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The Fingers of a Hand

Tags: Arathis,  Conalmir,  Lominzil,  Niphredil,  Umar

Short Summary: Arathis, disguised as a royalist, speaks briefly with the captured Niphredil and Conalmir, ere departing at the coming of the Southron Umar, who banters cruelly with the young Gondorians and the newly arrived Lominzil
Date (real-life): 2011-10-20
Scene Location: Lond Annun, Tolcrist
Date (in-game): March 18, 3054

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 sun, hampered throughout the day by the loom of storm clouds above, has at last conceded the isle of Tolcrist. Though some final few rays reach the high walls of Lond Annun, their angle fails to illume the chambers within.


A diminishing grey so occupies the airs of the keep's garden, reigning somberly about its lawless overgrowth. A man, marked in his wear as an attendant supporter of the Pretender, an eagle's mask over him, therein sits upon a broken bench.



As another day passes to evening, Niphredil continues to avoid the sleeping quarters, wandering about the castle.


Two guards -- more interested in playing cards and sporting with the female minders who deliver wash-clothes and water -- follow a reasonable collection of meters behind her, close enough to keep her within sight, not so close that they fall prey to her occasion grunt of frustration.


Her cloak is black, rimmed with fur -- and her gown beneath is of a foreign make, a bright cerulean that she covers with an adjustment of the cape every now and again. The eagle is given an unwelcoming look as she enters the garden, but no surprise is displayed across her features -- the masked ones are, surely, a common sight here. Her guards linger back at the archway, lost in meaningless discussion; Niphredil makes for the largest tree in the garden and, turning, leans against it.



The masked man is for many moments silent, observant of the garden's entrant.


When he speaks from behind his veil, it is first loudly and to the accompanying guards: "<Adunaic> Wardens, for what are these prisoners given to roam?"


The query is immediately repeated in common mannish, as if his voice echoed in withdrawal of some presumption. The speech sounds a crude dialect, mingling with the lilt of one more accustomed to the finer tongue.


[Conalmir(#31396)] There are muffled steps inside before a young man in the dress of a squire appears in the doorway behind the guards. After a moment, ignoring them, he steps beyond and comes towards Niphredil, sparing the eagle-masked man but one contemptuous glance. Perhaps oddly, he doesn't address the woman, merely stops beside her, standing in silence and staring up at the inner walls of his father's home.



For a long moment, it seems as if Niphredil has either not heard the man, not understood him, or decides simply to ignore him; her guards, too, seem too engrossed in their conversation to respond to his call in a hurry, though they may have heard it. As though lured by some vision in the distance, her head turns away, and her arms cross beneath her chest. Haughty is her pose -- haughty and cold, too cold to alter when the squire finds his way to her side.


He is given a more curious glance -- from foot, to face -- until her eyes are drawn to the sky.


"<Adunaic> I am special," is all she says -- the words fall from her lips like rocks. She speaks with the ease of one who might have learned in the cradle.


'Them?' The first guard to acknowledge the eagle is spoken to in the common tongue, yelled over from the archway. 'They may walk about the castle, long as they have company. And behave themselves.'



The sight of the squire seems to lighten the bearing of the masked man, who, at the response of the guardsmen, then rises to approach the young twain at their tree.


He is tall, and mayhap his voice not unfamiliar.


“So,” he begins, his speech issuing softly, “you, special one, and you, squire, are guests to this castle’s host.” All but three of his fingers -- the third to the fifth digits on his right hand -- are visibly extended and spread. With the address of Niphredil and Conalmir, the first and second digits notably close, emphasizing his left hand with all five fingers remaining outward.


“Are you then fed and given a guest’s hospitality?”


[Conalmir(#31396)] The squire may not have noticed that anyone was approaching at all for all the heed he gives the man who now nears them. He continues to study the castle walls, as if on it, he sees some magical writing or enthralling entertainment.


As the man speaks, he glances down, face still hard and expressionless, contempt still in his eyes. "We are fed," he answers shortly. Some strange motion with the eagle-man's fingers draw his eyes downwards, and when they lift, there is a stillness in them; a wary question that is left unspoken.



Walking through the castle and out into the open is a man, a Southron, a turbaned Southron of noble bearing. The man walks like a prince with chin up and chest out. Across the way, he spies the gathering of 'guests' and one man in a mask. Curiosity piqued, he moves in that direction, a smile forming as he recognizes one of the guests in particular.



A misty wind brushes the overgrown topiaries of the garden, a voice crying on the air: "Bor! Bor!"



A tip of her head brings Niphredil's head against the bark of the tree behind her; brows disinterestedly arched, she lowers her gaze from the heavens -- unsatisfying sight this is, it seems -- to the eagle. As he approaches, the girl begins to frown, and initially, it seems in disapproval.


In the next second, it seems in confusion. A beat afterward, irritation, and then -- what was that? -- suspicion.


A glance downward, at his hands. Colour drains from the Hlorithain's face; she questions him with her long silence. She lets Conalmir speak. Yet the hand sitting on her bicep, subtly, stretches her didges out, all five of them. Then, responding to an itch, it seems, her two longest fingers scratch against the wool of her cloak.


But her head turns to the sound of the ghost's wailing. Her jaw tenses.



A pair of fingers upon the left hand mimics the girl’s. But at the Southron’s nearing, the masked man’s fist suddenly closes, and a harsher, mayhap unexpected speech flows from him: “How queer, squire, that so many of your number swipe their blades but do not thrust! It shall fare you poorly, should your Prince contest Umbar’s claim.” The beak points for Niphredil, ere turning towards Umar.


“How gracious a King that allows his enemies air.”


[Conalmir(#31396)] Conalmir's face grows still harder. The Eagle might turn towards Umar, but the squire continues his policy of ignoring their captors until they are forced onto his notice. Angrily, he spits, "Gracious! Fine words for a man who would kill or torture my little sisters if all goes not to his liking, and who orders sunk a ship that sits helpless in harbor!"

[Conalmir(#31396)] He glances up at the wailing, and there is a faint relaxation to his face - almost, it is a gloating kind of pleasure.



Umar looks to the masked man, expression unchanged, though there is a hint of a queer look in his eye. "Another of His Magnificence's guests?" He bows, his hand moving from breast to mouth to forehead in greeting. "Welcome to you. I am Umar ibn Sharif al-Razuli of Black Tower."


His dark eyes flit to Conalmir but a moment before looking back, "Our guests prove themselves worthy of their treatment every day."



Beside Conalmir, Niphredil is unmoving. He bellows and she offers no distraction or interruption; had she ever the energy to calm him of his tirades, she is cleansed of it now. And then a hand moves to briefly -- briefly -- secure his arm, and were one observing her do this, it would seem a comforting gesture. An expression of kindness. "You could not expect," is her judgment, directed the squire's way, with some hint of sympathy.


"I thought we smelled something rotten." Her words -- sharper now -- travel to Umar before her stare does in a single, unenthusiastic slide to the left. Her attention narrows on the man with the same pleasure as were he a rodent. "What do you want?" she asks. "Come to abduct a new friend?"



The taller man looks upon the guards as the squire spits, but motions none to call them.


He grates however harshly atop a more martial bass, "Ye guests ought to learn thy tongues calm while with thy host, lest ye earn a skewer ere its due.


"Mayhap thy tempers would cool and ye as thy kingdom come to see rightly, if more often ye took the fine airs of this garden."


A short bow is given to Umar, coupled with the final words to fall from the eagle's mask, "O rich one, I tire of their antics," ere the man departs swiftly from the keep's garden.


[Conalmir(#31396)] "I prefer the tombs." The squire watches the man go, anger still burning in his eyes. Niphredil's touch may not bring calm, but it does bring stillness - Conalmir says nothing good or bad to Umar.



Umar looks after the departing one with narrowed eyes, marking him as best he can in the faltering light of dusk. He turns back then to the noble hostages. "The wind is up again tonight. Odd voices speak. He is not pleased with the sacrifices made so far. I must ask His Magnificence if a proper shrine has been erected in this castle for proper worship." A look is given Niphredil.


[Conalmir(#31396)] Another voice shrikes through the growing wind - though here in the shelter of the walled courtyard, it is calm. "Betrayed!" it howls. "Betrayed, betrayed, betrayed...!"




"We visit the garden often as is."


Ah, but the eagle is already departing when this is spoken, Niphredil's stare like a shadow on his back -- a shadow that becomes a dagger when it turns to Umar's face. There it roams, stabbing all it sees. "He thinks to rid the castle of his angry spirits by creating more?" she muses. "I should hope this pearl of genius is one of your creation."


She is silent when the voices travel through the wind -- the voices of the tortured undead. Her frown is a dark one and reveals her discomfort, the limits of her sarcasm and her bravery.



Lominzil enters the garden for his daily exercise, supported by a precarious-looking wooden cane.


[Conalmir(#31396)] The same odd, pleased look flickers across Conalmir's face. But there is no sign of it in his voice. "That is my great-uncle," he says, almost conversationally - if any voice leached forcibly of all expression could be conversational. "The lady you may see is his daughter-in-law. They are buried below." He turns his face towards Niphredil, and then away. "He is angry with my grandfather. Perhaps you know him? His name is Cristion."



Umar has been warded in blood by the priests and priestesses of Umbar and fell spirits do not daunt him, one of the Elect of Sauron. The turbaned man watches Niphredil fall into silence and then frown. His own smile only grows. "You there, boy, yes, you, the sullen one. Why do you not join in in the wailing and ghashing of teeth? You look like you want to do so."



As Conalmir speaks, Niphredil listens -- and whatever he says, brief though it is, it seems something of a comfort. Her arms loosen and her face loses its uncomfortable scowl as some degree of understanding overcomes her features. She does not notice Umar's smile until the beat pause that comes before his attention swerves toward Lominzil -- Lominzil?


Niphredil takes in the sight of the squire walking, cane in hand. Her arms uncross in surprise.


"Are you considered a smart man in your country?" Irritated some by Umar's questions, Niphredil throws him this one of her own.


[Conalmir(#31396)] Conalmir's attention is distracted by Lominzil's faltering approach. He frowns, and that expression is still on his face when he looks back to Umar. The Haradrim's questions are not answered. The squire lifts his chin a fraction, straightening to his full height, and stares haughtily back, the anger in his eyes banked just now.



"It isn't good for the teeth," Lominzil answers conversationally, leaning on his cane. "I don't think Lady Azrainzil has a kind remedy for toothache."



Umar looks from Conalmir to Niphredil. "Join me in my country and you will find out firsthand. Be my wife and I will array you in the finest silks, the most brilliant gems, the most alluring perfumes. You will lack for nothing and will be free of the cloying talk of these boys who surround you." No glance is spared Lominzil.



Again, Niphredil's brows find a ruffled fixture.


They search Umar's eyes for humour -- or for solemnity -- and whatever she finds after a moment's quiet is enough to part her lips in outrage and bemusement. "Pardon?" she asks, as though she misheard. "Is this a joke?"


Lominzil blinks a little, and his hand tightens on Conal's shoulder.



Umar shrugs in the face of Niphredil's laughter. He turns to Lominzil and Conalmir. "To which of you has she given her heart? Think you worthy of her? Think she worthy of either of you? A hysterical woman with a tongue quicker than her common sense? Mark my words, Men of Gondor, she will be the death of you before all is done."


[Conalmir(#31396)] Conalmir unfolds his arms and reaches for Niphredil's shoulder, laying his hand on it, and folding the fingers over. Perhaps lovingly, perhaps tenderly... He tightens his hold unobtrusively, digging his fingers in.


"The /lady's/ heart is her own to speak of," he says, his voice like granite.



Niphredil is laughing until the squire's hand is on her shoulder.


Her voice trails to silence. Soon, her arm is bent and thrusting backward in a half-circle to both dislodge his fingers and encourage him to give her space. When she looks at him, it is with a frown. "I may show my amusement in an amusing instance," she states -- cagily. A quiet strangles her during the latter portion of Umar's speech and she considers it for much time afterward. Her lips part, but at first, she proves too stubborn to provide the Haradrim with a response.


"So kind," she eventually murmurs, flatly, as if to herself, "for a stranger to ponder the location of my heart as though he deserved an answer."



"Indeed," Lominzil says calmly, "one wonders about the common sense in which one proposes to a stranger."



Umar's good humor remains despite the atmosphere. He bows once more, performing his gesture of farewell. "Good evening to you three. I look forward to our next meeting with great anticipation." He himself then turns to go.


[Conalmir(#31396)] Conal lets his hand drop, and steps away. He doesn't respond to Niphredil's frown or her speech; nor does he make any answer to Umar's farewell. Silently, he watches the man leave, his arms crossed once more.

Date added: 2011-10-20 23:10:51    Hits: 135
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