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The King, Interrupted

Tags: Ar-Gimilkhor,  Alphros,  Alkhaszor,  Eruphel,  Umar,  Mikkan,  Varian,  Elusul,  Arashen,  Calenloth,  Niphredil,  Conalmir,  Lominzil,  Galadhechil,  Orchalang,  Menelglir,  Arathis,  Cristion Tarikhor,  Azrainzil

Short Summary: Escape from Alcatraz: the Gondorians' plans on the King-Claimant-held island come to fruition.
Date (real-life): 2011-10-29
Scene Location: Tolcrist, Gondor

(EN: This was a very long scene with multiple parts. Scene breaks marked by asterisk *)

 

The Chamber of Oath-making they call it, though it is more of a great hall, writ with light of many torches and the humming of a hundred voices. Where once Gilion Tarikhor received the Prince of Dol Amorth and bent his knee, now a would-be King of Gondor stands upon a high dias, a jewel glimmering upon his brow. To either side of him are his finest -- the three dread Knights in helmed as a Falcon, Heron, and Crow, and a cadre of elite King's Men -- and behind him are arrayed his immediate kin, the women veiled in black. Two of the Gondorian hostages have now joined them, separated from the rest: Niphredil and Arashen.

Mailed and scimitar-bearing King's Men flank the doors and windows, and a panoply of men and women filter into the hall between them: bird-masked Royalists, dark-skinned Southrons of the Seaward Tower, and the remainder of the unwilling guests.

Somewhere above, a deep bell chimes nine times, announcing the hour.


Solemen in demeanor, the helmed Heron--Alkhaszor--once more surveys the room, as he did at the wedding feast. At the tolling of the bell, his eyes turn to the King.

Conalmir is among those present, as stiff and silent and hard of face as he has been for the last week or so. If his sisters and mother are also there - or his grandfather - he does not look for them.

Elusul stands beside Conalmir, stoically, impassively watching all that goes on.

Umar is present as well, close to the dais given his status. The Southron is again dressed in his opulent robes of white with black brocaded sash and turban topped by sapphire. He has in his sash his bejeweled scimitar, the ancestral weapon of the head of the House of Razuli.

The Telpekhor Knight stands to the rear of the dais, bearing an uncharacteristicly grim expression. He is dressed in the finery granted him at the wedding, plain but of good quality and reminiscent of Southron styles. His fierce gray eyes sweep over the assemblage, coming to quickly find his companions in captivity.


Among the Royalists strides three more of their uniform, masked together as eagle, sparrow, and cock.

And though they enter at each other's sides, they soon diverge. The eagle, tallest of the three, saunters to the left of the Chamber of Oath-making.


The Cock, the Noble Chicken makes his way to the right, bowing his head to those respectfully as he passes, his demeanor being very loose, relaxed even.


Ar-Gimilkhor's eyes stray from his surveying of those gathered before him to Alkhaszor, the Heron-Knight by his side. His lips purse into a frown.

"Where is the Owl?" he grates under his breath.


Sparrow enters with Chicken and Eagle, flitting down the center path, looking a bit abashed to be late.


A bit of a haze, but her eyes are still lit with vigor, Calenloth joins her own; not a smile on her face but an odd light to her steps. She shifts her weight from side to side, anticipation giving her restlessness as she scans the various masks.
 
 
In dread black, Lominzil stands at ease, his eyes fixed far away.

Elusul keeps his eyes focused on Ar-Gimilkhor.


Umar is busy chatting with a lady of the City of the Corsairs who is here with others. He smiles and nods at some comment, but often he turns to survey those behind him as if looking for familiar faces, the humor in his face betrayed by cunning black eyes.

 
The eagle, by the roving manner of his saunter, comes suddenly before the armless Knight-Admiral and his Southron guard.

Upon the captive he looks wordlessly, ere casting his gaze downward dejectedly.

 
There is a rush of giggling and the pitter-patter of footsteps. Owlets, owlets, everywhere! Children, they are, and come forward offering golden coins to the air. Before any have the chance to collect the spoils, the grandest owl of all, bedecked all in gold with his golden mask, strides from without atop the coin-laden path, his golden slippers providing enough comfort to smooth his way across the golden trail until he is nigh upon the King's assemblage.

There is a rose twirled in his hair, which he looses and offers to Ar-Gimilkhor with a muted smile upon his face. "My King," he greets, "A rose."

 
Ar-Gimilkhor accepts the rose with an arched eyebrow; he studies it for a moment, before turning to hand it to Alkhaszor. Then he turns back to the grand Owl, and he speaks:

"My Lord, you have done us much honour these past weeks -- and I would give you your reward, if you would have it." He beckons for him to stand before him on the second highest step of the dais.

 
Umar watches this ostentatious entrance and visibly scoffs. He murmurs under his breath his original assessment of Lord Owl: "Cretin."

 
The owlets are not the only children here: Garbed again in a youngster's finery, his nursemaid beside him, Mikkan is off to a corner, wearing a heron mask. His laughter can be heard as the golden coins clatter to the ground, and he points to them and says something to his nursemaid. Then he points to the eagle-masked man by the Admiral, as well, the nursemaid listening to him.


But among the gathered guests, the Sparrow must press out of the way to make room for Owl and Owlets--and doing so brings him shoulder to shoulder with Calenloth. "A pity the theme is bird masks. I happen to like all sorts of animals. Spiders, for instance."


On the dais, Alkhaszor takes the rose, looks at it and sighs, then hands it off to one of the guests on the dais. He does not notice Mikkan pointing to the Eagle.

 
         The Noble Chicken watches from the right hand side as the Owl makes his flamboyant entrance, as he watches he continues to move through the crowded room bumping into one of the captives, Lominzil to be exact. Taking a step back to see who it is he bumps into he looks away in what can only be guessed as disgusted, and then makes his way away.

 
Lominzil half-turns, his upper lip raising in a silent snarl. Or a laugh?

 
Elusul turns from his surveillance of Gimilkhor to look over this eagle-masked man before him with interest, never having been so close to one of the royalists before now. He whispers under his breath, "(Sindarin) ...."

 
So close to the Pretender, Arashen pays close attention to what is being said and done. And though his attention lies mainly there, he does glance to the crowd from time to time. This time looking for Calenloth.

 
The owl smiles fully now, his lips curling into a sinister pleasantry.

He steps up just below Ar-Gimilkhor on the dais and looks to the King arrogantly. Only a whisper would betray any lack of confidence.

And that whisper?

"Did you not like your rose, my King?"

 
Calenloth's lips quirk in a bit of of smile, eyes widening, though she resists the urge to turn, to move, digging her toes into the soles of her shoes to stand solid in her poise. Mikkan points, emphatically, but she has already noted the Eagle. A breath inhaled, then exhaled slowly, she murmurs, "Not a pity, Sir Sparrow, for many noble birds shall join us before this eve neds." But her eyes never stray from forward, keeping close to her own, feeling the gaze of Arashen burning like coals.

 
"Roses and crowns please me greatly, my Lord," Ar-Gimilkhor smiles, and it is a dread expression. "And so I will reward you as I would one who shall be great in our New Kingdom; a Lord with few peers."

And then, reaching forward, Ar-Gimilkhor makes to grasp the owl mask and wrench it from his face.


Neither violence nor rebuke doles the eagle. He hears the Eldar's tongue and turns away only, making to near and better observe the dais.


The slash of cold steel being drawn rings through the room as, near to the King, Alkhaszor unsheaths his sword, the threat of its blade poised against Varian if need be. He moves not to strike yet.

Arashen frowns at the sight of a Royalist standing so near to Calenloth, but then his attention is drawn sharply back to the King before him. He glances once to Alkhazsor, then back to the Owl.

 
"Hooooooooo!" cries out the owl as the King reaches for his mask. Yet this is only a cry and he does not move or blanch away from Ar-Gimilkhor as he did that petulant little Hlorithain girl. He is revealed to the King and his attendants though his back remains to the crowd at large.

 
Lominzil rolls his shoulders, not particularly caring if he elbows Conalmir in the process.

Tense moments, these.

 
Ar-Gimilkhor smiles down at the unmasked Owl, though whatever he was to say is arrested--

BOOM! The doors leading to the upper keep, where the highest Tower of Balhrion observes all the seas about, are flung open. The King's Man who barrels in does so with no heed for those gathered, or for anything that has just transpired. He breathes heavily.

"My King! There is fire upon the waters; the fleets do battle!"

And indeed, were one to cast eyes to the great windows of the Chamber of Oath-making, distant lights might be glimpsed; flashes of red upon the night-darkened seas, and then, the faintest of shuddering booms echoing across the waves. Such news has an immediate effect upon those gathered -- chaos and panic ripples through the bird-clad masses, and some cries go out.

"Are we betrayed? We have been trapped!"

"The Steward has come! We are betrayed!"

And such. Some rush to the window. Others panic, a thousand intrigues seeding the deepest of terrors in their minds. Where once hundreds of birds gathered, now they take panicked flight without formation.

And the King on the dias? He turns to the window: "No!"


Umar is watching this same display and he has no idea who any of the royalists would be even if they were all unmasked, nor does he care. But he does smile as the Owl is discomfitted by the king of Gondor.


Both Umar and Elusul wait, neither man of a temperment to easily panic.

 Chaos... Conalmir's gaze turns swift towards Lominzil, and then scans the room, but he is reaching for the back of his neck - to scratch an itch?
 
"Yes," says the Sparrow to the Lady Calenloth, "and noble birds of a feather must stick together. A tight flock, always---" the Sparrow starts--but this low discourse is interrupted by the crash of doors and shouts by King and guard. And Sparrow's hand darts out, grabbing tight for Calenloth's wrist. This gesture, though, is done low--not obvious.


Amidst the sharp mannish tongues, there suddenly rises another of song's noble lilt, its lyric borne upon a cadence heartening with its every leap:

"(Sindarin) Pretender, thy claim's worth halts at thy castle's wall, as Pharazon's within his mountain's hollow.

"Thou wish the name Dunedain King, as even Elros son of Earendil, yet deny the High Sulimo that first appointed our people's crown. Ye black fowl fly vainly against the wind.

"Were it that the West was unfenced and the sea short, so ye may hear the long laments of unfaithful men likewise deceived."

The singer unmasks, revealing Hir Arathis, Herald of Belfalas. With a vigorous dash, he brings a torch to a tapestry of Elentirmo's downfallen tower, where once, in the Akallabeth's last days, came the eagles of old in wrath.

The knight pulls forth his sword, its ancient ore agleam by the new flame, and --

"O ye who would break this castle's oath, hear its whispers, and know thy Prince's vengeance."

-- plunges it strongly into the disguised man closest. The fuel-rich torch is then lobbed for the dais.

 
"With me!" Alkhaszor growls, jabbing the point of his blade toward the Owl's throat--and even thrusting a hand to try to grab the man's collar to shove him in the direction of the King. "My lord!!" he calls, voice cutting across the panic and now the screams and sudden press for the doors as Arathis reveals himself. "Ar-Gimilkhor!" he shouts. "This way!!" And he pushes his way toward the King, using Varian to do so if possible, or otherwise shouldering his way through and toward the King. And presumably an exit.

Mikkan's nursemaid is screaming in terror, but the little boy is tugging her hand, pulling her toward King and Alkhaszor.

By Calenloth, the Sparrow tears off mask, Menelglir revealed, blade unsheathed. "This way!" he cries, trying to gain the hostage's attention. "Swans!"   

 

"Oh," sighs the unmasked owl, "He seeks to usurp my pageantry!"He gives Alkhaszor a foul look as he is pressed towards the King.


 Conal's hand comes down, drawing a short blade from the back of his shirt. His face is as hard as ever, but now his eyes blaze as he pushes towards Ar-Gimilkhor also. But there are many between them, not all of them guests.
 
         As the Captain of Gondor unmasks himself and sets the tapestry ablaze, the Noble Chicken moves, grabbing an oil filled lantern he smashes it against wall and tapestry, setting the wall ablaze. With that he tosses the Chicken mask into the fire, to reveal that he is the Citadel Guardsman Orchalang. Drawing his blade he continues to move, grabbing another of the lanterns and throwing it in the direction of the Pretender King.

 
The fingers close tightly about her wrist and Calenloth is lost; her eyes quiver closed in recognition, remembrance... Her face flushes with anguish but she snaps to the room, warm with the crowding of people and commotion.

Forward she goes, following the pull upon her wrist, but she hesitates a moment as she sees Mikkan pull towards his father.

 
Elusul seems revived at last by the speech in his birth-tongue that lost him his arm. The knight looks to Conalmir and those around him and calls, "(Sindarin) To the Lord Arathis!" But Conalmir is gone and Elusul frowns as he spies the blue moving off to assail the bodyguards of the pretender alone.

 
Lominzil's eyes are lit by the blooming flame. The short length of steel, Haradaic, too, dances with a fiendish hunger.

"Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie," the White Squire chants under his breath as he follows Conalmir's lead.

 
Flame splashes at the dais, sending bright flashes of light to the vaulted ceiling; burning oil pours across the stairs, though Ar-Gimilkhor steps through it, untouched, whether by some fell Black Numenorean witchery or simply opportune bravado.

"And who you are you?" answers the King of Gondor, eyes upon Arathis and Orchalang as he draws his gleaming scimitar, "But slaves of an enthroned chamberlain; an up-jumped usuper who denies his rightful liege?"

Ar-Gimilkhor pushes Varian to one side, so that he might be joined to the party of kinsmen and captives behind him. The fell Knights and the King's Men close ranks about them.


 
Umar is past his fiftieth year, but the man has in his veins the blood of Razuli the Corsair, scourge of the coasts of Gondor. From his sash is pulled the great scimitar of Umar's illustrious ancestor, its hilt glittering with gold and jewels, its steel blade sharpened to a razor's edge.


A voice behind him calls out in Sindarin, and Conalmir hesitates a moment, looking back at Elusul. He glances forward again, and wavers.

 
Chaos throngs the chamber; Royalists flee for doors, through curling smoke and freshly dancing flame, as once more the ruin of fire is brought to Lond Annun.

In one place, a group of hot-blooded Royalists as Lyrebirds -- inflamed by fear and not yet oathsworn to the would-be King, thus thinking themselves betrayed for some unfathomable purpose -- draw their own weapons and set upon the King's Men and other Royalists near them.

 
"And a man taken by the darkness himself, no less," Alkhaszor adds, standing near to his King. "A usurper of power himself, this one, or so he would be if he had his desires." The Heron Knight laughs, then turns momentarily to scoop up a chair, half broken in the panic, taking it to use as a shield.

The wall of fire brings a certain childish scream--this time from Mikkan, as the flames separate him from his father. His nursemaid screams in panic.
 
         Looking to the Pretender King, the Citadel Guardsman says not a word, rather he continues to move through the crowded mess of men and women. Seeing the young Mikkan and his nurse made the Guradsman grabs for the boy with one hand while directing his sword at the woman with the other.

 
"Come!" Menelglir shouts over the chaos, commanding to Calenloth. But he, too, pauses, frowning. "Niphredil? Where is the Lady Niphredil...and the Squires..they were here. Conalmir!" Having spied that Squire, he shouts his name.

 
Too many things to react to...Owl's unmasking, the Steward's coming....

But the confusion of fire throws Arashen into action, he grabs Niphredil's hand and tries to dart in the opposite direction those on the dais are headed.

A few feet they make, perhaps, before the elite King's Men bar their way with steel. The Telpekhor's frustration is obvious and he backs up, shielding Niphredil, until they are herded back to the veiled ladies. Then raising is voice, he cries "(Sindarin) The fair lady of the hills has a viper in her lord's hall!"

 
In the chaos of the scene, Elusul is separated from his comrades, but he stands firm, still watching after Conalmir and looking to the pretender and his party. The knight-admiral slowly bends down and brings up in his only hand a fallen sword from one of the royalists who have pushed and shoved past. The knight slowly stalks forward, his attention focused on this one opportunity, cold hardness returned to his eyes once more.

 
The knight's approach for the dais swiftly angles; his sword held terribly aloft, he is suddenly by the Squire Conalmir. And his demand, coupled with a directive push, issues absolutely: "Go!"

Then, before the Pretender and his many arms: "(Sindarin) Mandos knows too thy traitorous speech. Should He permit the fraudulent and falsifiers to in death yet possess their tongues, you may wait to appeal him with it; for I am but servant to Iluvatar, and not thy final Judge."

He holds ready, his shield in hand.

 
A hand pulls roughly at Conalmir's arm, urging him along. And so Lominzil takes the Tarikhor's flank; back-to-back they surge towards the escaping captives, Lominzil's sword flickering at any who would give chase.

 
If Mikkan's nursemaid screams bloody murder, then the boy himself is some creature from the bowels of the earth, with the scream he lets forth as Orchalang grabs him. No easy thing to capture, this son of the Heron Knight--he wriggles and squirms and kicks and bites, though perhaps that is on chain mail.


 Conalmir resists a moment - long enough to say to Arathis, "(Sindarin) Sir! He must be slain - he permits the worship of the Enemy!" Then Lominzil is dragging him back towards Menelglir, and a guard is attacking from the flank.

Conal twists free and stabs out at the guard, but misjudges his attack. A short sword is different from long.


Lominzil levels an opportune kick at an inopportune piece of the guard's armor.

 
         With a vice like grip on Mikkan's arm Orchalang curses under his breath and shouts at the young boy "Quite!!" and with that he brings the pommel of his sword atop the child's head in a clubbing motion. Glancing about he spots Menelglir and those fleeing with him and shouts "Take the boy!"

 
"Do not hurt him!" Calenloth yells, though she is ushered forward, bumping into whomever she follows as she moves. Perhaps her words are unheard, but nevertheless they ring insistent. "Please," she begs, "please let him go."


A line of red opens up on Conal's bicep, and he jumps back, then darts in again, remembering this time how short his blade is. And the guard stumbles at Lominzil's kick. The blue squire slashes downwards, leaving the man lying on the floor in a pool of blood; then reaches for his sword.
 
Ar-Gimilkhor laughs in answer to Alkhaszor: "It is true that Men are deceived, is it not."

The Corsair-King descends the dais, his Heron at his side. Once more his blade is lifted to mark the Knight-Herald, upon whom his heavy gaze rests. "It matters whom you truly serve, save that he is not the Great Lord -- He Who Arises in Might, at whose side I will fight when the Last Battle comes, beside Ar-Pharazon and Castamir and the Heroes and all those who have served Him. Your death is but an interlude, as is mine."

The remainder of his men hang back, warding the King's kinfolk and the twain of captives elected as the most valuable. As Arashen cries out, a figure emanating something more fell than even the King-Claimant -- the Crow-Knight, whom earned his most terrible infamy those years ago upon the fields of Poros -- turns to strike at the Telpekhor with a mailed fist, to silence him.

 
The boy is wiry enough to twist out of the way of the blow--but on seeing Calenloth, he twists toward her, trying to free himself from Orchalang's grasp and run to the woman, his nursemaid left behind somewhere in the panic and smoke.

"Conalmir!" Menelglir says---after a moment of staring incredulously at Orchalang--"(Sindarin) Guard the Lady Calenloth with your life. Lominzil! Help me free Arashen and Niphredil--then to bowels of this place. There is a way out, and surely Conalmir will know it." He rushes toward Arashen, but fire and crowds intercede, and he hesitates. "Out!! Out now!!" he commands instead, a sudden wall of flame driving him backwards.

By Ar-Gmilkhor, Alkhaszor grins suddenly behind his helm. "Deceived...and full of prose and poetry, my king."
 
 
"I like poets," states Ar-Gimilkhor.

"They amuse me."


"Yes, sir!" Conalmir answers, and tosses the longsword he has just plucked from the fallen guard's body to Lominzil.
 
 
Elusul crouches a bit lower, his sword kept close both due to bodies all around him pushing and shoving, but also do to the lack of a counterweight now that his left arm is gone. The knight has lost Conalmir and Lominzil in the crowd and he slowly follows the pretender, cold death glittering in his grey-blue orbs.

 
         As the boy runs to Calenloth the Guardsman shakes his head and says in a rough voice "You get that boy out of here! We will need him!" and with that he is at a dead run to aid the Captain of Gondor, his longsword at the ready.

          
Perhaps that fell darkness powers the Crow's strike beyond that of mortal men, for Arashen, a Knight of renown and swiftness, fails to block the blow. He is struck so hard he stumbles and falls to the floor, though catching himself upon one knee. Blood appears on his cheek and trickles from his mouth.

 Then the blue squire turns to Calenloth, jerking his head towards a door. "This way," he says urgently. "Quickly!" He barely spares Mikkan a glance, but he will protect the child as well as the woman as they make their way towards the door.
 
 
Long blade is exchanged for short. Lominzil's stare sharpens suddenly upon Conalmir's. "Adariel knows what to do," he says briefly; a hand pressed upon the other's arm, and he is gone.

 
"Be brave, Mikkan," Calenloth whispers, grasping her hand firmly upon the child's. But into the line she follows, turning once more to look for Niphredil and Arashen, seeing only flames.


Then the blue squire turns to Calenloth, jerking his head towards a door. "This way," he says urgently. "Quickly!" He hands the girl the second sword, barely sparing Mikkan a glance, but he will protect the child as well as the woman as they make their way towards the door.

 
With a last look toward Arashen and Niphredil--though there is nothing he can do to get to them--Menelglir turns to leave the room, signalling Lominzil to follow. Yet he does stop before leaving, calling loudly across the room. (Sindarin)"Hir Arathis! The Lady Niphredil and Arashen are in peril!" And then he leaves.

*The Escaping ------------------------------------------------------

 
Beyond the Chamber of Oath-making, the sounds of chaos ring through the halls of Lond Annun. Blood seeps between the stones in some places, and the occasional body is encountered -- though how they were felled and by whom is not always clear.

 
"Move!" Menelglir says, urging the group along and looking back along the passageway they have left. But with regret etched upon his face, he turns to the task ahead of them, alert for trouble. "Conalmir--Calenloth--what have you learned about the ways out of this place?"

 
"He would know best," Calenloth speaks, ticking her head towards the Squire in front of her. The small sword gifted to her is held at ready, though low, her other hand still held tightly to Mikkan. "Perhaps down?" she asks.


Conalmir looks back, but no one else is coming. Grief flashes across his face, and then is shoved away. There is no time for this. But he does hesitate, saying urgently, "Sir - my sisters!" Even as he speaks, he is leading them away from the fire behind. One body that they pass yet has a sword - slain, it seems, without time taken to loot - and the squire stops to trade the one he carries for this longer one.

 
Out of the chamber jumps Umar ibn Sharif al-Razuli, scimitar in hand! Over a body who has been crushed by the press he leaps and then slowly continues forward, looking for escaped ones who will earn him high praise indeed.

 
"Stay back," Menelglir warns Calenloth and the boy as Umar appears. His blade he wields already, but now he pauses to pick up the shield of a fallen man. "Conalmir--with me." He advances on Umar, slowly.

Menelglir puts on Studded Leather Shield.


Conal glances back at the girl and child, then moves forward on Menelglir's heels. But he darts down a connecting hallway all of the sudden, stopping and tugging a shield out from under another body.

Conalmir puts on Studded Leather Shield.

 
Mikkan has gone strangely quiet, holding Calenloth's hand for dear life, and hiding behind her legs.

 
"I shall protect you, little Eagle," Calenloth turns to face Mikkan. A step backwards finds her a more suitable weapon; she crouches to the ground to select a longer sword. But she listens carefully to Menelglir's words and does not challenge Umar, only standing to brandish the sword at her front, to guard the boy should the man pass closer.

 
Umar looks to Menelglir and Conalmir, his dark eyes sizing up both men. Scimitar held at the ready, he dances forward in supple mumakil boots and then slashes at Menelglir with a cunning attack across the knight's near arm.

Umar attacks Menelglir with his Scimitar, but he misses by a mile.

 
A silver flash of blade cuts through the air, but Menelglir has pivoted, the steel finding no flesh. In return, his own sword seeks Umar's shoulder.

Menelglir attacks Umar with his Longsword and moderately wounds him!

 
Umar feels the bite of the cold steel of Menelglir and he backs off. "Another day we shall meet and you and yours will kneel before the Dark Lord!" He hisses and then ducks into a side chamber and out of view.


The squire is back - it has taken him bare moments - but already Umar is attacking the knight. Conal runs up to Menelglir's side, sword out; shield now strapped to his arm.

And he is gone. Conalmir stares after him, then jerks his head. "This way."

 
The man ducks away, Calenloth lowers the sword almost in disappointment, tucking it away under her cloak. A tug to Mikkan, she follows.

*In the Chamber ------------------------------------------------------

The Lord Isilrim laughs before the Pretender and the Heron.

"(Sindarin) Thy empty words float upon the One's music. May you hear at the Last Battle as now, Enemy, the voice of Arathis Isilrim echo His song, which only thy vanity judges a poem."

Joined by the Guardsman, the knight nimbly leaps, meaning to gain by a swift swipe at the Pretender access to the captives behind.


Arathis attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by a mile.


 
As the guests clear out, the cover their provide Elusul is replaced by smoke and growing flame as the knight continues his slow prowl. The pretender's knights go this way and that and the Swanknight sees for himself an opening. He goes forward, keeping low.

 
         As the Guardsman moves about the flames he retrieves his helm from beneath his cloak, placing it atop his head he moves for the wall, ripping down an ornamental shield he says under his breath "It will have to do.." and with that he is moving towards Alkhaszor, Longsword at the ready and his supposed shield held high.

 
The smoke is sickening, and Menelglir's exit may not be seen by those still present. And Menelglir's command may not be heeded by Lominzil, who, stooping with some dark thought of his own, draws up the mask of a dead Blackbird and dons it, ere taking the thickening flames in at a run.

 
Ar-Gimilkhor stops in a moment of brief surprise. Then he laughs; indeed, they laugh at each other!

"Lord of the Isilrim, is it? No wonder you hate me so, for is it not you of Calembel who trumpet so loudly your own claims to Kingship, dragged to the sea with Numenor? I see it now."

The blade whizzes past the King-Claimant's jeweled brow, for he is swift indeed; then his scimitar sings in answer, seeking the Knight-Herald's other arm.


Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Arathis with his Scimitar, but he misses by a long shot.


 
Little time does Alkhaszor waste as his liege lord is engaged in battle. He leaps forward with makeshift shield, he slashes at the guardsman. "I remember you," he sneers.

Alkhaszor attacks Orchalang with his Longsword, but Orchalang parries the attack with his shield!


Eruphel, her sword already out, turns to her guardsmen, pointing toward the stairwell. Up the stairs, get the women down and out," she says, hurrying toward the fiery tapestry to slash at its holdings, and get it to the ground quickly. It takes several strokes, and the lady is not as tall as she would have wished.

 
         Raising his shield just in time to block the blow the Guardsman says "Let this be our last meeting then!" The Shield itself now bears a large dent from the Foul Knight's attack, but it appears to remain whole. Sidestepping Orchalang swings his blade in a downward strike, the blade aimed for his enemies sword shoulder.


Orchalang attacks Alkhaszor with his Longsword, but he misses by a handspan.


 
The curling smokes have begun to gather; and though the chamber's ceilings are high, the airs already thicken.

Borne away from the Pretender's blow by the same leap that carried his own, Arathis is quickly in a stance before the captives' line of guards. He peers between them, gazing sorrowfully upon the girl Niphredil and his fellow knight, bloodied and felled, before turning in anger upon Ar-Gimilkhor.

His blow now is its own end: he thrusts heartily for the man, his shield aloft in defense.


Arathis attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by a mile.

 
"Perhaps it will be," Alkhaszor answers, spinning out of the way and lashing down at the Guardsman's arm as he does so. "Are you with that foul serpent-tongued Herald? Have you pinned your hopes on that man's darkness?"

Alkhaszor attacks Orchalang with his Longsword, but he misses by a long shot.

 
Niphredil's face is a pale thing as Arashen is struck -- but she does not stop moving.

In her right hand -- a twinkling? A sparkle of silver?

As the Crow strikes Arashen, the lady rounds him in a panic, producing a small dagger from the train of her dress. Once -- deftly -- it is twirled in her hand, hilt moving from her wrist to the crown of her fist; and in this manner, she brings it down in a stabbing motion, over the man's shoulder. For the joint in his armour.

 
         Avoiding the attack by lunging backwards the Guardsman says "I serve the Steward of Gondor, the rightful ruler until the True King returns to sit upon his throne!" sidestepping he thrusts his longsword in, the point of his blade aimed for Alkhaszor's stomach.


Orchalang attacks Alkhaszor with his Longsword and moderately wounds him!

 
Elusul sees his chance and Isilrim eyes grow fey as the Swansman musters his strength and darts forward, his sword out before him aimed at the pretender, his body behind it like the shaft of a spear!

 
The Crow-Knight staggers as the Lady's blade slides between the plates at his shoulder; he staggers back, clutching at it, while the fell blade drops his from his hand.

The three King's Men by his side immediately turn about, but the Crow-Knight's blade is within clear reach of the fallen Arashen.

 
Twist as he might, Alkhaszor does not quite manage to avoid the northern blade--though it does not slice through his stomach as intended, but slams against his chain mail, cutting a few of the links, blood welling up. Limping backwards at the hit, he desperately swings out at the Guardsman's leg.

Alkhaszor attacks Orchalang with his Longsword, but he misses by a long shot.


 
While those that still seek to run mill about in the light of the flames, a tall, masked man in black stalks the orange-washed hall with measured, stalking step, a long blade glittering in his hand.

 
         Avoiding the attack with what would appear to be a fancy twist of his body, the Guardsman rushes his opponent one more time, swinging his blade in an upward strike at Alkhazaor's sword wielding arm, as if trying to remove the appendage at the shoulder, as he attacks he begins to cough on the smoke that has taken hold of the room.

Orchalang attacks Alkhaszor with his Longsword and badly wounds him!


 
The Knight-Herald is the taller, but the Corsair-King is impossibly quick; once more he eludes the blade of the Isilrim Lord.

"I shall not exult in your death," Ar-Gimilkhor states. "Once, the union of your line and mine might have made the blood of Kings only stronger. But all traitors must die."

And so he lifts his Mulkheri blade, forged in the fires of the worship of the Dark Lord now banished, but its passage is stayed, for at that moment Elusul strikes for the King's exposed back.

"NO!" screams a voice; a woman's, still strong though writ with the passing of half a dozen decades and more. There is a flash of black, and she who was born Aerelanor Tarikhor, now named Azrainzil, Queen Mother to he who is named Ar-Gimilkhor, throws herself before her son, and so is scoured deeply by the strike of the Knight-Admiral.

She falls, her life's blood pouring across the stones, though there is a faint smile upon her lips, and a gladness in her eyes, at last revealed from behind the black veil. For she has died on the shores of Gondor as she wished.

 
Dazed, but too inured to the demands of battle, Arashen reaches quickly for the fallen blade - dark and fell. He rises, using his prone position to advantage, pushing all the force of his ascent into the blade as he seeks to come up under the man's mail skirting to slice the Crow's inner thigh and release the black arterial blood.

The strike launched, he is already shifting his foot back, the other guards caught in the corner of his eye. "Niphredil! Behind me!"

 
The cough saves Alkhaszor's arm from being cut off, for he is able to twist somewhat before the blade hits, the impact lessened, though still bloodied. He is backing slowly toward the King, but he strikes hard toward his opponent's leg.

"Sire!!" he cries as the Queen Mother falls. "Sire, we must flee!"

Alkhaszor attacks Orchalang with his Longsword, but Orchalang parries the attack with his Longsword!
 
Elusul's sword penetrates the queen mother and he exhales in the effort and then inhales once more as he pulls back, withdrawing his weapon, now covered in the hot blood of the lady.

 
         Parrying the blow with his own blade the Guardsman says "You will burn!!" stepping forward he swings his blade in a downward strike, the sword aimed at the same shoulder as before, the foul Knights sword arm.


Orchalang attacks Alkhaszor with his Longsword, but Alkhaszor parries the attack with his shield!
 
Eruphel hacks and whacks at the tapestries, careful not to burn herself or her clothing too badly as she jerks down the burning drapes, her own men having already disappeared into the dark stairwell. Once the thing is on the ground, in a burning heap, she looks around for the next tapestry, but instead finds Lominzil, stalking and armed. She narrows her eyes and bends down, hooking the tapestry under her blade and the flinging it in his direction. She waits but a moment then charges him as well, blade drawn.

 
"Erchamion!" cries the Lord Isilrim to his kinsman, a new vigor from the witch's death giving prideful rise to his sword.

There still, deep in the eyes of this knight, is the mockery of a Numenorean swordsman.

"Shadow Prince, thy Lord is chained," Arathis smiles in remark. Nigh heedlessly, he hurtles towards the Pretender, meaning at once to skewer and fell him.


Arathis attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by an arm's length.

 
The burning cloth thrashes wildly for a moment, the thick canvas stories of Tarikhor from the times of Gilion consumed by hungry flame. The masked man doesn't emerge.

 
Ar-Gimilkhor stares at his fallen mother, a black grief in his eyes; indeed it would seem he were a statue were it but for the tilting of his head that steals the Knight-Herald's strike of its target.

A rage, intended for Elusul, is not upended upon the one who presses him; Arathis.


Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Arathis with his Scimitar and moderately wounds him!

 
Feeling her blade run its course truly, Niphredil retreats as quickly as she approached -- and though Arashen earns himself a sidelong look, her footsteps do bring her behind the fallen blade, and behind him. Her hand is slick with blood, but her grip on her dagger -- small though it is -- does not need adjusting, for it is sturdy. The only thing about the lady that trembles is her breathing; they are shallow, sharp breaths that her lungs hungrily demand of her.

A look one way, a look the other way; Niphredil finds the paths blocked.

The girl half-turns, pivoting on her heel just enough that she might catch a glimpse of the chamber proper from the dais. The fire makes her squint; but she looks to Arathis, to the faces of the other knights in the hall. She searches for one in particular -- one with eyes similar to hers, perhaps, and a beard? -- but when she finds no such thing, her eyes seem heavy with salt and water when she is back to observing Arashen again.

 
Wife's kinswoman now dying or dead at his feet, Elusul pauses for only a moment before joining once more in the attack on Ar-Gimilkhor. "Her blood is on your hands, Pretender!"

 
The Crow-Knight staggers back; grievously wounded though not yet slain. The King's Men press in about the two captives, but it is the other of Ar-Gimilkhor's Knights -- the Falcon -- who steps forth. By his side is the black-veiled bride, the Queen, who has watched all pass in her eerie silence.

"Alkhaszor!" the Falcon cries. "The Queen must be protected! Away, with me!"

 
Eruphel does not lessen her charge as the tapestry covers the masked man, and if anything increases her attack, crying out a savage cry as she stabs through the lump of tapestry at the man within, making a general guess based off mass.


Eruphel attacks you with her Scimitar!...
...and she hits! Ouch!

ARB: You've been injured for 12 hp's by Eruphel's attack...
...you have 71 left. Please RP this injury accordingly.


 
Orchalang's sword clangs upon Alkhaszor's shield, but it may be only by luck, as the Heron Knight is staggering backwards. As he does so, one hand happens upon a chair behind him that has not been knocked over--a cloak left behind in the panic there now, flames slowly creeping up it. Grasping the flaming cloak in gloved hands, Alkhaszor yanks at it and throws it toward the Guardsman, then rushes to heed the Falcon.
 


Arathis is struck. The wound is light, but again the man laughs.

"I claim no kingship, fowl, yet I am still more king than thee. Such is the glory of true service to Elendil's crown."

The knight's blade is again flourished. And with a sidestep, it is launched once more for Ar-Gimilkhor's gut.


Arathis attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by a long shot.

 
Gray eyes flicker to the new threat, the Falcon, even as the Crow staggers back. Arashen raises his sword, swiftly - few thoughts preceeding the action from the moment his form is glimpsed. It arcs and then halts as quickly, suspended in the air, as the Telpekhor Knight espies the veiled Queen standing near - too near the Falcon....

(EN: Alkhaszor rolls against Orchalang for cloak - Alkhaszor succeeds)

The Towerlord's scimitar passes through the tapestry, scraping something more solid.

Ere the blade has fully withdrawn from the mass, the burning, smoking tapestry, weighted by its own ash, rises like a sail and hurls itself at Eruphel. The distraction, turned on the distractor: and it is slit at the middle, through which Lominzil's blade strikes out, though he himself bleeds freely at the ribs, and is singed and aflame.


"You are nothing but wretches, reveling in the death of a noble woman of your own land, bound to the pettiest of purposes trussed up in fading bloodlines and quailing resolves," Ar-Gimilkhor answers. It seems that would make straight for Elusul, but the Knight-Herald's sortie prevents him. And so it is at Arathis that he strikes again.

"I shall weep for you, honourless pigs, since you but smile for her."

You attack Eruphel with your Longsword...
Your attack against Eruphel moderately wounds her!

Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Arathis with his Scimitar, but he misses by a mile.

*Escaping------------------------------------------------------

Deeper into Lond Annun, though the same distant ringing can be heard, and the occasional cry. A round chamber is reached, and therein a new site greets them: Cristion Tarikhor, slumped in a corner, badly wounded. Who felled him or why is not clear, though it can be noted that there is more blood than belonging to a single man upon the stones.

The old man lifts his gaze, and hope glimmers when he sees the Gondorians: "Conalmir!"

 Conalmir has moved cautiously but swiftly; pausing at corners to peer around - but now he runs forward, to kneel beside his grandfather. "Grandfather!" Feverishly, he searches for the old man's wounds, moving to rip his own shirt into a bandage.

 
A blooded form slowly stalks through the quieter lower halls, a bejeweled scimitar in hand, on the trail of the escapees.

 
"No!" Cristion tries to stay Conalmir's healing hands, though weakly. "My life is spent. You must go below, to the catacombs, and find the tomb of Giladir the Great, where is hidden a tunnel. We built it in secret -- a harbour to host the King's fleet! It is the only way. Caelenost is closed to you; the cliffs will sink any ship that leaves. But below..."

He coughs blood. "Your mother and your sisters wait for you in the shadows. They are safe, do not worry. I slew the guards and sent them there... Though I fear I am spent."

 
Menelglir waits, having taken note of the situation and now giving Conalmir but a brief few moments while the Knight stands guard.

"Come on!! come one!!" Mikkan yells suddenly and tugs at Calenloth.

 
"Do you know the way?" Calenloth follows the child, though her footing is unsure in the darkness.

"Conalmir," she speaks, urgently. "If he is correct, we may not have much time."


"No, Grandfather," Conalmir says, all but weeping. "We can help you - we will bring you too."

Still trying to bind the wounds, he looks up at Calenloth. "Yes ... the tombs, they are that way - " He nods his head towards a door. "Along that hall, then down, and to the right. Down again. Giladir's tomb is in the farthest corner..." His words trail off.

 
Supple mumakil boots afford Umar stealth amid the background din of the castle as echoes tell of others fleeing along with these captives. He has discarded his turban and short grey hair and a keen dark eye peeps around the corner but a moment and the Southron surveys the tender family reunion.

 
"This way," Mikkan insists, tugging again. Though he does not answer if he knows the way.

"Leave him to his peace and his redemption, Conalmir," Menelglir says. "And take the Lady Calenloth down the tombs. I will go back to tell the others....and deal with this one..." This at the sudden appearance of Umar.

 
Umar again jumps into the room, the scimitar of Razuli flashing in anger. "So, the steward of the island is a traitor to both his lieges. He shall die upon the altar of the Dark Citadel to atone for his sin!"

 
"We need to move," Calenloth repeats with urgency. "Conalmir," the words turn to worry as she sees Menelglir move again to arms. "Conalmir!" The words gain volume, sharply, to pull the Squire from his medicine.

 
Words fly; shadows dance. Cristion pushes back Conalmir once more, though a new purpose inflames him even as the shadow of death deepens, and bracing himself against the wall, he rises to his feet, an ancient blade of the Tarikhori in his hands.

"Go," his command joins the others. "Save your friends, and our kin. I shall die with honour!" The wavers, weak, but does not fallen. A step is taken towards Umar.

"You were right, Conalmir. You were right..."


"Grandfather..." But Conalmir stops, realization coming over his face. Very softly he says, "I love you. And I am proud to be your grandson." He looks hurriedly about, then heads for the door he has indicated, saying to Menelglir, "We will await you in the catacombs - hurry!"

 
"Old man! Your time is past. I will dispatch you and burn your body so that none may wail over you in lament." Umar approaches Cristion, letting the others escape. "Know this, you think you buy them time, but they are doomed all the same. This day your seed will be wiped from the earth forever because of your sin."

 
"Fly!" Menelglir cries to the others as he rushes out of the room. "Keep your wits!" He is gone....

 
"If you strike me down, I shall die; but at least my blood shall water a seed more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

And so Cristion steps forward to meet his death; and that is the last that is seen of him as the Gondorians flee.

 
Calenloth is already a step ahead, pulled forward by an insistent child. "Conalmir," she pauses, looking back toward the Squire, halting Mikkan in his eagerness. "We should follow you."


Conal is jogging past them through the half-lit corridors, his sword drawn. Now and then, he looks back, to make sure they are keeping up - and that no foe attacks from behind.

 
Umar smiles wickedly at his foe and slices at Cristion's neck.

 
The old Tarikhor is weak; his blade is dashed aside, and he falls, the life fled from his eyes. But had he any left, he would've seen his kin safely escaped, and a smile might've touched his lips.

 
Umar smiles as he wipes Cristion's blood from his scimitar with the old man's own clothing. Calling to the captives down the corridor they escaped into, he exults, "He whimpered and begged! So will all of you!"


The words float after Conal & Co. but he ignores them. His grandfather - beg? Whimper? Never.
 

A small voice, deep in the tombs, trembles. "Mother, please remember to hold on tightly to the scarf."


The small party of fleers hurries down stairs and around corners, coming at last to the entrance to the catacombs.

*In the Chamber------------------------------------------------------ 

         As the flaming cloak is thrown over him the Guardsman tries to avoid it but is not nearly quick enough, shouting he rips the cloak from him to reveal burns upon his hands and other parts of his body still smoking. Looking to the fleeing Alkhaszor he shouts "I will be sure to inform your son of your cowardice this night."
 
         Looking to Arathis fighting the Pretender King he rushes to aid his captain, swinging his blade low as if to strike the Pretenders Knee.


Orchalang attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but Ar-Gimilkhor parries the attack with his Scimitar!
 
Elusul is winded from exertion and smoke. The knight does not press his attack, but stands over the body of the fallen queen mother and waits.

 
Arashen halts.

Behind him, Niphredil's shoulders lower in defeat and the sound she expels is one of frustration -- and helplessness -- as she looks between the knight and the newly-married woman. Her eyes will him to act despite his chivalry, but her heart seems to gage that he will not.

 
The Umbarean woman cries out in pain as the sword glances her side. It is a two way tapestry, it would seem. Blood pours from the wound, but not so freely to be a mortal strike. Eruphel grits her teeth. "I never should have listened to Ar-Gimilkhor. Should have just eliminated you all." she says, throwing off the tapestry and abandoning it to burn on the floor, and checking herself quickly for smolders. Her curved blade rises and glints wickedly with the light of flames, yet dusky in the growing smoke, and when it descends in its downward arc, she is coughing.


Eruphel attacks you with her Scimitar!...
...and she hits! Ouch!

ARB: You've been injured for 32 hp's by Eruphel's attack...
...you have 39 left. Please RP this injury accordingly.



 
"Ye speak of Honor, but hold dearest a Thief, a Deceiver, and Usurper," grates Arathis scornfully, heaving his pommel to his breast. "Speak as you would, Enemy, I hear only your heart."

He then plants before his kinsman, Elusul, and swings only to gain space.


Arathis attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by a mile.

 
"My son knows better than to listen to the lies of the Stonelanders," Alkhaszor hisses back to the Guardsman, even as he hurries to the Queen. "We must get her safe!" he says to the Falcon. "My liege!" he then calls again to the King.
 
"The Great Lord but claims what is rightfully his; as do I!"

Thus penned in by Knight-Herald and Citadel Guardsman, Ar-Gimilkhor steps back, heedless of Alkhaszor's cry; his blade rises to meet Orchalang's strike even as he ducks so that Arathis's passes by his shoulder. The momentum carries him about, and once more he strikes at the Knight-Herald.


Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Arathis with his Scimitar and badly wounds him!

Menelglir has arrived.
 
The attacker of Eruphel falls back, the scimitar crushing unarmored ribs and cutting deep into the flesh.

The raven's beak falls to the ground, and it is Lominzil's eyes, taut with pain, that face Eruphel, though his mouth and nose are covered still with a knit scarf.

He steps back and to the side, the long point of the blade flicking outstretched towards the Lady again.

 
Upon the dais, the Queen -- she who was named Niriel, now Ar-Minalomi -- turns to face Arashen and Niphredil, as if sensing their eyes upon her. The King's Men now seek to herd them across the dais, though they eye the grim blade in Arashen's hand warily, as if fearing it more than the Knight himself.

"Worry not, sister," states the Falcon by the silent Queen's side. His shadowy gaze dares them to approach.


You attack Eruphel with your Longsword...
 
Your attack against Eruphel badly wounds her!


 
Into the room now rushes Menelglir, bloodied sword in hand. (Sindarin)"To me!! To me!" he cries, rushing toward flames and smoke, arm over his face. "A way out!! Hurry! The castle burns and bleeds! This way!"
 
         Seeing his Captain struck again the Guardsman moves up a few steps and strikes out at the Pretender King, thrusting his sword at the mans stomach while holding his shield high to defend a possible downward strike.


Orchalang attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword and moderately wounds him!

 
Though she tries to deflect Lominzil's thrust up and away, she is too slow. Another gash separates the Tower Lady's flesh, this one producing a steady flow of blood that will need looking to soon. But Eruphel jumps back, cradling the wound in her shoulder. She groans and holds her breath alternatively, clearly becoming more cautious now and choosing her attacks more wisely, and with more thought to defense. She lunges forward quickly, sidestepping and turning as she jabs at her opponents middle with the tip of her sharp blade.


Eruphel attacks you with her Scimitar!...
...and she misses!

 
Elusul comes to himself as Menelglir arrives. He gives the old woman push with his boot to ensure she is dead and then he turns to retreat to the Azure Knight. Calling aloud, he shares his farewell with the pretender, "(UNINTELLIGIBLE SPEECH)"

 
It is a gurgled laugh from the Isilrim, who now, hearing the Swansman, finds cleft and broken his breast by the Pretender. The mockery still in his eyes strains with pain's course.

His shield drops, and in steeled daze, he hefts still his sword in an arc for Ar-Gimilkhor.


Arathis attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by a handspan.


Arathis removes Grand Shield.



 
Arashen lowers his blade to guard, glancing from one guard to the other - mixture of wariness and puzzlement in his features - then glancing from his borrowed blade to the King's Men. He glances once to Niprhedil and takes an experimental step backwards, nudging her gently - a way from the direction the guards wish to herd them.

 
Though Eruphel take the side of caution, Lominzil's bleeding form takes to flight. He darts backward, heedless of the burning carpet, yet evading the curved tip. Breath rattling, the squire seeks to edge further back, and elude this Lady.

 
The King is scoured; he stumbles briefly, runes of blood on his arm, Ere lashing back less to engage the Citadel Guardsman and more to simply drive him back.

"One day I shall take your other arm, wretch!" he cries in answer to Elusul. "And then each part of you, bit by bit, till nothing save your houseless spirit remains in torment!"


Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Orchalang with his Scimitar, but he misses by a hair.

(EN: Lominzil +flees successfully from Eruphel)


 
         Backstepping to avoid the Pretender Kings attack the Guardsman nearly stumbles down the short set of stairs, regaining his footing he swings his blade in a sideways strike aimed for the Pretenders -K-nee once again.


Orchalang attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword, but he misses by a mile.

 
"Hurry!!" Menelglir urges, pushing his way through the smoke. "Hurry or none of us will get out--the castle is burning!"
 
The King's Men shift upon their feet; dancers seeking to waylay any escape route Arashen might find. The Crow-Knight is still silent, slumped against a pillar, but the Falcon-Knight now joins the lesser men who withhold the Telpekhor's attempted flight with their warding blades.

"Surrender your blade," warns the Queen's brother, seemingly not afraid of it as are the others, "Or whatever you deal out shall be visited back upon you both, thrice over."

 
The fire's within reflect against the glass of the windows, eerily mimicking the distant fires upon the seas - now closer than before. Between the shouts and clang of metal, the booming sounds of iron upon wood as hulls are stoved come as a rumor to those lingering in the Tarikhori Halls.

 
Ripping away the cloth that both protects him from the flames and obscures his identity, Lominzil stumbles through the smoke towards Knights Argent and Azure, blood splattering closely after. And his lady-attacker?

 
Ripping away the cloth that both protects him from the flames and obscures his identity, Lominzil stumbles through the smoke towards the Silver Knight, blood splattering closely after. And his lady-attacker?

 
The King's Knee is spared, but it is a mighty Knee.

"And who are you!?" Ar-Gimilkhor now rages, striking back at this canny Citadel Guardsman.


Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Orchalang with his Scimitar and mildly wounds him!


"Niphredil," Lominzil manages, coughing. "Niphredil and Arashen."

 
The nudge is all that is needed to inform Niphredil on Arashen's intentions; she begins to warily step in that direction, too. Menelglir's call is heard -- her eyes seek him out through the fire, but the light overwhelms her, and her attention must return to the present.


 
A cadre of King's Men saunter into the Chamber from the tower above.

"The ships of Gondor burn!" one of them cries, even as they advance on those still fighting in the place of oath-making.

 
"Where??!" Meneglir answers Lominzil, reaching out a hand to try to steady the Squire. "Where in this smoke?" Coughing, then tabard pulled up over his nose, he takes a cautious step forward, movement impeded by the smoke.
 


Sullenly, Arathis beholds the fate of Arashen and Niphredil.

"Our task is however done," he then declares, an injured cough breaking his speech, "let us go and see if it is true how our fleet has fared."

The knight escapes to his younger fellow, his shield left behind him.

 
Expecting her opponent to press the attack, she instead finds the man fleeing. Wounded, Eruphel examines herself, and after a moment cuts off the tip of her blue sash of state to stuff /into/ the wound in her shoulder, to cut off the bleeding. And it hurts mightly too. The woman makes a cry similar like one in labor, but it is brief, and should hold her for now. Then she looks around, sword in hand, and having to duck to properly see through the smoke. She looks for, and finds Ar-Gimilkhor, still engaged. "Alprhos!" she calls, falling back on habit.

 
         The Guardsman is almost fast enough to avoid the Pretenders strike, but he is struck upon the shoulder with a glancing blow breaking a number of rings in his mail. Grunting from the blow he lunges forward and again thrusts his longsword at the Pretenders stomach.


Orchalang attacks Ar-Gimilkhor with his Longsword and moderately wounds him!

 
"Who ARE you!?" The King rages on, even as he staggers beneath another blow, one that splashed bright blood across his gleaming bail and even onto his jeweled brow. The wound is notable indeed, though he is no common man; once again he strikes at Orchalang.


Ar-Gimilkhor attacks Orchalang with his Scimitar and lightly wounds him!

 
Ar-Gimilkhor is all but heedless of Eruphel's call; such is the narrowness of his vision at this moment.

 
"Arashen!" Menelglir calls through the obscuring fumes. "Niphredil!" And spotting the approach of Arathis, "Hir!!"

Alkhaszor, with the enemy retreating, still stands guard on the Queen. Yet as he spies the King fighting still, he nearly takes a step in that direction---yet does not leave his appointed task.

"He is a Guardsman of the Citadel and an Ephalkir!" he answers the King's question, when the Guardsman has not. "Sire!! Leave the man to the flames and smoke and return to your fleet!"
 
"He is an annoyance!" answers Ar-Gimilkhor, though the blood on his brow now seeps into his eyes, and he strikes in a blind frenzy; a wall of death should any get too near.

 
"We've got to get out!" Eruphel continues, over the clanging of sword and the sound of licking flames. Some of the servants and corsairs emerge from the stairwell, faces covered with clothes as they stumble their way out, and the Lady hopes those are her people, but it is too dim in all the smoke. Clearly, the King will not flee while engaged. Eruphel makes a running start, giving no sound of warning as she raises her sword to hit Orchalang in a blindside strike.


Eruphel attacks Orchalang with her Scimitar and moderately wounds him!

 
The Telpekhor upon the dais, no stranger to the arcane as rumor tells it, smiles slowly at the Falcon -- he grips the fell blade's heft more firmly and a fey light shines in his gray eyes. Almost, for a moment, it seems he will launch himself at the Falcon and any other that gets in his way. Almost. "A pity," he says, lowering his blade. His gaze shifts to it. "I rather like the feel of it in my hand." Reluctantly, he offers it over to the Falcon, hilt first.

Then he holds out his arm, slightly crooked, to escort his fellow captive. "Lady? We may as well accept this with dignity," he says, glancing at Niphredil. "Shall we?"

 
         The Guardsman is struck by the Pretender's blow, ripping open the links on his shoulder and opening a gash that seeps blood, backing away from the enraged man he is struck upon the back by another blade, though this blow is not nearly as violent, it is a mere glancing blow. Seeing the rest of his group flee he begins to back away, his eyes moving between his two attackers as he retreats back.

 
The Falcon takes the blade from Arashen. With no further aplomb, he turns and gestures to the King's Men -- who seem relieved to no longer have to face the weapon the Telpekhor Knight held.

"Now go," he commands to the King's warrios, who promptly score the Queen, the two captives, and the others in the Royal party out through the smoke, up the stairs to the sanctity of Balhrion above.

 
Lominzil's eyes are stung by the smoke and yet he still scans the fire, as if willing those he seeks to appear.

A herald, a silver knight, admiral, a guardsman...

The squire says, "Arashen, Niphredil." Then, "NIPHREDIL!"

 
A dozen King's Men descend upon Lominzil, giving him the choice to face them, or to flee.

 
Prudence struggles and nearly fails.

But Lominzil forces himself out of the burning wreckage, holding himself upright by will.

 

There are no smiles or twists of wryness -- fey or otherwise -- on Niphredil's face. As the castle breaks apart, and the men of Gondor run for their passage away from the fire and smoke, the girl stands still. She hears her name being shouted in the distance -- and for a moment, she attempts to gather enough air into her lungs to shout out a reply -- but then she exhales. It may seem as if she does not hear Arashen at all, as he releases his sword into the Falcon's possession and speaks to her of dignity, for she looks firstly to the smoke-caked ceiling.

With a clatter, the dagger in her hand is dropped.

An unreadable gaze studies Arashen -- after a moment of further contemplation, she takes a step forward, and allows herself to be taken by the arm.

 
Eruphel is coughing now, and covers her mouth with her sleeve. She turns to look at Ar-Gimilkhor, who is directing his men. "Alprhos. Do it outside." she insists with determination, and a set jaw. She coughs again weakly.

 
For a moment it seems like Ar-Gimilkhor shall disregard Eruphel's words entirely, and pursue the fleeing Gondorians even as the blood shrouds his gaze and causes him to stumble. But some measure of reason touches on his mind, and he pauses.

"Chase them," he commands the warriors. "Kill them." And so they go. To others, further orders are issued: "Go and stop the fires. Lond Annun shall not burn again."

He looks to the Seaward Lady and lifts a hand to wipe at his brow. "To the Tower; it is not my intention to remain in this place any longer than we need... Gondor now waits for our coming."

 
Eruphel nods gravely, wiping her face with her sleeve, some of her white makeup (and black smoke smudges) wiping off onto her sleeve, making her look a total mess. "Aye, my lord." she agrees, and makes her way quickly toward the tower.

---------------------------------------------------

The Gondorians are reunited in the bowels of Tolcrist, where the ancient burial catacombs of the Tarikhori sprawl about them, silent and dour. The fighting retreat of those who confront Ar-Gimilkhor in the Chamber of Oath-making has only ended here; a grievous ordeal brought abated only by the oppressive darkness of the catacombs, by which one might slip away from foemen.

It is before the looming tomb of Giladir the Great that, as promised, that Conalmir has found his kin waiting for him. The secret passage of which Cristion Tarikhor spoke is there, promising an undescribed escape route.

 "It is here," Conalmir says, his voice hushed. He stands to one side of the entry to the tunnel. He has one arm around his middle sister, but yet holds his sword in the other.
 
The Lord Arathis broods in his step behind the squire. He holds a torch, giving unfixed luster to his mail and wound.

"We go still forward," he says as the tunnel is revealed.

 
         Sword still in hand, the Guardsman holds his wounded shoulder with his free hand in an attempt to hold of the bleeding as his eyes adjust to the light he coughs from the inhalation of the smoke in the former hall. Looking to his Captain he moves follow the group, taking the rear watch.

 
Elusul has no visible wounds, but he is fatigued and suffering from enough smoke inhalation to cause him to wheeze as he comes along with the others. Catching up with the group, he recognizes Conalmir and Calenloth in the half-light and he smiles before coughing.

 
The tunnel is clearly new; a recent addition to Lond Annun rather than some ancient excavation like the catacombs. It descends swiftly at first, but then evens out, and if the Gondorians had a compass they might confirm that it passes north -- the opposite way from Caelenost.

They are also clearly not the first people to go this way in the past hour. At least one body is passed -- a King's Man who appears to have bled to death in the darkness.

 
Lominzil makes his way slowly along, trailing bloody handprints on the carven wall as it supports him. He doesn't appear to respond to anyone, following automatically -- though once, when his breath rattles loudly in his shattered side, he presses a hand to it with sudden violence.

Adariel holds her mother's hand, her scarf wrapped about both of them so that they do not separate.
 Bessa and her husband are close behind; Conalmir follows them, looking ever and again over his shoulder.
 
Elusul kicks the pretender's man to ensure that he too is dead before passing by.


 
"Save your strength," voices Arathis to his kinsman, "lest we must swim to Belfalas.

"Admiral, have ye yet your compass?"

 
Elusul has the device of his office. "Yes?"


 "Yea, read it then," protests Arathis, handling his torch.


 No foe seems to be following. As far as Conal can tell, the tunnel behind them is dark and empty, though the small company hampers his view. His sisters, his mother, the knights behind ... The squire's gaze pauses on Lominzil. After a frozen moment, he bends his head to whisper something to Findulian, then hurries back a few steps; the girl following him.

"Lomin," he says softly, "Lean on me, man - you can barely stay upright."
 


Elusul shakes his head. "I have no navigational devices. All was left in my cabin in the ship that now sits on the floor of Calenost Harbor. But it is a tunnel, is it not? Forward and back. Unless you wish to go back to parlay with our foes, we have only forward."

 
The sound of his breathing brutally muted, Lominzil continues, deaf and obstinate, until rubble touches his heel and he stumbles onto Conalmir's shoulder.


 Conal catches the other squire's wrist, pulling it over his shoulder so that most of Lominzil's weight is born by his own arm around his friend's back. And forward they go. Findulian, after a moment, tucks herself in beneath Conal's other arm, despite the sword and the awkwardness of their pace.
 


The Herald looks upon the squires, and is heartened by their step.

"There is dock in the town," he says, considering Elusul, "but I know not if we walk there.

"Still, be glad, for we go to Uinen who loves the Swan."

He proceeds down the tunnel.

 
The tunnel eventually opens into a strange haven -- a secret harbour carved with great care and skill from a chasm in the rocky cliffs of Tolcrist's northern shore. A balcony replete with defensive ballistae has been carved into the heights above, though it is lightless and seemingly unmanned.

Many of the ships berthed here appear to have been pushed off already; the King's own raiders, to join the battle, and others carrying fleeing Royalists. But more than a dozen remain, some flying the Black Heron in the White Tree but others without heraldry, and by the way these nameless ships sit low in the water, they might be burdened down with supplies and munitions.

They are guarded by a cadre of King's Men, though their distance from the tunnel's end is great, and a swift path might be found to one of the more immediate vessels: a small raider flying Ar-Gimilkhor's flag and seemingly without passenger or cargo.

 
Lominzil does not even seem to notice that the man support him is Conalmir, nor that the tunnel has ended. He stands where he stops, nearly a statue, if statues bled.


 The tunnel brightens, and Conal slows - as if he hasn't already been walking at a turtle's pace. Glancing around, he bends his head to his sister - who listens a few moments, seems to protest, and then reluctantly, unloosens herself to wind back to where Arathis and Elusul are. Without looking at either of them, she recites quickly, "There are men guarding the ships, but they are not near. There is one close by we can get to if we are swift and silent. Conal says." She stops, fidgeting uncomfortably, then blurts out the remainder of her brother's message. "What are your orders?"
 
Somewhere, far behind them along the tunnel, a distant echo is heard -- pursuers, perhaps, at last having figured out where their quarry has fled to.

 
Sizing up the vessel with a practiced eye, Elusul sniffs the sea air and looks more alive. "Conalmir, we shall take that raider down there. As soon as we are all aboard, cast off all lines. It looks as though the tide is ebbing and we will be carried away and will not have to row with the sweeps. I will man the tiller."

He turns to the guardsman and Arathis, "Once Conalmir has cast off, raise the mainsail as quick as you can. If the breeze holds, we will be ashore soon.

 
         Taking in the sight of the cove the Guardsman finally releases his shoulder, still it bleeds but it has significantly slowed. Looking then to the Admiral he says "It will be done Admiral." Glancing to Conalmir he adds "Cut the lines, we have not the time to untie them."

         
 
"Here, she delivers us," declares Arathis as the harbor develops, gesturing for his fellows to sidle the wall in stealth.

For some quiet moments he surveys the scene. He then shakes his head.

"Admiral, might you ready the boat, and fly by the end of the harbor.

"We may at least cut a vein," he says, readying his blade and hurrying by the path's edge. "Orchalang, hasten with, we put fire to those ships; squires, may you aid our Admiral."

 
         Hearing his Captains Orders the Guardsman hurries in pursit saying "Fire to their sail and to the oars."

 The little girl, ignored and rushed past by much older men, scowls after them, before returning to her brother. She says nothing at all. Conal glances down at her, and smiles, before helping Lominzil out to the small ship. The women and children follow him, and he urges them all aboard.


Adariel's voice is barely a whisper, leaned into her mother's ear: "No. It isn't Father's boat."

 
The King's Men further along the haven have not yet marked the Gondorians, who are shielded by the darkness of the night.

Behind them, though, the echoes slightly grow louder, and more insistent in their frequency.

 
Lominzil sets his free hand to the necessary lines, awaiting Elusul's order without looking at him.


 "Sit down," Conal growls at the other squire. "I can cut these. "Finnu will help me."
Adariel clutches her mother's hand. "I can help," she hisses insistently. But -- is that a slender scarf stretched out across the foot of the tunnel's exit?
 
"Sheathe thy blade," says Arathis then, releasing his own and taking torches from the wall, "and hold instead fire.

"We mean to kindle their ships, and care little for the men."

Looking to the ballistae, he speeds his step towards the ships, muttering, "Alas that we are so few."

 
         Sheathing his blade the Guardsman takes up a torch in each hand continues to follow Arathis, running as quickly as his feet will carry him and as silently as his armor will allow.

 
Elusul looks to Galadhechil and the sailing master knows what to do. He starts giving orders quietly to the two squires as the admiral mans the tiller. Once the lines are cast off, the vessel slowly pulls away as the tide carries it. Is it enough to catch the attention of the guards?

(EN: Calimendil rolled for King's Men detection of the stolen vessel. King's Men failed to detect vessel 0/10)

 
The King's Men seem caught up in their own hushed yet excited converse; they do not yet heed the raider's movements.

 
Lominzil finds a lantern yet burning in the readiness of the ship.

Grimly, he sits down, speaking to Adariel, who detaches from her mother and brings him cloth, straw, and ballista bolt.

 Conalmir hurries to his next task - helping sail the ship to where Arathis and his assistant can be picked up.
 
"Those without flag sit the heaviest," directs Arathis, coming finally by the King's Men and hopping onto a ship. A torch is put to its sails and, with the cackle of fire, he makes to dart for the next vessep.

 
The sudden brightness of the flame is enough alert the King's Men, and they turn with cries and drawn blades; but the darting Isilrim and the sudden peril of the ships throws them into confusion, and they rush hither and thither to try and waylay the burning of the nameless smugglers.

 
Galadhechil goes to Conalmir and both men together heave and raise the mainsail. The ship stops backing as the breeze blows and the raider's sail fills with air and then the vessel begins to make headway with a creak.

 
         As Arathis leaps upon the first ship, the Guardsman runs to the next, tossing one of his torches into the pile of sails that lays upon the deck, as it bursts into flames he is at a dead sprint for the next ship, running as fast as he legs will carry him.


The cloth is bound with a sailor's swiftness and ease. The bolt is set. The ratchet, with effort, is wound.

The flame, finally, is touched to the head, and it takes to blossom like a match.

With a hiss, the ballista delivers its blazing greeting to the farthest ship, touching the sails with a loving billow of flame.

Lominzil says, "Another."

 
Across three ships the Isilrim speeds, his wound brooked by opportunity's new breath, ere he readies to board his allies' raider.

To Orchalang he calls out, gesturing for him to leap from the pier onto the vessel first.

 
The raider is gaining speed, a good few knots as the breeze freshens. Elusul's weight is against the tiller and it is biting, steering the raider on a course to pass by where Arathis and the Guardsman may jump aboard.

 
The growing flames dance across the looming cliffs; they are joined by torches in the balconies above, where King's Men hastily try to turn their defensive weapons on the raider now fleeing from the destruction.

Three shots ring out towards the Gondorian's stolen vessel -- ping! ping! ping!

 
        As the Guardsman runs ahead he leaps upon a ship and begins to set it ablaze, then bolting off for another, only to light it ablaze like the last. Coming to a halt he looks to the stolen vessel being steered by the Admiral and then continues to run, jumping onto the approaching "Gondorian vessel"

 
FWOOMPH goes the stolen ballista, and another ship begins to blaze merrily.

It's Adariel who pulls the trigger on this one, for Lominzil has finally collapsed onto the deck. She dusts her hands.

 The ship is sailing nicely and Conalmir goes at once to his friend, kneeling beside him. It is obvious where he is injured, and the squire begins again to make crude bandages.
 
 
Before Arathis may join his companion in leap for the raider, the bolts from above ring out; and though the fateful course of one does spare the Admiral's swift ship, it takes the timber upon which the Lord Isilrim stands.

So he falls to the debris-strewn waters, watching the wind take his allies.

 Bessa is watching behind and sees the Herald fall. She calls out, pointing.
 
Ping! Ping!

Two more shots are fired at the fleeing raider; though the King's Men on the quays futilely try to save the burning smugglers, those upon the balconies have rallied to sink the would-be escapees.

 
The knight Arathis struggles in the waters to escape his armors. And when it is done, he gazes behind the speedy raider, ere vanishing beneath the waves.

 

FIN


Date added: 2011-10-30 12:41:15    Hits: 8307
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