on: October 30, 2014 01:00
|(Naucoaran helped me with some of this first bit. Enjoy!)
Shrill screams pierced the air as the captives were brought out into the middle of the temple. Frayed rope bound their hands behind their backs, and they wore little more than burlap sacks over their thin, emaciated frames. In his large straight-backed throne of ebony, Sauron sat in his flowing robes of the same color. His face was hidden beneath his cowl, but his subtle laughter was heard above the noises of the crowd. A massive stone altar rose above those gathered on a rounded dais, mirroring the temple’s circular walls. Hooded figures surrounded the altar, holding blazing torches. Behind them was the inky blackness. No windows opened to the world outside or to let light into the subterranean-like chamber.
The altar itself was a sight to see. It rose from the ground on four legs as thick as a man, and the altar reached to chest-high on the tallest man among them. Red veins ran like blood across its ebony surface though the entire structure was smooth with no faults. The altar’s top was long and wide enough to fit ten men laying side-by-side. The prisoners were forced forward onto their knees in front of Sauron who pronounced their punishment as death. The truth was, however, that they were only guilty of not adhering to Sauron’s influence over their king Ar-Pharazôn and following his misguided beliefs. Some begged for mercy, the others remained defiant, the emotion on their faces brought into relief by the flickering light of the torches.
All of the captives were hauled up a small set of stairs and thrown bodily onto a pyre of kindle. By this point the fight had gone out of most of them - they accepted their punishment mutely as cattle before the slaughter. But one man and one woman fought their captors, hurling words of venom at Sauron. They too were thrown onto altar, and the guards touched the torches to the dry wood. Almost immediately unearthly shrieks filled the air, and the acrid smell of burning flesh.
From the crowd, a young girl cried, “Mama! Papa!”
Eärlossë woke with a start. She was panting heavily, and sweat had drenched her bedding, soaked her hair, and poured down her face. It was only a nightmare, she thought. Lissa stumbled from the wooden pallet and straw mattress that was her bed, and her feet hit the cold stones that paved the cellar floor. As of late she had made her bed down in the cellar of the Blowing Sail Inn, a respectable establishment which lay near the wharves on the Bay of Rómenna. The Blowing Sail typically served sailors who had anchored in the Bay or the renowned shipwrights who plied their trade. Few unsavory or genuinely dangerous characters were to be found, and Lissa observed them when she could . Travelers always carried tidings of faraway places, stories of the king and capital, of how the economy rose or fell, of incoming and outgoing ships, and other tidbits of gossip. She listened quietly as she went about her work, rarely questioning but always listening and absorbing. Occasionally, the young woman sat enthralled as grizzled old sailors spun their yarns of monstrous storms, dangerous corsairs, and sea monsters. For as long as she could remember, the passion for travel and the desire to leave Rómenna had coursed through Lissa’s veins. There was nothing for her here but her parent’s inn and possible marriage to any of the available local tradesman. But Lissa did not want to be wedded and bedded with a flock of children at her feet; she yearned for adventure, far beyond the Sea.
Lissa padded her way across the cellar to a basin of water. She took a cloth rag, dipped it into the water, and wiped the cool rag across her sweat-soaked forehead. It was only a nightmare, she reminded herself. She then changed into a clean shift and pulled a dull brown working gown over her head. Eventually she made her way upstairs, stepping quietly to avoid the creaky steps and emerged into the kitchens. It was still dark, and the inn’s cook snored softly on a bench besides the fire. Lissa slipped past her and tread lightly into the common room. No one was about at this hour so the young woman placed oak logs into a large stone fireplace, stirred the embers, and breathed a low fire into life. The flames licked the wood and soon took hold. She then lit the tallow candles ensconced along the wall so eventually a dull, warm glow filled the room.
Then, Eärlossë returned to the kitchen and made up a small plate of breakfast. She took a few warm rolls that were cooling on a wooden plate, ladled honey and cinnamon over them, and placed some thick-cut bacon on it as well. A small door separated the kitchen from an alley, and Lissa slipped out this door to watch the sun rise. The young woman enjoyed sitting among the docks and watching the sun as Arien began her ascent into the lightening sky. It brought her peace and time to contemplate before the hustle and bustle of the day began. She crossed the street of cobblestones and approached a guard standing sentinel-like with a companion on the edge of a jetty. He was handsome and wore the king’s insignia on his metal armor, but it was dented and had seen better days. His armor bore the markings of a captain, his companion’s the traditional emblems of lower-ranked soldiers. Such was the state of the guards and their captains in Rómenna that there was little money to pay them much less outfit them in proper attire, or so was the reasoning told to them by the King’s Men who all bore brand-new steel-forged armor and weaponry.
The captain turned at the sound of her soft footsteps, and a smile creased his handsome face. “Good morrow, my lady,” he said with a bow. “And how do you fare this morning?”
“As well as can be expected, captain,” Lissa replied with a smile. “I thought you and Avarion would appreciate some breakfast,” she continued as she doled out the food for the hungry men who soon tore into the food like hounds over a bone.
“What news today?” the captain Arandur asked as he placed some sausage between a split roll and devoured it.
Lissa looked around to survey bystanders, but the city slept at this dark hour save for a few other guards making their rounds. “Nothing new, except that there has been mass movement of our people from Andúnië. It seems people have been leaving in droves, but where they are bound or why they flee, no one really knows.”
Arandur frowned as he wiped grease from his lips with a dirty sleeve. “They flee for the same reasons everyone is ever called to flee. Fear. It does not bode well for those left behind.” A look of consternation passed over his face, like clouds briefly over the moon. “I fear the suffering of those who escaped will be visited upon those who did not.”
“There may be other ways to escape as yet unknown to those loyal,” she replied cryptically, lowering her voice to barely a whisper. “Ships do not only fly west to the green shores of Valinor.” A chill wind lifted the soldiers’ cloaks and teased Lissa’s dark tresses, and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “The wind bears those who wander, home.”
Arandur tugged his cloak tighter, then chanced a glance at the other guard nearby. He leaned in closer to Lissa, their faces near enough that the guard captain could smell the subtle soaps and oils that the tavern girl had bathed with earlier. “The wind bears dark words and ill tides. You should be more careful the words you speak outside the privacy of your home.” He glanced again at the other guard, almost imperceptibly fast. “It is dangerous times to be heard speaking hope for the Loyal. There are those who would do harm to you, and there may not always be one there to defend you.” His eyes shifted to look Lissa up and down, a quick inspection for defences or hidden weapons.
The young woman smiled even more broadly at Arandur and said, “Words hold the power of defense just as well as weapons.” She eyed the sword balanced on his hip and noted that if she tilted her chin, their lips would have met. “Words can cut, parry, and thrust as swords do, but they also make men reveal their innermost loyalties if employed correctly, as you have with me.” And with that, she took her plate, dipped her head respectfully to the captain and his companion, and went on her way. Lissa glanced one more time over her shoulder and said, “Have a pleasant day, captain.”
As Lissa spoke her final departing words, Arandur was somewhat flustered. Despite his warning the woman continued to speak in such a casual tone. “Be safe, my lady.” he finished after she turned away the last time and returned from whence she came. As she disappeared around the corner, Arandur turned to his partner and let out a sigh tinged with sorrow. “Come, the shift is over. Find rest and food, comfort is the arms of your wife.” He laid a hand on the guards shoulder to pull him from the jetty.
“And you too, captain.” Avarion spoke. “I’m sure your wife misses you, working as much as you do.”
“I am sure.” Arandur replied, his heart suddenly heavy and tone grim as thoughts turned to his wife and what awaited his arrival home.
Lissa returned to the inn to the low sound of voices in the common room. "Mornin' Lissa," called one of her regular sailors, a taciturn fellow old as winter and sharp as a midwinter icicle. He sat near the fire, his weathered hands warmed by a steaming mug of ale. “Come sit for a minute, I would have words with ye.”
Her aunt brushed by with a platter of food that she placed on the table in front of the sailor. “Away with you, Ingor! My niece would rather sit with that handsome captain instead of the likes of you,” she said with a chuckle. “So, what did the captain have to say today, niece?” she asked as she served the sailor Ingor hot cakes and sausage oozing with grease.
Eärlossë deposited herself in a wide wooden chair next to Ingor. “Nothing of note today,” she replied as she gingerly poured some hot cider and winced as some of it splashed on her hands.
Ingor’s brows creased anxiously. “That is good then,” he muttered as he put knife and fork to use slicing through the sausage. “We cannot trust him or any of the other King’s Men, especially when it comes to tonight.”
Lissa looked up sharply from blowing on her cider, and her aunt dropped the tray. It bounced off the table and hit the floor with a clatter. “It is not wise to speak of such things aloud, even this early in the morning,” her aunt chided, hissing through her teeth, as she bent and retrieved the platter.
“Arandur is a good man,” Lissa replied, quickly coming to the captain’s defense. “It is not he who we cannot trust, it is Morhesto, the king’s captain.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Black captain, his name means, but they call him Blackblood.”
Ingor nodded his head ponderously. “He was known as ‘the Black’ when I was your age. But he was dark in coloring, not in temper. Back then, he was a renown soldier and commander. Sharp but fair and just. The young lads all looked up to him.” Ingor was about to go off on a story about Morhesto when the door opened suddenly and slammed against the wall. All heads turned to the tall man who passed the door threshold, his cowl shadowing his face.
“Rui!” Lissa cried as she recognized the hulking form of her brother Eäruilion. She stood from her chair and poured some cider into a mug for him. “Here, drink this,” she said, pressing the cup into his hands. “What happened? I thought you were going to be here before the sun set, not after it.” As her brother sat himself in a chair near the fire, the shadows danced across his face, mirroring the shifting expressions of doubt, anxiety, and frightened. This did not augur well, Lissa thought. What has he seen? the young woman wondered.
[Edited on 10/30/2014 by Dinenlasse]
"There is no such thing as a geek, just those who love things the rest of humanity finds weird."
on: February 06, 2015 03:30
|[this is a joint post with Dinenlasse. Enjoy!]
“So, the ceremony is scheduled for the next Full Moon,” Artamacil heard his father say. “The Southern Tower garden is reserved for the night, as well as a barge, the most luxurious they have.”
“Good,” his mother chimed in. “I will start dealing with the orders of food, and flowers… Oh, and we’ll need to know the capacity of the garden, to know how many people to invite. It would be so ugly to leave out somebody important.”
“Yes, my dear. I will find it out,” his father agreed. “Son, now that it’s official you can invite her to private dinner. Well, not too private, of course, you will have to be accompanied by a chaperone. Not that we don’t trust you to behave appropriately, of course, but the tradition calls for it.”
“I know, Father,” Artamacil replied evenly. “I will not give the Ondonórë family no reason to doubt my integrity.”
“Good… good. You may take your leave now.”
“Yes, Father. Mother,” Artamacil bowed respectfully and did as he was told.
The next Full Moon… He couldn’t decide whether it was too close for comfort, or not. Anyway, it didn’t matter, the deal was struck, the choice made, the decision made. In fact, it had been his parents’ choice, Elentinwë, the youngest daughter of the powerful Ondonórë family, as a suitable bride for their eldest son, and Elentinwë’s parents had agreed that it would be a favorable match - and then it had been up to the both of them to decide whether they approved of their respective parents’ preferences. They did. The girl was really very young, just introduced to the society in the previous season, and as lovely as her name - “star-spark”. She was gentle, and docile, and timid, but when her face would light up with a smile… Artamacil felt the corners of his mouth pull up. Such childish joy was infectious.
All in all, she had been a good choice, and he could just assume she felt the same way. Now that the engagement was official, they would appear in the society as a couple. Accompanied at all times, of course, as was proper, but they’d be finally able to have a private conversation. More or less private, that was. Artamacil had not the slightest idea what they’d talk about, but he suspected she’d be interested in the usual female stuff - dresses, jewels, fans, ribbons, small hairy dogs… Maybe he should get her a necklace as a gift? Yes, she’d definitely like that.
Entering his chambers, Artamacil greeted his personal manservant with a nod, acknowledging the man’s respectful bow, and headed towards his desk to write a note for his intended.
“Saryondo, I need you to find a necklace of… let’s say - sapphires. Yes. Sapphires. For tomorrow. And while you’re at it, bring this note here,” he said as he finished writing and placed it in a scented envelope that had been prepared beforehand by his manservant for exactly that purpose, “to Lady Elentinwë, and attach it to a bouquet of… ummm… no, roses will be too intense…” he frowned.
“Perhaps white camellia, if I might suggest, My Lord?” Saryondo said.
“Yes, a very good suggestion. Adoration, perfection and loveliness - that is exactly the meaning I would like to send her. Thank you, Saryondo.”
“It is my pleasure to serve,” the man bowed, smiling happily.
“Depart now. The sun is high in the sky already.”
The issue with the gift successfully solved, Artamacil headed for the fencing hall for his daily sparring session with his fencing Master. Now that was the best part of his day, one he was really looking forward to!
On her way through a more prominent, less earthy part of town, Eärlossë paused in front of a large stone building. It had certainly seen better days, but as her eyes traced the carved finery of statues standing like sentinels along the path leading to the front steps, Lissa knew that it certainly promised better living than residing in the Blowing Sail. She checked her list again and knew this was the place she sought. This was the last location that required the message. In this house lived a family of silk merchants. Descended from high, noble blood, this family, though of the Faithful, had distanced themselves from their lesser-blood counterparts. Lissa straightened her cloak and tossed her hair. No use attending upon nobility looking like a seawife, she reasoned. Lissa ascended the stairs and knocked at the door. Long moments passed, and a bewildered servant appeared astonished at the pretty willowy woman with dark waves of hair and sea-grey eyes standing on the threshold. “My Lord Artalango or Lady Laurëlannë, please,” she inquired politely. “I am sent by a friend with a message for them.”
“Wait here,” the middle-aged woman said curtly - and closed the door.
Lissa tried not to rock back and forth on her heels as she waited, one of her terrible habits. Taking the coin in one hand, she rolled it across her knuckles having learned the trick as a young girl from a passing minstrel. The door reopened suddenly, and a tall man stood framed against a halo of golden light from the inside.
Artamacil was not happy to have been disturbed, not at all. Especially not to have been pulled right out of a fencing match when he’d been getting the upper hand at! But the servant had arrived quite distressed, saying there was some girl on the doorstep, with a message from somebody, and both of his parents had left home. So he had taken a deep breath, counted to ten, put down his sword - and headed for the door dressed in his hardened leather training armor. Had the visitor been of a noble birth, he would have taken a quick bath and changed before seeing them, but there was no need for that detail on behalf of a servant.
He was determined to get back to his fencing as soon as was possible, so he stood on the doorstep, holding the door open with one hand and ready to close it the moment he could.
A slender young woman stood there, quite simply dressed, with long, dark, messy curls. She was quite comely, he decided. Her complexion had a healthy glow, and her grey eyes could have been captivating if they hadn’t been a little too close to each other.
Something golden among her fingers attracted his attention. A coin? He hoped she would not turn out to be a beggar. To be pulled out of a fencing match for that? Such a waste of time.
“Yes?” he asked impatiently. “I was told you had a message to deliver.”
Lissa sized the man in front of her and immediately decided she could not like him. He clearly was inconvenienced by her arrival, and he exuded an aura of self-confidence and arrogance. “I do, but only for the ears of the lord or lady, not the likes of you,” she replied, lifting her chin proudly. He glowered darkly, his brows furrowing in disgust, and stared down his nose at the girl as if she were a dirt-ridden street urchin. Lissa had to stifle a laugh at this. He was handsome, that was for sure, but he clearly believed in a high opinion of himself. “Where are the lord and lady?”
One of Artamacil’s eyebrows shot up at her question. That was not an attitude that would be tolerated in his father’s household.
“Apparently, they are not at home, girl. Whatever you have to say, you can tell me. And please do hurry up, I do not have all day,” he began drumming his fingers against the door frame.
She was unfazed at his haughty reply. “It is important that I find them. This message is for their ears only. Do I need to repeat myself?” Lissa responded, holding her ground. “Who are you that I could trust you with this information?”
This was unbelievable!
“You are welcome to come back any other time,” he snapped at her, positively angry, and took a step back to shut the door in her insolent face.
“Wait,” Lissa called before the clearly angry man stormed off in a temper. She could not afford to leave this message undelivered. “Have you heard the gulls crying?”
Artamacil froze in midstep, then pushed the door open again. Had he heard correctly? Had the girl really said what he had heard her say? It felt like dark stormy clouds suddenly gathered over his head and chased away the sunshine.
“They sound quite harsh today,” he heard his own voice, he felt his mouth move, but it didn’t feel like it was him - giving the answer he had learned long ago, but never truly expected to deliver.
Without another cross word to him, Lissa moved to give him the last golden coin. “Tonight,” she said quietly. She could not believe that he had known the response, but perhaps this man was their son. In that case, then, it was good that the coin had fallen into his hands. Now that Lissa accomplished her mission, it was time to go. She self-consciously brushed down her dress and turned to leave.
“Tonight? It can’t be that soon! There has to be given time to prepare in an adequate manner!” he objected.
Lissa rounded on the man and berated him as quietly as she could without attracting the attention of his neighbors. What little patience she had borne left her. “There is no time! The king has ordered his ships to sail on the morrow, and all ships in Rómenna are bound to him. Tonight is our only chance to save ourselves.” Fear suddenly crept into her eyes and reflected in her voice. “Preparations are already under way. And if you are not at the docks at dusk, then you will be left behind, you ignorant fool!”
She was dead serious about this, that much he could tell. Which meant - the rumors had been true. About the King having succumbed to the dark influence of Sauron, about his plans to attack the Valar… Artamacil’s father had been dismissing the disturbing news as propaganda, saying that the black was never as black as one painted it…
But Father had been wrong. For the first time in Artamacil’s life, he was facing the reality of his father being wrong about something. It was… unsettling.
It was useless to think about that now. The time was apparently upon them, and they had committed to go, as Faithful. He set his jaw.
“We will be there. At dusk. And I would appreciate not to be called a fool. Ignorant of some things, I might have been,” he admitted.
Perhaps she had been a little harsh, but fear drove people to say things they would not ordinarily say. “No, you are not a fool,” Lissa said somberly by way of apology. “A fool is one who refuses the sanctuary of eastern shores.”
He narrowed his eyes at the girl. She had a way of speaking her mind. Directly, without double-checking her words, without consideration of possible effects. Well-bred women were not supposed to talk that way. Neither were men, for that matter.
“Do you always say what’s on your mind?” he just had to ask her.
At that, Lissa had to crack a dry smile. “Only to people I dislike,” she returned, once again turning on her heel to leave.
“You must have a lot of those. Fare well,” he commented dryly, and shut the door. Fencing had to be postponed, he decided with a sigh. Packing. He hated packing. And with his manservant gone on that quest for the necklace and the flowers - that seemed so silly now - … Artamacil actually shivered.
The girl glanced over her shoulder once more. No, she decided, he was not a likeable man. He clearly deigned to acknowledge her existence, and Lissa never took to that attitude lightly. Nobles, even among the Faithful, believed their lives mattered more than those who they considered commonfolk. “All blood runs red,” her father had told her once. Lissa had been slapped aside by a nobleman’s reins as a young girl because she had stepped in his horse’s way. Tears flowing, she had sought her father’s comfort. “All blood runs red, and in the end, it matters not that we bear a noble title or none at all. We are all among the Blessed to live here in Númenor.” A tear gathered in the corner of Lissa’s eye, and she grasped a small wooden token that hung from a leather cord around her neck. It was in the shape of a ship, a small gift her father had given her that day. But now, now, Númenor was to be only a distant memory, just like Lissa’s parents.
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land, beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western seas...
In the Realm of Ulmo
on: February 16, 2015 11:03
|(This is a jp with Nif. Enjoy!)
Sunshine beamed through the crystal glass window and highlighted Inzilêth’s honey-hued hair. Reveling in its warmth, she twisted her body on the broad stone ledge and curled up in the corner. She balanced the open book on her knees as she huddled up against the cloak that served as a makeshift pillow. Inzilêth’s nimble fingers caressed each page before she thumbed to the next one. Books were her escape away from the boring and dismal life as the daughter of the King’s Captain. Today, she read a tome on Númenor’s flora and fauna, written by a wise woman of old. Some might find such a work tedious and unnecessary, but Inzilêth had a great interest in healing and lore. She had just found a comfortable position when she heard a knock on the door across the room. Inzil kept her nose in the book and called, “Come in!”
The door creaked open, and one of Inzil’s sisters Elenaira crept in. Meaning “copper-star”, Elenaira was crowned with dark auburn hair and startling blue eyes. She was Inzil’s elder by three years and believed herself to be Inzil’s superior. “Father wants you, Inzilêth,” Elenaira snapped as she trod across the stone floors, the hems of her gowns whispering as they brushed the coarse rock.
The girl sat up, snapped the book shut with a clap, and turned to face Elenaira. “For what purpose does he require my attention?” Inzil dangled her legs from the ledge before jumping off. She pushed past Elenaira and walked through the solid oaken door.
“He departs in the morning, as you should have known,” Elenaira replied, annoyed as she shut the door behind them.
Inzil held her tongue and decided to not pursue the argument with her sister. She knew her father left with the king tomorrow - everyone knew. They passed along the great stone passageways and entered into the great hall. Their father, the great Captain Morhesto, sat in council with his lesser commanders at a large wooden table spread with maps. Their voices rose and fell in sync for a short, discussing the morrow’s plans: provisions, ship formations, and such. Inzil and Elenaira waited patiently in the shadow of a great pillar until Morhesto dismissed his companions. He then beckoned his daughters forward. The three of them retreated into Morhesto’s private solar where he threw himself down into a large armchair and gestured for some water. A servant hurried to his side with a goblet. The captain tipped the goblet back and let the cool liquid slide down his throat before settling his gaze on his daughters. Inzil bowed her head respectfully and addressed her father, “You wished to see me?”
“Yes,” Morhesto replied evenly. “First of all, I would like to speak to the manner of your marriage.” He saw the light of uncertainty and anxiety flicker in Inzil’s grey eyes. Morhesto pressed on. “I have left it your mother to arrange a suitable match for you while I am away, and there are several suitors for your hand. No doubt she will choose a respectable, kindly, and reputable man for you. You will, of course, have your say as well. Though I daresay you will want someone who is bookish as you are.” A rare smile crossed his face.
Inzil returned the smile, but she could not help but feel nervous especially as the subject of their discussion walked into the chamber from their bedroom. Her mother had hinted at marriage for a few years now, but she had not found a wealthy enough family to buy her way into. Morhesto’s wife cared more for status and comfort over her daughters’ partner preferences. She dreaded the prospect of a husband who married her for status and not love. “But why now?” she had to ask. “Why not wait until you return?”
“You are of the right age, Inzil. You are of the right age to wed and bear children. I know not how long the king will have need of me, and I would like to see at least one grandson when I return,” he said with another smile, this one sad.
She exchanged a look with Elenaira who had married but had not yet borne a child. Morhesto’s wife spoke up before Inzil could reply. “And I have found a great match for you. He is distantly related to the king’s closest councilor. His family is ancient and quite prominent, and the man himself is pleasant and handsome. You shall meet him in a fortnight.” She was quite pleased with herself, Inzil reflected, noting the gloating and self-confidence she so often despised in her mother. He must also be rich… she thought with irritation.
Not reacting to her mother’s words, Inzil returned to questioning her father. “When will you come back?” she asked. “Surely the king cannot keep you from your family forever.” This was a rare time when Morhesto was home as his duties required him to be away from home almost all of the time. He was most often found on campaign with the king or training recruits.
“I cannot say, Inzil.”
The girl bit her lip while deciding what to say next. There was something she had wanted to tell her father for a long while. Inzil decided the time was now. “Then why go? Surely you know that the king runs a fool’s errand.” She shook her head at the nonsense of it all. “He cannot hope to defeat the Valar, Father. It would be like throwing a stone into the ocean to stem the tide.” And like the tide, her words were relentless. “Can you not see that Sauron has poisoned the king’s mind and judgment? Please do not throw away your life for the king!”
Elenaira had paled considerably, indicating that she may have thought the same thing. Her mother threw daggers with her eyes. From her place by the door, she started to sputter angrily before Morhesto silenced her with a raised hand. He turned his gaze to his youngest daughter and said gravely, “Inzil, he is my king, and I believe he is doing the right thing. I cannot forsake him at the eve of our departure. There is nothing else to say.” His tone indicated that he would not be swayed by further talk. Inzilêth acquiesced with a bow of her head and remained quiet.
Morhesto considered her crestfallen demeanor and said gently, “Inzil, I will return. Do not worry about that. And when I do, I know you will have a loving husband and perhaps a son or a daughter to start a family. All I want for you is to be happy - please do not worry about me.” He rose from his chair, walked across the chamber, and pulled her into an embrace. Inzil warmed to his embrace and hugged him tightly. Despite their occasional disagreement, she loved her father dearly. The captain then turned to his wife, kissed her cheek, and said, “I must leave you again to meet with our household guards. I do not trust the Faithful in my absence, and we must be prepared.” With a bow to his family, Morhesto departed the room.
Inzil’s mother rounded on her with a deep scowl on her face. “How dare you question your father like that? Were I him I would have punished you for your lack of respect and your insolence. He is your elder, your better, and your father. Hopefully your future husband brings you to heel with a child in your womb.” She cast her gaze from Elenaira, who stood with her hands clasped and eyes on the floor, to Inzil whose face had turned red from her mother’s chastisement. She sighed in disgust. “Would that I had had a son who would not shame me so.”
Elenaira dipped a curtsey to her mother and hustled away in a flood of skirts. Inzil did the same but was stopped when her mother grasped her arm firmly. “If you do not marry the suitor I put before you in a fortnight,” she said in a threatening tone, “I will ensure that you see none of your inheritance.”
Refusing to rise to her mother’s bait, Inzil wrenched her arm away and walked to the door. She whirled around in anger, bowed her head to her angry parent, and slammed the door behind her. Servants glanced her way as she stormed through the great hall. Eventually she returned to her room and left strict orders she was not to be disturbed. For a moment, Inzil paced back and forth across the carpeted floor. She bore no opposition to getting married - indeed, she knew it was expected of her. Her relationship with her mother had always been difficult, however, and Inzil knew that any marriage prospect would be rooted in greed and not Inzil’s best interest. Eventually, she returned to her reading nook by the window. She took the book in her hand and ran her fingers along its spine, remembering the day she received it.
A young man had given her the book a short while ago for her nameday. It had been a quiet, sultry day with the sun hot in the sky and a wispy breeze to rustle the grass, tree leaves, and the mirror-like surface of the sea. Rui was a good friend of hers, a sailor and captain by trade. They had met some months before, and since then, they had spent as much time together as possible. Inzil closed her eyes and tried to picture his face. Some time had passed since the last time their paths crossed, and Inzil wondered if he would venture west with her father. Her heart twisted at the thought. She nestled against her cloak-pillow and decided to ignore her worries. A book would soothe all of her concerns.
It took Eäruilion quite some time to walk up the mountain slope to the King’s Mens’ Captain’s home. One step he was determined to follow through with his plan, the next he was doubting himself. His duty was calling him back to his ship, to oversee the preparations and to be there in case… in case of an emergency. But then he thought about it again, and told himself to trust his crew, and his heart that was telling him to go on. Rui knew he would never find peace if he left without saying good-bye.
It wasn’t often that a man was blessed by the Valar with a true friend, like he had been. Some one he could talk to, who listened, with who he could just sit and look at the sea and say nothing - and still feel closer to than even his sister. In fact, Rui felt like those times very few words had been exchanged between him and Inzil, had been the most fulfilling ones. The most calming ones. Like when he had taken her out in the sea on a tiny sailing boat. They had barely exchanged a few sentences. He had been watching the wind and working on the sail, enjoying the peace and quiet, and she had just been sitting there, dipping her long, delicate fingers in the salty water and observing the crying gulls... When with her, it was like he could tell her anything at all, without being judged or dismissed as a fool - and it pained him that he had had to withhold from her that much about himself. She was a daughter of the King’s Mens’ Captain in command of the entire garrison of Rómenna, and he - he was a Faithful, despised by the majority of Númenorians as inferior people. It would be… too painful to have her look down on him with the same expression of disdain he had had to endure from so many.
Well, he’d have to take his chances. He couldn't go without telling her the truth, all of it.
Rui came up to the grand mansion, surrounded by stone walls. Twisting snake-like branches covered with tiny pink flowers were creeping over the grey stone, but Rui knew better than to try and get over. There were hundreds of tiny thorns concealed by the leaves and the flowers - an additional line of defense. However, Rui knew another way inside. He had been following Inzil when she returned home after their meetings, just to make sure she got home safe. And there was a narrow passage in the cliffs at the back of the house - quite comfortable fit for the girl’s size, but it provided a small challenge for him to squeeze through. Rui got through it all right, however, with a slightly torn jacket. Oh well, at least it wasn’t his pants.
Sneaking around in darkness would have been much easier, but he had no time to linger. He was due back to his ship. Crouching behind a bush, Rui observed the house. How had it not occurred to him that it might be quite impossible to find her in such a big house, he could not fathom. He had perhaps relied too much on the hope of catching her outside in the garden on such a fine day. Or was she out somewhere, taking a walk in the mountains?
A movement behind a window caught his eye. Squinting, the young man took a better look - and sighed with relief. It was her! Inzil had just settled down next to the window with a book in her lap.
Rui looked around for something to attract her attention with, and picked up a handful of pebbles. With a careful aim, he swung one of them at the window - but it struck the wall next to it. Damn. After a couple more tries, one of the pebbles finally bounced off the window glass.
Inzilêth heard something small strike the glass pane of her window. She stared out at the haze of mountains in the distance and the green lawn below her. Nothing. She shrugged and pressed her nose into the book once more. Again, something knocked on the glass. Sighing, Inzil shut the book and peered long and hard through the glass. Her gaze scoured all that she could see, and finally, her eyes focused on a large bush in the yard’s north corner in the shade of the wall. She immediately recognized Eäruilion. What was he doing here? She immediately removed herself from the window and rushed out her bedroom chamber door. She then flew down a stairwell near her room which led to the garden. Holding the hems of her dress, Inzil trotted across the spongy grass. “What are you doing here?” Morhesto’s daughter asked when she reached him, casting a fearful glance around to make sure they were alone.
“Hi,” he gave her a small smile, “I had to see you. To say good-bye,” his grey eyes became a little sad.
“Good-bye?” she repeated nervously. “Are you leaving with my father?”
Rui looked around. “Is there a quiet place we could talk? Where nobody would disturb us?”
She bit her lip in thought and then nodded. “Yes, a vine bower in the garden. It’s set back against the wall. It’s old, and almost no one knows it exists. Follow me.” Inzil stepped from behind the bush, saw the grounds were clear of guards, and motioned for Rui to follow her.
Eäruilion did as he was told, trying to muster up his courage to talk to Inzil. When she finally stopped and turned to him, her eyes all worried and inquisitive, he took a deep breath. The moment of truth, it had apparently arrived.
“I’m not leaving with your father, Inzil,” he said seriously, holding her gaze. “In fact, I’m going the opposite way. The Faithful have foreseen that great evil will befall Númenor if the King indeed dares to attack the Valar. So, we have to leave.” He paused, trying to read her face and praying she wouldn’t run off scared of him. “Yes, I am also of the Faithful.”
Of the Faithful. Inzil leaned against a tree which formed part of the verdant shelter and closed her eyes. Yes, that was not surprising, she thought. He had always been quite secretive of his background. She had assumed he had come from a rough background, and that he was of the Faithful verified that. Her father had always looked down on them, but Inzil never really believed that the Faithful were any less than the non-Faithful. That was not to say she sympathized with them; she just had never taken to treating them less than she’d treat her kin. She opened her eyes to see him watching her intently. He feared her reaction. “This means we will never see each other again,” Inzil said slowly, quietly, sadly.
This was harder than he had believed. This saying good-bye, thing. Although he was relieved she didn’t appear scared, or look down on him, this sadness in her eyes just tore at his heart.
“I would hate it if I never saw you again,” he said, truly meaning it. Suddenly, he realized what an enormous loss it would be, to never talk to her again, to never see her brush her hair out of her face absentmindedly, as she often did. How empty his days would become.
She frowned slightly as she saw his turbulent thoughts play themselves out on his face. “But there is nothing we can do to prevent this. You must go your way...and I...must go mine.” Inzil could not tell him she was to be betrothed. It would only make this worse than what it already was. Although they met infrequently, she always cherished their meetings. He never looked at her with disdain or as though she should be put on a pedestal because she danced prettily, sang prettily, or dressed prettily. That was what her mother wanted. Her frown deepened. Maybe she could...Inzil shook her head and dismissed the notion from her mind entirely.
“Yes, we must,” he agreed sadly. He had to be on his way, his people were expecting him. And Inzil..
“What will you do?” he asked. Rui had to make sure she’d be well and protected by those charged with caring for her well-being when he was gone. Not that it was his responsibility, but anyway. “Will you be all right?”
Inzil remained silent for a moment, contemplating the best way to assure Rui. She had to tell him. “I will be wed to a man of my mother’s choosing,” the young woman said finally, brushing a tendril of hair out of her face. “I will wed and bear my husband sons.” She spoke listlessly of the future, of which she had no control. “He will care for me as he will, but hopefully he will be a good man.” Inzil found she could not look at Rui as she said this.
This was something he had not considered before. Inzil being wed to an unknown man, and Rui not being there for her in case… in case she should need his help?
Inzil as another man’s wife. The thought was disturbing. Rui frowned as he stared at her. The shadow of an unnamed faceless man loomed over the girl.
Another man’s wife… What if that man was not good to her? Inzil deserved the very best. What if - and that was a terrifying thought - what if he mistreated her? She’d belong to him, as was the tradition. Would her family stand up to that man if she was unhappy with him? Rui’s heart fell as he remembered Inzil’s words: I will be wed to a man of my mother’s choosing. He knew that Inzil’s relationship with her mother was cool, at best. But her father - although he detested the man greatly for all the things he had done to his people - her father obviously bore love for his daughter. At least he recalled Inzil talking about her father with warmth.
“Will you be given a say in the matter? A choice? What of you father’s stand on this?”
“My father says my consent is to be considered, but my mother has already found someone related to one of the king’s advisors. So I will have to concede to her wishes to avoid a row. My mother cares nothing of my concerns or desires, only her own.” The injustice of her marriage frustrated her. Again, Inzil did not mind having a match arranged for her, but having a say in her own future would make her much happier.
Rui started pacing restlessly. He knew he shouldn’t be disturbed by this as much as he was, but he could also not deny that he was. Inzil was his friend, a very precious friend. How could he leave her before knowing she would be treated as well as she deserved? Oh Valar, why did the King had to make his move so soon?!
“Come with me,” he heard himself say before he actually registered the thought becoming clear in his mind. And when it was out, Rui did not doubt himself regarding the “rightness” of his offer. “Sail away with me,” he repeated, seeking her eyes.
Inzil met his earnest gaze with a bewildered look. “What?” was all she could say incredulously.
“If you feel you are pressed in any way to do what is against your own heart and its desires - come away with me. I will keep you safe.”
“But my family…”
Right. Rui understood that he stood corrected. It had not been his place to offer her something like this. To suggest she go against her family, her people. He dipped his gaze.
“I am sorry, I should not have… You do what you choose to, my friend. I must go now, I’m expected, so… fare well.”
He would have liked to embrace her, just once, but it was not appropriate, so he just nodded, and took a step backwards, away from her, still looking at the girl.
“Wait.” Inzilêth paused and considered Rui. Here was the chance for freedom. All her life Inzil had been subjected to her mother’s incessant criticisms; her sister’s insistence on perfection, womanly graces, and her disdain of Inzil’s passion for reading and history; and her father’s negative reputation. Now presented to her was the opportunity to break free from her cage. But, on the other hand, they were her family after all. And her future husband could be a good man, and she could be happy with him. So much to think about…
“I must think on this.”
His eyes widened, in surprise.
“Of course. If you decide to come, however, my ship is docked at the Southern edge of the Docks, “White Seagull”. We leave at dusk. Perhaps I’ll see you then?” he gave her a small smile, full of hope.
“Whatever I decide, I will see you at the dock at dusk. But for now, I must go.” Inzil flashed Rui a bright smile, ducked out of the bower, and made her way back into the mansion before someone noticed her absence.
Eäruilion stood there for a moment, a soft smile playing about his mouth. Then he carefully retraced his steps and slipped out of Morhesto’s mansion without being seen. The closer he came to his ship, the more thoughts about the preparations that were still to be taken care of filled his mind. He had to report to Lord Anárion who would board “Sea Song”, his flagship, in case he had more orders for Rui. And perhaps, just perhaps Inzil would decide to join him. The thought of not having to lose his friend was inspiring, and Rui dared to believe in a brighter and better future.
"There is no such thing as a geek, just those who love things the rest of humanity finds weird."
on: February 17, 2015 10:12
|Eäruilion was relieved when he reached the docks undeterred. “White Seagull” was sitting there, all peaceful and seemingly asleep, but he knew better. Below the deck, men and women were working with sweat on their brow to get everything ready in time. The upper cargo hold was being transformed into something resembling living quarters, while the lower was getting stuffed full of provisions and their passengers’ luggage. Rui shook his head imagining all those people on that one ship. So many!
A strange whooshing sound filled the air. Rui looked up but there was nothing blocking the sun that was already on its downward path and heading for the mountains. Not a single cloud. The sound was still very quiet, but it was getting louder, as if its source were coming closer. Then the cries came, almost like gulls, but not quite.
Rui stopped. It was a very strange sound… It seemed to come from the West… He squinted at a small cloud that was growing bigger. Fast. Soon it became clear that it was no cloud. They were birds.
Now this was weird. Rui broke into a trot heading for his ship. Whatever was coming, he had to make sure the ship was all right. He climbed on the board yelling for his crew.
“Captain! Thank the Valar you’re back! We were getting worried here,” a short, round-faced woman climbed out of a hatch.
“Why? Has anything happened? Where is Altasir?” Rui asked, worried. The cloud of birds was coming closer, and was blocking almost a half of the disk of the setting sun.
“He was due back with the last load several hours ago, but we haven’t heard from him,” the woman said with a shake of her head.
Rui became very serious. This wasn’t good. It was not like his First Mate to just get lost. Something must have happened, something bad. In other circumstances, Rui would have sent his crew looking for the missing man, but this was not the case.
“Néníssë, I need a full report.”
“Right. There have been bulkheads installed to separate eleven compartments, that’s three more to go. All the supplies have arrived, at least all of those we’re getting. And, before you ask, I do not know whether it’s going to be enough. It depends on how much time we’re going to be at sea. And, we’re taking on more people than it was planned. And I’ve never had to deal with so many, so I don’t…”
“It’s all right, Néníssë, we’ll get through it. The most important thing is that we’re not missing any of the assigned food, and to get the compartments ready before our passengers arrive. Has there been any message from Lord Anárion?”
“No, Captain. What the…” the woman’s mouth fell open as she noticed the cloud of birds that had grown so big they almost blocked the sun.
Rui gasped as he got the first clear glimpse on the birds.
“Those are Eagles!” Manwë’s great servants, and friends.
Rui and his boatswain stood watching the approach of the majestic birds. The young man couldn’t take his eyes off them, no longer afraid. He had never heard of the Eagles hurting anyone, and he knew they would not harm the Faithful. However, a different sense of dread seeped into his soul. If Manwë has sent his Eagles to Númenor, it could not be a good sign. It was a warning. The Valar knew what King Ar-Pharazôn had planned, and this was the last warning.
In no time the great birds filled the air, their powerful wings creating a storm of their own, beating up the water until waves came crashing against the ships’ hulls. An occasional cry could be heard, but in general they passed over Rómenna in a noble silence. They were like a premonition of something huge, something terrible.
A sense of urgency washer over Rui, and he forced himself to shake the stupor off. “Come, the sun is not getting any higher. Tell me what I can do to help.”
“Where is my blue dress? The blue dress? I can’t leave without it!” Artamacil’s mother’s voice filled the entire house, as things were flying about, falling on the floor, laying in piles all around the place. The young man carefully walked around the piles and stepped over them on his way to the front door.
“We will get you a new one, an even blue-er one, my dear,” his father’s voice had gained a soothing quality, as it always did when his wife became agitated. And it worked. Always. Arta made a mental check to remember that. He was going to have a woman much like her in his own life soon. Not the most inspiring thought, though. Well, at least he’d know how to deal with her.
“But it was a very special dress,” Arta’s mother whimpered.
A very twitchy servant opened the door the moment somebody knocked on it, and a small, wiry man stepped inside. He was built like a weasel, but had an honest look on his face, albeit slightly worried.
“M’Lord? You ready?”
“We are… um… getting close,” Artamacil tried not to wince upon hearing his mother’s continuous demands for her blue dress. “What is going on?” he asked, as a gust of wind broke into the house and tore at his clothes.
“The Eagles have come, M’Lord?” the small seaman said with reverie, and Arta gave into his curiosity.
The sky had darkened above, as enormous eagles passed over the city. They were amazing! So huge, so majestic, so… free.
“M’Lord? We need to be getting the things and going to the ship. There’s still a couple of families I need to get there.”
“Ah, yes, of course. Um… You can load these bags here in the wagon, and I’ll get the rest of them here in a minute. Saryondo,” he turned to his manservant, “gather the bags, would you?”
“Erm… M’Lord? You mean all these bags?” the seaman asked, scratching his beard.
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“Look, there must have been a misunderstanding, here. Two bags per person are allowed on the ship, as much as one man can carry. I’ve got no wagon with me.”
“Excuse me?” Arta’s mother had appeared on the top of the stairs and apparently heard a part of the conversation. “What do you mean - no wagon? Are we supposed to carry the bags to the docks? Or perhaps walk all the way there?” she demanded.
The seaman seemed to shrink in size to barely noticeable.
“Look, Madam, I’ve got my orders…”
“Then I am giving you new orders. We’re taking our carriage then. Have the servants load it immediately.”
“Mother, are you sure?” Arta asked.
“Yes, I am!”
His father stood beside his wife. “Obviously, those rules refer to… other people. Don’t worry, good man, we are not going to keep you too long. Artamacil, please go and see if your sister is ready.”
“Yes, father,” Arta nodded, but hesitated. “What about Elsamin? Should we not…”
“No,” Artalango cut his son short.
“I can saddle my horse, get him and be back in a fraction of…”
“You want to say you know where he lives?” Artalango bellowed, furious. “You dared to get behind my back and your family’s will?”
“Yes, I know where he lives!” Artamacil retorted. “And I’m not suggesting we embrace him back, in the family. But…”
“There is no but, son, the decision was made, and I honestly hope you were not going behind my back on this,” Artalango growled.
Artamacil clenched his teeth. He knew that Elsamin had been shunned by his parents, and by the high society of the Faithful, and that he had himself turned his back on everybody first, but it somehow felt wrong to leave forever, and leave Elsamin behind. The man had been his brother, after all, for the greatest part of his life.
“We should at least give him the chance to choose for himself, whether to stay or…"
“I said no!” his father was turning red in the face. “He is not family anymore! But you are! And I expect you to live up to your duties as such!”
Arta was deliberately taking deep breaths to steady himself before something slipped his tongue that he would regret later. He knew what was expected of him.
“Good! Now go help your sister!”
[Edited on 02/17/2015 by Nifredil]
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land, beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western seas...
In the Realm of Ulmo
on: March 16, 2015 09:44
|(JP with Nif!)
“Let’s see, five shirts, three sets of breeches, grooming tools, two pairs of leather boots, utensils...what else am I forgetting?” Éarlossë asked herself as she laid out her brother’s belongings on his bed. “Oh! His waterproof cloak, heavier tunics, gloves, scarf…” She scurried around the room, collecting odds and ends and organizing them into piles. Lissa stared at the bed’s coverings and decided they should go with as well. One never knew how many blankets could be of use. As she pulled the main coverlet off the bed, she noticed something lumpy underneath his pillow. Lissa threw it aside and found a book.
It was an older tome and smelt of dust and weathered pages. The binding cracked with age as Lissa picked up the book and opened it. It was entitled The Tale of Halcinehtelë. Lissa cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at the text. Her brother was not the bookish type and very rarely read anything. Thumbing to the cover page, she noticed something curious. Inside was an inscription written in fluid, curvy strokes. It read: “For when you want to experience a different kind of sea…” She turned the pages slowly, recognizing the story of a well-traveled sailor who had often journeyed to visit the Elves at Tol Eressëa and returned with grand stories about his adventures. Growing up, Rui had looked up to him as an inspiration. Halcinehtelë had passed into the annals of history long before the heroes of old had fought evil monsters, long before those same heroes had morphed into legends, long before anyone could even remember. Lissa wondered who would have given him such a thing. She shrugged, wrapped it in a cloth, and set it aside as she folded the blankets on his bed.
Eventually Lissa had collected everything her brother might need, including clothing for if they encountered inclement weather like snow or heavy rain. She organized it carefully in his two bags and sincerely hoped she had not missed anything. The girl cast one last glance around the room and immediately was struck with a sense of nostalgia. Many were the days she and Rui had holed themselves up in this room, playing in front of the fire with their sticks and rocks, pretending to be fighting Sauron’s evil minions. Lissa sighed heavily. Those halcyon days of youth were gone, and now a new journey awaited them. She shut the door lightly and returned to her own bedroom.
The sun was beginning to set, casting both rays and long shadows into her small room. Lissa first discarded her dirty skirts and changed into traveling clothes. She donned an off-white tunic, a deerskin leather vest, dark brown linen breeches, and toughened leather boots. Then, Rui’s sister quickly gathered the remainder of her clothing. Lissa planned to bring a few skirts, mostly linen but also some thicker, wool ones. The girl also had one nice gown. It was a deep blue-green with long sleeves and a band of dark grey around the waist. Embroidered waves danced around the hem, and silver decorations flashed across the neckline like foam. It was a pretty dress, if but a bit worn and threadbare in a few places. Lissa folded this gently and wrapped it in a blanket. The girl went to a large wooden trunk at the foot of her bed and pulled out a few bodices and other clothing. At the very bottom of the trunk was a smaller wooden box. Lissa drew it out and opened it.
Contained inside were a small, thin dagger, an assortment of jewelry, a small coin, and some wooden carvings. Barring the dagger, this was the remainder of Lissa’s childhood. The jewelry had belonged to her mother, the coin had been the first gift she could ever remember, and her father had whittled little figures out of wood. She withdrew the sheathed dagger and placed the box inside a bag. Finally, Lissa grabbed a few other odds and ends before pulling the haversacks over her shoulders and tucking the sheathed dagger into a pocket. With a final glance around her room, she shut the door decisively. Now was no time for a painful goodbye to her home.
Aroused voices from outside filtered their way through the eaves and reached Lissa’s ears. She hid their belongings in a barrel so other inn-stayers could not find them, and she flew downstairs and out onto the street. Townsfolk milled about the street, faces and fingers pointed to the darkening sky. High above them wheeled several massive eagles, their wings stirring up a fierce wind so hard the sea leapt and frothed in response. Snow-crested waves battered the coastline and the ships. The ships bucked against their mooring ropes, creaking and groaning in protest. Lissa’s hair whipped up in a frenzy as she craned her head back. The eagles augured a warning, one that could not be ignored. Then, Lissa’s vision darkened and swam in front of her. She blinked, and shapes formed in her mind’s eye.
Earth-shattering thunder boomed in the skies. Lightning streaked across the nocturnal skies like tendrils of fire. Waves crashed farther and farther inland, destroying everything in their wake. Hurricane-like winds thrashed against everything it could find. And then, then a shuddering and grinding, as if the very bowels of the earth were opening up to swallow them…
Lissa blinked again and came out of her reverie. It had only been a moment, but it had felt like an eternity had passed. She shivered violently, as if someone had drenched her with ice-cold water. The shadow of one of the eagles passed low over her, and Lissa glanced up again, making out the grey feathers on its underbelly and its long pinion feathers. Pure panic seized her in that moment. All the young woman desired to do was hide from the eagles. At first she had viewed them with mild curiosity. Now, they terrified her. Eventually, one clear thought filtered through her muddled thoughts. To the ships. Soon it would be time to board the White Gull.
The sun’s dying rays hovered over the horizon as the eagles maintained their aerial warning. Lissa recognized some Faithful already making their way towards the docks under the pretense of loading supplies for tomorrow’s departure, sailors leading them. She hurried back into the inn, found Rui’s and her belongings, and stole away to the kitchen to gather a few more cooking implements. Sorontál glanced up from throwing sundries into a sack and said quietly, “Have you seen the eagles?”
“Aye,” Lissa replied just as quietly, pulling cutlery from a drawer.
“Quite majestic things, they are,” he continued as he tied the sack tightly shut. “And quite possibly a distraction as well.”
“Now would be a good time for you to board the ship, while the eagles soar overhead. You will be less noticeable. The three of us traveling through the streets with packs of supplies might look conspicuous. Rather you leave now, and we will follow once our sailor friend finds us.” Lissa stared at her uncle for a moment and then nodded. His plan was sensible.
Everyone was so preoccupied with the eagles that she had little difficulty slipping out the back door, loading the packs onto a small wooden cart, and covering them with a tarp. For good measure, Lissa lugged two small kegs of ale for her uncle and placed them in the cart as well. She pulled her cloak about her, took a deep breath, and pressed into the throng of eagle-watchers, pulling the cart behind her. People bumped into her but otherwise paid her little mind as she slowly waded through the masses. The eagles frightened some people and fascinated others. A young boy imitated them, running around in circles with his arms outspread. A small smile crept onto Lissa’s face as she passed him. Hopefully there would be more moments of joy in the unknown days ahead of the Faithful.
Cart rattling across the stone-and-dirt street behind her, Lissa made her way slowly towards the southern docks in the shadows of the snow-capped mountains. She passed through market squares, down alleys, past storefronts, all abuzz with activity. Lissa’s stomach churned like the ocean waves as she passed the King’s Men who patrolled the streets of Rómenna. What if they stopped her? What if they questioned her? What if they found out about the Faithful’s departure? She shook her head at the nonsense of her worries. But then, “You there!” a voice cried from behind.
Lissa peered over her shoulder to see two King’s Men marching smartly her way, cloaks streaming behind them. Her heart leapt into her throat. The only thing she could muster to say was, “Can I help you?” Lissa tried valiantly to keep her face serene and voice steady.
“What do you have there?” one burly soldier said shortly as he nodded to the cart, propping his spear on the ground next to him.
Thinking fast on her feet, Lissa replied, “I am making for the docks. I bear supplies for my brother who captains one of the king’s ships.” She immediately regretted her answer, fearing they would next inquire as to the captain’s name. The burly soldier handed his spear to his companion and pulled aside the tarp. He prodded the bags with thick, grimy, sausage-like fingers but seemed satisfied that they posed no threat. He stood back and appraised her with a stern glance but then he took his spear and waved Lissa on her way. “Stay vigilant,” he said. “You don’t know which characters you can trust, especially those wretched Faithful.”
Lissa inwardly breathed a huge sigh of relief and thanked the soldiers. “Of course, of course,” she returned as she picked up the cart ropes and hauled it away. Her slow methodical steps along the familiar roads oddly soothed her until she arrived at the southern docks. The sun was low in the sky, scattering rays of scarlet and orange, and the faint twinkling of stars began to glimmer against the darkening horizon. Here the waves were strangely calmer than those farther down the coast. Lissa emerged from the clustered buildings near the water’s edge and ventured towards the stone and wooden jetties. Sailors rushed to and fro as they carried supplies into the hold. Without a backward glance, Lissa ambled towards the ship. Her footsteps took her onto the wooden dock, and as she neared the White Gull, a particularly large, robust sailor the size of a bear challenged her. “What do you want?”
"The wind is fair,” the young woman responded calmly, knowing the proper words to say.
"Do you think it will hold?" he returned, crossing his arms in an attempt to appear menacing.
Lissa craned her head to peer into his face and replied with a smile, "If Ulmo is benevolent." The sailor exchanged quiet words with another sailor, this one thin and taciturn with oily black hair, and waved her past him. The oily man stopped Lissa with a slender hand on her shoulder. “You are the captain’s kin, are you not?” She nodded once. “You will find his quarters portside and aft, as far back as you can go. Ask Néníssë if you get lost.”
Rui’s sister nodded her thanks, shouldered the two packs, and enlisted the aid of another sailor in transporting the kegs up the gangplank and onto the ship. They quickly located the captain’s chambers, and once the sailor ducked out the door, Lissa had the place to herself. It was not a large room and contained no beds, only hammocks. All the same, she temporarily placed their belongings in a hammock and returned to the decks. Now was no time to explore, but Lissa desired one last glance of her home. She crossed the decks bustling with activity and stood at the prow of the ship, staring out the endless vastness of sea and sky before turning her gaze back to shore. Rómenna gleamed with firelight against the black sky. The eagles still soared overhead like aerial sentinels. And for a moment, the world was still.
But, only for a moment.
“Girl!” a shrill voice shrieked from shore.
Lady Laurëlannë sat on top of a cart like a queen, while everybody around her was busy unloading. By her side, her young daughter was a perfect image of her mother. “Yes, you! Will you get us some help?”
It took a moment for Lissa to register that they were calling to her. She stared at them as she tried to compose a reply. It had been a long while since someone had spoken such disdain and haughtiness her way....besides, of course, her encounter with the arrogant son earlier in the day. In normal situations, Lissa would have outright refused. Immediate circumstances, however, necessitated any help she could give. The girl grabbed a loose mooring rope and swung off the prow. She hung in the air for a moment before landing and tumbling onto the wide, damp dock. Lissa regained her footing, brushed herself off, and approached the cart. The women sitting atop the cart looked rather ridiculous, Lissa thought, but she wisely held her tongue. “What may I help with?” she asked.
Both ladies stared at her open-mouthed.
“Mother?” the young girl pulled her mother’s sleeve. “Why is she wearing a boy’s clothes?”
“I would imagine, that is because she lacks… proper breeding,” lady Laurëlannë coughed, trying to compose her thoughts. “Oh… I meant you to get a couple of men to carry our things to our cabins. I don’t suppose you’d be doing that,” she looked Lissa over with a confused frown, “for all appearances, you are not a man, after all.”
Artamacil was watching the scene with a poorly concealed amusement. It took him a moment to recognize the girl who had carried the message to his family’s house a few hours earlier, but now that he looked at her, the strange choice of attire wasn’t that surprising at all.
“Or you could show me the way first, and then we can take care of the bags,” he suggested.
Lissa immediately recognized the young man from this afternoon and realized this was Lord Artalango’s family. She was rather amused that the lady thought she was ill-bred. A smile briefly creased her face as she replied to who she assumed was the lady of the house, “Aye, I am not a man, milady, but I can certainly do the work of one.” She gestured at the ship. “Follow me.”
“Father?” Arta looked at his sire to be granted the permission, and when lord Artalango nodded approvingly, turned to the sailor girl.
“After you,” he said with a graceful bow, unable to erase his upbringing just because a lady was dressed in breeches instead of skirts.
For a moment, Lissa stared at the man in front of her. No one had ever bowed to her before - though she suspected he did due to his status. But, all the same, she appreciated the gesture. He padded along behind her as she returned to the docks, spoke the secret phrases, and regained entry to the ship. The same oily-haired sailor she had met previously divulged the location of Artalango’s cabin as if he were sharing some important secret. Lissa rolled her eyes and reboarded the ship. It was not long before they arrived at the cabin. She cracked the door open and said to the son (whose name she still did not know), “Here ‘tis.”
Arta followed the girl, and thought amusedly at how much she reminded him of his mother. Not the refined-lady personality, of course, but the confidence with which she handled things, and men. The girl was quite kind to the sailors, but clearly expected to be at least taken seriously, if not obeyed.
The ship seemed rather small, quite unlike what he had imagined to travel upon, but he supposed that whoever had made the lists of passengers had known what they were doing. When they arrived to the cabin, he had to bend over to enter. And once inside, he was unable to stand straight, the ceiling being very low for him. Actually, it would be quite all-right for average-sized people, but his height was not average. The cabin was small, with no beds or furniture, just four wooden walls, and a narrow door. At least there was a tiny window. He believed the ladies could be quite comfortable there.
“All right, I believe this will do quite nicely. Is the other cabin close?” he asked the girl who had remained standing on the doorstep.
Lissa watched the man as he inspected the cramped quarters and for a moment almost pitied him as she told him the bad news. “This is the only cabin. It is to house all of your family. One cabin per family,” she replied with a tinge of regret. When Rui had told her one cabin per family, she had stared at him and voiced her disbelief. Like the man in front of her, Rui’s sister had hoped for more space, not a singular room half the size of her quarters at the inn. “I know this will not be to your liking, but no one, not even the captain, receives special treatment on this ship. Not on any of the ships.”
“You must be kidding!” he stared at her. “This is not acceptable, by any standards!”
The man’s outburst failed to faze her. “I do not jest,” she said, crossing her arms and leaning against the threshold. “Acceptable you may not think this is, but it is the truth of it. And, before you even think of approaching the captain on this matter, he will not be swayed. This I know for a fact.” Lissa leveled her gaze at him. “As I said, no one, and I mean no one” - here she arched her eyebrows pointedly at him-”receives more than one cabin on this journey.”
Her statement made him narrow his eyes. “We’ll see about that. I want to talk to the captain. And meanwhile, do find a couple of sailors to help my family to their cabins.”
Mischief gleamed in her grey eyes, and a short giggle of mirth escaped her lips. “Let us find the captain, and hear his thoughts. I am sure he will acquiesce willingly to your demands.” Lissa said mockingly as she moved out of the room and into the hallway. She suspected that her brother would be on deck, ensuring that the last minute preparations were running smoothly. Feeling the heat of the man’s glare on her back, she made sure to not face him. It was better that way - Lissa could sometimes be confrontational. A quick chat with a sailor she recognized, one of Rui’s fellow sailors, and Lissa found her brother as she expected - on deck inspecting that the riggings and sails were properly situated before their departure.
Artamacil could immediately tell which one of the men busying themselves around the rigging was the captain from the way everybody else seemed to be at attention around him. The one good thing was that the captain was a full head shorter than him - the height difference tended to serve quite nicely when he needed to intimidate an adversary.
“Thank you. Now kindly pick up a couple of strong sailors and have them assist my family in boarding,” he nodded at the girl dismissing her. He had to wonder about the smirk she wore. It wasn’t important. Straightening his shoulders, Arta headed towards the captain.
“Excuse me. You must be the captain, I assume. Good evening, sir. I am Artamacil, eldest son of Lord Artalango. I was wondering whether somebody could show me where my family’s quarters are.”
Rui turned to see first the chest of a man where his eyes should have been, then had to look higher up to meet a steady pair of very dark-grey eyes. “Yes, I am the captain, Eäruilion is my name,” he offered the young noble his hand in greeting, and the men shook hands. “I will escort you to your quarters myself. This way, please.”
Upon reaching the cabin assigned for the noble family, Artamacil began protesting: “Yes, I know this one. But we need another. I have two ladies with me, you see, my mother and sister. They won’t be comfortable sharing a cabin with men. Besides, it is impossibly small for four people!”
Rui shook his head with regret. “I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do for you. We only have as much room as there is.”
“Look, there must have been a misunderstanding. When we signed up for the trip, we explicitly informed Lord Elendil about our requirements, and two cabins was the absolute minimum.”
“I am not aware of any previous arrangements,” Rui frowned, “I was given a list of passengers, and lord Anárion whose flag we’re sailing under, has assigned one living space per family…”
“We are not just any family,” Arta countered, getting angry and knowing his father would be furious with him if he didn’t manage to secure acceptable premises on the ship.
Furious voices reached Lissa’s ears as she hauled bags of items aboard the ship. She had wrangled two sailors to assist her as they endured the lady wife’s scathing remarks about the state of the ship and how lazy they were and how unkempt they were and how slow they were. The young woman, as before, uncharacteristically held her tongue. Now was no time to be rude - the time was nigh upon them to depart, and everyone needed to be on board soon. As Lissa rounded the corner to the corridor where the noble family’s cabin was, she saw the son and her brother standing face-to-face, each boiling with temper. “What is this?” she cried at the two men as she shifted the weight of the bags on her shoulders.
“Stay out of this, Lissa,” Rui didn’t even glance at her, his angry gaze fixed on the arrogant young noble before him.
“Is there a problem here?” lord Artalango stepped between both younger men.
“He says we’re only getting this one cabin,” Arta said through clenched teeth.
“What?!” lady Laurëlannë stood at her husband’s side, her hands on her hips. “What do you mean, only this cabin?”
“That’s exactly what I mean!” Rui said firmly.
“I can’t stay here! And my daughter! With men!!! It is indecent!” the lady shrieked.
“They are your family, lady!” Rui raised his voice. “You are getting no less than any other family on this ship, actually more than everybody else, for you have your own cabin, an illuminator included! The rest of passengers are staying in makeshift compartments down on the cargo deck, and their living space is considerably smaller than yours! If you are so unhappy I will be glad to ask these two men to accompany you downstairs!”
“This is an absolutely unacceptable treatment from your part,” lord Artalango stated in a booming voice. “I demand to speak to lord Anárion, this very moment!”
“You do so, but first you will have to get your luggage and your family off this ship,” Rui announced icily. “If lord Anárion finds a place for you on his ship, good for you. If you want to stay here, however, you will comply with my rules. And those rules state that you stay in the quarters you are assigned to, one family per cabin, and one bag per person,” he added looking at the heap of bags both of his sailors and his sister were loaded with.
“Listen, you!” lord Artalango bellowed. “I will not allow you to...”
Rui simply turned his back to the lord and strode out of the cabin, his sailors promptly stepping aside.
“I am talking to you!” lord Artalango followed the captain.
“And I am done talking to you!” Rui spun around. “You have ten minutes to decide whether you’re staying on White Seagull and abiding my rules, or not. These men will stay to either escort you off the ship, or help you get rid of your excess luggage. Lissa, keep an eye on this.”
With that, he stormed off.
More silence until it became unbearable. Lissa finally broke the silence. “Well then, we must obey what the captain says,” she remarked matter-of-factly, inwardly delighted at how the scene had played out. She pointed a finger at Artalango’s son. “I told you the captain would not be moved. Unless you’d rather swim with the fishes to Arda, you’d best be choosing your most important assets. We do not have the time to waste quarreling about a few trinkets and dresses.” She picked up the haversacks she had carried and tossed them at Artalango. “Finish stowing your own goods by yourselves; you will receive no further aid from me. I am not a servants, least of all yours. There are others with nobler blood who deserve help, those who work with their hands for a living.” Without a second thought, she shoved the family aside and made towards the open air. Before she turned the corner, however, Lissa glanced back and made one last cutting remark. “And yes, the captain is my brother so I know his mind better than anyone. Heeding my advice would have saved this wasted time.” She then left the family to their devices and returned to the deck to assist others.
“Wait here,” Artalango commanded, “while I go and talk to someone in charge. And you,” he looked at his son, “stay out of it. You have done enough damage already.”
“Father?” Artamacil was surprised and hurt at the remark.
“If you would have left the issue to me instead of starting a fruitless argument with the captain, the result would have been quite different.”
Arta decided not to comment and watched his father’s back as he departed.
“Don’t stand like that!” his mother said. “We need to count all our bags. In case some of our stuff got…. displaced.”
[Edited on 03/16/2015 by Dinenlasse]
"There is no such thing as a geek, just those who love things the rest of humanity finds weird."
on: May 27, 2015 11:12
|(JP with Nif!)
Inzil tipped her head back to look up at the sky as a drop of water kissed the tip of her nose. Surely it cannot rain, she thought as she hoisted the bag over her shoulder. Morhesto’s daughter huddled in the shadow of one of the bastions protecting her family’s home. Inzil had to be careful; the guards were periodically patrolling the battlement, and she could little risk being found out. Dark clouds barreled across the slate-grey sky like warhorses, and the air grew heavy and still. It was, quite literally, the calm before the storm. The girl pulled the cowl lower over her head to shut out the sight and the impending rain.
The pack on her back contained only the bare essentials: breeches and shirts and stockings; a few of her favorite books; a tiny wooden box filled with sentimentals; dishes and cutlery; and as much food as she could shove into her bag. Inzil had even grabbed a meat cleaver as a weapon (though she really didn’t think it would be much help in a fight). Then, she had tiptoed from her rooms through the winding, dank corridors of her home and out into the darkening day as soon as her father had announced his intention to destroy the Faithful’s fleet. In the rush of events, she had passed through the walls relatively unnoticed. Inzil’s mother and sister would be locked away in their rooms under Morhesto’s orders, she suspected, and surely they expected Inzil to have done the same.
And yet, here she was, savoring the sweet nip of rebellion and independence.
But then fear flooded her with doubt. How could she disobey her father, the one family member she truly loved and cared for? Inzil hid in the crook formed between the bastion and the wall as tightly as she could and pressed her face against the cold stone as if its massive bulk would protect her. No, she could not do this. Maybe she could simply bid Rui farewell and return with no one noticing...
Morhesto barged into the King’s Men’s Headquarters at the full speed of his horse and jumped off before it had come to a full stop. A soldier ran forward to receive the panting animal that was fuming at its mouth, and barely caught it.
“Line up men!” Morhesto bellowed, as the soldiers were tripping over themselves to get out of his way. “Status report!” he demanded.
Captain Belzagar’s aide stepped forward: “My Lord, Commander, we mustered everybody we could, and in ten minutes they will be armed and ready to leave, to the last man. Flammable arrows, as you have commanded.”
“Good,” Morhesto nodded, observing the men with a sharp eye. “Prepare buckets with fire, and grappling hooks. Those ships will burn where they are.”
“But my Lord…” the aide stammered, “won’t those ships be full of civilians?”
“Yes,” Morhesto looked over his shoulder at the man, “but they’re the Faithful. The traitors to our King, and to Lord Sauron. They have sealed the deal by taking action against their betters, and have brought this upon themselves. Now execute my orders!”
“Yes, my Lord!” the aide saluted, and departed at a pace just short of running. It would have been below his honor, to be seen running by his men. If Lord Morhesto wants those blasted Faithful to burn, then burn they will.
Inzil heard her father’s horse tear out of the wall-gate at a furious pace. A short time after, the household guard poured out after him, their usually rhythmic march now a hurried assemblage of confused and nervous men. A palpable sense of anxiety and fear permeated the air, and Inzil unconsciously shivered. A moment passed, and another. Finally the sounds of their footsteps receded into the dark and uncertain distance. This was the calm before the storm.
“Inzilêth!” a shrill voice cracked like lightning and boomed like thunder from far above her. She craned her neck to peer up at the wall. Silhouetted against the sky like a harbinger of doom was her mother. “I do not know why you are outside the walls nor do I care. All I know is that I will not suffer my children to disobey me when I give direct orders to remain inside.”
Quite suddenly a fierce hatred of her mother coursed through Inzil like a hot, raging river rather than fear after being caught. “And may I ask, Mother, why you are out here? It seems quite hypocritical for you to be wandering the walls,” she replied insolently.
Her mother blustered, taken aback at Inzil’s tone. Her youngest daughter had never spoken out against her before. “I came to see your father off as I always have,” she replied. Her tone grew angrier. “Return inside immediately elsewise I’ll send guards after you. I did not raise you to be a disobedient, ill-mannered ingrate!”
Inzil considered her mother for one moment longer before shaking her head vigorously. “No, Mother. I am my own woman now, not your little song bird to cage. Farewell.” With that, Inzil turned on her heel and broke into a sprint. There was no more time to lose.
“You’re doing it wrong!” Artalango declared and pushed his son aside. “Let me.”
Artamacil, who had just been struggling to set up a hammock, let out a frustrated sigh and stepped back to let his father try. The most annoying part about it was that his father would most likely succeed in what he himself had failed at. Again. Sometimes, he just understood his younger brother’s decision to just walk out on their family, like he had done. Well, it had happened after he had been disowned already, but nevertheless, Elsamin had never argued against their parents’ decision, he had just packed up and left in silence....
“I still can’t believe we had to leave all our things,” he heard his mother sob. She and his sister were sitting on their only chest, both huddled together under a blanket, and watching the men work. “I mean - he could have allowed us at least two bags, each of us! That heartless monster of a man.”
“But even Lord Isildur supported the Captain’s claim about just one cabin and one bag apiece, right?” Arta frowned.
“He still could have been a little more polite,” Laurëlannë insisted, and Arta had to agree with his mother.
“There!” Artalango exclaimed victoriously, as one end of a hammock was successfully fastened to a wall. “That’s how it’s done, son. Watch and learn. Now, I think you should be able to handle the rest.”
“Yes, father,” Arta sighed and glared at the hammocks. He could barely picture himself sleeping in one. How did a man even fall asleep in one? He imagined it would be swinging, and his back would be bent, and… What if he fell out during night? The ladies had arranged a “modesty corner” as they named it - a couple of sheets nailed on the walls to provide some privacy for them to change in.
Arta already missed his trusted manservant Saryondo who had been left behind, like the rest of their servants. Arta had spent few of his years as an adult without Saryondo at his side, and the man had grown quite dear to him. However not even his mother was allowed to have a servant accompany her. Arta suspected that it would eventually mean him being ordered around more that usually. He cast a glance sideways at his sister who was staring at everything quite wide-eyed. Well, in that case he’d make sure Lindalë would get to do her part as well.
“Get down from there!” a sailor called as he slowly hauled in one of the ship’s smaller anchors. Lissa was perched on the edge of the ship, holding onto a mast line. “Ye’ll fall if yer not careful, Lissa,” he cautioned as his strong ham-like forearms pulled and pulled in the thick rope. The winds were picking up. The eagles had gone by now, but on their tails seemed to be an even more ominous warning. The winds were not the carefree light breezes which tickled sails and rope. No, these were storm-winds, those called the “breaths of Ulmo” by old grizzled sailors right before an ocean storm.
Lissa laughed lightly, swung around the line, and landed squarely on the ship’s deck. “Point taken, Nortil,” she replied. She had been keeping an eye on the shore for Rui, who had asked her to watch for their family. The hour of departure was nigh upon them, and those who dawdled would remain behind. They could wait for no one. With relief, she espied them from afar. But then something else caught her eye. A line of torches was moving unusually fast from the north towards the southern docks. She tried counting them but soon lost track. Something was not right. “Nortil,” Lissa said, beckoning her sailor friend over. “What is that?” she asked, pointing in the direction of the torches.
Nortil squinted but shook his head indecisively. “I could hardly tell ye, but we should warn the cap’n,” he replied.
Fortunately, Rui was on deck as he ensured the smooth operations of last-minute planning. She tugged on his shoulder and said urgently, “Brother, we must speak with you.”
Rui looked up, a frown on his face. Inzil had not come. Every once in a while he had made sure to just happen to be near the portside of the “White Seagull” and watch the new arrivals with the fragile hope of seeing her honey-hued braids among the dark tresses the majority of the women among the Númenorians had - but his hope always proved wrong.
She had not come. So Rui had to make peace with himself and accept the fact that she would not come, she had chosen to remain with her family. Could he blame her?
“What?” he shook himself back to reality where everybody wanted something from him. Even Lissa.
Lissa frowned at her brother’s abruptness. He seemed annoyed that she had spoken, as if she had roused him from some musing. “Look northward. What do you see?” she replied with a tinge of offense at his tone.
He did look where she pointed, if just to escape her piercing gaze and questions. However, his expression grew somber when he saw the torches. After watching the lights for a minute or two, he motioned the nearest sailors to approach.
“Make haste and get our passengers onboard, now. Lissa, please go and see how many are yet to arrive,” he turned towards the main mast with the intent to prepare for leaving. The wind was getting stronger.
She scowled his way as she brushed past Rui to obey his request. Taking a mooring rope in hand, she jumped from the deck to the dock as she had before with the agility of a cat. Lissa rushed to the two men who had allowed her in, brushing past the throng of passengers as they crowded the jetty. “What is it, miss?” one of the sailors asked.
“How many have not checked in with you? Captain’s asking,” she inquired.
“Eight,” he replied, checking his list. Lissa caught sight of her aunt and uncle on shore and breathed a quick sigh of relief that they made it in time. She waved at them and smiled briefly at their returning gesture.
“Very well,” she said. “Thank you. Carry on.” Lissa returned to the ship and reported to her brother. His gaze was once again on shore as if he were waiting for something. “Brother, what do you hope to see?” Rui turned his eyes to her face, and she continued without waiting for a reply. “We are waiting on eight more passengers, but fortunately our aunt and uncle will be aboard soon.” She gave him one last lingering look. “I will show them aboard. Whatever it is you are hoping to find, please do not let it distract you from the task at hand. You are, after all, the captain, and we look to you as our leader.”
“Do you see those torches, Lissa?” Rui asked, pointing at the lights angrily. “What does it look like? I can’t believe you have forgotten those bloody processions bringing their sacrifices to Sauron and his evil god. There is evil on the minds of those people, and I want to get as far away from them as possible. And as soon as possible.”
This outburst was not like her brother. In as long as she could remember, Rui had never raised his voice to her. This hurt, more than he could ever know. “How could I ever forget that?” she said lowly, swallowing a knot that had formed in her throat. “You are not the one who wakes up screaming in the middle of the night because you dream about them, the fire, the smoke, the burning flesh. I relive it almost every night.” Lissa shook her head angrily as tears formed at the corners of her eyes. “And I was the one who first sighted the torches, not you, not while your mind was elsewhere.” She sighed heavily and turned away. “Quarreling will avail us of nothing. You do as you will, I need to help our kin.” Without looking back, Lissa strode away.
“Damn it,” Rui cursed under his breath, regretting having hurt Lissa. Perhaps it was the fact that her words had struck too close to the truth, that cut too deep. Still, the wind and the torches were making him uneasy. Torn between his first impulse to follow Lissa and make it up to her, and his duty to make sure his ship was ready to sail the moment the last passenger was on board, he chewed on his lip. One glance at the other ships showed that the others had already finished taking on passengers. Slowly but steadily, the ships were being readied to depart at Lord Elendil’s order.
Worry was gnawing on him, and the sense of urgency increased. If the wind grew any stronger, it would prove complicated to raise the sails and exit the port safely. Already waves were throwing the “Seagull” against the docks and making it complicated to bring people and their luggage aboard. A gust of wind blew his hair in his eyes as he threw his head back to look at the sky. Those dark clouds did not look good.
It took only a moment for Inzil to realize what was about to happen. She had to slap her hand against her mouth as she gasped in utter horror. No, that was not possible. Her father couldn’t burn the ships of the Faithful. That was not right! Surely he could arrest them, but kill? From her hiding place on the wooden roof of a building, Inzil watched her father ride by on a massive black stallion, and she almost called out to him to stop. No, she could not give up her position. If she did, she’d be sent back to her mother. She gnawed her lower lip and made up her mind. She had to get to Rui.
Inzil jumped from the roof onto a hay-laden cart and down to the ground. She sprinted along alleys that ran parallel to the main road, occasionally pushing people or animals aside. Inzil knew she had to get to the docks before the soldiers, and that urgency lent speed to her gait. Finally, the ships loomed in the distance. Inzil approached two sailors who appeared to be blocking the entrance to the ships. “I must speak with Captain Eäruilion! Please! Let me through!” she cried.
The sailor with what looked like a list crossed his arms and glared at her. “Have you heard the seagulls crying?” he asked.
Inzil had no idea what the man was asking or how it was relevant to her pleas. “I don’t know! Yes, I have heard them. Please, just let me through!” she pleaded. “The King’s Captain is coming with armed soldiers! They mean to burn the ships!”
The two sailors exchanged dubious glances. “We cannot let you see the captain.”
Given no other choice, Inzil threw aside her hood and straightened her back so she stood full-height. “I am Inzilêth, daughter of Captain Morhesto. You must let me through!” she proclaimed desperately. “What can I do to convince you all of your lives are in danger?” The sailors stood unmoving, but other passengers on the jetty were beginning to pay attention as Inzil raised her voice, including a tall girl with dark hair who appeared to be accompanying a man and a woman to the ships. The tall girl stared at Inzil as if in a trance. Then, she elbowed her way through the crowd to join them. “She speaks the truth, let her in,” the tall girl said. There was no time to doubt her words. The sailors, who seemed to recognize the girl, nodded their assent and stepped aside.
But before anyone could move, a flare flew through the sky and landed in the ocean with a hiss. Screams erupted from the shore as the mass of soldiers met the throng of passengers and sailors. Immediately there was chaos.
Inzil gasped in horror and for a moment froze as if rooted to the ground. “No,” she muttered, eyes widening as more flame-crowned arrows launched into the air. She had to get to her father. Surely he would listen to reason. Inzil pushed against the tide of people running across the docks to the ships as they represented safety for them. But it was slow going. Eventually, however, she made it to shore and saw her father sitting on his horse underneath the light of a flaming torch. “Father,” she cried as she ran to his side. “What are you doing? This is madness!”
Morhesto looked down at her and started once he recognized his daughter. “Inzil! By the gods, why are you here?” Fury lit his face and his eyes. “No, you will be taken home. I will not talk to you now.” He gestured to his third-in-command. “Take her.”
“No!” she shouted, brandishing her meat cleaver as if it would save her. “You must stop this. The Faithful are good people, people just like us!” Inzil cried as the third-in-command dismounted and approached her. “You say you serve the king, but this is madness! He is not right, the Valar will never stand for this! If you continue to Valinor, you will go to your death!” Her tirade continued as if she were mad. She backed away from the soldier as if she were a cornered dog. “I will not go home! I will not move myself! You must end this, Father! For the love of me, end this!” All Morhesto could do was shake his head sadly and turn his back on her as he maneuvered his horse towards the chaos. Two men joined the third-in-command, and they surrounded the girl.
The moment the torches had turned unexpectedly towards the docks, Rui knew they were in trouble. He exploded in action. Grabbing a signal flag, he ran towards the front of the ship while bellowing: “All hands on deck!”, and started waving with it, signalling the other ships to leave. Thankfully, they were ready, and reply signals flashed on the boards of the ships as commands were given to release moorings. Anchor chains groaned as men pulled on them, and waves started hissing around the heavy hulls.
Everybody seemed to have started screaming at the same time, and helping hands reached forward to pull up those who had still to climb on board. Those who had been afraid to walk the moving ramp, now had to decide whether they could abandon their fears and jump towards the waiting hands, or remain on the docks. People were abandoning their belongings just to try and make it on board.
“Prepare to release the moorings!” Rui ordered when his gaze fell on the shore. There stood a girl, with braids the colour of honey, surrounded by the King’s Men.
“No,” he breathed. She had come! She had come at last! But too late. Conflicted, he hesitated.
“Take her, lads,” the commander said as he rushed Inzil. The insolent girl would pay for disobeying her father, he figured. But he would not try to harm her.
The ships were leaving! Inzil was joyous that they would get away. But now was her moment. Would she actually join them? Would she join Rui and begin a new life? Or would she stay here as the captive, disobedient daughter of the King’s Captain? It had once been a hard choice to make, now it was easy. Inzil discarded the meat cleaver and darted under the arms of the soldiers who were burdened by their armor. She was lighter and much faster. With her pack still on her back, the thick cloak on her shoulders, she broke free of their grasps. Inzil ran with as much speed as she could muster and launched herself off of the dock into the foaming water. The sea rushed to meet her, and she momentarily sank. Frigid, salty water filled her mouth. When she surfaced, she coughed it out. But a wave washed over her head. Swim, you fool, swim! she berated herself. Eventually her tired limbs began swimming for the “Seagull”. But she would never make it - the ships were moving faster than she could swim
Rui thought his heart would stop when he saw Inzil hit the angry water. With a pack on her back, and with that heavy cloak that had to be pulling her down under, she was going to perish! Duty as a captain and the desire to save her put on a savage battle in his heart as he strained to see her head amongst the waves.
“Go get her!” he grabbed one of his sailors by his shirt, and practically threw him overboard in Inzil’s direction. “Get me an empty barrel! I need it in the water, now! The rest of you - release the moorings, prepare to unfold the sails! And everybody else - get the hell out of the way!”
Sailors, used to following their Captain’s orders, obeyed instantly, trusting his judgement. Their moves were purposeful, each and everybody knew their positions and duties exactly. The moorings were released, leaving several wailing people on the shore, and men were straining their muscles working on raising the anchors as soon as possible. Quick as monkeys, nimble men climbed the masts and took key positions on them, ready to release the sails at the Captain’s order, while the boatswain took the wheel in his steady hands.
Inzil treaded to keep herself above water as much as possible, but it was difficult. Suddenly, she bumped into a man who put his arms around her. She screamed and pushed away against him as another wave rolled over their heads. “Stop, I am here to help you,” he cried. He pulled over an empty barrel and helped Inzil into it. It was hard, however, as the barrel bobbed at the water’s mercy.
And then, the heavens themselves opened with the sound of thunder.
Inzil found herself surrounded by wood and hauled up bit by bit onto a ship. Despite sailors trying to balance the barrel, it tipped, and the girl was dumped unceremoniously onto the deck. She immediately turned on her side and wretched seawater. A nearby sailor thumped her back, and more water spilled out. “Ger her dry clothes!” someone shouted.
The moment Inzil and his sailor were on board, Rui gave the order to release the front sail to give the wind something to set into, and left his post to go running to her. He pushed a sailor out of the way…
“Thank the Valar!” he cried when he saw her spilling water but undoubtedly alive. Without giving any thought to what he was doing and who might be watching, Rui gathered the thoroughly drenched girl in his arms and hugged her.
Inzil was beyond glad that she had been pulled onto the right ship, and she was even happier that it was Rui who found her. She returned his gesture tightly but then noticed that his crew and some passengers had crowded around them.
"Who is that?” a voice cried out. Inzil looked in the direction of the voice and caught sight of the dark-haired tall girl who had vouched for her earlier…
A multiple whooshing sound pierced the air, and flaming arrows started to fall. People who had gathered on the deck started screaming and running to find shelter. Several of the arrows fell right next to Rui. They had not been aimed to kill, but rather to spread fire.
“Take care of her!” Rui thrust Inzil in Lissa’s reluctant arms, as he rushed back to his men to take control of the situation. They needed to get away as soon as possible! Yelling for several men to help quench the fire that had taken hold in several places, he looked at the front sail. It was straining under the strong wind. Could he risk to release the main sail? It could kill the momentum if the wind ran sideways… And the arrows kept falling. Rui decided against it, hoping to avoid fire damage to the main sail. If the front sail was torn by the wind, so be it, he was going to risk it.
“Steer her to the open sea!” he called the boatswain, and the man replied with the customary: “Aye, Capt’n!”
“Get those people under the deck!” Rui yelled at several seamen standing and waiting for his orders, and the men started rushing the reluctant people downstairs. Rui could hardly blame them. It was not easy to hide in darkness and await your destiny, but he had to have a clear deck and not to worry about civilian casualties.
Lissa took the girl’s arm and led her away under the deck. They maneuvered their way to the cabin, and Lissa guided the girl through the door. She was not sure how she felt. Rui’s sister had seen the way the two had embraced, and instinctively she knew that this was the reason Rui had been momentarily distracted, and even the reason they had quarreled. But now was not the time to be judgmental. She took out her pack and rummaged through it to find a dry shirt, breeches, and stockings. “Here,” she told the golden-haired woman. “These will keep you warm.”
“Thank you,” Inzil returned, taking the clothes gratefully. She studied her companion’s face for a moment. “I know you,” she continued. “You were going to help me to the docks to warn the captain. I wanted to thank you for that.”
Lissa accepted the thanks with a small smile. “I had seen the torches from the ship. I knew they were dangerous. I should thank you for confirming my fears.” Lissa removed a blanket from her pack and handed it to who was clearly her brother’s fair friend. “Stay here and rest from your ordeal. I must return to deck to help my brother.” With that, Lissa stepped out of the door.
Rui had a sister?, Inzil thought in wonder as she began to change from her sodden clothing into dry. Rui had never spoken of her…
When Lissa returned to deck, it was chaos. She cast her eyes heavenward and noticed lightning cracking across the now black sky, coloring it a deep purple. Now that the deck was clearer, it was easier to find her brother. She moved to his side and asked, “What would you have me do?”
Rui reached out to squeeze her hand. “Thank you,” he had to raise his voice to be heard over the wind. He was reluctant to send his sister in danger, but if he was being honest to himself, he needed every helping hand there was. Thankfully, the wind was so strong now the arrows could not reach them anymore, and those that did, had lost their flame. A glimpse shoreward told him the army could not do any more damage. However, the storm could.
“I need you up in the main mast to assist the men. The lower branch. We are going to try and release a small part of the main sail. Those waves do not look good,” Rui frowned looking at the white-maned waves that raced their ship. Soon, they would start rushing past them, and then it would be bad. “Don’t forget to tie yourself to the safe rope!” he reminded her.
She flashed him a mischievous smile, reminiscent of her impish nature when she chose to let it out. “I live for this weather, dear brother. ‘Tis just a mere squall.” Lissa squeezed his hand tightly then scurried away up the ropes.
Rui had to smile, albeit it was a small and tense smile. For now, those dear to him were safe, now he had to make sure they stayed safe.
“Prepare to release the sails!” he called, and sailors down on the board took a sure grip on the ropes in order to help the men up on the mast.
“Lead her on irons, Raumo!” he ordered the boatswain, and he acknowledged before turning the wheel slightly to send the ship directly towards the wind. Rui hoped that would save the full impact on the sails. “Release them!” he waved at the men up in the masts.
The fittings and ropes tying the sails up were released gradually, and all three sails slid down one fraction. Once it was done, the men on board put all of their muscle in holding the sails down to keep them from going down full size, while those up on the beams worked as fast as they could to tie them down again. Rui ran to help the men holding the ropes, as the wind was pulling them out of their hands. The sail flopped and cracked over their heads, as ropes were burning their hands. The welcome shout from above informing them that the sails were secured, was met with joyful exclamations.
“Raumo, close reach!” Rui shouted to the boatswain, and the ship turned right to let the wind meet the sail midway between the beam and the front, and the small strips of the sail cracked and filled with air. The mast bent, but held, and waves started hissing, as the “Seagull” now raced over their tops.
Save for the whiteness of the sails and the foaming waves, the world was plunging into darkness. Rui could only pray to the Valar to be merciful and spare them the gruesome fate of crashing on a foreign shore.
With the ship now on course, Lissa thought it was safe to return to deck. She slowly but surely climbed down the mast-ropes. The sun had now disappeared below the horizon, but where there should have been starlight, there existed only clouds. Even the usually bright moon hid itself behind a veil of dark. Now that things were relatively safe, however, she could take a moment to catch her breath. The growling wind tugged fiercely at her hair and clothing, and for one wild moment she felt exhilarated. Lissa loved the open sea, and the thought of a new adventure in a new land thrilled her. She joined the other sailors in congratulating each other before they turned to more important tasks and she returned to her brother’s side. “Well done, brother,” she said happily, taking his hand and squeezing it for comfort.
Rui could only offer her a small, tired smile. Although the storm seemed to be quieting down - quite unusually fast, he remarked - that didn’t mean they were out of danger. His crew still had to try and find out their exact location and had only a general idea about the direction the wind had taken them. “White Seagull” was still being rocked by huge waves like it was just a tiny speck of wood in the sea, and his crew had only the basic means to correct its route in case an island or a rock happened to be straight ahead.
“Go get some rest,” he told Lissa, while counting the men climbing down the ropes and praying to the Valar nobody had gotten blown off by the fierce gale or washed off by the waves.
“No,” she returned, shaking her head. “I cannot rest until we are safely out of danger. Something tells me we are not in the clear yet, and you will need all of the help you can get. If you’d like, I can take over manning the wheel. Or I can help with clearing the deck of debris.” What Lissa couldn’t tell her brother was that she did not want to face the golden-haired woman who now rested in their cabin.
“I will take the wheel myself,” he shook his head, “but I’d appreciate it if you took a look at the fore-sail and checked how it’s doing. It would be a shame if it were torn by the wind.” He looked up at the bridge and yelled for half of the men to go and get some rest. “You too, Raumo. Well done, everybody.”
“Aye, Cap’n,” the short man acknowledged, as did the rest, and cheered. They had practically won this battle with the nature.
Lissa took her leave of Rui and went to inspect the fore-sail. Oil-filled lantern in hand, her keen eyes scanned the pale canvas carefully looking for any tears. Surprisingly, she found the sail in good shape. A little stained, a little wet, but that was only to be expected. Lissa then tugged on the ropes to check their strength, and though a little frayed, they held. They would probably need to be replaced at some point in their journey, however. As she worked, a quiet song spontaneously burst forth.
Hey ho, hey ho
All you sailors row, row.
Hey ho, hey ho
The sails be filled with wind, oh.
Lissa repeated this little ditty to herself over and over. She had learned it from Ingor, the grizzled sailor who had frequented the Blowing Sail, and it often helped her to concentrate on the task at hand. Her fingers expertly traced the wooden sail supports for any signs of fracturing or splintering, but the sturdy wood appeared intact. Overall the sail was none the worse for wear, but they should keep a weather eye on it all the same, she noted.
As Lissa crossed the nearly-empty deck, another song came to mind.
The old ship’s mate is a crusty fool
Who lives for nothing but bread and gruel.
His wife, she is a half-dead fish
To sleep all day, it is her wish.
The cap’n is a man most fair
Who pays his crew with naught but air.
The cook, he is a sly old beast
Where’s the bosun? Upon him we feast!
Not a day goes by where we wish to stay
Aboard this ship, the Leaky Dray!
When she reached Rui near the ship’s stern, Lissa was finishing the last lines. “All’s well ends well, cap’n,” she reported, throwing her brother a mock salute. “The fore-sail is in good shape. The ropes, however, will need replacing in the future. They are holding, but the fibers are starting to fray. Thought you’d ought to know, cap’n.” And with that, she remained standing at attention.
“I’ll keep those fibers in mind, thank you, sailor,” Rui responded, as a smile took over his tired features. His hands were steady on the wheel, and he had lookouts at the fore of the ship, and up in the mast. And the waves were calming down. Every once in a while he saw somebody climb out of the hatch looking for some fresh air and less shaking and tossing than in the bowels of the ship. He truly felt for those poor souls who were on board for the first time, and already had to endure a storm. Pretty soon all of those “poor souls” were hanging over the boards, and it occurred to Rui that he did not want to go downstairs to inspect his passengers’ wellbeing. At least not until it was cleaned up some.
Lissa sighed and began to pace the deck. “I do not know about you, Rui, but I will not sleep this night. I will remain above deck to keep watch and relieve as needed.” What she did not tell him was she could not bear spending her first night on board inside a cabin, particularly because she was terrified of having her night terrors again. Lissa did not need to wake up her exhausted family with her screaming. Her good mood had quickly dissipated, and she became nervous and pensieve again. Lissa turned her back to her brother and halted at the edge of the deck, holding the railing tightly. All she could see was the blackness of the ebbing and flowing water, the eternal abyss far below them. For a moment she was quiet, but then she turned back to her brother. “Can I get you anything? Water?”
Only after her question Rui realized how thirsty he was. And famished.
“Water will be very welcome. And food. Anything.” He’d be ready to eat truly just about anything she’d bring him. “And don’t forget the other men, sis. Thank you.”
Lissa nodded in acknowledgement and went to find the mess. The cook turned out to be Nortil who was huddled in front of a low fire. A large pot simmered over the flames, and the smell of something delicious assaulted Lissa’s nose. Nortil looked up at her and cracked a wry grin. “What can I do for ye?” The sailor looked cold and miserable. The small fire was barely warm enough to heat the small kitchen even though Nortil was positively laying in it. He picked up a wooden spoon and stirred what looked like a thin soup.
“I’ve come for food for my brother and the other sailors on deck. What do you have there, friend?” she asked, trying hard to not let her mouth water.
Nortil picked up the spoon and tasted the tip. He then offered it to Lissa. It was as if she had never tasted anything so good in her life. It was savory with a hint of tangy apple in it. “I know we have to ration our rations,” Nortil said, “but I thought everyone could appreciate a simple broth on such a miserable night. ‘Tis made with onions and carrots, and salt and pepper, and I’ve added some apple vinegar.” He smiled proudly. “I’ll come help you with setting up a tray.” They ladled the soup into mugs, and he threw heels of bread on the tray as well. Lissa also poured ale from a keg into several tankards. “I am sure the captain will appreciate this more than water,” she mused as they worked. They loaded a cart with the food and drink, and Lissa returned outside. She passed the rations onto the thankful sailors, and they all expressed surprise and gratitude at the excellent if simple food. Lissa finally returned to Rui who still stood steadily at the wheel. He took the food and tore into it like a hound, and while he ate, Lissa went to return the cart. There was one more mug of soup, and Lissa suspected Nortil had set up one more serving for her. But as she pushed the cart in front of her towards the center of the ship, she spotted Artalango’s son.
Artamacil had always believed he liked ships. They were absolutely beautiful when gliding across still water with those white sails all puffy and rounded, and also when gliding up and down foam-topped waves so effortlessly… From afar, that is. He had never believed he would absolutely hate one just after a couple of hours spent on board, and he did hate this… this.... rolling bucket of wood that was making his world as awful as it could possibly become. More awful than he had ever believed his world could actually become. His poor stomach was dry-heaving, insisting on spilling anything while there was nothing to spill, and he was so weak he was dragging his feet and using both his hands to steady himself as he inched forward towards the kitchen - or whatever that place was called. His family was far worse off than Arta himself, so he had decided upon trying to bring them some water. And to try and fetch some one who’d come up to their cabin to clean the floor. The stench was making everybody even sicker than they already were.
Actually, it had been quite a relief to come outside and walk a little. At least his stomach seemed to have settled down, slightly. Arta contemplated staying on the deck for a while, although the healthy fear of a huge wave washing him off was keeping him back.
“Are you alright?” Lissa asked as she slowly shuffled up to him with the last bit of food and drink Nortil had meant for her. The young noble appeared miserable. In the light of her lantern, his face was pale and pinched. She had to fight down a chuckle at one who had clearly not yet found his sea legs. Lissa had lost her fear of the ocean long ago, and she sometimes forgot others were not as comfortable riding the waves as she was. The coming days meant others would become weak wretches as they adjusted to their short stay at sea. “Here, take this.” She pressed the tankard of ale into his hands. “This will help settle your stomach.”
Arta glanced suspiciously at the tankard. That dark liquid inside was sloshing around, apparently intent on getting out of its confinement one way or another, foaming at the rim, and the thick smell tickled his nostrils. Surprisingly enough, it did not cause the instant disturbance other smells and aromas seemed to be very effective at. So he dared to try and sip on it. That was no easy task, with the ship still dancing under him like a mad whale, and the ale ended up all over his chest. Embarrassed at his own clumsiness he avoided looking at the girl who undoubtedly must have been smirking at him, Arta gave it another try - and with a “clank!” the tankard hit his teeth. At least he had something to hold the tankard in place with, and that was a comforting thought. However, the ale proved to be even more comforting - and delicious.
“This is really good!” he stared at the tankard before lifting his eyes at the girl.
For the first time, Lissa smiled at the young man without derision at his compliment. Now that the ships were well under way, she felt less stressed, less tense, and less likely to engage in a confrontation. “Some of the ship’s ale was supplied by my uncle, and that is what you are drinking now. He’s quite the brewmaster,” she remarked proudly. She then took the mug of soup and handed the metal cup to him. She could not deny that it still smelled delicious. “I am sure you do not feel like eating, but try this as well. You will need to keep up your strength.” The poor lad still appeared miserable, but Lissa suspected the color slowly returned to his face. If nothing else, his voice sounded clearer and not as hoarse from his heaving.
Arta looked at the ale with a new appreciation.
“I have seldom tasted ale before,” he said thoughtfully, “as we mostly prefer wine. But this… is really good.”
In the dark, Lissa could feel her cheeks flushing with heat. She was proud of her uncle, and she was also thankful that the night hid her pleasure at his comments. “I have never really had wine before. The wine merchants never reached us for we could never afford their wares.” Lissa paused, embarrassed about revealing more of her background. “But ale is a wondrous thing and can be brewed with just about anything, including fruit and nuts. Above all, it is perfect for a cold night such as tonight.” The man passed the now empty tankard to her. “I am glad you liked it. There is always more where that came from,” she added, laughing softly.
“I’ll … keep that in mind,” Arta said, slightly confused by this unexpected civility from the girl that had previously proved to be quite… um…. unreasonable for a young lady, to put it mildly. “Would it be possible to get some more? So I could take it to my family,” he hurried to add. He would not like to be considered a drunkard.
Lissa considered him for a moment then nodded. “Though we need to ration all of our supplies, I can see no harm in it. Follow me.” The pair crossed the deck back to the small kitchen, and Nortil looked him from stirring the cauldron. “Back already, Lissa?” he queried, raising an eyebrow at the man who entered behind her.
“Aye, Nortil. Can you see that this man gets enough ale for four? And I ask this as a special favor to me since I know we have not given any passengers belowdecks anything as of yet.”
Nortil looked from the man to Lissa and nodded decisively. “Of course, Lissa, anythin’ for ye, miss,” he said with a smile. The sailor had been good friends with Lissa’s uncle, and he looked at Lissa as a daughter since she was a small child.
“Very well then, Nortil, thank you.” She turned to the man. “Nortil will take care of you. I must return to my brother. Good night.” Lissa brushed past him and back out into the chilly night.
Now this was truly unexpected, Arta thought, as he stared after the departing girl. He had barely managed the gallant bow that had been only part training and part true gratitude as she hastily left to wherever she was going. He realized he was being given a special treatment. Previously, he had understood that his family would not be given any. Interesting.
However, he was not about to start questioning his luck. If the cook was benevolent enough to give him more of this blessed drink to bring it to his ailing family, Arta was content to take was he was getting. While the ale was being poured, Arta decided to try his luck with the soup the girl had handed him earlier. Cautiously, he brought half a spoonful to his lips and swallowed, waiting for his stomach’s reaction - and it remained down! A couple of spoonfuls later and a super-size tankard in his hand, he was making his way back to the tiny cabin his family was stuffed in, the other hand holding on to anything he could grab a hold of as she ship’s walls were trying to crush on him from every direction. By Valar, he truly, truly hated being aboard!
From a safe distance, Lissa watched the man struggle with his second helping of ale towards the hatch. A thought creeped into her mind. I hope he doesn’t think that he can expect anyone to go out of his way for him all of the time, she mused, crossing her arms. Perhaps the girl would have to provide him a warning on the morrow, so as not to seem as if she were reneging on her earlier scolding. A cold wind picked up the hem of her cloak and teased her hair. Shivering slightly, Lissa pulled the wool tightly about her form, and her stomach growled in hunger. She wondered if the man realized she had given up her own rations for him. Probably not, Lissa reckoned. She doubted any nobles realized when any they deemed lesser than themselves sacrificed something for them.
Eventually Lissa returned to her brother, but they did not speak. For now, there was simply no need. Instead, Lissa stared at the black void above them and wished she could see the stars, but at the moment, clouds still hid those luminescent gems and even the silver face of the moon. Her thoughts wandered to the girl she had stowed in their cabin. Who was she? And why had Rui been so secretive about her? She was pretty, that was for sure. With golden hair and a petite frame but curiously confident too, Rui’s sister could tell. Perhaps it would be sisterly of Lissa to check on this other girl. It would also mean it would be warm belowdecks. Rui could handle himself for the rest of the night.
And, the thought of bed was powerfully persuasive...
When Arta returned to his family’s cabin, he was greeted by quite a miserable sight. Feeling much more steady on his feet now than just a short while ago, he stared down at where his family was laying sprawled over the floor, and wondered whether he had looked just as… wretchedly bad as they did. Probably yes. However, both ladies refused to even try the ale, although his father did allow himself to be talked into “taking just one sip, it’s not that bad”. Of course, the dark liquid proved to be far better than just “not that bad”, and slowly but steadily lord Artalango was returning to health. Still, the stench in the cabin was making Arta sicker than the wild rocking of the ship, so he excused himself and left. It was actually much more preferable to be outside in the wind and fresh air. The young noble thought back about the girl. Quite an interesting young thing… She had been very impertinent more than once, and nevertheless she had been helpful to him, when he had been quite far from his best. That was more than a little confusing, but he let it go, for now. And he realised he still didn’t know her name...
[Edited on 05/28/2015 by Dinenlasse]
"There is no such thing as a geek, just those who love things the rest of humanity finds weird."
on: September 30, 2015 07:39
|A JP with Dinen! (yes, another one)
Inzilêth removed her sopping clothes and dumped them into a damp pile in one corner of the cabin. She then gingerly stepped into the clothes that the raven-haired woman, Rui’s sister, had thrust at her before rushing out of the cabin. They clung to her drenched skin Sister? How had Inzil not known her friend had a sister? But then, both of them kept many secrets.
The cabin was immensely small and cramped; one could barely step six paces in any direction. Four hammocks hung on pegs hammered into the paneled walls. A porthole let in a little light, but there was no other source to be found. Inzil stood on her tiptoes to peek through the glass. She could see little through the dirty and grimy glass except for the sky. Slate-grey clouds with silver underbellies barreled across the horizon, chased by even darker, more ominous ones.
The door opened to show an elderly woman’s face. A face that could be called beautiful if it weren’t wearing a frown. Ailinel looked the girl in front of her over without even bothering to hide her hostility.
“You’re decent. Good. Come in now, Sorontál,” she called before bending over to pick up Inzil’s discarded clothes from the floor. She frowned at them.
“Is there something wrong?” Inzil asked the woman, arching an eyebrow at the rather cold greeting.
“I wouldn’t know,” she stared back at her before adding “my lady,” making it sound as an insult.
Inzil was rather taken aback. She did not know this woman, but even so, she had not expected to be treated with such hostility. “May I ask your name?” Inzil asked politely, masking her initial disdain of this woman.
Ailinel paused at Inzil’s quiet question. Not exactly the attitude she had expected, but then, she knew all too well how deceitful her kind could be. And it wasn’t difficult to ask the name of the servant who picked up the clothes her Ladyship had discarded on the floor, was it? Without any doubt, the spoiled little noble was fully expecting her dress to be returned to her washed and pressed…
“It’s Ailinel. And before you…” she caught herself as Sorontál entered the cabin, bowing low in order not to hit his head against the doorframe. “I know who and what you are, my lady,” Ailinel straightened in her full height, “but what I can’t understand is why you are here, on this ship. What do you want, really? What are your intentions?” she questioned the girl as dread tugged on her heart. She could sense it in her bones, there was something terrible coming. Did that girl have anything to do with it?
“Take it easy, old girl,” Sorontál placed a huge, comforting hand on the low of her back, “don’t you see the poor girl is exhausted?”
The ship rocked suddenly, and Ailinel became aware of shouts outside. She knew it was the triple damned father of Inzil attacking them, trying to kill them all. Trying to kill the only people who were still left from her once-huge family. Tears clouded her vision.
“Here,” she thrust the bundle of wet clothes in the hands of the girl, “you can take care of drying your own clothes, my lady. I will go and see whether I can help somebody before they’re killed by your people.”
Choking on a sob, Ailinel all but stormed out of the cabin.
“My lady?” Inzil muttered as the woman stomped out of the cabin in a huff. “I don’t ever want to hear those words again.” She stared at her clothes as if they were heaping piles of garbage. The girl shook her head in disgust, but then her eyes strayed to the man. “Before I hear anything else, sir, I must let you know I am my father’s daughter, but I am not him. I am of my people, but I am not them. I am not here to kill anyone, disrupt anything, none of that. I am only here to escape.” Inzil’s voice carried a ring of truth, but somehow, after the woman’s outburst, that the truth would not matter to the ears of the Faithful. She was sure that they were cut from the same cloth as Rui, the same beliefs.
Sorontál raised one of his bushy eye-brows at her.
“I am not the one to judge you, but it would be wise of you not to anger her. She can be kind and caring, but she’ll become a true lion if she feels like she needs to protect her own,” he said seriously but with obvious affection. “I don’t know why Rui brought you aboard, but I’d suggest you keep your distance from him. Ailinel loves that boy and his sister more than anything. Just so that you know,” Sorontál added kindly, but his sharp eyes never stopped observing her, trying to judge her character.
And who will care for me aboard this wretched ship? Inzil almost asked. But instead she inclined her head in acknowledgment of his words. “Whatever I may do to ease this...transition...I will do. However inclined your wife to think I am spoiled and arrogant, rest assured I am not. So if it means I keep my distance, then keep my distance I shall.” She met his direct and stern gaze levelly as if to let him know that she not only meant her word but also that they were equals. Despite the havoc her father may have wreaked on their family, Inzil would not let anyone, whether this man and his hysterical wife, nor any of the other Faithful, treat her as less of a person than they were.
He made a “hmph” sound as if taken by surprise, then shifted his weight on his feet.
“I will leave you to rest now.” He nodded, as if confirming his words to himself, then stepped outside and closed the door.
Soon bored, Inzil went to one of the hammocks and placed her hand tentatively upon the cloth sling after tossing the wet clothes back into a corner. It swayed gently at her touch, but she steadied and then lay upon it. Closing her eyes, Morhesto’s daughter lapsed into thought. The girl was confused and anxious. Why had she come after all? Why had she chosen Rui over her family? These thoughts overwhelmed Inzil before weariness overtook her. She drifted into a deep sleep.
In Inzil’s dreams, she was riding a great white horse. They were trotting along a creek just outside the walls of her great mansion when suddenly the horse bunched his muscles and broke into a rollicking gallop. He leapt over the steam and continued at a breakneck pace. It was all Inzil could do to stay mounted, her hands threaded in his silky mane. He then halted suddenly and began to prance crazily, turning his hindquarters one way and his withers the other. Finally, he reared and Inzil found the ground rushing up to meet her. And so it was that she landed facedown with a thud on hard planks of wood.
Sorontál hurried over to help the poor girl up. She appeared to have hit the wooden planks quite painfully, the poor thing.
“Here.. let me help you, my Lady,” he sat down himself next to her. It was impossible to stand, for the wild way the ship bucked in the stormy waters. All four hammocks were swinging, and the unpacked sacks holding the belongings of their family were sliding constantly from one wall of the cabin to another. Ailinel was sitting in a corner, her face a mask of pure terror, as the older woman grabbed desperately at the walls on the both sides of her.
Steadying herself with the gentle strength of the man next to her, Inzil regained her footing. “I...thank you,” she said quietly. “And, please, do not call me “lady”. My name is Inzilêth, nothing more.” She craned her head to peer into the man’s face, and she saw something in the set of his jaw and the shape of his nose that reminded her of Rui. Could they be kin? Another buck of the ship sent them all sprawling. Inzil fell against the woman, and she shoved Morhesto’s daughter away.
“Don’t touch me, or you’ll get your hands dirty. I don’t want to lose my life because of that when we hand you over to your Lord father. My family has lost enough already.”
“Mistress, I doubt I shall be seeing my father again. He is flying westward towards the unknown, and we are heading east towards the same. Our paths will not intersect with those not of the Faithful again. Count me an enemy if you will, but I am aboard this ship the same as you, whether you like it or not.” Inzil picked herself off of the damp floor and clung to one of the swaying hammocks for support.
Ailinel snorted at the girl but said nothing. She was feeling so sick she simply didn’t have enough strength to do anything else than to hold on to her two walls, and try and keep the contents of her stomach inside.
Sorontál was doing much better than his wife. This was far from his first time he stepped on the deck of a ship. He longed to help his nephew, but he knew that a trained crew was better off under Rui’s command. The older man knew his time would come to lend a hand. When the younger men would succumb to exhaustion after battling the storm, was when the time for older men came.
Bile and something unspeakable soon rose in Inzil’s throat. Her feet had never touched the wooden decks of a ship before, and neither had she felt the rolling waves beneath her. What was happening outside? She knew the sky had darkened with glowering twilit clouds. And then from outside came the wailing of winds and the tremor of thunder. And so the next few hours were spent in terror as the ship battled and became battered by a monstrous storm. Inzil’s thoughts turned to Rui and how he was managing. She hoped he fared well, not only because she cared for him but also because he was her only friend aboard this wretched ship. Eventually, however, the storm subsided, and heads began to poke out beyond the cabin doors.
Sorontál was the first one to try the air outside. He went and soon returned with some water that he handed to his wife. Without a word, the man found a piece of cloth in their bags and began mopping up the floor, cleaning it from the remains of both women’s sea-sickness. Once Ailinel had taken a few gulps, she shook her head and handed the cup back. Sorontál passed it on to Inzil.
Inzil accepted the water gratefully and tried to hide her embarrassment how her body had reacted to the ship. A few awkward moments of silence passed, and she asked Sorontál hesitantly, “Is it safe to go outside?”
“Yes, of course. Go and breathe some fresh air, my…. Inzilêth,” Sorontál corrected himself. “It will make you feel better. And make sure you look far away over the water. It will help with your stomach,” he suggested as he remained on his knees next to Ailinel who lay on the ground completely exhausted.
“Thank you,” Inzil replied, getting to her feet. She turned the doorknob and cracked it open. A few others strode cautiously through the corridors as if they feared disturbing their neighbors. Inzil joined a few who approached the deck. The salty tang of the night air, now clear and cold, slapped her in the face like a wet fish. But it was also a welcome change from the stale, dank, and wretched misery of belowdecks. Instead of glowering clouds, stars now glittered like gems in the night sky. Inzil breathed a sigh of relief. She cast her gaze at others who emerged from the cargo. Most seemed miserable, and there were a small smattering of men, women, and children. But for now, all were safe.
Artamacil had finally convinced his family to step outside. He was holding his mother around her slender waist - quite surprisingly so, if one was to compare it to the waistlines of other women her age, and she took a tremendous amount of pride in her ability to remain that slender - because she was still quite unsteady on her feet.
“Oh, my goodness!” she breathed as she saw bodies doubled over the ship’s boards. From the sounds coming from those bodies, Arta could tell that those poor people were still being sick. His mother was making quiet sounds of disgust as she held a scented handkerchief to her delicate nose.
“Do you believe there is an officers’ deck? Or something similar for decent people to spend a few minutes in… some pleasant company?” she asked weakly.
“I don’t know, Mother,” Arta replied, seriously doubting the fact. Having visited the “kitchen” and dining hall, with basic tables and stools all nailed to the floor, he somehow didn’t expect to find a dining room, a decent restroom, or a open-air terrace on the deck.
A door opened to his right, and he saw a fair-haired girl exit hesitantly. Arta spared her only a fleeting glance, when a long-buried memory tugged at him and make him look back at her.
It couldn’t be… Could it?
She wore a dress that fit way too snugly over her curves, quite obscenely so, one might add. There were wrinkles of fabric where the girl’s waist was, wrinkles that hugged her flesh so tightly that it would entice a man to place his hands there. And if he would raise his gaze higher - which he inevitably did - it would be met by a bodice that didn’t even meet properly in the middle! Arta fought to avert his eyes from the scandalous attire the girl wore. And in public!
But what shocked him most was that he knew her - not that he was happy about that little fact now. She used to be nobility, even more importantly - she used to be the daughter of Captain Morhesto. Arta couldn’t really believe his eyes to see her here, on the board of a ship of the Faithful. What in the Middle-earth was she doing here! And dressed as a… well… as a… Woman of little virtue?
No, he couldn’t allow Mother see Inzilêth. Not after that scandal Captain Morhesto’s family had created after their marriage proposal had been refused. And to imagine he would be now tied to her! Dressed like that! No, Arta couldn’t even imagine such a disgrace.
“Come here, Mother,” he led her closer to the front of the ship where there were less people. “There will be more fresh air here.”
Inzil’s steps led her around the ship’s perimeter towards the stern. People milled about helplessly, not quite sure of where to go or what to do. The girl kept to herself, not trusting herself to meet anyone’s gaze or to speak. There were no words to say. They had all endured a hellish night, some of it caused by her father. Every once in a while Inzil would glance up and feel the heat of a hot gaze directed at her. First it was a smiling pretty girl whose dimples disappeared to be replaced by a shadowy facade. Next was a grizzled old man who had clearly seen many winters. His cracked and gnarled hands gestured angrily in her direction as she passed him by the mess. Lastly a stout middle-aged woman puckered her lips and spat at Inzil. Upset, Inzil backed away in a hurry, her boot heels thumping on the damp worn wood.
She turned towards the sea and leaned on the ship’s rail, dangling her delicate hands over the edge. The gently swelling waves stretched out in vast crests and troughs as far as the eye could see. Her gaze followed the rails and locked on a familiar figure. It was Rui, looking as dead and ghastly as a wight on his feet. His normally tan face had paled considerably as a result of the ordeal. Dark circles appeared under his eyes, and he stumbled across the deck as a drunkard does after a night of spirit-imbibing. Inzil’s heart went out to him, and despite the ever-present glares, she approached the ship’s captain. “Rui!” Inzil called out.
Rui looked up as a familiar voice reached his ears, and almost lost his footing again. He was so tired he could have dropped down and fallen asleep right where he was.
Inzil. Right. She was on the ship.
Rui recalled her being pulled out of the angry waters… He’d been so scared for her! Now now here she was. All safe and sound, and smiling at him. Feeling a smile crawl on his own face, he headed towards her.
“Captain! When can we expect to reach solid ground?” somebody stopped him, and Rui growled in frustration.
“I don’t know yet, it depends on our current location of the ship.”
“You don’t know where we are?!” a woman’s shrill scream hurt his ears.
“No, the winds could have…” the rest of his words drowned in the woman’s terrified wail, that was picked up by others. Rui winced at the sound that really hurt his tired ears.
“Look, we’ll have to do some readings and measurements when the sun comes up…”
But nobody heard him. Rui looked around at the scared and exhausted faces around him. He should have thought of something to say to calm their minds, but he could find no words. So he simply left them to wail by themselves and pushed his way through the crowd to Inzl.
“Are you all right?” he asked the girl.
“Battered, bruised, belittled, and bathed,” Inzil quipped sardonically with a wan smile. “So, as well as can be expected.” She turned her head to peer into his eyes. They were exhausted, and she knew he was not up for conversation. “Let’s get you to bed, my friend,” she said quietly. Inzil placed his arm around her narrow shoulders to support him.
The crowd’s wails soon erupted into pandemonium. How was it that this woman could place her hands on the captain? they wanted to know. Inzil instinctively knew that unless Rui said something, the crowd would not easily disperse.
Arta was watching the crowd with a frown. He disliked that way the captain simply dismissed the people as if they had no right to know their circumstances. Did the man not see that they were all scared?
“Oh…” he heard his mother gasp. “Is that Inzilêth?”
Shocked, she watched the girl touch the captain in such a familiar way that invoked a serious question about decency.
“Artalango!” she called for her husband who stood nearby, supporting their daughter who was even weaker than her mother. “Did we not hear about the upcoming marriage of Captain Morhesto’s daughter’s marriage to… ah, whatever was the name of that… doesn’t matter. But what is she doing on the ship?”
“I do not know, nor do I care. But I do care about receiving an answer or two.”
The noble left his pale daughter in the care of her brother, and shouldered his way through the crowd.
“Captain! Captain, if you please. I can understand your unwillingness to enter lengthy conversations, but I really need to know when will it be possible to… leave the ship.”
“I can not give you a definite answer now, Lord Artalango. The winds might have significantly altered the previously planned course. We need to do some calculating, but for that, we need sun. Or moon. When we have it, then I’ll tell you exactly.”
“What do you mean - when we have it!? Your men should be working on it now! I have no desire to stay on this boat any longer than absolutely necessary! And every day we waste waiting for sun, is one more day on the ship! Moreover, who knows what kind of an… and island we could possibly hit if we don’t know where we are!”
Rui ground his teeth. That idiot of a man!
“There are no islands to hit.”
“How do you know! You don’t even know where your damned ship is! And that is your JOB - to sail it! It looks to me that everything you care about is that wench in your arms!”
“Aye, that’s right! He damn near killed us all when he saved the wretch!” another voice cried from the crowd, echoing Artalango’s sentiments.
“Mayhaps the storm was her fault! She’ll see us to the bottom of the sea!”
Palpable rage grew in Rui’s eyes, Inzil could see. She placed a comforting hand on the low of his back, but all she felt beneath his sodden clothes was tension. The crowd numbered perhaps a score of people. In their tired and frantic state, they intimidated Inzil.
The comments kept coming like a gale.
“She’s not even one of us! Look at her coloring! It’s of hay and leaves not the nobility of the sea and sky!” “Look at her dress! She’s clothed as a common tavern girl! Not fit for the likes of the captain!” “I bet she’d look her best in a midden pile!” And so the venomous words poured forth.
Seething in anger, Rui embraced Inzil to shield her from the hurtful words. How could they? Those people didn’t know her at all.
“Stop it, this very moment!” he bellowed in anger. “You are all idiots!”
There was a collective intake of breath.
“That is no behavior fit for a captain!” Lord Artalango raised his voice. “And let me ask you then, as I am apparently an idiot as well - what gives her,” he almost spat at Inzil, “the right to be here? An unbeliever amongst the Faithful? Or is she not the daughter of Captain Morhesto?” he took care to pronounce the last line as clearly as possible, so that everybody would hear him well.
A heavy silence hung in the air as angry eyes bore into the frightened flax-haired girl.
But Lord Artalango wasn’t done yet.
“And I would like to know, Captain, how come I was only allowed to bring my family on board leaving… other people on the shore for her father to capture, when she is here!” He looked around and added, “I imagine I am not the only one who has had to leave somebody behind.”
The rumblings among the Faithful grew as Artalango incited the name of Morhesto, the hated captain. A chill crept up Inzil’s spine. My father really was hated, Inzil mused as Artalango continued to castigate the weary pair. At some point the conflict had to escalate and climax, she knew. But what would happen to them?
“We should throw her overboard! Save ourselves the hassle of handling her treachery later! She’ll be naught but bad luck!” someone shouted into the sharp air.
Still more silence as everyone waited with baited breath.
Artamacil watched exasperated at the way the situation was evolving. It was not that he liked Inzilêth, far from it, but to throw her overboard? That was too much, in his opinion. But with a woman just about to faint on each of his arms there was little he could do.
“Yes! She has no place among us! She has no right to be here! Throw her overboard!” somebody shouted, and the roar was picked up by others. Hands started grabbing at Inzil attempting to pluck her out of Rui’s arms.
Inzil clenched her jaws to prevent a scream from uttering forth. There was not much she could do as the circle around them drew closer as if she and Rui were in a stranglehold. Was there no one that would come to their rescue? Would the crew disobey their captain, seize her, and throw her into the unforgiving sea? Panic finally set in, and she tried slapping away their hands, but more kept coming. Uselessly she wished that she had kept her meat cleaver. That at least would have afforded her some protection.
Eventually the hands succeeded at wresting her from Rui’s grasp. Struggle though she did, Morhesto’s daughter could not resist the magnetic pull of the crowd’s grasp. The only thing Inzil could do was shout Rui’s name one last time.
“Men!” Rui yelled for his crew as Inzil slipped out of his hold, being dragged towards the left board. Used to obeying their captain, the men stepped forward, but more hesitantly than usually. Lord Artalango’s venomous words had reached their ears as well, and they were just as tired as Rui was, for the most part.
Rui fought desperately to get to Inzil who was shrieking his name, frightened to death. With the help of his crew, he managed to pull Inzil out of the arms of the crowd.
“She has just the same right to be here as you do!” he yelled at them, furious. “She is…” he was looking frantically for a legitimate reason to give them, but… they were right. She did not belong here, not by the law. She was here because he had wanted to have her here. And she had come. She had come to warn him about her own father! And now she depended on him to keep her safe.
“She is my wife,” Rui declared solemnly, coming up with the only possible reason he could think of. “She is a part of my family. And as there are… were only four of us, now there are five. With… my wife.”
There. It was said and done.
The silence was as deafening as the auguric storm they had just weathered. Wife? No one could believe it, not even Inzil. But, this was a part to play, for now, for her very life depended on it. “Yes,” she finally summoned up the courage to speak. Her voice, however, came out croaking like a spring peeper. “I am his wife.” As if to prove her point, Inzil entwined her fingers with his and squeezed them lightly, out of affection and comfort. Somehow, somehow it felt right.
Both Rui and Inzil maintained the facade of a united front, but from her vantage point on the edge of the crowd, Lissa knew something was amiss. A wife? That was simply not possible. But she wisely held her tongue. Who knew, the angry crowd could turn on her next.
The crowd had nothing left to say for they could not believe that this woman, this daughter of the enemy, was their captain’s wife. It took a few moments to sink in before a sharp cry rang out. “Impossible! A lie! You have then betrayed us! Taking to wife his [i/]daughter[/i]?! No, we will not stand for that!” The crowd began to buzz angrily again like bees in an agitated beehive.
“You heard the man!” the massive boatswain came to stand between his Captain and the crowd. “That lady’s his wife. Now back off! And let us work. Or don’t you want us to find out our position and which way to go to the blasted land?”
With threatening expressions, other sailors came to stand at the boatswain’s side, forming a protective shield around Rui. Grateful, he nodded at them.
“Go and get some sleep, sir,” the boatswain said quietly. “Let’s deal with them once everybody’s gotten to close their eyes and thought things through.”
“I will. Keep an eye on everything,” Rui said, then turned to look at Inzil. What did she think? “Come, my Lady,” he pulled her with him, afraid that if he let go of her hand, somebody would pull her away again.
As they were leaving, Rui’s gaze crossed with that of Lord Artalango. It was written all over the noble’s face that this wasn’t over.
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land, beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western seas...
In the Realm of Ulmo