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The Confrontation of Alphros and Azradi

Tags: Alkhaszor,  Alphros,  Azradi

Short Summary: Alphros confronts his sister, Azradi at the gates of Zadan Ulbar. When she refuses his demand to return the palace to his ownership, tempers mount. Brother and sister exchange harsh words and threats, ending with no resolution and a parting word that wounds Azradi to the quick.

Players: Alkhaszor, Alphros, Azradi

Date (real-life): 2011-02-04
Scene Location: Outside Umbar, Zadan Ulbar
Date (in-game): Highday, 11 Feburary 3052
Time of Day: Night
Weather: Clear with rising storm

Rath Anwarmen, Outside Umbar

A short road, perhaps a half-mile in length, runs north to the great Corsair city of Umbar. The city glows with light in the night air. The Rath Anwarman runs east and west, leading to the northern desert and the southern coastal fiefs, respectively. Looking north towards Umbar, you see that the city consists of two huge concentric walls. The outer wall surrounds the whole city and the bay, and the inner wall is higher than the outer. The outer wall of the city has a deep ditch lined with palisades surrounding it. The tops of six brightly-lit towers and many other tall buildings are visible over the wall.

 

The night sky is clear with only slight wisps of clouds overhead. The twilight winter air is cool and dry around you.

 

Zadan Ulbar

            Several hundred yards from the gates of the city and behind thick alabaster walls stands Zadan Ulbar, the House of Kings, some five stories high. The entire structure, composed of one main structure and two lesser wings, is of gleaming white marble, cut and carried from miles away. A set of white shall steps lead to the main structure that bears the prodigious archway, likewise of marble, and adorned with mosaics of white gold. This arch houses double doors of dark wood bound with iron. In their majesty, they stand nearly twenty feet, more evocative of a fortress than a palace. Crowing the palace is a majestic dome of pale electrum.

 

***

 

A night of portents may more often be a poetic turn of phrase than truth, but if there ever was one in recent times in Umbar, this may be it. The stars twinkle above, their silver light almost fierce, and a chill, ominous wind blows out of the desert depths to the east, the kind that brings on its back the promise of a coming winter storm. Despite its closeness, the great city of Umbar seems muted, as if half-slumbering.

 

It is from the great gates, along the southern road, that a small band now finds its way towards the great palace of Zadan Ulbar. One and a half dozen in number, they dismount as they approach the former abode of the Emperor, two of their number hanging back to mind the steeds.

 

The torches set into the gates of the palace illuminate a party clad for ceremonial war. A dozen proud men, some Umbarean and some otherwise, in tabards that all bear the Black Heron and the White Tree. And at their fore, the King-Claimant of Gondor, clad as a prince of old.

 

Half a step behind his liege lord, on his right side, comes Alkhaszor. He, too, wears the Black Heron and White Tree on his tabard, but a helm shields much of his face from view. Only his height and grey eyes reveal his identity for now.

 

The windows of the palace glow with a warm amber. Occasionally a figure can be seen crossing before this or that opening; sometimes gowned, sometimes stooped with age or small with youthful energy.

 

But near the road, where the gates stand closed against the night; a pair of soldiers liveried in Farside colors stand guard. Curiosity gives way to a certain ill-ease when the dismounted riders approach. For the torch-light has revealed the Princely man standing at their fore. Even so, the guards snap to attention. "My lord!" they greet, almost in unison.

 

In the distance, the door to the palace opens, laughter spilling. A tall slender figure is silhouetted for a moment ere she steps into the yard. Six stout men issue out the door behind her, their manner and dress marking them as Raven Knights, the personal guard of Lady Farside. The lady herself still speaks to another framed in the threshold, seemingly unaware of the visitors at the gate.

 

Alphros's gaze sweeps over the guards with a chilly, haughty air. But he does not command them to stand aside, or to summon their mistress, or any other thing. Instead, he turns to Alkhaszor. "My Squire... If you please."

 

And what is it that he asks of the Gondorian-born man? One of the Corsairs steps forth and kneels before Alkhaszor, revealing a cloth-bound object in his lap. He unfolds it, revealing a great curved horn, which is then proffered to Alkhaszor. "The Horn of Gondor," the man explains, though obviously it is a different horn from that of legend, and apparently Alphros means for Alkhaszor to blow it.

 

Mild surprise shows itself on Alkhaszor's face, but he collects himself and stands up straighter at the honor. "Of course, my liege." He reaches for the horn and holds it almost reverently, carefully placing it upon his lips.

 

And then he blows a blast of the horn--once, twice.

 

Three times does this horn of Gondor blow, its blasts echoing off the walls of the palace, calling all those within and without to its attention.

 

Lady Farside's attention is captured immediately; she turns her head sharply at the first sounding. By the second, she has gestured to her Knights and moved forward. And as the third blast of the horn echoes through the night, she is striding down the path with her Knights behind her in two columns of three. The cold wind catches at her silken robe, revealing for a moment a glint of polished armor. Her unbound hair streams to the side in a particularly strong gust.

 

She enters the flickering circle of light cast by the torches. Her gray-eyes flicker once to Alkhaszor before settling upon Alphros. Determination sets the lines of her mouth. Her words however, are possibly surprising. "Open the gates," she orders her guards without looking away from her veiled sibling. "My brother is always welcome in the home of his family and people. A courtesy he sometimes forgets to extend to others."

 

The gates are opened, but the King-Claimant and his companions do not move. They remain standing before the sprawling palace, the standard of the Black Heron and White Tree fluttering in the cool wind.

 

"Sister," he says, his tone a strange mix of familial ease and cavalier expectation. "What you say may be true, but it stands to reason that these halls are neither yours, nor the anAzulada's." He tilts his veiled head towards Alkhaszor and nods. "You may read my demands."

 

Having set the horn down carefully back in place to be carried away by another, Alkhaszor now reaches into his tunic to unroll a small scroll of parchment. His eyes go back and forth between parchment and brother and sister as he reads, but no expression can be read in them.

 

"Alphros anAzulada, King of Gondor demands the following: That apologies be made for the unlawful seizure of Zadan Ulbar, being the rightful property of King Alphros anAzulada by the strength of his deeds and the assent of the Council of Umbar.

 

Alkhaszor draws a breath, continuing. "That Zadan Ulbar be immediately vacated and returned to the keeping of its rightful owner, the King of Gondor. That talks be entered into for the immediate renegotiation of previous agreements made between Her Ladyship and His Majesty, and all honor on both sides be restored."

 

"In return, the King of Gondor will consider reparations for this unfortunate business." The scroll is rolled back up.

 

Azradi allows a silence to fall after the demands are read. Then tilting her head, she smiles at Alphros' man. "Hello, Alkhaszor," she greets cheerfully. "I did not know you were in Umbar. I hope you feel free to stop by Farside and visit Mikkan. I hold you no ill will for this, I assure you. Despite my brother's grand demands, this remains a dispute between a brother and sister."

 

She shifts her attention back to Alphros and the smile fades. "The Council, meaning Eruphel and I, supported your claim to the palace. One done, it was yours indeed. But then you gave it to me for the use of our family and the Salkathorim. You had no right to rescind that act, neither legal nor moral."

 

"You threw your own kin into the streets and tonight's demands just further your shame. The palace belongs to our family, and the Salkathorim by your own grant. I will not allow you to rescind again."

Alphros says nothing at the mention of Alkhaszor's son. Perhaps he does not wish to further complicate that matter, or perhaps he has not yet considered it.

 

"I have every right," he says simply. "True, the morality of it is... Questionable. I made my regret clear in my letter to you. But as was made clear to me, with the gift of hindsight, I had not the legal right to give possession of the palace to another without the same approval of the Council that gave it to me in the first place, and thus my words -- though sincere at the time -- were without legal weight. There was no contract; no document authorised by any legal notary in the service of the city. And so I was forced to undo what I had said, for the sake of the Law, not in spite of it."

 

Of course, the Law can be quibbled over by any educated man or woman, its meanings as multitudinous as its clauses, though Alphros seems more convinced of his own specific interpretation. "And so I must ask that you and all dwelling within withdraw. I am not without compassion, Azradi... I shall give them a week. Umbar is yet a large city. Had -I- not liberated it from the Emperor who once dwelt in this very place, they would've had no sanctuary at all." He glosses over the fact that Aglarrama's fall may have been retribution for Ajnabi's.

 

With Alphros not answering Azradi's comments about his son, Alkhaszor does not interrupt to reply. He does give the woman a small bow in acknowledgement, though, then lets brother and sister converse while he seems to let his attention wander, his eyes covering the palace grounds. He is listening, though, should any care to notice the flicker in his eyes as the discussion continues.

 

Laughter greets Alphros's answer, a hint of derision contained within it. "I see," says Azradi, "Eruphel has decided she's the entirety of the Council? How presumptuous. And how presumptuous of her to think the council owned the palace to begin with. We did not, Ajnabi's family did and we merely supported your claim to take it as a spoil of war. Once done, it belonged to you. And you gave it to our family and the Salkathorim."

 

"Ignore Seaward. She has overstepped her authority. None in Umbar will support that argument. Even if the Council /had/ owned the palace, we cannot continue controlling it after it is given to another. That would violate the very heart and soul of commerce. A grave violation in a city of commerce and trade."

 

"No, Alphros, I will not throw our people out. Especially if Seaward is behind this."

 

"You walk the path of tyrants, Azradi!" Alphros answers, gritting his teeth. "And though I take fault for setting this imbalance into motion, I will not take fault for having tried to right it. Lady Eruphel is faultless in this; merely the arbiter, as is her role. All things in Umbar -- all things -- are ultimately possessed by the Council of Umbar, and even I must acknowledge this. How could I not, for was it not the delicate balancing wheel that is the Council that I returned to power? But I will not quibble legalities with you."

 

He suddenly smiles, a little fondly, "I can see that, at last, you are a Princess of Aglarrama, resolute in your conviction. More stubborn than our father." His smile fades. "But unless you withdraw from this... this act of war... You shall remain exactly that. Lady of Umbar, Princess of Aglarrama, but never be a Princess of Gondor."

 

Stubbornness is not the only thing Azradi shares with her father. Her fair countenance darkens with anger and from her eyes a Numenorean fire can be seen. 'How dare you!' she cries, taking a few steps closer to her brother, her fists clenched. 'How dare you call /me/ a tyrant when it was you who did this dishonorable thing! If Eruphel compelled you to this nonsense, then she should take part of the blame! For she has overstepped her authority in this, indeed!'

 

"<Adunaic> ************?!" she demands, switching to their native tongue - whether by design or the reflex of ire. "<Adunaic> ************************************."

 

 The outburst does little to abate her anger. Her body still vibrant with the passion, she addresses his threat, her voice dangerously low. 'We. Are. /Both/. of Tarannon's blood. You cannot change that no matter what you decree. Nor do you wish to, for a Princess of Gondor may help her brother find his throne but a discarded sister has no reason to!'

 

The King-Claimant sways slightly as his sister's rage washes over him, and for a long moment he is silent. Then, in a voice of brittle steel, he answers her: "I am controlled by no one." A pause. "Do not try and foist your angers onto the Lady of Seaward, Azradi. She was merely right. I chose to do of my own free will; I might've defied her if I felt that she was wrong, or I had reason to. Indeed, I posit that she has been no less surprised by this than you! This is my choice! And this is my right. And if you shall not obey it... Very well."

 

He straightens, as if to make a decree, though his voice continues on in the same manner. "You have writ the laws of Umbar in your own way, and believe me; if you can do such, then I can command the laws of Gondor as I will. You may be my sister and share the Royal blood, but let us not forget the patrilineal laws of Gondor, and the fact that it has no Council... It has a King. And such is the King's will!" Still, he stops short of making the grave commandment that seemed to be coming. Either he has not the heart, or the madness, or the reason to do so. "But now you see of what I spoke those many months ago! Of why a mind torn between three allegiances, between Umbar, Gondor, and Aglarrama, is doomed to failure! If you will not do this, then I will do as I must. You will always be my sister, Azradi, but I am no longer of the anAzulada, or the Salkathorim now. I am my own man. I am the King of Gondor! And I shall not consort with thieves!"

 

A flicker of madness in his eyes, and then Alphros turn on his heels and storms off. His escort follows him into the darkness.

Nothing said that night has managed to penetrate the ire of Lady Farside. Until he denies the anAzulada. An expression similar to one who has been shot in the heart seizes Azradi. She flinches slightly as if physically struck. But the pain is quickly controlled and she bites down on any possible retort, the lines of angry determination settling once more.

 

She watches her brother leave for a few heartbeats only, and then turns to step out of the light and into the darkness of the grounds. Alone.

 

<fini>

 

 


Date added: 2011-02-15 19:13:57    Hits: 97
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