13. Chapter 13
The reunited company was in a mixed state. Some who had come over land were weary to the bone, while those who had come by ship were a bit more rested. But all were in need of a rest, and none more so than Rosmarin and Hanasian. Yet time to rest and relax and enjoy one's company would be fleeting. One hour was all they had. They intended to make the most of the first hour they had alone since Pelargir and their betrothal.
A tapping followed by a whisper was all Hanasian heard. It had not been an hour yet. In fact it was barely a half of one. Like a shooting star, the intensity of their reunion had burned bright for some few moments before they slid into a light slumber in each other's arms. It was probably a good thing this interruption came, though Hanasian was ill pleased. It was entirely possible Hanasian and Rin would continue to sleep, taking comfort from each other, without it.
"What Mulgov? This better be good!" Hanasian growled as he got himself together.
"Oh, it is. There is someone you need to talk to, Cap."
With a quick kiss on Rin's cheek, they headed to the depths of the Desert Moon's cellars. Upon arrival, Mulgov introduced a young Haradian named Morcul. He seemed on edge and kept looking around as if someone was looking for him. Mulgov talked to him in Haradian and then turned to Hanasian.
"We said we needed to grab one of them, but what do we say to one who wants to freely join us?"
"He could be a plant, and is a turncoat at best." Hanasian replied, eyeing Morcul suspiciously. Mulgov was insistent though.
"If I was told the company history right, didn't Khule get involved with the company in a similar fashion?"
"Sort of, but different. I take your point, however. What is it he offers us?"
Mulgov went over what Morcal had told him.
"He says he can get us to where the rebel leader is encamped. It is well south of here, and says that the rebel forces here at the front are a well-trained cadre led by a trusted lieutenant. But outside this core, most of the line troops are second-rate conscripts picked up along the way," he finished and waited for Hanasian to absorb this information.
"That would explain why their push to Umbar had slowed, given that their good men are being spread thinner to keep the morale and backbone of the main army from breaking. I'm thinking once the bulk of the men get here, they will have little trouble holding against such a force. It would explain why our orders have changed," Hanasian analysed.
It was then that the local police commander of Umbar broke in with some men and seized Morcal. Mulgov began to take exception but Hanasian held his hand up for him to pause.
The commander turned to Hanasian and said,"This man is a known rebel and is wanted for questioning. We take him to our lock hole."
The men led Morcal out, and Hansian again restrained Mulgov.
"We don't interfere with the local authorities. That man took his chance coming into the city, and he was obviously spotted or someone tipped off the locals. Either way, we will have to decide whether what he said is true," Hanasian counselled.
Khule saw the locals leaving with a man who looked similar to Mulgov if not as big, and took the opportunity to follow them. They went to the watch house where it seemed some high-ranking Gondorians had gathered. Interesting. He watched until it was time to gather at the Desert Moon.
Hanasian was the last to arrive. Hanasian had gone back to find Rin, who was getting dressed to go to the moot.
"Sorry about the interruption my love. One day soon we'll time to spend in each others company without any interruption. But it is not this day I'm afraid."
He gave her a kiss and she pressed into him as she passed out the door. Hanasian grabbed his writing kit and soon followed Rin into the secure underground room they had rented from the proprietor of the Desert Moon. It wasn't comfortable, but would suit their purpose well.
After they all had their say and grumble about not being able to enjoy the sights, Hanasian gathered their attention,
"Right men, it's been a tough road for most of us. Still we have come here in better strength than we have been in some time. Every one of you here bring something to the table, and each of you make the company as a whole stronger. Now some have been wondering why we were taken off the line and sent here. I believe Mecarnil could tell us more."
Mecarnil stood, holding a rolled parchment with the King's broken seal on it.
"Our trek down overland was a hard road, but much had been gained in our knowledge of who we are up against. Coupled with additional information obtained today, it has become the utmost importance that we set out by sea this night. Our company, along with a select few men the King has attached to us, will be setting off on a small ship to land at a point well south down the coast. It is a variation on the original plan we had when we set out from the north. However, our intelligence is much better now."
Mecarnil paused and there was some murmurs in the cluster of men. Hanasian studied the side of Rin's face as he listened to Mecarnil for some clue. He was aware that some of their information had come from her. However, she remained carefully guarded.
"We will have a fast ship to get us there, but it will not wait around. Once ashore, we will be on our own and will have to work our way back north after the rebel threat has been removed," Hanasian summed up.
In short, they were to locate and disable this warlord rebel of Sauron's. Hanasian had hoped to be able to stay there one more night, but it wasn't to be. Briefing on the intelligence their orders were founded upon continued for some time. Runners from the king came and went, and the preparation was carried out with remarkable precision. So well was things done in secret that nobody had a clue the old river cargo ship they would be taking was loaded with provision. In the night, the company slipped out of the Desert Moon by way of an ancient tunnel, and came unseen to the wharf where they boarded. Another midnight sailing. At least he was here with Rin this time. It was not long before they were away, and the little ship steered south hugging the coastline. It was now that they were away from Umbar that more emerged of their mission. There was little chance of being overheard now.
The small ship was made for river transport of people and cargo. The majority of the vessel was given over to cargo storage. Just above the belly of the ship was a long open area strewn with hammocks. At the stern, where it was wider, was the galley on one side and a small cabin for paying passengers. On the deck stood the cabin's quarters. With the arrival of the Company, the crew took to sleeping on the deck. They wanted the soldiers below deck, out from under foot. Even if they clung to the coast, they were still taking a river boat onto the sea and that would make for tricky sailing as the late spring storm season hit.
They cleared Umbar's immediate harbour easily, but the promised storm found them as they hugged the southern coast of the greater inlet. It made for an uneasy and busy night for anyone able to sail. Thankfully, the storm found them in relatively protected waters. Mercifully, no one was lost, even if they all were soaked to the skin. Blessedly, Rin had yet more of those little vials for unruly stomachs. The storm was a powerful but brief demonstration of Osse's power. Once the storm had passed, there were a few broken limbs that needed tending. She was becoming quite adept at fusing snapped bones, even if she did say so herself.
But the time the storm had passed, even the most sea sick were exhausted enough to sleep. Hanasian and Rin dragged themselves to the small cabin below decks through the hammocks were filled with snoring lumps of men. They were so tired, they said not a word as they too collapsed into sleep. Rin's last conscious thoughts ran in several directions. She needed to dry out that shirt she had left on the floor. She needed to get into the galley to make up more sea sickness vials and get started on that repellent. She was bone deep grateful for the fact that once again, the steady warmth of the man she loved was at her side.
Molguv and Khule stood together in the cargo hold. Khule held a lantern up high. It was dawn, just, but it was always dark down there. Molguv was crouched. They were wedged between stacks of cargo.
"I'm telling you, either you go get Doc or he'll die down here. He might die anyway, by the sound of him. I can hear gurgling every time he breathes. They worked him over good."
"If we get Doc, this whole thing is blown wide open," Molguv said.
"Shoulda thought of that before you smuggled him on board. If he survives, and if he's worth the risk, you might get out of this in one piece. If he doesn't pull through, or if he proves the turncoat Cap thinks he could be, then your number is up."
"I didn't interfere in local politics. I didn't go against orders."
"No, but you don't do the enlisting. And, this man is officially a stowaway. Don't rightly know what the ship's captain will say about that, either."
"I still think we can use him, Khule, criminal or not."
"Then go get Doc. I'll keep an eye on him. Does he speak Westron?"
"Well, there's that, at least. Remember to tell Videgavia and Frea that when they're stringing you up for compromising our mission."
Khule watched the large Haradian climb the ladder to the higher level. Molguv emerged to find the men still slept in their bunks. The sun had yet rise still. They'd only gotten to bed some two hours earlier. He heaved a sigh and then walked carefully between the hammocks to avoid disturbing anyone. He paused at the closed door between him and Doc. Molguv cracked the door open and found both Hanasian and Rin were soundly asleep. He could move with surprising stealth despite his bulk. Molguv felt desperately uncomfortable about sneaking up on them like this. He paused, noting the vulnerable, relaxed expression of deep sleep on the company healer's face. She was rarely this relaxed when awake.
He shook his head, realised that he was prying, and tried to wake her. It took more than he thought. Eventually her eyes flared open and then widened again as she caught sight of him leaning over her. He held his finger up to his lip and pointed at the door. She frowned at him and glanced to the sleeping man at her side, debating with herself. Molguv was convinced his luck had ended when she shooed him away so that she could grab a dry shirt to throw on. He retreated, powerfully relieved. She emerged shortly afterwards, kit slung over one shoulder and still lacing the upper ties of her shirt. She favoured Molguv with a scowl, hair still sleep tousled. He took her unspoken protest in his stride and led her back down into the cargo hold. Khule's lantern was the only light in the dark space.
"This had better be good," she growled as she followed Molguv through the inky hold. Khule's expression was grim and she soon found why.
"Who is he?" Rin breathed as she took in the state of the man on the floor of the hold.
"Informant – Far Harad tribesman. Said his name was Morcal," Molguv supplied, wary of giving too much away.
"He's been beaten half to death, or more " Rin said, crouched by the prone man.
The swaying light Khule held made it difficult, but after a quick examination Rin was convinced that there were numerous injuries, many of them internal. Any one of them enough to kill a man in their own right. She looked up at Khule, who shrugged, and then to Molguv.
"Well?" she asked.
"City Watch took him at Umbar. This is their work, not ours."
"And you want me to heal him."
"If you can."
"Why should I?"
"Because he could be useful to us. Because you're a healer and you don't like unnecessary suffering. Because you know what it's like to be alone and on the wrong side of the law."
"Does Hanasian know he's here?"
"Does Hanasian know about him at all?"
"Some," Molguv hedged, "Are you going to help him?"
Rin peered at Molguv steadily. He was putting her in a difficult situation.
"Help him, Rin, if you can. Molguv knows you'll have to tell the Cap in any case," Khule said with a cautionary glance to the Haradian. Molguv nodded unhappily and Rin began.
Neither Khule nor Molguv had seen a healer work. Morcal needed more than patching up, he needed more than field medicine. He needed healing and this would need to be done in stages. She began, logically, with the most imminent risks to his life. His lung was punctured, his kidneys were barely functioning and his heart was labouring. If Khule or Molguv expected to sense anything, they would have been disappointed.
There was no sound or light or chanting or waving. As far as they could tell, she simply laid her hands on Morcal's chest and closed her eyes. Her breathing shifted, as did his. They could see the colour wash from her face. Morcal's eyes flew open and he stared in shock at the pale haired woman that had her hands on him. His eyes rolled wildly until they settled on Molguv and then he uttered something that sounded desperate in Haradrim. Molguv rumbled something by way of reply and the man looked with renewed shock at Rin, whose eyes were still closed. Then his own rolled back in his head and he was out again. Rin had not paused her work.
"What was that about?" Khule asked Molguv in the ensuing silence.
"He wanted to know why some strange unveiled woman had her hands on him. I told him she was a djinn. Only way around it."
Rin moved to the next stage as she sensed Morcal was unconscious again. This would be painful for them both. She worked by instinct and learning, blending and weaving the two together in a way that would be difficult for her to articulate. It was exhausting. She opened her eyes after what felt like a day had passed. A wave of dizziness gripped her, as she had expected. She waited it out and then reached for her kit with clumsy, tired hands. It was time now to see to the final, peripheral things. She needed to marshal her focus for this too. A poorly cleaned or bandaged wound could kill him as certainly as a punctured lung could, more slowly and with infinitely more pain. By the time she was done, Rin's clammy skin was awash with sweat and Morcal's blood. She was alarmingly pale and her eyes were fever bright in the hold. Molguv had to help her stand.
"Done what I can. He'll need watching for the next few hours. Each hour he breathes, the better his chances become. Still, he could through my fingers anyway," Rin said in voice that sagged with weariness.
"Molguv will watch him," Khule assured her.
"He'll need to be brought up. He can't stay in this hold. Another storm could topple these stacks on him and crush him," Rin warned, voice tired and breathy. "I'll not be able to do a damn thing should that happen."
"You go report, Doc. We'll bring him up," Khule replied steadily, concern mounting as he studied her.
He helped Rin over to the ladder and then watched her disappear through the hole to the above level. Some men were up by now and most of those were in the galley. Farbarad, however, noted, her wan and bloodied appearance. She waved him away as she weaved a crooked path to the cabin door. She didn't knock, just pushed it open to find Hanasian was up and Mecarnil was there. Hanasian was holding the scroll Mecarnil had brought from Aragorn. It held the full details of necromancers, assassinations and the fool's mission of peace negotiations to follow.
"No big concessions, what a joke! What would I know about big? Three goats seems big to me!" she growled irritably as she pushed shut the door behind her.
Mecarnil's jaw was half open and Hanasian climbed to his feet, scroll forgotten, at the sight of her bloodied appearance.
"If this is secret ranger business, I won't be long. Need a new shirt… damn… it's still wet… damn, blood in my hair…" Rin knew she was rambling as she peered at her reflection.
"What the hell happened to you?" Hanasian asked pointedly.
"Stowaway… some Haradian… Morcal… Khule's helping Molguv bring him up from the hold. Probably going to die anyway…"
Hanasian swore and strode from the cabin with a thunderous expression on his face, the door swinging wide, as Molguv and Khule manoeuvred Morcal into a spare bunk.
"Was all my fault, Cap. Khule didn't have nothing to do with this. Umbar's Watch worked him over, dropped him on the street. I figured he might still be useful so I used my initiative," Molguv reported in a rush.
"Told him to go get Doc when he showed me Morcal. The rest, I guess, you know Cap," Khule said as Rin emerged from the cabin in a damp shirt and now with damp hair. He had no idea how she managed to still be on her feet.
"He don't speak Westron, so he can't understand what we've been saying even if he was awake," Molguv added.
"That man is not conscious now and will not be conscious for a number of hours should he survive," Rin said.
"Oh he will, Doc," Bear affirmed. He knew personally how skilled their healer was.
"You brought on board an unauthorised man in what is a sensitive and highly covert operation, and your defence is that he can't understand what we say?" Videgavia asked Molguv, astonished. Frea looked ready to tear the Haradian to pieces.
"He has good information! He knows about this rebel! He knows the disposition of his men and materiel!"
"He knows that we'll be vulnerable, well beyond the lines and unable to call for back up if he leads us astray," Wulgof said heavily.
"This is a man that was pressed unwillingly into service by a man he describes as some kind of monster. No one wants this rebel dead more. We help him free his people… we'll be in good standing when it comes to the negotiations to send his people back home again. I know these people. They are my people. I know how they think. They don't want more war. They don't more would be wraiths and Dark Lords. Ain't anyone one of you here that has paid more of a price than his people, my people, over the Ages."
"Molguv, do you know this man?" Gian asked. Molguv expelled a telltale heavy breath.
"I didn't realise it straight away, Cap. Honest. I got so many cousins, no way I can keep track of them all and it's been years since I was last home."
Men rumbled over that until Hanasian held up a hand for silence.
"He'll be under constant watch. Soon as I sniff that he's a traitor, he'll go over the side and I don't care if he's your cousin or your brother and I don't care if he can swim or not. Soon as he comes to, he'll be questioned. Rin… where's Doc?" Hanasian looked about.
"She's here, getting my hammock all damp, out cold," Wulgof dourly observed as he glanced down.
Rin had sat down while the debate raged and it had proved to be a slippery slope after that. With only an hour's rest the day before and then two hours of extensive healing, she was soon unconscious herself. She'd simply gone to sleep where she sat, slumping down with her legs still dangling over the side of Wulgof's hammock.
"Right… well, that's that for now, I suppose," Hanasian said as he eyed Rin's dangling legs a moment. Very distracting. He collected himself and pressed on.
"Molguv, you are officially on report. Stowaways are a serious matter. The Captain of this ship is well within his rights to take whatever measure he sees fit. You'd better hope that our Company doesn't have need of a healer in the next day or so, because by this action you've effectively stripped us of that resource. On your head be the consequences," Hanasian grimly said.
"That long?" Khule queried, genuinely surprised. Had he of known, he would have counselled Molguv differently.
"She's mortal, and has a mortal's limits. Don't let her strength deceive you," Farbarad replied. "In any case, healers can burn out. It's not a pretty sight. You don't want to see that happen."
Farbarad gave up startling some sense into the men as he tried to lever Rin out of Wulgof's hammock. He managed to roll her like a sack of grain onto his shoulder. She was a dead weight, completely limp. Hanasian followed Farbarad back to the cabin. Farbarad deposited her on the bed, nodded at his captain and withdrew. Hanasian managed to pull the damp shirt from her. She didn't stir. Molguv's cousin must have been very badly injured indeed to inspire this degree of catatonia. He sat on the edge of the bed and studied the scroll that Mecarnil had given him. It lay on the floor.
If Morcal was not a traitor, a plant, and if the man lived then Molguv may have handed them the tool they needed to pull this off. They'd have four days a-ship before they put to shore. Beside him, he heard Rin murmur his name. He glanced at her and saw her smiling in her sleep. Necromancers, politics, informants or traitors… and there she was smiling in her sleep. Somehow, it made the many things that sat on his shoulders sit a little lighter and provided some soothing respite to his churning thoughts.
Hanasian made sure she wasn't bothered by men curious as to her status as she slept, and she slept and slept, then slept some more. The pitching of the boat didn't seem to affect her at all. Hanasian himself took a bit of a nap while with her, but since she showed no sign of waking, he had left her to tend to some business.
Mulgov was convincing that his cousin would be of great assistance in the south, especially since the 'plan' as put forth by Aragorn was to go in on foot and without a rendezvous ship to wait for them. They would be left to find the rebel leader, hopefully capture him, and make their way north by whatever means at their disposal to meet up with the main forces pushing south. It was a tall order. Hanasian was still unsure about Morcal. The working over he got in Umbar was pretty tough. He was fortunate to be alive and that showed considerable strength. Hanasian decided to put it to the company this night as to what to make of Morcal. He went down to where most of the men were still gathered.
"How is Morcal?" he asked Mulgov.
"He will live. Will be a bit sore for awhile. Where is Rin?" Mulguv replied, feeling decidedly guilty.
"She is sleeping. Seriously exhausted. I will go and awaken her later when we discuss our mission. I will put the issue of Morcal up for a vote of the company, so you all best decide if you think he is trustworthy enough to have as one of us.
"Mulgov says he's alright, but he has been fighting on the side of the rebels. So, anything that has to do with what we're actually going to do down here will not be spoken with him in earshot. I know he said he could get us in, but we will have to test that. So everyone get rest now, for later I will call everyone in, and a few hours after that we'll go ashore."
Hanasian turned to go, and the others grumbled a bit but decided that a bit of sleep would be good, for there may not be another chance for it in some time.
Slipping back into the cabin, Hanasian saw that Rin had not so much as moved. He settled in a chair next to her and took her hand, and as he brushed her fingers, he fell asleep. It was dusk before Rin stirred. The coast was an inky smudge through the open cabin windows and Hanasian was sleeping in chair, a hand wrapped around her own. The evening breeze caught his hair. Someone had lit a lantern in their cabin. She lay quietly, enjoying the swaying of the boat and the sight of Hanasian until she could not lay still any longer. They had business of their own, interrupted at Umbar, to attend to. Hanasiansensed her move and he woke. A relieved smile curved his mouth.
"There you are," he said and she bent to kiss him.
It was a while later before the pair emerged from the cabin. Both were dressed ready for immediate deployment, yet despite that both seemed in excellent spirits. The Company was distributed around the open area below decks. Loch looked up from a game he was playing with Wulgof.
"Ha, told you she wasn't out of the game," he smugly announced.
Wulgof and several others grumbled as they handed over coins. Rin shook her head and continued on to the hammock that contained the stowaway. He was guarded by Videgavia and Frea on either side. Both men wore grim faces that softened a fraction as they made eye contact with the healer. The fact that she was up again had allayed a growing concern that perhaps Molguv's stowaway might rob them of their healer more than a day. Only Loch, familiar with Rin over the many years they spent together, had been confident that she'd bounce back sooner than they expected. She may look delicate, but she was made of steel and he had the bruises to prove it.
"Awake?" Rin inquired and Videgavia nodded.
She peered over the edge of the hammock. Morcal was still in residual pain, yet he was in considerably better shape than when she had last set eyes on him. Her idea had worked. It had worked! She felt a thrill of discovery and success. Even if he were a traitor, he'd just done the Company a considerable service. The realisation painted a smile on her face that removed any lingering vestiges of fatigue from her expression.
"Djinn! Djinn!" he croaked at her as he watched her smile over him. It brought Rin back to reality with a solid thump.
"You know what that means?" Rin asked Frea and Videgavia and both men shrugged noncommittally. They knew they were not going to be the men who enlightened her.
"What are you looking so pleased about?" Frea inquired, unable to help his curiosity.
"Hard to explain," she said.
"We're not idiots, if you please," Frea countered sullenly.
"Fine… don't say I did not warn you. You may be familiar with the elven technique of re-knitting bones. I manipulated that concept to apply to things other than bones: organs, muscles, sinew, flesh and the like. All you need is a sufficiently detailed knowledge of anatomy and preferably more than one healer on complex cases. You know how meat if pounded loses it's structure and becomes tender, which is why we pound it? When someone is that badly beaten, the same thing happens. His kidneys were nearly jelly..." Rin paused as Frea started to turn green, "Didn't pick you as having a delicate constitution, Frea."
"Jelly..." he stammered and Rin shrugged. She had warned him, after all. She returned to the business at hand.
"Has he had any water?"
"No, Doc," Videgavia answered.
"He'll need it if he's to answer questions."
"Djinn!" Morcal croaked, illustrating her point.
It was Khule who brought water to Morcal in a battered tin mug. Rin observed the man drink, straightened and nodded to Hanasian, who had been watching closely himself. Morcal would live, which meant the Company had a decision to make. Hanasian sent Loch above deck to secure a couple of hands to watch their stowaway and then motioned the company to the galley. It was the furthest point from Morcal and it was there the Company settled to finalise matters pertaining to their mission and the stowaway.
The galley was a small and soon crowded place. Hanasian scanned the faces. An unlikely collection of men, some of them old hands and some of them new hires and in their midst a woman who was not a soldier, the woman he would wed when this was done. She had his ring around her neck again and she elbowing Loch to get him off her braid. Any man with sisters suspected that Loch had sat on his sister's hair on purpose. Loch's crooked grin made it clear to all, Rin included.
"Right, the rest of the details. The rebel leader has been identified as Black Numenorean and he's using some of their usual tricks," Hanasian said.
"Such as?" Khule inquired.
"Necromancy," Mecarnil said and Rin shivered despite the warmth of the evening air in the crowded galley.
"We'll go in fast and sharp, take him out. Idea is that once he's out of the picture, those supporting him will want to go home. We're to do what we can to make that happen fast and permanently."
"Any ideas on how to go about that, Cap?" Foldine asked, scratching his head like several others, Loch included. "It's not like we're an army."
"Persuasion, incentive, diplomacy," Hanasian answered.
"Insane," Rin muttered before clenching her jaw again.
"What...Doc? Is that it? Because if that's it, then it's a very bad idea. She's one of the least diplomatic person I've met. She chased the last envoy off with a small tree!" Berlas frankly observed.
"She won't be doing it on her own," Mecarnil countered.
"I have a name, you know and I'm sitting right here! If anyone refers to me by her or she one more time in this discussion, I'll add another her to our number. I can promise you that. And, for the record, it was not a tree it was a branch and that man had it coming because you should have heard what he said about Rangers. I'm not the least bit sorry about it. I only wish I could have really caught the ass with it," Rin growled.
"See?" Berlas said.
"Enough… ideally, we want this would be sorcerer-king captured alive. We'll aim to bring him back to face the High King. Any that survive of the rear guard are to be pulled back with us. We'll not have this boat, so we'll need to secure transport to return over land."
"How many of the rear guard are likely to survive?" Anbor asked.
"Not many," Rin muttered, shivering again.
"How good is this information? I mean no disrespect to the King, but for something this risky the basis should be solid or we're just committing suicide the hard way. Did you already question that stowaway in Umbar, Cap?" Bear asked like any veteran might.
Hanasian rubbed at his chin and Rin closed her eyes. She'd been dreading this. The only person who knew about her dreams sat squished next to her. Loch sensed her sudden coiling and glanced at his sister. It was his advice as children that had started her secret. They'd both just seen a woman who had such glimpses burnt for witchcraft. Never tell anyone, Loch had said to her after that. Now, here she was, jammed into a galley of soldiers who felt increasingly more like family and the nasty truth was about to spill out. Would they burn her or drown her? Videgavia spotted Loch and Hanasian both glance at Rin and her jaw was locked tight.
"We all know, Doc. We were there, most of us, at the Barrow Downs. We saw it again near the Poros. It's no secret," Folca said.
"Worst kept secret I ever heard. She talks in her sleep! The things we heard on the way to Umbar..." Frea added.
"I am NOT a witch!"
"Obviously… or Frea and I would be toads by now," Wulgof said.
"Or perhaps Doc is an exceptionally poor witch, of no concern or threat even to herself," Khule pointed out.
"I told you there'd be no burnings," Mecarnil said.
Loch closed his gaping mouth with an audible click of his teeth. Loch heard his sister sigh beside him and he saw her close her eyes again. Was she really going to admit it after all these years and if she did, how was he going to keep all these soldiers from her once she did? They seemed calm now, but that could change in an instant once she owned up to witchcraft.
"Fine, I Dreamt it and I was questioned by every commander in the combined armies of Rohan and the Reunited Realms and they thought it stacked up. I'm still not convinced. I think we need to question Morcal to confirm things. Just ask Loch how difficult it is to interpret Dreams."
Heads swivelled to study Loch and his eyes widened as his sister neatly implicated him in witchcraft. He crossed his arms, shook his sandy head.
"I have no idea what you're talking about and I am not saying one more word on the matter," Loch replied and pressed his lips into a thin, unhappy line.
"So, to recap: we're off to capture a sorceror-king who practices dark arts and once we've done that, we're to use our silver tongued and politically astute healer to sue for peace with the tribes of Far Harad and then we're to fetch ourselves back to Umbar with captive in tow," Foldine said.
"I say we bring Molguv's cousin with us," Bear said, surprising them all.
"Why?" Frea asked.
"Well… because even if we don't listen to a word he says, we can use him with the tribes people… a hostage…"
"He's too much of a risk, and this job has too many of those as it is," Gian said, speaking up for the first time.
"We can watch him. No way anything will get past us," Khule said.
"Not like my sister did at Tharbad," Loch said.
"That's different!" Khule replied, pride stung.
"Don't see how. Morcal's in about as good a shape as she was," Gian observed and then hurriedly corrected himself, "Sorry Doc… didn't mean to she you."
"Morcal don't look so good in a wet sheet as she did, and I'm not apologising for that Doc so you're wasting a perfectly good glare on me," Molguv countered.
The discussion circled about the merits of bring Morcal with them or tossing him overboard. Rin was the last member of the Company to cast her vote.
"He could be useful getting us in, he could be useful in arrangements with the tribe, he could be a thorn in our side. All I know is that he's helping me perfect a new technique and I'd like to have him around for a bit longer, just to see how that pans out if nothing else."
The vote was a narrow one in favour of bringing Morcal with them.
"If he proves a liability, Molguv, you know what will happen," Hanasian warned the Haradian.
It was done and just in time. The boat's captain appeared in the galley doorway with news that if they did not put to shore now, the approaching storm would push them too far from the coast to do so again until the following dawn. A night landing was clearly preferrable. It took three long boats to ferry the Company ashore. Then they scurried up over the beach to the thick jungle canopy for cover. As a matter of course, scouts spread out. Molguv questioned his cousin and determined a general direction, north east. Rin worked a touch further on Morcal once Molguv was done, nudging things along and exploring her technique while they waited for the scouts to return.
"Careful, Rosmarin. Can't have you going down now," Farbarad murmured over her shoulder.
Mecarnil watched with interest. Had he or indeed any of the others save, perhaps, Hanasian, made such an observation Rin would have kicked back. However, as Mecarnil suspected, the old bond between Farbarad and his former charge was there still and she simply nodded and stood. Mecarnil stowed his discovery away under the things good to know when it came to getting the Company Healer to comply with unpalatable instructions. Rin approached Hanasian. He stood watching the sea just inside the tree line. The little boat was trying to tack about quickly. She could smell the approaching storm in the air, metallic. Rin slipped her hand through Hanasian's.
"We can do this, can't we," she asked quietly.
"Absolutely. I believe we are ready, my love."
Rin nodded, reassured by that statement of belief. The scouts returned and it was time to move. They needed to be off the coast before the storm hit and pinned them down. It would be a wild one in the jungle tonight.
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.