     “Brilliant,” I said, “not ten minutes into the game and I’ve been bounced.”
     “Yeah, but it was a Balrog,” Stacy said, “what is it doing starting up here, anyway?  I figured it’d have been closer to Osgiliath or Mount Doom, where everyone’s probably going to be.”
     “I suppose that’s why we should have figured it’d be up here,” I said.
     The Balrog came back up the road a moment later, followed by a car carrying a game official.  We waved at them, cheerfully, watching as the Balrog went back into the woods he had come out of.
     “Okay, so maybe he didn’t get the two Dwarves,” Stacy said, “but at least we know Galadriel’s ring is safe; he either didn’t manage to bounce her or didn’t think to take her back to Sauron.”
     As our fifteen minutes passed, we watched the end of the road toward Eryn Galen and saw the Balrog emerge from the woods to the north again.  He immediately crossed the road and went into the woods to the south instead, up the hill that concealed Moria somewhere.
     “Now he’s going after Durin and the two Dwarves with him,” Stacy hypothesized, “we’re going to have a lot of Dwarves on the good team, if this keeps up.”
     “This isn’t such a bad thing,” I said.
     Stacy agreed.
     Our fifteen minutes came to an end and we put on our Elf guises once more, got up, and wandered down in the direction of Fornost to find the others.  Amroth had been bounced, but Sarah and Galadriel had made it safely to Fornost, where the Balrog couldn’t touch them.  We all regrouped and decided that any plans we had had were now quite down the toilet.  We decided to go and get the Arkenstone and then make our way to Osgiliath where the rest of the good army was meeting.  Galadriel’s gait was a bit stiff, though.
The Northern Good Army as seen by Poobah Jack     As we walked back toward campsite D, Jack came along in his car, wearing the yellow vest of the head game official.
     “We got bounced by the Balrog,” Thranduil explained.
     “And I twisted my knee,” Galadriel added, holding up her boots, “have something I can put around it?”
     “Well, let’s check,” Jack said, parking his car and hopping out.  He went to the trunk and retrieved his first aid kit.  Pulling out a knee-brace, he handed it to Galadriel and whipped out his radio.  “Attention all refs,” he said into it, “we have our first official injury.  Galadriel has twisted her knee!”
     Jack bade us farewell and we were back on our way again, hiking our way toward campsite D.  Another ref car passed and Galadriel entrusted the driver with her discarded boots.
     As we headed back toward the campsite, two figures emerged from the woods.  We recognized them as Dwarves (Dwalin and Thrar, wearing chain mail… real, honest-to-god, full chain mail!!!) and approached with caution.
     “Friend or foe?” Amroth asked as we approached.
     “Neutral,” Dwalin responded.
     So, the Balrog hadn’t attacked them after all.  Interesting.
     “Care to cast your lot in with us?” Galadriel asked.
     “I have chocolate covered pretzels!” I exclaimed, offering them some.
     “Sure, why not,” Dwalin answered as they both shrugged.
     We grouped up, and though I was a little wary of leaving two still-neutral Dwarves with only three Elves, we decided that Amroth and I would go back to campsite D and retrieve the Arkenstone.
     We got it without incident and began to make our way back to the rest of the group.
     “Hold up, nature’s callin’,” said Amroth, going over to the side of the road.  It took me only a moment to realize he was about to take a pee and I whirled around to busy myself as lookout, inspecting the woods in the other direction for any signs of trouble.
     Ever try and look attentive and dignified while dressed as an Elf while a guy in a potato sack and a bucket takes a whiz off the side of the road not five yards behind you?  It’s not easy, let me tell you.
     Amroth finished his business and we headed back to the others.  We crossed a clearing in the woods along the side of the road and we spotted two figures in black in the distance back down near Fornost.  From the distance we were at, we couldn’t tell who it was, but I found out later that it was Sauron and Gothmog.  The four of us spotted each other at very nearly the same time and we all ducked, then went on our respective ways.
     “That could be a whole bunch of evil people,” Amroth said, “we gotta get Galadriel outta here before we’re boxed into this corner of the game bounds.”
     I agreed and when we looked back, the two specks of black in the distance were gone.
     We regrouped once again and thankfully, the Dwarves hadn’t pulled anything unseemly.  We decided to head, cross country, to Osgiliath as we had been instructed in the beginning, not really having anything else constructive to do.  But first, we ran into two more Dwarves who emerged from the woods in the direction of Moria.
     Now doubting whether or not the Balrog had attacked any of the Dwarves like we had thought, Amroth and I volunteered to scout the two new Dwarves.  They turned out to be Bavor and the Dwarf King Durin.  After our cautious scouting of them, they too cast their lot in with us and now we had a fairly formidable fighting force with which to make our way to Osgiliath.  Still, I was wary of the four Dwarves and took care to keep them close so that, were we attacked on our way, they would be attacked as well, having been assumed to be already allied with the good team.  That would cement them as good Dwarves.
     The cross-country journey to Osgiliath began on a grass path near Fornost (which had been sacked while we had been up near Eryn Galen and campsite D) and went into the woods with the “Gulf of Lune” on our right.  With Galadriel barefoot, it proved to be quite the interesting journey.  Every once in a while, we had to pause in order to let the Elf Lady remove thorns from the bottoms of her feet.
     I couldn’t believe she was running around barefoot.  Off the paths, to boot!  But, she kept saying over and over that she had had much worse and we pressed on.  For my part, I kept hoping over and over that we didn’t get into any poison ivy, for her sake; her legs were bare from the thigh down, after all.  Poison ivy wouldn’t feel all that great on that.
     Of course, I’m sure the numerous thorns weren’t all that pleasant, either.
     Thranduil, leading the way, suddenly came to a halt and bade us to be quiet.  “Evil,” she whispered back at us.  We all hunkered down, hoping not to be spotted.  She edged out a bit to get a better view of the situation.
     In the distance, I spotted Sauron, Gothmog, and at least one other member of the evil team sitting down near a small stream.  I wondered if they were sitting there, waiting for us, or if something had happened to them and they were bounced.
     As it turned out, they had been bounced by the rather sizable good army gathered on the road only a few yards away from us.  When Thranduil spotted them, she motioned us along and we joined them.  A Dunedain came out and scouted who we were and gathered us in, giving poor Galadriel’s feet a rest by giving her a piggy-back ride to the road.
Sauron and Elendil: taking a post-sacrifice break     Once we had joined up with the good army, we learned that Elendil had sacrificed himself to bounce Sauron and the rest of the army had together bounced the other members of the evil team with her.  We were now a third of the way toward a good team victory.
     To make matters even better, we found out that, at the very start of the game, Megan had lost her points sheet, bringing Sauron’s point total down to zero long enough for her to be bounced on her way to meet up with the Black Numenorians and distribute the Nazgul rings.  Isildur was carrying all nine of the blue-stringed ring tokens around her neck which eventually were distributed among the Elves gathered to keep them separate, but safely in good hands.  As an Elf, one of the tokens was placed around my neck.  Megan was rejudged as Sauron not long later and she was back to her full points now.
     With Megan sitting there, bounced only a small ways off, I took my chance for some good-natured taunting.  I held my Nazgul ring token up and waved it at her.  “Hey Megan, check out what I’ve got!”
     “Yeah, yeah, not for long, Elf-girl!” was the reply.
     “Bring it on, Dark Lord!” I answered.
     Now, the good team had a new issue; where was Gil-Galad?  He had to make his sacrifice to bounce Sauron next so that we could then take the One Ring one bounce after that and win the game.  But, he was one of the few good team members not among us gathered there.
     It figured.
     Like a group of high-powered executives slightly drunk on our own power, the ruling by committee began here.  With Sauron bounced for twenty minutes, we had some room to breathe, so we decided to head off up the road toward Khand and Haradwaith to sack some evil citadels.
     Galadriel, however, couldn’t continue barefoot.  One of the refs took her in his car back to campsite H to get her flip-flop sandals, but that was going to take her out of the game for a while.  To be fair, something had to be done to keep the Nenya Elf Ring token in play, so it was hung around Sarah’s neck with the stipulation that she couldn’t use any of its abilities besides its points.
     For about ten minutes, Sarah Lang the nameless Nandor Elf was Galadriel.
     The real (that is, the officially appointed) Galadriel returned about the same time we ran into the blue-clad, uber-spear-carrying Gil-Galad.  He and his party had been somewhat delayed, but now that he was present, we went back to the site of Elendil’s sacrifice and, as soon as Sauron’s twenty minute bounce and two minute head start had ended, turned it into the site of Gil-Galad’s sacrifice.
Gil-Galad and Elendil: the Last Alliance of Elves and Men     The group let up a wild cheer.  Odd, to be cheering for the demise of one of your leaders.  Very strange, indeed.
     It turned out, we learned later, that the only reason we had been able to catch Sauron again was because she and Gothmog had hung back to search for a citadel flag that had come off the flag stand.  It had hardly been a sporting tag.
    The good army, confident that the game was going to be over by 3:00, hung around on the road, doing nothing at all except posing for pictures while we waited out Sauron’s new bounce time.
     Kinda creepy, when you think about what that meant in terms of the game; the entire army of good was hanging around a dead body waiting for it to come back to life.  In retrospect, we really shouldn’t have done that, but the urge to have all the people who could take the One Ring off Sauron and win the game present when it happened was just too delicious to pass up.
     Still, it was creepy.  But, we were too caught up in our committee-drunk stupor to realize it.
     Twenty minutes passed and Sauron got up to go.  She headed off in the direction of the woods the group from Eryn Galen had come out of and we all started looking at our watches, very carefully.  The two minute head start passed and the good army took off into the woods after her.
     We had made it halfway up the hill when one of the refs caught up with us and told us to give her an extra three minutes.  At the time, we figured it was just to give her some kind of fighting chance.  We still didn’t know about the whole flag incident.  And so, we waited some more, then continued in the direction we were convinced she had gone.
     About a half an hour later, it became clear that she had managed to evade us because of that extra three minutes.  Still, we pressed on.
     Now, here I was toward the back of the entire group, still hanging out with Galadriel, Sarah, and the Dwarves.  Word of the plan had not trickled back to us yet and we kept having to yell at the guys up front that we didn’t know where we were going and that we couldn’t keep up with them.  Finally, Galadriel plopped down, her knee throbbing and her feet aching.
     “Where are we going!?” she all but shrieked out.
     “Guys, what’s the plan?” I shouted up to the pack leaders.  “Wait up a sec!”
     Slowly, word trickled back to me that no one seemed to know, so I zipped up front to find out what the deal was, throwing in my part to a bit of a palace revolt and hoping I wasn’t pissing off any veteran players in the process.  I got the front runners to pause and let the tired and injured catch up and the committee kicked in once again.
     Much debate about what we should do and a little bit of gnashing of teeth later, we decided to head down to campsite H and decide what to do from there.
     Wonderful; head someplace, then decide where we’re going!
     I shook my head as we went on our way, my gleeful pre-victory mood now thoroughly dissipated.  We skirted the boundary of Barad-Dur (really, it is Barad-Dur this time) and emerged on the grassy clearing of campsite H.
     We all went for the Gatorade that was waiting at the picnic table and those of us who had camped out made for coolers to find water.  I was no exception.  I had left a bottle of water in my cooler with the intent of grabbing it right before having to defend Barad-Dur from Sauron’s charge up it.
     It was gone.  Well, that did nothing for my mood.  Tired, confused over what was happening, and now I could add thirsty to the list.
     I refused to let that happen.  It simply was not going to be.  I’m stubborn that way.  So I grabbed the gallon jug of water that was among our stuff on the picnic table and downed a considerable amount of it.
     We milled about, the committee rearing its ugly head, for another fifteen minutes or so before we decided that by now all our citadels were probably sacked and we were no closer to achieving any of our victory goals than we had been since Gil-Galad sacrificed.  With only about an hour of game time left, we had to do something fast; something we had a chance of achieving.
     It was decided that we had to abandon the idea of capturing the One Ring.  We would never find Sauron in time.  And even if we did, she was likely sitting on a citadel with her points doubled.
     So, the good army struck out to investigate our citadels and see which ones had been sacked.  We went down the road, past Eryn Galen, past Moria, and finally came to a stop at Ost-in-Edhil.  We would never make it to Forlindon in time to learn its status and still do something about it.  Another ten minutes was given over to the committee.
     Someday, when I rule the world, I am going to ban committees.  I don’t care what they do!  I’ll be in charge of everything!  No committees!  That’s that!  Hierarchy?  Chain of command?  Sure, absolutely!  Just no large groups of people with no clear leader and a time constraint!  Not going to happen!
     When all was said and debated, we split the good army into two groups.  Figuring that if Sauron was sitting on a citadel, she’d be sitting on Mount Doom, the lion’s share of the army went back in the direction we had come to go and sack it.  Meanwhile, the group I was in was sent to sack Khand and Haradwaith in hopes of turning the game into a tie so that no one had gloating rights, at the very least.
     Khand was not a problem.  We made our way there, snatched the flag from its stand, and went off in the direction of Haradwaith, cruising along at a fairly good clip with visions of glorious tie-games in our minds.  Oddly enough, I didn’t find it all that sad at the time, the fact that we had been reduced to considering a tie a victory.  But there you have it.  We marched down the road toward Haradwaith and cleared the last bend.
The Evil Army lies in wait at Haradwaith     We all stopped dead in our tracks when we suddenly realized that the entire evil army was there.  Sauron, Ar-Phrazon, the Oliphaunt, the Trolls; everyone but Gothmog and the two Balrogs (now Trolls, since the Balrogs went away at 3:30) was sitting all pretty as a picture on the rock with two of our citadel flags waving at us in taunt.  Gothmog even showed up some time later.
     Well, that was it.  Our small section of the good army didn’t have a chance against that.
     Uncertain what to do about it, because we knew that they wouldn’t simply leave the citadel for a battle just because we asked them to, we halted and bunched up for still another conference about what to do.

Isuldur points out the Noble Eleven's two options     “Well, we’ve got two options,” Isildur said, “we can just attack now, go nobly to our deaths and pretty much end the game, or we can wait another twenty or so minutes.  That’ll put us five minutes before game time is called, but there’s a chance the rest of the group will have used the Palantir and found out what we’re doing here.  They might make it to help us out.”
     I looked around and saw several orange vested refs.  “I think all the refs are here, though.”
     It was the same problem we had had the last two times we had tried to use the Palantir token.  In order for the Palantir to work, at least one ref had to be in a place to know what was going on and at least one had to be with the group using the Palantir.  With all or most of the refs at Haradwaith, no one was with the group at Mount Doom to let them use the token.
     Still, a chance was a chance, so we plopped down by the side of the road and waited.
The Balrogs at Barad-Dur: Hey!  That green one's my citadel's flag!

   Little did we know, but some very interesting things were going on up at Mount Doom.  The Balrogs-turned-Trolls were in that area, carrying the flag of the sacked Eryn Galen.  When the sizable portion of the good army attacked them, at least one of them was bounced and the good army regained the flag of Eryn Galen.

Run Celeborn, run!!!!

   After that, the race was on.  In a stroke of dumb luck (and that really was all it was as we were too caught up in our thrice-damned committee), Celeborn was with the Mount Doom attack force, carrying the Nenya Ring token which Galadriel had handed off to him.  He ran as fast as his legs would carry him back to the site of Eryn Galen and reestablished it as Lothlorien with two minutes of game time to spare.  I wish I had been there to see the mad dash.  Reports are that he stuck the flag in the ground, put the ring token on it, and flopped over like a suffocating fish, completely out of breath.

The Noble Eleven hang out waiting for the end    Of course, those of us at Haradwaith didn’t know about any of this.
     When it became clear that the rest of the good army wasn’t going to be showing up, we decided to make our last noble stand.
     Forward through shot and shell, rode the noble eleven!  Ours not to reason why, but to do and die!  I mean, reason why?  Why not?
     We attacked, we were bounced, the game ended about three minutes later.
     Then… Then did we learn about Celeborn’s Lothlorien run.
     But, all in all, I had to admit, it had been a very good game.  Sarah and I started comparing notes with Megan, Creighton, Margaret, and Caroline right away and we all agreed that it had been the nail-biting game we had all anticipated and hoped for.  The fact that it turned out to be a tie game was a very good thing, though, since both teams had been waylaid by beta-test bumps along the way.
     For the evil team, it had been the fact that Sauron had started out with nearly no protection or support whatsoever.  Sure, Gothmog had been close by, but that was all.
     For the good team, we had been caught by a badly-timed ref call following the sacrifice of Gil-Galad.  It had prompted us to wait for twenty minutes while we could have been protecting our citadels.
     All the refs and several parents with cars descended on Haradwaith and small group by small group we all headed back to where we needed to go.  I piled myself into a car with some others.  Stacy was among them.
     “You know,” she said, “I thought I was being so smart, parking my car near Mount Doom.  That’s where Ring Game almost always ends.  So what happens to me this time?  I have to end up in the freaking Shire!”

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