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Old 03-08-2023, 03:32 PM   #1
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
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Thorongil: The Corsairs of Umbar, by Ancalagon_the_Black, First Posted April 7, 2004

Thorongil: The Corsairs of Umbar
By Ancalagon_the_Black
First Posted April 7, 2004

Year 2597 of the Third Age
-Minas Tirith-

With great, firm footfalls, Aragorn son of Arathorn marched down the pillared hall leading to the seat of Ecthelion II, Steward of Gondor. He was escorted by a younger man, one Denethor II, the son of Ecthelion. They came to a great door of polished metal guarded by two soldiers, as still and silent as statues. The two quickly became animated as they saluted Denethor and Aragorn, the latter known only to them as Thorongil, or the Eagle of the Star.

Denethor hammered on the door with a ponderous fist. Groaning as if alive, the gate quickly swung open. Casting a contemptuous glance at the weather-beaten man behind him, Denethor stepped into his father's hall.

Deep-set windows on either side, shining from between massive black pillars, lighted the hall. Figures of rulers of deceased rulers of Gondor stood between each pillar like watching sentinels. As they walked down the hall, Aragorn cast a reverent glance towards each one of them. Denethor caught his glance and thought that he caught lust for power in the look. Hatred bubbled up in his heart.

At the far end of the hall, a high dais held up a great throne under a shelter of marble shaped like a crown. On the wall behind it was an image of a white tree that looked as if it was in flower. However, this throne was empty. On the bottom step of the dais sat a black throne, and on the throne was a proud old man, a white staff in his right hand.

As the twain advanced down the hall, Denethor spoke, his proud eyes flashing. "Hail, Lord Ecthelion! I bring with me Thorongil, as you have requested!" As he spoke, he glanced darkly at the man next to him.

Now Thorongil spoke. "Hail, Ecthelion son of Turgon! I bring dark tidings to you." Ecthelion raised his gray brows as his son and his guest drew within a few paces of his throne. "And what news do you bring me, Thorongil? Often you have given warning that has saved Gondor." Denethor scowled, darkening his noble features. He never had liked Thorongil, for he feared that the man had designs to supplant his father and steal the kingdom.

"I bring news of the gathering of the Corsairs of Umbar, my lord!"

Denethor smirked. The Corsairs had never been a very large problem with Gondor in the last few years, he thought. Surely, Ecthelion would turn him away.

However, Ecthelion immediately grew interested. "And what news is this?" he asked.

"It comes to my attention, lord, that these rebels have increased their number fourfold. They plan to attack Gondor."

"Attack Gondor? Their numbers must be great indeed, if they plan to try again what they attempted so long ago. Do you have any counsel for me? What sort of defense should we plan?"

Thorongil shook his head, warming to his subject. "I do not suggest plans for defense, lord, but plans for a pre-emptive strike."

Ecthelion gave the man standing before him a stunned glance. "You wish to attack? Gondor's navy is severely diminished and would be outnumbered by the Corsairs! Such an attack would surely be wiped out!"

"Not as I have planned it, my lord," Aragorn replied, a strange gleam in his eye.

Ecthelion contemplated it for a moment, then he struck a small silver gong that stood near his footstool. Instantly, several servants strode from the shadows of the pillars and came near. "Bring wine, food, and seats out immediately!" the Steward of Gondor commanded. In a few moments, the servants returned with the requested items. Aragorn and Denethor seated themselves and began to partake lightly of the food served to them.

"And what might this plan that you have spoken of be?" Denethor asked caustically. He hoped to discredit this wanderer for the sake of his father and his country, the only two things that came to his mind. Thorongil held him in his piercing gaze for a moment, as though reading Denethor's heart. Denethor held the look and glared at him. At that, Thorongil smiled, but hid it beneath his hand under the guise of scratching at his black stubble.

Aragorn then took a map from inside his coat and spread it before Ecthelion. He pointed at the City of the Corsairs in the south. "My plan is to attack The City of the Corsairs. That is where their strongest ships and commanders are housed. They have many quays up and down the cove that the city is in, of course, but the largest is at the city itself.

"In this plan, we should gather as many small but strong vessels as possible from the sea-provinces of Pelargir and Belfalas. They should be manned by your ablest seamen and warriors. The fleet should be gathered at the island of Tolfalas and prepared for naval warfare. Most particularly, they should be equipped with catapults."

"Catapults? Why?" asked Ecthelion.

"Mithrandir, as he is called in Gondor, also heard of this attack and prepared by designing a new weapon that will aid us in our attacks on the quay. He has created a weapon the likes of which the Corsairs have often used against Gondor."

"Ah, yes. You speak of the great, oil-soaked, flaming skin they often hurl at out ships."

"Yes, my lord. They are much like that, but Mithrandir has made a canister that holds tar and oil. It is itself soaked with oil, then hurled at whatever we wish it to strike. By some art of his, it bursts into flame while in the air and makes large fires where it falls."

"That is excellent, but wouldn't such things have been more in Curunir's fashion of work? I did not know Mithrandir did such things."

Thorongil smiled as one who knew Mithrandir well. "He is capable of many, many things."

Denethor's scowl grew even darker as he listened. Mithrandir! That wandering conjurer! Excepting Thorongil, Mithrandir bore most of Denethor's scorn. Long had the man suspected that the old wizard and Thorongil were in league, conspiring for Gondor’s downfall. He did admit that Mithrandir was worthy of respect and had helped Gondor in times past. It was a sort of love-hate relationship – mostly hate. This could not be borne. Immediately, he spoke forth.

"My lord!" he cried, putting on a worried face. "Mithrandir? The Grey Pilgrim? Why must we be in league with him? He is a suspicious old man. We do not—"

Before he could get another word from his lips, Ecthelion stopped him. "Denethor!" he said in a rebuking tone of voice. "Mithrandir has ever been our friend and ally. If not Mithrandir, who would you have us take up with?"

Denethor's eyes snapped with sudden flame. He detested being interrupted, even by his own father. "Why not Curunir? He is a true ally! He has taken up abode in Isengard for such a long time; why not call upon him for aid?"

"My son, Mithrandir has already offered us aid. Curunir does not need us to worry him with other matters right now. You know as well as I do that the White Council will soon be meeting again. Now be silent! Allow Thorongil to finish.” He turned his gaze back on Aragorn, who had been sitting quietly all this time. "Thank you, my lord," he said. Then he plunged back into plans for battle.

As Thorongil went on, Denethor grew angrier than ever. What was happening to him boggled his mind. His mind became a seething sea of hatred for the man that so easily wove his dark plans about Ecthelion. It took a great restraint to keep from leaping to his feet and striking the black-haired ranger to the ground. He tightly clutched the arms of his chair. But suddenly, his will snapped and restraint gave way to a torrent of bitter vitriol. He leaped to his feet.

"Fie upon thee, Thorongil! You have bewitched the mind of my father, but I shall take revenge upon you! I will not listen to this folly anymore!" Then he strode from the hall. Ecthelion sat back speechless.

-The Island of Tolfalas-

Thorongil looked out over the docks with approval. The noise of hammering and forging came to his ears. In less than a month, nearly thirty ships had been gathered, each manned by some of the best men Gondor had to offer. Most of the ships had been outfitted with catapults with which to launch Mithrandir's new weapon of war.

The great quays of Tolfalas were impressive. They stretched along the east end of the island in a gray swath that swept out as far the eye could see. At either end, were two strong fortresses designed to defend the docks against attacks. Beyond them were barracks and armories to supply the fortresses with men and arms. Thorongil was proud of what had been done in the kingdom, very proud. Now if only he could live to fulfill the requirements set him by Elrond... he could then rise to his throne and bring Gondor back to its ancient glory.

As he stared, someone came up behind him. Aragorn glanced behind him. There stood Mithrandir, a tired look in his blue eyes. He looked out over Aragorn's shoulder. "It's good to see that Gondor has acted quickly on your advice, Aragorn." Aragorn gave a grim smile. "I will admit that it is refreshing to be given praise rather than scorn, every now and again." The old wizard returned the look. "It seems rather strange to go to your own kingdom and end up serving another, is it not?"

"Rather."

"I hear that Denethor did not take too kindly to your advice?"

"No, he didn't. I do not know what he thinks I am about, but I would guess he thinks I plan to supplant his father. If only he knew what he was trying to hinder!"

"Remember, Aragorn, Denethor is a proud young man. He is a lot like you. Not without his faults, of course, but he only has the good of the Stewardship in mind."

"I know. Many times, he has tried to discredit me, but fortunately for Gondor, his father has paid no attention."

"Well," Mithrandir said, a hopeful look about his bearded face, "The fleet will soon be on the attack. Hopefully the shadow of the Corsairs will soon be defeated."

Thorongil only nodded and surveyed the port again.

-The Docks of Tolfalas-

Another month had gone by. Now all was ready to break Thorongil's plan upon the Corsairs.

Mithrandir, unfortunately, was unable to accompany them, for he was busied with the second meeting of the White Council. Therefore, Thorongil was given charge of the operation, over the loud protests of Denethor. That afternoon, the fleet of Gondor set sail.

Thorongil stood at the prow of the chief vessel, the Seabird. The ship was the largest on the docks at the time, and the only vessel that had been originally designed for war. However, it was extremely old and had not seen war in a long time. Now it sailed into battle again.

Aragorn was outfitted in black and silver mail after the fashion of the Tower Guard of Minas Tirith. But streaming from his shoulders was his old cloak, embroidered with a silver star, for which he was named Thorongil. At his side was a black-handled sword hanging from a wide belt with a silver buckle. As his men gazed at him, they saw in him the likeness of Elendil. Whispers of awe swept the decks as the ship swayed to and fro in the rocking seas.

Aragorn felt the salty spray on his face and tasted it upon his lips. The sea! A smile crept across his lips as he thought of how the Numenoreans of Old sailed to the shores of Middle-Earth, blessing the Twilight Men. They had quickly gathered under their dominion all of the primitive men who lived on the shores of the sea...

Now they were almost as men of the Twilight themselves. Sighing, his shoulders slumped and the kingly aura about him faded.


-The Docks of Umbar-

The Gondorian fleet, sails lowered, slipped silently near the docks. Night had fallen over the threatening City of the Corsairs. Torchlight from one of the quays shimmered on the water, but failed to disclose the dark ship as it drew near to the other black ships docked on the quays. The guards standing on the quay were inattentive, but for one who sat on the piling, spear in hand.

The City of the Corsairs stretched out nearly a mile from the quays. Groups of barracks were lined up nearly fifty feet behind the actual docks. Behind them were dry docks, here many ships were in production. The main targets, however, were the ships anchored along the docks.

A Gondorian archer crept up to the edge of his boat and pulled an arrow from his quiver. He nocked the arrow to his bow, drew it back, and fired. The arrow silently sped into the throat of the guard sitting on the piling. He slipped back with a soft sigh and landed with a thud on the dock, dead as a stone. His fellows failed to notice and continued drinking and laughing.

Thorongil, still standing in the prow of the Seabird, raised his sword. The Gondorian archers drew their bows. The men at the catapults prepared to fire. Then, with a shout, Thorongil pointed his sword at the quays. Instantly, dozens of white-feathered arrows hurtled into the night, striking the guards on the docks. The catapults hurled their burning projectiles into the air, coming down and shattering on the ground. The tar in them splattered through the air, set aflame by the fire on the barrels themselves. The Gondorian ships pressed forward suddenly, lurching to the docks.

In minutes, the Gondorians were swarming onto the ships of the Corsairs. Even more were rushing onto the docks, Thorongil leading them.


-The City of the Corsairs-

The Captain of the Corsairs, Narthund, glanced around the table with shining eyes. He and some of his officers were engaged in a game of tabaac, a favorite pastime of the Corsairs. Narthund however, was not happy. He had already lost nearly twelve hundred marks to one of his officers, who quite ruled the game.

Looking at the faces of those around him, he decided to take one last chance. Quickly reaching into his near-empty purse, he pulled out fifty more of the tiny pieces of money. He tossed them into the center of the table with the others, then received his cards.

Hmm... A queen of seabirds, two kings of warships, a steward of the sword, and a crown of the ocean... A good enough hand, maybe, to rake in a bit. Confident, he threw the cards down with the others. They all gaped at his far-reaching hand, but the officer who had been winning all day had not thrown his cards down yet. "Come on!" Narthund growled. The officer laughed and threw his cards down.

Five crowns of the sword.

Narthund just gaped.

Suddenly, a blood-curdling shriek made him leap to his feet. From farther down the docks there was a roar of flame. The ground shook under their feet.

An orderly burst into the room, his long, braided hair singed. "Gondorians! We’re under attack!" he cried, fear in his voice. Narthund immediately drew his scimitar and glared at the officers still sitting around the long table. "Gather all of the men under your command," he ordered. "Force the Gondorians from the quays, and if necessary, destroy our own ships to prevent their escape! The rest of you are to come with me!"

Meanwhile, many of the men of Umbar were beginning to regroup on the street. However, they were caught off-guard and poorly armed. The Men of Gondor began pushing them back. Soon, the Corsairs were in full retreat. As soon as they fled, the Gondorians pulled more canisters of Mithrandir's concoction onto shore and began setting buildings on fire. Flaming arrows lit upon wooden buildings, setting them ablaze. Soon, the entire quay was burning. The dry docks were totally destroyed and the half-built ships along with them.

However, from an untouched building far down the shore, a wild-faced man of Umbar emerged waving a scimitar. The long, curved blade shone red and sulfur in the light of the roaring fires. He had long black hair that streamed down to the middle of his back, gathered in a group of tight braids. On his head was a red and gold helm with close-fitting cheekguards that ran down to his chin. He also sported thick, lamed armor and a red cloak. This was Narthund, full of guile and anger. At the sight of the quays burning, rage filled his heart and he rushed to the attack, giving no heed to life or limb.

Thorongil, not noticing the man, was giving orders for the Gondorians to fall back. They had surprised the Corsairs, but they were not in sufficient force to take the City. Indeed, even then many of the men of Umbar were plunging back through the streets, regrouping into more organized fighting forces.

Thorongil was one of the last to return to the boats. As he began to run back to the quay, however, Narthund shouted a challenge to him in his own tongue. Thorongil whirled about, facing the man of the South. Narthund shrieked his challenge to the night sky again and charged forward, four of his bodyguards following him. Fortunately, white-feathered arrows struck two of the guards in the throats, slaying them. Now Thorongil only had three men to deal with.

Narthund reached Thorongil first. With a cry of pure hatred, he lashed out with his broad scimitar. The two blades came together with a crash and a shower of sparks. Thorongil quickly disengaged their blades and stabbed. The move caught Narthund in the hip, splitting that bright, lamed armor and spinning him to one side. He tried to strike again, but Thorongil threw his feet out from under him with a swift blow to the shin-guards.

The last two bodyguards rushed up now, one also wielding a scimitar, the other an axe. Thorongil leaped to the left and ducked at the same time, barely escaping a blow from the one with the axe. Slipping to one side as fast as lightning, he hacked into the backplate of his first opponent, slaying him.

The other quickly jumped forward, swinging his spiked kite shield at his foe. Thorongil carefully backed away, then suddenly dove forward underneath the arc of the next blow that came his way. The two rolled over and over as Aragorn crashed into the man's legs. They struggled on the ground for a moment, but Aragorn quickly got the upper hand and dispatched the man with a thrust to the throat.

He got back to his feet and looked around, just in time to see Narthund painfully raising his scimitar again. Thorongil quickly jumped back, just as the Corsair's blade hacked into the earth. Narthund ripped his weapon from the ground and sprang at him with surprising agility for one with a deep leg wound, swinging his great scimitar at Thorongil once more. Thorongil blocked the second blow and tried for a disarming maneuver, which failed when the Corsair swiftly withdrew his weapon.

Narthund then backed off a step and swung at Thorongil's knees, bending over to reach so low. Thorongil sprang over the blow and brought his sword-point crashing down into Narthund's back. The Corsair tottered, dropped to his knees, and fell heavily to the earth, dead.

Thorongil quickly whirled about. The Gondorian ships were departing swiftly. However, his own ship, the Seabird, still lingered near the shore. The voice of his boatswain called to him: "Thorongil! Jump!" Resheathing his sword, Thorongil rushed towards the flaming quay. With one mighty leap, he hurled himself through the flames and into the prow of his ship. The strong hands of the boatswain hauled him onto the deck.

The Gondorians retreated now, firing the last of their canisters at what few undamaged ships there were along the dock. Victory was theirs.

-The Mouths of the Anduin-

Thorongil glanced around, hoping that no one noticed him. He crept up to the side of the ship and looked out. Night had fallen again on their second night from the attack. Thorongil had been called off on other matters of errantry again. Besides that, he was a humble man and would have shied away from the honor and praise that would have been given him once they landed at Osgiliath. Looking sadly down the river, he paused for one last moment and wondered about his future. He was still relatively young for a Dunedain, but would he ever live to walk on Gondor's soil once more? Sighing, he quickly laid a hand on the railing of the ship and straddled it, about to slip into the water.

However, a gloved hand respectfully touched his shoulder. It was the boatswain again. "My lord?" he asked, questions in his voice and eyes. Thorongil knew what he was thinking. "I have other matters that I must see to, Berethon," he sighed. "But why?" Berethon asked. "Why not return to Minas Tirith and receive the honor that is due you? Why, my lord?"

"My business cannot wait. Perhaps in the near future I can return to the White City."

"Soon?"

"Soon. I promise."

With a sure smile, Thorongil slid over the edge of the boat and slipped into the water. He grabbed onto a trailing rope and used it to help him get far from the ship, where the water was calmer. Then, with firm strokes, pressing against the sluggish current, he quickly reached the shore. He turned one last time to wave at Berethon, who could now see him in the wavering morning light. Berethon waved back, muttering, "There goes the kingliest man I have ever known..."

THE END
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