“Then Elrond and Galadriel rode on; for the Third Age was over and the Days of the Rings were passed and an end was come of the story and song of those times.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Queen of Shadows: a Role-playing Campaign in the Fourth Age of Middle-earth
The character of Aelindur, daughter of Sauron and Lady of Shadows, was created without gaming intentions in 1989 by my friend Kathrin Barkö (née Vestergren). She limited her story to the Second Age, being somewhat uncertain about what Isildur and Elrond would do with Sauron’s daughter when she was discovered in the ruins of Mordor, perhaps sending her to Aman to stand trial before Manwë. I then suggested instead that Aelindur would go into hiding in the East without being identified by the Lords of the Free Peoples, only to return from exile in a later Age to avenge her father’s defeat. And that discussion soon grew into this RPG article.
This campaign outline, originally published in English in the Tolkien fanzine Other Hands #5 twenty years ago and in Swedish in the gaming magazine Rubicon at about the same time, describes Aelindur’s plots and schemes and the general situation in northwestern Middle-earth in the 151st year of the Fourth Age. It is intended to serve as a starting-point for a series of adventures in these turbulent years. It is presented in a system-free format.
The original text has been divided into three parts. Part I deals with the general situation in north-west Middle-earth in FA 151, part II with Aelindur and her schemes, and part III with running the campaign. The epilogue (i.e. part IV) contains the author’s reflections on the scenario twenty years afterwards.
The Queen of Shadows campaign should be open-ended, since the player-characters’ actions would have great bearing on whether Aelindur succeeds or not. Why not make them feel the weight of the world’s fate on their shoulders, just as Frodo did?
Northwestern Endor: FA 151
The reunited Kingdoms of Gondor & Arnor possess de facto hegemony over northwestern Endor. Formally, the sister realms comprise the lands between the Ered Luin, Forochel, the Misty Mountains, Ephel Dúath, and Umbar (apart from the independent but allied state of Rohan and the semi-autonomous Shire). In practice, however, the King’s authorities exercise little control over the Dunnish tribes of Enedwaith and Drúwaith Iaur and the natives of sparsely-populated Harondor.
Although united under the same monarch, Gondor and Arnor retain separate legislative, administrative, and military establishments.
King Eldarion resides in Minas Tirith and has appointed his son and heir Eldacar to the position of Viceroy of Arnor at the rebuilt capital of Fornost Erain. Traditionally, the King travels north every summer for a brief sojourn in his northern lands.
Arnor remains sparsely populated despite the King’s encouragement of Gondorean colonization through advantageous taxation policies. Its major settlements are at Lake Evendim, and in the Baranduin and Lhûn valleys. Its only major city is Fornost Erain, though there are serious plans to rebuild Tharbad, whose bridge has been repaired together with the Greenway (running between Fornost Erain and the Gap of Rohan). There is also a new fortress at Weathertop, built by the Dwarves of Moria some decades ago.
Gondor has changed little since the War of the Ring. Minas Tirith’s fortifications were repaired and strengthened by the Dwarves of Aglarond in early Fourth Age, and the city is now the best protected location in the region.
Ithilien is gradually being repopulated under Prince Boromir, son of Éowyn and Faramir, who rules his fief from the newly-built capital Ost-in-Ernil in the Emyn Arnen.
In Belfalas, Imrahil’s grand-daughter Wilwarin is Princess of Dol Amroth and fief-holder of Dor-en-Ernil. Her cousin Edrahil is Captain of the Knights of Belfalas.
The city of Umbar and its rural surroundings are ruled by a governor (currently Prince Boromir’s brother Beren) who is directly responsible to the King. The region has been slowly reintegrated into Gondor’s territory, but King Eldarion believes it will take more time before it can be turned into a regular province of the realm. He is worried about secessionist strivings among its locals, since the leading citizens of Umbar, even without the interference of Sauron, clearly have other political priorities that Minas Tirith: Gondor looks to the northeast while Umbar looks to the south.
The Riddermark has grown stronger over the past century due the demise of its surrounding foes in the War of the Ring, though the lifestyle of the riders has not changed (apart from a growing pride which occasionally takes chauvinistic appearances). The realm is currently ruled by the third King of the Third Line, the aged Elfhelm, son of Elfwinë.
Outside the Hornburg, there is now a growing town which serves as a center for Westfold. The Dwarves of Aglarond have a thriving business in tools and weaponry, which they exchange for food and other supplies from the locals.
The Dunnish clans are the dominating Mannish group in the area between the Gwathló, the Misty Mountains, the White Mountains, and the Sea. Technically, they are subjects of the Winged Crown, and their chieftains have occasionally expressed words of loyalty to the King in Minas Tirith. In practice, they follow their own leaders and traditions.
In secret, most harbor strong hatred towards the Dúnedain and the Rohirrim for denying them what they consider to be Dunnish rights. Gondor de facto only controls the Greenway, the rest of the region being the natives’ turf, where unwary foreign travelers sometimes disappear without a trace.
After the War of the Ring, King Elessar gave the land of Nurnen to its slaves. They established the Kingdom of Lithlad, a densely populated agricultural country. It is closely allied to Gondor, and the population has a strong pro-Dúnadan attitude as a consequence of their recent liberation.
Gorgoroth, on the other hand, is an abandoned wasteland. As far as everyone knows, Sauron’s strongholds toppled when his power was broken, and Orodruin sleeps.
The peoples of the upper Anduin vale, Eryn Lasgalen (formerly Mirkwood), the plains of Rhovanion, and Dorwinion have resumed many of their ancient contacts with Gondor. The disappearance of Dol Guldur’s Shadow has opened the region for trade and growth, and the Northmen maintain their old friendship with Gondor.
Rhûn and Harad
Little has changed in the realms of Rhûn and Harad. Their inhabitants view Gondor with mixed feelings and worry about the possibility of renewed Dúnadan domination, however benevolent it might be. Many of the realms have long traditions of fighting the Dúnedain and such cultural memories will linger for many centuries.
The Elven lands
The Elves of the Fourth Age show little concern for the affairs of Mortals because their power has waned with the departure of their mightiest Lords and the destruction of the One Ring.
Elves dominate four regions during the early Fourth Age: Lórien (which includes the southern Eryn Lasgalen, or “East Lórien”), the northern Eryn Lasgalen, Lindon, and Rivendell.
Elladan is Prince of Lórien. His Silvan-populated realm encompasses the ruins of Dol Guldur, which is kept under tight surveillance. Men are not welcome to visit that spot, since Elladan fears that there may be Sauronic secrets still hidden below the rubble.
King Thranduil continues to rule his northern woodland realm, which has suffered little change since the War of the Ring, save for a reduction in the number of giant spiders and other fell creatures in the area.
Lindon, whose people maintain the Havens from which the Elves depart for Aman, is ruled by Círdan.
Elrohir has assumed the position of Lord of Rivendell, still a refuge for the few Noldor and Sindar that remain east of the Blue Mountains.
The Dwarven realms
Moria has been re-populated and is once again the most important Dwarven settlement in northwestern Middle-earth, and the Dwarves of the Blue Mountain dwindle in number as many migrate there. Aglarond has grown into a small but prosperous enclave, while the Lonely Mountain and Iron Hills retain their former importance.
The Servants of the Shadow
Sauron’s downfall did not bring about the complete end of his servants. Orcs and Trolls survived in many places, especially in their mountain strongholds at Gundabad and elsewhere in the Hithaeglir. Since the War of the Ring, they have lacked a strong leader and have been reduced to squabbling among themselves, and therefore they do not pose a major threat to the Free Peoples. This, however, has not put an end to occasional Orkish raids into the upper Anduin vale.
There is talk of Dragons and other hideous creatures in the northern wastes, but they have so far proven mere rumors.
But matters might not stay so calm in the long term.