[Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Age

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Lara Redleaf
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[Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Age

Post by Lara Redleaf » Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:47 am

Warning: bigtime deviations from canon found herein!

A story hook occurred to me today that I found interesting: the idea that the Elves and Dwarves didn't just fade away from Middle-earth. More accurately, the idea that at least one Elf, who styles himself a lord of Middle-earth, refuses to accept the diminishing of his people. He denies the Dominion of Men, and that the Firstborn should give up "their" land so easily. Why should the first and greatest of the Children of Ilúvatar be second to these upstarts? No, the Eldar shall not fall, but instead rise again to the very peaks of glory.

First, our would-be king must establish some kind of domain, and by some power preserve his realm. The Great Rings are no more, but perhaps lesser rings might still be found or crafted. They would not alone make "Aran Endor" (who is, perhaps, unaware of the other who may or may not have used that title) stronger than the realms of Men, though perhaps they might slow the decay of his chosen realm as the Fourth Age waxes. What else could he seek? One of the Silmarils, fallen to earth or sea? Surely if he could but raise one of them, its light would allow him to enchant such a realm as few have known since the Third Age began. This would require him to have knowledge of the story, and the desire to find them. If he raises up the fiery pits in the East or perhaps somewhere in the South, what evil things might he unearth in the search for power?

Could he have corrupted some of the Ents, preying upon their desire for the greener and wilder days of their youth? And where might he set up this realm? One of the forests, I'm guessing, but I am not sure where would be good. What other sources of power could our would-be lord of Middle-earth try to exploit? Most assuredly this selfish desire will corrupt our Elf into some kind of lesser (or not-so-lesser) Dark Lord. How do you think that would look?

What do you folks think? How would you answer some of these questions? Originally I thought of this character raising up two trees, like the White Trees of Gondor and Arnor, as sort of a symbol of this domain and its lasting nature. Also, the idea of an Elven Dark Lord who begins with good (if selfish) or at least understandable intentions, refusing to let go of his people's legacy, I like that. Some of this stems from an idea for an alternate universe setting where something happens to reverse the trend of the fantasy fading from Middle-earth. The Elves and Dwarves do not disappear. Magic does not fade into obscurity. The world doesn't become like the mundane world we all know. Rather, things change in a big way and Middle-earth grows "young again," in a sense.

Anyone else ever bat around similar ideas?
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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Otaku-sempai » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:29 am

Well, I've speculated that the maps of Middle-earth become obsolete at the end of the Fourth Age when a world-shaking catastrophe alters the lands and seas to their modern configurations. Maybe this happens earlier in your Arda when your would-be Lord attempts to reclaim at least one of the Silmarilli. Then again, would possession of a Silmaril actually confer any measurable might upon its owner? Or would it be little more than a glorified status symbol? My best guess is that its power might be transferable to the land itself, much as the Rings of Water and Air were used to protect the realms of Lothlórien and Imladris.

Fangorn seems a likely place to set up as Aran Endor's realm; or perhaps the central section of Eryn Lasgalen if he (she?) first drives out the Men. He might first gather support from the remaining Avari of the East. In fact, perhaps a Rhûnnic forest might serve as a base of operations--some remnant of the Wild Wood near Cuiviénen where the Elves first awoke. Avari might also inhabit the great wood on the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Rhûn.
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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Lara Redleaf » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:01 am

Otaku-sempai wrote:Well, I've speculated that the maps of Middle-earth become obsolete at the end of the Fourth Age when a world-shaking catastrophe alters the lands and seas to their modern configurations. Maybe this happens earlier in your Arda when your would-be Lord attempts to reclaim at least one of the Silmarilli.
Yeah, see, I like this idea. Opens up a whole new world of adventure in an age not heavily dominated by canon like the Third Age. Not that I'm afraid to break canon, since part of the fun of playing in the setting is getting to experience different story ideas within it. But this works and plays with the general story ideas of great upheaval in the Fourth Age.
Otaku-sempai wrote:Then again, would possession of a Silmaril actually confer any measurable might upon its owner? Or would it be little more than a glorified status symbol? My best guess is that its power might be transferable to the land itself, much as the Rings of Water and Air were used to protect the realms of Lothlórien and Imladris.
I'm guessing any old Elf won't be able to do with it what Fëanor could, but they could probably use it for something. Of course, our would-be Lord of Middle-earth would probably soon find that the Silmaril burned his impure hands, but he need not wield it directly in order to use its light, the light of the Trees, to help cast a spell over his realm. Certainly if he sets it atop the mightiest tree in his woodland realm, he might transform that tree to some degree, and have a powerful symbol few could dare stand against.
Otaku-sempai wrote:Fangorn seems a likely place to set up as Aran Endor's realm; or perhaps the central section of Eryn Lasgalen if he (she?) first drives out the Men. He might first gather support from the remaining Avari of the East. In fact, perhaps a Rhûnnic forest might serve as a base of operations--some remnant of the Wild Wood near Cuiviénen where the Elves first awoke. Avari might also inhabit the great wood on the north-eastern shore of the Sea of Rhûn.
Good ideas. I considered Fangorn at first, 'cause that would play into the corruption of some Ents, who would like to see a return to the greener, more enchanted lands of their use. And that would give this campaign some fun "big" enemies other than Trolls, something scarier perhaps.

I'm actually somewhat torn here. Rhûn is pretty open for exploring all kinds of story options. It also ties into the possibility of recovering fragments of that Wild Wood. On the other hand, Mirkwood/Eryn Lasgalen is well-known to fans and thus makes for an easier setting to really dive into, and its recognition might offer a little more attachment. Plus, it fits the general idea.
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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Elmoth » Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:24 am

I would go for Imladris. Elrond leaves at the end of the normal storyline, so it is open for recolonization. lLorien would also be an option, but Mirkwood (or Eryn Lasgalen is too near Lorien for other powerful elves not to interfere. Thranduil for sure, and Celeborn.

Unless you do not make Thranduil the leader of such a plot, that is.

Another possible location would be somewhere in Arnor. being as depopulated as marked, it should be basically vast tracts of widerland. Easy to push the few humans moving there from the south and making it an elf land, specaially the southwest

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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Lara Redleaf » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:16 am

Of Toglim the Light-bearer and the Silmaril
In the Fourth Age, the power of the Firstborn in Middle-earth waned even as the Dominion of Men rose to its heights. Joyous was this for the Secondborn, but it was a bittersweet time for the Elves who left behind their homes in Middle-earth. Some lingered as long as they could, but in the Fourth Age one chose not to fade silently. He was Toglim, who was called the Light-bearer, an Elf mighty in body and defiant in spirit. Toglim had resolved that Middle-earth was the home of the Elves for many lifetimes of Men, and that his people should not leave it so willingly. Nor should they be content to fade until they were but spirits invisible and unclad, bidden to observe the lesser splendors of Men and their works.

Toglim had only seen the light of the Trees from afar, and had never left for Aman due to the love he bore for Middle-earth. Many were the years before Men awoke that he wandered hill and valley, seeking the voices of root and rock, brook and bough. Never could a place have been more beautiful, more wondrous, all the more so for its imperfections removed from the light. When the world was broken he wept, and when Morgoth's lesser servant Sauron sought to dominate Middle-earth as did his former master, Toglim fought against the powers of Mordor. He carried within his eyes the faint light of the distant Trees, but more so they reflected the starlight under which the Eldar were born. It was this light he bore against the creeping shadow of Mordor, and he would sooner vow to meet the Dark Lord in personal combat than allow his home to crumble beneath the engines of war. At last, Sauron was thrown down and unmade, and his works for the greater part destroyed, and Toglim turned back to his many homes across the West.

The shadow of unrest never left Toglim's heart. More of his people with each year fled the growing Dominion of Men. Once-mighty homes of the Elves were left abandoned, to know Elvish songs and dreams no more. Where Men built they created stark, ugly edifices where once unspoiled beauty had thrived for thousand of years. They fought one another and they beat land and beast into tools for their burdens. Toglim saw this and grew uneasy, and the lonely valleys now silent where once Elves had sang and cheered and lived grew to haunt him. Why should the Elves, the Firstborn, relinquish what had been theirs? Did they still not have cause to enjoy Middle-earth for its unique beauty? For what had the race of Men done to deserve such inheritance, when all they would do is spoil the last vestiges of Elvish presence?

Toglim had resolved to become Light-bearer once more. He sought to shine not against the dark power in the East, for that was gone many centuries, but to rekindle the flame of hope for his people. Let them flock to his banner, let him shine a light that they might not fade, but burn brighter still many ages in Middle-earth. He would not let the great lands of the Elves pass into memory while he could still preserve them. Toglim was troubled over how he could do this, for the Rings of Power were no more. Lesser rings he could find, or perhaps craft, but they would be mere trinkets compared to the mightiest Rings. They could not preserve the lands as did the Three, and he deemed it unfit to wield the same devices as had the Enemy. Other artefacts lay hidden across Middle-earth, some wreathed in dust and cobweb in the collections of Men and Hobbits who knew nothing of their worth. Others still lay in the hands of the Dwarves, mightiest in craft of the Fourth Age. There he might find allies, for the Dwarves had made peace with the Elves, and many among them surely resented the loss of their world as much as Toglim.

Toglim needed a true light to bear. He went to Erebor and sought the famed Arkenstone, to set in a crown of purest silver and perhaps shine for all in the West to see. The Dwarves denied him, and angrily he swore no allegiance to Erebor once he had attained his rule. Then he went to Imladris and found it empty, and even the voice of the waterfalls in that valley had gone silent when the Elves left. Toglim woke them for a time, promising to bring the light and joy of Elves back to gleam and shine in their flowing streams. Much had been left behind in Rivendell, but no artifacts of the power he desired. Still, Toglim came away rewarded for his search, for he had read many things in Imladris about the history of Middle-earth. So Toglim became resolved to find and recover one of the Silmarils, greatest of all jewels, imbued with the purest light. With a Silmaril he could unite those who dwelled in the shadow of fading hope. Such power could even turn back the Dominion of Men, he reasoned, and restore the Elves to their lands in the West.

Many long years Toglim spent wandering the darkest cracks and crevasses, ever toward the East and South. He sought the fiery pit in which Maedhros had long before cast himself with the Silmaril in hand. The other lay in the sea where even the mightiest Elf could not go, no matter how determined. Toglim plunged into the dark and dank remnants of fortresses where craven things still sat, afraid of the light, and the dying of their time. Toglim pitied them not, for their wicked ways had marred Middle-earth and hastened the fading of the Elves. When he found them Toglim set flame to them, and became as a fearful rumor among the dark creatures, much as they frightened the children of Men in song and story. But Toglim had spent so much time in the dark searching that shadow clung to him like a cloak. Only his eyes still bore the light of his spirit, the ghost with eyes like twin moons. What Toglim encountered in the dark even he cannot or will not fully say, but his toil was long and grim. He delved into the chasms of the earth, and some would say never returned.

It is true that years later an Elf cloaked in shadow emerged from the reeking pits, and in his hand he bore a great star. Toglim had found the Silmaril and was no more, and instead called himself Aran Endor. The Silmaril caused pain to the touch, but Aran gladly bore this pain all the way to Imladris. There he lifted the Silmaril on high and declared his lordship over that hallowed valley. The falls roared and light once again came into the hearths, and it seemed an echo of the mirth that once filled that place arose in a great clamor. Aran's hair had become as spun silver threads, and his fair skin had become gray like lightest ash, but his eyes shone ever more fiercely. He had now the means to secure a place for the Elves in the Fourth Age.

If perhaps Aran Endor could have remained Toglim, and sought only a haven for the Elves to remain in Middle-earth a while longer, things would have been happier. But that is not the way of those who seek too much power, and his time searching had changed him. Many years down in the dark with nameless whispering things and only his own darkened dreams had caused his bitter resentment to bloom like black petals. The Elves were rightfully the owners of much of the land Men dared claim. Middle-earth was theirs, and not for the mastery of Men; they were second in age and in power and wisdom, and they should fade while the Eldar return the world to its greener days. Those who remained should do so under the guidance of the Elves, and all others should be banished into the furthest North. Let them clad themselves in furs and hides like savages, but never would they sully the blessed homes of the Elves. Nor would their blights scar the countryside with squat, ugly dwellings and crude monuments.

The more Aran grew bitter, the more the Silmaril burned him. He could not hold it long, but instead set it into the crown of the greatest tree in Imladris. From there it shone into the whole valley and beyond, a symbol of Aran Endor's power. It was but a start, and soon he had visitors from across the West. Elves came to marvel at the great jewel, and some coveted it but for the light of wrath that filled Aran's eyes should any dare speak of such. Emissaries came from Arnor and Gondor to ask of this new lord of Imladris, and Aran rebuked them. 'I am Aran Endor, and this is my domain. Soon all that belongs to the Eldar shall rightly be theirs once more. Be off now, and tell your betters that the light of hope shines for all the eldest peoples of Middle-earth. Men have no claim to what is not theirs, and those who hold claim should one day soon come to collect. For we have not faded, and will not fade as long as the Light shines on.'

Aran Endor drew many to his light, and once more Imladris was filled with the voices of the Elves. Not all were merry, for many had grown troubled in their lingering, and all knew that to stay in Middle-earth would surely invite conflict. Aran bid them to wait and watch, as he began to gather more allies and more artefacts to his cause. So bright was his conviction that he swayed many of the Ents of Isengard. For none besides the Ents could love the land as the Elves did, nor remember a time when the world was greener, in its youth, the wilds not trodden upon and beat back by the multiplying numbers of Men. To them he promised Lothlórien, the Golden Wood, and the last forest great enough for the Ents. Many left Fangorn then, bearing the halo of Aran Endor in their leaves, and took up residence in Lothlórien. They would come when Aran called upon them, and the earth would rejoice once more. Some even began to hope that Aran could restore to them the Entwives, for he had indeed found the Silmaril that lay in blackest, burning earth, had he not? So Aran Endor promised to restore the race of Ents.

So Aran Endor had gathered his powers. He had not finished, for across the Misty Mountains lay those who would surely oppose him. In time he would deal with them, but until that day there were others still that he might reach with his pleas. Aran sent his most gifted speakers as far as the Blue Hills, to ask who among the Dwarves would not see their line fail, but rather build mightier works than any made by Men. Not a small population returned in a great westward journey, in many ways an echo of the journey of the Eldar, and for the first time Dwarves came to dwell among the Elves of Imladris. Together they began to shape new works, and those Dwarves came under Aran Endor's spell.

The Fourth Age had began with the Dominion of Men. One Elf had raised from the shadows of history a light of Hope for his people. Elves, Dwarves, and Ents had come together in the desire to remain in Middle-earth. Peace in the Fourth Age began to smoke beneath the searing gaze of a long lost Silmaril. Aran Endor had not begun out of a desire to make war, but the fires of conflict, it seemed, were inevitable.

* * *

END Part One

Whatcha think? It's a little off the top of my head, but I think I have the basis for a possible story here. A dark lord who wields light. Those who would grow brighter still rather than fade. War once more looming on the horizon. We have the unusual case of Dwarves and Elves building up a fastness in Rivendell. What is going to happen?!
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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Elmoth » Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:17 pm

A little bit too dark for my liking. Good that he is a doomed figure et al, but he is more or less a wraith as presented. No Noldor would follow him ever. Someone that is willing to sacrifice but has not fallen under the sahdow so heavily woul be mor eof my taste. Nice text in any case :)

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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Otaku-sempai » Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:37 pm

If you don't want to abandon canon entirely then you might need to account for Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond, remaining in Rivendell for an unknown number of years along with Celeborn, husband to Galadriel.

I don't think that any of the SIlmarils should surface without being heralded by some sort of great upheaval. I've been wondering if some alternative artefact might provide similar power but the best I can come up with is Toglim somehow recovering a fragment of one of the Lamps of the Valar that were destroyed by Melkor, ending the Spring of Arda. A piece of Ormal would seem the best bet, perhaps found in the uninhabited Dark Land (Hyarmenor or South Land) to the south of Harad (though I think that this southern continent might have broken up and been shifted a bit when the Change of the World also destroyed Númenor). Of course you could also use the Change of the World as your excuse for making a Silmaril accessible and perhaps Toglim found the jewel in the New Lands and not in Middle-earth proper. And by the early Fourth Age, maybe those lands aren't so uninhabited anymore. In the real world Mankind had spread beyond Africa and Europe tens of thousands of years ago.

How Tolkien envisioned Arda in the First Age:
Image

The South Land continent would have eventually broken up to become Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica in the Modern Age.
Last edited by Otaku-sempai on Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Finrod Felagund » Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:30 pm

It's very dark as Elmoth says. Another issue is that if we go any where near canon, Toglim simply can't win - he doesn't have numbers to survive, and his best people (Noldor) have pretty much totally gone. The increasing mass of humans spreading across the lands means that his realm is doomed, which of course limits player agency. It's also a very Elf/Dwarf/Ent battle against men, so it is morally much more complex than Elves versus Orcs for instance.

Despite the above, it's certainly do-able. The ancient Irish legends had a cycle of 3 battles of invading men (Milesians) against the Elves (Tuatha de Danaan). Depending upon which story you go for, the Milesians won the third battle leading to Ireland being politically split in half (i.e. men in the east, elves in the west). When men later spread across the Island, the Elves then retreated underground. You could certainly create a mythic cycle where that happens. If you've ever read Tad Williams early stuff (Memory Sorrow and Thorn) men versus elves is part of the underlying story. By the way, if I were Toglim I would set up in Lindon to give myself an escape route.

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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Lara Redleaf » Wed Nov 30, 2016 6:23 pm

Elmoth wrote:A little bit too dark for my liking. Good that he is a doomed figure et al, but he is more or less a wraith as presented. No Noldor would follow him ever. Someone that is willing to sacrifice but has not fallen under the sahdow so heavily woul be mor eof my taste. Nice text in any case :)
Yeah, I thought more about it last night as I was trying to sleep and figured I'd revise it. Now, it's still going to be dark, but I want him to be even more "Elf-lordly," rather than wraith-like. We've already had those kinds of antagonists. I want something different here. Our villain is doing what he does for understandable, even sympathetic reasons. As usual, though, the methods are what becomes the problem. It is so often the case.
Otaku-sempai wrote:If you don't want to abandon canon entirely then you might need to account for Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond, remaining in Rivendell for an unknown number of years along with Celeborn, husband to Galadriel.
I'm not too concerned with canon, but I figured this would be set well into the Fourth Age, and some time after they have left. Perhaps not long afterward, but long enough for these purposes. That way I can avoid the pesky issue of canon characters that most folks will care about, for the most part.
Otaku-sempai wrote:I don't think that any of the SIlmarils should surface without being heralded by some sort of great upheaval.
Agreed. This is something that also occurred to me that would need a rewrite, because such a thing must be an epic event. And even if it stays a Silmaril, at the end of this story it will be lost again. No doubt it will be a part of Aran Endor's undoing.
Otaku-sempai wrote:I've been wondering if some alternative artefact might provide similar power but the best I can come up with is Toglim somehow recovering a fragment of one of the Lamps of the Valar that were destroyed by Melkor, ending the Spring of Arda. A piece of Ormal would seem the best bet, perhaps found in the uninhabited Dark Land (Hyarmenor or South Land) to the south of Harad (though I think that this southern continent might have broken up and been shifted a bit when the Change of the World also destroyed Númenor). Of course you could also use the Change of the World as your excuse for making a Silmaril accessible and perhaps Toglim found the jewel in the New Lands and not in Middle-earth proper. And by the early Fourth Age, maybe those lands aren't so uninhabited anymore. In the real world Mankind had spread beyond Africa and Europe tens of thousands of years ago.

How Tolkien envisioned Arda in the First Age:
Image

The South Land continent would have eventually broken up to become Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica in the Modern Age.
These are good ideas. I like the idea that he found the Silmaril (or some other artefact) during some time of upheaval, and certainly his actions should bring about the same.
Finrod Felagund wrote:It's very dark as Elmoth says.
While I would agree to an extent, as you can see I am trying to evoke some of the themes of The Silmarillion with it. Though I'd argue it's not really any darker than Sauron himself; perhaps a bit more tragic, as if I can get the story right, many would probably at least empathize with Toglim over his despair. The problem is that when the Elves (and Men) defy the will of the gods, it always ends in tragedy.
Finrod Felagund wrote:Another issue is that if we go any where near canon, Toglim simply can't win - he doesn't have numbers to survive, and his best people (Noldor) have pretty much totally gone. The increasing mass of humans spreading across the lands means that his realm is doomed, which of course limits player agency.
This is part of the tragedy, yes. He will fail, unless of course someone wanted to heavily deviate from the canon (which wouldn't really bug me). However, just because he will fail doesn't mean that he can't have huge effects on the Fourth Age.
Finrod Felagund wrote:It's also a very Elf/Dwarf/Ent battle against men, so it is morally much more complex than Elves versus Orcs for instance.
Yes! This is, I think, part of the appeal. Heck, other Elves will oppose Toglim as well, and Dwarves. The divisiveness of his actions are what lend this story its pathos.
Finrod Felagund wrote:Despite the above, it's certainly do-able. The ancient Irish legends had a cycle of 3 battles of invading men (Milesians) against the Elves (Tuatha de Danaan). Depending upon which story you go for, the Milesians won the third battle leading to Ireland being politically split in half (i.e. men in the east, elves in the west). When men later spread across the Island, the Elves then retreated underground. You could certainly create a mythic cycle where that happens. If you've ever read Tad Williams early stuff (Memory Sorrow and Thorn) men versus elves is part of the underlying story. By the way, if I were Toglim I would set up in Lindon to give myself an escape route.
I like this idea. It's very relevant to the story idea we're developing here. I wonder if someone could pronounce a doom that after three great battles Toglim would lose everything he held dear, and how he intended to defy that prophecy. Setting up maybe two big victories and what seems like it could be a third, until perhaps all the Free Peoples remaining in Middle-earth unite against him. Though this is itself a bittersweet victory, for these Elves and Dwarves fight against their own kindred, knowing that they only hasten the passing of their races from Middle-earth.

I like the way this is coming along, anyway! If I were to go "big" in the Fourth Age, this is probably how I'd do it. You have a rather more sympathetic (at least for a time) villain. You have lots of the pathos that makes stories in Middle-earth so powerful. And you have lots of room for the player characters to weave epic stories of their own without being overshadowed by canon.
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Re: [Plot Ideas] Aran Endor and the Two Trees: The Fourth Ag

Post by Lara Redleaf » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:23 am

So I am looking to revisit this idea, though not sure which way to go with it. The basic plot seed is the idea of an Elf who refuses to relinquish Middle-earth and unites a contingent of Elves, Dwarves, and Ents who feel the same. The main thrust of the conflict will then be their growing resistance to the expansion and colonization of Middle-earth by Men (and possibly others). Preservation/reinvigoration of certain wild realms, though whether that should be Mirkwood or Imladris or Rhûn, I'm not yet sure. The latter has sort of a symbolic quality to it, but I also like the idea that Imladris, basically abandoned after even Elrond's sons had left, had sat silent and almost forlorn until inhabited by Toglim's people. That plays into the themes of our would-be Elven lord trying to rebuild what has faded.

Also I am not sure what all I should have Toglim use to accomplish this. As before, I thought a single powerful artifact might be a good way to help establish this realm. It doesn't have to be a Silmaril, as long as it can be powerful enough to revitalize an area and maybe embolden Toglim's forces. Maybe a collection of lesser things and symbols that together help build up this powerful force. And while his mission is doomed, it's less about that and more about the pathos involved. It's not going to be a massive war to shake Middle-earth (probably; at least, not until things have collapsed completely into disaster), at least not between Dark Lord and Free Peoples. Not in the same way as the War of the Ring.

So what do you folks think are the pros and cons or various ideas for our villain setting up his realm? Where might be best? What sorts of things could he use to build up the power of his realm until it is a legitimate force in the Fourth Age?
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