Taking Flight - Part One.
The white ships flew lightly across the waves, an increasing roar of air and water filling my ears as we turned in close pursuit of our prey. Oh he was clever, that corsair captain (it is in my thoughts that he had more than a little Numenorean blood in his veins)…having eluded us for three days longer than his ‘companions’ had managed, venturing out to sea and hiding in the mists, turning to hug the rocky coastline of northern Minhiriath in a way that was beyond reckless for one of his draught. He knew this stretch of coastline well it seemed, and that could only be from frequent forays beyond the usual reach of those out of Umbar. But this day he had met his match!
We of the Havens cannot, will not tolerate any incursion by such vessels into our waters. That black-wing could not be permitted to return to his homeport bearing stolen cargo from elven lands and boasting that we were grown lax and weak – had fallen far from our days of glory! By no means! So it was that our captain laid trap for him, to lure him into thinking that, after this last day of nigh becalmment, we had abandoned our current course and turned seawards ourselves, in the hope of strengthening winds. He likely believed we would take up our sweeps under present circumstances, but swifter by far would his vessel be with her many oarsmen. Without wind swelling the sails, his ship was nigh as fast as ours.
As predicted, the corsair was drawn from his hiding place like a moth to a lamp. Seeing in our slow ‘retreat’ the chance of open water, he manned his oars and started to row his way from his skulking-place heading out towards the point…only then may he have realised his mistake. For any vessel setting out from that particular coastal area had a treacherous path to follow. In but a narrow channel were the waters deep enough for a large vessel to manoeuvre freely, that they would be unable to turn – and that to any white ship’s advantage. Neither did it appear he knew what use we could make of the slightest breath from Osse. Nay – he had made his mistake in underestimating our sea-craft, and that to his regret.
From a distance no mortal could have espied, our lookouts saw him set forth; sails furled that even if the wind should pick up apace and he know how to use it, even should he find the deeper water, he had no chance of outrunning us.
But the light breeze was in our sails, and offers of ‘thanks’ to Osse mingling with the brine upon our lips, as the cloth began to billow and flap and turn us into swans-in-flight.
Swiftly we bore down upon the mannish vessel, the waters slapping our sides with a vengeance that made the hull creak. But light though they are, our beloved white ships are built to endure…are built by the best shipwrights the Havens have to offer that no spear or arrow can piece them, nor sea storm easily break their back.
For me it was an invigorating rush upon my senses (as indeed you warned me it would be!) that I think I almost missed the captain’s order to stand firm and take aim. I wondered afterwards if any aboard that other ship could have maintained their footing on a rolling deck and fired two volleys? I suspect not. And greater range did our bows have that we saw seven men fall before they could retaliate with weapons of their own.
Much haste was made upon that ship, even did I think some crew had gone aloft to set to their own sails, before a harsh voice called out to them, and they halted. Four archers there were though, climbing up into their rigging to take better aim into the forthcoming melee, even as four of ours had!
‘Loose arrows!’ Again a volley was fired from our vessel, as we sought to draw close, to manoeuvre ourselves to the best advantage for boarding, our sister-ship doing likewise.
Close we drew, closer yet. More arrows, then the seven wardens stood to the fore, launching spears at individual targets…at those we could clearly see were the experienced mariners most likely to hinder us.
Closer… closer….our captain ordered a swift turn at the helm, that we brushed along the side of the larger ship, snapping off her oars.
I saw faces looking out at us…worn and hardened by long and un-rewarded toil. Slaves bound to those oars mayhap? Some were crying out in rage, some in agony. My own blood railed as I saw close hand yet again how the Secondborn can treat each other…would treat us if they could take us alive and to their markets.
But now the battle proper was begun. The captain motioned to those by the Culang, the ‘Great Bow’ set to the foredeck, to loose the grappling hooks, then again to those at the stern. With both ropes secured we drew in that our ship was latched to the corsair like we were one floating island. Our captain had his sword in hand….no joy-light upon his face but rather a determined resignation, as he ordered us board. I do not think any of us found joy in what followed. I know I did not. (Not that you would ever doubt me on such a matter.) A necessary ‘evil’ I considered it…for these were not orcs falling under our hail of arrows, our spears and swords, but those who should be as our younger siblings, gone astray. Oh…how very astray……
But I must ponder more before I finish this account, Ada. Such experiences have I had these past days that I know I must find peace in my own fear again. Yet this also I know - that you were right in many matters! I am most grateful you encouraged me to seek to sail my first mission with Hir Curugirion. Most aptly did he earn his name…’skilled mariner’! Under his command do I hope to learn much…
~ ~ ~
Carefully, and with a sense of rare privilege did I re-furl that scroll. I set it upon my lap, pondering myself at what I had just read.
With Durthand still ‘ensnared’ by administration and now the more pleasant duty of arranging New Year celebrations; Istuir in Imladris and Daen in Celondim (attending to the horses left there, for he was most concerned least Silevren took notion to make a break, and swim out to sea again as he had when missing Aearandir some seasons ago) – I had turned again to my task of sorting through the records….to occupy my thoughts while I waited. The ordering of South Watch’s documents complete, this last day I had begun to read and catalogue those older manuscripts and letters from the archive chests. Many were reports of certain land-based military movements – many more accounts of patrols at sea, or of the commissioning or refurbishment of vessels. Some were concerned with the gardening in Thamas Lorn! All had their place, all could be of interest…but there were some few rare ‘gems’ that caused me both sorrow and joy. Such a one did I hold in my hand.
The name of the writer…a young would-be-mariner on his first excursion into battle, was one I did not recognise. Mayhap he had sailed on that longer voyage into the West, or had fallen himself in some endeavour? I knew not. But I would make discrete enquiry when next in Mithlond that, if possible, his letter could be returned to him, or to his ‘Ada’ to whom it was addressed.
And did I not feel I had a precious insight into our Hirgonui’s past? I knew already he was held in high respect amongst many of our folk, but never would his innate humility have permitted him to openly tell of his endeavours in a way that made him sound….important!
Aiiee - I would have to consider whether to tell Curugirion of the letter when next we met….which was likely to be soon. They were sailing home now, Aearandir and he, were they not! All was safe, all was well – if I had any remaining doubts about that, they were utterly dispelled by reading the letter! But this is how I came to have such confidence and peace of mind….