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Old 10-06-2003, 01:34 AM   #1
piosenniel
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Ring The Ambassador's Son RPG

Maikafanawen’s post

Jythralo stood in the office of his seaside townhouse, staring absently at the message that lay open on the desk before him. His sea captain’s jacket was draped across the armrest of his settee and his ruffled shirt was un-tucked. The captain hadn’t been able to sleep and a half drunk glass of rum sat nearby. The moon’s beams shone into the room lit by a single candle, leaving shadows on the floor and cushions of the unkempt window seats. The almost inaudible sound of crashing waves drifted in and Jythralo’s nostalgic feeling of sea faring returned.

Abandoning his seat behind the desk he walked out the door onto the balcony overlooking the beach. It was dirty from storm debris that had been left unattended and the perceptible crunch of dead leaves could be heard from under his boots as he walked. A light breeze blew, rustling the diaphanous curtains that flitted out of their open windows, and brushed some of the rubble from the railed in balcony.

He began to hum...Drink of the finest rum around,
Drink it up until it’s gone.
Me bones are wake me Captain!
Aye would it were dawn!

Aloft I’d climb to see across
The sea below so perilous
Though sleep is scarce I shan’t fuss
Heyho me Captain! Privilege us!

Yo ho...yo ho...yo ho...

Jythralo sighed a breath of release and made his way back into his office, taking a hearty gulp of his rum, finishing off the beaker, he looked over the notice. He had read it over countless times that evening and was contemplating its immediate importance.

We bring to the attention of Captain Jythralo Doran of his trial tomorrow evening at the city court square issued by the representatives of Gondor and the ambassador himself, Maurice Thrann. His crime is close interaction with the corsair peoples of Umbar who have committed countless acts of piracy against the free peoples. He is accused of identity standing in such a delegation. At this trial he will be given the chance to deny his past of disobedience and pledge allegiance to the new kingdom of Gondor.

Cordially,

Maurice Thrann,
Ambassador of Gondor to Umbar


The corsair captain ran his fingers systematically through his hair as he thought of the appropriate course of action. He couldn’t run. He’d tried three times already and had always been caught up again soon. The only way, he decided, was to join them for the time being until the watch upon him was lifted. Only then could he continue with his plan of recovering his beloved Umbar to its rightful state. Folding up the letter he walked over and stuffed it into the breast pocket of his captain’s coat and wandered into his room.

His bed was unmade and the pillows were flat. He hadn’t had anything decent of his own since he’d been caught for the third time by Gondorian authorities two and a half years ago spending the last year and a half in jail. Now that he was back he wouldn’t dare send for his things aboard the Rapscallion, safely harbored leagues south of Umbar. He’d wait patiently this time.

*-- -*- --*

*Five years later*

Seventeen-year old Devon was coming home from a party one night when he first discovered his father’s delegate, Jythralo Doran’s true identity. The indigo sky was covered in lavender clouds, signaling the coming fall of rain. No stars were visible and the moon found an opening every so often in a cap between the thundering fog. As his booted feet walked quickly down the cobblestone road, Devon pulled his coat fixedly around his body to keep out the spiraling wind. He had refused a cap on his way out so his auburn hair was pulled back in a short ponytail that whipped incessantly against the wind.

He was a block or two yet from home when he heard the two figures approaching. Thinking them to be local footpads out for the hunt, Devon hid in an alleyway and waited for them to pass. As they drew closer, however, their voices began to be distinguishable over the wind and the boy identified the two as Captain Doran and one of his men.

“But Cap’n, Master Thrann is sure to catch ye should ye be doing yer dealings right thar under his very nose! The crew and I is very concerned Cap’n if I’m not too bold to say so.”

“No, Agdar, not bold at all,” answered the Captain. “But I’ll hold ye remember one thing.” The ambassador’s son had to strain in order to hear and decipher their hushed southern accents. “I’ll be the one to keep the politics under me control and ye’ll be the one ter keep your head in the care of me ship and let me deal with the politics. Savvy?” Agdar nodded timidly and the two continued to walk closer.

“Hows’a everythin’ comin’ then if I might ask,” whispered Jyrthralo’s companion. The captain shrugged.

“It’s just fine. I’ve got the ambassador put in me pocket, and no one suspects a thing. Umbar shall be restored to its proper glory under our administration yet again mate. The corsairs have ne’er been routed, and ne’er shall they! Not as long as I’m Captain!” They were close enough now to the boy hiding just in the shadowed street to see triumphant grins spread across each of their weather-hardened faces.

“ ‘Umbar shall be restored’ says you,” Agdar began nervously. “ ‘Not before we’re caught’ says I. Anxious I am, Cap’n.” The barrel Devon was standing behind took that moment to topple and roll into the path of their feet.

Picking up his feet, Devon ran down the alleyway as the two men pursued. “Get ‘im!” shouted Jythralo. Young Thrann ran down the next street and turned a sharp corner trying the first back door her came to. Locked. He ran on, keeping to the shadows. The thunder cracked as a cloud burst open and the rain came down in torrential sheets.

“Here now! Boy!” yelled Agdar. “Come back ‘ere!” Devon’s footing gave way on the slick rocks and he fell, hitting the street with his shoulder. He scrambled up again and continued to run, holding his right shoulder now with his arm and Agdar gaining on him. As Devon turned a second corner he caught the glint of steel of Agdar’s knife in the light from the window he had just passed.

Just then, Devon ran into a guard, who was out patrolling the streets, toppling him over. The boy got up and ran again while the guard scrambled to his feet just as Agdar came around the corner.

“Say now!” said the guard, grabbing Agdar’s collar. “What’s this? A brigand! What is the manner of this? Who is that boy?” The shouts of the guard were drowned out in the pouring rain as the boy ran towards the embassy.

The black iron gates to the estate were open on orders for the late return of the ambassador’s son from his party. They clanged shut as he ran through them and up the stairs to the large double doors of the house. Two imposing statues of grim looking historical figures were there to meet him towering ten meters above him.

Devon finally pushed poen the doors, and entered the foyer where he was met by Adolfe, his father’s servent. The man looked down his crooked nose and peered at him with his beady black eyes. His thin hair was, like always, plastered back on his head and tied with a small ebony ribbon.

“You are positively filthy Master Devon,” he drawled in oily tones. Adolfe hadn’t ever liked Maurice’s youngest son for his independence and apparent disregard for his father’s rules. Any chance the man got to discipline the boy was gratifying.

“Not now Adolofe,” said Devon earnestly. “I must see Father!” He ran past the servant who pursued.

“Your father’s engaged at the moment Master Devon! Wait!” Ignoring the shouts, Devon ran on until he got to his father’s study
.
“Father!” he shouted to the mahogany door. “Father quick please! It’s Devon!”

“Calm boy,” said Maurice as he opened the door to reveal a man in his mid-forties standing in the smart uniform of the Gondorian nobles. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and he held a small beaker of sherry in his right hand. He was a no-nonsense man who had a great “sense” of devotion to his sons, even though it was very misguided. Maurice Thrann was very intent on etiquette and the political situation of his family and spent little time indulging in the frivolous luxuries of letting go and getting out with his boys. His view of devotion and paternity was focused completely on raising them to be successful and well-learned gentlemen.

“What is it? I’m sort of busy,” he said motioning to the men waiting within. “Can it wait?”

“No! It’s important father,” said Devon. “They can hear too,” he added as an afterthought.

“Son, why don’t you tell me once they leave. It shan’t be long.”

“But—!” The door to the study closed and Devon was left standing in front of it, a very put out Adolfe staring at him.

“Now come with me Master Devon and we’ll have ye cleaned up before your father’s delegates leave so you’re at least presentable.” The boy slumped his shoulders and followed the servant reluctantly allowing to be cleaned and changed into a soft and comfortable tunic with split sides and a pair of loose trousers to be ‘presented’, as Adolfe so bluntly put it, to his father.

“It’s too late for that sort of meeting,” protested Devon. “The men will be gone now, I’d like to hurry!”

“Your father insists your clean and not offensive to look at when he sees you,” said Adolfe cheerily, thoroughly enjoying making Devon uncomfortable. At fifteen after ten—as it was—Devon made his way back to the study and waited for the gentlemen to leave. At ten and thirty they finally did and Maurice permitted his youngest son into his small conservatory next to his study.

Maurice Thrann took a seat in a plush chair with fine embroidery and brass nail heads, propping his feet up on a matching foot rest. Devon, to make a point that he was terribly serious, took up the most uncomfortable chair across from his father and looked at him imperiously as he spoke.

“Father, as I was walking home from the social this evening I encountered Jythralo Doran and his man Agdar walking my way. Assuming they were footpads, as I could not see them just yet, I hid in an alleyway for them to pass since I was without my sword. As they drew nearer I could hear of what they were speaking. Agdar began talking nervously and asking Jythralo—”

“Captain Doran, if you please Devon.” The boy, beginning to get frustrated consented and continued what he had to stay.

“Agdar asked Captain Jythralo if he knew what he was doing and telling him that he should mind where and when he conducted his business so as not to let you, father, know what he is up to.” Expecting his father to lean forward in interest, Devon was quite disappointed to see his father take just a lingering sip of his sherry and mutter ‘go on’.

“Then, when asked of how his dealings were coming thereupon, Captain Jythralo said something of this sort, ‘It’s just fine. I’ve got the ambassador put in me pocket, and no one suspects a thing. Umbar shall be restored to its proper glory under our administration yet again mate. The corsairs have ne’er been routed, and ne’er shall they! Not as long as I’m Captain!’” Devon’s temper flared as his father began to laugh.

“There, there boy. I’m glad to see that you certainly enjoyed yourself at the social but I think that a good sleep and a cup of coffee in the morning should do you well to cleanse your mind of the wine they were serving.”

“You don’t believe me?! Father I’m not jesting! I swear it!!” Maurice chuckled and ushered his boy, now rigid with rage from the room.

“Go on Devon. Goodnight,” he said and walked his way to the room.

Furious, Devon took off down the corridor until he reached his own chambers, and stormed to the very back window where he looked out over the wall of the embassy to the sea. The waves came and crashed against beach as the gulls cried in the darkness, diving into the sea for their late suppers. He then walked to the window that faced the south towards the docks and looked down into the harbor. No ships were coming in this night and all were secured in place. The crew of The Silver Wyrm had been kept aboard for repairs after their encounter with the sea-storm and Devon could see them bustling around in their wet cloaks, kept awake by the spirits they hid in their shirt pocket flasks.

He untied the top of his tunic and pulled it off over his head replacing it with the billowy shirt he slept in. Then, after removing his boots and trousers, slipped under the covers, watching as the rain continued to fall. His mind swirled with the thoughts of Jythralo and the threat he imposed on his father’s joining up Umbar with the rest of the Gondorian kingdom. Even though there was much he’d have liked to think about, it wasn’t long before he fell asleep.

In the morning he dressed quickly and skipped breakfast going out early to tell his friends of what he’d discovered. Hopefully they’d believe him...

*-- -*- --*

Merriment filled the inn on the westernmost corner of Styrn Square that evening as Jythralo passed by. The gaiety had only just begun to die down as he and Druks Agdar made their way towards the docks. Their words were hushed, but not so much as to keep them from reaching the ears of a boy hidden in the alleyway. The identity of their eavesdropper was unknown however as they continued to walk on.

“ ‘Umbar shall be restored’ says you,” Agdar was saying as the two men walked by the place where their listener hid. “ ‘Not before we’re caught’ says I. Anxious I am, Cap’n.” At that precise moment, the barrel had rolled into the street as the sound of feet slapping the ground ran in the opposite direction.

“Get him!” shouted Jythralo, giving Agdar a shove into the alleyway. The sailor pulled a short knife out of his boot and gave chase as the boy ran. The captain’s extensive knowledge of Umbar’s layout told Jythralo the probable course the runaway would take and he hurried in that direction. As he passed the guard house he rapped quickly on the door. “Authorities!” he bellowed. A smart looking man in his early forties opened the door.

“Why Captain Doran! What’s the trouble?” The rain had begun to fall.

“Footpads,” said Jythralo importantly. Immediately five guards shuffled out of the house and followed the captain as he led them to the place he expected his man to chase the fugitive. Not half a minute after they’d arrived a teenage boy came running around the corner and barreling into the first guard. He was knocked clean off his feet and it didn’t take any time for the boy to scramble up again and run on his way. Then Agdar came, trying to skirt the guard to get after the boy.

“Say now!” said the guard, grabbing Agdar’s collar. “What’s this? A brigand! What is the manner of this? Who is that boy?”

“Ah, Mr. Deffins, that’s my man Druks Agdar. That boy is a pickpocket,” lied Jythralo. “I sent Agdar after him for his legs are faster than mine.” The guards believed him on account of his authority in the city and went on their way back towards the guardhouse.

“Sorry Cap’n,” said Agdar, walking stiffly up beside his master. “I slipped along the way.” But Jythralo wasn’t listening to the man’s excuse beside him. His mind was reeling at what he was to do now that someone had overheard his conversation. “Did ye see him anyhow?” Oh yes, he had seen the boy very clearly.

“Yes, Agdar. I saw him alright. And we have ourselves a bit of a predicament,” he turned and began to walk quickly back to his townhouse, a very anxious Agdar on his heels.

“Who was it?” he whispered.

“It was Devon Thrann,” Jythralo answered stiffly. “The ambassador’s son.”
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Old 10-06-2003, 01:35 AM   #2
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Earendil Halfelven’s post

He sat at his desk, rummaging through the many papers that sat there. The candles burned dimly among the furnishings of the room. It wasn’t that nicely decorated; just a few things here and there to give the room a little personality, but not much. Not many of his possessions had survived his past, and the few things that had, he kept at home. It was late, but he had to finish the day’s agenda.

Umbar, his beloved city, was being turned back over to the Gondorians and their new king, Elessar. He knew of the legends of the Heir of Isildur returning one day to retake the throne, but he didn’t expect it to be now, his time. The Gondorians had re-entered the city after the War and had declared it a part of the new kingdom. In order to peacefully change the city over, a council was created to form the new laws and policies of the city. Since then, refugees that had been displaced from the War had resettled in Umbar to start anew. But the corsairs still remained, and they weren’t happy with the change that was being forced upon them.

That’s why Jythralo Doran had been appointed to represent the corsair population within the Council. He was an experienced corsair captain that had been on many an adventure (some of the Gondorian Councilmen preferred to use the term “murder spree” in reference to his days of debauchery). After his captain days were over, he had settled down in Umbar as a respected and liked member of the community. He had grown to high political status among the people and things were looking good for the city. Rumors of the Shadow in the East had grown and a great battle fought in the northern land of Rohan had spread but Jythralo did not worry, that is until ships had passed by on their way to Minas Tirith with banners bearing the White Tree. He knew then that Gondor’s problem was going to be his problem soon enough. As Umbar began to muster a defence in preparation of the fall of Minas Tirith, word came that the King had returned and that Mordor was overthrown. Then, the Gondorian Army came knocking on his door. Some wanted to resist, to fight against the invaders, but what could they do against a battle-tested and veteran army? So, peacefully, Umbar had been taken.

When the Council was formed, all of the men appointed to re-organize Umbar were from the nobility of Gondor, not one a citizen of Umbar, or in that case, a corsair. They had protested, and they had been heard. Some men of Umbar, corsairs, had been appointed to the council also, Jythralo Doran being the first among them. Now, he sat at in his office within the Council building, going over more proposed policy. To him, it seemed that all this new policy, (the word “tyranny” suddenly popped into his mind), was slowly constricting the corsairs ability to do business within the city. And with each new policy, (tyranny), Jythralo felt that the rights of the corsairs, his people, were slowly being smothered. He did have allies within the Council. Other corsairs had been appointed to the Council, but the Gondorians outvoted them. They were the minority in a land of majority rule.

Well, despite his small amount of allies within the Council, he did have allies elsewhere with power unlike political power. There was a soft knock on the door.

“Enter,” he said. He looked up to see his young aid enter the room.

“Sir, it is past midnight. Shall I summon your carriage?” the young man asked.
Jythralo sighed and placed the papers down. All of this can wait, he decided.

“Yes, go ahead and summon the carriage. I think I shall retire for the night.” The young man nodded and closed the door softly.

Jythralo rubbed his eyes. He did not realize that it was so late. He had been lost in his thoughts and concerns regarding Devon's awareness of the Captain's true loyalty position. Well, tomorrow was a new day, a new plan. The war with Sauron was over, but his was just beginning.

[ October 21, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:00 AM   #3
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Arien's post

Acacia let the sand run through her right hand as she picked up again. The sea breeze blew softly across her face and caused the sand to blow on to her midnight blue skirt. She sighed and brushed away the sand and leaned back on both her palms. The sunk slightly into the sand; but she stayed upright. The moon shone brightly and caused silhouettes on the waters surface.

Acacia listened as the waves broke slowly onto the beach and she glared out into the ocean. Oh how she would love to be out there now on a Corsair ship again! But of course it was not possible; at least not yet. Soon they would rise to power and she would be able to rejoin the Corsairs, she could not wait. To be rid of the burden of pretending would be bliss and to be rid of those idiotic Gondorian Councilmen would be bliss.

The breeze picked up again, but it was stronger and it ruffled the leaves on the trees near by hard. Acacia shivered and slowly rose brushing the sand from her skirt and bodice. She looked sorrowfully out to the sea and the whispered, soon. Soon I will be free from this life! and then she left and made her way back to her estate. It was only a few minuets walk through the dark winding ally’s until she reached the front gate of her home.

It looked marvellous at night; the torches lit it up and the grounds expanded into the darkness. Sometimes she wished she did not live here; but with the rest of the Corsairs, in squalor. It was not enough for her to have all this and not be able to sail. However her estate was a main ground for meetings between the various Corsairs and not only was Acacia part of the council, a lot of Corsairs held her in high regard.

Acacia pushed the iron gates open and made her way to the entrance. With a brief goodnight to both her maid and butler she way up the stairs and to her bed. She fell asleep almost instantly and was woken by her maid calling the next morning.

“Madame Ratan, you have a visitor.” Came Blaine’s voice into the room.

“Yes, I’m getting up now,” she replied wearily wishing Blaine could leave her in bed for another hour at least. “Blaine who is it?” If it were a visitor of no importance then she would simply bid them go away and tell them that she was busy.

“Madame it is Jythralo Doran; it seems as though it may be urgent.”

Acacia waited till her Blaine had closed her door; then she got out of bed. Her hair fell limply in knots to her side and she scratched her head in thought. She cursed softly under her breath as she donned a crimson dress with a matching corset; Jythralo better have had a good reason for coming so early in the morning. And she did not doubt that he did.

Acacia quickly tied her hair back and freshened herself up; and before leaving she took a drink of water from a flask on her bed. Acacia walked casually down the stairs as she could see Jythralo’s back turned on her. Her was staring at a large painting of a ship that hung a wall opposite.

“So you are up?” He said turning slowly on his heels to face her.

“Yes I am,” She replied leaning on the banister when she reached the step bottom step. She looked over his face briefly, “I was told it might be urgent, is it?”

“I deem that it is,” he replied walking closer to her.

“Oh,” Acacia raised an eyebrow.

“You of course know Devon Thrann?” Acacia nodded and wonder what anything had to do with that boy. He was rarely ever mentioned in their conversations and he was no one of any importance to them. “Well he knows…” Jythralo’s eyes were cast downwards and then meet Acacia’s. Her face was stony and showed no shock, in fact there was nothing.

“How much exactly…”

“Enough,” sighed Jythralo turning his back from her and walking away.
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:02 AM   #4
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Himaran's post

The knife sped out of his hand and into the target on the wall. Dead in the center.

A mixture of cheers and boos ensued, and the challenger reluctantly pushed the pile of gold and jewelery across the table. It was but another successful bet for Jurex, the champion knife thrower of the Black Keel Tavern. Chuckling inwardly, he patted the man on the shoulder and snatched a sack from another table to collect his coveted loot.

The crowd dispersed quickly, the interested patrons soon moving off to watch and join in other card games and contests. Glad to see them go, Jurex retrieved his knife from the wall and gathered up his few posessions. Satisfied with his winnings for the day, the corsair decided to return home; but not before he had treated himself to a drink using his new earnings.

As he sat at the bar enjoying his mug of brandy, a new customer entered the room. From the corner of his eye Jurex could tell that it was a woman, but he did not recognize her until she got closer; Acacia. After scaning the room, she sureptitiously proceeded to amble over to the bar. Seating herself next to the man, she ordered a small drink and sipped it slowly. Speaking in a low tone, she addressed Jurex. "Jythralo wants to speak with you; he is certain that someone knows."

"How much does - "he" - know?"

"My exact words to Jythralo when I spoke with the man a few a hours ago. 'Enough,' he claimed; but more important to the problem is who knows." Here she paused, possibly for effect.

"Devon Thrann, Jurex ... the ambassador's son knows."

Jurex inhaled deeply, sucking air between his teeth. Lovely, the ambassador could be alerting the authorities as of this minute. "Strictly speaking, it Devon Thrann knows much at all, we're doomed."

Acacia continued; "Not true. We may be able to discredit the boy, or deal with the matter through a slightly more efficient method..."

Jurex nodded. "I will speak with Jythralo. Hopefully, we can develop a quick plan to effectively end the matter; whether or not the use of force is necessary." The conversation over, the two conspirators left individually, taking separate exits. But a single question burned in the minds of each.

How much is 'enough'?

[ October 21, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:04 AM   #5
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GaladrieloftheOlden's post

Hessa awoke to the sound of hacked coughing from the next room. She debated for a few seconds the idea of curling up and going back to sleep, but a louder cough pushed the measure to the other side, and, her eyes still heavy with sleep, she threw off the warm blanket and rose, shivering. Grabbing a worn shawl quickly from a chair she pulled it tight around her shoulders, over her slightly threadbare nightgown, and softly opened the door to the next room. "Mother," she called. "Are you alright?" Another bout of wheezing followed, and then her mother’s hoarse voice: "Quite alright, Hess, quite alright... go back to bed, dear." "Well, call me if you need me," Hessa said, unconvinced, in an unusually gentle voice. She walked out of the room and shut the door carefully behind her. Sitting back down on her bed, she wrapped herself again in her covers against the cold, but did not take off the shawl, brooding. Then, swinging her legs over the side, she lay down, hoping to catnap, at least. But slumber did not come, though her eyes were long closed. She strained to hear any noise from the next room, but it seemed her mother had settled down. She hoped so, at least. Concerned, she wondered how she felt. And why she even cared. She would not have cared had it been anybody else. Why should she? Nobody else mattered. She shrugged in the darkness of the windowless room, then chided herself for her silliness. Nobody was there to see her gesture to the walls. Finally, she slid into a doze...

She was 6 again, living in Minas Tirith. She was at home, twirling about in front of her parents and older brother, her crimson dress billowing about her childish form. Her mother was laughing, and her father was just sitting still, his dark eyes alive with humor. Her brother merely, stood, fidgeting. She was joyfully running into her mother’s arms and twisting her fingers into her dark hair. The picture changed. She was 9, reading from a piece of parchment, her brows furrowed, her eyes darting out every so often to check on her mother, waiting for her to doze. 11, running through the town and hearing news of traitors rooted out, spies caught, and then coming home, hearing tales of the brave corsairs to whom she belonged, whispered, from her brother. 13, her birthday, her father giving her, solemnly, the ring with the hidden blade... and then the day, a few months later, when the men had come to take away her father and brother...

She realized that she was no longer dreaming, but remembering, sitting upright in her bed, her teeth chattering still with the morning cold. She did not want to remember it all again, but the painful images seemed to burst through a wall in her mind, coming to a skidding halt just before her eyes. She remembered the days when she and her mother had run from Minas Tirith. She remembered how she had missed the half of her family that was now gone, in those first few months. She remembered how they had reached Umbar and settled down in the city, helped along by friends and relations, her mother now ailing. She remembered how she had wished to help the corsairs, because of her fiery hatred for the men who had taken her brother and father. And how, in time, she had forgotten most of it, and entered the life of a young woman in the town, and enjoyed it immensely. But she had not forgotten, she chided herself, she remembered it all... but really, her father and brother did not matter. Long dead, probably, she thought. None of it mattered. She couldn’t help the efforts of the corsairs, really, no matter what little things she heard in town and brought back to them, or what rumors she could spread for them, because she had no mind for politics.

But then, unused to such lengthy contemplation of serious subjects, she jumped off the bed, and, calling to her mother that she was going out for an hour or two, turned to find a suitable dress. She cringed a bit as she looked at those she had, because all of them had somewhere or other a worn spot or tear, no matter how skillfully stitched up. Then she wondered if she might find one somewhere else. Looking around the rather small room, she checked in the corners, the chest, even. Finally, sighing, she got down on her knees and reached under the bed, squeamishly and abruptly drawing back her hand at every dust bunny she caught by accident. Then, reaching what she had meant to, she grabbed hold of a basket and pulled it out. Heaving it upwards, she placed it on top of the bed, and began to look through its contents. There were a few dresses inside, two of them untouchable for the time, being those she wore only on special occasions. There was one, however, which was quite decent, clean and tight and a dark reddish maroon. She pulled it out, but did so carelessly, and a dagger clattered to the floor. She swooped down gracefully to pick it up, frowning. She didn’t know why she still had the thing. She was far too afraid of blood to ever use it, anyway. She dusted it off and put it back in the basket. Then, she went to change.

Emerging from a darkened corner a minute or two later, she cast a sidelong look in the mirror and smiled from under her eyelashes, as though flirting. Then, remembering her dream, she twirled, beginning to laugh. Taking a comb from her bedside table, she ran it through her long black hair, pushing its weight behind her shoulders, where it swayed softly. Then, putting on her ring, the blade inside hidden by a large stone, she took a last pleased glance and smile into the mirror and was gone before the door slammed, all thoughts, unpleasant and not so, left behind for the whirling and speeding world of gossip and the streets outside and screaming vendors in the marketplace...
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:06 AM   #6
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Nuranar's post

The just-risen sun was shedding its golden rays on the city when Calnan let himself out the front door of Secretary Ciryatan’s house. The crunch of his footsteps on the gravel drive was the only thing to disturb the stillness of the elite residential neighborhood. As he strode briskly into the narrow lane between high estate walls, Calnan noticed the scarcely-cool morning air. It’s going to be a real scorcher, he reflected.

A small object in the road, opposite a wooden gate in the wall on his left, caught his attention. As he drew nearer he identified it as a small change-purse. Without breaking stride he shot a suspicious glance at the impassive barrier next to him. Reaching the purse, he dropped to one knee and stretched out his hand for it.
Abruptly he threw himself back, just as his ready ear caught the rustle of clothing on wood. As he rose he contemplated with interest a large jet of water that had apparently launched itself from the private side of the gate. Soaring gracefully through the air in a gentle arc, it finally alighted squarely on the abandoned purse with a resounding splat.

A small boy’s head and upper body now extended above the gate, both hands clutching a small pail. Calnan chuckled at the eloquent mortification on his face.

“Julius, did you seriously expect to catch me with that? Why, it’s the oldest trick in the book!”

Impudence replaced mortification. “You know I’ll get you sooner or later, Mr. Calnan. Why don’t you surrender? The sooner you surrender, the easier it’ll be for you.”
“Right, Julius, right.” Still chuckling, Calnan deliberately turned his back, took a step – and then dodged to the right, hearing a projectile whiz viciously past his ear.

“Never give up, young man! Until the next time, farewell!” He raised his hand in a mocking salute, then swaggered jauntily but circumspectly down the road to the corner that marked the limit of his young assailant’s range. The youngest scion of a noble Gondorian house, Master Julius was possessed by the imp of mischief day and night. His recent vendetta against Calnan had afforded that gentlemen much amusement and kept him on his toes for the last several months.

* *

Thirty minutes later found him treading absently up the Embassy drive. Thinking about the day’s work ahead, Calnan was blind to the impressive façade that rose before him. While halfway up the steps he was brought quite down to earth by another object which force itself upon his notice in no uncertain manner, to wit: A scarcely-remarked blur resolved into an agitated ambassador’s son careering precipitately down the house steps and climaxed in a magnificent collision.

Flung backwards for the second time that morning, albeit this time not of his own power, Calnan flung out a desperate arm and seized the iron rail. Pivoting around with his antagonist’s momentum, he grasped the young man’s arm in time to prevent him from executing a head-first dive to the ground.

Within two seconds both had regained their balance. Calnan grimaced at his friend, having recognized Devon in that split-second of revelation that invariably precedes a disaster. “You lunkhead, don’t you ever look where you’re going? You—” The unaccustomed grimness of Devon’s usually cheerful face stopped him. “What’s going on?”
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:06 AM   #7
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Maikafanawen's post

"I'll tell you what's going on," said Devon rather heatedly. "That Captain Doran is what's going on!" Calnan shook his head. He had misinterpreted the source of Devon's anger. "No," Devon interrupted. "It's not the usual government nonsense I can't stand, and no I haven't been assigned to apprenticeship with him—thank Eru! It's something much worse." Calnan raised a concerned eyebrow. "Come on," Devon beckoned. "Let's go see Callath. I'll tell the both of you when we get there. We won't be overheard in the stables."
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:08 AM   #8
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Amanaduial’s post

Callath was up as early as ever, and was in the stables only two hours or so after the cock crowed. But this morning the stable-boy had had to rise even earlier than usual, much to his annoyance. Still, it couldn’t be helped; there was a new horse in the stables and, much to Callath’s chagrin, it was he who had been assigned, unwittingly, to look after it.

Wrestling with the wily stallion’s head, the young man fought to get a halter over his ears – he had given up trying to soothe the horse long ago, deciding there were quite probably dragons more good-natured than this horse. Not that it wasn’t a magnificent animal; a bay, his dark brown fur silky smooth and darkening around his nose and legs, nearly seventeen hands high and quite obviously Rohirrim. But, despite having the looks of a god, it had the temper of a demon.

“Get your head down, you bleedin’ monster,” He muttered angrily through gritted teeth. The horse glared at him, continuing to toss it’s head, before it made an attempt to escape the youth’s grasp altogether. “I swear, Captain Doran chooses his horses on bad tempers as well as looks.” He continued as he glared after the horse, halter in hand and arms crossed, as it stood quivering at the back of the spacious pen. The stallion glared back. The staring match did not last long as, with a derisive snort, the horse seemed to dismiss Callath and began to sniff at the hay which had been hung up for it, as if wondering whether it was good enough for him to eat. Shaking his blonde hair out of his eyes, Callath leaned against the door, wondering how exactly he was supposed to get the accursed halter onto the bay, and cast a angry look skywards…and inspiration came to him.

The central stables of Umbar were used by many, and also kept horses of it’s own, and so was no small matter. There were usually five or six stable-hands scurrying around the place seeing to the animals, from mighty stallions from Rohan, kept in livery for the nobles of Umbar, to mules and goats, kept overnight for a sailor who would be taking them off on a ship tomorrow. Because of the vast range of beasts it catered for, and the sheer numbers of them, the stables were no small matter, sprawling out over quite a wide area, with a paddock in the centre and a fields surrounding it (although not all of them were owned by the stables). There were two central buildings running side by side, with the tack room at the end of them. These buildings were partly stone, but mainly wooden, and all the way along, wooden rafters were above the stables, easy to get up to, if you knew how.

Callath himself knew all the ins and outs of the stables, and the rafters were often a good place to relax; they were quite shadowed at the sides, and people often wouldn’t spot him as he sat up there, the soft, soothing sounds of horses moving around beneath him. But he would not be using them to relax today…sighing angrily at the horse as if giving up, Callath left the pen, careful not the turn his back on the stallion – he wouldn’t put it past this one to give him a kick as he left. Then he cut sharply around into the empty pen two down from that one and, grabbing one of the ropes that always stayed there, he weighted it with an unused, but full, hay net. Swinging it around three times, he let the rope go, swinging it up to go over the rafter just above the wall of this pen, and got it the second time he tried. He fed the rope over the rafter until the hay was level with his head again, and took the hay net off it. Attaching the halter to his belt, and then attaching one end of the rope to his halter, he got a firm grip on the other end of the rope, braced one foot against the wall and, in the manner of absailing, began to walk up the wall.

Reaching the top, the stable-hand balanced there precariously, arms out for balance, then, wrapping both ends of the rope around his hands, he pulled down, pulling up his legs, and effectively swung himself up, upside down, onto the rafter above him. He paused to catch his breath and thanked providence that he was agile, then, standing, he began to walk very carefully along the rafter which ran down the middle of all the others down the centre of the room, biting his lip in concentration. Turning so he was above the stable of Captain Duran’s ‘monster’, he continued along, then stopped, just above where the beast was now placidly munching hay. The distance between him and the horse’s back was about six feet. If he managed to swing down, then drop the last few inches onto the stallion’s back, he would be able to get the halter onto the horses head from behind. A good plan. A good plan with a few points left out, such as how the horse would react, but ah, you can’t be expected to cover everything.

Crouching down, Callath took hold of either side of the rafter, preparing to drop under, before a voice nearly made him lose his balance all together.

“Callath!”

Almost jumping slightly, Callath managed to hold onto the rafter. The horse, however, looked up at the voice, in a way Callath suspected was suspicious, and the stable-hand, poised above him, froze. He could still do this.

“Callath Harres! Where are you?”

“Well, now you’ve given the game away…” Callath murmured, closing his eyes and cursing all at once the horse, the horse’s owner, and the voice’s owner, before standing. Looking down the length of the long stable building, he saw the owner of the voice, a young man whose face was as familiar to Callath as his own. Devon. And beside him was Calnan. He put his hands on his hips, and replied, just as Devon seemed about to turn and leave, or to shout again.

“Thank you Devon, you could not have come at a better time,” he replied, exasperated. Beneath him, the horse’s head shot up, then up again as it realised Callath’s voice was coming from above, before it started to move away to the other corner of the stall, where the stable-hand absolutely could not get onto it. Callath glared at it, before walking briskly and light-footedly along the rafter at the centre of the stables to be almost in front of his friend. Devon watched him all the way, one eyebrow raised.

“Can I ask why exactly you are up there?”

“I was trying to outwit Captain Doran’s monster, actually,” Callath replied evenly and with utmost dignity, sitting down on the rafter. “And may I ask why exactly you are down there, at such an early hour? Hello Calnan." The attaché nodded his greeting.
“Captain Doran.” Devon spoke angrily, his fists almost clenched. Wondering what it was that had got his friend so irritated, Callath nodded sagely. “We have something in common then.” Looking around, he sighed, then looked back at Devon. “You want to come up here, or shall I come down?”
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:09 AM   #9
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Brinniel's post

The sun hung low on the eastern sky, revealing that the day was still young. The air was damp and cool, and delicate white clouds were scattered throughout the sky. On the shores of Umbar, sailors and fishermen could be seen preparing for the new day. And as all this was happening, a young woman stood on the southern beach, a solitary figure gazing out at the vast sea. Adeline Montrés was her name, and it was often that she came to stand on these beaches to watch the sun rise.

Adeline closed her eyes, allowing a slight breeze to blow across her face and tousle the ringlets that descended to her jaw line. She licked her lips ever so briefly, and could taste salt. Adeline had lived in Umbar her entire life, but it wasn’t until recently that she was able to appreciate the beauty of the city. The beach was a peaceful place and often Adeline came here not only to stare at the sunrise, but also to daydream and read her favorite stories.
“You waste too much time of your life dreaming,” her mother once commented, “much like your father did when he was a young man. I swear, you get to be more and more like him everyday.” Adeline had simply smiled at this.

Adeline was brought back to attention by the sound of a child’s laughter. She turned around to find two young boys chasing each other with sand, both with large grins planted on their faces. Adeline gave a slight smile, remembering the days of her childhood as she absentmindedly fingered the silver locket that hung around her neck. Then, lifting up the hem of her long, pale blue dress, she turned away and left the beach, before she could get hit by any flying sand herself.

As Adeline strolled past the docks, she could see out of the corner of her eye Captain Jythralo Doran speaking privately with another man. Adeline had never met Captain Doran, nor did she care to for she always had feelings of hatred towards him, for Doran had once been a corsair. When she was just a toddler, her father had managed to capture him, though that was not enough to stop him. Once Adeline’s father heard the news that Doran had agreed to give up his corsair ways, he only chuckled grimly.
“A pirate will never surrender his ways,” he had once told Adeline. “Especially not Jythralo Doran. I do not know what he is up to, but I don’t like the look of it. I honestly believe Ambassador Thrann is making a mistake, allowing Doran to live a free life. Doran is not a man to trust.”

Adeline remembered those words and made sure to pay heed to them. At all costs, she had avoided Captain Doran and his men, which had not been difficult. She often stated her opinion of Doran to her best friend, Devon, though he had never said much in response, perhaps because he was the son of the ambassador.

Adeline saw Captain Doran’s eyes shift towards her direction when she realized she had been staring at him. She quickly averted her eyes, then glanced back at him, giving the captain one last dirty look before continuing on.

When she left the beach, Adeline had intended to head straight for home, for she had many chores to attend to. She hated to neglect her duties, especially now that her mother was so busy working as a seamstress. But as she passed the stables, her ears picked up the sound of voices coming from inside. Though, she could not make out what they were saying, Adeline could easily recognize the voice, one of them belonging to Devon. Strange, she thought to herself. Why would Devon be out at this hour? Curious on what Devon was up to, Adeline forgot about her original plan of going home and stepped inside the stables.
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Old 10-23-2003, 08:43 PM   #10
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Arvedui III's post

As the creak of the deck of the Miranel swayed and finally stopped, a shaky, stooped, figure clutching dearly to the port railing had finally decided on one thing: He hated ships. And oceans. He hated oceans too, which was two things, really, but he supposed that was irreverent. The cargo vessel lurched horribly as it dropped anchor into what looked like lurid, black, and, there was no other word for it, chunky water; The mingled smell of dead fish and alcohol was near palpable in the humid, windless night, and the stars seemed to glare at him rather than twinkle. As he stepped unto the warf, it creaked ominously under him.

Telson Telemarson's first impression of the isle of Umbar was not a kind one.

He rubbed the stiff parchment tucked rather haphazardly into his belt with one sweaty palm and somehow felt comforted by its presence. Standing nervously on the warf, the figure dressed in a tattered, brown, now wet cloak shifted his weight several times before a equally ratty looking seaman tossed him a rough haversack from the ship. "Such care," he muttered under his breath and without waiting for a word from anyone set his bag on his back and started walking as quickly as he could away from the port. The street he found himself traveling on was lit with sickly yellow street lamps, and the uneven cobblestone road looked like rough obsidian in the dim light. The path seemed devoid of people, although the dull sounds of drunkards and dullards babbling in distant alleyways mixed eerily with the squeaky signs hung above various shops and smithies.

If Telson had known what part of Umbar he had entered, he might have gladly traded the five minutes he had spent walking for another five days onboard ship.

Eventually, an overtly noisy sign in the shape of a tankard caught his attention and he squinted up to the figure which read, "Low Tide Inn: Hearty Food and Spirits". With a sigh he muttered, "Charming, I'm sure," And pulled the handle. The pub was lively enough. Unlike the street outside it was well lit and warm, and full of noise. About ten men were drinking and laughing at different tables, with another three at the bar. The place itself was shabby, with pealing, stained walls and a floor seemed to tilt in some places. The wood of the tables was gnarled and rotting, but, he noted that the shelf holding rum behind the bar was elegant and smooth, finished with a fine veneer.

Chuckling softly, Telson set himself comfortably into a lopsided seat and licked his lips. If the low tide inn did indeed serve hearty food and spirits, he intented to sample some. A ruddy bartender with a wholly unnecessary number of tatoos on his face came over and smiled broadly at him. "What can I do fer yeh, good sir?" He asked in a raspy voice. "A room, and a brew if you have both." The man chuckled. "Aye sir. I have both if your coin's good." Nodding, Telson plunged a hand into his shirt pocket and produced two silver coins stamped with the likeness of the king on one side and the white tree on the other. The bartender gave a low whistle.

"Those'll do jus' fine, sir." He said, briskly sweeping them off the counter. Drawing himself up, he added, " What'll it be?" "Whatever's a bargain." Telson shrugged. He was not in the mood for expensive ale tonight. That only lead to trouble. After about five minutes the bartender returned with a frothy mug in hand. " ‘Ere, mayhap that'll redden your checks a bit." Telson smiled self-consciously, remembering that his pallid face was not a regular at this bar. ‘I doubt that, meaning no offense to your ale, good sir." The bartender nodded sagely. "Course, sir. Er, beggin' your pardon, sir, but, you ain't from round ‘ere, are yeh?"

"Is it that obvious?" Telson responded with a sigh and a smile. "No. Well, yes. Well, well it's just that not many a man with a fair face comes round the low district, much less buys whatever's cheap, if you take my meaning, sir." The bartender bumbled and grinned apologetically. Telson only laughed. "Guess I should of known better. No, I'm not from around here." The bartender nodded and then bit his lip. "Er, if you don't mind me askin', sir, who are you?" Telson looked and the bartender slowly, appraising what type of answer he should give. "Oh, nobody, really. Just another lowly, lazy, ne'er do well trying to make a way in the world." He shrugged and laughed. The bartender joined in. "Well, you'll fit in quite nicely here, then. What're yeh tryin' ta do in Umbar, Mr. Nair do well?"

Telson again let a silence stretch out before answering. He supposed it could do no harm, after all, he'd need all the help he could get, and making a few friends, a few friends with knowledge of the island, would be invaluable. So he answered,

"Oh, I count things." "Count things?" The bartender echoed, confused. "Yep. Ships, arms, men, wood, stone, things like that." The bartender still looked confused "Why and who in middle-earth would pay yeh to do that?" "That's the steward's business, not mine." He answered and took a slip of his mug. The old barkeep's eyes near doubled in size. "You're a steward's man?" He asked incredulously. "Sure." Telson replied offhandedly, enjoying the bartender's reaction. "Got a note to see the ambassador about my business, too." He added for the effect. The reaction wasn't quite what he expected. The man snorted.

"You aren't from ‘round ‘ere. That ambassador, Thrann? E's worthless, to be shure. Now lord Doran, e's a good man, so he is, why if I has a coin fer every man e's helped on this isle, why," Sensing a rant on politics that he did not, nor wanted to understand, Telson interrupted the man with an overly loud cough. It was too late for this, he'd deal with whatever Umbar had to bring in the morning.

"About that room, sir?"
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Old 10-23-2003, 08:45 PM   #11
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Devon kicked absently at the straw-littered ground with his boots, making scuffmarks in the packed dirt. Early April brought a cool breeze up from the harbor and the faint scent of salt tingled his nose. The familiar odor of marsh and rotten things hauled in from the south also wove into the stable and the ambassador's son was constantly blowing air out his nose to rid of the stench.

He looked up as Adeline entered the stables. A loose brown curl fluttered across her fair cheekbones and the pale blue dress she wore swayed as she stepped down from the doorway into the hall.

"What's going on?" she asked inquisitively eyeing the agitated expressions on the youths' faces. Devon's eyes especially were dark with repressed anger and he nodded curtly, deciding he was not the one to speak just yet.

"Devon's a bit upset by something he overheard last night," Callath explained calmly. "He was just going to tell us." Calnan moved aside so that Adeline could walk past him and sit on a stool beside an empty stall.

Resisting the urge to kick the wooden gate to splinters, Devon took a deep breath and relayed everything that had happened last night. He explained in as much detail as possible doing his best to choose just the right words to depict the exact scenario. When he was finished, Callath let out a low whistle and as a second thought, stepped away from the traitorous captain's black stallion with a look of profound distaste.

"Did they see you?" Callath asked, a thousand unreadable emotions running across his face. Devon hesitated and then shook his head.

"No, no I don't think so. He seemed to think I was a pickpocket. Anyways, they didn't come after me." Calnan's brow was furrowed and he looked very nervous. There was a pause as Devon's story sunk in.

"What do we do?" Adeline breathed.

"Well, as long as the most powerful man in Umbar is wrapped up with the idea that pirates never lie, there's not much we can do," Devon pointed out impulsively.

"Unless we do it ourselves," Callath said. He smiled mysteriously and it was obvious the beginnings of some wild idea was beginning to take place in his cunning little mind. Calnan immediately shook his head.

"No," he said firmly. "We need to be careful, and there are other government officials who can help us besides Devon's father. We'll talk to them."

"What makes you think they'll listen?" Adeline countered. "Doran is a very powerful figure. Almost everyone trusts him. And those who don't wouldn't raise a finger against him anyways. I doubt we'll get very much help from them Calnan." She smoothed a fold in her skirt and began to fiddle with her locket.

"What about people who aren't government officials?" Callath offered, disappointment written slightly on his face at Calnan's immediate dismissal of his incentive adventure. "You know like merchants or aristocrats."

"I don't think so," Devon said. "They're pretty content with the blossomed trade and business opportunities opened in Umbar. And since Doran's helped so much to make their dreams a reality, they've absolutely no reason to hate him." Devon uttered an awful malediction and slammed the oak beam he leaned against with the side of his fist. "He thought of everything I bet! Oh sorry Adeline," he apologized quickly seeing the girl's eyebrow shoot up at his curse.

The attaché shook his head and began to pace in thought. "There's got to be something he missed. I just can't put my finger on it."

"Well, can we think about this over breakfast? My stomach is just as nervous as the rest of us, but it'll be furious with me if I starve it." As if on cue, a low gurgling sound came from the stable-hand's belly. Callath smiled innocently and the four left the stables for a light breakfast at their favorite inn and pub: Snifter and Song.

After greeting the bartender, Mister Rheels, the four took a corner table by the window and enjoyed a steamy meal of sausages, biscuits, eggs, and cheese. So absorbed in the delectable meal the Snifter and Song chef provided for them, the problem of Captain Doran seemed to be less insistent of their concern and the traitorous sun, casting the shadow of the windowpane on their table, captivated them and turned their thoughts away from the treacherous pirate.

"Do you have the whole day, Devon?" Callath asked, washing down his breakfast with milk (Adeline had forbidden them to consume ale so early in the morning: much to the stable-hand's contempt). "I haven't got too much to do at the stables today."

Devon shook his head regretfully. "Unfortunately no. I have three classes and a fencing lesson."

Callath rolled his eyes and pulled apart his second roll. "That will keep you penned up until late this evening!" he complained, mopping up the last bits of gravy from his plate with the bread. Devon snorted.

"In that case I'll just tell my tutor that Mr. Harres insists I join him for a day of pointless wandering around the streets of Umbar. I'm sure he'll understand." Calnan chuckled and Callath smiled sarcastically.

"Calnan?" he asked hopefully. The attaché shook his head. "Sorry." Sighing disappointedly, the stable-hand leaned back, folding his hands on his satisfied stomach. "Looks like it's just me and you, Adeline." The girl looked up from her glass of hot tea and smiled feebly, "You know I've got to help mother Callath." Callath shook his head and sat up, looking at them all accusingly. "I don't believe this! You're going to just leave me?" The three repressed their smiles and found sudden interest in the bottoms of their empty glasses.

"Well, look on the bright side," Devon said with a humorous twinkle in his eye. "You've got that swell new horse to get acquainted with." Calnan burst, laughing into his napkin. With a look of childish disappointment, Callath slumped back in his chair, his arms akimbo.

"There is still an hour or so to go before any of us are really needed anywhere," Adeline offered, trying to cheer her discouraged friend. "We could go down to the beach."

"That sounds good," Devon agreed. "What do you say Callath?" The youth nodded his consent and the four paid for their breakfast before making their way through the city down to the shore.
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Old 10-24-2003, 06:06 AM   #12
Amanaduial the archer
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Callath put on an expression of mock panic at the remark, then stuck his lip out in a deliberately childish expression, making the others smile. Adeline's suggestion of going down to the ebach for an hour was most welcome to the youth - after all the only other thing he could do was, as Calnan put it 'get acquainted with' the Doran's horse.

Standing, Callath dropped his crumpled napkin lightly on the table and dug one hand into one pocket, then the other, in search of some money. Ignoring Devon's pained look, the stable hand sifted the right change out onto the pile by the half meltes candle holder in the centre of the table. Straightening up, he smiled ruefully.

"Aye, sounds good - sure, the stable master won't miss me for too long..." Callath exchanged a grin with Devon, who had seen Horse-Master Garth in his typical state before, when he chanced into the stables to see Callath in the middle of the day, and found the man fast asleep, a half empty bottle of ale hanging loosely from one hand.

"Thanks Adeline. At least someone has some consideration..." Callath finished in a martyred tone, casting a wry look at Calnan, who simply laughed, standing himself.

As the three began to make their way out of the bar, Callath continued to turn over in his mind some way of revealing Doran, walking a few paces ahead of the others, his hands dug into his pockets and his brow slightly creased, reflectively. Devon would be all for rushing straight in and storming up to the sea captain to reveal him for what he truly was, but at least his father’s dismissal had seemed to shake some sense into him. Or at least, Callath hoped it had… Looking back at the Ambassador’s son, he saw an energetic, and intelligent, of course, young man, talking vividly to Calnan. But at some comment made by the attaché, Devon’s eyebrows shot up and he shoved his friend to the side, making Calnan stumble slightly, laughing with him as he tried to come up with a retort. Callath himself smiled, but it was only a half-smile – he wondered just how well his friend realised what danger he was in. But what if…

“I’ve seen that look before, Callath Harres. Generally it means something up here is up to no good.”

Adeline tapped the side of her head lightly as she spoke, illustrating her point, and Callath almost jumped. The young woman had always had a way of moving even more quietly than him, cat-like – she had approached without him even noticing, and fell into step with him. After a moment, she nudged him lightly. “Come on then – you have an idea, out with it.”

Callath merely smiled. “Not an idea really, Adeline. More…an inkling.”

Her eyebrows went up in askance, but once again the stable hand merely smiled, before turning back to where Calnan and Devon were having a joking verbal duel. The wind had picked up as they came towards the beach, sweeping in from the sea, and his fair hair flopped into his eyes even more. “Come on, you two – the tide’ll have come right in by the time you catch up with me and Adeline.”

“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, keep believing it Callath!”

Callath grinned, shading his eyes against the sun, one hand cupped against his mouth as he called to them. “Prove it then!”

Jerking his head towards the beach, the stable hand grinned mischievously and took off at a run towards the beach, and after a second the other three followed, exchanging friendly threats and bantering jokily, thoughts of Doran and corsairs thrown, for a while, to the sea wind...

[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Amanaduial the archer ]
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Old 10-24-2003, 07:01 AM   #13
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Everything was perfect for a stroll on the beach - the cool sea breeze winding up the streets, the morning sun warm on one’s back, the comfort of a happy stomach. But Calnan’s expressionless face showed him oblivious to the conditions. Only his eyes, darting unseeingly from one quarter to another, indicated the turmoil behind the façade as his analytical brain sorted out possibilities and probabilities.

Walking beside him was a very wound-up Devon. Calnan came to himself long enough to reflect that Devon – as much as he would deny it – wouldn’t make a bad politician. That is, if the major part of politics was public speaking. Devon’s impassioned denunciations of the perfidious and piratical Doran were by no means lacking in color. And his gleeful detailing of how a compliant Ambassador Thrann should’ve and could’ve squashed Doran & Co. was not only entertaining but unsettlingly persuasive.

“…Picture how we’d teach that blankety-blank so-and-so! Huh, to think he could get away with fooling the entire diplomatic corps of the King himself! Why, if any other scurvy drowned rat of a bleeped corsair, captain or no, ever tried such a stupid, hare-brained stunt again –”

At this point Calnan had to intervene.

“But Devon, he has.”

Devon broke off belligerently. “Has what?”

“Fooled everyone. He’s fooled them so well that your father hasn’t listened to you. That just proves –”

It was Calnan’s turn to break off as Devon shoved him roughly aside. Gearing up mentally to wax eloquent on Doran’s power, the attaché was off guard and stumbled awkwardly. “Never mind that! I don’t hear you figuring out what we need to do, Mr. Politician!” Devon spat testily, only half in jest.

After a brief glare, Calnan laughed to ease the tension. “We just need to figure out exactly what we’re up against here. Please don’t think Doran is stupid. If you heard right, and he’s been plotting for the last five years, then he has to be really smart to have kept it up this long without any suspicion.”

Still a little miffed, Devon kicked an unoffending pebble. “True.”

“So I’m still wondering…Are you absolutely certain he didn’t recognize you last night?” Devon’s head shot up angrily but Calnan wouldn’t let him interrupt. “If he did, you’re in serious danger, pal. You’re far too close to the only ones who can stop him. He didn’t get this far by crossing his fingers and hoping! You have got to be careful.”

Devon pooh-poohed carefulness. “Are you kidding? I like to live dangerously!” he boasted, striking a heroic pose.

Calnan rolled his eyes and tried again. “That’s just the attitude that’ll see you set upon by some cutthroats of his. You ought to stop being out late alone and cutting through the allies ‘cause that’s just where they’ll wait for –”

“Oh great, now you’ve turned nursemaid. I can just see you following me around: ‘Stay out of that dark alley, Devon dear, the boogieman will get you!’” he mimicked in a feminine falsetto.

“Cut it out, numbskull, I’m serious.”

“So’m I, nanny, I’ll do everything you tell me!” Devon mocked.

“Please listen to me, Devon! Just put yourself in Doran’s shoes –”

A sudden hail from ahead cut through his plea. “Come on, you two – the tide’ll have come right in by the time you catch up with me and Adeline.”

“Oh yeah?” Devon was off like a shot.

With one shake of his head, Calnan gave chase. “Yeah, keep believing it Callath!”

Scattering sand and cutting corners, Calnan stretched out his long legs and set his sights on the silver line of the shore. The joy of the moment banished care...

For a little while, at least.

[ October 27, 2003: Message edited by: Nuranar ]
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Old 10-27-2003, 09:51 PM   #14
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Sting

Jythralo sat in his office at home, thinking. Last night, someone had overheard him talking to Adgar. That someone was Devon Thrann, the ambassador's son. Now he had a small problem-what to do with the ambassador's son.

He had gone throughout the day thinking over this problem. He could have him killed. A corsair could pick a fight with him on the streets, it could get nasty, a little bloody...that would really make the Gondorians crazy. They would pass laws on the corsairs that would cause a rebellion, no doubt about that.

But no. It would be nice to have the boy killed. Maybe kidnapped would be better, however. If the boy was assassinated, then that would raise a red flag to the officials that there was something going on, some kind of plot. So, maybe he could have the boy kidnapped. That would be nice, now that he thought about it. He could hold the boy for a ransom. A nice big chest of Gondorian gold; that would be nice too. He smiled to himself.

There was a knock at his door.
"Enter," he said.
Two men, Jurex and Adgar, entered.

"Ahh, gentlemen. Welcome."

Jurex nodded and Adgar grinned. "Nice to see you again, Captain."

"Please, take a seat. I have a job proposition for you two. This is a rather large one...that pays well," Jythralo said to the two as they each took a seat in front of his desk.

Jurex spoke. "Let me guess: Devon Thrann."
Adgar began to laugh as Jythralo replied,"Yes."

Jurex continued. "Then why did you ask both of us here? You only need me and my knife."

"Hey! And what about meself?" Adgar protested.

"Now, don't get frustrated, Adgar. The reason I want both of you here is that we're not having the boy killed." Jurex frowned at that. "No matter how much I'd like that, I think that kidnapping him will be better and more profitable to hold him for ransom. After all, wouldn't you like a chest of gold instead of having to clean your knife, Jurex?"

Jurex nodded and Adgar smiled again, showing the many holes in his mouth where his teeth had been.

"Now, I want you two, and grab another man to go with you, and follow Devon Thrann. Kidnap him when its the right time and take him to one of the smaller frigates in the harbor. Under no circumstance are you to take him to any ship that has a connection with me. I cannot be connected to this in any way. Hold him there until his father gives in and gives us some gold. Oh, and I want Acacia to do the negotiations. She's good at that kind of thing." Then he added as an after thought,"See if she wants to go to. I think she'd enjoy that. You two understand?"

The men nodded. Jythralo could almost see the anticipation within Adgar. Jurex sat there quietly, but eagerly.

"Go." Jythralo said. "Oh, and make sure you don't kill the boy, unlike last time I had you two kidnap someone. No harm is to come to him. Oh, and make sure you guys go out the back this time too. And with the gold, distribute it out among the boys, would you Adgar?"

"Aye, Cap'n!" He could hear the two men proceed down the hall. Their footsteps faded.

Now that business was complete for the day, Jythralo was ready to retire for the night. There was nothing like initiating a kidnapping before bedtime.
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Old 10-30-2003, 03:54 PM   #15
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The three boys ran into the surf up to their booted ankles, splashing in the cool, salty water. Adeline watched from the shore, laughing as the ocean sprayed the youths' faces. After a minute or so of that, Calnan, Devon and Callath stopped to catch their breaths; standing with the foam lapping at their boots. Then, unfortunately for the young maiden, the two younger boys caught sight of the relatively dry Adeline standing but five yards from them. Immediately realizing their intentions, the girl began to back up quickly, with a humorous expression of innocent terror on her face. The youths gave pursuit with Calnan calling unconvincingly after them to leave her alone.

Devon and Callath caught up with her rather quickly and then proceeded to push her down towards the water's edge. Adeline protested against it insipidly.

"Oh no!" she laughed breathlessly. "My dress--No! It's dry!"

"I know," Callath said trying again to move the girl closer into water. "What would be the point if it wasn't?" Giggling helplessly, Adeline was lifted into the air and was moments away to being plunged into the cool sea before a voice called down from the piers.

"Come on!" Calnan said, helping to get Adeline's feet back on the ground. "Let's go before they see us!" The four ran back up the jetty line to the wharf and turned the corner.

"Why'd we leave?" asked Devon slowing to a comfortable walk. Calnan threw a glance over his shoulder at a sign staked in the ground under one of the docks near the shoreline where they had just been. It read: JETTY AREA OFF LIMITS.

"Oh. But we didn't see it before," he declared.

"I did," Calnan said coolly. "But I was just a few paces behind you and calling out would have slowed me down." Devon rolled his eyes and Callath laughed.

"Breaking rules Calnan?" The stable-hand clicked his tongue admonishingly. "That's out of character old boy."

Devon and Calnan made their way back to the embassy, leaving Adeline and Callath at the gate with a promise to meet at the Snifter and Song for dinner. The wind had died down considerably and the sun warmed the spring air. Birds zigzagged overhead, twittering absently to each other and flowers blossomed, showing off their new colors.

"Oh cheer up Devon," the attaché said exasperatedly, as they walked in the door of the embassy. The ambassador's son stuck his bottom lip out slightly and dropped his head. Calnan laughed. "It could be worse!" Devon turned to answer but the brown-headed young man had already turned and walked away down a corridor. Grumbling to himself, the student slumped his shoulders and moped up the stairs to his tutor's room for lessons.

* * *

"...the brothers and sisters of the heir were given duchies or earldoms. For each estate then that is suitable for farming, there would be denoted four score livestock, and two-dozen beasts of burden. The earl or duke is then allowed to authorize the building of houses on his land where people may leave the city and hold a successful career in a smaller town. This has shown to be a successful way of controlling the overcrowding in the major cities of Gondor such as those newer ones in Lebennin and Pinnâth Gelin.

"Now, where the coastal cities are concerned, and the lords and ladies therein, the process of property denotation is much more complex. First... Um, Devon?" The fifty-two year old tutor looked down at the young man nodding over the papers on his desk. The quill was posed loosely in his fingers and a puddle of sticky black ink lay in center of his parchment scroll. Before Tutor Pearlle could stop him, the boy's face fell forward and landed in the mess. With a start, he jerked his head back up pulling the parchment with him and sending either end of the scroll rolling down off the desk and onto the floor.

"Master Devon!" Pearlle shouted in frustration, tossing down his papers to retrieve the scroll. Devon rubbed vigorously at the ink as it seemed to seep into his skin.

"Why does it burn?" he demanded of the fumbling tutor.

"It's the component that makes it dry on parchment," the paunchy tutor answered offhandedly, standing up with the scroll and rolling it. The young man scratched at his cheek until it was raw and then walked over to the pitcher, dipping his handkerchief in and soaking it. Then he placed the wet cloth to his face. The water cooled and soothed his chaffed skin.

The incensed tutor slammed closed his folders of paper and screwed the lids back on the jars. "We are done with history for the day," he announced testily. "Now come back and sit down. We've go to get to Astronomy before noon." Glaring at his overweight instructor, Devon lowered his cloth and touched his cheek tenderly. "Stop being so thin-skinned and come and sit down!" Resisting the urge to throw the ceramic pitcher at Pearlle's head, the youth dropped his handkerchief down on the chest and returned to his seat.

"Now," the tutor said delightedly, rubbing his hands together. "Astronomy." He pulled apart the leather thongs on one sickeningly thick folder and withdrew several charts of the night sky, hanging them on the wall behind his desk. Devon groaned. It was going to be a long day.

[ October 30, 2003: Message edited by: maikafanawen ]
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Old 10-30-2003, 04:01 PM   #16
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Acacia agreed to meet Jurex in this particular Inn while he went to meet Jythralo at his biding. Her fingers softly clasped the glass mug as she lent back on her chair. She sat in a dark corner of the Inn; so she could see everyone and not everyone could see her. Her tinted, manicured nails tapped on the glass as she eyed the group of men over at the bar. They were Gondorian seafarers, physically strong, smart and full of themselves. Acacia watched as they laughed at various customers around the bar, she rolled her eyes, clearly they were drunk and enjoying it. They better enjoy it now, it won’t be long…… she snorted as she took a drink from her glass and the rested it softly down on the table.

She looked up again to see that they were now looking at her. She wished that Jurex would hurry up; she could not bare the thought of having to speak to them. Acacia watched quietly as they as one was pushed in her direction. He stumbled toward her slowly, with a mischievous grin on his face. Acacia took another drink and looked in the other direction as he sat down beside her. She felt his rough hand on her chin as he turned her head round to face him.

His dirty black hair fell to his shoulders, and he wore the usual garb of a Gondorian sailor. He was handsome, his face was lightly tanned and stubble covered his chin and cheeks.

“Hello,” he said slowly, breathing the stench of stale rum onto her face. Acacia decided not to reply. She knew it would not help to ignore him, but while she was waiting she could have a little fun. “What a pretty thing like you doing her with this sort of riff raff…alone.” He added outing his left arm around her and pulling her close.

“Riff raff like you, is that what you mean?” She said slyly.

“Like me?” He laughed, “No I am one of Gondors finest, I am. I mean these Corsairs.” He commented pointing to a few dotted around the bar.

“Oh them?” She laughed and then stopped abruptly, “I am one of them…” Her icy voice replied. He pulled away for a moment in apparent shock and then smiled.

“Well,” he said clearing his throat, “your kind is only good for one thing….” His hand grabbed her wrist and he pulled her up. Acacia made no attempt to struggle. She had seen the figure enter the Inn a couple of minutes ago and it was now watching carefully. The figure stepped forward towards the two and laid a heavy hand upon the Gondorians shoulder. His other friends rose from their seats as Jurex turned him around. But they backed down when the man shook his head.

“Acacia are you ready to go?” he said, ignoring the Gondorian he was holding onto.

“Yes quite,” she replied pulling her wrist from his grip and smoothing out the creases in her skirt. “Let us go, I do not desire to spend anymore of my valuble time with this ort of riff raff.” Jurex released his grip on the man and headed for the door. Acacia took on last look at the man and whispered in his ear, then kissed him sweetly on the lips. And then she was gone, out into the midday bustle. The three managed to make their way to a ally short cut that would lead them into the centre of the city. Of course it was deserted. Too dangerous to use these ally's especially with corsairs around.

“You took your time…” She said as they walked slowly through the winding back roads, the soft ocean breeze blowing past their forms.

“Not too long, although you seemed to have it all under control. Especially being a council member.” He replied gazing ahead down the dank street. Gulls called in the mid day air and she could taste salt in her mouth.

Acacia sighed, “They were too drunk to notice I was anything beyond a female. Hmmm… and what did Jythralo say?” She questioned lightly.

“To kidnap the boy,” Jurex said carelessly, but she could hear a slight tone of joy in his voice. Acacia’s eyes widened as they continued to walk and a smile started to play upon her face. “We are to take him to one of the smaller frigates in the harbour.”

“Then it must not be connected with Jythralo in anyway.”

“Yes, that is what he said. Oh and you will do the negotiations Acacia. Come with us if you will but stay hidden.”

“Excellent, and of course a council member must not bee seen dealing with such riff raff.” she answered laughing.

“Of course. And we need to fetch another.”

Acacia nodded, “I will follow you when you give word for me to. Send a letter or message by Blaine perhaps. Do not make it too obvious that you seek to look for me.” Her glance fell upon Adgar and she sighed again. “I trust you will do well.” And with a nod to Jurex she went in the other direction towards her home.

[ November 01, 2003: Message edited by: Arien ]
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Old 11-01-2003, 10:03 PM   #17
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Faint moonlight glimmered off the water, illuminating the foaming waves that splashed up onto the rotting boards. A seagull's call resounded and hung in the dense air, eventually fading into a passive silence that was broken only by the faint sound of the ocean curning against the beach. A peaceful tranquility seemed to have set itself over the dock, enveloping the dark section of the city.

Two men stood outside the door of a shack, though presumably for other purposes than to enjoy the quiet. They were deep in conversation when a third figure appeared from around the corner and joined them. He was greeted coldly, owing to the fact that he was quite late, before one of the two who had been there originally opened a map and pointed to several locations. Soon the voices became louder, as an argument began, and several weapons appeared before the heated debate was ended. At length, when the trio seemed satisfied with their plan, they left the dock and followed the road into the city.
____________________________________________

"Have you got that, Adgar? I want no mistakes, not with so much at stake."

Jurex stared hard at the corsair, who was fiddling with the bone handle on his knife. "Aye sir, I believe I unnerstand it."

"Repeat it."

Jurex, Adgar, and an acomplice known as Yuri waited in the shadows outside a plush inn. The former of the three corsairs had discovered that Devon's favorite place to attend for a late meal was a comfortable diner, named the Snifter and Song. Now he and his companions waited outside the establishment in hopes of capturing the young man when he left. They had been there for over an hour, and Jurex used the time to drill Adgar on the specifics of their plan.

"Yessir. We wait here until he comes out the door. Then you bump into him and knock him over as he's comin' out the door, and den shut the door in the process. Then as you help 'im up, I throw 'is coat over 'is 'ead while Yuri 'ere clubs 'im."

"Good. I think you might actually understand." Jurex's voice was laced with sarcasm.

Yuri was looking into the hotel window. "I think I see him, Jurex. Yes, that's him alright. Paying the bill now... headed towards the door. Get ready, Jurex!Adgar, move back. We don't move in yet."

Before moving towards the door, Jurex scanned the streets for guards or other citizens. Thankfully, the dusty road was deserted, and the man hurried to the door. Then, in a single instant, the plan fell apart.

Jurex had not realized that the doors on the hotel opened outward. As Devon came out, the door struck Jurex in the face, and he fell backwards with a grunt. Devon, ever the gentlemen, reached down to help him up. Suddenly, Adgar rushed forward and, mistaking the figure of Jurex for his target, grabbed the corsair's coat and pulled it over his head. Yuri, who had made the same mistake, took full advantage of Jurex's predicament to club him soundly.
Devon, recognizing Adgar from thier previous encounter, dashed off down the road; leaving the corsairs to discover their horrible mistake.

Quickly realizing their error, the two corsairs lifted up the prone form of Jurex and carried him off in the opposite direction. Amazingly, the encounter was seen by known but the participants; though the corsairs would have at the present time gone to prison rather than face the wrath that they knew would issue from their unconcious leader.

[ November 05, 2003: Message edited by: Himaran ]
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Old 11-02-2003, 03:14 PM   #18
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Peace and quiet reigned throughout the stables of Umbar, the long building completely quiet save for the quiet, contented sounds of horses moving in their stables, the sounds of their hooves muffled by the straw laid down beneath their hooves. But apart from these gentle sounds, nothing moved in the musty, mid-afternoon air...

One of the stable doors edged open very slightly, still on its bolt from outside, just opening enough to disturb a few dust motes from above it so they floated lazily down from their perch on top, clear and fine in the sunlight lancing through one high window. Five long, slim fingers appeared at the crack and folded over, and above them one sharp, dark eye. Said eye danced quickly and carefully around the stable and then, when the owner was apparently satisfied, both the eye and the fingers withdrew, and the sound of a bolt being withdrawn filtered into the stable. Callath breathed a sigh of relief; he had been missing for nearly two hours now, and Garth, if he'd managed to get out of bed and down to the stables and, once there, had managed to remain concious long enough to notice the stable-boy's absence, he would have been furious.

"Looking for someone in there, Callath?"

Callath's sigh of relief froze half way through it's passage and, although he didn't actually jump, the stable-boy couldn't help his fingers twitching sharply once and clenching...in the door. Withdrawing his squashed digits and turning, Callath didn't allow his face to register that he'd caught his fingers in the door. In front of him stood a rather thick set, bull-necked individual, two or three inches shorter than Callath in height, with a face a colour that, under the curling moustache, could be described kindly as 'puce'. In his hands he held a short, fixed whip which he was bending slowly and menacingly into a U-shape.

"Horse-master Garth." Callath nodded politely, wondering how he was going to talk himself out of it this time. He had used up all the usual excuses and, bearing in mind Garth seemed to have selected him as being the ideal candidate to clear out the paddock every time he could find an excuse this month, he would have to choose his words very carefully.

"Mr Harres," Garth's tone was heavily sarcastic as he continued to bend the whip. "So good of you to join us. May I ask where you were that merited your attentiomn over our lowly stables?!" By the end of this sentence Garth's voice was basically a shout through gritted teeth.

Callath opened his mouth, then stopped, lips fixed as if about to say something, one finger frozen in mid-air. "I was-"

"Rubbish excuse, don't believe yer," Garth growled. "How'd you get wet then?"

Callath slipped a glance down at the knees or his dark trousers. His high, leather boots had stopped his legs from getting wet mostly, and his shirt and tunic had dried on the way, but there was still a persistent patch just above his boots which was slightly darker. He started on his excuse. "Funny thing that, what I was-"

"And why can I smell women's perfume off you?"

Mystery to me... Callath thought, genuinely puzzled, then remembered Adeline. "Oh, I was-"

"Another rubbish excuse, boy, you're on paddock duty for the rest of the day, the shovel and bucket are in the far field where Heral left them. I'll be checking tonight - there are a coupla new horses due." With that curt note, said almost in one breath, Garth strode off, leaving a bemused Callath glaring after him. His conversations with the Horse-master tended to do something like this - he was pretty sure it wasn't actually necessary for him to say anything, or in fact be there at all.

Turning away, Callath squinted against the sun to the 'far field' as it was called - two long fields away - then began to trudge towards it. Today was going to be a very long day.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Bye, Cal."

As Callath turned into the stable, he waved briefly, grinning at the other boy who had called, just leaving for the night. "See you tomorrow, Haril."

He was the last one left there, but, thank providence, he had finished his duties for the day, although he smelt none the better for it. It was for days like this that Callath reserved a spare set of clothes in the loft above the stables, where the food was kept, out of the reach of the stable-dogs and most of the rats. Climbing the slanted ladder up to the loft, the boy hummed idly under his breath, switching to whistling part way through as he changed his clothes quickly.

As he was just straightening his collar are doing up the final buttons on his tunic, Callath heard a gasp below him and a fierce knocking on the doors. Looking down sharply, the stable boy heard the bolt slide open roughly as if drawn by clumsy, shaking fingers (the door wasn't yet properly locked up with the padlocks), before it swung open. For a second, as he slid quickly down the stairs, Callath saw Devon framed against the dying sunlight, panting as if he had run a long way, before his friend shut the door hard, causing several of the horses to snort and shuffle restlessly, sensing the fear.

Callath supported his friend steadily, sitting him down on one of the lower rungs. The boy looked as if he had seen a ghost, his eyes dark and wide.

"Gods, Devon, but you gave me a shock there. What on earth's wrong with you?"

[ November 02, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-03-2003, 10:13 PM   #19
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Pipe

After Astronomy, an enervated Devon took lunch with Tutor Pearlle in the kitchens. Thinly sliced vegetables and meat marinated in vinegar between two pieces of crispy toast were devoured greedily by the always-hungry youth. He drank his tumbler of water slowly, hoping to postpone his return to the classroom. Pearlle was just as fatigued as his student and sprawled exhaustedly in the high backed chair, a plate of bare fowl bones in front of him.

"I'm feeling a little unwell," Pearlle declared spuriously. "Why don't you run along and we'll make up for it tomorrow, hey?" With a great deal of effort, Devon retained his composure of delight and donned a mask of mock concern.

"Do you require assistance Master Pearlle?" The fat man shook his head deliberately and made a shooing gesture.

"No, no thank you. That won't be necessary you just go on." Standing and nodding respectfully, Devon left the kitchens, resisting the urge to leap in the air and click his heals. He thought of going to the stables for Callath, but decided against it. The stable boy most likely had enough on his hands than to be jeered at by Devon and his newly earned freedom. And Calnan was undoubtedly up to his ears in politics so the youth decided to visit Pollc, the gardener.

Devon picked his way through the wild overgrowth that led to the unkempt parts of the garden where Pollc was supposed to be working to tame the wild flora. The overhanging tree branches and vines that tangled over the brick pathway broke away gradually to reveal an organized section of the gardens where newly planted flowers were revealing their first round of colors.

Devon found the seventy-four year old man perched precariously atop a ladder that leaved against an oak, holding what looked very much like a bird's nest in his hands. Careful not to startle him, the youth kept very quiet as Pollc worked. With the tenderness of a mother with her child, the grey bearded old man placed the nest in the crook of two branches and climbed down carefully. After he'd stepped off the last rung, he sighed and stepped backwards once, and wiped his hands on his leather apron, smiling approvingly up at the secured nest.

"Very nice," Devon whispered cautiously. Pollc turned and squinted his eyes, damaged since childhood, leaving the grounds keeper near blind.

"Oh, Devon," he acknowledge dropping his apron. "Just in time really." Pollc was a rather short old man with a bit of a paunch. He had a kind round face and bright, almost youthful—despite his blindness—blue eyes. His close cut grey beard and chin length grey-white hair gave him a loving, grandfather look. The embassy gardener was easily one of Devon's favorite people. The old man moved to a collapsible wooden table atop which set his toolbox. He reached into the green painted box and withdrew a spade and pair of gloves, handing them to Devon.

"I've been given three score pots of geraniums and marigolds that the ladies have asked the Ambassador to put in the garden. It'll take us the better part of the week to get them all in." Pollc hooked one of his gloved fingers under his grey bearded chin and looked critically around at the newly cleared garden area. "We'll start over there," he said pointing, "and plant them with the geraniums in the back first." Devon rolled up his sleeves and picked up a crate of flowers, moving to where the old man had pointed.

They worked hard but peacefully in the garden until late afternoon, past the time when the sun had begun its evening descent. Devon and Pollc straightened and massaged their sore knee joints and lower back from bending and kneeling. The two looked around approvingly at the progress they'd made and the empty pots stacked up in the wheelbarrow.

"A few more days like this," Pollc said, rubbing the tip of his aquiline nose with a dirty glove, "and we'll have them all in by Thursday at the latest." He stopped then and wrinkled his brow staring in thought. "It is Monday isn't it?" he asked Devon. The youth nodded and peeled his own leather gloves from his sweaty and calloused hands.

"Well, I've got to be back at the house, Pollc," he said, stacking his spade and other things in the toolbox. "I'll try to make it out here again tomorrow if I can." The old man nodded, still looking at his flower arrangements.

"Okay Devon, thanks for your help. See you tomorrow then." The brown-haired boy smiled and shook his head, leaving the old gardener to his red and orange flowers.

Back in his room at the embassy, Devon changed into a clean white shirt with billowy sleeves, pulled on a pair of soft black leather trousers and his favorite pair of broken in boots. "Going somewhere Master Devon?" Adolfe inquired peevishly as the youth buckled on his sword and draped a cloak over his shoulders. The servant stepped into the bedroom, blocking the doorway, and grinned spitefully at his young master. He glanced at the pile of clothes by the tub in the washroom and noticed the dirt stains. "Were you shoveling in dirt in Language classes today?" Devon narrowed his eyes and glared at the pesky man in his slick black hair that was plastered to his head to exaggerate his widow's peak. Then the young man straightened his shoulders and looked at Adolfe levelly.

"I'm going to meet Master Calnan and Master Callath for dinner. Father's given his consent." The servant looked dubious, but stood aside for Devon to walk past him. Once he turned the corner, out of sight of the dark haired man, Thrann quickened his pace and jumped down the stairs as fast as he could without making much noise and fled the embassy. Once in the cool air of that Monday evening, Devon slowed a little and moved at a leisurely pace to meet his friends at the Snifter and Song.

* * *

"Where's Callath and Adeline?" Devon asked when he arrived and seeing only Calnan waiting for him. The attaché shrugged.

"Our young stable hand friend looked very busy when I walked by today," Calnan said taking the two tumblers of ale from the waitress. "He was mucking stalls." Devon winced and took his seat.

"What about Adeline?" The bell at the top of the inn door rang then and the two young men turned as their female friend walked in. They stood as she joined them and took her seat.

"I'll start with a cup of tea please," she told the waitress who had hustled over to get her request. The three enjoyed a good meal even if they were talking mostly of Doran.

"I still say you need to be careful," Calnan stressed to his carefree friend. "Doran is a clever man and he'll stop at nothing. Let's not forget: he is, after all, a pirate." Devon scoffed his friend's insistent warnings and tried unsuccessfully to lighten the conversation. In the end, Adeline was agreeing with Calnan and Devon's mood soured.

"Don't be so glum, Devon," Adeline said, placing a comforting hand on his arm.

"You're both treating me like I'm a little boy! Let's not forget I bested you I a fencing bout just last week Calnan!" His tone was agitated and the attaché shifted in his seat.

"I am not Devon, just be careful." Deciding that now might be a good time to leave, Calnan stood. He reached for his money pouch but Devon stopped him.

"I've got it," he said. "I’m going to be staying a little longer anyways."

"All right, Devon. I'll see you tomorrow." Adeline stayed a little longer and talked of less serious things with Devon to lighten his spirits. It helped a little, but in the end, the young man was still upset about the whole situation with Doran. Adeline sighed wistfully.

"It'll be okay Devon, you'll see." She laid her hand again on his arm. Devon looked at her. She had an unreadable expression on her face and her soft grey eyes sparkled. "It will," she repeated. The youth shrugged slightly.

"I hope so. I really do." Adeline had to go then. She wasn't supposed to be out too late, especially in Umbar.

The inn was clearing out. It was all ready past ten and many of the usual patrons who attended had early jobs in the morning they had to be prepared for. Only a few older men, caught in a heated discussion of politics, were left in the fading of the oil lamps hanging intermittently from rusty iron hooks in the ceiling. Devon lingered still, drinking idly from his fourth tumbler, until Mr. Rheels suggested lightly that he go home and get some sleep. Rising reluctantly and bit dizzily, the youth paid his bill and left the inn.

It all happened rather fast and Devon hadn't even the time to fumble for his sword. There was a thud and a man's grunt as he opened the door and hit somebody. Mumbling earnest apologies, the youth moved to help the person up. That's when the two other men came out from the shadows and attacked. When the ambassador's son caught the face of the shorter man in the light he let a startled shout. It was Agdar! He looked closer at the man he'd hit. He looked familiar and not the friendly sort of familiar either. Realizing what was happening, he took off, running down the street away from the Snifter and Song.

Devon just couldn't believe it. Calnan had been right! Those blasted pirates knew about him and that he had overheard Doran in the alley that night. An attempt on his life! The youth didn't know exactly what their intentions had been but they weren't good. Shaking with fright, he ran on.

He had all ready gone four blocks when he realized that the embassy lay in the other direction. Muttering awful maledictions under his breath, Devon slowed a bit to figure out what he should do. As he looked down the road he caught sight of the long wooden building lighted here and there with oil lamps and torches. It was the stables. Callath! He picked up the pace again and ran, hoping to the gods his friend was still there.

After what seemed like an eternity, Devon reached the stables. He was panting from the run, and he banged desperately on the door. Reaching down, he slid back the rusty latch and opened the door, letting himself in. The shaking youth closed it behind him and leaned against it, trying ineffectively to catch his breath. Callath had slid down the stairs at the sound of the banging and helped his terrified friend over to sit on a ladder rung.

"Gods, Devon, but you gave me a shock there," said the stable hand, nervous himself, at seeing his friend's unsteady condition. "What on earth's wrong with you?" Devon stumbled over himself a few times before he finally got his sentences strung together properly. Carefully and slowly, he told Callath exactly what had happened. His friend let out a low whistle, his face visibly pale.

"You better stay here tonight Devon," he said, climbing back up to the loft. "I'll put out the lights and lock everything up, but it may not be too swell of an idea to head home. They might be waiting for you." Devon nodded and watched as Callath jogged down the hall to lock the doors and extinguish the lighting. Then he climbed up to the loft and sat cross-legged on a hay pile staring into the vacancy of an empty stall below him. He was terrified. No one had ever tried to kill him before. The event had left a terrible feeling in his stomach. Once, even, Devon was sick and had to clean up the mess before Callath got back.

The stable hand returned with two blankets from the tack room and handed one to Devon. "Try to get some sleep mate," he said encouragingly. Devon didn't acknowledge him and his wide frightened eyes stared up at the ceiling from where he lay wrapped rigidly in his tartan blanket. Callath furrowed his brow, unsure of what to do to help his friend. "I’m going to keep watch," he declared, setting up a small lamp on a hook. Devon said nothing but he closed his eyes.

The elder of the two smiled painfully and leaned up against an oak beam. He hummed quietly and watched as the features in the molested youth's faces relaxed and his breathing evened. Finally Devon slept, but only to be plagued by the insalubrious nightmares of ruthless pirates and Agdar's horrible, jeering face.

[ November 04, 2003: Message edited by: maikafanawen ]

[ November 04, 2003: Message edited by: maikafanawen ]
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Old 11-03-2003, 11:52 PM   #20
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Sting

Adeline stood on the chair adjusting the crimson dress as her mother pinned the hem.
"Must I always be your model, Mother?" she asked impatiently.
"Who else would I ask but dear daughter to try on the dresses I make?" the middle-aged woman replied, half smiling as pins stuck out from her mouth.
"Perhaps the customer whom you are making it for?"
"She couldn't make it today. Too busy with her studies, apparently. But there's really no need to bring Lael in. You're exactly her size, you know."
Adeline rolled her eyes. "Don't remind me."
Her mother sighed, inserting the last pin. "Yes, I know you don't like that girl, Adeline, but I'm sure she end up being a better friend than those boys. Why don't you give her a chance?" She took her daughter's hand, helping her off the chair.
"Because," Adeline replied, stepping down, "I don't waste my time with conceited girls like Lael Morston."
"Instead, you waste your time in pubs with boys, like tonight."
"I was not wasting my time," Adeline argued, as she pulled off the silk dress. "It was important converstation we were having."
"Important?"
"Yes," Adeline bent down as her mother unlaced her corset.

Her mind thought back to everything Devon had told her, Callath, and Calnan earlier that day. The news of Jythralo Doran's scheme had not been surprising really; she never did trust the man. But the fact that Devon had been seen alarmed Adeline. She knew that Doran was more clever than to mistaken Devon for a pickpocket. And if indeed this was so, Devon's life was in jeopardy.

"Adeline!" The voice of her mother brought the girl back to attention.
"Hmm?" she mumbled.
"I'm done."
Adeline turned her head towards her mother, giving her a puzzled expression. "What?"
"Your corset," the older woman said irritably.
"Oh," Adeline realized her mother had finished unlacing her corset some time ago and tore it off hurriedly. "Sorry about that," she said, looking apologetic, then glanced over at the clock. "Well, I best be off to bed now. Goodnight, mother." Adeline kissed her mother goodnight before turning towards the stairs.
"Goodnight," the woman replied to her daughter. "And thank you for helping me out. Even though you were out past curfew."
Adeline returned the smile before heading to her bedroom, hesitating slightly. She could not stop thinking about Devon.
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Old 11-05-2003, 12:58 AM   #21
Earendil Halfelven
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Sting

He had just left the Council building after yet another meeting of the council members. The old fools, he thought. The rediculous legislation they propose to pass against the corsair population was the just the thing he needed.
Let them pass those restrictions. They'll have no problem from me.

His carriage was waiting as he stepped outside. He inhaled the deep sea air as it wafted over from the harbor. How he longed to return to the sea, with the waves around him, the sails full of wind, the ship cruising through the surf to unkown destinations. He yearned to hear the call from the crow's nest of "Ship off the port bow!" He would then give the order to "raise the black flag-prepare to board" as his men drew their swords and notched their bows with arrows. But, unfortunately, he was stuck within Umbar; stuck on dry land.

At least it is for a good cause-the welfare of his people and their freedom from Gondor. Hopefully, he would see the ocean before his time had ended.

He stepped aboard his carriage, which was driven by his personal driver, a trusted corsair. The driver stepped off and handed him a note, which was sealed and not addressed to anyone, nor did it say who it was from. As the carriage started for home, he opened it and read-

It failed.

Jythralo frowned. How could those fools fail to kidnap the boy? Could they not do something as simple as kidnapping someone? Apparently not. His mind went deep into thought as he slowly tore the note into tiny shreds. When its message was no longer discernible, he dropped the shreds outside the window into the breeze. A new plan began to formulate inside his mind...

When they arrived at his home, he stepped outside. He looked up at the driver and said,"Bring me Acacia."
____________________________________________

He was waiting in his office, as usual, when there was a light knock at the door.
"Enter," he said and in stepped Acacia.

Without a word, she sat down in the chair opposite him. He began-
"As you know, Jurex and Adgar failed."

Acacia opened her mouth to say something, but Jythralo held up his hand. "I know what your going to say. That's why I'm giving you this assignment instead of them."

Jythralo smiled as he continued. "As you know, you have, shall I say, exceptional, looks." Acacia smiled and nodded. "I know," she said.
"You have looks men would do anything for, perhaps die for." He paused. Acacia raised an eyebrow. She was definately interested.

"Pick an inn, any inn. Take two men with you. Use the advantage you have, and make a Gondorian die for those looks."

"What are the two men for?" she asked.

"They will help the Gondorian die for you. I do not want you in the fight that follows. I want you to stay the innocent bystander. Do not get involved and make sure the two men, whomever you choose, act as if they don't know you and that they know that they need to escape afterwards. Also, the witnesses of the fight need to know that the two men are corsairs. That is the most important detail. Understand?"

"Fully," Acacia answered.

"Go."

Acacia quietly shut the door and left Jythralo to his own thoughts. Was she thinking why he wanted two corsairs to kill a Gondorian? Wouldn't that just make the council members more anti-corsair? Of course it would...and that is what he wanted.

He smiled to himself. It didn't really bother him that some innocent man was going to die. A few lives was a small price to pay. Well, now that he thought about it, several lives was a small price to pay.
Jythralo grabbed a few sheets of paper and began preparing a few words for the emergency council meeting that would be called in result of the murder.

There was another knock at the door and in entered a servant.
"Can I get you anything, sir?"

"Yes. How about a...a big mug of ale. That would do just fine. And, get me Jurex and Adgar." As an afterthought, he added,"And get yourself an ale also. You look like you could use one."

[ November 05, 2003: Message edited by: Earendil Halfelven ]
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Old 11-05-2003, 07:26 AM   #22
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Shield

A flickering mix of yellow and blue light cast exposing shafts upon the equally rotting and gnarled wood of a small cloistered room at the top of the Low Tide Inn. The dusty space was cluttered with only a small cot, an oblique table, and two worn chairs, one of which was occupied at the moment. Telson hunched awkwardly over the table, doing battle with an unruly piece of parchment and the dim light of the ‘mid-shipman's sweet', which the innkeeper claimed was the finest room he had available. Sighing defeat, he withdrew from a drawer a shabby ink bottle, a slightly disjointed quill, and a crumpled set of notes he had taken earlier that day.

The Innkeeper's son, a boy in his late teens named Culous, had at the bidding of his father and Telson's silver coins shown him some of the lower district, while Telson's quick eyes dutifully took in various forges and warehouses. All in all, his first day in Umbar was fruitful, however by the time darkness hit and Telson returned to the Inn, he was in a daunting struggle to decide which local Umbarian who looked his way had won the contest for the best repulsive stare of the day. So, with a flourish, Telson began to write.

Detail of Supplies and Readiness of the Isle of Umbar. This 25th year of the rein of King Elessar Telcontar of the house of Elendil. 4th age, year 25. (by Gondorian Reckoning)

Readiness Concerning the Lower Districts:


At this Telson paused and absently stroked the end of his quill. "Well, mangy grubs, cantankerous sailors, and soldiers hung out to dry by the war. S'pose they're ready as they'll ever be." He mumbled and refreshed his quill in ink.

There is, at estimate, over six score men in the lower districts of Umbar who are of age to fight, most of them being veterans of the war against Sauron the Accursed. Given the declaration of marshal law, nearly twice that number could be forced

Furrowing his brows, Telson scratched out the word 'forced'. "Too mean, forcing young boys into service. We're the Reunited Kingdom. I've gotta find a nicer word for that." Chuckling, he replaced forced with 'enlisted' and paused to survey the glistening black ink.

Suddenly, a hard rap on the door disturbed his thoughts. "It's open" Telson called automatically, looking up curiously. The innkeeper with a halo of tatoos about his bald head poked into the room, saying in the coarse voice Telson had come to expect, " I do ‘ope I'm disturbing you, sir, but that meal you requested is almost ready. Would yeh like to sup here or down at the bar?" Giving one disapproving look to the parchment on the table, Telson rose and offered a smile. "I think I'd like to take it somewhere a bit distracting, if that's alright." Nodding with a benign chuckle, the innkeeper began clunking down the stairs again; Telson followed.

At the bar, things were just staring to get lively when Telson arrived and sunk into a particularly comfortable lopsided chair. He studied the various cases of rum as the fleeting broad back of the bartender wandered into a back room he assumed was the kitchen. A prickling sensation coursed through the back of his neck, and out of the corner of his eyes he noted a new party sitting down at a table near the bar. There were about eight of them, all tolled in assorted states of shabbiness. A broad shouldered, greasy blond-haired man who seem to be holding court among them gazed appraisingly at Telson for a moment, before giving him a nod returning conspiratorially to his fellows.

After a minute, a very pretty, dark-haired woman sat down to join them, but not before giving Telson a thoughtful glance of her own. Feeling as though he had passed some kind of test, Telson looked back to the shelf of rum, and feeling his lips twitch back into a smile, nodded as Culous came bounding out of the kitchen with his food. Admittedly, the steak he ordered looked less than desirable, but Telson began eating with wholehearted enthusiasm all the same.

About five large bites into what he would later call ‘the beef that tastes like chicken', a bright eyed, pink-faced man ambled into the chair beside Telson's and called for a drink. Twitching with a sort of nervous energy, the man addressed Telson with a lilt that suggested this was not the first bar he had frequented this night, " ‘Lo, friend. Is that any good?" He said, pointing to the steak. Spending only a moment evaluating his answer, Telson replied, "If you're hungry." The man gwaffed and shook his head. "S'pose so. But for me it's a thirst needs taking care of." Telson laughed, gesturing at the bar, "Go right ahead, good sir." "Sir?" The man looked puzzled, then shook his head. "I'm a lot o' things, Mr., but I ain't a sir." Cutting another piece of meat, Telson replied, "Cry your pardon, then, Mr..?" He let his voice trail off into nothing. "Predd" Came the prompt reply. "Tomis Predd."

Spearing a piece of meat, Telson answered, "In that case, a pleasure, Mr. Predd." The man, who by this time had been served a drink, was now too happily absorbed in his tankard to respond. Telson finished his plate without another word, and Tomis Predd didn't seemed to mind one bit, now tackling his fifth stein. At this point, the woman appeared and began talking in low dulcet tones to him. Soon, she had both a drink and a plate of something Telson supposed was soup. The greasy blond who had noticed Telson toward the beginning of the night now sat down opposite Predd along with another man with deep brown eyes and skin to match. Telson gave him a reciprocatory nutation and called for a brew. "Was yours good too, friend?" Startled, Telson looked at Predd, whom he thought was done talking with him. "Again, only if you're hungry, which I was, so yes, the food was fine." It took Predd a minute to soak that up, but once he had he burst into unchecked giggles.

"Well, what else can you say about Corsair food, or what they pass for it, hay?" If not for the two men now glaring at the bar and another six that Telson didn't need to see to know that they were now keenly interested, he might have laughed; But Telson only scowled at Predd and the woman who was now whispering in a most intimate fashion to him. "Now, that's rather harsh, friend." He said reprovingly. The greasy blond-haired man shot him another look, and then stared very intensely at Predd, who seemed oblivious to the whole thing. "What, pray tell master Predd, do corsairs pass off as food?" Asked the brown man in a voice so cool and quiet, it was dangerous after the woman had gotten gracefully to her feet, leaving Predd to stare longingly back at her. "Why, that's simple," Predd chuckled heavily, still gazing at the woman walking out the door. "Vermin eat vermin, do they not?" He finished as if it was the most logical thing in the world. Telson winced.

As one, the other six men seated around the table, along with at least seven other Gondorians Telson hadn't noticed converged on the bar. The Innkeeper and his son both look rather unnerved, and sensing a storm, Telson surrendered his seat next to Predd to a burly sailor with unforgiving green eyes. Braking into a near run, he dashed up the stairs for his belt, and more importantly his swords. A round of cries arose from below the mid-shipman's sweet, and Telson knew that the situation was now beyond him alone, and that fighting would only get him in trouble.

But I can still bluff like nothing they've ever seen

Now armed, Telson hurtled back down the stairs into complete chaos. At least three separate brawls were taking place, and as he dodged artfully between fights, Telson noticed with a grimace a bloody body slung over the bar. Predd. Slipping out the door and onto the eerily quiet street, Telson took a moment to exhale and straiten himself up. After licking his lips and twitching quietly for a instant, Telson drew his two short swords, swung the in a preemptive arch, inhaled, and kicked the door to the inn open in an effort to create as much noise as possible. "All right, hold up scum or I'll run you all though!' He bellowed for all the world as if he had the authority to call at least thirteen men who much larger than him scum.

But it worked. Someone shouted, "Run!" and most of the men including the greasy-haired blond made frantically for the nearest available exit. However, suddenly the brown skinned man rushed him, but Telson merely sidestepped and laughed when the man bumped headlong into the doorpost. In any environment, grown men scampering hastily out of windows will attract attention, and the fight at the Low Tide Inn was no exception. By the time Telson had walked comfortably up the stairs and disappeared into his room for a bit of light reading, the proper authorities had arrived and broken up the last of the skirmishes.
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Old 11-05-2003, 08:22 AM   #23
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Sting

Jurex's lazy eyes flicked over the seen before him, coming to rest on the nervously pacing form of Adgar. The two men had been summoned by Jythralo, and they both knew why; to explain their failure in the kidnapping attempt. But after conversing with the servent that had quickly left to find his master, they had waited for nearly half an hour. Perhaps he is letting us sweat it out; cunning old devil that he is.

But by the time that the servant reappeared, telling them that they could enter, a plan had formed in the willy corsair's mind. Before entering the house, Jurex turned and spoke to Adgar in his best impression of a friendly voice emphasizing comradery. "Wait outside, Adgar. I'll take the heat, it was my fault anyway."

Shameless, the corsair grabbed his hand and shook it violently. "Thanke, thanke, mate! It may save me life!"

Aye, and mine too. A biased tale with no one to contradict me in the room may certainly simplify matters.

____________________________________________

Jythralo sat back, digesting the report which Jurex had given him. The other corsair paced slowly, toying with the handle on his favorite dagger, and attempting to give off an air of honesty and trust. "It was that buffoon Adgar; tell me, sir, why did you ever send him with me. I would have handled the matter in a much more efficient fasion, and ended our problems forever."

The man noddded slowly. "I will take notice of your words, and perhaps refer to them when I reassign you for your next mission. After, of course, I toast Adgar. Send him up to me as you leave."

____________________________________________


"Well, what did he say, mate?"

Jurex chuckled and patted him on the back. "He's sure not mad, matey. In fact, he paid me, and I think he'll give you something, too! Hurry up to him, he wants to see you."

As Adgar dashed up to the office, Jurex ambled down the street laughing outloud. "Aye, matey, you go and get whats comming to you!"

[ November 05, 2003: Message edited by: Himaran ]
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Old 11-05-2003, 01:47 PM   #24
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Question

"Go."

Acacia left Jythralo’s quickly and hurriedly made her way towards the corsair-inhabited area of Umbar. The two sides seemed to have evidently split over the few years and it was in poorest areas that the corsairs were found. Acacia veered of the busy main road and made her way down an ally way. Several children were playing out in the muddy streets and unconcerned young mothers sat in their doorways talking in hushed tones. Acacia glanced over them. She would of hated to have ended up like this, it would have been death for her.

Acacia slowed as she came to a door that was shut. The dark wood was wet with moisture and the handle rusty from the sea’s salty winds. She knocked on it lightly; several locks were opened before she was able to see the figure in the door.

“Acacia,” the man said slyly, “how nice of you to visit, how long has it been?”

“Too long,” She smiled stepping inside the candle lit hall. The man quickly looked outside and shut the door. “Still paranoid Russ?” She commented while walking into the room straight ahead. The room on the left had the soft hum of voices emitting from it, but Acacia proceeded to the kitchen.

“Aye, you could say that.” He said following her after locking the door. His dark hair fell to his shoulders, and a moustache covered his upper lip. His grey eyes looked weary and tired but his handsome face and built figure seemed to draw her eyes away from his weariness.

“A drink?”

“No,” she paused and leaned against the wall, “ Russ I need two of you men.”

“Ah, so its business. Not a social visit then?”

“Yes business, business for Jythralo.”

“Oh?” He said raising an eyebrow while poring a glass of rum for himself.

“You will undoubtedly find out.”

“I’m sure I will. I trust this will help our cause.”

“You know I trust Jythralo deeply. No doubt this will help our cause.”

“I wish I were as confident as you.” He said as he went off into another room.

Acacia sighed. Russ never seemed to trust anyone. It was a wonder at all why he trusted her. She moved to the other end of the dank room and tapped the wood that boarded up the windows. The stove was heating something in a pot and the immense cabinet that spread across the wall on he right was filled with drinks and a few poisons. Russ was always the man to come to when either you wanted to hire a few men or wanted a good poison. The cabinet shook slightly as Russ entered with two men.

One was greasy, blonde haired and was of medium build, the other darker in skin tone and of a smaller build.

“Vernt,” Russ said pointing to the blonde, “and Malc,” pointing to the other.

They both nodded to Acacia and she smiled. “Excellent, thank you Russ. It seems I owe you something.”

“Acacia anything for you, but if you would not mind it seems I am running low on some supplies.” His eyes drifted to the cabinet.

“Ah yes,” she smiled walking to the door followed by the three men. “I will send Blaine over in the morning, she will get everything that you need.”

“Thank you,” he said unlocking the door and letting the three out into the street. The two embraced and then the door was shut again.

“Right,” she said as they walked down the dark alley. No longer were the children still playing, but hushed voices could still be heard. “Any ideas for an Inn?”

“Low tide?” said one of the men. Acacia smiled. They headed off in the Inn’s direction. On the way Acacia briefed the men on what was to happen. Thankfully Russ had supplied her with intelligent as well as deadly men. They went in before her. For a few minutes she tarried outside and the finally entered. And my victim will be…. she looked around the room momentarily…..you.

She made her way over a table. She would bide her time and do this slowly. No mistakes, she did not want to report another blunder to Jythralo. This was important. For a about half an hour she laughed and joked with the men at her table, but always she kept her eyes on the man she had chosen. When she felt the time was right she crossed the bar and seated her self next to him.

The next few moments passed by hurriedly as she started to whisper in his ear. The mans eyes brightened, and so she took to sitting her self on his lap. And so it continued. So he was so distracted with her, he almost forgot what he was saying. Vernt and Malc made their way over to the table at her sign and then she was off after a few more minutes.

She was done for the night.
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Old 11-05-2003, 02:01 PM   #25
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"Devon. Devon, wake up." Callath tried to wake his friend gently, speaking softly. But Devon, it appeared, was an even deeper sleeper than he'd thought - he hadn't thought his friend would be, bearing in mind the way he had been tossing and turning that night. But now Devon seemed to be sleeping far more peacefully, and hadn't moved in a few hours, save to turn over a few times, his face wearing only the mild traces of a frown. Callath should have woken him far earlier, he knew, but after an experience of such obvious trauma last night, he figured he would let the younger boy sleep, even though he'd been woken at dawn by the light through the top stable window, where the bucket hook was, and where he had kept a watch for a least most of the night, waking guiltily to find he had dosed off somewhere in the small hours, head slumped on chest.

Still, the sun was at its peak now, and if for no other reason, Devon's teacher Pearlle would have a fit if Devon was late. The lessons should start in about an hour and a half... Kneeling down on one knee, he leant forward, reaching one hand towards the younger boy's shoulder. "Devon, come on, wake u-"

But as soon as the stable boy's hand touched Devon's shoulder, the Ambassador's son's hand shot out with the speed of a reflex, his fingers closing around Callath's wrist and his eyes snapping open, gasping sharply, his and reaching to his belt where he kept a knife, having taken off his sword last night.

Callath kept his hand very still and after a second, Devon's hand stopped it's passage to his belt and his eyes cleared. He let go of Callath's hand quickly, blushing and apologising. "Oh! Callath, geez, I didn't...I didn't realise, you know...I wasnt...well, it was-"

Callath simply smiled, not mockingly, but genuinely, rising and turning to the space above the bucket hook and miming opening some curtains quickly, and putting on a querulous, feminine voice. "Wakey wakey, rise and shine, the new day has begun!" He grinned, arms crossed, at Devon, whose mouth was hanging open at the height of the sun as he scrambled quickly to his feet, reaching for his sword belt. "Callath, its midday!"

"Mmm hmm. I know. I've been working with the horses and that...creature..." he said, implying Duran's stallion, now munching haughtily on some hay below and the the left of where they stood. "...all morning, while some of us just laze around..." He was still grinning.

Devon raised an eyebrow, starting down the slanted ladder. "Yeah, very funny - why in perdition didn't you wake me?!"

Callath's voice wasn't mocking when he spoke, but kind. "I figured you needed to sleep, after..." he trailed off, his eyes wandering to Hathil, who was walking towards the stable door, whistling cheerily. "You know."

Devon paused, then nodded and, after a second, smiled. "Thanks. I can't believe-" now it was Devon's turn to stop as he looked outside at one of the other stable boys, who had just run across the yard and was talking excitedly to Hathil, his face flushed, both excited and panicked at the same time. Callath came out into the sunlight, greeting both of them.

"G'morning youse - whats the panic?" He was smiling at them inquiringly, but inside, his heart was beginning to beat faster with some sense of foreboding.

The second stable boy, Connor, turned to him, his cheeks red from running, speaking hastily between breaths. "At the Low Tide Inn...there was a brawl...the corsairs were-"

"Corsairs?" Devon's eyebrows shot up as he too came out. Connor stopped in his flow, confused as to why the Ambassador's son should be here, before nodding and continuing.

"Aye, Corsairs! And they...there was a murder!"

"What?!" Callath saw Devon's eyes widen and knew he had to ask.

"A Gondorian! They killed a Gondorian!"

[ November 06, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-06-2003, 08:25 PM   #26
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Pipe

Hessa raced gaily down the stairs, skipping every other step and raising her dress just a little, so that the hem would not trail on the dirty flooring. Stopping at the doorway, she picked up a basket that stood in a niche in the wall, catching a glance at herself in the broken glass next to her. She put down the basket again, pausing for a moment to peer at herself critically, and then, picking it up again, opened the door quietly and half ran outside.

There, the sun was shining brightly in the bright sky, coming through the billowy white clouds which peppered it. She squinted as she looked at it, and then, slowing down her pace to a sedate step, which, she deemed, was more proper than her joyful dash of the minute before. Walking down the street, she looked up cheerfully, seeing only the hopefully enjoyable trip to the market in her mind, having long ago learned to disgreagard the grimy cobblestones of the street and the pasty faces pressed against the second floor windows.

Soon the street widened, seeming to grow from a thin alleyway to a broad courtyeard in minutes. It became cleaner, if only slightly, and the noises changed from the hushed ones Hess had been hearing only a few minutes before to the shrill tones of bargaining traders and customers, the shriller ones of aging matrons, the animated ones of flirting young women, rough ones of tipsy young men... here, the crying of an infant, there, a groan.

Hessa smiled slightly. This was the world she knew and enjoyed living in. She stopped for a moment, her hand suspended in midair, the empty basket dangling on her arm. So unlike the world I do live in most of the time, she thought. But, guiltily, she added, her lips shaping the words: But my mother holds me to that world, and for her I will be a part of it... And, throwing off all serious thoughts, she craned her neck over to the left, rising on her tip-toes to try to see over the heads of the taller people in the crowd that she had wandered into, finally catching view of a clique of girls she knew, and remembering where they sat as she walked on to the screaming vendors.

When Hess re-emerged from the crowd, her basket and her ears were full, and she looked decidedly more lively. Mulling over the latest gossip and news in her head, she let herself drift towards the group she had spotted earlier, realizing that it had grown significantly since then, now accomodating quite a few acquaintances of hers, most of whom waved cheerily to her as she joined into the circle, a few glaring icily from under daintily lowered eyelashes.

She was introduced to a few obviously drunk young men and women, and some other characters who lurked rather quietly at the back of their group, all of this with the noisiness and boistierousness characteristic to all of Hess’s “marketplace friends.” She listened, smiling, laughing, flirting, adding a comment here and there, to the chatter and gossip of her various “associates,” as she jokingly called them sometimes.

Suddenly, she caught a clip of serious conversation among the gossip and humorous chat. Narrowing her eyes slightly, she cocked her head, as daintily as she could, towards the source of these sounds. Her eyebrows raised, she leaned in, making a path between some already half-reclining young not-quite-gentlemen with glazed eyes, who stared after her for a moment, which at any other time she would have found flattering… but now, she was completely absorbed in what her friend was saying. “Jerel,” she asked, “could you start again? I’m afraid I missed the beginning of your story.” Smiling good-naturedly, he did so.

She had heard enough after a minute, and, excusing herself quickly, hugging Jerel, and was hurrying back home, her nails digging into her palms, leaving dark scratches behind them. What is this? she wondered. Will there be a revolt? What could the consequences of a bar brawl realistically be? But it was a Gondorian death... Her lip curved into an ironic smile as she visualized what the pay-off for a Corsair death would be. A small trial, perhaps? A jail sentence of a few years? But here... she shuddered to think what hell could break loose. The corsairs might suffer... and, of course, there was nothing she could do against it anyway. Perhaps she should have stayed and heard the rest of the city gossip, instead of mulling unnecessarily against events she had no power to change...

She jerked slightly as she realized she had reached her own doors. Walking in, she remembered that she had left her basket back at the market. Would Mother yell? She winced. It hurt her when she yelled, mostly because she could see the effort it took… She walked in, knocking on her mother’s door. “Mama?” she called. No reply. She knocked again, calling louder. Ah well, perhaps she had fallen asleep...I’ll go straighten the covers, maybe... Hess opened the door, blinking, trying to get used to the barely lit room. Something looked a bit wrong... as her eyes adjusted to the darkness and circles swirled away in her head, she realized that her mother was lying at a terribly odd angle on the bed, her breathing shallow, her eyes closing and opening too fast... she ran towards her, uneasy, and grabbed her mother’s hands, breathing a sigh of relief when she realized that they were still warm, and there was a pulse. Pushing her under the covers, almost roughly, she half slid down the wall, her head resting against the thankfully cool metal of the mirror-grame. What am I to do? she wondered. What now?

[ November 06, 2003: Message edited by: GaladrieloftheOlden ]
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Old 11-07-2003, 07:05 PM   #27
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Pipe

Maurice was wrapped in a tangle of bed sheets when they came. A childish grin was on his face as he dreamt and the general snickered when he batted playfully at the servant who tried to wake him.

"My Lord," the bed-clothed servant cajoled patiently. "There's a matter of extreme importance the governors wish to discuss with you immediately." The ambassador stirred and opened one eye, irritated.

"What time is it?" he asked his man tersely.

The servant straitened. "It is one o'clock in the morning my lord." Maurice sat up, his groggy eyes clouded with annoyance and his hair and nightdress askew.

"What do you mean by coming in my chamber and waking me at such an hour?" he demanded bumblingly.

"We are, uh, sorry to disturb you, your grace," General Atam Forest said with a touch of humor in his tone as he appraised the ambassador. "But there is an emergency. A brawl occurred at an inn in town and there was a Gondorian death. Witnesses have been apprehended. Turns out the corsairs are heavily involved. We even have reasons to suspect that it was planned." He expected Maurice to jerk to attention at his final, however, untrue suggestion. The ambassador however had just swung his legs over the side of his enormous bed and bellowed unnecessarily for his servant to bring him a chamber pot. The general pulled his mouth back in disgust and moved to the door. He regarded Thrann with a remorseful look before he spoke again. "We'll await your presence in the assembly hall. The officials of the city wait within." He bowed his head in respect and withdrew alone, closing the door behind him. "They came at once without complaint," he spoke through gritted teeth at the tapestry on the door. Then he turned on his heavy booted heal and marched down the corridor to the hall.

* * *

"His name was Tomis Predd: a shipman on the newly arrived merchant ship The Rhondar Soft. His identification was supplied by an accomplice crew member dining in his whereabouts at the time of his death," the bailiff paused as a rough looking sailor stood and approached the table lined with officials: the ambassador seated in the center. "He comes to testify and bear witness against the slaughter of his comrade." The blue-robed man turned and faced the sailor. "State your name for his grace, Ambassador Thrann."

He coughed and cleared his throat before speaking in a deep, scratchy voice. "Omar Touriff," he boomed unintentionally. The echo caught him off guard and he flinched, looking up at the ceiling and walls slightly alarmed. Those crowded in the hall (all with weary faces and ruffled appearance) started also and the bailiff waited for the rustling to die down before he began again.

"Relay for the ambassador just exactly what you saw." Touriff nodded, and bit more quietly this time, addressed the officials before him, telling them what had happened in the Low Tide Inn.

"I gone wit Predd, af'er da ship 'ad docked, for a bite ta e't. We'd'a sat dun at da table an- 'ad begun ta talk wen soon aft'a-wards, we'd'a got inta uhn argyament. 'Ee dundn't put up well wit argyaments an- 'ee lef' da table quick ta' go 'n sit at da bar. I dun't know wut 'ee said ta tha' man 'ee was talkin' ta, but afta-awhile a fine lookin' woman came 'n sat wit him." The bailiff held up a hand for him to pause as Udeari, the sinuous official with thin brown hair and beady black eyes voiced an inquiry.

"This man he was speaking with. Do you know who he was?" The sailor shook his head, brow furrowed. "Naw. I ne'er seen him befar." The man beside Udeari, leaned forward and lowered his voice as he spoke. Udeari nodded.

"What did he look like then man?" The sailor shuffled his feet and stared at the table hard, trying to remember. "Well, ah, 'ee'uz tall, I guess, and dark 'air and dark eyes. Broad around tha shoulders, not too tall." The official rolled his eyes at Touriff's contradiction.

"Nevermind, continue with the story."

"Well, I did'na look much afta- that," Omar said. "Muh food 'ad come, see? Anyway, she left not long afta and two men sat dun next ta' 'im. One'uz big and blond colored like, and tha 'udder was bit shorta 'n dark skinned. They wuddn't bein' too friendly ta 'im I culd see. I smelt trouble then. I was gunna stan' and get 'im, tell 'im it'uz time'a go, but they'da already 'ttacked 'im. 'Cept there waz six er seven more by 'en. It was mad 'n e'eryone 'uz runnin'. By tha time I got to tha bar, Predd 'uz dead." The man stopped and rubbed at his forehead, obviously upset at his friend's death. "I can't figur out why they dun it. 'Ee hadn'ta really dun nothin'. An' it'uz so many o' 'em. Jus' came at 'im." He stopped as something dawned on him and his expression became perplexed. "It 'uz like—like they'da planned it."

"That's enough Mr. Touriff," Doran said rising and nodding. A grim expression was on his face and his eyes were alight with readiness as he addressed the gathered. "We've heard what we've needed and it's just what we expected! The rebels and traitors have begun their revolution. Unhappy with the mercy and tolerance the king's officials and delegates have bestowed upon them, they've begun an uprising. The streets have been murmuring a warning of danger for weeks now. Shifty eyes have been scanning the city, mapping out the alleys and sewers, waiting for a sign to attack."

He set his tongue behind his teeth, watching the faces, and waiting for some sign that they believed this glorious man who stood before them. This man with unmatchable honor to the kingdom who had 'Saved him from his wickedness' and 'changed his ways for good'. He grinned inwardly and slammed his fist down on the mahogany table, sending a boom and a shiver through the hall.

"IT IS TIME!" he bellowed. "THEY HAVE BEGUN! And we have sat back idly in our pomp and comfort letting them. WE! We who sit in our satin and velvet, drinking intoxicating wine and enjoying frivolous delights. 'Who can the people of Umbar turn if not to their government?' the corsair rebels would have said. 'See? See them lounging in their parlors and conservatories, dwindling away, and leaving the streets swarming with sin and transgression?'"

Doran was moving now, walking down in front of the table, fixing the people with a harsh and accusing eye. "Any excuse they would have mustered. Any lie they would have woven to get the hate moving again, to get the desire of overthrow running through those pirates' veins. They have put into play a game. They have moved out their pawns and developed their pieces, strategically placing into our midst traitors and spies!" His voice carried up through the rafters and his words were absorbed by ever ear and left their haunting mark in every soul. His silence spoke to them of the salutary neglect they had initiated that had allowed this appalling government failure in Umbar. When he spoke again, his voice was a soft, reproachful whisper. "We did nothing and we have paid."

His expression changed to a brighter but still determined façade. "The gods are not unforgiving," he continued, moving now to stand before the attaché deputation under the large, east window. "We have precious time left, but time it is. We have been granted the hours here to decide what to do, how to solve this unexpected revolt. So let us be thankful. Let us use this time profitably and take an iron hand approach to smite out every smoldering flame that burns in the mutinous minds of the corsairs. Their disloyal kind have no place here in the kingdom of Gondor, under Elessar. It is our DUTY to keep this land pure. If we fail here," he said jabbing at the oak railing with his finger. "If we fail, right now. Umbar, under Gondorian sovereignty, will fall back to these heathens. And we will have failed the king who had saved us from Sauron's wrath. Is this how we thank him? Is this, how we honor such an awe-inspiring king?" He inhaled sharply and looked with a convincing mixture of reproach and loathing at the failures setting before him. He shook his head slowly, gleaning every drop of drama into his act. This must work!

"I was once a part of this wretchedness," he reminded them painfully. "I was once a part of this desecration. But I converted to the protection, and the majesty of the greater good, the greater power of Gondor. I stood here, gentlemen, five years ago, and declared my wrongdoings and treacherousness to be a part, a part of this magnificence. Was I wrong in thinking that Gondor was so true and steadfast?" he demanded of them. "Was I mistaken? I hope to the gods I was not. What a fool I'd prove to be." Doran chuckled spitefully. He stepped over the two stairs again to the table where the ambassador sat. "But I know," he said, looking right at the most powerful men, leaning over their table. "I know, I was right. I know that Gondor will always be the greatest good. It is up to us to prove it now.

"It is up to us," he repeated turning again to the gathered. "To prove, that Gondor! will forever triumph over calamity! Hear me now! and rise to Gondor's aid. Extend your hand and your sword! For she calls upon her sons to protect her common children. And I know!" his voice filled the hall and a glow of radiance shone on every man's face, the taste of victory on their lustful tongues. "I know, that we will answer her call!" Now he drew his own sword and lifted it over his head. "We will unite and obliterate this madness arisen in the common inns under the befouling hand of the corsairs! For we are the mighty Gondorians! Invincible under the guiding hand of Elessar and prized in the eyes of all the gods! We will be VICTORIOUS!!" A shout arose from the men gathered and swords were unsheathed and thrust into the air like a thousand spires jutting from the battlements of Minas Tirith herself.

Doran settled back, immensely pleased with the effect of his virtually meaningless words. Too easy, had it been, to take a simple bar brawl and twist it into an open act of rebellion. Everything would play into it once Jurex and the others got a move on. But even Doran was pleasantly impressed at how easy it had been. A nobleman could be cajoled into anything with a good speech and a few words like 'victory', 'triumphant', or 'bravery'. He was even a bit nervous...

"You have spirited words, Doran," the ambassador congratulated, standing. "And his counsel has not fallen upon deaf ears. We will meet this foe, even though they were accepted as our brothers. It will break my heart to decree against them, but, as Doran said, for the greater good, it must be so."

The regulations were drawn up and signed. The guards were summoned and informed of the situation and new laws. The process of obliterating the rebellion was implemented and immediate steps of precaution were taken.

Suddenly corsairs were being ousted of their homes, their landlords complying with new laws. The ex-pirates roamed the streets in search of employment where none was given. There had always been little food among them, but now there was none. It was only the first day, but things would get worse very fast. In states of panic, men resorted to thievery, looting stores and warehouses for food they didn't need yet, hoping to stack up for the harder days ahead. Arsenals were broken into and swords and daggers were distributed among the corsair peoples with apprehension.

Doran told the ambassador that this would happen and that he would have to counter it with physical actions implemented by the guards. It was the only way to stop it, he said. They would begin to fear the soldiers and obey the laws. Then all would go back to normal. The iron fist, Doran had spoken about, must be executed. It was their lawful duty. So the ambassador consented and gave unconsciously in to Doran's 'suggestions'. Through Thrann, the corsair captain was slowly taking apart Umbar, stone by crumbling stone.

* * *

The general hadn't been fooled by Doran's words. He hadn't ever trusted this man. But when he saw the support the mob had given him, he became nervous. There was nothing he could do. His men were foolhardy and young. Ready and eager for a battle they'd lose. Forest rubbed at his eyes, trying to think of what he should do, trying to fight his god-awful headache. In the end he decided that Doran was too powerful a mean. Forest realized that the captain had given everything he had into this and that nothing was going to stop him. A terrible feeling of hopelessness dawned on him and he began to shake. He had been afraid lots of times, but not like this. Other times he had been afraid of things and able to fight them. Now the fear came from within. It came from his incapability to counter Doran's moves.

The general fled that afternoon, taking his horse and fleeing south, hoping to meet up with the Harad Road and take it north to Gondor. He told himself that he was going for help and that it wasn't really cowardly retreat after all. But deep inside he knew that he would never face the king. For Elessar would surely see the weakness within him and be disappointed.

Forest's troubles were taken care of him ten leagues out of Umbar. He rode with a panic through the hot, dead lands, hoping, praying to reach some sort of inn that would offer him food. His mind was full of such terror, that assassination hadn't even entered his thoughts. He had assumed Doran's cleverness stopped at a point. The captain had no reason to suspect him, he'd thought. So the arrow came unexpected from behind the dune and struck the general soundly in his heart. Killing him instantly. Doran had known that General Forest might be a threat and had moved to eradicate him soundly. After burying the body and catching the horse, the captain's man mounted and loped back through the savanna towards Umbar where stability descended as a barrel being rolled down a ship plank bound for the dock. Anarchy was nearly in place.
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Old 11-11-2003, 09:44 PM   #28
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It was after nine in the evening when Calnan left the Snifter and Song, but in these southern lands the western sky was still shaded with blue. A dull orange streak glowed above the sea, but he only scowled absently at it.

Why did Devon have to be so pig-headed? He was all-fired to convince everyone of his story but refused to take even ordinary precautions. And Doran wasn’t the man to just sit on his hands, waiting for the blow –

Calnan brought up with a jerk. Apparently Devon had convinced him. He had spent the day observing Ambassador Thrann, especially, and looking out for any references to Doran. These deliberate measures had proven what he had long subconsciously acknowledged: Maurice Thrann was completely under the former corsair’s thumb. Not only did he defer to him in all policy questions, but even sought his opinion and advice in almost everything. The subordinate who completely dominated his superior – a perilous situation at any time.

And if Doran is a plotting corsair at heart, Calnan thought, we’ll be in for a world of hurt. Obviously he’s got some plan up his sleeve, and if what Devon heard is right, the blow is just about to fall. What could he be up to?

Calnan sighed. Capable enough of predicting an opponent’s next move in the never-ending intrigue that was politics, he still had no idea what Doran could be up to. There were so many ways one could go about a revolution!

A revolution… Calnan found himself rehashing the practice duel between Devon and him. What if it came to that? He grinned suddenly. Aye, you beat me with the sword. But have you even used a bow? If it weren’t for my job…

Yes, his job. As he turned into the lane where Secretary Ciryatan lived, he levelheadedly assessed his position. Attaché to a deputy secretary, well up in the Gondorian diplomatic circles, valuable connections in Umbar and in Minas Tirith – such were the makings of a good career. But did he want to live the life that went with it?

Two years in Umbar, two years in Minas Tirith. And looking back…what he remembered wasn’t the glittering social functions, the high-powered secret conferences, the feeling of “being in the know.” It was – of all things – the time he was waylaid shortly after his arrival in Umbar, when he had to fight for his life against three thugs who saw only a bookish young Gondorian. It was the time he and Devon were out late, and the younger boy’s impulsive words embroiled them both in a glorious free-for-all that culminated in an exhilarating chase through Umbar’s dark alleys. It was every time he had leisure to catch a ride out of the city, to track and hunt the wary wild game of the desert lands, to use the longbow he was born to bear.

No question about it. This wasn’t the life for him. And the way out may come very soon, Calnan reflected wryly as he turned through the gate.

* * *

After puttering about for a couple of hours, Calnan had finally gotten to bed shortly before midnight. He was just beginning to doze when a clamorous banging at the front door echoed insistently through the house. Quickly pulling on his trousers, Calnan slipped out his bedroom door and pattered barefoot down the stairs.

Ciryatan, in a luxurious silk nightshirt and robe, was just turning away from the door. Calnan heard hoof beats clop away down the drive. “Ah, Calnan,” his employer said, the worried lines on his forehead clearing slightly. “Get dressed – we need to go to the Embassy at once.”

“Yes, sir. What has happened?”

“I don’t know.” The lines returned as he turned away. The secretary wasn’t the most astute of men, but he knew something was wrong in the city. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. And now apparently something had happened.

Calnan took the stairs two at a time. Doran hasn’t wasted any time!

* * *

Later that night – that is, morning – Calnan stood rigidly against the wall in Ambassador Thrann’s assembly room as Jythralo Doran, former corsair captain, gave an impassioned oration in the name of Gondor, advocating the suppression of any last vestige of corsair-ism. Almost unnaturally impassive, Calnan’s lack of expression gave no indication of the fury welling up within. The fiend! The scheming, hypocritical blackguard – does he think he’ll get away with this outrageous load of double-talk?!

Then his eye shifted to the ambassador, and his heart sank. Thrann was drinking in every word, nodding inanely in agreement. This jellyfish won’t even consider rejecting his proposals. Calnan’s fists clenched in silent futility. How many years has he spent in Umbar? You can’t change a corsair by taking his ship! Doesn’t he realize this is calculated exactly to stir them up to insurrection? That’s his plan. It’s going to work, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Or was there? As Thrann stood and congratulated the “former” corsair, Calnan gazed unseeingly at them. Instead of the ambassador, he was seeing…the ambassador’s son.

* * *

The first ray of sunshine that peeped over the high embassy wall shone through the council room window and spread itself across a small table in the middle of the room. Calnan glanced up and wearily blew out the candle by which he had been copying dispatches since the midnight meeting. Only one more paragraph…

Finally finished, he pushed back his chair and got stiffly to his feet. After sending the dispatches by courier to various city officials, he slipped silently along the corridors to Devon’s room before his employer could catch him. Not bothering to knock, he barged straight in. It won’t hurt him to get up early for once. “Devon, wake up. I’ve got something to…” Calnan’s words trailed off.

Devon was not in his room. But instead of being the early bird, he was apparently mimicking the night owl: his bed was still neatly made up, as it was by the housemaid later every morning. Calnan stood clutching the doorknob, feeling as if he’d been hit in the stomach. Had Doran struck here first? He moved faster than I’d thought.

If not, Callath would know. Or else he’ll need to know. Calnan wheeled and lightly sped back down the stairs, but was seen by Ciryatan before he could reach safety in the back rooms. “Come, Calnan, I need you to help me with the report to send to the King. The ship is waiting for it…”

It nearly noon when Calnan again extricated himself from the suddenly distasteful world of parchment and pens. This time he headed straight for the stables. As he neared them, the small figures outside resolved themselves into Callath, a couple other boys, and – thank Eru! – Devon. Slowing to the decorous saunter demanded of a diplomat, Calnan joined the group.

“Good morning, Devon, Callath,” he said, nodding to the other stable boys. A twitch of the eyebrow and a slight inclination of the head were all the signals Callath needed.

“I s’pose I’ll see you fellows later,” he said to his colleagues. “Murder’s exciting, but I’ve still got work to do.” He strode back into the stable. After the others headed off in another direction, presumably to spread the exciting news, Devon and Calnan followed him.

“I suppose you’re talking about Tomis Predd, the Gondorian killed by corsairs last night,” Calnan said abruptly, glancing around to make sure they were alone. As the two nodded, he looked at Devon. “What else happened? You haven’t been home since last night, have you.”

As Devon told about the near-kidnapping, Calnan felt only a deep sense of relief. At least Doran had failed in something. Plus, that attempt to silence the only opposition effectively proved Devon’s story. Now Doran was fully exposed – at least to the three of them, and Adeline would never forgive them if they didn’t tell her.

“But Calnan,” Callath said, “isn’t there something else? You didn’t even care about the murder.”

Of course! How could they know about what else had happened? Calnan told them of the assembly called early that morning, and the regulations Doran’s fiery sermon had inspired. “The corsair population is far from beaten. Doran knows that there’s nothing that will stir up their ferocity like the blatant injustice of these laws!”

A gloom-laden silence fell. Callath broke it. “So now what?”

Devon sprang to his feet. “Now what? Now we do something! We can’t get the government to listen to us, and we can’t do nothing. So we’ve got to stop him ourselves. That’s all there is to it!”

Devon’s face was full of eagerness and the desire to battle it out with the wily corsair captain. Despite his foreboding, Calnan was inspired. Doran wasn’t invincible; he hadn’t put Devon out of action. It would take a lot to stop the four of them.
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Old 11-12-2003, 03:02 PM   #29
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“Now what? Now we do something! We can’t get the government to listen to us, and we can’t do nothing. So we’ve got to stop him ourselves. That’s all there is to it!”

'We do it ourselves?' 'That's all there is to it?' Oh good grief, the same madness as was on Devon has apparently attacked Calnan... Needless to say, Callath was a little less inspired than the other two with the plan to storm every Corsair in Umbar and put them back in their place. Callath gave a small cough, wondering how to phrase his words to cause the minimum offence, then looked up at Calnan, who had turned to him. "We...we do it ourselves?"

To his dismay, the attache seemed truly inspired, his face lit up. "Of course! Doran's two trained thugs couldn't even take down Devon - sorry, Devon," he added hastily, before continuing, "- it'll take alot to stop all four of us!"

Callath winced inwardly, then tried to be diplomatic. "Calnan, that's the thing - there are only four of us. Against Corsair in Umbar! Seriously, try a calculation - half of the sea front districts are almost entirely ex-Corsairs, who will be enraged at these rules and who, therefore, we would be 'against'. How many men - and women - do you reckon that is?"

Calnan's smile faded a little, and both he and Devon suddenly seemed to realise just how much they would be up against. But on Calnan's face the expression which Callath referred to as his 'business' expression was forming, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully as he was about to explain. But Devon was completely fired up again, and Callath rather felt that, although the attache had thought it through, Devon may be back in rebel mode... "We're more than equipped. All of us know how to fight, and with Calnan's knowledge as a secreatary, from inside we can-"

"Do you have a ship?" Callath's comment came out as a little too abrupt, and Devon coloured sharply. Callath tried to speak quickly to allay the obvious offence he had caused, but Devon got there first, his voie rising angrily. "Sounds like you'd rather not do anything."

Now Callath was angry. "Don't be stupid, Devon, you think I want to see the place over-run with the likes of who Doran has proved himself to be? Sly, treacherous backstabbers-"

"I can think of another besides Doran now, Callath."

Callath gave a sharp intake of breath, starting to speak angrily, amazed at the fact Devon could even make the comment, before he stopped. The older boy would not let this escalate - they couldn't be seperated now. He stopped and took a deep breath, the two of them breathing heavily, before the stable boy let out a deep, slow breath. "Sorry, Devon."

"You too, Callath," came the reply, and a small smile, which was returned. Calnan watched impatiently, and butted in now.

"What would you do then, Callath? No really, we need a plan of action."

Callath's mind had started spinning the moment he stopped yelling at Devon, but as for a way to sort things out fully...tapping his lips thoughtfully, Callath thought for a moment, then turned to Devon. "Devon, d'you reckon you would be able to stop your father passing the laws?"

Devon looked contemptuous, then stopped, thoughtfully. "Bear in mind what happened last night...if I told him about that, he would have to believe his own son's word over that of Doran, right?"

Let's hope so. Callath didn't say it aloud, instead nodding. "Go for it."

Devon smiled at Callath, determination written on every line of his face, then started outside the door of the stable. Callath just had to hope Ambassador Thrann wouldn't notice his son hadn't shaved yet this morning. As he turned slowly to look thoughtfully down the interior of the stable, Callath's eyes inadvertently met those of Doran's stallion, who Callath still hadn't mastered.

Calnan, noticing where his gaze was headed, grinned, standing abotu a metre behind his friend. "Doran's horse, right?"

Callath nodded, then shrugged, looking back at Calnan with a wry smile. "If we really get stuck, we can always steal his horse."

Calnan laughed and turned to go out the way Devon had, calling back jokily, "That can be our back-up then, Callath - plan B, steal the enemy's horse!"

Calnan grinned, and turned to go out the door, before Callath remembered something that had slipped his mind and called him quickly. "Calnan, wait! Devon!" Jogging out of the door, he caught up with Calnan only a few steps out, and Devon halfway across the front courtyard. "Adeline!"

Calnan's eyes widened. "Adeline!"

"Indeed," Callath grinned dryly. "I though I'd tell her now when you're off, but best that we all tell her - besides, if we all go to see Ambassador Thrann, we have the weight of your word as well, Calnan." The older boy nodded, before he set off at a quick walk again, with Callath beside them, catching up with Devon, who fell into step beside them. Turning out into the street towards Adeline's house, the three didn't talk for a while, an business-like air of thought and purpose settling around them.

[ November 13, 2003: Message edited by: Amanaduial the archer ]
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Old 11-13-2003, 11:26 PM   #30
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It was 9am. The councilmen had only five hours of sleep, which is what Doran wanted. The less sleep they've had, the better. Now they were back inside the council chamber, ready to pass new laws for Umbar, which had been drawn up by the newly formed Security Council, which included Doran, who had been elected the Chairman of the Security Council and 10 other councilmen who had been voted in earlier that morning.

All the councilmen were seated, and Ambassador Thrann was ready to start the meeting. The sound of the ambassador's gavel hitting its wooden pallet thudded throughout the chamber. His personal secretary stood.

"Emergency session #1 is now beginning. Ambassador Thrann has the floor." The man took his seat as the ambassador cleared his throat.

"As you all know, serious matters within Umbar demand our attention and immediate action. Laws must be passed that will keep these corsairs in order and restore peace to the city. Now we will begin approving of the new bills that have been drawn up by the Security Council."

Thrann reached to a stack of papers that lay on his desk. He took the one off of the top and handed it to his secretary. The man took the bill, stood and said,"First order of business today is-

Security Council Proposition #1
By Order of the Council of Umbar and of the Ambassador:
Every corsair within Umbar, including every man, woman, and child, must wear a badge upon their person in the form of a large, red "C." This shall be sewn upon every article of clothing. This includes, but is not limited to trousers, dresses, jackets, shirts, hats, and all types of underclothing. Any corsair caught without such identification will be fined no less than 100 gold coins and jailed for at least three days. This law shall take effect two days from now, giving the corsairs sufficient time to obtain the proper identification.

The secretary looked around the room to let the bill soak in.
"All those opposed..." Silence. "All those in favor..." The chamber was filled with replies of "yea" and "hear, hear."

"With the unanimous decision of the Council, the proposed bill #1 is now law." The paper was stamped and handed to another man, who left the chamber to add it to the law books. The ambassador handed the secretary the second sheet from the stack.

Security Council Proposition #2...
_____________________________________________

At 12 noon, a crowd had gathered. The rumor around town was that new laws had been passed earlier that morning concerning the corsairs. In the middle of the square, a city guard was reading from a sheet of paper to the crowd-

"...but is not limited to trousers, dresses, jackets, shirts, hats, and all types of underclothing. Any corsair caught without such identification will be fined no less than 100 gold coins and jailed for at least three days. This law shall take effect two days from now, giving the corsairs sufficient time to obtain the proper identification."

"By order of the Ambassador and the Security Council: As of today, any Umbarian citizen who has had connections with the Corsairs of Umbar in the past, it is required that the large, red "C" be stamped on a sheet of paper that must be presented when applying for a job or buying/renting a home, or performing any other type of business. Any person caught not obeying this law will be punished. Punishment includes two days jail time and a 50 gold coin fine."

"By order of the Ambassador and the Security Council: As of today, no corsair or any Umbarian citizen who has had connections with the Corsairs of Umbar will be allowed in inns past the hour of 9 every day."

"By order of the Ambassador and the Security Council: As of today, no Corsair or any Umbarian citizen who has had connections with the Corsairs of Umbar will be allowed to purchase weapons."

"By order of the Ambassador and the Security Council: As of today, city guards will be placed at all the gates and are under strict orders to question any person upon entering Umbar. All immigration from known Corsair towns, villages, cities, and lands is strictly prohibited. Any Corsair caught attempting to enter Umbar will be captured, detained, and sentenced. Any Corsair caught attempting to enter Umbar that does not immediately surrender, will be killed. Also, any Corsair that resides within Umbar as of today must obtain a passport to leave Umbar. Upon re-entrance, if they are not able to present the passport, they will not be allowed back into Umbar."
_____________________________________________

Doran sat in his office, pleased with the days achievements. He could feel Umbar slipping into chaos. Soon, it will be ready for the taking.

Still, he couldn't bear the thought of Devon Thrann knowing his plans. And by now, his closes friends obviously knew. That put Doran at a risk. Though they were only kids, they still knew. They had to be eliminated. But how? Jurex and Agdar had already fouled up one attempt. The boy was now ready for anything. He had sent Jurex on his mission to talk to the corsair population into revolting. Agdar, who had begged Doran to spare his life, was now on a ship. His mission was to prepare Doran's fleet and give Doran's orders to his various captains. All was almost ready.

But Devon still knew. The first time Jurex and Agdar had tried to kidnap him, the boy had run for it. He obviously had not run to his father's house. He had gone somewhere else. But where? Who were his closest friends that he trusted with his own life? Doran had to find out who they were. A plan was forming in his mind, one that possibly included a successful kidnapping and maybe another murder.

He began to write an anonymous letter to Acacia. Today was going to be a good day.
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Old 11-15-2003, 06:31 AM   #31
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There was a harsh knock on her study door that startled Acacia. She rested her white quill on the piece of parchment that she had been writing on and called for the visitor to enter. The door opened with a click and a messenger; dressed in Gondorian attire entered the dimly lit room. He quickly glanced around at his surroundings and shut the door behind him.

“A message.” He said speedily.

“From whom?” She said taking the envelope from him. There was no stamp, so it was anonymous unless the sender had signed their name. But then again the sender might not be that careless. She did not wait for him to reply but bade him farewell and locked the door behind him. She came to rest again on her chair and stared at the envelope for a second, she then proceeded to open it and read.

Follow the boy. Find out who is friends are, his trusted friends. Find out his hiding places, his safe havens. Use any amount of men you need. They are at your disposal as you see fit. Any resources that you need come to me. When you feel the time is right and we know everything, then we shall strike. Take your time and do not fail.

It wasn’t singed, but she knew it was from Jythralo. It was his hand, and who else would send her such a message? Acacia took the letter and held it above the burning flame of the nearest candle; it caught alight and burned brightly. She held it momentarily and then dropped it into a silver bowl that lay on her desk. Although the letter was anonymous she always felt it right to burn any letter that she received concerning Corsair affairs. She was vigilant of what might be found if certain information came to the wrong hands.

Acacia picked up the envelope and burned that also, even though it only had her name upon it. Smoke rose from the silver bowl and curled delicately in the heavy incensed air of the small study. She reminisced on Jythralo’s last words, …. do not fail. She would not fail, she would not let him down, or herself. She had encountered more difficult tasks then trailing a stupid child.

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

The sea breeze blew softly inland. It was mid- morning and Acacia had only just left her estate. She would try and find the boy herself at first. She saw no real use in having any men follow or help her at first until she had established some needed information. Such as who were the boy’s friends? And where did they go. This, she thought would be easy information to gather. Acacia knew many of the people around Umbar and no doubt a few might be able to point her in the right direction. But where to start looking? She thought as she entered the main high street.

It was a normal busy day; everything was customary apart from random posters that were scattered about. The new rules, Acacia smiled to herself. Her head was swimming with delight.

Acacia made her way to the Inn where Jurex and his various accomplices had managed to let the boy escape. She talked to the barman for a while, allowing them to get friendly with each other before she asked about him. She thought it better than asking him straight out. He was Gondorian, and he would obviously think it highly suspicious if Acacia had questioned him about Devon straight on.

“…. So what kind of crowd do you get round here?” She asked absent-mindedly.

“Oh well, the good type I’d say, nothing like that lot on the other side of the city.”

“Oh?” Acacia said raising her eyes to him. She knew he was talking about The Low Tide Inn. But it was conversation.

“Yeah, you know the one.”

“I think I do.” She said nodding and then taking a sip of ale from her tankard. “So who do you get then?”

“Good honest people like. If you understand me. We even get the Ambassadors son and his friends. Great they are, don’t cause me much trouble…”

Acacia nodded as though the comment was a throw away one but her eyes burned mischievously. “His friends?” She asked quietly.

“Oh yeah,” he said while serving another customer, his eyes however were fixed upon her. “There are three of them, a girl and two other lads. I can’t remember their names off the top of my head although I know one works for the Deputy Secretary, smart lad.” The bar man smiled momentarily as though he was proud of the boys friend. Acacia knew who the boy was. She had seen him at council meetings; his name was Calnan Dontel.

“Oh and the other young man and the girl. I do not know that much of them, though I think the girl is Adeline Montrés. Yes in fact she is. You know the girl...” he said looking at the slight confusion on Acacia’s face. She knew exactly who the girl was; the confusion was there just so he would confirm her suspicions. “She is Captain Gareth Montrés daughter. You must have heard of him?” He chortled exasperatedly.

“Yes, I have. The first man to catch Jythralo Doran I believe.” The barman nodded. Acacia paused for a few moments. She knew very well the he had caught Jythralo; she too had almost been caught. But she managed to slip away before he was captured. For the time Jythralo was in jail all she could think of was killing him, or doing something to harm him or his pride. Because of him the ‘repair’ of Umbar began. No longer could she be upon the sea, and no longer could she be a true Corsair.

She stayed a while longer but gathered, no other useful information. As she left she believed she had had a successful day. She had discovered two of the names of his friends and that the other was another boy. However now she felt she would need help trailing them. So she made her way Russ’ place.

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

“Another man?”

“I you would, and one who can blend in. I need him to track some people.” Acacia replied walking into the kitchen. The large cabinet had been restocked with various stuffs Blaine had purchased for Russ.

“People?” He said pouring a glass of rum for her.

“Yes people,” she said hastily taking the glass from him.

“I take it I will not find out who these people are?”

“You will not, at least not yet.”

“Will I have to wait until another fight breaks out?” He eyed her curiously.

“No.” She said simply. He nodded and left the room. It took him a few minutes to return with what he described as a suitable stalker. He looked as normal as any Gondorian, no Cosair in him at all. She stared for a few moments she then briefed him on what to do.

“….do you understand?” She said finally. He nodded and then left with a concise farewell to his employer.

As Russ shut the door behind him he turned to Acacia, “Will you be staying?”

“Yes, I think I will. Well at least until the stalker comes back.” She smiled at him.

“In that case I believe we have a lot to catch up on.”

[ November 15, 2003: Message edited by: Arien ]
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Old 11-15-2003, 06:44 PM   #32
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Devon led his other friends through the chaotic streets of Umbar towards the Montrés townhouse. Bodies were packed tightly into the street protesting, or arguing loudly. Urchins and pickpockets (common in the wealthier parts of town) darted in and out stuffing their loot into pouches hidden beneath their filthy patched tunics. A beggar man dove out from the darkness of one ally to attempt to tackle Devon, grabbing one of his legs in midstride. The brown haired young man whipped out his sword and pointed it at the man's chin. The ambassador's son's eyes were wide, not with panic, but with disbelief. An outright attack in the middle of the day?

"Move back old man," he shouted moving his sword. Mumbling a string of curses on both the man, his sword, and his friends the beggar retreated into the darkness of his ally. Devon sheathed his sword and gave Calnan and Callath a shocked look. "In broad daylight," he commented—more to himself than them. The three turned and moved on, weaving in and out of the angry mob towards the seamstress's shop.

At one point in the road they saw the Gondor-Umbarian guard ushering people into a line in front of collapsible tables set up in the middle of the street. Behind each one sat a scribe with a stack of linen squares, and a jar of blood red paint on each desk. In the hands of each one rested a brush. Devon darted by quickly but got a glimpse of the large red "C" painted on each one. Directly behind the scribes were chairs where people from the line were being told to sit as a harried looking tailor hurriedly sewed the patch on the clothing of each person. As he examined the faces of the people in procession, he noticed a good many of them as exceptionally wealthy people, but all of them had the dark skin and near-black hair of the pirate race. His expression must have betrayed his perplexity when he looked back at Calnan and Callath but both shook their heads vacantly, equally confused.

Ahead a man stood on a raised, hastily constructed platform reading out from a scroll of parchment that had the ambassador's stamp and ribbon hanging from the top handle. The three stopped to listen as the new laws were read. When the crier finished, protestations were shouted loudly above the crowd even though this was the fourth or fifth reading in this area. Devon immediately shot an almost accusing look at Calnan.

"You seemed to have left out something in your relay of what happened in that meeting!" he whispered tensely. Callath looked at him too, equally inquisitive.

"They most likely decided on those at the Security Council meeting," he explained. "Attachés aren't ever included there. It's strictly local government." Devon relaxed visibly but still didn't quite understand. The Security Council would have been held instantaneously for the scribes to be here and made so much progress all ready judging by the healthy number of people in badges all ready. But since time was all ready not among their list of allies, Devon decided to let the matter drop and continue on to Adeline's house.

The sign of the seamstress's shop jutted out over the street from its iron post and hung over the faded blue door that led into the Montrés's sewing shop on the first floor and fine living quarters on the second and third. Devon reached it and knocked loudly. Callath tried to peer through an opening in the curtains drawn on the other side of the street window. He shook his head. The student banged again and shook at the locked handle. The shutters creaked open from the second story window and Adeline's pale, pretty face peered down.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Hold on a moment and I'll be down to let you in." The shutters closed and the three men stood outside the door, looking again at the mob. One disgruntled man brushed by Callath with such force he knocked him over and caused him to step in a puddle of waste. The stable-hand shook the grime from his boot only to be shoved back in again.

"Here now," the flaxen haired boy said, stepping from the puddle for the second time. The man turned and faced him challengingly. He had thick black hair and a scarred, tanned face. Thick eyebrows were pressed over his grey eyes that were burning with anger and his mouth was pulled back into a sneer. At his sides, great fists clenched ready and eager to fly. Callath took all this in very quickly and held up his palms in amity. "My fault," he stammered quickly. "I've got a clumsy step it would seem." The man's eyebrows rose a bit but his fists didn't slacken. He did turn though and continued on his unfortunate path down the street.

"You're as wise as you look, you know that Callath?" Devon said amusingly. The lock on the Montrés's door clicked and Adeline pulled it open beckoning them inside quickly.
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Old 11-16-2003, 07:54 PM   #33
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The noise was remarkable.

During the last few days, Telson had lain low, switching inns each night and observing as Umbar sank deeper and deeper into anarchy. If he learned one thing throughout, it was that humans, and the gods knew what else, was capable of making the most incredible noises at all hours of the day, and more importantly, the night. The only way he found to keep himself amused and as agreeable as possible in the mornings was to read the periodical decrees from the ambassador and the high council, sometimes coupled with the posters for a reward regarding information and the whereabouts of a tall, pale, thin, and long-haired foreigner seen at the Low Tide Inn. It was all the more entertaining because it had been so arduous to cover his tracks in the first place.

On principle he overpaid the bartender and his son to keep quiet, but disguising his appearance, especially since it was included in the letter he was to present to the ambassador, proved a much more difficult task. As vain as Telson was when it came to his hair, cropping it was the first step. Next went his clothing. Deciding that, despite his affinity for his worn brown cloak, while he was in Umbar, he should dress as the Umbarians do; So while his normal cloths gathered dust the bottom of his haversack, he now sported simple, and slightly disheveled, black wears, and carried his shortswords were all could see them. The final step, and the one he prided himself most in, was mud. In a daily ritual he caked his face and all parts of his body that showed to the outside world with a light layer of mud, generally gleaned from around the coastline, to make himself look darker.

Originally he berated himself into thinking the idea was absurd, but it worked so well he was acually stopped and charged with being in league with corsairs, twice. This was also one of the more interesting things Telson learned about Umbar: Men whom he noted were friends the day before, turned on each other and writhed like a pack of enraged rooks in a cage, each fighting tooth and claw to escape, not caring who they hurt in the process. Trying to remain cynically amused became increasingly challenging, even for Telson, who was normally a master of black humor. So it stood that Telson sat on a barrel outside his current inn, The Patched Sail, listlessly listening to the overpowering noise on the street. Disturbing talk of ‘greedy, dirty westmen' and pining for older, darker days reached his ears as Telson shook his head in disgust and thought aloud, " Are they truly willing to trade peace for the days of Sauron of old?"

Surprisingly, he got an answer. " They make the mistake of forgetting Sauron, friend. They dream only of the freedom of the sea they once ruled for him." Telson looked up sharply and saw a balding, well-dressed man holding the door handle to the shop on his right. "Pardon, friend," He said cautiously, eyeing the large red "C" on the man's forearm, "How do you know this?" The older man shrugged. "I was to be one of them like my father, but then the war happened and," He let his voice trail off and waved his arm outward in a sign of strain. "They remember Doran, and how he slipped out of Gondor's grasp so often. They think they can do the same, idiots." He spat in revolt.

"Doran?" Telson echoed, having vaguely remembered the name. "Aye, Jytharo Doran. Once a great corsair captain, now puppet-master of Umbar, or at least that's what I hear."He said, furrowing his brows. "Have ye not heard of him?" "Nay, I haven't." Telson replied, eagerly taking the opportunity to get more information. "So, he controls the isle, you say?" "In this," the man said, gesturing toward the street thrashing with chaotic noise, " No one can say."Telson laughed appreciatively and bade the man good day as he entered the store, but then rose to his feet with new purpose. He strode back into his room, washed his hands and face, put on his old cloths, grabbed his letter, and headed back out the door.

Appointment or not, if a corsair was behind all this, he was going to see the ambassador.
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Old 11-17-2003, 11:49 AM   #34
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"You're as wise as you look, you know that Callath?" Devon grinned mischieviously and Callath pulled a 'oh, haha' face at the comment, wiping his feet vigorously on the mat before going inside the house.

Adeline closed the door quickly behind Callath, the other two having gone in before, and turned to them, her eyes wide. "What on earth is going on down there?" she exclaimed.

"Umbar has gone mad, is what's happened," Callath replied darkly. "They have gone mad and wherever there is danger, 'corsair' is cried. Doran's smarter than we could have expected."

"Doran? He caused..." she gestured outside, mystified, at the noisy cut-throat mob. Calnan nodded. "Almost certainly. Have you not looked outside?"

Adeline shrugged, clearly frustrated - Callath guessed her mother had probably not allowed her out this morning then. "I couldn't see much for the sea of people. I could hear some of it though - the proclamations against Corsairs. Why would Doran behave like that?" She said the last sentence slowly, and Callath could see the smart girl had half-worked out the answer even as she asked the question.

Devon seemed to snap out of a dream and started to explain all they knew as she sound outside grew louder and louder and the expressions of all four youths grew grimmer and grimmer...

[ November 23, 2003: Message edited by: Amanaduial the archer ]
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Old 11-25-2003, 01:41 PM   #35
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Sting

Two days had passed, and among the corsair population, what had at first been mere grumbling and an occasional dark look at a guard had evolved into a string of violence that shocked the occupying force. Guards had been attacked robberies were frequent, and fights in bars a common event. But Jurex knew that the corsairs still needed a push - one that would push them over the brink, and into the dark chasm of murder.

Setting aside his pen, the man surveyed his work. He had forged a fairly accurate copy of one of the recent laws put in place by the council, and the signiture at the bottom could not have been proven false by even the sharpest eye. But a close scan of the document would have found that several changes and additions to the law, which Jurex knew would be quite infuriating to the corsairs of Umbar.

The man checked the document a third time, chuckly to himself inwardly. I wonder why I spend so much valuable time checking for mistakes. Few among my audience can read anyway - the fools. Finally satisfied, the man, (taking the paper with him), left the house and headed for the docks. With luck, a large body of corsairs would have recieved the invitation Acacia had dispersed the night before, and be present to hear him read the "new law."

The time of Umbar's indepence is nearing. We need only a little more time... and it will be over.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 2:56 PM December 24, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-26-2003, 01:22 PM   #36
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He slipped distractedly through the crowd that milled around the streets. Angry Corsairs cursed and shouted at the new laws that were posted on the walls and doors of various buildings. A group had even taken to burning them in piles, their faces full of hate and satisfaction. However the Gondorian Guards who were close by watching soon took them away, where he did not know. But it couldn’t be any place good.

He passed the tables that had been set up for the corsairs to receive their papers. An inkpot lay smashed on the floor and papers were everywhere. It seemed to him that the Gondorians had let themselves in for more than they had bargained for. He smiled momentarily, but his keen eyes were still upon his target in front of him.

Two others accompanied the boy. One would be Calnan, the boy who worked for the Deputy Secretary. Acacia had explained him perfectly; this was an easier job than he thought. The other who was there was around five ten or eleven. He was fair skinned and too had fair hair. From what he could see he had dark eyes and was of a fit build. However there was no Miss Montrés. Maybe Acacia had been informed wrongly.

No matter though, he would keep tailing them. As he moved on through the crowd the three stopped outside what was evidently a house. The door opened momentarily and then they entered the door closing firmly behind them. He rushed forward thinking that he had lost them but then stopped. He had seen where she lived. He had gathered enough information to satisfy Acacia. And so he returned.

++++++++++++++

“I’ll get it,” he said placing his glass of rum on the nearest table and walking out from the room.

Acacia leaned back onto the sofa and played with the pleats in her dress, whilst waiting for Russ to return. She head voices in the hall and stood immediately when she heard the second voice. It was the stalker she had sent out. The two entered the room; Russ went back to his chair and sat down. The other man stood by the door hesitantly.

“What news have you brought?” She said moving round to stand next to Russ. She was anxious to hear of any developments that might have occurred, least to say she was keen to learn of the news she would bring Jythralo. The man bowed momentarily and the stood up.

“You were indeed right, both Miss Montrés and Calnan are his friends. The other boy I do not recognise, but Devon seems to be barely out of company of either of the two maybe even the three. But I did not have chance to see them with the girl. I only caught a glimpse of her when the others entered her house. The Inn that you mentioned, they are seen mostly there and sometimes down on the bay….” He paused.

“Is that all?” Acacia questioned, her hard, cold eyes staring at the man.

“It is all that I could find.”

Acacia sighed, “Then that will do.” She placed a pouch of coins into his hand, and Russ dismissed him from the room; he left without a word and shut the door behind him. Russ took a drink from his glass while Acacia stared for a while thinking.

“I-“

“…Must go,” he said cutting in. “Yes, no doubt I will see you soon?”

“Maybe sooner than you think.” She smiled and left the room, entering the dark corridor. She headed for the front door and unlocked the various bolts from the door.

“Farewell, until later,” he said from behind her as she stepped out on to the dark alley. The door clicked after her and then a series of locks clinked into place. She smiled and made her way to Jythralo’s. She had collected enough information on the boy, but all the same she hoped that he would be pleased. For some strange reason she always took great pleasure in being praised by him.

[ 2:23 PM November 26, 2003: Message edited by: Arien ]
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Old 12-05-2003, 08:54 PM   #37
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Sting

Acacia was well known and liked among the population, and her invitation had not gone unnoticed. A large crowd of corsairs had gathered at an auction podium near the docks, waiting to hear the speaker. He did not keep them waiting for long.

Jurex stepped forward, a roll of paper clenched in his right hand. Allowing it to fall open, the man pointed with brazen defiance at the letters and stamp at the bottem of the page. Without changing his confidant expression an iota, he pulled a knife from his belt and ran it through the document, neatly slicing it in half. Shouts of approval soon greeted his actions.

"This," Jurex roared, "is what should be done to every law made by the pitiful
'council' that controls us. They wish only to destroy our country, our people, and our way of life!"

After waiting for the cheering to subside, he withdrew another document from his pocket. "You have seen the recent legislature created by the fat, lazy and foolish patricians of this city. But what I hold here oversteps any bounds that had previously been broken. This law has only to be signed, and your few remaining freedoms will disappear completely!"

The corsairs quieted now, listening intently. Jurex opened the document and read: "Any corsair, man, woman or child, who does not claim alliegence to the Gondorian Flag will be sentenced to life imprisonment, with loss of all property and possesions."

Screams of rage greeted this addition to his speech. Anti-Gondorian slogans and shouts of "Umbar, Umbar" soon rang throughout the docks. As his final line remained unsaid, Jurex motioned for them to quiet, which took several minutes to accomplish. When silence was finally reached, Jurex read the last section of the "law."

"Under pain of death!"
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Old 12-05-2003, 11:14 PM   #38
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They didn't linger long at the seamstress's house before the four of them made their way to the embassy. The streets were littered still with angry citizens, protesting against the brusqueness of the ambassador's laws. Even Gondorians cast a loathsome eye at the swinging parchment in the official's hands. Corsairs had been employed in their shops, smiths, and other businesses. Maybe commerce would be less hearty now that their employees were branded.

The black iron gates were swung open before the embassy and people streamed in and out. There were many Umbarian protestors and the officials were having a hell of a time trying to keep them from breaking further into the grounds and, Eru forbid, into the house itself. Devon and his friends wormed their way through to the Captain of the Guard and identified themselves. The black-garbed man then stepped aside for them to pass and had to move quickly into place again to stop a man from also squeezing by.

Once inside the embassy, however, their troubles didn't stop. A mediate had arrived and he was admonishing loudly the council's decision to publish the new laws. Politicians were everywhere debating fruitlessly with each other and Devon shook his head in disgust at their uselessness.

Finally, though, he made it to where his father was in the Great Hall. He burst in like a furious gust of wind and drew himself up importantly. Pulling a condescending look, he marched across the marble floor to stand before his father's mahogany desk.

"Devon," the ambassador said sharply. "What are you doing here? Go to your wing and stay there."

"Father," he said, ignoring the man's command. "There is a plot. A plot to overthrown the Gondorian government. The man leading it is Captain Jythralo Doran. I overheard him and Agdar talking in the alley that night father and you didn't believe me. I tell you again now that I have proof of Doran's scheme. He has set before you in a mask of devotion to Gondor and King Elessar but in his heart he is loyal only to the pirates. He has twice tried to be rid of me because he knows that I am aware of his plan--or vaguely aware. Father, I strongly suggest that you withdraw these ridiculous laws. I'm not sure what Doran is trying to do exactly, but I am sure that you are playing right into his hands." Devon stopped and held his breath as he bore into his father's eyes. They were unreadable and he waited to see the reaction. What at last the ambassador spoke, it was not what he expected.

"Devon, you couldn't possibly understand. You were not present at the Council Meeting last night--though I don't know why--and you did not here how passionately Doran spoke against the corsairs. Half of these laws were his idea. We have had to hire guards to protect him from the furies of the corsairs. There have been attempts on his life and many pirates want him eradicated. If Doran is, as you say, doing this as an act of loyalty to his people of late, then why would so many of his supposéd 'allies' be trying to murder him?" Devon stood and stared dumbfounded. Maurice returned his gaze coolly and leaned exhaustedly back in his chair. "My son, it is not wise to meddle in the ways of government unless you have all the facts. It'll will get you no where and give you the name of a fool." The ambassador's son was dumbstruck but Calnan had been paying attention and reached a sensible conclusion.

"Mr. Ambassador, if I may, I believe that the 'attacks' you are referring to against Doran by the pirates may be staged. It is logical." Calnan licked his lips and looked quickly from Devon to Ambassador Thrann. "He wants you and the rest of the councilmen to believe that he is completely honor-bound to Gondor. So he makes a passionate speech and he gives some prequisites for laws that are anti-corsair and to top it all off and really convince you, he stages some assassination attempts."

"It's too awful of a way to go about whatever you say he's trying to do. Some of his ideas for acts were so harsh that we even had to reject them." Calnan exhaled in frustration.

"He knew you'd do that. He knew that you couldn't and wouldn't pass too harsh of a law but he would throw them out there so that you'd see how 'loyal' he was being." Maurice shook his head.

"Your imaginations are too broad and this is not the time for you to put your storybook readings to use. This is very serious. We are facing a state crisis and it's going to take all we have to control it. I trust that I will hear no more of this nonsense about the disloyalties of Captain Doran!"

"Yes?" said a deep, almost soothing voice from the doorway. Everyone present turned to acknowledge the newcomer. It was Doran. The four friends' eyes narrowed and they exchanged angry looks with the corsair.

"Ah! Captain Doran," Maurice greeted standing. "I was just telling my son and his friends about how strongly you are participating in helping us get those pirates under control," he said gesturing outside to the crowded streets. Doran grunted a barely audible 'ah' and moved towards them.

"Well I do my best for my country," he said strongly. The way he carried himself absolutely sickened Devon. He walked with his shoulders bent forward slightly without the haughtiness so common in men of high-ranking, and he emitted a spurious feeling of humbleness. His acting was so good that the young man immediately doubted that he would ever convince his father of the pirate's true nature. The ambassador's son's own shoulders slumped in defeat and he looked helplessly at Calnan. The man returned his gaze and shrugged helplessly.

"Why don't you go find something for your friends and you to eat. And you should clean up as well. My boy didn't you shave this morning?" Devon's hand went to his cheeks and jaw and he felt the bristly stubble developed from his razor's absence. Before any of them could protest further, they were ushered out of the Great Hall and pointed in the directs of the kitchen. The doors were just closing when a lean, sallow-faced man dressed in northern, black leathers and shrouded with a shabby brown cloak strode down the corridors bound for the Great Hall. A guard was trailing after him shouting half-heartedly. Devon immediately understood the official's mild efforts. This advancing man was certainly not someone he'd care to cross with his set façade and the two menacing looking short-swords hanging from his belt. Devon quickly stepped aside and watched curiously as he approached the ambassador and Captain Doran....
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Old 12-06-2003, 09:14 AM   #39
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Callath stiffened as he heard Devon's voice, smooth and deep, but with undertones only the four friends could hear. Honey laced with glass.

Turning with the other three, Callath watched the corsair without a hint of a smile, but carefully keeping any threat out of his eyes as well, and for a second his eyes met those of the Corsair captain and locked.

The captain began to move forward towards the Ambassador's desk as he talked, but neither Calnan or Callath, placed directly between him and the Ambassador, were evidently going to move, so he changed his course towards the window, a look of smooth, perfectly orchestrated worry on his features.

"Why don't you go find something for your friends and you to eat. And you should clean up as well. My boy didn't you shave this morning?" The Ambassador's voice was mild once more, mindful of his advisor's prescence, and Callath shot Devon an encouraging look that said tell him now! But it was too late for any further protestations, and the stable boy knew as well as his friends, and as well as Doran, that it would do not a spot of good, as they were ushered swiftly from the room before they could attemt to spread any further possible discord between Thrann and Doran. Callath glared at the sea Captain's back as they were ushered out, jaw clenched, wishing he had something to say that would incriminate the fraud, when a commotion behind him in the hall caused him, like the others, to turn. A purposeful-looking individual, clad in black and brown clothes and an air of determination, was forging his way down the hall, despite the half-hearted attempts of the resigned-looking guard trailing after him. This was someone Callath would move aside for, and did so quickly, raising an eyebrow at Calnan who shrugged, shaking his head. So he wasn't a council member then, and Callath hadn't seen him around Umbar so, bemused, the stable-boy watched as the tall, lean man approached the Ambassador directly.
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Old 12-07-2003, 04:28 PM   #40
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Shield

If the low districts of Umbar were interminably difficult to navigate, then the high street leading to the Gondorian embassy was simply impossible. Well, for a foreigner at least.

Telson counted himself lucky that he left when he did, else he might be condemned to wander the streets until dawn before he found what he was looking for. Shivering at the thought, he waded through the crowds of people scurrying in directions and to destinations he couldn't possibly imagine. Unlike the lower and middle districts, the high streets were filled horses and carriages and almost devoid of smithies and inns. However, eventually he managed to descry a towering building with a guardhouse and woven iron gates in the front. As he cautiously slunk through, Telson noted a number of men with large red "C"s embroidered on their forearms being quartered off to one side under guard, most of them looking either mutinous or dead scared. Telson shook his head and self-consciously rubbed the back of his hair, not liking the absence of the disgruntled mane that took him at least a year to grow.

It goes against everything Gondor stands for. Everything we've ever fought for. If this is really what we've let Umbar become, then it deserves to fall. Telson himself was surprised by how vehement his thoughts were but did not regret them, and the scorn must have been visible in his eyes when he met the guards at the door. Despite being only a supply officer, Telson could tell the two standing at their were green and undisciplined and would run if a fight turned out of their favor. Waiting to attract their attention until the captain, who did look like a seasoned fighter dressed in armor resembling citadel knights, was busy admonishing a group of angry men behind him, he stepped well into the background of noise and bodies. Striding forward when the time came, Telson faced the door wards.

"Business?" The taller of the asked lazily, looking at him like so much ugly trash. Straitening, he replied stonily, "Representative of Prince Faramir of Ithilien to see Ambassador Thrann of Gondor." They both snorted. "Right then, Mr. Representative, may I have your papers?" The other one said, both of them looking forward to the comic moment when they could prove him false and deal accordingly. Telson smiled, happy to deprive them of such fun. "Of course." He answered and handed the shorter one his rather worn parchment. When the guard's eyes widened and jars dropped to the appropriate levels, they bumbled greetings, gave back his note, and with shaking hands opened the door to the embassy. Ringing marble lined the floor and tapestries hung between magnificent windows. A myriad of people were yelling and casting dirty looks, and harried officials seemed near to the point of weeping.

Telson wondered if such a grand building existed before the coming of the king; He severely doubted it. For the first time since the ship, Telson felt awed and unsure, however, unlike the ship he was able to shake the feeling off once he reached the desk he presumed was set for appointments, giving the same terse introduction he offered the guards at the door. Unlike the guards, the man behind the desk scrutinized more then just the heading of his papers. "Your appointment is not for three days yet." He said in an annoyingly nasal voice. "And you're supposed to have long hair." He finished, glaring daggers at Telson, who merely shrugged, thinking of a good explanation. "As to the former," He began, "The lord Steward grows impatient, and as to the latter," He smiled, "My superior has a somewhat uncomplimentary view of me." That, at least, was true, and the secretary gave him a small smile. "As to the latter, it happens to the best of us," He replied, "But to the former, I'm afraid the ambassador cannot see you until your allotted appointment." Grinning inwardly, Telson gave the man a hard look.

"You would keep the Steward waiting on important affairs of state?" He asked loudly. The dart hit home and the poor man began stumbling over his words, trying to form an apology. Rising an eyebrow, Telson folded his hands and delivered the finish. "Nay, if Umbar is unconcerned with the rest of the Reunited Kingdom, then I shall gladly return in three days time. A good day to you, fine sir." Telson turned to go. Three, two, one, zero... "Wait!" The secretary cried out. "I do not think the ambassador is with anyone at the moment. He should be in the second wing on your left." Then as Telson turned around, he finished, "You may see him." As if it was only his good will that gave Telson the rights to press his business.

Telson began walking down the hallway a little faster then he intended to, looking for the ambassador and smiling when he saw the secretary send a guard trailing after him. "So that's the game, is it?" Telson said quietly to himself. "Worry not then, I can play." "Sir!" The guard shouted out to him, "I'm sorry, sir, but the ambassador is with someone at the moment. You'll have to come back later, sir." Telson shot him a look and continued striding forward. Then there were four guards, each of them looking annoyed and glancing anxiously back toward the chaotic main hall. Telson turned into the second hall and suddenly three of those trailing him disappeared. The one that was still jogging after him looked about ready to do the same. "Endurance, my friends." Telson chuckled. "Endurance."

Suddenly, finally, Telson found what he sought. Moving past four youths walking out of an open office, he looked in upon two men speaking in urgent tones. Both well dressed, Telson guessed that one of them would be ambassador Thrann, or would at least know him. So he strode into the room toward them both. The younger of them shot him a half-curious, half-contemptuous look and the other just looked horribly unnerved. Time to play court, then. Gods, it's stupid ceremonial rubbish. "Cry your pardon, gentlemen, but I wonder if one of you would by chance know where I might find ambassador Thrann?" He said in as much of a demure voice that he could muster. The seated, unnerved one opened his mouth, but the standing man spoke first. "What business have you with the ambassador?" Telson smiled. Here was one who stood on no decorum. It was a rare gift indeed to find one such a nobleman.

"It's not my business, per-say, sir. I come on the request of the Steward of Gondor." The unnerved man rose, but the standing one, eyes now holding a fierce interest, again outspoke him. "What business does Steward have with Umbar?" Taken aback by the snap of his voice, Telson fumbled in his mind for a moment, but then answered with just as much poise as the standing man. Court is a dance, after all. "I am afraid I can give that information only to the ambassador. Are you he?" "No." The unnerved man spoke for the first time, and even in that one word Telson more sensed the heard the wavering notes behind it. This man was weak. "I have the honor of that title. But who are you, sir, and what business do you bring from the good lord steward?" He was weak, but he at least held some measure of wit. Still, Telson couldn't help being reminded of the words the innkeeper at the Low Tide had said on his first night in Umbar. "That ambassador, Thrann? E's worthless, to be shure."

"Telson, son of Telemar, of the White Company, my lords." He bowed. "However, if you have more pressing business, I can, of course, return later." Thrann opened his mouth, but the standing man spoke first, reaching out to shake his hand. "Jytharo Doran, master Telson. If my memory serves me aright, ‘twas you who wrote of the sack of Umbar by the king and the armies of Erech. Not so?" Telson immediately found the floor very interesting following that. "Yes, I am honored that you know of me, Lord Doran, although I got into real trouble for that." He reflected, still looking down. "Is wit a crime on the mainland, even if the prose was told from a solely... Gondorian standpoint?" Telson noticed how Doran pronounced the word Gondorian, and looked up, suddenly completely believing what the man outside the Patched Sail had said. "Nay, albeit, writing histories instead of supply requisitions is." Telson chuckled, catching and holding Doran's gaze. "Well, I daresay my business does not hold such weight as Prince Faramir's." Doran said in dangerously soft voice, and switched his glance to Thrann. " I shall talk with you later of this, Maurice."

"Indeed." The ambassador responded, and Doran left. Telson grimly watched him go, until Thrann's voice brought him back to the present. "An inspiring man, Jytharo." The ambassador said with a pleasantness that annoyed Telson to no end. "There is one who could stir men to great deeds," He mused before turning to Thrann. "Or great deaths." "Yes, indeed. Well, come, Master Telson, sit. Would you care for anything? A drink, perhaps?" He asked. "Nay, but my thanks." Thrann busied himself with a bottle and said, "Very well. Now, what interests does the lord steward have in Umbar?" Telson took a breath, and replied haltingly, "Sir, as you may or may not know, some, er, hostilities, as it were, are brewing in the south." Thrann looked aghast and muttered, "Gods." "No fights have broken out nor declarations made, but the king feels that if, the Valar forbid, disagreements turn to war, it is a short and decisive one. The lord steward has been charged with assessing the southern half of the kingdom, and as a part of that, I have been sent to evaluate what aid Umbar could send."

Thrann chewed on his lip for moment before replying. "That is most distressing. Perhaps we should call Jytharo back, and," "No, sir." Telson replied sharply, and a little too quickly for comfort. But he recovered and continued, his voice nearing a whisper. "It is the steward's wish that as few people know the reason behind this census as possible, sir. We are still at peace. All I ask is a little assistance from your office, sir. Access to whatever records Umbar has, the ability to take stock of ships, things of that nature." Thrann looked at him like an errant child asking the most obvious question. "Of course. You have my personal assurance that this island will always serve the Reunited Kingdom to the fullest of its ability." Relaxing, Telson decided to finish the necessaries, and get out of the embassy as soon as humanly possible. He could see the light at the end of the tunnel. "I thank you for your time ambassador, and you assurances. It was an honor." Rising, he waited for Thrann to respond in kind, his feet itching to return back the way he came. "Likewise, sir. I hope you enjoy your time here. What do you think of the isle?"

Suddenly Telson was no longer anxious to go. If the chaos on the street and how Thrann reacted when he told him of the rising climate in Harad were any indication, then Umbar was in very bad straits with this man at the helm. He had to help, somehow. "I think, sir, that Umbar is an interesting melding pot, one near to the point of spilling." "How so?" Thrann asked, and Telson this time was glad he looked interested. "As I'm sure you are aware, sir, there's been some, unrest throughout the city." "Ah" Thrann said pointedly. "The corsairs. Well, I can assure you, Master Telson, they are being dealt with." "I noticed." Telson replied coldly. "However, sir, I feel that the laws intended for, dealing with them, are doing more harm than good." This struck nerve. "Again, sir. How so?" Thrann said as though the wind had been knocked out of him.

Telson, somewhat unwisely, spoke with a fierce bluntness that quickly struck discord with the ambassador. "Sir, besides the fact that half these decrees are illegal anyway, alienating corsairs is the last thing needed. Once you rope them into one group, then they can act as one. Unrest leads to rebellion. You must know this, sir." "I know how to govern this isle, young master, and I will not," But Telson was seeing red, and interrupted him, yelling now. "With all due respect, sir, I don't think you do. I think that lord Doran is telling you how to, and either his sense of duty is twisted beyond any madman yet to walk this earth, or he himself wishes for the corsairs to take this isle. I'm afraid, sir, that your assurances mean nothing, not the least to the hundreds of angry corsairs protesting outside this embassy!"

To this outburst, Thrann did not respond, but sat down at his desk and began looking over his papers, "Good day to you," He said in hushed voice that screamed danger. "Sir," Telson began, this time in a measured tone, but Thrann suddenly yelled back, "I said good day, sir!" Half of Telson wanted to try again, to make the arrogant old fool see reason but the half that knew he would not, won him over. Telson walked sulkily out of the office, and back down the hallway until he found a table set against the right wall with several glass bottles arrayed on it. Properly inspired, Telson grabbed the largest of these and held it to the point where his knuckles were white. Something about the left wall seemed to provoke his wrath, and he threw the bottle at it, giving off a frustrated, "Damn it!" as he did so.

Telson stood seething for a moment, until a soft cough made him turn sharply back toward the ambassador's office. Four figures were standing behind him, three boys and one girl, each watching him with a terrible mix of fear, fascination, and humor. As tempting as the other two bottles were, Telson gave a nod to the group and turn to face them, wondering just how much trouble he was in.
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