A Psychogeography of Virtual Middle-Earth (4)

There are other Middle-Earths, other Eriadors, Rhovanions, Morias. Some of them are named as such, others have another name, another context, and belong to other games. But no other world is quite like this.

Agamaur and Garth Agarwen

red swamp lotro
Image via LOTRO-Wiki.com.

Your first time in the large camp in the Rhudaurian ruins of Ost Guruth is brief and leaves only a few impressions. By now all those who just wanted to take a look at the game, the virtual Middle-Earth, but do not have the interest, time, or experience to commit to an online game, have vanished or are still in the lower level areas. Those who are here are more experienced players who know how these treadmills go and are leveling fast toward fifty.

Image via LOTRO-Wiki.com.

Therefore the camp at Ost Guruth is noticeably less crowded and less friendly than the Forsaken Inn. The area, a swamp with blood-red water and strong undead skeletons, malevolent spirits, and living trees, is more challenging, more confusing, with monsters that hit much harder. The quests in the intricate and fogged-over group area are hard enough and the bosses challenging enough that you must go with several groups and try many times over before you get into a group that is good enough, balanced enough, and patient enough to fight their way to the crypt of the undead chief, and later, to the corrupted nature spirit in the center of the swamp. When you finally get those two bosses down, it feels like something to celebrate, something you know you would not have managed on your own.

North Downs and Trestlebridge

Image via LOTRO-Wiki.com.

From Lone-lands you run all the way back to Bree, then north to North Downs, a place you don’t recognize from the books and therefore know little about. Here, the forest is coniferous, but the fields are wide and meadow-like.

Image via LOTRO-Wiki.com.

The first town you arrive in is Trestlebridge, where the Trestlespan crosses the gorge between Bree-land and North Downs. Here, there are more players than in Ost Guruth in Lone-lands, but less than at the Forsaken Inn, and the tone among them is harder. Sometimes, you must race other players to click on an item necessary for a quest or to pick up a needed object in the landscape. Few let other people go first. Now most players are also organized in groups, called kinships. Not all kinships are popular, especially those who do not speak English.

Soon after you reach Trestlebridge, orcs from the nearby camps, real orcs, not just small goblins, raze the town and leave it burning. From then on ashes falls through the air like snow in Trestlebridge for as long as you stay in the game.

Berit Ellingsen’s novel Not Dark Yet was published by Two Dollar Radio in November 2015. Berit is the author of the short story collection Beneath the Liquid Skin (firthFORTH Books) and the novel Une Ville Vide (PublieMonde), with work in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, SmokeLong Quarterly, Unstuck, Litro, and other places. Berit’s stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the British Science Fiction Association Award. The author divides time between Norway and Svalbard in the Arctic, and is a member of the Norwegian Authors’ Union.

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