December 8 - 17 cunning corsairs
1. Of Captives and Captains
"Celebmir, one of father's captains, found their ships dashed upon the rocks not far from our eastern borders," Finduilas said. "He came upon them by night and caught them unaware." She looked out the western window at the sun setting over the harbor and added, "It seems Uninen has not yet forsaken us completely; she looses her husband's fury on those who would harm our people, her loyal petitioners."
Denethor did not put much faith in the old superstitions about the Lords of the West, but Finduilas's words still contained some germ of truth. The attacks on Dol Amroth -- and Gondor, if truth be told -- increased as the years passed. The Lady of Dol Amroth might think only of the families spared from yet another Corsair raid, but Denethor saw the promise of future raids predicted and even prevented. A hundred questions sprang to mind, but Denethor knew Imrahil would tell the story best if allowed to do so in his own fashion. He rested his chin in the palm of his hand. "What do you know?"
"Not much yet," Adrahil admitted. "We found them ten days ago, and their arrival at this citadel is only two nights past; they are locked away in the cells in my catacombs."
Denethor smiled at that. Gondorians understood the Corsairs less well than the Prince's subjects did, but the Steward knew more than most, and in this matter at least he shared his wisdom willingly with his son. Denethor knew that the Corsairs were no Orcs; the blood of men still beat in their veins, and the fear of death and the dead could still seize them. Sleeping so close to the dead – and the dead of their sworn enemy for generations, no less – would torment them night and day. Yet Denethor knew other ways, surer and quicker, to get the answers both Dol Amroth and Gondor needed. "There are – devices – in the White Tower to loosen the lying tongue," he said. "If you would but send the men, or even their leader, to the Steward –"
"The same has been said of the agents of Mordor," Finduilas interrupted, her voice flat.
Before Denethor could reply, Adrahil said, "Leave the Corsairs to us, lord; we have 'devices', too, that will convince them to betray the secrets your father craves. And I will give the Corsairs no reason to invent sweet lies." When Denethor did not respond, Adrahil continued, "As for their leader, we found none. Fourteen rowmen, a ship's cook, and the captain's young orderly; no one else. I doubt any of them know much."
"Still, they have each seen the Jade City," Denethor said, "and even the common knowledge of their people may save whole companies of our men."
"We will interrogate them, of course," Finduilas said. "But if you must torture someone, you should find the man who wore this." She walked over to the chest against the wall and produced a tunic, scarlet linen with a serpent preparing to strike embroidered in black silk over the right breast. The hem was torn and smeared with dirt and blood, but Denethor could see that, in proper repair, the tunic would be fit for a prince.
"You say the captain's orderly was among the survivors?" Denethor asked. Then, without waiting for an answer, he continued, "If the servant is here, the lord cannot be far away. Their captain did not perish; I am certain of it. Perhaps he is hiding in the marshes, or has found refuge in some abandoned barn or boathouse." His eyes gleamed with an eagerness that few had ever seen. "If any would hide away as soon as he could, it would be the captain. You must search your country with all haste, before he can cross Anduin and seek his way home."
Adrahil's expression hardened. "The steward's edict carry little weight in these lands. I would not grant even your father the right to order my knights so."
"Yet Dol Amroth should remember she is not unaffected by her neighbors worries," Denethor replied tersely. "What is good for Gondor is good for you as well."
The two lords stared at each other, neither breaking the silence for several seconds. At last Finduilas said, "Possession must count for something. Is there naught that either of you would sacrifice, to retain the prisoners we already have?"
Denethor looked into her eyes, and he noticed what wisdom lurked behind her beauty. Adrahil does well to include her in matters of state, whatever the other lords of father's court might say. Blinded by his goal, Denethor had somehow lost sight of the prince's pride, and his fear of losing his precious power to their larger neighbor. "Very well," Denethor said, "I am sure father will allow you to retain the prisoners until we find their captain. "When we find him, however, we must question him in Gondor."
Adrahil nodded. "That seems fair. And I am sure my captains would welcome Gondor's help in their search, if the steward cares to send them."
"Gondor shall see it done," Denethor said, risking a small smile. Suddenly a thought occurred to him: Thorongil, the newly-sworn captain who swore he had served in Rohan for years. Yet there was something about Adrahil -- the shape of his nose, the glistening silver of his eyes, the timbre of his voice – that reminded Denethor of Thorongil. Was it possible?
"How long passed between the wreck and your captain's finding them, do you think?" Denethor asked.
"I spoke with Celebmir yesterday afternoon," Finduilas volunteered, "and he said that the area he found them in is near uninhabited, and that they could have stayed there unnoticed for weeks. Their food stores were running low, at any point."
So it was possible. Not likely, but certainly possible. Adrahil would search the coast, and Denethor would keep his eyes open as well. Wherever the seventeenth Corsair hid, they would find him out.
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