After getting to the far corner of the Lone Lands I was really ready to head to Evendim. But Evendim was a later addition to the game, coming in a few months after launch and, as such, is bypassed by the epic story line. Instead, after the Lone Lands, the epic story line sends you to the North Downs and the ranger stronghold of Esteldin.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about the North Downs. It is another sprawling zone that ought to set you up pretty well from the mid-20s through the low 30s in levels. But, as with a lot of places in the game, the pacing of the quests can be odd at time, holding you around until you feel like you might be a couple levels too high and then suddenly putting you neck deep in a quest or two a few levels beyond you. It also overlaps a lot with the Lone Lands, so if you do one zone all the way through you’re into the end level range of the other.
Esteldin also has the infamy of being the final resting place of the first fellowship, the inaugural run at the game at launch by the instance group. We ran out of steam amongst the rangers, never to return… at least not to that server. Our Kinship, Fianna, got swallowed up in the server merges and when I go back to look at my characters their bags are full and they are comically under-geared. But, in a not uncommon lack originality, my main at the time was also a dwarf guardian named Nomu.
On the other hand, the zone has its place, introduces you to some interesting locations, and adjoins Angmar, which comes into play later on. Esteldin also has a crafting hall with a banker in the room, which is handy, as well as being the location of superior workbenches, which you used to need for crafting beyond a certain tier. Like tin, that has changed along the way. And there is, of course, the cursed shopping cart in Othrikar, the tale of which I told some time back.
But that is all ancient history. It is sufficient to say that, if you’re going to follow the epic story line, then you are going to have to go to Esteldin and speak with Halbarad. Volume I, Book 3 starts in Ost Guruth in the Lone Lands when Frideric the Elder sends you back to Candaith who, in turn, sends you to Esteldin.
Despite its importance in the grand scheme of the war, Esteldin for some reason isn’t well marked on the map of the North Downs, getting no more than a stable master’s notation on the map. I guess the rangers are trying to keep a low profile.
Fortunately, Esteldin is the main travel point for the North Downs, so you can buy a swift travel there from other key points, such as Bree. It just costs a mithril coin, and I had some to spare, so off I went.
Once there I found Halbarad in his own little building towards the back of the settlement. However, it is one of those “locked unless you have the right quest” sorts of places to keep you from running into multiple copies of him. (Oddly, that was something I was worried about way back when LOTRO was still just some promises and possible screen shots. I guess Turbine had a solution.) Since I forgot to take a selfie with him, the view from outside his door will have to do. His guard at least intones the same message every time you show up.
The quest log was a dead give away. Halbarad, or just Hal to his friends, pretty much has a all of Volume I, Book 3 to himself. The forward sends you to meet him and chapters 1 through 6 are all based on tasks he sets you to. There are actually three branches to this series, one each for men, dwarves, and elves, and he gives the starters for each of them to you at the same time, so you can go about them how you like.
For men you are off to Trestlebridge. There you are to help defend the bridge from orcs. However, I also had my level 30 guardian class quest to do, which also involves defending the bridge. One of them takes place at night at a barricade on the bridge while the other takes place during the day and involves fighting before the bridge to keep any orcs from reaching it.
I can’t actually say for sure which was which. Guardian problems I suppose. But I have to wonder if the fight before the bridge was a success… which it was on the second try, because I remembered too late that there is an orc that comes up the side to get past you if you fight too far forward, and if an orc touches the bridge you fail… then how did we all end up on the bridge later that night fighting at the barricade.
That was a success, and from there I went off to Othrikar, of the shopping cart tale linked above, to assist the dwarves. The task there was to find Dori… seriously, the quest is called “Find Dori,” and it is all that I could wish for that somebody at Turbine would have just named it “Finding Dori” instead just to annoy Disney… and get him out safely. And escort quest.
He was out in the middle of the Dourhands in a mobile cage that looks just like the one from the ruffian camp outside of Bree.
I had to wait a while because somebody was already escorting Dori and it is one of those rides that can only accommodate a single group at a time. I passed the time slaying the local Dourhands, there being another enmity deed related to them on the books for me.
Eventually it was mine turn on the Dori escort ride and, as expected, Dori can’t just get the hell out of the middle of the hostile camp. It seems that the Dourhands took some gems he had on him so first we had to go find those. At least, unlike Pengail in the Lone Lands, Dori knew where to look, picking up his bag of gems on the first try rather than having to rummage through the ruins.
Gems in hand, we had to fight our way out of the place, walking straight into each and every Dourhand group possible. Plus the quest itself spawns a group to get you every now and then along the way, as if the whole area already filled with Dourhands wasn’t enough. Even outside the walls of the Dourhand base, with tall grass for cover and plenty of room to go around, Dori walked straight into the nearest bunch of tents.
Let’s just say I got that Dourhands deed done before we were free and clear.
Finally, there were the elves down in Meluinen to deal with. Once there I found that they had the straightforward decency to just want an orc named Drukordh over in Nan Wathren killed. Straight up murder for hire again, something I understand.
Granted, he was a tough orc, so I needed a special elf stone to do the deed. But I had to activate the elf stone at one location, then kill Drukordh somewhere else… like not even in line of sight or just around the corner, but a few blocks down the road and all the while the quest guide will only point to the activation spot for the elf stone. Eventually I got that figured out, though it was a good thing that the elf stone buff lasts for a bit, or I would have likely arrived at the right place after it had faded.
That out of the way I made my way back to turn that in, spotting a familiar name on my way out.
Syp was again AFK or not talking to me or both. We seem to be on the same trajectory, the main difference seeming to be how much delay there is between our actions in Middle-earth and our posting about said actions.
From there it was back to Halbarad to report that the cast of second tier mucky mucks were committed as delegates without speaking parts to the council of Elrond out in Rivendell.
Along the way I managed to avoid picking up any… well… at least not too many… additional quests. I had to do the lynxes and bears because I figured if I was going to walk through a field of them to get to Dori then I might as well get the hides for crafting along the way as well. But mostly I stayed away since I didn’t want to get too far ahead in experience before I made it to my next destination, Evendim.