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The Arrival: Many Meetings

Short Summary: The knight-admiral and his party arrive at Tolcrist to inspect the island. There they find more than they expected.
Date (real-life): 2011-10-14
Scene Location: Isle of Tolcrist
Date (in-game): March 5, 3054
Time of Day: Morning
Weather: Clear

The Isle of Tolcrist

Tolcrist, 'Isle of Blades', they named this place, for it juts out from the cold waters of the Bay of Belfalas -- not far from the shores of the fief itself, which can be seen as a thick dark line to the horizon to the north -- like an upthrust sword seeking to cleave the sea about in twain. Sharp cliffs flank the isle upon most sides, though its inner slopes are covered with grass, shrubbery, and ancient trees whose thick, gnarled limbs twist undeterred into the salty winds that they have long endured.

A harbour lies on the isle's eastern edge: a guarded haven whose sanctity is made whole by the rocky atoll and aegis of cliffs about, as well as the Gwaerenbaradi -- the twin Towers of the Wind that stand watch against all foes -- that loom above upon either side. There are quays enough for a dozen great vessels to berth, and many lesser wharfs for the ships of the fishermen and traders of Calenost: the small but oft-bustling port-town of Tolcrist.

A long road winds its way up Tolcrist's flanks, leading from the harbour and Caelenost to the great castle of Lond Annun upon the peak, which looms as a shadow of grey graced by a hundred fluttering pennants of the green and blue of the Tarikhori and the Silver Swan of Dol Amroth.
The darkness of night reigns, and the town of Calenost sleeps save for the smoky light of the lamps upon its quays and the shadows of the fishermen and their boats as they come and go from their nocturnal prowling.

The Ship with no Name
Obvious exits:
 Open Sea leads to Southern Coast of Belfalas.
Castle <C>

Weather:            Cloudy
Time:               Midnight <02:19:06 >
Season:             Spring
Date:               Orithil - March 5, 3054
Real Time:          Fri Oct 14 19:26:22 2011

The Isle of Tolcrist: ancient abode of House Tarikhor. Once a small but bustling port and a staunch if lonely bastion against the Corsairs of Umbar. Now, as rumour has it, a place neglected and all but abandoned by the family that owns it.

And rumour would seem to have the truth of it. As one passed the silent and watchless towers of the Gwaerenbaradi and enters the guarded haven, one finds the port of Caelenost not merely asleep, but near to lifelessness. There are a handful of small trading and fishing vessels docked in the port, a lone warship of the Tarikhori, and the occasional flickering shadow of a local denizen. But perhaps two thirds of the town's hearths are filled with naught but long-cold ash, and naught save the occasional call echoes in the streets.

And above? The ruined towers of Lond Annun loom atop the isle, grim and foreboding.

Such is the sight that has greeted those newcome to Tolcrist from the Havens of Pelargir.

The ship that drifted into the harbor the other day lies at anchor, one of the greater ships meant for long voyages at sea. It has boats at its chains and one of them fills with people and then sets off across the calm waters for one of the quays.

The ship it leaves behind has at its tallest mast the white flag of peace fluttering in the breeze above the pennant declaring the ship to be the flagship of the knight-admiral of Dol Amroth.

Elusul stands at the prow of the boat, his foot up on the gunwale, his white cloak fluttering in the breeze, a statuesque figure with his black hair, Isilrim grey eyes, and proud bearing.

Standing in the rear of the boat is Galadhechil, master of the flagship. In this oversized right hand is clenched a starter, a cord knotted at one end, the boat's tiller in the other. As the party of sailors strain on their oars, the master occassionally renews their urgency with the sharp crack of cord on flesh.

Approaching the quays now is a lone man, a soldier, by the glint of the sun upon the cheek pieces of his helm. He stands at the end of one of the docks, watching teh approaching ship and waiting formally at attention. The tabard of House Tarikhor, which he wears, blows lightly in the breeze.

Arashen sits in the boat somewhere behind the Knight-Admiral. The wind whips his long hair back as he gazes curiously on the nearly deserted port town. "I did not expect it to be so empty," he observes.

One of the few women of the group stands, silently, a few tendrils of hair catching the breeze under her hood. She does not speak, only watches, grey eyes focused.
Elusul glances back at his party and looks forward once more. This time he spots the soldier waiting for the boat on the quay. Sizing him up and noting his Tarikhor tabard, the knight-admiral looks back to Arashen and nods to him. "What do you make of the town? The Tarikhori relocated and it is to be expected, but I did not expect it to be so... glum."

Galadhechil eyes the distance between the boat and the quay and ports the rudder a touch to compensate for the tide. Occasionally, one of the sailors in the party glances over his shoulder and the men whisper between themselves about this desolate place. "Cursed" they call it. The master will have none of it.

"Mind your oars lads or I'll see that your grog is cut in half for the week."

"It is dire need of defense," answers Arashen, his gray eyes sweeping over the town and surrounding landscape, calculating and assessing. "I would be inclined to point out that there is little to defend, but this is strategic location. If corsairs got a foothold here, they would be difficult dislodge - save by starving them out."

And still the lone soldier waits, impassive.

Elusul nods at this assessment. "I'd say you have the right of it." He turns back and sees that they are almost to the quay. "Galadhechil, up oars," he calls to the master and then calls out as the boat glides up to the quay, "Ahoy!" to the soldier. Elusul leans out to catch the quay before the boat slams into it.

Galadhechil nods and the men need no command. As the oars rise out of the water, the master puts the tiller over and the boat comes round, giving Elusul an easier time of docking the boat next to the quay.

The light is raven on Lominzil's dark hair, his white tabard shrouded with black as he sits facing the ocean in the boat, leaning on the crosses of his sword.

Once the boat is secured to the dock, Arashen too leaps out, and then turns to offer the woman a hand. "Take care, my lady."

At last the lone soldier on the quay springs into action, with an answering shout: "Sir!" He jumps forward to grab for a rope thrown toward the docks and secure it, waiting for the passengers to disembark.

A smile breaks through the appprehension cast to Calenloth's face as she takes Arashen's hand, a smooth jump landing her upon the ground next to the Knight. The other hand raised to pull back her hood, her glance pans the docks.

"The air smells stale," she offers, solemnly, taking a few steps forward to clear the path for those who follow.

Another figure has joined the lone soldier in Tarikhori garb upon the docks, though he is a nobleman in the attire of an administrator, and the Stone Key of the Seneschal of Lond Annun is about his neck. He too waits in silence.

Elusul is next up out of the boat. Standing up on the quay, he sniffs the air to test the lady's own assessment and then bows to the man who has arrived and appears to be important. "Greetings. I am Elusul Isilrim, Knight-Admiral of Dol Amroth in the service of the Prince Imrahil."

"We are lee of the wind," offers Arashen as explanation. He relinquishes Calenloth's hand and turns his attention to the two Tarikhori liegemen.

Galadhechil and his party of sailors stand by in the boat, ready to fend off immediately and pull away on the oars as if their sisters' virtue depended on it, if need be.

As his soldier attends to the mooring of the longboat, the Seneschal steps down to incline his noble but weather-worn face. "Hail, Hir Elusul-- I know you of course, you are the husband of my kinswoman Indiloth. Well met. I am Cristion of the Tarikhori, major domo of Lond Annun and guardian of this place... Or what is left of it."

He spreads his hands in apology. "You do not seem surprised of course? Such as been the way of things here for years now since schism has taken our House in its unforgiving hands." He looks over to the Knight-Admiral's companions and inclines his brow. "And well met to your companions. What brings such a group to the Tolcrist? We see few visitors save merchants seeking to offload to last of their wares, and fishermen blown off course."

Lominzil Girithlin springs up onto the dock as the boat pulls away, his face shadowed.

Once the boat is secure, the Tarikhori guardsman moves from the boat to stand aside the Seneschal. He nods only in greeting to those newly arrived, then slowly looks the group over with open curiousity.
Elusul nods slowly, not really recognizing the name or the face. "Perhaps. I have only been here a few times since my wedding just before the demise of the Lord Tarlanc. It is my mission now to survey the strategic points along the coast and the islands offshore." Turning, the knight-admiral introduces his party, "This is Arashen, Knight of the Swan, Lady Calenloth of the Nimothan, and Lominzil, Blue Squire."

Cristion inclines his head to each of them in turn, ere looking to the Sailing Master in the boat and his put-upon crew. The old man smiles sadly. "Would that I could give you a reception to match that which you and your noble companions would have once enjoyed, Knight-Admiral."

"But it seems you are here on duty, and I shall aid you as I might." He turns to the Tarikhori soldier and nods. "Do you wish to survey the isle?"

"I have seen the isle, Lord Seneschal," the Tarikhori guard says, with some humor in his eyes that glint out from his helm. "But I would be honored to accompany the Admiral and his men and assist them as I am able. Do you need to refresh first, Admiral? Or the Lady? "
Elusul nods. "I do, yes. Your assistance is most kind and greatly appreciated." He glances back at Calenloth. "Perhaps a brief respite would do us all good. I hope the local common room is still open for business. My memory of times past is one of good beer and convival celebrations of a good day's fishing."

"I am ready," Calenloth speaks, offering a low curtsey to the greeting of the Seneschal. A glance to the others, the woman shakes the sleeves of her cloak as she rises, smiling politely. "But would love to see the sights of your home."

Cristion nods to the Tarikhori soldier, and explains to the Swansmen and the Lady: "My man here is one of a handful of men-at-arms here left to me. He knows the state of the isle as well as any and can assist you."

The old man glances at Calenloth as she speaks and smiles. "In such a case, may I then suggest that we go..." a hand gestures towards the broken towers of the castle, "Above? Be not afraid friends. Though it lies in ruins, I have seen to the repairs of a small part, to be used as a dwelling. I am afraid that is the best that I can offer. The inn shut long ago, and the townspeople..." he indicates the silent streets, "Are few."

"The Knights can make do with any sort of lodging, lord Seneschal," says Arashen, speaking up. "But do you have suitable lodgings for the lady?"

"Please," Calenloth interjects. "I require no special arrangements. I have camped among the Knights and Squires before." A polite smile is directed to Arashen. "They needn't trouble themselves for my comfort.

"I am the last of the high Tarikhori blood on this isle," Cristion answers the Telpekhiri knight. "My quarters may pale in comparison to what you are accustomed," he adds to Calenloth herself, "And the wind may howl strangely through the ruined towers at night, but you will be most comfortable in what part of the castle has been repaired."

"This is Gondor, your homeland, not the northern waste," comes Lominzil's voice, soft in the gloom.

Elusul nods then, decided. "We will accompany you to your abode where we will enjoy your hospitality before beginning our survey." He glances at the boat with Galadhechil and the men. "As you say, the inn is closed, but if possible, could something be brought to my men?"

"And I have made promise to my kinsman to look after you," responds Arashen, smiling at the lady. He nods his head to the Tarikhori. "Your isle may have seen better days, but your name is still held in esteem throughout the realm. Your hospitability is appreciated."

"Drink and a meal shall be served to you all, of course," says the Guardsman, glancing to the bigger ship yet further out. "Something more palatable than ship's rations, I imagine.
At the guardsman's offer, Lominzil stirs a little.

Elusul raises a hand. "That will not be necessary. The ship's company has its own orders and will be remaining aboard in case of attack. Has news reached you here of the tragedy of Cobas Haven? It is one of the reasons for our visit."

Just then, Galadhechil is passing around a skin full of water. The master watches closely, making sure no man takes more than a single gulp.

"Did he?" Calenloth replies, quietly, a hint of a smirk upon her face as a slight shake of her head betrays her amusement. But she falls silent as to not interrupt the conversation.

"We've not much, but plenty of fish and water for your crew." Cristion nods to the soldier. "Go and share this request with the local fishmongers, and see that stores are prepared for their longboat? Then rejoin us at the castle."

The elder Tarikhor then turns back to the company, fingering the Stone Key at the base of his throat. "If all is to your satisfaction, shall we proceed above?"

Elusul motions toward the road to the castle upon its high seat. "Lead on, good sir."

"He did," answers Arashen, grinning. As the party prepares to move, he turns to the guardsman and says, "How far is it to your Keep? I trust the path is not overly steep for a lady?" He glances to Calenloth, amusement dancing in his eyes.

"Of course, Seneschal. My lords, lady," the Guardsman says, taking his leave.

"It can be steep, yes, but the ladies of my House have traversed the cliffs for a thousand years. My Lady Calenloth may grow a little tired but," Cristion answers with a cheeky twinkle in his aged eyes, "I think she will endure."

Calenloth springs forward, pushing a few steps ahead of the Knight as her reply.

Laughing, Arashen follows after the lady.

You head up to the castle of Lond Annun above.

Lond Annun

The ancient citadel that is the Haven of the West faces the very direction for which it is named, as if turned towards the ruins of sunken Numenor in silent remembrance, with great casements of iron and glass gazing unflinchingly towards the unseen retreat of the setting sun. Other relics of Elenna and the realm of the Dunedain are found throughout the halls and passageways of Lond Annun -- fair but somber edifices wrought with great mastery but little in the way of affectation -- set beside tapestries depicting the lost Pillar of Forostar and House Tarikhor and its Lords and kin.

The lower floors are turned over to the common halls and mundane necessities of the citadel: stables, storerooms and cellars, quarters for the servants and armsmen of the Tarikhori, kitchens, workshops and smithies, armouries and training halls. Connecting the lower and upper floors of Lond Annun is the Chamber of Oath-making: the great hall where, centuries past, Lord Gilion Tarikhor bent his knee to the Prince of Dol Amroth and swore fealty to the Silver Swan of Imrazor. Above it throughout the upper floors are found the studies and parlours of the House of the Pillar's own high blood, the chambers for their guests, their dining halls and sitting rooms, and the Hall of the Sun: a great west-facing chamber whose tiled floor reveals a map of Middle-earth as the mariners of old Numenor knew it.
The Annals of the Pillar
Obvious exits:
Stairs <U> and Out <O>

The path from the port-town of Calenost below to the castle of Lond Annun above offers views that are both splendid and perilous: the high cliffs of Tolcrist, home to thousands of seabirds and dotted with the occasional ruined watchpost or homestead. The coasts of Belfalas to the north and the great seas to the south and west. Ancient copses nestled amidst sheltering crags and those few places for the growing and harvesting of things that this isle can provide.

Most of all Lond Annun, a citadel of legend that has turned back Corsairs for centuries... ruined. Its walls and towers still stand, though some have begun to crumble, and others are cracked or overgrown by marauding flora. Its high windows are silent and dark.

Cristion himself remains silent for the better part of the walk, which he completes with the aid of a thick willow cane. It is only when they are passing through the gates and the vine-covered bailey that he says: "Do not mind, of course, the stories of ghosts and wraiths. Folk love to whisper of the tragedy of Tarlanc and Mirewen. You may hear many strange sounds in Lond Annun, but they are the music of the ruins, not the lingering dead."

"Come, here is where I dwell." He gestures to one of the lesser keeps, which appears in better condition than the rest of the fortress.

Elusul follows their host. "I remember this place in better days with the Lord Tarlanc when I was courting my wife. Time has passed so quickly and my children will never know the grandeur of their Tarikhor heritage..."

The music of the ruins, yes!

And one of its instruments flutters a faint sound on the wind: a tittering giggle that cuts through the foliage with a knife's precision.

"And I know only stories," says the Telpekhor Knight, looking about the ruins and small area reclaimed.

"Stay close, cousin," Lominzil says softly to Calenloth, reaching to stay her by the arm, but thinking better of it.

Cristion nods to Arashen, and then lowers his head apologetically to Elusul. "Mayhap they will yet, Hir Elusul. Mayhap they will."

He pauses before what was once a grand door, and gestures. "Through here, my friends. You will find all the provisions you need."

Calenloth has slowed from hop to pace, however, eyes wide as she surveys the crumbled stone in rapt attention, her ears turning her head toward sounds barely heard. At Lominzil's words, she twists her neck, a more encouraging smile as she sees him hesitate. "Tis fine," she reassures him, as his eyes meet her arm.

Arashen follows, looking about when a laugh born by the wind, reaches his ears - seeking its source.

Up the path, from behind the group, now returns the Guardsman, the climb tiring him little, if any. "Provisions have been made, my lord Seneschal," he says. And he pauses, too--toward the distant giggles, eyes wrinkling in surely a scowl. "For what else do you need me, sir?"
Elusul nods to Cristion and pauses beside him as the guardsman questions his master.

"Join our guests and I," Cristion suggests. "You are perhaps the best storyteller amongst those left in the household, no?" he adds with a wry grin.

"Ware the steps," says Lominzil, smiling a little hesitantly at the Nimothan girl.

Elusul looks back at the guardsman who is said to be a storyteller and then turns to push open the door into the repaired keep.

"Storyteller?" says the Guardsman in surprise--then chuckles. "Nay, then you have heard wrong, my lord. I spin a poor yarn."

"Perhaps you are too modest," suggests the young woman, turning from Lominzil. "Otherwise our host would not sing your praises so. A warm smile fills her face.

A great hall wreathed in shadows is beyond, though even now a lone man moves about, urging braziers to life. Though a few signs of Lond Annun's fall remain -- scorches on the highest reaches of the walls, a great crack in the vaulted ceiling -- it has been well-repaired... Impressively so, for the isle's seemingly limited means.

And at the far end? Upon a dais -- where once sat the Lords of the Pillar -- is a man. He is tall and proud, a great Lord of the Black Numenoreans to be sure, a fey but cruel brightness in his eyes. He seems less like the high blooded still in Gondor and more like one might imagine the latter day Numenoreans to be, those who fell to dread pastimes during the reign of Ar-Pharazon and his predecessors.

And about him? Behind him stand several veiled ladies. To his left is a man masked and robed in the likeness of an owl. To his left, a proud Lady of Umbar. And on either side, warriors of assorted lineages and land mailed and garbed in the sigil of the Black Heron in the White Tree.

"Welcome, friends," greets Ar-Gimilkhor from his throne.

Elusul stands upon the threshold, his mouth clenched as he looks down the hall to the seat of Ar-Gimilkhor. The Isilrim Swanknight's eyes flash and he murmurs in a foreign tongue, "<Quenya> Lords of the West, hear our prayer..."

Still behind the others, Galadhechil cranes his neck for a look at the person meeting them in the hall.

The sigil is enough. Lominzil turns to Calenloth, his face ashen with dread never before seen, and says nothing.

The Telpekhor Knight enters behind the Knight-Admiral. He looks about, frowning in puzzlement at the unexpected sight. But upon sight of the corrupted heraldry of the White Tree, his hand flies to his hilt and he spins around, "Secure the door!"

"What?" Calenloth turns about, unsure of the confusion of her kinsman. "What is it?" She slips not to fear, for Lominzil's dread and the words of the Knights are unrecognized.
The owl claps enthusiastically and his face twists into a delighted smile. Interspersed between his tittering giggle, he says, "Well done, well done!"

"If you please, gentlemen, lady," says the Guardsman, who, coming in last with a group of armored and armed men, clad in tabards of tree and heron, has now drawn his own sword. Still, his tone is easy, relaxed. "Food and wine -will- be brought to you as promised. Your king is not a savage, as you have been taught to think." Still, a hand gesture from the Guardsman signals the company of men with him to spread out, moving toward any who offer resistance.
Elusul's hand slips to his side, but where his longsword usually hangs there is but a ceremonial dagger to go with his finery he wears for what was expected to be a reception of welcome by friends. The admiral glances at those flanking the pretender, studying first the giggling owl and then the lady on the other side.

In the Common Speech, he answers the guardsman, "Please inform our host that I do not claim the privilage of having him as my king. Gondor has no king, Gondor /needs/ no king."

Galadhechil is ready offer resistance. The sailor turns to face one of the armed men as he balls his fists into two large lumps of flesh and bone and holds them up. He glances over his shoulder at Elusul, his admiral, hoping for a signal.

The Lady of Umbar could be likened to a ghost. In part, it is her attire, which is a fine dress of white with embroideries and laces to give it interest, in addition to the cut and tailoring of the dress, which is oddly un-Gondorian. This dress is lined and bordered and brocaded with royal and light blue details, and a blue sash covers her torso from shoulder to opposing hip, held with a fine brooch. Over her dark hair are several layers of silk in light blue and white, with tatted lace covering all, and trailing halfway down her back at least. The veils cover her hair, but leave her face uncovered. But that is not to say her face is uncovered. Her features are distorted oddly by a white wash of makeup, which gives her an almost paper-white appearance, closer resembling a paper doll than a woman. Her cheeks are painted with a smidgen of color, and a most unnatural red has been applied to the lips, and around the eyes. Those eyes look even blacker than black, in contrast to her painted skin. She wears jewelry of both gold and sliver, the most notable, perhaps, is the blue heart shaped stone on a chain around her neck.

The woman turns as the guests enter, emotionless expression unchanged by those who enter, nor their apparent surprise or dismay. She turns toward some of the guardsmen in the hall, many wearing good, clean clothing, with a bit of blue cloth prominently displayed. Her signal to them seems to be one of wariness, for their hands go to the hilts of their curved swords, but they do not draw. Then she turns back to face Ar-Gimilkhor. "You were expecting guests, I believe. But were your guests expecting you?" she murmurs, hard, black eyes turning once more toward the newcomers.

The Admiral's group is encircled. Lominzil backs into Calenloth, nudging her towards the center.

And then the white-clad man steps forward again, a hand laid loosely on the hilt of his sword.

One word, whispered: "Alkhaszor."

Ar-Gimilkhor upon the throne laughs softly in answer to Eruphel: "They never do."

Then to those within, most of all Elusul: "You can inform me yourself, for I am your King, and I am seated here, and from the sad state of my prodigal Kingdom, it would seem that you are in need of me."

"Now relax, my friends," he waves a dismissive hand. "From the moment you sailed betwixt the towers of the Gaerbaradi you have been within my power. Even now I could but send a servant to light a hidden beacon, and your ship and all aboard it would be consigned to the bottom of the harbour."

"You are beyond hope," he says matter-of-factly, "And I shall not think the less of you for dispensing with the necessary shows of courage. You are here, and here you shall remain, as guests. So step forward and introduce yourselves. Then, if you are set upon dying, we can make necessary arrangements."

Eyes widen in shock, or horror, but quickly narrow as Calenloth realizes the gravity of the situation. But where are her hands, one might notice, for as Lominzil pushes her behind, they slip further underneath the sleeves of her cloak.

Arashen's hand lingers on his hilt and he stands, glaring at the guardsman, tense and ready for action. But slowly he lowers, hand - keeping his hard eyes on the supposed Tarikhor retainer.

"Hoo! Hoo!" cries the owl in delight, his cackling continuing with an annoying persistence. "I know a few of these names, I do!"

He points at Elusul, "There is that one!" And then to Arashen, "And that one!" He hops, before exclaiming, "Why, I know them all!"

Galadhechil's fingers nail bite the flesh of his palms as his balled fists tighten. Out of the corner of one eye, the sailor keeps Elusul in sight while gazing at the armed man in front of him. The pretenders threat against his ship in the harbor only hardens his resolve and he scoffs.

The admiral steps forward and performs a perfunctory bow before speaking in a different tongue, proclaiming with it his allegiance better than the words he speaks. "<Sindarin> I am Elusul son of Arachas of the House of the Isilrim, Knight-Admiral of the Order of the Swan of Dol Amroth and loyal servant of the Prince Imrahil."

Not one, but four soldiers, armed with swords, and wearing helms and mail, converge on Galadhechil--though they make no move toward him, but wait to see if he will attack.

The Tarikhori Guardsman is still near to Arashen, yet he, too, makes no move to draw blood. He does, though, stretch out one hand, his voice, deep-toned, saying, "Your sword."

Hearing Elusul name himself as the pretender instructed, Galadhechil lowers his fists, but remains ramrod straight with his chin up in defiance.

Ar-Gimilkhor tilts his head towards the owl, a bemused expression on his face for the masked man's queer antics. Then he looks to Elusul:

"Well met, Knight-Admiral" he answers. "Come, please let your companions follow your example. I cannot have strangers in my house, and would hate to see lose their lives over a simple incident of namelessness."

"Lady Eruphel, Lord Owl," he adds to those on his left and right. "Why don't you introduce yourselves? Our guests need some encouragement."

The ghost-like lady makes a small noise in the back of her throat, disapproving at best, animal-like at worst. "<Haradaic> If they speak their weeping tongue too much, this night will go ill. I will assume that hidden speech contains matters that need hiding, and I will assume the worst that I can think of." she murmurs in aside to the King Claimant, or Pretender King, which ever one's point of view. Then she speaks up, "<Haradaic> I am Eruphel, daughter of Mazrakhor, Lady of Seaward, Serpent Spawn, Senior Lord of Umbar." Her voice becomes louder and brassier as her litany of names and aliases grows, growing fearsome. "<Haradaic> I cannot bid you welcome, for I am but a guest, myself. Therefore I extend greetings, and congratulations to you, the most wise and courageous men and women of Gondor."

The Telpekhor's shoulders relax and he reaches for his sword in a manner that suggests compliance. But with his legendary swiftness, he draws his sword and in a single action arcs it down towards the guardsman's shoulder.

"You wish my blade? Then take it!"

Arashen wields Longsword.

Arashen attacks Alkhaszor with his Longsword, but Alkhaszor parries the attack with his Longsword!

The Guardsman gives a little bit of startled jump as Lominzil whispers something to him--or perhaps it is a jump of surprise at Arashen's brash attack. As quick as the Knight is, the Guardsman is quicker, and his sword clashes against Arashen to stop the blow and then swing down toward the Knight's leg. "And I -shall- have it," he hisses.

Alkhaszor attacks Arashen with his Longsword and mildly wounds him!

At the drawing and sudden clashing of the blades, Ar-Gimilkhor says nothing. He watches languidly, a cold smile on his lips.

Elusul spins around to see this fight erupt. He glances this way and that to see if the guards are responding to this single duel. Seeing that general bloodshed is not about to occur, he lets this play out.

The Tarikhor's blade strikes, but it is a mere glancing blow. Arashen presses forward, using the momentum of his parried attack to initiate another - this one aimed at Alkhazsor's throat. "Less easy than you hoped for, traitor!"

Even as this attack is carried out, the King's guardsmen close in on the Telpekhor Knight...

Arashen attacks Alkhaszor with his Longsword and mildly wounds him!

ACTION! Galadhechil starts to edge towards Arashen, hoping for a chance to strike a blow for Gondor. Just a little closer.....

A laugh rings out across the room, along with the sound of Arashen's blade skittering across the Guardsman ring mail armor. The guards are closing in--and several now also threaten Galadhechil with the points of their drawn swords. But the Guardsman chops down one more time with his blade, seeking Arashen's sword arm, before he melts back into the company of guardsmen, letting them advance on the Telpekhor knight.

Alkhaszor attacks Arashen with his Longsword, but Arashen parries the attack with his Longsword!

Conalmir has - so far - followed his knight's example, standing without fighting; but with anger and a terrible fear in his eyes. A muscle jumps in his jaw and his hand is clenched about the hilt of his sword.

"No," Calenloth whispers. But a step takes her forward as she calculates her own actions as the span of her vision catches the advancing guards.

Whereas the King's smile is cold, the owl's is warm and vibrant. He is enjoying himself and speaks in an ancient tongue, "<Adunaic> ***, ***! * ** ** owl! ****** **** *** the ******** of ***** ******! ***...***** ****** the ****!

A hand presses to Calenloth's arm from a step behind her -- Niphredil, braid swinging down her shoulder, girly frills exchanged for cloak, breeches and riding boots, draws her attention with a subtle tug. "Do ... or ... it be," she hisses -- her eyes alight with burning stars, "... ...."

Galadhechil slaps at the one of the swords pointed at him. He can do nothing else without being run through from three different directions, and the guards know it. They chuckle at the sailor, but don't kill him just yet.

Lominzil leans towards the Admiral. "Stop this bloodshed. The Knight's folly will slay us all," he says clearly in Westron.

Laying down his scabbard by the feet of the other Gondorians, he takes one step towards the throne.

And in Westron again, the bruises of recent illness stark against the dead white of his face: "Alphros. My name is Lominzil Girithlin, and I would speak, not fight."

The Sea-Knight parries the guardsman's attack but there is little more he can do for the guards are soon upon him. For a moment, Arashen stares after his retreating opponent, wearing the expression of one whose memory has been tugged. And then he is disarmed ungently and brought to the ground.

Ar-Gimilkhor's eyes drift from the arrested fight to the Squire before him, and he nods down at Lominzil.

"Well met, Lominzil, though when you speak to me it shall be with name I bear now and not the name that once defined me: Ar-Gimilkhor, King of Gondor."

Then to the guards: "See that the Knight is bound. I shall think on whether is bravery and his little duel with Alkhaszor has been a fitting martial display in honour of our guest, Lady Eruphel, or an affront to my hospitality that ought to be punished with death."

"What is it you wish to say," he finally grates to Lominzil.

"<Sindarin> Arashen, be at ease. You, Galadhechil, put your hands down. There'll be another time." Elusul then turns to all in the group, "<Sindarin> Give your names if you wish."

"And speak the foul tongue of the Elves no more!" the Claimant King booms as Elusul reverts to Sindarin once more.

Calenloth but glares, tint of silver catching the little light trapped in the room beneath the hem of her cloak. Defiantly, she offers no answer, but stands proudly beside Niphredil.

"Sir!" Conalmir says urgently to Elusul, his voice low - and entirely ignoring the command not to speak in Sindarin. "My mother! My sisters! What has he done with them!" He looks around the room frantically. "And my grandfather..."

His arms bound tightly behind him, Arashen is pulled roughly to his feet and pushed to the front of the room where stand his compatriots. He breathes hard, his lips pressed in a thin line.

Having spent his attention on providing a retreat, he is entirely ignorant of everything that has transpired at the front of the room.

Something the King-Claimant says, ere the question addressed to Lominzil, makes that squire flinch, a bitter smile curving his lips.

When he speaks, however, it is without humor or anger. "You claim the throne of Gondor. Yet your hall is in ruins, on an island scarcely on the coast of the land proper. You have deceived our ship and led us thither. What do you want of us?"

"You are mistaken, Lominzil. My hall," answers Ar-Gimilkhor, "Lies beyond, many leagues to the northeast, where your false Steward sits. This," he indicates the hall, "Is but a place that loyal men and women have provided to me for my use."

"Moreover, it is by no conscious design that you have been led here. Rather, your coming is unexpected, though Tolcrist has long been kept in this necessary state so that the Lords of Gondor may remain deceived as to its true fealty." The King laughs. "Indeed, who should I thank for the unexpected gift that is your coming?" He looks to Elusul. "You, Knight-Admiral? When I had heard that our confidences in Pelargir had been broken I began to prepare for an assault. Never would I expect that you would be sent right into my waiting hands. You make a fine wedding gift. For that is why we are here." He arches a brow. "Or did you not know."

"Now, let us attend to three things. First, your names if you have not given them. If discourtesy is your choice, then death will be the price that you pay for your silence."

"Second," he looks down to Arashen. "The fate of this man. My Lady?" he glances at Eruphel. "What say you? Does he live or die?" A glance to the owl. "My Lord? Are you amused or bored?"

And so the women stand together, their shoulders separated by less of an inch. Niphredil's face is blank -- stubbornly so, rigidly so -- and pale, and were it not for the frequency of her inhalations, the tumult barely restrained would be unrecognisable for what it is. Her eyes are for Lominzil -- for the so-called King. When he speaks of weddings, her lips part and her body tenses -- and to Calenloth go these words, dropping drowsily off her tongue now, "Calenloth, ... ... about a ... ... ... ... ... ... ...; ... ... ...-... ... the first ... ..., for ... ... ... ... ...? ... ...?"

As the chaos seems to settle down, Eruphel's eyes narrow, and she looks down at Arashen, defeated and bundled nicely, and most importantly deprived of sword. Now in the common tongue, she introduces herself more properly, facing the crowd. "I am Eruphel, daughter of Mazrakhor, Lady of Seaward, Senior Lord of Umbar." She gazes at Arashen again. "My military eye sees a loyal knight, who has an understanding of military tactics. If he will bend a knee and give over his loyalty, I would say you should elevate him in stature."

The owl falls almost to a near silence. He sighs and says, "<Adunaic> * ** but the third ** **** ********. And ****, * ***** ***** **** native ******!"

Ar-Gimilkhor glances at the Owl. "<Adunaic> *** *** **** ***** *** a ***** here, ** ****, *** ** ****** ***** **** **** **** the **** **** ** **** wit ** *** call." A pause. "<Adunaic> ** ***."

Then once more in the tongue that all can understand, the King speaks: "Very well, my Lady." He looks down on Arashen. "What say you?"

The owl chortles at the King.

Impassively, Arashen listens to the King-Claiments musing on his life and death. He says naught to any of it. Until Eruphel speaks....

He turns his gray eyes to her, yet holding the intensity of his recent battle. He lips curve wryly. "I would expect as much from one who rules Seaward. You people keep me busy upon the seas."

His gaze shifts to Alphros. "I am Sir Arashen of House Telpekhor - a loyal swansman to Prince Imrahil."

"And I take it that your loyalty to the traitor Prince precludes you from serving your King," states Ar-Gimilkhor. He addresses the King's Men holding the Telpekhor knight: "When our affairs in this hall are concluded, take him below and see that he has the love of the poker and the wheel for a few hours each knight. We shall see if Lady Eruphel can be moved to pleasure or displeasure."

Then to the others, and in a tone that brooks no doubt as to his seriousness. "I shall now ask it one final time: you shall step forward and give me your gift, either your names or your heads." A gesture to Lominzil and Elusul invites them to step to one side. "I wish to conclude these formalities."

Others speak in the meantime and then Elusul steps up to speak again.

"<Sindarin> No. Say nothing more. If this Man begrudges our kinsman defending us, he will get no further courtesy from us. And I will die before I give up my heritage, the heritage of my kinsmen who died fighting you at the Poros and at Caldur. If it serves your vanity to kill me for speaking the tongue of my birth, so be it, /Pretender/." Elusul looks to Conalmir, only sadness answering the squire's questions.

"And what of us?" asks Lominzil, his tone nearly sweet. "The poker and wheel, instruments for the wedding gift?"

He does not move.

"<Adunaic> ** **** *****?" A like a dagger through the air, Niphredil's words ring out for the laughing owl in sharp-spoken Adunaic -- cloaked in a husky-throated venom. "<Adunaic> **** *** the ***** **** *** *** -- ***** is *** **** **** *** a *****?"

More begs to be spoken, but the self-named King's words ring heavily in her ears and her attention shifts as a matter of course. A low sigh brings Niphredil to composure -- and her stare to Elusul, then the ceiling, as though searching for a window.

A bit of a whisper, or perhaps even giggle, buried by the rustle of the sleeves, escapes the mouth of Calenloth at the words of Niphredil, but she obeys the orders of the Admiral. She speaks not, rather stands proudly.
Galadhechil nods at Elusul and remains silent. Looking back at the pretender, the sailing master straightens up to his full height with the inner strength of a man who has felt the lash many a time.

"It does," confirms, Arashen holding his head high. But when the King orders his torture, the Knight's impassivity wavers and a dark, hollow look enters his eyes. He looks back to Calenloth, then to Elusul. "Sir, the women must tell him their names. Do not force them to share our fate."

Elusul gives but a nod to Arashen in agreement.

Conalmir shifts slightly, and then Elusul's orders fall on his ears. He stares at the man, his knight, his superior, then transfers his burning gaze to the one who claims to be king. There is a great struggle in his face - dead-white - and his hands open and close spasmodically. But he is silent.

"Hmm. I had a Telepkhor slave once, for whom I still hold much fondness." Eruphel muses, mostly to herself. Whatever softening of her features is hidden behind chalky-white makeup. But Arashen's pronounced fate seems to move her none at all. Instead, she turns her head sharply to face Elusul, her eyes narrowing. "He is no Pretender. Heed your tongue before it is cut from your head." she barks, then softens, turning toward Ar-Gimilkhor. "Might I suggest, though, that you consult with your intended on the matter."

Ar-Gimilkhor rolls his eyes slightly at Eruphel, though a grin is on his face; a gesture between friends. "I am not yet you would already have me chained to her will?" He pauses: "But I have been disobeyed thrice now."

He rises from his throne, a terrible glimmering blade drawn to his hand. "You gave your own name freely, Knight-Admiral, and yet you would compel your companions to give their lives for honour? It is wise that you would listen to your Telpekhor companion."

"But I gave my command: speak not the tongue of the Elves. Though I dishonour myself my striking an unarmed man, I am redeemed, for he is but a traitor." And then the blade descends straight for the Knight-Admiral's chest.

Ar-Gimilkhor wields Scimitar.

Ar-Gimilkhor attacks you with his Scimitar!...
...and he hits! Ouch!

ARB: You've been injured for 30 hp's by Ar-Gimilkhor's attack...
...you have 51 left. Please RP this injury accordingly.

Arashen makes a decision quickly, but he is not as swift as the so-called King of Gondor. "Tell him your name..."

The Knight-Admiral is struck.

Elusul does not flinch. Nay, the only grace he gives himself is a closing of his eyes. The knight-admiral believes himself to be dying a coward for not watching his own execution. But then he opens his eyes again and turns to his left to see the blood gushing out of his bloody stump. He falls to his knees as they wobble and then he collapses forward, bracing himself with his right hand as best he can before hitting the ground.

"Sir!" Conalmir's voice bursts out, and he leaps forward, but is jerked back by hands on his arms. He struggles against them, fighting to go to his admiral.

"No!" The yell from Calenloth, reaching toward the arm of Niphredil for support. "This for a name?" The question hissed to Niphredil, her expression increduous.

But Lominzil is there first, dropping to his knees and pressing on the stump of the Knight-Admiral's arm, trying to stem the blood. 'This is enough bloodsheed for one night,' he says pleasantly to Ar-Gimilkhor, though his breathing is fast.

He leans in: "... ... have no fault, ... that ... ... according ... ... they ... .... ... ... interpose ... ... ... you ... ... ... ... -- only, I ..., ...-..., ... ... ... ... ...."

Galadhechil would follow Conalmir's example. But experience and discipline stay him. He can only watch in numb fascination as Elusul's arm is severed and the admiral collapses.

There is no compassion or anguish from the foreign Lady as Ar-Gimilkhor pronounces his sentence, and then carries it out. Rather, oddly, she takes a step backwards to prevent his blood from spraying onto her white finery, wincing only slightly. But she signals her men in anticipation of the chaos she expects to ensue, the rest of them drawing their swords and holding them at the ready.

The owl blanches and dances away from the blood with a fevered reticence, "Oh, if we are to spill crimson, can we not have wine instead of...this?"

"No, this for disobedience," answers Ar-Gimilkhor coldly. He turns away from the fallen Knight-Admiral, the stark brightness of gaze brooding upon Lominzil. "Your courage is noted but I shall deliver unto each present only the agony that they ask for themselves."

He turns to the others and lifts his bloody sword to point at the rest of the Gondorians. "You think your childish defiance grants you honour, but all it does is write clear your terror, and your weakness. If you have no fear, and are strong, grant your name. Or else kneel, so that you might give up your life to my blade too."

Then, almost as an afterthought, he adds: "Mother, come and tend to our foolish kinsman the Knight-Admiral?" He appears to address one of the veiled women who stood behind his throne, a proud but aged lady who now steps forward. "He is our kinsman you know; his wife is your own niece."

Arashen looks at the fallen Knight-Admiral, no sense of horror or sadness evident upon his features. The now Senior Knight looks to the others. "Give him your names," he says sternly. "That is an order."

Support she is asked for, support she is given; Niphredil keeps Calenloth standing, her arm cradled around her waist. Yet, as the girl watches the blade reach Elusul's chest, and Lominzil lower to stop the bleeding, all gentleness is removed from her face -- and all that is left is something wide-eyed and fey and calculatingly. Calenloth is tugged, pointedly, and a hand goes for her chin. "No," she hushes her. "No. We live." Those last two words are chanted twice, but quietly, only for the other girl.

"My name..." Niphredil has to pause; a long breath is drawn, one so long that she must have been holding it for some time, "is Niphredil Telamarth. Daughter of"

-- Her eyes close with effort, effort that she damns with a frustrated hiss, "Varnion."

Conal has eyes only for Elusul, but when Lominzil stoops to aid him, he stops struggling; turning his gaze first to Arashen and then to Alphros. "Conalmir. Tarikhor. What have you done with my family?"

"So be it." Her jaw too clenches, the teeth biting upon her lip to the point of blood. She twists to face the man, raising her eyes to her face. "I am Calenloth." A quick glance to Niphredil, and a slow nod returns her focus.

"Galadhechil, master of Gaergwing." The sailor gives his name in a loud and clear voice.

"Hoooooo-lorithain," hoots the owl, pointing at Niphredil with a smirk.

Niphredil looks to the owl.

Her eyes are a promise: unmoving, unblinking, murderous.

"Do you wish to sit on the throne of a broken nation?" Lominzil hisses, bloody up to the elbow. "They are women."

"Innocent of the pain of war and conflict," a glance shot to the girls.

"Do not break them like you did my sister."

"We shall spare the Telpekhor his nights of pleasure," the Corsair-turned-King states, "In reward for his good sense. But re-award him one, to remind his foolish companions of the price of defiance."

Ar-Gimilkhor's eyes go from each face to the next as names are given. As Niphredil speaks and the owl hoots, he pauses. "Foolish." He lifts his blade, blood still dripping from its wicked edge, and for a moment it seems he will truly strike. But he does not. "But if you are Niphredil Hlorithain, then your father is the Knight-Admiral, and you have your uses."

When his gaze reaches Conalmir, he smiles. "Another kinsman." The point of the King's blade digs into the earth. "Your family? It is my family, too. And the question should be: What has your family done with itself?"

Then the eyes go on: Calenloth and Galadhechil, and finally Lominzil. "Your nation is broken, and with each passing year the cracks spread further and deeper. By defying me you ensure that it will crumble when only I can rebuild it. Even now your Virtues betray you." A hand raises and gestures back at Eruphel. "Do you see her there, the Lady of Umbar, seniormost among all the Tower Lords? She is a woman whose blade is notched with countless lives, who could slay you all herself if she wished!"

He turns and stands back. "You are a poor wedding gift, but you will suffice. The ceremony is to be within the month, and it is there that I shall decide your fates. In the meantime if you do not speak the tongue of the Elves nor ponder escape nor insurrection, you may inhabit this castle unmolested."

"The one boon I shall grant you as guests of noble birth," he adds, though his eyes touch on Galadhechil dubiously, "Is the attendance of my mother as your host. She is Lady Azrainzil, Queen Mother, though once she was known as Aerelanor Tarikhor, and you will treat her with the respect she deserves."

There is no answering smile on Conal's face. "Where is my mother?" he demands. "And my sisters?" His voice is rough, harsh, a frantic edge to it that he tries to subdue - but is not entirely successful at.

"Hostages to your good behavior," the King states simply.
Galadhechil notices the dubious look and nods knowingly. He glances at around at the others, of higher station, and grunts.

"I want to see them," Conalmir says. He hasn't moved - though men still hold his arms.

"If you do not give me reason to punish you, I will permit them to attend the wedding."

Ar-Gimilkhor's answer is flat, and his tone brooks no questioning.

The guards begin to pull Arashen away, he resists though it appears only to delay than any true attempt to stop them. "Stay alive," he says to the others, his voice firm, "Do nothing foolish."

And then he allows himself to be taken away.
"A hostage, a prison, and a gaoler," says Lominzil calmly, slipping back as if he has been released from a vise. His eyes, a dull grey-blue, are perfectly blank. "We will partake of your ... hospitality."

The Pretender's sword moves for her; Niphredil's arm gives Calenloth a shove to the side, as far away from her as a single push could take her. For a moment, so tensed that she seems not to move at all, she seems to wait for the bloody sword to dive at her -- but it does not. Rather, it is the man's words that bring an exhausted cast to her expression -- she has her uses?

She glances to Eruphel when she is spoken of -- her eyes travel from the woman's boots, to her face, then away. As Conalmir and Lominzil speak, Niphredil is silent and does not interrupt.
"Wine, my King? Wine for all...now, at least?" asks the owl.

"Should we not celebrate?"

Calenloth's eyes too burn with the hatred Niphredil casts to the owl. And the push away is felt, though her own muscles tighten, the slip of silver beneath her sleeve is retracted as her posture relaxes, as if a battle plan formulates for another day. Any hint of the object is vanished.

"I shall not leave you," she whispers to the other woman, returning to her side.

Eruphel sighs at last, and shakes her head. "I know these. I know their kind. They are like Loki, my father's Steward. We would be wise to skip straight to the inevitable, and hobble them all now with the sword, Ar-Gimilkhor." She looks at him coolly. "Or at the very least, chain them all to one spot so we can keep an eye on them."

Ar-Gimilkhor laughs in answer to Eruphel. "You may yet have your wish, my Lady."

He he turns and gestures to the owl. "Come, my Lord. Let us indeed retire to our cups."

And he is gone.

The owl follows, conceding himself to a more intimate party.

Eruphel breaks her mask just for a moment, snorting at Lominzil's comment. "A man of Gondor /would/ say such a thing." She waves her hand dismissively, turning to speak to her guardsmen, giving instruction for securing the "guests" and also a few other matters, but all of it spoken in the Umbarean tongue.

His eyes frost, Lominzil walks to the rest: Galadhechil, Niphredil, Calenloth, Conalmir.

"Duty," he says quietly. "Be strong."
Elusul is white as a sheet, some may even say ashen. The shadow of death lies over him, though he breathes yet but shallowly, barely a touch of damp on the skin held before his mouth.

Niphredil heeds Lominzil's words with a long look -- to his face, to his hands.

She watches Elusul struggle, and her lips move to mutter something -- some sort of prayer, perhaps, or chant of sorts -- in soft-spoken Adunaic, in a whisper. And then she is silent.

Many miles away, the Knight-Marshall glances up worriedly from his papers. It is but a brief uneasiness: a slight from Westernesse-lost that distances him, a faint glimpse to the tragedy of his ancestors. He focuses and returns to his work, but his heart beats faster and his sword jingles at his waist. There is something in the man then, something that even he cannot explain, something that leads him to stand, to grab his armor, and to walk out the room.

Date added: 2011-10-18 00:44:47    Hits: 119
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