Players: Alimah, Azradi, Eruphel, Zigur-Ziguran
As you stand at the military docks you are awed at the fearsome power displayed before you. The hulls of over a hundred vessels glint in the sunlight ranging from War Galleys to War Raiders to Patrol Boats and even an occasional War Catamaran. Capping the scene, a huge Dunedain Palanrist from ancient days sits dry-docked just above the docks. To the east, nestled securely into Castamir Point, stands the fortress that is the Fleet Headquarters.
The day sky is clear with only slight wisps of clouds overhead. The early morning autumn air is hot around you.
The morning shines brightly, as most mornings in Umbar do. The Corsair docks have been bustling for a week at least, but now the pace is most frenzied, the labor most laborious, and the air practically crackles with boisterous anticipation. Amidst all of the goings on, Eruphel of Seaward finally arrives, her escort bringing with them various armor and supplies and clothing, last minute packing things. Some on the docks, in an attempt to garner favor, offer salute. But to be honest, most are too busy at their tasks to stop.
Walking up to the docks is a figure dressed in black. His cloak is hooded well over his eyes except that in the shadows you can see the twinkle of one of them -- a corpse-like green. He leans on a staff and makes his way toward the ships slowly.
Eruphel wastes little time with the small details today, but calls out to the ships to summon the captains of the Seaward raiders, and the other ships as well. She waits for them to all arrive, noticing the old man out of the periphery of her vision as she watches for people to approach. "Ah! Grandfather! Blessings upon you, may your feet always know shade. I thank you for coming," she says to him pleasantly.
The Captain of the Variyah is already on her ship, overseeing last minute preparations. Upon sight of Eruphel's arrival, she skips down the gangplank to the dock. Wearing a smile and a scarf about her head to protect her from the sun (a recent habit) she approaches the Seaward Regent. Before she can say aught, her eyes fall upon the shrouded figure who walks beyond: "Grandfather," she greets respectfully. She arches her brow at Eruphel.
"Zigur-Ziguran greets the Lady," rasps the old Prophet. "Zigur-Ziguran comes to pray for good fate for a propitious voyage."
He bows now to Azradi, "Princess... Zigur-Ziguran gives warm greetings."
Alimah, Farside Corsair, is on the docks by the Variyah, inspecting a coil of rope. She looks up form her work as Azradi and then Eruphel and the old man all congregate in the one area. "Ready to cast off soon, Captain?" she directs to Azradi. Zigur-Ziguran is given a sideways look, warily.
"Your prayers are always welcome," Azradi replies, offering the old seer a warm smile of her own. She turns her head when hailed and espies Alimah. "I imagine Lady Eruphel will wish to offer a few words first. But soon."
As Azradi approaches, Eruphel's eyes go to the scarf for a brief moment, noticing it more for the fact that she is simply not used to the accessory. "Nice scarf..." she says in an aside, still waiting for the stragglers arrive. Then to Zigur-Ziguran, a respectful bow and genuflect, as if he were a great honorific. "Once again I thank you, Zigur-Ziguran. If you would, please, pray for our victorious and prosperous return, then stay while I give instructions to the captains, then perhaps you could roll your bones and offer up some wisdom I have not yet seen."
Zigur-Ziguran inclines his head and says, "The Prayer of Zigur-Ziguran are meaningless against the hand of Fate but he shall do what he can.'
"Thank you," Azradi says, in response to the compliment. Turning back to the seer, she says: "Then let us hope fate has something fortuitous in store for this venture."
"And perhaps we should let Grandfather work his art before receiving instructions? The business of Corsairs cannot hold any interest for him."
"Yes, of course," Alimah answers Azradi. She gives a quick look to the ropes, then and turns to Eruphel.
Eruphel shakes her head and sighs. "Perhaps so, Azradi, but I think his fortune would be better told if he were to stand witness to our plan. Zigur-Ziguran?"
Zigur-Ziguran looks at Eruphel for a long moment and says, "Zigur-Ziguran is a witness to the world. Speak on and what counsel he would give he can. Zigur-Ziguran is no sailor or warrior. For twenty years he sat alone in the cave while the world outside went by. He has the gift of foresight, but for what end he knows not. Only the fates decide. Speak on."
Eruphel regards Zigur-Ziguran for a moment or two before she steps up and speaks up. "We will be sailing together. But as sometimes happens, it is possible we may get separated for whatever reason, so this is the plan: We sail to a secluded cove south of the Poros. It’s the same one we sailed to during our last campaign. Those who do not know it can look at my charts. From there we will go by horse to the Poros, and meet up with those who were garrisoned there. By now, the train I sent by land should have arrived. From there, we will push across the Poros and go north into Osgiliath, should the Fates favor us." Eruphel turns one more time to regard Zigur-Ziguran somewhat expectantly.
Zigur-Ziguran turns and points a finger to Alimah, "She should come forth."
He then points his crooked finger to a small bush with bramble. "Bring those twigs hither."
"Me?" Alimah answers the old prophet, surprised. "Come forth?" She frowns at him, then shakes her head and collects the indicated branches, handing them toward Zigur-Ziguran. "Just...sir..." she whispers..."what do you mean by that?"
"Osgiliath?" Azradi exclaims, frowning. "Do you know how far away that is? You do not expect the Farside Crusaders to come with us, do you?"
"Well, perhaps not so far, but that is the direction we will take." Eruphel answers Azradi.
Zigur-Ziguran points to the ground by his feet, "Lay them there child."
"It is weeks march inland through land patrolled by Gondor and mostly controlled by Mordor," Azradi explains, looking far from pleased. "And it's an abandoned city - it's been ruined for centuries."
"Yes, yes, of course," Alimah answers, setting the twigs down. She glances up sharply to look between Azradi and Eruphel. "The plans have changed somehow? I thought this was a seafaring raid?"
"This is a raid similar to our last trip to the Harondor." Eruphel answers, her face remaining somewhat impassive. "Only we will be searching for woods, so we will press across the border."
"We are going to pass through forests for two weeks before we cut any down?" Azradi replies, "This is nothing like our campaign in Harondor. First you asked me to go north and raid for gold. Then I find out it is in Harondor. Now you want me to press forward for 200 miles or more inland to get lumber?"
"I did not discuss this plan with Alphros. You can not have our men in the garrison for this."
Alimah fusses a bit more with the twigs, glancing again at the other two women, and then to the prophet. "Does this bode ill?" she whispers to him. "What of my fate? My father no longer presses for marriage."
Zigur-Ziguran nods and says, "Spit into the twigs child."
"Spit?" Alimah blinks, then spits, though again she gives a wary glance to Azradi.
Zigur-Ziguran now hacks and spits into the twigs. He the reaches into his cloak and takes out a handful of black powder. He throws that into the pile and they suddenly burst into flames burning a black smoke. Zigur-Ziguran stares into the smoke.
"How far we go is dependent on how much resistance we receive, and what we find. I have made no secret that we would be going into Harondor, and to get adequate lumber, we must go wherever that is." Eruphel replies, her irritation rising a little in her voice. "But I can understand why you would not wish to go, considering your surprise. Perhaps next time."
"There is lumber aplenty within miles of the Poros," counters Azradi, her own irritation unbridled. "Go. Farside is not going with you. My Corsairs think they are doing a brief lumber raid just north of the Poros and then sailing to Belfalas to raid for more lucrative treasure. I am not marching them 200 miles into land barren of anything to raid. They worked hard doing a soldier’s job during the civil war, it's time for them to make their fortune. They deserve it."
Thus, does the old prophet look into the smoke and he reads.
South the wind shifts, faster than sails,
"From the north, a cold wind gales.
Nigh the river Poros shall you see,
A broken oar, a lonely leaf nigh the lee.
The swords of Harad will shine hard as sands.
Yet the northman will hold their lands.
Some booty maybe, but no more,
Save courage wilt thy win as before."
"If the Lady cares to show her courage then go says the fates," says Zigur-Ziguran. "If not, then nothing. So says Zigur-Ziguran."
"A confusing fortune," Alimah says, tilting her head at the old man. "Like smoke in the wind, constantly shifting its patterns and impossible to read for sure? It...basically you are saying go if it is my whim. Yet, I am sworn to Farside and can't break my oath."
"I see." Eruphel says, her voice hard and clipped. "My apologies, then, Captain Azradi." she says, and waves to the other Captains. "To your ships, we set sail at once!" And with that the other men return to their respective ships, and Eruphel turns to Zigur-Ziguran, "Thank you, Grandfather." And with that she turns to board her ship and go.
Zigur-Ziguran is silent for a log time before he bows to both, "Your fates will not be decided thither. Yet many others will be."
He turns and eaves the docks.
Anger flashing in her eyes, the Fleet Master of Farside turns away to speak to her Captains. They each return to their ships to issue orders and Azradi turns to Alimah. "It looks like we will have to make our plans for raids. You wouldn't make a good lumberjack anyway. Are you disappointed?"
"Disappointed that there is no raiding to be had. Though.." Alimah hesitates. "We need lumber for new ships. And who knows why Eruphel really wanted to go that far north? Might it be for some other reason?
"To die, perhaps?" Azradi replies. "She will be within a half day of Minas Tirith in Osgiliath and have an enormous army breathing down her neck. It's suicide. There is nothing to be gained from there unless she wants to invade Gondor and that she cannot do with her numbers."
"You will miss no raiding. She can't enter Gondor from there and the distance negates any benefit to be had from raiding lumber. And if she has another reason, she should have told me."
"You know...she could serve as a front for a second attack. If you and Lord Alphros wished to press such now. Occupy Gondor in Osgiliath, while ships raid a rich port elsewhere. Our ships from Farside?" Alimah grins at the thought.
"Corsairs are not trained for that sort of warfare," Azradi says. "And that is the bulk of her force."
"She is not a stupid woman, but I can see no good from all this. And as I said, if she has some other plan - she should have told me well in advance. Farside corsairs are her allies, not her subordinates."
"Yes, but," Alimah frowns, "by withdrawing this way, you ensure her failure. And it sets up bad feelings between the Towers. I'm not sure of the wisdom of it. Surely her plan is better thought out than marching to death in Gondor. That can't be it."
"I am not going to destroy Farside's Corsair force to keep things comfortable between the Towers," laughs Azradi. "If she wants to complain to Alphros, let her. I don't think she's going to find much sympathy from him over the matter."
"We are trying to build up our forces, not deplete them with fruitless endeavors. Do not worry, we will find us more fat merchants to raid."
And with that the Fleet Master turns and walks away, climbing the gangplank to her ship.
"Forget it," Alimah says to the men working on the ropes on the deck. She turns and walks the other direction, then, back toward the city.