Erland (also known as Black Cloud) is a minor (second tier) NPC in my Darkening of Mirkwood campaign. He’s a Ranger of the North, who tracks the Bloody Ghost through Mirkwood, on behalf of Gandalf.
Below is the stat line, traits, description and GM notes I’ve used to incorporate him into my game. Feel free to include Erland / Black Cloud into your game – and let me know how how you get on with him.
Name: Erland / Black Cloud
Year of birth: 2912
Summary: Ranger of the North, friend of Gandalf, and hunter of the dead things that sometimes walk in Wilderland.
Attribute level: 7
Specialities: Shadow-lore, Fire-making, Wraith-lore
Distinctive Features: Determined, Steadfast, Hardened
Relevant skills: Awareness 3, Craft 3, Travel 4, Search 5, Healing 3, Hunting 4, Long-Sword 4.
Weapon: ‘Wraith-bane’ (2H sword), Damage: 6 (+3 against undead), Edge 10, Injury 16.
Erland is modelled on the Strider version of Aragorn. He roams further than most Rangers of the Dunedain, mostly focusing on the Anduin Vale and Mirkwood. He occasionally returns to Eriador to meet with his kind, but his family are gone, massacred by Orcs of Angmar.
He left his home years ago, following the invasion of his land by dark forces, and joined a small group of Rangers. He learned how to track the dark things of the shadows, and started to investigate the barrows of the North.
It was then, while wandering with his companions, that he stumbled on a ruined tomb atop a forlorn hill, covered in the mists of late autumn, and lost in a permanent darkness.
There, alone, he was attacked by the spirit of an ancient tribal chieftan. The spirit cornered him, and Erland thought himself lost, but it pursued him deeper into the ruins, eventually leading him to a rotting pile of bones, wood and leather.
Searching for a way out, Erland saw a blade protruding from the earth, runes upon its hilt. He drew the sword and found his way through the ruins. As he wandered, the runes on the sword began to glow with a deep, red fire.
Eventually, Erland found his way out of the tomb, but a trio of wights beset him at the entrance. They were ancestors of the Northmen, and moaned of their burial mounds being moved there by their descendants, who longed to forget them.
But the sword seemed to hold some power over the spirits, and he held it high as he charged at them, giving them such fear that they dissipated into the mist, yawning eerily as he swung at them.
He emerged from that dark barrow, and finally rejoined with his group, having been gone for almost two weeks. His companions said he’d wandered into the mist, which swirled atop the dark hills, so that they named him ‘Black Cloud’.
Erland is a friend of Gandalf, and occasionally carries out hunting and tracking missions for the Wizard. He is an expert in the ways of Wraiths, and is familiar with the signs they leave. His sword ‘Wraith-bane’ is marked with runes that guard against the undead.
He frequents the Easterly Inn whenever he is passing and has time to spare there.
In 2950 Erland is tasked by Gandalf with researching rumours of the ‘Bloody Ghost’. This leads him to track the creature from the East Anduin Vale, across Wilderland, until eventually (2952) he reaches the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.
Erland’s fate is unknown, but it is possible that the heroes encounter him before or during his mission in Mirkwood. Wherever the Bloody Ghost passes, Black Cloud follows. He knows the Northern parts of the forest, but will ask any trustworthy heroes for help and guidance across the Southernmost parts of the forest.
Ultimately, Erland wishes to rid Middle-earth of the crawling dead things of the night. If the heroes can help him, he will travel with them. If they falter in this end, he does not have time to help them.
Sit quiet and still. Tilt your head, and warm your hands by the fire. Gaze straight ahead or to the side when listening, as if looking at something that can’t be seen. Gently snap out of it now and then, and half-smile to yourself, then remind your companions that there are other things that walk these lands than Orcs, Elves and Men.