1. Gathering Gloom
Chapter One: Gathering Gloom
'The days are dark, and there is no hope for Men, for the Faithful are few. Therefore I am minded to try that counsel which our forefather Eärendil took of old, to sail into the West..., and to speak to the Valar, even to Manwë himself, if may be, and beseech his aid ere all is lost.'
'Would you then betray the King?' said Elendil. 'For you know well the charge that they make against us, that we are traitors and spies, and that until this day it has been false.'
'If I thought that Manwë needed such a messenger,' said Amandil, 'I would betray the King. For there is but one loyalty from which no man can be absolved in heart for any cause. But it is for mercy upon Men and their deliverance from Sauron the Deceiver that I would plead, since some at least have remained faithful. And as for the Ban, I will suffer in myself the penalty, lest all my people should become guilty.'
-The Silmarillion, Akallabêth
5th of Víresse in the Year 3316 of the Second Age:
The sky was iron gray and the air was filled with water droplets that were too small to be rain but too large to be fog. The sun would be setting soon—not that one could tell. The ocean billowed as if a giant had dropped a stone in its depths, sending roll after roll of water at the little ship. Leaning over the side of the boat, griping the gunwales tightly, Daiki willed his stomach to settle. He hated sailing. Not for the first time, he wondered what madness had convinced him to join Lord Amânzîr in this endeavor.
Because you need at least four to sail this ship and I haven't got any family to leave behind…
The answering thought was bitter and Daiki shoved away the emotions that came with it. After a few moments, he lost the battle with his stomach and vomited over the side of the ship. He felt a hand rubbing circles on his back and looked up to see the wrinkled face of Abârôn, Lord Amânzîr manservant and Daiki's mentor, crouched beside him. He smiled weakly at the Man whose grey hair was cropped short in the manner of servants, just like his own.
Abârôn handed him a water skin. After wiping his mouth, he did so, trying to ignore the taste of the water which had picked up the flavor of the wooden barrel it had been stored in. Daiki knew he had become spoiled living in Lord Amânzîr estate just outside Rómenna. There was a spring on the property and he had forgotten what it was like to drink water that did not taste fresh.
"You need to drink more, else you will get sick," Abârôn said as Daiki handed him the water skin.
Daiki nodded but could not bring himself to drink anymore of the stale water. From the aft of the ship, a tall Man came towards them with long sure strides, even on the pitching ship. His face was unlined but not young, with a large nose that prevented him from being truly hansom. The Man's beard was trimmed short and his dark hair was drawn back in a single braid, sailor fashion. He was barefoot and naked from the waist up with his arms crossed across his chest. He would have looked imposing if he had not been smiling broadly.
"You should not mother the boy so much, Abârôn. He's almost a man now," He said.
"Bârhên Azruzôr, it seems you have misplaced you tunic once again. Shall I get you a new one, ere you catch your death of cold?" Abârôn's voice was dry and he squeezed Daiki's shoulder before straitening, fastidiously smoothing his white tunic. Lord Azruzôr grimaced.
"I take it back. You may mother the boy all you like, provided you do not mother me!" Lord Azruzôr winked at Daiki.
"Here lad, I bought this ere we left. Thought you might have need of it," he held out a ceramic jar that had been sealed with wax.
"It's pickled ginger. I remembered you liked it and I thought I would help settle your stomach."
Daiki was suspired that Lord Azruzôr remembered that he liked pickled ginger. He had told the Man that years ago after a disastrous fishing trip. He was also touched by Lord Azruzôr's kindness. Pickled ginger had been common fare in his homeland on the shores of Azûlzâin but it was rare in Númenor. It must have been expensive.
Daiki liked Lord Azruzôr, even if he drove Abârôn mad. Lord Azruzôr was the youngest child of Lord Amânzîr's sister. He had inherited the love of the Sea that many of the Lords of Númenor had possessed but unlike them, he was mostly known for his cheerful insouciance. It was his ship, the Azrukarbu, they were sailing and he had built it himself.
"Thank you, Bârhên." Daiki said, giving a bow that was shaky due to the roll of the ship. Lord Azruzôr waved his hand dismissively.
"None of that, now. How many times have I said that it's impossible to run a ship with Men bowing all over the place?
"Often enough, I am sure," a Man a hand taller than Lord Azruzôr had emerged from below deck. It was Lord Amânzîr.
He was hansom with a neatly trimmed beard and sharp eyes, grey as the morning mist. His temples were gray but the rest of his raven hair was not worn loose about his shoulders, as was custom among the Lords of Númenor, but was drawn back in a single braid in the fashion of mariner's. He wore the same black woolen breeches we all did but his tunic was not of the white linen that Abârôn and I wore. Lord Amânzîr's tunic was midnight blue and made of silk with silver embroidery at the hem and cuffs.
"Did you sleep well, Uncle?" Lord Azruzôr was steering the ship during the day with Daiki as his help while Lord Amânzîr, whom as nearly as good a seaman as his nephew, would guild the ship at night with Abârôn.
"We made good time again, today," Lord Azruzôr continued, not giving his Uncle time to answer his question.
"Twelve knots. If this wind keeps through the night, we should see the Enchanted Isles on the morrow. Three hundred and forty leagues in a fortnight. It is good timing. Almost too good. Maybe the Bârun Anazra and Bârun Abawîba are taking pity on us, eh?" Lord Azruzôr grinned.
"We can but hope," Lord Amânzîr replied quietly.
Daiki looked to the West in the fading light and saw nothing but the Sea. They had set sail from the harbor at Rómenna and headed East for a day before turning south and angling West, heading for where the elven ships were known to pass on their way to Tol Eressëa. They wanted to skirt the Lonely Island to the south but there were no accurate maps to be found in Númenor detailing with the seas around Tol Eressëa or how to pass the Enchanted Isles that barred the way.
As Lord Azruzôr said, they would burn that bridge when they came to it.
Amânzîr: Amandil's name in Andunaic (over 400 years old)
Azruzôr: Amandil's sister's youngest child (204 years old)
Abârôn: Amandil's manservant of 60 years (78 years old)
Daiki: Amandil's manservant in training (22 years old)
Abârôn: Fidelity, endurance
Azrukarbu: Sea Stallion
Azûlzâin: Middle-earth; Endorë (lit: [the] East Lands)
Azruzôr: Sea Flame
Bârhên: My Lord
Bârimhên: My Lords
Bârun Abawîba: Lord of the Winds (Manwe)
Bârun Anazra: Lord of the Sea (Ulmo)
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