He had traveled far to reach this place, and it had been a grim and a dangerous pilgrimage. And for what, he wondered? But he had put it off for far too long, and it was time to put the past to rest. He stood on a rise gazing down into the broken valley that had once been his home. Above, the clouds hung low in the sky, dark and threatening. The wind was picking up; a storm was approaching. Nothing here was as he remembered it. The landscape, once verdant and green, heavy with the scents of earth and pine, was now twisted, sickly and rotting. A thick layer of orange-brown mud covered everything. The harsh, acrid smell of decay assailed his senses. No foliage remained; no tree or bush to soften the stark terrain of the valley. Eroded gullies ran like angry wounds down from the hills emptying into small stagnant pools of reddish-brown water, like so many pools of blood. It was as if the earth itself was scarred and bleeding. Amidst the shattered and stunted stumps of this lost glade, a solitary stone building sagged under the weight of time. It was the Hall of the Protectors, the Vigils of the Pine; founded here after the fall of Caer T'Hiel as a sentinel for Tunaria. He moved cautiously, for the there was no safe place in this shattered land. There was no sound save the sighing of the wind. Watching carefully for any sign, he detected none, and entered. No one had been here for a very long while. Years, probably decades, had passed. It seemed that even the Orcs had forgotten this place. He walked quietly through the once-proud hall; It had been a very long time since he had been back here, and memories of happier times still lingered within the walls; faint and fading, yet undeniable. A drop of rain touched his cheek, and he glanced up. The roof was holed, and the rain was dripping slowly through. In the grayness, a flash of lightning--followed by the low boom of thunder echoed through the glade. He wrapped his cloak tighter about himself, and looked around. Leaves and debris now littered the mud-caked floor. There was not much left inside; a collapsed table, an over-turned chair, a broken bow staff,--not much else. He gathered a few scraps and some tinder and kindled a small fire in the long cold fireplace. By the soft firelight he warmed himself against the backdrop of a slow, steady drizzle; And he remembered.