11th Narvinye - Fire on the Water
It has been a long day. It began with thunder, and the gentle pace of a weary pony and finished with fire and a mad race across the docks of Tharbad. Our quest has become ever more urgent, and we may delay no longer.
The day had been wet, but quiet, as we rode the road from Metraith. It was mid afternoon before we spied the marshes of Tharbad ahead of us, and by the time we entered the city, labourers were finishing for the day, and heading towards full platters and deserved mugs of ale.
We met Commander Cillis once again at the Old Kings House. He made us most welcome and we relayed to him all that we could of Anuminas, the scroll that we had found, and the continuing threat of trolls. He took it all in his stride. It was decided that Moth, with her scribe's training and fair hand, write to Tarlequin about our discoveries. It is vital that the library be protected, and that travellers are protected from entering the library unwarily. Cillis would do what he can, but he has not the resources; this is a matter for the King and his advisers.
Tarlequin is an old man, but his power and will are great. He is a seer, and I wonder even now whether he watches us; and if he does so, should he not send us aid in this dark time?
It is decided that we will travel North with strength on our side. Cillis introduced us to a Sergeant Amferen Sandir, a man, tall, dark haired, but with a sour, sombre look. He will travel with us with 20 hand picked soldiers under his command. Cillis fears trouble, that is clear. He also brought the Harbourmaster, a Garydril Trannon before us. Garydril suggested that we take the ship Evenstar; it is a goodly vessel and could be made ready in only a couple of days. Garydril left us to make the arrangements, and we agreed to meet him in an Inn at the docks, named the Anchor, a little later in the day.
Cillis went with us to the Anchor. We talked, drank the mediocre beer, and ate heartily. The provisions were good, although at the time my thoughts were still upon Erethor's venison. Cillis had agreed that his folk would prepare it for us tomorrow, and also offered to prepare the hide in order that I have leather to work with. It now seems unlikely that the deer and I will meet again. Too much is happening, it has become of little import, and we must make all speed.
We learnt more of the Evenstar from its Captain, Kissanen who was introduced to us by the harbourmaster upon his return. It appears to be a fine ship, and even the damage it has sustained this evening has done little to touch its beauty. It is an odd thing, I see the skill in its making, the love that has gone into its creation, the pride in those who speak of her, and yet I fear to go to sea in her. I fear to go to sea at all. I fear the deep blue as does a Halfling the river, for in my white worms hide or out of it I will still sink. The homeport of the Evenstar is Pelargir, it is a ship of Gondor, and maybe that explains the care with which the craft has been crafted.
I mentioned the food, drink and company of the Inn, and yet I have said nothing of the music, ah the music. There was a minstrel I believe earlier on, but he was forgotten by all present when the true music began. Yawinawin had been joined by Turibor, the elf that had travelled with us as we rode North-West from Gondor. Together they sang songs that spoke to me of flowing gold, of living crystal, of light in dark halls, and friendship at the fireside. And yet more entranced I became, 'til the music itself was as the purest seam. I could no longer hear the words, but felt the melodies bathe me in wonder.
Is it ever so, that there must be balance? We had sat within the glow of crystal voices, entranced, and then the evening was shattered by a harsh cry, "The Evenstar is on Fire".
And so the pace of the day quickened. The evening had darkened, and the flames glowed as they licked over the deck and rigging of the ship as she lay at dock. The whole Inn emptied, and the folk began to look to the ship, to douse the flames, and dampen the surrounding wood and rope. We four comrades had a more pressing deed to accomplish however, the Kings justice, and the seeking of truth. Five men there were fleeing from the scene. There was nothing to do but give chase.
As we exited the Inn and spied the five, they were already moving fast a couple of hundred yards away. They scrambled onto the causeway that follows the dockside, and they headed East. Yawinawin streaked ahead upon her lithe legs, Erethor dropped back, his bow singing, and Moth kept pace with me as we sprinted forward.
Ahead of us, cutting across the causeway a waterway flowed into the bay. There was a lock gate, with a walkway, but the gate stood open. For a moment I hoped that this would slow their escape, but they were desperate men. They leapt across the gap, and continued. One of Erethor's shafts hit its mark, catching a man in the arm mid leap; he fell into the water beneath. The Kings justice can be unforgiving at times.
Erethor was now catching up with me, and I heard him call that the miscreants were protected by magic; I guess that he meant that some of his shafts had been deflected. Yawinawain cleared the jump easily and sped after the remaining four. I could see the jump ahead, and as I approached the size of the gap, and the foolhardiness of attempting to clear it became more and more apparent.
There are times when the task must be attempted, however small the chance of success, and it seemed to me that this was one of those occasions. I had my God, my faith, and oft times that is all that one needs to make the impossible possible. I ran hard, prepared myself, and called to Aule to give me wings. And in answer to my prayer I rose, my feet no longer touching the causeway, and my speed increased greatly.
I became aware quickly that Erethor had raced up behind me and hoisted me up. Aule works in mysterious ways, but my prayer was granted. As Erethor reached the edge he threw me bodily across the gap. Erethor is a man, and lacks the compact stocky frame of our people, and yet his strength is prestigious. Alas, my landing was not a graceful affair, but a few scrapes and bruises worry me little. I was soon up and on the trail again.
I soon reached Yawinawin. She lay on the causeway, but fortunately was only stunned. It had been a brave deed to follow so close, but had they turned on her, I fear she may have been in great danger. The outlaws had fled to a large building to my left away from the waters edge, and were no longer in sight. There was little I could do alone now that they had gone to ground, and I waited a few moments with Yawinawin until she had regained her wits and composure.
Moth and Erethor joined us, and we looked to this new hideout. It appeared to be a wooden warehouse, or storage area for merchandise from the ships. Moth and I ran to the door, it was wide and wooden. Erethor started to skirt round the left. Moth used her arcane powers to try and sense the four surviving culprits, but without success, it seemed that they were no longer in the building. A warehouse of this nature was likely to have another door on the opposite side, and it is likely that they had known their escape route before entering.
If they had only passed through, the chase would be on again. However, it soon became clear that this route had been well planned. I opened the door to follow them and ducked beneath the swinging sandbag booby-trap. It was then that I noticed the four bulky longhaired beasts that lay within. At first glance they appeared like wolverines of the north, but larger than any I had seen. Alas, one glance was all that there was time for. Erethor opened the warehouse door opposite me, I called to him to close it, and Moth and I slammed our door trapping the beasts within.
Clearly the idea had been for us to follow, and run blindly into the waiting jaws of these creatures, whilst the arsonists strolled to safety. Was there task to destroy our transport, or was this merely a ploy to tempt us into this deadly trap? My thinking now is that both would have been sought, kill if possible, delay if not. And should we be injured then this would only add to any impediment.
We circled the building, but we had been slowed sufficiently, our prey had escaped. Erethor picked up their trail easily, and ran on with Yawinawin in tow, but Moth and I jogged slowly after them, knowing that there was now little chance of catching them.
The outlaws finally escaped Erethor by taking to a small boat. Their passing shot was a crossbow bolt that caught Erethor in the shoulder as he stood, bow in hand, upon the dockside. He refused the Grace of Aule, and sought his own healing. I understand that he is proficient in such arts, but it seems unwise to refuse help when it is freely offered by a companion.
Moth discovered, on the wharf, a small fire beside which were some juggler's balls and a piece of paper. The paper had on one side a picture of the Juggler's hall, and on the other a map of the docks upon which were marked good areas for traps. These people had clearly been to the Jugglers hall, and this attack had been well planned. It is clear that there are agencies determined to prevent our successful quest, moreover these agencies may know much about our quest.
The more I learn of the forces set against us, the more I wonder about, and, indeed, fear to learn, the source of their information. I am reminded of our time in the Library, and the darkness that I glimpsed, hiding within Yawinawin's past. I am apprehensive. Perhaps the trust we have put in her is ill advised.
Some words from the Great Book were brought to mind, and on returning to the Kings Hall this night I looked them up.
1. Know then, that as man is born into this world amidst the Darkness of Matter, and the strife of contending forces; so must his first endeavour be to seek the Light through their reconciliation.
2. Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light.
And so I hear the words of my God, and know that it is through such trials and doubts that the servant becomes to understand the Master, and to see more clearly the path before him.
The fire must have been there, on the docks, for the arsonists to wait by, until the right moment came to strike. Moth decided that she would seek visions from all the objects that were recovered, including the bloodied bolt plucked from Erethor's pierced flesh, in order to learn as much as she could. I am aware of the strain it puts her through, and am ever impressed by her bravery in attempting these visions. I stayed with her as Erethor made things known to those who had followed us, and called to speak to the man who had originally raised the alarm.
Moth's visions were most successful, and I made careful note of that which she relayed.
The paper had been handled by a swarthy man, indeed the one that we met with a wagon near the crossroads north of the Juggler's Hall. Erethor had noted that the wagons tracks indicated a heavy load, a load that may well have consisted of the assassins that tried to waylay us. A man that smoked a small pipe had also handled the paper; he was swarthy also, and had a pockmarked face. It was he who had thrown the paper, unsuccessfully, onto the small fire. The juggling balls and quarrel gave us no further insights except to tell us that it was this second man who was the juggler.
Moth mentioned a thought to me, that should she need, she could change her visage to that of one of the men in the vision. Her powers seem to grow as our journey proceeds.
We walked back slowly noting that the glow was gone, the fire was out. We met Cillis and his men upon the causeway and let him know the bad news concerning the escape of the firestarters. We also let him know of the wolverine like creatures in the warehouse and the traps that were likely still present. He sent men to guard the warehouse and make safe the docks area.
Our thoughts turned to the one of the five who had fallen to Erethor's shaft. Were we to recover his body, it would hopefully give us an insight to the nature of our enemies. We all searched, Yawinawin with her glow that shines from behind her, her hair a halo. Turibor, who had arrived with Cillis, shone light from his hands. His magic seems similar to Yawinawin's, though this is no surprise having heard them both sing. Cillis' men carried lanterns, simple and effective. Even with the lights it was still hard to pick the corpse out in the dim light. Here the good night vision of my people came to the fore, and I pointed him out to the others. The body was dragged from the water and carried to the Anchor.
Although it may have appeared strange to any onlookers, Moth laid her hands on the body and read his history as best she could, visibly fighting off her weariness. Sadly the effort gave us little. He was a sailor, as could be seen from his dress, and his blade, a scimitar, common amongst seafaring types. He had been in Minas Tirith, where he had a sweetheart. It seemed likely he had travelled to Tharbad as part of a ships crew, and may even have been recruited to the job in this very Inn.
Council has been taken, and the way forward discussed. It has been decided that Turibor will come with us when we travel North. Erethor had asked him, and apparently he readily agreed. I have offered to teach him some Dwarven songs to keep him entertained upon the journey. Perhaps between us, we can banish any discomfort at being sat helpless upon the ship, able to do nothing but wait and pray to Aule for the wind in our sails.
I asked Erethor what he had learned of the attack from the man who had first seen the flames. Apparently the sailor had suffered a call of nature, and had therefore left his post briefly. Upon his return he found the ship ablaze. The fire had been set to the ropes and rigging. Moth I think it was mentioned that such urges could be implanted into a man's head, or should I say bowels, with the appropriate magic skills. Erethor reminded us that at least one of the arsonists had been protected by magic, Erethor's shafts being deflected away from him as he ran.
This evidence of magic is greatly worrying. If an enemy knows of our quest, and has the magical skills of a seer, then our foes may already be before us, heading northwards. The information that a ship called the Black Swan left these docks 5 days ago, heading North, and that the hirer was a swarthy man with a little black beard did nothing to lighten the evening. It is grave news, and I feel I will sleep little this night.
Were we the target, or was it Cillis? We have arrived only this afternoon, and this night's events would have taken some time to arrange. However, if it were known we were coming to Tharbad, the Evenstar is the only viable ship for our journey, and it has been in dock for nigh on two weeks.
The ship has been checked out. The fire was set with rags, no magic was involved directly, and the damage is relatively superficial. Captain Kissanen has confirmed that work will continue through the night. We are to leave at sun up. Aule lend me wings once again, let them fly our craft northwards that we may confront our foes and fulfill our Quest.