5. Scurvy Dogs
"I wish you'd take more men." It was sunset of the day following the all-night meeting with Kindrel and Thorongil was riding secretly, Fallon hoped, to Minas Tirith. "It would not be a difficult thing to waylay three travelers on the lonely stretches of the road."
"I'll protect them and return them unscathed," Thorongil promised, nodding to his grinning troopers. Fallon shook his head, loosed his hold on the stallion's bridle, and the three galloped north.
Fallon's life became abjectly difficult: Quillion asked hourly when the commander would return; by day, the lord mayor and his cronies constantly needed an audience with the military governor; and, by night, he was left alone to worry on Thorongil's safety. However, it seemed no sooner was the commander gone than he was back again in a whirl of black tail and flashing hooves, although the breakneck trip had taken him the better part of two weeks. He said the hours closeted in Minas Tirith with Ecthelion and Denethor had produced a plan of attack against the pirates that might solve their raiding once and for all, but would elaborate no further. However, to that end, his saddlebags contained a pouch of five hundred gold mirian, to help grease the way. The honest merchants of Pelargir would honor the military governor's script, but those on the fringe that they soon would be dealing with would need hard coin.
The sun was bright the morning after his arrival back in Pelargir as the pair walked down the quay in search of the Dock master. Fallon patiently listened to the commander talk of their mission, but there was personal news from Minas Tirith he was waiting to hear.
"How does the Seward?" Fallon finally asked.
"Are you a captain of Gondor being polite or a son asking after his father?" Fallon grinned sheepishly.
"He is well and seems in good spirits. Finduilas is a comfort to him."
"And he to her…" Fallon spoke in a tone Thorongil had not heard in years. "I don't know what she will do when he passes."
"Fallon," the commander fished in a jacket pocket. "The Lady asked me to give you this. She asked in a way that led me to believe she felt I would not be surprised she asked it." He handed Fallon a thick envelope.
"We have been exchanging letters for some months since Father's collapse, but they are innocent. Although my brother believes otherwise, I would not betray him with his wife and, even if I weakened, Finduilas is too honorable to allow it. The letters are innocent; there is no reason why I should not exchange letters with my sister-in-law," Fallon explained defensively.
"Be careful. Denethor is unpredictable as a viper, as you well know. He can strike without cause or warning."
"What more could he do to me?" Fallon shrugged.
The harbormaster's assistant looked at the military officer standing before him curiously, confused by his request. His master was dining with the lord mayor and perhaps the governor would wish to return later and inquire of him? The man's freckles seemed to intensify with his agitation.
"I need a ship that is fast but doesn't look fast," Thorongil repeated for the man. "I assume you better than your master know what is available."
"Why ask me, sir? You'll be wanting to buy one from one of the merchant fleet owners." The young man tried to put him off.
"Nay, I don't want to buy a ship." He grinned at the man. "I understand a few years back you confiscated an old smuggling galleass. It has disappeared from all record." The harbormaster's assistant looked at him sharply, a flush filling in the pale spaces between his freckles.
"I wonder how you come by your information, my lord."
With reluctance, the man retrieved a wide-brimmed straw hat, and led them out of his office and along the docks to an older part of the quay where run down fishing boats and piles of garbage fronted boarded up warehouses and stews. The inhabitants looked as weathered and grey as the buildings around them, and squinted up at the daylight as if it were a sight seldom seen.
"Not a neighborhood to prowl about in at night, not without at least a company of men," Fallon murmured. The man led them out on a rickety pier and turned the lock on the door of a boathouse that looked as if it would soon collapsed on whatever it housed. Inside, an old lateen sailed cruiser was tied up. She looked as if she was used for storage: her decks were covered with piles of rope. Rotting sails hung reefed from her three masts. Looking down at the waterline, Fallon saw barnacles so thick he doubted she could move at more than a crawl.
"She doesn't look like much..." the man began.
"She will do," Thorongil stated and Fallon decided the stifling, dusty air of the building had addled his commander's wits. "I need some repairmen, men who can be trusted, who will work with my crew," Thorongil told the man, "and a place to berth her while the work is done, an inconspicuous place." He jingled the handful of coins he had in his pocket. "Can you help me with those, ----?" He quested in his memory for the man's name.
"Monroth, sir. Yes, I believe I can help you."
"And, Monroth, I need a man to oversee this refit, a man who can keep quiet. I will inform your master you will be attached to my staff for awhile working on a special project for me." The man grinned. "And, Monroth, I need a crew to sail her; men whose loyalty to me is unquestionable; I'll pay handsomely for it and grant reprieves from any crimes they stand accused."
"Yes, my lord." Monroth bowed slightly and tugged at his hat brim. He saw that this soldier offered him a way out of the dismal job of harbormaster's assistant. Also, Monroth saw there was something about this officer that brooked no refusal.
Under the cover of night, a hand picked crew of shipwrights hauled the galleass up the shore to a landing in a hidden inlet out beyond the swamps. As the refit began, Monroth spread gold in the right quarters and again under the cover of night, wagons arrived bearing good timbers, ropes, and sailcloth; no one inquired where such fine supplies came from for such a low cost. The ship was scraped to the bare wood and repainted black, her rigging replaced, and new sails sewn.
Fallon and Thorongil rode back to Pelargir a week later after supervising a morning of work. The sun was hot for so late in the year and both rode leisurely in shirtsleeves, Fallon protecting his fair nose with a straw hat. Thorongil had been thoughtfully quiet since he had checked Monroth's careful accounting of materials and, finding the books sound, provided him with another influx of coin.
"Commander, did you see that sailcloth that was delivered?" Fallon asked. Thorongil nodded. "It was all dyed black!" Fallon exclaimed. Thorongil nodded again.
"Fallon, I need a selected group of our troopers---about twenty, preferably without young families. They must be absolute irreproachable in their loyalty to us and brave to the point of foolhardiness."
"Will we finally be overthrowing my brother?" Fallon joked.
Thorongil shook his head. "Just thinking that will get you thrown into your brother's gaol all the quicker." Fallon, adequately chastised, rode on quietly a while and then said:
"Are you ready then to outline this plan for me---I've only heard bits from you, and what I can cobble together of the plan is fantastic." Thorongil knew it was time to share the whole with Fallon, now that it seemed his desperate scheme could truly work.
"As you know, we do not have the ships to sail a large fleet into Umbar and defeat the Corsairs so we are going to become pirates ourselves. We will sail into Umbar for the conclave, swagger about with the rest, and when all are there---"
"Slaughter the leaders?" Fallon suggested.
"What I plan is even more heinous to corsairs. We will fire their ships. It is difficult to be a pirate without a ship. Your father has already written the order to embargo all export of wood. There are no trees to speak of in Harad so it will be years before the fleet can be reconstructed. The Captain of the Havens will be an old man before his fleet has the strength to harry us again." Fallon reined in and looked off into the tree line. He shook his head.
"This time, I fear, you will have us killed. I've no desire to hang from the walls the Umbrian fortress."
"That shan't be our fate, my friend." Thorongil looked at him sharply. "If you don't have the heart for this, you can stay here in charge of the garrison if you'd like. It would be the proper duty for my second in command." Fallon turned on him, fire in his eyes.
"Dare you call me coward? Do you think I'd let you sail into such danger without me at your side? Nay, I shall be on the deck as we sail into the port, eye patch and cutlass in tow." Thorongil laughed at Fallon's outrage, which brought a grin to his captain's face, and urged Dagor on and they rode on again silently for a time.
"Fallon, once you find the men I have another job for you," Thorongil began thoughtfully. "For this plan to work, our crew must play the part of pirates. From their clothing down to their weapons, none can be identified as anything but a corsair. Not one Gondorian longsword or uniform jacket can go to Umbar. You must find the appropriate clothing and weapons and turn our soldiers into scurvy dogs!" Fallon grinned at the assignment.
"Aye, Captain!" he snarled in his sailor imitation, tugging his hat down over one eye.
Fallon enlisted the squire's help and Quillion plunged whole-heartedly into the charade. He took to the pirate play-acting a bit too well, adding colorful and inappropriate epithets to his language. Thorongil warned him several times that his tone and phrases were too salty for a young lordling and his gentlemanly squire, but Quillion persisted until the day he addressed the Commander with a particularly colorful phrase that besmirched Gilraen's honor. A moment later a stunned Quillion was shaking the ringing from his head; Thorongil had boxed his ears for it. The surprise was more arresting to the boy's behavior than the pain. Afterward, he limited his acting to a pirately swagger and the wearing of a magnificent purple coat he had appropriated for his corsair garb.
The smell of new timber, tar, and paint scented the air near the secret berth. The galleass rode easily at her moorings, midnight black with a red stripe just above the waterline. She was rechristened Revenge and rode at her anchorage looking as rakish and dangerous as any Corsair ship. Rumors circulated of a threat from a new corsair named CaunNor; they began as stories spread in the taverns by Thorongil's troopers. The tales of pillage, ravishment, and massacre at sea were more exaggerated with each telling until the Pelargir council demanded Thorongil do something about this new threat---a threat that had not yet been seen in the Anduin's waters.
Thorongil met Lord Kindrel riding along the track one morning as he trotted down to the shore to check on the finishing work.
"My Lord," Thorongil greeted his old shipmate.
"I trust you've found the galleass to your liking?" Kindrel asked. Thorongil nodded.
"She's a fine ship."
"The tales of CaunNor are delightful. I like your style, Commander, but I don't hold you'll do well against the likes of the Captain of the Havens. You are still unschooled in how the pirates think."
"Do you suggest I need someone who can think like they do?" Thorongil asked.
"You'll also need a pilot." Thorongil remembered Kindrel's great navigational skills.
"I had just planned to angle down the coast, keeping land in sight."
"Which will be fine unless the plan goes awry. I assume you would like to return."
"Aye, that is always part of my plans." Thorongil admitted.
"I volunteer. That nest of murderous filth needs cleaned out. Ascabar slaughtered my brother and his family and countless lives have been ended because of the murderers since then."
"My ship is named Revenge but I'd like that not to take precedence over my mission. Slaughter is not my intent unless it comes to that. Can you abide by that?" Kindrel nodded.
"What you aim to do will be adequate to quench my thirst for revenge."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.