The Waning of Men

Pull out your pack and head on down to the Prancing Pony for some great Role Playing (try to stay in character)!

The Waning of Men

Postby Sandor » Mon Jul 09, 2007 7:11 pm

“It needs but one foe to breed a war, and those who have not swords can still die upon them.”
– Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan, The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 5

Enregion threw one last glance inside his humble stone house, before closing the door behind him. Carrying his heavy pack over his shoulder, the dark haired 6’1 well toned man made his way down the carefully paved street. He was wearing a sleeveless silver tunic, long dark brown pants, and light sandals. The overwhelming summer heat was already causing him to sweat, as he kept looking down to the ground, trying to avoid the blinding sun shining in the clear blue heavens. The street was busy as usual, with all sorts of figures walking back and forth, minding their business. One of the figures attracted Enregion’s attention, making him look up, and follow it for a few moments as it was coming towards him. It was a fair looking woman, clad in a bright blue gown, which highlighted some of her feminine features. She smiled to Enregion as she walked past him, or at least he imagined she did. But his thoughts quickly turned back to his main duty, as he finally arrived at the extravagant port of Dol Amroth. The sight did not astound him any longer, for this port was now his second home. He had been serving as a crew member aboard Willhound’s Folly for three years, ever since he graduated from one of Dol Amroth’s public academies. Enregion had just recently been given the Lookout duty atop the medium-sized ship’s main mast.

Climbing aboard the ship, Enregion was greeted warmly by some crew members, and ignored by others. Ever since Aedorn the First Mate had an affair with the Quartermaster Daegon’s wife, somewhat of a rivalry developed between the crew members. The average crewmen essentially broke into two camps, each showing their support for either Aedorn or Daegon. Enregion stood by the latter. The Captain attempted to mend the problems, but to no avail. He dared not replace such a fine crew either, so he let them be, hoping the tension would be loosened with time. Needless to say, it hadn’t.

Enregion made his way to his bedchamber on the lower deck, which he had to share with three other crewmembers. He unpacked his bag, arranging his spare set of clothes neatly on the bed, and placed everything else underneath. “Good afternoon Seanor!” he greeted his good friend on the way back to the main deck.

“You’re late boy,” Aedorn gave Enregion a stern look. “If you try to pull off something like that again, I’ll cut your wages in half, you hear?!”

“I’m… I’m sorry… Sir,” Enregion barely let out, clinching his teeth with anger.

“Now go up there,” the First Mate pointed to the crow’s nest, “we’re leaving within the hour.” With that, Aedorn dismissed his Lookout, and made his way to the Captain’s cabin with some urgency.

Enregion then began his slow climb to the top of the main mast, and seated himself upon the spacious wooden platform. According to Daegon, his first shift should last no longer than ten hours.

Out of the corner of his eye, Enregion saw the group of merchants climbing aboard the ship, just before they were off and on their way. Their garments were bright and colorful. He even thought he heard the jingle of their purses from so far below. These men were carrying seemingly valuable merchandise, and found Willhound’s Folly to be the cheapest and most efficient boat to carry their goods to Umbar. Enregion was rather excited to visit the town, heralded by many he knew as having the finest taverns in all of Gondor. He’d also learned that long ago, the town used to be an outlaw haven, housing some of the most fearsome pirates in the seas. But that was before Gondor officially took control of the region, and enforced its ways and culture upon the locals.

Enregion’s eyes were trailing the eastern horizon as the sun was setting behind him, welcoming the coming of night. His shift was not over, yet he felt exhaustion nonetheless. His eyes closed as sleep crept over him, and he dozed off into a dream…

…He was walking in the well tended garden of his small home in the northern part of Belfalas, chasing butterflies and laughing, when he heard the soothing tone of his mother not far behind.

“Happy birthday, dear Enregion!” she hugged and kissed him on the cheek, as he leaned upon her. “You’re already three! Who would have believed!” she tickled him, making him roll on the grass, laughing. “Come into the house, I made you something very special for breakfast,” she smiled, and he ran ahead of her to their home.

When he saw what the breakfast was, Enregion lit up with joy once more. A wide range of fruit was laid on the table, including apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and many other types of berries and fruits. Enregion’s mother always had a hard time finding her son’s favorite snack, but she had sacrificed much to make this breakfast for him on his third birthday.

“Go on now, eat it,” she sat on a low chair, and watched her son enjoy the delicacy.

“Mama, where is father?” Enregion suddenly inquired midway through his meal. Her facial expression turned from happy on to a grave one. Just as she was about to speak, a man stormed into the house.

“Papa!” little Enregion exclaimed, running over to his father, attempting to hug him. But he would have none of it.

“Come on, gather your things, woman! We have to leave now!” the man yelled.

“What have you done now, Emarion?!” his wife questioned.

“I told them I would have the money by next week, but they wouldn’t listen,” he was genuinely afraid, and even Enregion could see it.

Suddenly, the loud sound of hooves could be heard outside the house. “They’re here!” Emarion cried. “Take Enregion and the horse, and go! I’ll try to slow them down a little!” he pushed his wife and son out the back door, and towards the stables.

Both Enregion and his mother were now crying, as they heard the horsemen break into the home, and confront Emarion. She propped Enregion onto the pony, and urged it westword.

“Mama?” Enregion burst in tears, as he was riding away, leaving his mother behind.

“I can’t leave him, my dear. I just can’t!” she exclaimed, and rushed back into the house, to young Enregion’s faint cries. He could hear her scream as they were being burned, even as he was speeding away…

Enregion awoke sharply, tears upon his face, and sweat all over his body. A man was standing before him.

“Take hold of yourself, Enregion! What is going on?” the young sailor questioned.

“It’s… it’s nothing.” Enregion wiped his tears and memories away with his right hand. “Is my shift over now?”

“Aye, that it is. Go get yourself a drink, you sure seem like you need it.” The man took Enregion’s place, as the latter returned to the main deck…
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Postby Claymore » Tue Jul 10, 2007 5:46 am

Ishkan woke up from his light slumber early that evening. He threw a look at the sky.
Too early yet to take a look at that fat merchant's house.
He scrambled out of his improvised shelter and pushed his dirty, matted hair out of his eyes. He was a rather tall youth with the hungry look of someone who seldom ate enough. His raven-black hair (although it now seemed more brown because of all the dirt) and his dark-brown skin indicated that he was of Haradrim decent but his grey eyes, seldom seen among pure-bred Haradrim, told of some Gondorian blood too.

He stretched out and tried to work out the knots in his muscles, from a day sleeping in a cramped shelter.
Maybe I should pay a visit to Ciryon the Scholar.
It had been a long while since he had seen the old man. Before his mother's death, six years ago, Ishkan had visited him almost daily but after Ishkan's mother was killed he had to take care of himself and the visits became less and less frequent. The kind old man had taught him his letters and his numbers and had learned him to speak Adunaic, rare abilities for a street-urchin like him. The other street-kids had often mocked him for that and for his cautiousness, calling him the 'Apprentice'.
Look where it brought them Ishkan thought sourly.Dancing at the end of a short rope and charged with murder or worse.
He made his fingers crack and wiggled them. They were long and slender almost like those of an elf.
The fingers of a thief he thought mockingly. He shrugged. He should stop daydreaming. If he stayed here he might draw attention and discretion was one of the most important abilities in his craft. He checked his daggers and his hooks and set out in the streets of Umbar.

Night was quickly falling and as the more respectable citizens of Umbar disappeared the more dangerous inhabitants took the streets over from them. Ishkan headed for the Fisher's district where Ciryon lived. Once arrived to the old man's tiny but neat house he knocked on the door. As soon as the old scholar saw who was before his door, he threw it wide open and gave the youth a hug.
-Ishkan what a nice surprise! By the Valar's grace, you've grown again. How long has it been since the last time?
- A month or so I think.
-Come in, come in.

Ishkan did as the old man said and looked around. Whatever would happen this would always be his second home. Ciryon had disappeared in the kitchen and reappeared a few minutes later with some soup.
- Ah Ishkan, it's nice to see you again. Why don't you come more often like you did when you were younger.
-I haven't much time now and I don't want to draw attention to you. It's best for you not to be associated with someone of my profession.
- Why don't you become an apprentice then? You can work hard and you can read and write, a thing that can't be said of everyone.
-Craftsmen don't take sixteen years old apprentice. And by the way, I like my freedom.
Ciryon sighed. Then he suddenly brightened up.
- But now I think of it, I found something that might interest you.
He disappeared and came back a minute later with a medallion.
-Do you recognize this?
Ishkan paled.
-Where did you found it?
-A little boy sold it to me. He had found it on a body that was floating in the harbour. Why? Do you recognize it?
-My mother's murderers wore exactly the same.
-I'm sorry Ishkan. If I had known I wouldn't have shown it to you. I didn't know it would bring back unpleasant memories.
-It's alright. But I have to go. Thanks for the soup.
Once outside, Ishkan stalked away absorbed in his thoughts. Maybe if he could find the location where the body had been floating he could trace the man back to his companions. Maybe he could at last avenge his mother's death.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:45 am

A lone man slowly paced the ship’s deck, gazing absentmindedly out at the darkened sea. Night had fallen several hours ago, and all was quiet aboard the Dolphin’s Song—as quiet as it got, anyway, considering the ever-present sounds of boards creaking and canvas occasionally snapping in the breeze. Besides himself, the only people on deck were two sailors set to the night watch, and a silhouetted figure perched atop some cargo crates near the prow, gazing up at the sky. Thorion smiled slightly as he headed that way. The youth was looking at the stars intently, occasionally looking at a small compass hanging from a chain or bending over a small book and making some notes by the light of the small oil-lantern that sat nearby. “Rand,” Thorion called out, but there was no response. “Aerandir,” he tried again, with similar results. After a few more attempts, with the youth still not paying him any mind, Thorion finally gave up and said pointedly, “Aerluin.”

The youth’s head snapped up suddenly, eyes flashing in the flickering lantern light. “You’re not supposed to call me that!” The cry of protest was punctuated by the sound of her feet softly hitting the deck as she jumped up.

Every ship had its secrets, and the best-kept one on the Dolphin’s Song was standing directly in front of him, with blue eyes that appeared almost as dark as the sea itself in the dim light now glaring at him in annoyance. Thorion merely smirked in response and said, “I had to get your attention somehow. You were completely ignoring me. And no,” he continued, cutting off her argument before she could start, “we’re not so close to land that anyone who doesn’t already know can hear me, so you have nothing to worry about.”

Aerluin scowled, knowing full well that he was right. “You can be so infuriating sometimes, Thorion.”

“If I am, it’s only because of you rubbing off on me,” Thorion retorted. Aerluin smacked him on the arm, but she laughed, and so the argument was over. She never could stay mad at him for long anyway. After all, he was her closest friend among the crew, and had been so ever since she had first come onto the Dolphin as a frightened young girl.

Of course, at the time, they hadn’t known she was a girl; Aerluin’s loose-fitting clothing, and a voice that had remained a little low for a female had sufficiently hidden that, as had the ragged haircut she had hastily given her thick, dark brown locks before boarding. That knowledge hadn’t come until years later, when an accident with one of the riggings had knocked her unconscious into the water; she hadn’t awoken before being pulled onto the deck, and so her secret was finally exposed. No one among the crew had been more shocked than the captain, Brandhir—except for possibly his son. It had taken Thorion several months at sea to begin acting normal around her again after that, and even though their friendship had survived, even thrived since then, it had never been quite the same. Though perhaps that was a good thing, Aerluin thought, remembering the roughhousing that Thorion had often instigated back when she had merely been like a brother to him. Though she stood nearly as tall as him and was quicker on her feet, brute strength had almost always gotten the better of her.

“So how are the calculations coming?” Thorion asked, bringing her back to the present.

Aerluin smiled. Under her tutelage with Master Ciryon, the ship’s navigator, she’d found she had a knack for reading the ship’s navigational charts and judging their position by the stars, and that apprenticeship had been one of the reasons she’d been allowed to stay. “If they’re correct, I believe we’ll be in sight of Dol Amroth by dusk tomorrow,” she replied.

“That’s good to hear,” Thorion replied. He paused, then added, “The captain wishes for you to accompany me onto shore this time.”
Last edited by shieldmaidenofrohan on Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Sun Jul 29, 2007 8:45 am

Aerluin blinked in surprise. “Why would he give such an order?” She very rarely left the ship in port, and never in Dol Amroth.

Thorion glanced around, then lowered his voice. “Before leaving Umbar, he heard some disturbing rumors about trade tariffs that are to be established for goods shipped from that port. If this is true, the merchants of Umbar will lose a great deal of profit on paying the tax. My father, Argon and I have agreed to split up and see what we can learn in the port and nearby taverns.” Aerluin was shocked to hear this, though it made sense that Brandhir would wish for his first and second officers to learn more. “But he does not wish me to go alone,” Thorion continued.

“But why me?” Aerluin asked. “Surely you’d wish for one of the others—a better fighter, if need be.”

“Because,” Thorion replied, “you pick up on things that us men don’t. Feminine intuition, if you will.” Aerluin opened her mouth to protest, and Thorion quickly added, “You won’t have to say a thing. Just listen, especially for what’s not being said.”

“I… I won’t have to wear a dress, will I?” she asked.

Thorion laughed, knowing he had won. “Now that would certainly draw too much attention.”

“Good, because if it came to that, I’m sure you’d look prettier in it,” Aerluin retorted with a smirk.

“Not at all,” Thorion replied in all seriousness.

A bit of an awkward pause followed; Thorion looked embarrassed, while Aerluin simply looked uncomfortable. If the situation had been different, perhaps… But she would not jeopardize her position on the ship, nor his, by allowing herself to admit to anything more than a simple friendship between them. Brandhir’s condition in allowing her to stay on the crew was that any crew member who attempted to take advantage of her, either physically or through unwanted attentions, would be thrown off the ship. Thorion had received no special treatment in earning his position as second officer, and Aerluin doubted that Brandhir would make an exception for his son in this matter, either. “The tavern girls had better not start flirting with me again,” she finally said, attempting to dispel the tension through humor.

Thorion grinned, remembering the last time they had been on shore leave together. “If any of them try it, I’ll simply say that you’re too shy to deal with women.”

“And let’s hope they don’t take that as a challenge,” Aerluin muttered under her breath before brightening up. “Of course, if I’m not interested, the lovesick wenches will likely turn all their attention onto you.”

“See? With your razor-sharp wit to protect you, I’m sure you can handle anything in the tavern. You’ll be fine, Rand,” Thorion said with a laugh, reverting back to his usual name for her as he suddenly grew serious again. “I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise. I doubt we’ll even see him.” Aerluin nodded; Thorion was one of the few who knew why she’d joined them in the first place, and she had no doubt he’d be cautious with her because of it. “Make sure you’re ready to go once we’ve made port,” he continued. “I’ll be waiting.” With that, he continued down the deck to check on the crewmen on watch. Aerluin watched him leave and quietly sighed to herself, then shook her head and made her way below deck. She needed to double-check her calculations for Ciryon to see in the morning, and to try and prepare her mind for the next night—there was nothing that she feared more than going home, and having to actually enter the city this time would take all the courage and cunning she possessed to get her through it.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:24 am

Celondir sighed as he flipped through the pages of the cargo manifest in his cabin. There was still room in the hold for more cargo, but today had been the cutoff for them sailing. There were some perishable items that had to be dropped off at a small port on Tolfalas, and Celondir wasn’t about to have to pay for them. He could tell that the crew was still agitated over having to go over the ship three times looking for rats. Even so, Celondir had placed that shipment in the best part of the hold, and had remanded the expensive shipment of ale to lower section.

Shipments had been lighter for the last two trips to Umbar, and Celondir worried if this was starting a trend. All of the tension between the two ports was beginning to take its toll on the shipping industry, and for that Celondir leaned back in his chair and sighed again.

The return voyage from Umbar the previous month had left Celondir with his first loss after buying supplies to fix the secondary mast after the Willhound’s Folly was caught in a storm that ripped the secondary sail clean off and damaged the mast as well. He quickly added up the expected income for this voyage and was glad to see that he would be able to at least recoup his losses, but he wondered how long the Folly would be in Umbar trying to reload.

“Come in,” Celondir said as he heard a knock on his door.

The door opened and Aedorn stepped into the room. Celondir noticed the perpetual grimace that had been on the man’s face for months now, and Celondir knew the reason why. “What is it Aedorn?”

“The new sail is doing well, but I still say that we should have completely replaced the secondary mast,” the First mate said. “If we are caught in another storm we could suffer more damage.”

“I am well aware of that,” Celondir answered. “I believe we’ll be able to find a mast in Umbar and have more time to replace it there. You know as well as I know that we will be hard pressed to find a full cargo coming back.”

“I’ll help with looking for freight if you need,” Aedorn offered reluctantly.

“No, no I’ll have Daegon help me there,” Celondir answered. He couldn’t help but notice the other man’s face darken, but Aedorn quickly changed his expression to one of indifference.

“Very well,” Aedorn replied. “There is one other thing,” he added as he passed a piece of paper to Celondir. “Here is the list of crewmembers and birth lands that you requested.”

Celondir took the paper from Aedorn and scanned over it quickly before placing it in a drawer in his desk. “Thank you Aedorn,” Celondir answered. Aedorn bowed and left the room wondering why the Captain wanted such a list.

Celondir opened up another drawer and pulled out another folded up piece of parchment after Aedorn was gone. He then pulled the crew list back out, and placed the two parchments side by side on his desk. He studied them for a long time before he pulled out a quill and began making notes on the one piece of paper.
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Postby Quimrill_Renctar » Thu Aug 02, 2007 12:18 am

Cameron cast an askance glance at the young sailor as he planted both feet on the boards of the deck. The rope he had used as his elevator was rapidly drawn up and three cannon balls lashed together returned with managed speed -from above- to the deck.

“Anythin’ of interest crow?” He barked, making the young man jump and spin around.

“Nothing sir,” he replied smartly, “All is clear and smooth sailing.”

“Good,” Cameron came closer and slapped him heartily on the back, “Though twixt the two of us, I could here you snoring all the way down ere.” The sailor’s eyes widened in alarm and he opened his mouth to make his apologies. “Eh, don’t carry on, just don’t let it ‘appen again and I won’t have to strap you.”

“Sir, I…” The watchman started to speak.

“Enregion, you’re a good sailor,” Cameron grinned as he interrupted him again, with another slap on the back. He walked the younger man toward the galley, “I don’t expect to ‘ave to talk to you again, you know that, now, go on and get yourself a drink, look’s like you could use one. I’ll be seein’ you later.”

Enregion nodded gratefully and left the main deck as Cameron turned his eye on the rest of his domain. With the captain in his cabin and the first mate bellow decks somewhere the boatswain saw to the working of the crew. Of all the crews Cameron had worked with he was proud of this one the most. There were a good number of new hands but many were four, five, six, or more voyage veterans of the Willhound’s Folly. Enregion was one of those veterans, even if he was young. Cameron had known many younger seamen, but few who took to the waves and the sailor’s way of life as well as Enregion. He was one of the few that had remained with the ship and Captain Celondir for such an extended time.

“Loosen the tack on the stern! Keep an eye on the aft mast!” He bellowed at a couple very busy looking seamen, “Let ‘er flex a bit or we’ll snap her clean two this time. Baral, get these pegs stowed under the gunnels before I beat you with ‘em. You awake up there?” Cameron turned his face skyward and saw a hand wave at him over the edge of the crow’s nest.

Satisfied that everything was sufficiently busy and efficient. Cameron busied himself examining the repairs made to the aft secondary mast. As he ran his hand along the taught ropes that encased the crack in the timber his mind wandered ahead of the prow of the Willhound’s Folly to the port of Umbar. His mother knew about what month he was meant to return and would make sure that the money lasted well past then. He thought of the padlocked chest under his bed, which held his pay for the last five months.

He knew that on this trip the Willhound’s Folly wasn’t carrying a full cargo. It didn’t affect his pay much for now, but he couldn’t help thinking that the day might be coming when he would have to start looking for another way to put food on his mother’s table and a roof over her head. There weren’t many options for a seaman who didn’t know anything else then the sea. There was always the army, but he often said that he would sooner turn pirate than join the Gondorian’s cone heads. If it came down to it, Cameron didn’t really know if that were true, but for now the idea repulsed him. Besides the sea was all he knew, and what he loved, and this ship was as much a home, if not more than any he had ever had.

Putting such thoughts from his mind, he focused on what his fingers were feeling instead. The crack in the mast was nothing small, but the oiled cords held the wood together almost as if there were no breach. It was good job, as well a job as they could manage. There was nothing more to be done for it until they reached Umbar, but he decided to have a word with Captain Celondir later about maybe putting on half sail for the time being.
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Postby Amethyst Jade » Thu Aug 02, 2007 11:00 am

The shadowed rainbow of dusk faded into nightfall as the sun sunk lower into the horizon and a fat, white seed took it’s place, low in the early darkness. Shadows leapt over and under ever nook and cranny of the empty plains, providing comfort and facade to those who most needed it. Nocturnal creatures removed themselves from slumber, hunting what they could; Nyaemei was such a creature. She slid from her beloved mount, Shadowember, and crept silently to a patch of vegetation where she had earlier seen movement. In an instant, a little white rabbit fell prey to her dagger, becoming the night’s appetizer.

Nyaemei made her way back to Shadowember, grabbing a small axe she had picked up from some thugs earlier that day, and flopped the lifeless rodent to her feet. There it lay for a few moments as she readied a fire to cook it. Then, carefully, she skinned it, put most of the blood in a case, and tied the meat to a spit. She would’ve gladly eaten the raw meat had there not been a fire. Barbaric yet only semi. Was there such a term for a lady? Doubtful, but then again, she had been known to do many things which she did not understand not cared about. She stared into the fire, seeing what she had only wanted to forget.

A scream rang through the air as she rode; it was pitiless, cold - dying, and yet it sounded oddly familiar. Nyaemei kicked the horse’s sides to go faster, urging it with every fiber of her being. Shadowember noticed the urgency, kicking the hard dirt behind her as fast as she could. Nyaemei swore loudly, in hopes of getting there faster, however the plains seemed to have heard her, and shrunk away slowly. She didn’t realize how close she was until she was right on it.

There in the center of the village square, hung a woman, bleeding profusely from large gashes in her neck, sides, legs, arms, and back. It was a sight for only the bravest, if that. Nyaemei, not being one of these, still had the heart, or there lack of, to gaze upon the pitiful sight.

‘Mother’ she thought, racing from her mount to the square, cutting down everything and everyone in her path, and all even those not in it. Blood boiling and temper flared, Nyaemei traced a crimson river around her mother, finally stopping when only three people remained. However, Nyaemei ensured that the three were unconscious for the final farewell.

She held her dying mother in her arms, blood staining not only her clothes, but also her heart. She knew she would never be the same, but why at the cost of her beloved mother? Sure her mother had been a bit harsh, but she had also been a refuge when all others refused to even look at her. Those once beautiful brilliant gold eyes were now a dull sandy amber, and her smile that had raised a thousand joys had long since faded. Yemeia gasped for air, her lungs collapsing every breath she took. Nyaemei knew that her mother was fighting mentally and emotionally, but physically, there was no hope.

“Mother, no!” she whispered hoarsely. “Mother, please, stay! For me! PLEASE! I cannot do this alone!” It was barely above a whisper as hot tears flowed freely from their once dry wells of hate. “You c-c-can’t,” she began to heave in large sobs. “M-m-mother, p-please!”

“Oh darling,” Yemeia rasped airily. “I lo-lo-love - ” And with no last breath she went limp in her daughter’s arms. Nyaemei stared in disbelief, breathing heavily, until it finally dawned on her. She sobbed onto her mother’s body for hours, muttering, swearing to find her father just to blame it all on him. Grabbing a torch from the fire, she screamed and threw it into the forest. With a sudden burst, she could the fire explode inside.

Chiding herself mentally, she stood, stretched out her lean arms and legs, and removed the meat from the spit. It was cooked a little too much, burnt a little bit, but it would do. She broke of a little for Shadowember, who backed away, whinnying softly. Nyaemei rolled her eyes as Shadowember chewed on a nearby scrub; now was when the real hunt began.

Shadowember whinnied quietly as her master proceeded without her.
“Shhh. I’ll be back in a few moments. Go to sleep, you need the rest.” Shadowember looked a bit withdrawn and huffed a bit, but soon settled down for a small nap. Nyaemei searched for nearly an hour, trying to hook any traces of animal prints, or even human prints.

Alas she found some after little effort.

When she had searched the surrounding areas, she came upon a small band of thugs who were singing drunk by a pathetic little fire. They were loud, and it would be easy to take what she needed. Apparently, these thugs were not amateurs. They much gold, food, and other treasures to be shared - most likely from a royal caravan around somewhere. In the corner, covered in shadow, she barely saw a hint of sacks.

When she reached them on the outskirts of their camp - still they had not noticed her - she searched the bags to find potatoes and other vegetables. ‘Could my luck get any better?’ She smiled inwardly, pulling on the sack. When she had successfully removed the first one, she peered into the second one to find much meat, dry, but cooked and ready to eat; deer, fish, rabbit, and other small game would make a fine meal. Again, she successfully removed the container and began to work on the third one, guessing it to be full of jewels and such. For the third time, a sack sat behind her instead of their original places.

She chuckled out loud. This was way too easy.

The drinking continued for an hour or so, and she waited for them to head off to bed so she could grab some drink, too. The four men stumbled to four separate tents, one coming dangerously close to falling into the fire, another stepping right into Nyaemei’s view. They were faced the opposite direction, but would’ve seen her otherwise. Thanking Eru, she watched as they all made it to their tents. A deep, husky voice spoke to the other three.

“We need to have somebody -” hiccup “- watch us for animals.” He laughed noisily as his mistake. “I mean watch for stuff! Cheers!” He raised another mug into the air, yellow liquid sloshing over the sides. “Argroff, you do it!”

The man that had nearly caught Nyaemei shrugged, turned, and found himself face to face with Nyaemei. She cooed seductively, him smiling drunkenly all the way. At the last instant she sliced his throat and barely caught him in time. He was immensely heavy and she couldn’t hold him up for more than a few seconds. She gagged at the smell of so much alcohol, laying him lazily on the ground.

One of the men called from inside his tent, “Argroff, have fun,” hiccup.

She kicked him hard in the gut, which resulted in a loud, gruff mumble and gurgle. Apparently, that was enough to satisfy the man, for he blew out his candle, still humming loudly.

Nyaemei grabbed what she could, put it by the other sacks, and walked a ways away from the encampment. Then, she whistled softly, entrancingly, and with moments heard hoof beats on the ground. She met Shadowember and led quickly but quietly to where her prize was. The horse seemed delighted and almost whinnied, but Nyaemei hushed her and began tying the sacks to Shadowember. After a few moments of somewhat struggle and a few retries, she set Shadowember back of to the camp.

With one last glance, she grabbed their weapons, made sure there was nothing else that she could take, and left. The gold coins were plenty to make it the Grey Havens and back - twice.

Upon reaching her camp, she untied everything, rearranged much, and made herself a fine meal. Then after, before sleeping, she retraced her footsteps back to the thug camp. Still, the men were snoring away loudly. But something wasn’t right. She hastily made her way to where she had left the man only to find him gone. A trail of blood and voices told her it was time to go. Leaving the spot with much speed and stealth, she covered up her tracks so they could not find her.

When she got back to her camp, she put out the fire, set Shadowember on a path with everything on her back, and readied her weapons. Racing back to the thugs, she found enraged men throwing childish hissy fits. They looked up when she cleared her throat, glaring at her. They went to grab their weapons, only to find them not there.

“Missing something, boys?” She grinned and swung her staff in many circles.

“Well you’re a pretty little face, aren’t you?” The leader said, walking towards her. She removed the covers off the blades on each end and tossed him a sword she found. She always won a fair fight.

Within minutes, he lay unconscious on the ground, bleeding in his left forearm and back. The other two had been tossed weapons as well, but will flexibility and speed of a cat, she prowled around them again and again, until they finally ran at her, misguided by their alcohol and anger. The first of the two ran at her and she dug the staff into the ground, jumping over him, kicking him in the back. He flew forward, while she blocked the meaningless blows from the second. She managed to sneak a dagger in here or there, wounding the brute. He fell onto his back as blood poured from his thigh, the size of twice her head. When she finished him off, the other came lumbering towards her, sword in one hand, torch in the other. She smiled.

Fire was her specialty.

Smiling, she darted to the right, snatching the torch from his left hand with hers. She threw it straight at him, and flung a dagger right after it. He lay flailing for a fleeting moment, and then lay still. Nyaemei took from the dagger, cleaned it off on the leader’s shirt, and grabbed a bucket of water. Why she didn’t leave him burning, she didn’t know why. She just saw it better to let him wonder the underworld scathed instead of not even there.

Within moments she had cleaned herself off enough to travel in, carved a small sun into the rock beside the leader’s head, and left, this time for good. It was the same symbol that she had on her torso, symbolizing triumph, along with the sun and her tribe. This way, he’d know who she was if they ever met up again. This way, she’d have a fait fight. After all, he seemed to know what he was doing - maybe he’d actually be competition if he was sober.

She chuckled at the thought and found her beloved mount some yards away. She was too awake now to sleep, so she rode through the night, arriving on the outskirts of Umbar the following dawn.
Last edited by Amethyst Jade on Fri Aug 10, 2007 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Sandor » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:54 pm

Willhound's Folly made its way south then east for the first three nights, arriving at the small island of Tolfalas. The Captain insisted that they do not remain anchored for long, and did not allow anyone to leave the ship while it lay in the port. They left only a couple hours after anchoring, as soon as the few perishable items were dropped off.

The voyage had been long, and seemed to have taken its toll on the newest sailors working for Captain Celondir. Ale was too scarce, as they could not afford enough to satisfy them each night, with all the uncovered expenses used to patch up the ship. The journey itself was rather uneventful as a whole.

Dawn broke on the thirteenth day to their journey, as Enregion struggled to stay awake atop the Crow's nest. He peered into the distance, rubbing his eyes a bit. Something caught his glance to the left of him, about three hundred yards east of Willhound's Folly. It was a rather small vessel, carrying a bit of cargo. A man was waving his arms upon it. The sails were those of a small supply ship. "Bumboat!" Enregion yelled from the top of his lungs down to the main deck. These small boats selling cargo and provisions to larger ships were all too common as one neared bustling port cities.

"Best prices in the Great Sea!" the man from the bumbout exclaimed, as his vessel drew nearer to the Folly. "Ale, wood, linen and chocolate! All for the finest prices you'll find anywhere!" the man continued to approach the ship, as Aedorn took notice, and gave a signal to four men behind him. Within moments, the four men appeared armed with heavy crossbows, aimed straight at the merchant now only a hundred yards away. The greedy smile quickly turned to fear and a look of shock, as the merchant rapidly turned his boat the other direction. "I'm very sorry, good sirs!" he let out, as his vessel made its way back east.

Enregion could not stop laughing at the top of the main mast. No matter how many times Aedorn would use the same trick, the actions of the unlucky merchant would raise a smile on his face. Then he looked south, and could see land on the far horizon. They would have to turn east as they come closer, and circle around the strip of land, and into the bay of Umbar. From there, their path was straight to the east, and to the port.

Willhound's Folly reached the busy port just after the sun had set that same day, and the smiles on the crewmen's faces were wide and plenty. The merchants were the only ones still acting as though they were unhappy or dissatisfied with the ship's hospitality. "Finally we can get off this dirthole!" Enregion heard one of them mutter to another, as he clenched his fists. After a few more things were taken care of aboard, the crewemembers would be allowed to go on shore leave...
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Postby Vaska » Sat Aug 11, 2007 2:36 pm

Vaska closed one eye and paused as she looked down the shaft of her arrow. Her target was a large pumpkin she had picked up at the market that morning then scraped away the hard outside layer of skin into a bulls-eye of sorts. Satisfied with her aim, she released the arrow which embedded itself a little high and to the left of the center.

Vaska blew out the breath she had been holding and rubbed the spot on her forearm where the string had slapped it with a small gloved hand. She then wiped a bead of sweat from her brow before choosing another arrow and adjusting her aim. It was a warm day in Dol Amroth and despite the shade offered by the large trees growing in the garden where she practiced, her efforts were making her uncomfortably hot. She heard light footsteps approaching behind her, but paid them no heed as she released the second arrow. This one found it’s mark.

“Excellent shot my dear!” Came the familiar voice of her father.

Vaska turned and smiled at him. “I thought you didn’t approve my shooting.”

“I certainly don’t. It’ll ruin your hands, but it was a good shot none the less.” He said good-naturedly, kissing his daughter on the cheek.

“I always wear gloves.” She said, holding up her hand as proof. “And who cares about the state of my hands anyway? Did you come out to watch me practice?”

“No, I’ve just come out for a breath of fresh air…and well, to have a talk with you.” The elderly man looked about the garden until his eyes fell upon a stone bench in the shade of an ornamental tree and indicated that she should sit with him.

Leaning her bow against a stone wall, Vaska removed her gloves and sat herself on the bench, arranging her long skirts with a casual movement. She then turned her attention to her father and could tell at once that he seemed distracted about something. “What is it Father?”

The old man ran his fingers through his thin grey hair causing it to sick up in all directions. “Well now…you see…is that a new dress?”

Vaska smiled. She knew he was only stalling, but had been secretly hoping he would notice. “Do you like it? I designed it myself.”

Her father looked her over critically. “Is that what they’re wearing these days?”

The truth was, Vaska couldn’t stand the current fashions among the upper class of Dol Amroth, finding them to be completely impractical and very uncomfortable. Instead, she had gone to the tailor herself and asked him to copy the more practical type of clothing the lower class women wore, but had them made in much finer fabrics. She was quite pleased with the results, but could tell her father was not so sure.

Their family had not always been a wealthy one, but Denisov was a clever man and had built his business up from almost nothing. In his younger days, he had traveled extensively searching for new methods and materials for creating fabrics and had brought his knowledge back home. As a result, their family was somewhere between worlds, not quite fitting in with the established upper class, but to well off to be considered middle-class. As a result, Denisov stayed ever conscious of how they looked to others in the hope of someday securing a place for his daughter among the higher-ups of the city.

Vaska however had no such ambitions. Her mother had died shortly before the age when she would have officially come out into society and been introduced to prospective suitors, but now her main concern was taking care of her father and the family business. She would never have told him, but over the last few years she had become quite resigned to the fact that she would live out her days as a spinster, and as far as fashion was concerned, comfort had become more important to her then appearance.

She smiled at her father again, not wishing to explain all these things to him. Instead she smoothed his hair and changed the subject. “Surely you didn’t come out here to talk to me about my dress. What did you have to tell me.”

“Ah yes. Well, I’ll come straight to the point. You know Olesome, the man I’ve hired to take our fabric down to Umbar?”

Vaska frowned at the name. “Yes, I know him. Salvia says he’s a scoundrel and a scapegrace.” Salvia was the old housekeeper who had been in their service since Vaska was a child. She was known to have all the latest gossip of the city and typically had an opinion about everybody.

“Now I don’t like to hear you talk like that, Vaska. He’s not a bad man…but I’m just a bit concerned. You see, the last two shipments I’ve sent with him have disappeared. He says pirates boarded the ship, and I’ve certainly heard enough rumors about such things lately to make me believe it, but the truth is, if we lose another shipment…well, we may find ourselves in a bad way.”

Vaska patted her father’s hand reassuringly. She knew him well enough to know that he had put away enough money that losing a few shipments would not mean the ruin of the family, but still her father had not become wealthy by taking lost funds lightly. “What do you plan to do?”

Denisov took her hand firmly and with a serious expression looked at her directly. “There is a ship expected in a few days with a sound reputation. The Dolphin’s Song, I believe. I’m going to instruct Olesome to arrange to transport our fabrics on it, and I’m going with him this time.”

Vaska’s eyes widened. “Father, you can’t be serious. You can’t take such a voyage. You’re…”

“Too old?” He finished with a good natured smile.

“Not that father…It’s just…you’re all I have left.” She said, looking down at his weathered hands.

“Now, now. I’ve made the trip to Umbar many times and there’s nothing for you to fear. I’ll only be gone for a few weeks.”

Vaska knitted her brows for a moment then suddenly brightened. “I’ll go with you!”

“You? Travel to Umbar? I don’t know…” It was Densiov’s turn to frown now but Vaska would not be dissuaded.

“You just said yourself there was nothing to fear, and I’m well old enough to travel. Most of my friends are married and have children of their own now. Anyway, I won’t take no for an answer. I’m going with you and that’s all there is to it.”

Denisov ran his hand through his hair again. “If your mother were here…” This was a sentence he started often, but never finished and it always meant she had won. Vaska smiled broadly and her dark eyes danced in the dappled sunlight of the garden. “Very well.” Her father said at last. “We’ll discuss our preparations for the trip later. For now lets see if Salvia has finished the evening meal yet.” Vaska kissed her father’s cheek, and the two of them walked through the garden to the house together.
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Postby Claymore » Wed Aug 15, 2007 9:01 am

Ishkan went to the harbour as soon as he left the Fisher's district.The fat merchant's house would have to wait. Since his mother's murder,six years ago, he hadn't heard anything about her killers. Now at last he had a small chance to learn something about them. Plunderers had probably stripped the corpse of everything valuable already, but maybe he could find a clue.

Once arrived at the harbour he began to follow the line of the docks, going from shadow to shadow almost unconsciously. Had anyone looked in his direction they would only have seen another shadow and maybe a flash of pale grey eyes.
He peered into the waters and in the dark corners of the docks, trying find the corpse but he saw no sign of it. He had already lined the docks three times and he was despairing that the militia had buried it when he saw at last a flash of pale, bloated flesh in the water. He went closer to the side. It was a hand and when Ishkan followed it's outline he saw the rest of the body. He'd have to take it out of the water but that wasn't much of a problem. He took of his breeches and his tunic and lowered himself in the water, hardly disturbing its surface. The water was cold and goosebumps appeared on Ishkan's arms but he had suffered worse. He swam to the corpse, making as few ripples as an otter. Ishkan almost gagged when he came near the body. It had already been lying in the water for several days and the stench was almost unbearable. He braced himself against the smell and grabbed the corpse by its hair.

After he had dragged it on the docks he quickly put on his breeches and his tunic and then began to examine the corpse.At first he found no trace of how the man had died but when he turned the body on its back he saw a small cut under the man's collarbone.

Clever. As effective as a slit throat, but less messy. Whoever killed him knew what he was doing

He began to search the man's clothes but he suddenly stopped. Someone was behind him.
-You 'll find nothin' on that un', kid.
Ishkan whirled around, a dagger ready to be thrown in his hand. The shadow behind him backed away, his hands held up in a pacifying gesture.
-Hey, hey! Calm down kid! It's just ol' Drunk Hy!
Ishkan relaxed and whisked his dagger back to its hidden sheath.
-Hyando, you startled me.
Hyando chuckled and came out of the shadow he had been hiding in. He was a middle-aged man with merry green eyes surrounded with wrinkles and an unruly mop of salt-and-pepper hair. Despite his nickname he was seldom drunk. He had gained it because he often pretended to be drunk to rob his victims of their purses.
-What were you searching on that macchabee? He hasn't anything interestin' to steal. His killers had already stripped him of everything valuable when they threw him in the harbour.
'You saw them?' Ishkan asked eagerly.
- Yes, why?
-Tell me.
The old pickpocket was a bit startled by the urgency of Ishkan's request but he complied.
-Well I was tryin' to find some nice spot to sleep when suddenly there appeared those three dark folks draggin' that corpse with them. They looked kinda dangerous so I said to myself. 'Ol' Hy, you oughta better keep yourself silent, if you don't want a second mouth.' But I couldn't suppress my curiosity, you see, so I observed them. I saw them looting that macchabee and throw it in the waters afterwards. I took a peek after they left to make sure they hadn't left anythin' worth somethin' but they had been thorough. The only thing left was a weird medallion but that was worthless.
-When did that happen and what did they look like?
- That must have been a week ago or so. One of them was a noireaud like you though I guess he was of the pure folk. The other two were of the usual harbour metis, with blood from everywhere.
-Anything else?
-Well I couldn't see much but they seemed to wear those same medallions as the corpse did. I might be wrong. It's kinda weird to kill your own folk.
-Do you have any idea where they came from?
-Well that noireaud guy had a desert accent like your mother used to have, the two others sounded as if they came from the West Harbour District.
A slow smile spread across Ishkan's face.

A clue at last

- Thank you Hyando. I've spared me a great deal of trouble.
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Postby shieldmaidenofrohan » Wed Aug 29, 2007 12:39 pm

True to Aerluin’s prediction, land was spotted as the sun went down the next day, and the crew of the Dolphin’s Song busied themselves with preparing to bring the ship into the harbor. The next day dawned grey and chilly, and by the time they sailed into Dol Amroth, a misting rain had begun to fall. For her part, Aerluin was glad of it, since it gave her an excuse to pull the hood of her cloak low over her face as she prepared to leave the ship, obscuring her features.

She couldn’t help stumbling a bit as she walked down the dock, trailing behind Captain Brandhir and the first mate, Argon. Thorion, who was walking beside her, looked over and grinned. “Walking like a true sailor,” he teased. “When’s the last time you took shore leave, anyway?”

Aerluin made some quick calculations. “Five voyages ago, I believe. One of the Umbar voyages.”

Thorion simply shook his head. “You need to get out more.” Aerluin shrugged in response. The furthest off the ship she’d ventured in all that time had been the docks, or the nearby food suppliers so they could restock the larders. She was nearly always one of the crewmembers who volunteered to stay behind and work on whatever repairs, either major or minor, the ship had incurred during its latest voyage. Besides having her reasons for not wishing to venture too far into the city, especially when they made berth in Dol Amroth, she’d had a genuine curiosity to know how things worked on the ship. As she’d gotten older and more capable of knowing what to do without being told, the sailors had been grateful for the chance for more of them to go into town and visit family, or spend some of their hard-earned wages on freshly cooked food, ale, and women. To repay her for staying behind, Thorion or one of the other sailors nearly always brought something back for her—usually some fresh fruit, since that was one of the things Aerluin missed the most while at sea.

The area just past the shipyards was crowded with vendors, usually dealing in things such as sailcloth, ropes, wood for repairs, or whatever miscellaneous supplies a crew would need for a long voyage. There were also quite a few taverns, generally of a seedier nature. Despite their reputation, these establishments did not lack for business—they kept their prices low, and so even the poorest sailors could afford to pass the time on shore. Because of this, they were also one of the more reliable places to gather information, since a variety of people from all the ports that Dol Amroth traded with passed through. As they reached the end of the docks, Brandhir looked at his son and Aerluin and spoke quietly. “Remember, find out what you can, but try not to bring too much attention to yourself. And especially try not to let it be known that we’re based out of Umbar. If relations between the two ports have chilled as much as I suspect, it could get you in trouble. You two should blend right in though, hopefully.”

Thorion and Aerluin nodded, and Aerluin began to understand, a little, why Brandhir had chosen her for this task. Though it could not be denied that the blood of Gondor now ran strong within the colonies of Umbar, several generations of occupation had only served to mingle it with that of the Corsairs’ descendants and even that of the Haradrim. As a result, the majority of Brandhir’s crew, who hailed from Umbar, were shorter, stockier, and had slightly darker skin than even the most suntanned Gondorian sailors. Brandhir, however, was a native of Dol Amroth by birth, and though his mother had been from Umbar, Thorion had inherited his father’s more Gondorian looks, save the dark eyes that were common in that region. Aerluin, of course, could hardly be mistaken for anything but a Gondorian, with her sea-blue eyes and hair that, though dark, was obviously brown. As for Argon, though he had also been born in Umbar and still retained the accent of that region, he had also come from a family of predominantly Gondorian descent, and his steel-grey eyes would help him to blend in as well. Brandhir wasn’t taking any chances on missing anything important based on potential bias against those from the colonies.

They parted ways with the captain and first mate at the end of the docks, and Thorion motioned for her to stay close. He explained that the taverns would probably be the best place to hear what was being said, and he knew of one nearby with a trustworthy proprietor. The harbor district was a rough place, however, and he didn’t want anything to happen to her. His chosen starting point, the Shrieking Gull, looked like it had seen one too many storms blowing in off the sea from the outside, but the inside was well-kept, though crowded, and the tavern wenches were dressed surprisingly modestly, compared to what Aerluin had seen in her limited experience. Once she and Thorion were both seated, a young woman whose pretty face was framed with the few dark ringlets that escaped her braid approached them. “Good evening,” she said politely, glancing from one to the other of them. “What can I get for you tonight?”

“Ales for both of us,” Thorion decided, “and I’ll have whatever the catch of the day is. Rand?”

Aerluin blinked, focusing on the present once more; the serving girl had looked, rather vaguely, like the elder sister she’d once had a lifetime ago. But there had been no recognition in the other woman’s eyes,, and so she knew that wasn’t possible. “Do you have stew?” she asked, careful to keep her voice a little deeper—it was already low-pitched for a female, so it wasn’t difficult for her.

“Mutton today,” the serving girl replied, and Aerluin nodded her consent.

“One more thing,” Thorion added as the woman turned to go. “If the owner isn’t too busy, I’d like to speak with him for a moment. I have a message for him, from an old friend.”

“Of course, sir,” she replied, dropping a quick curtsy and giving him a bright smile before heading back towards the kitchens. It wasn’t long before a balding man walked out, wiping his hands on an apron tied around his waist.. He had the weather-worn look of one who had spent many years at sea, and it was obvious that he had once been well-built, though much of the bulk had now traveled towards his girth. He walked with a pronounced limp, partially due to a wooden peg of sorts that served to replace his damaged leg below the knee. When he saw Thorion, his face cracked into a grin and he picked up the pace a bit. “It’s good to see you again, lad!” he exclaimed as he moved next to the table. “And how is your father doing?”

“He is well,” Thorion answered, smiling back. “Do you have a few minutes, to talk, Harlond?”

“Of course,” the big man answered. “Let me get your ales and I’ll be right back.” True to his word, he limped back a few minutes later, balancing a tray holding three frothing mugs of ale with surprising ease, and pulled up a chair for himself after passing out the drinks. “I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you as well, Thorion,” he said more quietly. “There’s a few rumors floating around here that I’d like to straighten out, in my own mind at least.”

Thorion nodded, then turned to Aerluin. “Rand, this is Harlond—he was my father’s first mate before Argon. Harlond, this is Aerandir; he’s part of our crew.”

Harlond reached across the table and shook her hand, seeming pleased with the strength of her grip. “Ah, yes. I’ve heard of you, lad.” Aerluin smiled back shakily, wondering just exactly how much he had heard, but Harlond had a relaxed manner about him that quickly put her more at ease. “So,” he said casually, still being careful to speak quietly, “what is it you wish to know?”

Thorion kept his voice equally low. “The last time we made port in Umbar, we heard numerous rumors that the king is planning on adding a heavy tax on goods to be shipped there from Gondor. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of unhappy people, especially among the working class. I was hoping you could verify whether that’s true or not for me.”

Harlond shook his head, a bit sadly. “Afraid so. The decree is expected to be formally issued anytime now, but in the mind of most folks here, it’s already as good as law. Apparently the reasoning is covering the cost of shipping Gondor’s precious resources to the colony, so of course the nobles and the richer merchants are all for it, since it’ll increase profits here.”

Thorion scowled. “No good will come of this,” he predicted darkly. “People there have been complaining for years that the Gondorians think they’re superior. It’s completely daft—Umbar was conquered so long ago that it’s as much a part of the kingdom as Arnor.”

“True, but you have to keep in mind that for many years, Umbar was held by the enemies of Gondor, and most of its citizens are of mixed blood. And so its people will never be as accepted as full citizens of Gondor,” Harlond pointed out.

Aerluin cautiously ventured, “I’ve heard that resources are becoming rather stretched between Gondor and Arnor. Is that why supporting Umbar is becoming such a difficulty?”

Harlond looked thoughtful. “It could be, lad,” he finally said. “Metal, especially, is getting harder to come by—the ancient dwarf-mines are all but dried up, and the Rohirrim are hardly any help there. Their wealth was always in their crops and horses.” He lowered his voice and glanced around. “But the mines near Umbar are still wealthier than what its people can use.”

“It always comes down to money,” Thorion grumbled. Though Brandhir had insisted that Thorion learn the business side of their trade, Aerluin knew that he greatly preferred shipwork to bickering over cargo prices.

“It always does,” Harlond agreed, glancing down for a moment. When he looked up again, he added, “There’s one more thing. Rumor has it that several of the merchant sailors coming out of Umbar are beginning to turn pirate.”

“We’ve heard no such thing,” Thorion stated, and Aerluin nodded her agreement.

“It’s not so close to Umbar, yet,” Harlond said. “More down in the Harondor region—they’re attacking the smaller settlements and the ships along the way. There’s talk of making a law that all merchant captains from the southlands will need to register with the government here in order to be allowed into the harbor to trade.” He sighed. “Your father’s a good man, Thorion, and I’d hate to see him getting mixed up in all of this. Honestly, it might be better for him to start working out of Dol Amroth again, and then he can at least be under protection of the navy here.”

“I’m not sure the crew would go for that,” Thorion admitted. “Most of them have family in Umbar, and if sentiment against the southerners is as strong as you say, it wouldn’t be to any of their benefit to relocate them to here. And you know the crew is like family.”

“Aye, that I do.” Harlond shook his head again. “Just something to think about. If tensions keep rising, I’m afraid the captain will have to choose between Gondor and Umbar. I know your family has ties to both lands, Thorion, but this isn’t something you want to get caught in the middle of.” He glanced behind him then, just in time to see the serving girl returning with their food, and pushed his stool back. “I’ll leave you two to your meal. Give my regards to your father for me.” With that, he limped off after exchanging farewells. Thorion and Aerluin ate in silence, both trying to process what they had just learned and trying to figure out what this would mean for their crew.
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Postby Elladan_Elfhelm » Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:31 pm

Celondir watched as the last of the cargo was loaded onto a wagon, and then smiled at the robust merchant who counted out a sum of coins and then placed them in a bag and handed them to Celondir. Celondir smiled and thanked the man for his prompt payment before turning his attention to his crew.

“Gather around!” Celondir shouted to the men on the deck. The men knew what was coming, and they hurried over to their captain. “We will be here for a few days it seems, and I hope to be able to permanently fix that mast while we are here. I need all of you to stay of out trouble, and report back in each day in the afternoon to find out when we will be sailing again.”

“Will you need us to help with the mast Cap’n?” one of the crewmen asked.

“Not for at least a couple of days,” Celondir answered. “Aedorn will inform those who we will need. I hope to find a completely new mast and be rid of this nagging problem once and for all.”

The crew anxiously waited for Celondir to finish his normal shore leave spiel before letting them leave. Most of the crew could recite his speech word for word, but they dared not do that in front of him, because the last man to have done that found himself swimming two miles back to Umbar. Celondir had overheard the man mocking him, but at the time had kept his silence until they had set sail out of Umbar on their way back to Dol Amroth. He called for a crew’s meeting two miles out to shore in which he brought the man out in front of the others. The lout thinking that he was going to receive praise from his captain had no idea what was in store for him.

Celondir had spoken for a moment or two about the hard working nature and bravery of the man. The crew had given a half-hearted cheer to the captain’s words, but those cheers had quickly died when Celondir’s voice suddenly changed as he began to give his shore leave speech in the mocking tone of the hapless sailor. The man’s face had grown whiter with each word from Celondir’s mouth, and his cries for forgiveness fell on deaf ears as Celondir grabbed the man and shoved him overboard.

From that day forth no one dared mock the captain’s words again, and several of the crew to this day made sure not to be too close to the railing of the ship when Celondir was nearby. Celondir expected the best out of his crew, and for those who gave their best he was a very fair man in paying them in return.

Celondir finished and drew the crew’s attention to Aedorn who had the usual task of passing out the men’s first half’s voyage pay. “Aedorn has your pay, and don’t spend it all on the wenches and ale,” Celondir said as he went to his cabin and to the money vault he had there. After locking it and the door to his cabin he left the ship and headed for one of the local taverns.

He pushed open the door of the tavern and found a seat at the right end of the bar. The barmaid spotted him and flashed him an alluring smile to which Celondir returned half-heartedly as he ordered an ale and some food. Celondir had forsaken the tavern maids after marrying his wife. He had fathered a son to a woman much like the barmaid that returned with his food and ale some years before meeting his wife. That son was almost a year old when Celondir found out about him, but the maid refused to leave Umbar and go with Celondir to Dol Amroth. He had no desire to marry the woman, but there was no mistaking that the child was his. Celondir saw his son once more on his next voyage a month later, but that was the last time. The child died three months later from a plague that swept through the city.

Celondir ate his food in silence as he listened to the conversations in the main room. He could hear nothing of significance, except for the ever increasing stories of turmoil in relations between Gondor and the people here in what was still called Umbar and not Southern Gondor by the descendents of the people before Gondor took over the city again. Even after years of Gondorian rule the majority of the people didn’t consider themselves to be Gondorians at all.

Celondir ordered another ale as he turned and rested his back against the bar. The maid soon returned and Celondir paid for food and drinks. She took the money from him, but as he was turning around she leaned forward and whispered into his ear. Celondir kept his expression stoic as he listened to young woman’s words. He caught her eye as she finished and leaned back from him while flashing that same alluring smile again.

Celondir rehearsed the woman’s words in his head, as he spotted a man wearing a faded brown cloak leave the tavern. Celondir finished his ale and left the tavern as well. He could feel the eyes of the barmaid on him as he left, and he wondered how much she knew about him. He expected that wouldn’t be the last he saw of her and her cryptic words, but as he caught sight of the faded brown cloak he set his mind on keeping the cloak and the man wearing it in his sight.
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Postby Sirion » Wed Sep 05, 2007 5:32 pm

Neither hot nor cold was Umbar, a place that Aelin found defied logic every single day. Or perhaps it did so only in his eyes; he saw men enough sweating, and heard men enough tell him he was doing the same. He truly hoped his body wasn’t going numb. That would prove…troublesome. This day was no different than the others, where Aelin’s vicious resistance to the weather, bred through a life of travel and climate change, allowed him to look around him and laugh at all the people sweating or complaining. Or at least, he would have laughed, had he found it funny.

The streets weren’t crowded, though many walked along the lines of dirt. Not unlike other days, Aelin found himself in an irritable mood. This day, however, had a better reason. The night previous he was returning to Umbar after a month gone. He just so happened to come across a rather gruesome scene. Four men; not all of them were alive. Not sparing any time for those he did not know, he made to track the person (or creature) responsible for the ordeal. He ended up finding horse prints leading to the very place he was now. An interesting thing, but the fact that he couldn’t track in a city truly set him off.

He’d just been to the stables to settle in his own horse, and seen no one around but the stable boy. Murder; in the wild, that wasn’t even a word, but still, that was what had occurred. Ale bottles and the stench of the live one’s breath told him a tale his insight fleshed out. Four men, drunk and ready to be taken care of; that was what they had been. As he meandered through the streets, not truly caring for where he was going, Aelin forgot about the night for a while. He wasn’t looking for a tavern just yet. There was no need this early in the day. His thoughts spun. Lately he had found little interest in doing anything, and he wondered what was wrong with him. “Vacation” wasn’t even on his list of possibilities. Every time he traveled it was a “vacation”. Perhaps it was…

Aelin’s face hardened at the thought, and he decided that now was a very opportune time to start looking around for a good tavern. He’d been in Umbar enough to know where to look, but the best one was on the other side completely, and he found himself suddenly very thirsty, for something stronger than water. He made for the nearest tavern.

Some would say Aelin was born with the power insight instilled upon him. Often was this put to the test. It seemed today was another one of those days. Aelin’s eyes settled on the door just as a man in a faded brown cloak stepped out. Aelin thought nothing of it, still moving towards the doorway, though he as twenty feet away. Then another man stepped out. He was tall, and though he was deep of skin and black of hair, his eyes and his physique betrayed the man of Gondor to Aelin. Not that it was such a surprise – Umbar was Gondor’s. What was surprising was that this man, who Aelin seriously doubted was a person who normally tailed other people, was following the Brown Cloak.

Now, Aelin knew neither man; he knew not to meddle in the affairs of others, but this drew him. He knew right off that the Gondorian was following the Brown Cloak. It was in his eyes. Hesitating for but a moment, Aelin pushed from his place before the door to the tavern. Maybe he’d follow them…just a little while.
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Postby Sandor » Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:36 pm

The full moon shone brightly in the dark night sky, as Enregion wandered the rough and unpaved streets of Umbar. He was first in the company of other crewmembers, but soon slipped away on his own. All around him were lifeless faces, deprived of all motivation and the will to make something of themselves. Those were mostly all the dwellers of the streets at night, save a few. Those few usually caused quite a bit of trouble every night. Enregion recognized a band of ill-intentioned men coming his way as he was walking on a rather unpopulated sidestreet. He nervously searched his mind as to what to do, but instead he froze on the spot, as the four men hastily surrounded him. As they drew their blades, Enregion noticed the leader had a cutlass, while two of the men were equipped with spiked clubs, and the fourth member of the band had a rusted dagger.

"Ain't wise to be walking the streets at night, stranger," the leader said calmly. "Now fork over that pouch at your side, scum." The man reached out his left hand, as the other three prepared to strike.

"Look here, I want no trouble..." Enregion pleaded, knowing full well such men seldom show remorse to their victims. With an instinctive reaction even he had no idea he possessed, the young sailor threw a swift and powerful punch to the band-leader's jaw, knocking him unconscious, and dodged a strike from the two men wielding the clubs. He jumped over the leader, and sprinted to the direction the men came from. He was still running at full speed moments later, as he looked back, to see the man with the dagger not far behind. Only a few feet, in fact. Enregion slowed down a bit, gripped the handle of his cutlass, and with one swift motion, unsheathed it and turned around, stabbing wildly. His blade found its way into the robber's gut. Enregion then pulled it back, and let the man fall, making a pool of blood beneath him. He looked towards the other thieves, and saw them running towards him as well, gaining ground. Enregion quickly sheathed his blade once more, and continued running to the other direction. At length, he came to a medium-sized tavern, and stepped through. To his relief, the tavern was having a busy night. The robbers would not find him here.

Enregion made his way through the drunken masses, trying to find a table, or at least an empty seat. He found neither. He suddenly caught a glimpse of a side hallway, and made his way towards it. At its entrance were two extremely large men. Enregion considered himself rather tall, and was one of the more muscular crewmen onboard the Folly despite his slenderness, but these men were nearly twice his width, and about half a foot taller.

"Five silver," one of them fired in a menacing tone.

"What is so special about the room beyond?" Enregion inquired, barely able to hear his own words above the loud chatter of the people occupying the tavern.

"Five silver!" The man fired again, more urgently now. After some hesitation, Enregion took the silver coins out of his pouch, and handed them to one of the tall men. His hand was even twice the size of Enregion's.

"What were you fed when you were young?" Enregion asked the man who took his money, but the latter ignored him, once more exclaiming "Five silver!" to a middle-aged man standing behind Enregion. The young sailor gave up, and continued on down the winding hallway. This better be worth it. I've already spent over a quarter of my hard earned coin! he thought to himself, still somewhat shaken from the robbery experience.

Finally, after winding down many flights of stairs, Enregion came to an arched doorway, wide enough for five able-bodied men, and nearly twenty feet high. As he walked through it, the sight left him breathless. To his right and left, there were wide flights of stairs leading upwards to rows upon rows of seats. They were circular, and encompassed the entire huge room. Enregion counted seven rows from bottom to top. As he climbed the staircase to his right, he saw what was in the middle. It was a large circular pit of sand, filled with a wide assortment of weapons lying about. The pit was about sixty and one hundred feet in diameter. Enregion also estimated that the stands could hold roughly two thousand people at full capacity. How an arena such as this could have been constructed underground, he knew not. He was still bewildered at the sight itself. At that moment, Enregion thought there were about five hundred people in attendance, as he took a seat close to a number of groups.

"Hear, hear! Noble men and women of Umbar! This day you will get your hard earned pay's worth, I promise you that!" a loud voice echoed throught the arena. "This night, you will see the man who will challenge Arena Champion Aratar in a week's time face off against two feisty men who had just come of age, in the prime of their lives! They hail from a tribe in Khand, and are rumored to be quite handy with a machete! Let us see if the veteran Reanor is up for the challenge! Bring them out!" the voice commanded, as two metal gates across from each other opened with a loud creaking sound.

Enregion saw the lightly armoured veteran race out of the doorway and into the pit. He grabbed a spiked mace with one hand, and a worn dagger with the other, and positioned himself in a fighting stance. But the two youngsters did not come out of their entrance spot. Finally, Enregion saw the two of them thrown into the arena by a pair of large men, much like the ones Enregion saw on his way in. To his amazement, the two did not even look of age. He guessed them to be about twelve and fourteen respectively. The younger one could be heard crying, as he lay on the ground. The murmurs in the crowd rose, as they felt they were being cheated out of their money. This could not be a fair fight!

The older youngster rose to his feet, and gathered his courage about him. He grabbed a machete that lay beside him, and launched himself wildly at Reanor, who in turn only moved out of the way, and swung his mace fiercly into the young man's spine, bringing him to the ground with a large thump. The veteran then kicked some sand into the boy's eyes, and hit him with the mace once more. And again. The youngster's back was clearly broken, but that did not deter Reanor from continually blasting him with the heavy mace. The boy's bones could be heard breaking one by one, and finally, Reanor picked him up, and held him up by the neck with his mace, before slitting his throat with the dagger, to the mild cheers of the crowd. Then he turned to the twelve year old, who was crying even louder now.

Enregion watched helplessly as the boy's life was beaten out of him, filling up with anger inside. How could these people enjoy this?! After it was over, the crowd demanded more. Most of those in attendance rose to their feet, and cried out for more, claiming they did not get their money's worth. Still disgusted with what he had witnessed, among the noise that filled the room, Enregion's ears caught an ongoing conversation behind him. How or why his ears chose to focus on it amid all the noise, he knew not.

"...All be ready for dawn?" one voice asked.

"Aye, it shall be. The damned soldiers won't know what hit 'em," the other replied.

"With the entire city with us, we will burn every Gondorian in Umbar!"

Enregion's heart beat faster than ever before at the sound of those words. It was as if the events inside the arena had never happened, for his mind had forgotten them, and now focused on this pressing matter. But as fast as he picked it up, the conversation was again lost to him, with the rising voice of the crowd. He threw a quick glance behind him, but did not recognize the source of the voice. If this were true, then Gondor's rule in Umbar will belong to the past. Enregion rose to his feet, and made his way out of the arena, and into the winding hall, not before casting a final glance at the gruesome scene in the pit, where the two young men had found their untimely end. He had to inform the authorities of what was to come at dawn. Then he thought about it some more: What was to come at dawn?
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Postby Vaska » Sat Sep 08, 2007 10:25 pm

Vaska stepped carefully out of the carriage raising her skirt with one hand to avoid the mud and accepting her father‘s arm with the other. It had rained the previous day and though a pale yellow sun had come out that morning, the city had not yet had time to dry out. Vaska was rarely allowed near the harbor and she paused a moment to take in all the sights and sounds. Despite the fact that the district was considered less then reputable, she found the hustle and bustle quite invigorating.

Denisov led her to a nearby tavern where Olesome was waiting for them just outside. “Olesome, my good man!” Her father said loudly, clasping him warmly by the hand. “What news have you?”

Olesome smiled, his moustache and beard parting to show strong white teeth. “Good news. Our place on the Dolphin’s Song is secured and we’ll be setting off in the morning. Come in and have a drink with me. We need to talk of other matters.” He added. Holding the door open for them, he nodded to Vaska as she passed. “Vaska.” He said politely.

Vaska frowned. It was a small matter, but her father’s other employees never addressed her in such a familiar manner, but then everything about him seemed terribly unrefined to her. From his unkempt hair and rough, common clothing to his harsh speech, he always struck her as a particularly course individual. That combined with the rumors she had heard from Salvia the housekeeper caused her distrust, and even dislike him. Denisov however, thought very highly of him and insisted there was no better man in Dol Amroth to see that their goods made it to Umbar.

The tavern was quiet at that hour of the day with only a few patrons dispersed throughout the room. The three of them found a table easily and drinks were ordered. The conversation turned to the rumored taxes and other political matters to which Vaska listened intently but had little to say. The whole matter seemed quite foolish to her, but she did not feel she was in a position to questions the King’s proclamations. Her father however, grew more and more irritated until at last he scooted his chair away from the table and with a deep sigh said, “Enough of this talk. If we’re to leave first thing in the morning, we’d best go home and prepare.”

They made their way to the door but in his agitated state, Denisov did not notice the wet boards outside the door and slipped on them. His ankle twisted beneath him with a sickening crunch and it was immediately obvious that he was unable to walk. Vaska and Olesome were able to get him to the carriage where the driver helped them to get him home. Once there, they got him to bed and propped up his injured leg until a healer could be summoned.

After fluffing the pillows behind his head and back, Vaska squeezed the excess water out of a cloth and placed it gently on her father’s ankle. He cringed as she did so. “Well, it looks like you’ll be going to Umbar on your own after all Olesome.” He said after a moment.

Vaska looked up at him in surprise. “Don’t be ridiculous Father. There’s no reason I can’t still go.”

He shook his head solemnly, “No Vaska. For you to go along with me was one thing, but not alone. Especially now with all this talk of new taxes and increased tensions between Umbar and Gondor…”

Vaska waved her hand to dismiss what he was saying. “Just politics Father, nothing more.”

“Politics like that can start wars. The history books are full of battles that were fought over less.”

Changing tactics, Vaska took her father’s hand and stoked it soothingly. “Yes, but that was very old history. No wars are going to break out in the next few weeks, and I’ll be fine going to Umbar and back. I know you worry, dear Father, but there’s no need.”

“Sir, it is my duty to watch over and protect your property on the ship. I shall consider it an honor to watch over your daughter as well.” Olesome said.

Vaska frowned at this, but Denisov seemed to take comfort in Olesome’s words. “If you must go then I want you to take this with you Vaska.” He said, pulling his dagger from his belt and handing it to her. She started to reject it, but he interrupted her. “I know you have one of your own, but it’s little more then a decoration. I want you to take mine. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s well weighted and of a more useful size. I was told it was made by dwarves, though I don’t know if it’s true.”

Vaska accepted the knife and could tell as soon as she handled it that it was indeed weighted much better then her own. With little more discussion of the matter, lest her father should change his mind, Vaska left his chamber and packed what she needed for the trip, including her bow and her father’s dagger, though she was sure she would not need them, unless it was to defend their goods from that rake, Olesome.

The next morning, Olesome was at their house early and drove Vaska to the harbor in his own cart. They spoke little as he led the way to the ship, and though Vaska found her heart racing at the sights and sounds of the docks and thoughts of what her first voyage might be like, they boarded the ship without incident. Olesome hurriedly led her toward her cabin passing some of the crew along the way. One boy in particular caught her attention though she wasn’t sure why. He was of average height with a somewhat slight build, but there was something about the way he carried himself that seemed strange to her. As if there was something familiar that she should know about him but couldn’t quite place. As she pondered this, their eyes met and she smiled at him. This seemed to make him very uneasy and he quickly looked away. Apparently this did not escape the notice of one of his companions because as she walked on, she heard one of them say in a sarcastic tone, “I think she likes you Rand!” This was followed by laughter.

Ignoring all this, Olesome led her below deck and down a narrow hall to a tiny cabin. A small porthole offered the only natural light and there were three bunks, one over top of another on one wall. Olesome looked awkward. “I arranged for this cabin when your father was to come with us.” Vaska glared at him and he continued. “There’s little room to spare on a ship. No one but the captain gets a private room…I could sleep on the floor.” As soon as he said it he knew this did not help the situation. “I’ll talk to the crew and see if there are any extra bunks in their quarters I could use.”

Vaska dropped her pack on one of the bunks and turned to him. “We should check that Father’s goods are being loaded properly.”

“Ah…yes.” He paused as if trying to choose his words carefully. “I think it would be best if you let me take care of that.” She gave him a hard stare which compelled him to explain. “I’m not familiar with the crew of this ship, you see. It’s been my experience that some ship’s crews…most of them in fact, are a little superstitious about women being aboard. I think it would be best if you stay below deck.”

“Below deck?” Vaska said incredulously. “For the entire voyage!?”

Olesome raised a hand to calm her. “At least until I get a better feel for the crew. You’ll still be able to see out the porthole.” He offered lamely.

Vaska sat down hard on the bunk and crossed her arms angrily in front of her. Olesome continued. “Please, Vaska, just be patient.” He said before leaving her. Vaska found this nearly impossible.
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