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25 July 2008 @ 07:34 pm
Kin-strife: Part 18  
In which we learn of the burgling of Ondoher’s house and his disappearance; Pimm undergoes a change of employer; Ranmes conducts us on a tour of the Tower of the Moon; Brand, Pimm and Ragnor discover the hidden chamber and therefrom pillage diverse maps; everyone gazes in to the palantir, several suffering as a result; Celebrindor discovers our theft; we take refuge in a nearby tavern.

May 1st 1441

Over breakfast, Brand raises the not unreasonable question of what to do with Calvolului once we find it. This is a question that's been bothering me for some time. This artefact was hidden away presumably to keep it safe and has remained hidden and safe for a millennium and a half. If we find it, it will no longer be hidden and will only be as safe as we can make it. Frankly I'd be all for leaving it alone were it not for the fact that we know Celebrindor and possibly others are after it.

Brand thinks we should hand it over to the authorities but I think that would be a very bad idea. The ' authorities' in Minas Ithil means Heruvorn and he's employed Celebrindor, and I feel it would be a 'bad thing' for him to get his hands on Calvolului. If it weren't, we could leave it for him to find in the first place. However, my arguments would carry a lot more force if I had a viable alternative. After reaching no real conclusion we agree to reconsider the question if and when we find it.

While still at the breakfast table, I get a note from the Guild of Engineers advising that Ondoher's house has been burgled and he is nowhere to be found. This happened last night, possibly shortly after the disgraced Celebrindor's exit from the Moonswan. I recall Ondoher saying something about ensuring Labelorn's notebooks being hidden away and I hope he hid himself away with them.

Ranmes comes down to breakfast late again. (She seems to like late breakfasts; perhaps she her evenings are full of fun social events?) She advises that we will be allowed a tour of the Tower of the Moon one hour after mid-day.

After breakfast, I pay my entourage their wages: 3 crowns to each of Aerin and Brand, 2 each to Ilvren and Pimm. This is the last time Pimm shall take my coin, from tomorrow he will be officially in Ranmes' service and she has a few minor tasks for him this morning. He mutters something about 'severance pay' but he's only been in my employ a few weeks. I hope he settles in to Ranmes service without too much culture shock. I'm left with 11 crowns of my own money and just one of father's so I must cash another letter of credit to pay for our lodgings tonight and tomorrow.

For the rest of the morning, while Pimm enjoys some light paperwork, courtesy of his new employer, Aerin takes stock of her herbs and medicines, Brand and Ilvren attempt to gather rumours as to Ondoher's fate (I think with little success – none they report to me, at any event) while I spend the morning practicing my swordplay (though there's only so much you can gain by practice and drill, what I need is a duel or other means to whet my blade).

After lunch we all meet Ranmes at the Tower of the Moon. Ranmes having obtained the permission, she opens the door with a suitably impressive key as two exceedingly bored guards step aside. Apparently she is to be our guide.

We find ourselves in a huge circular chamber, consisting of the entire ground floor of the Tower. There is no visible sign of support for the vast vault over our heads nor much for the staircase that winds centrally up the middle. Despite its grandeur, there is no furniture and evidently the chamber is unused but it was clearly built to overawe, and convey a statement about the power and accomplishment of the engineers and indeed the race that built it. Magnificent architecture! I invite Ranmes to lead us up the stair.

The next floors are all less imposing than the ground. The first floor is divided in to two semi-circular chambers while the second floor is divided in to a total of six offices; the first is shut, apparently Heruvorn's 'official' office (if there is such a thing). I overhear Pimm and Brand muttering none too covertly about trying to pick the lock or force the door and am frankly grateful when we move on. The other offices are all of awkward shapes, dictated by being segments of a circle, bounded by the outside wall. Each has a single narrow window and sparse furnishings. No sign of any recent use.

The third to fourth floors are the same, each a little smaller than the last. The central hall in each immediately around the stair remaining the same size as the offices shrink to allow for the tapering of the out wall. As the offices contract, their shape becomes more squat. Evidently when it was used, the lesser officials would be working further up the tower than those more illustrious in more spacious chambers.

Brand asks Ranmes why this magnificent building isn't better used (or at all)? She replies that Heruvorn doesn't like it and speculates that he feels uncomfortable, perhaps because he doubts his own right to the place. Apparently he used the Palantir once and 'had a bad experience' and this may also have something to do with it.

By now we're climbing a tighter staircase. On the fifth floor, the stair emerges and ends in a circular chamber (as opposed to the two semi-circles of previous floors). Again there are doors to six offices but these are very cramped and of unusual shapes, very broad and shallow, arcs instead of segments, since the Tower is close to its minimum diameter at this point. The stair now shifts to the inside walls of the offices, with the initial portion alternating steep climb with flats over office doors.

The stair now rises some distance and no longer can there be considered to be 'floors'. Evidently the stair is now moving over the offices below to the outside wall. When we encounter the first true 'way-point' spoken of in Lasbelorn's notes, Brand tips a wink to Aerin and Ilvren and they engage Ranmes in conversation, drawing her up the Tower while Pimm, Brand and I fall back. We start examining the walls and I run my hand along it above head height at each new way-point.

At the third way-point, I feel a stone move beneath my fingers and a hidden door slides silently open. It's quite an eerie feeling to be that close to such a large piece of stone moving without noise. You expect grinding and vibration but after more than a millennium of disuse, the mechanism still works perfectly.

Brand immediately starts what he explains as a 'concealment' magic; very practical. Pimm and I pass inside to find ourselves in a very narrow chamber, confined by the width of the wall, lit by narrow horizontal slits that must be invisible from the streets below.

Beneath the slits, there are shelves filled with old parchments. Once Brand has joined us, we quickly realise they fall in to three types. Firstly there are architectural plans of crucial parts of the city: the sewers, bolt-holes and hiding places, hidden routes out and the city defences. Secondly, there are highly accurate maps of the surrounding countryside, including one showing Western Mordor and the vault of Anwar Serni. Finally there are larger scale maps of places more distant.

We don't have much time and we obviously can't take everything. It will be tricky getting it out past the guards but Brand and Pimm (who act as if they have experience of dopy guardsmen) assures me they will probably not notice bulges in clothing caused by a moderate pillaging so we hurriedly roll-up and fold away the sewer map (Brand already having spotted the hiding place of Calvolului, the passages around it cleverly designed to confuse and baffle anyone looking without a map), the Raj, the secret exits to Minas Ithil and the map of West Mordor. These we hide in shirt, down breeches and I wrap one in my cloak before exiting and pulling the door shut.

We hurry up the stair to find the ladies in the Observation Chamber. This is open on all sides with a balustrade, giving fantastic views over the city and the countryside beyond. But of course the highlight of the Tower and the reason for coming up all those stairs is the Palantir, a sphere of dark crystal, the size of a man's head, with a dark flame deep within, on a plinth a little off-centre.

As we enter the chamber, Ilvren is looking in to the Palantir, saying something about seeing a ship called the 'Blue Maid' out to sea beyond Pelargir. Before we can ask any questions, she goes quiet and seems to be struggling mentally. Then she turns away, muttering something about seeing her home but looking a little concerned. Nothing she wants to talk about, however.

Then Pimm steps up, saying he wants to see his mother but quickly his jauntiness passes in to troubled disappointment and he steps down. Brand is busy surveying the vista from the platform so I decide to look in the Palantir. Thinking first of Doronil, I see the view down the Anduin pass as if I were flying toward Pelargir. Quickly the Houses of Healing come in to view, then my vision passes through a window and I see my brother still lying asleep.

Then I think of my eldest brother, Olthandil; now the scene moves out of Pelargir and to sea, where I see him striding his quarterdeck and chatting amiably to an officer. Evidently whatever curse I have brought down on my family hasn't yet afflicted him. Finally I look to my father, I don't see him but I do see the front of our house in the Palace and all seems well enough. I hear the voice of one of my companions suggest I look for Adunaphel but I have no wish to tempt the Valar.

Now Brand is ready and I'm more at ease since I saw nothing to trouble my mind unlike Ilvren and Pimm. Brand murmers that he wishes to see Calvolului but it quickly becomes apparent that he is in trouble. His lips move silently as if he's reading some difficult text. Suddenly a fear grips my heart and I pull him bodily from the stone. Once his eyes clear he tells us he saw Celebrindor and is sure Celebrindor saw him. Brand mutters something about the Palantiri being two-way devices, whoever you see can also see you and I thank the Valar that I chose not to 'look in to the Abyss'.

At that moment a large crow flies around the platform cawing loudly and commences to spiral down the Tower as if looking for something. Brand reports seeing the crow with Celebrindor; is it his familiar? I wish I had practiced with my throwing daggers for then I would make it rue exposing itself so close but I need much practise for if I missed it might fall on someone below and would surely kill them from such a height.

A caw announces that the crow has found the hidden chamber and I think it's time to leave. Ilvren is already urging us to go. While we've been tending to Brand, Pimm has stolen a last look in the Palantir. As Ilvren gently pulls him away, he says, with an odd expression, something about seeing himself as a child.

Luckily the guards are just as bored as before and seem to notice nothing. Ranmes locks up behind us and we find ourselves with a security problem; how to keep the maps safe? We must expect Celebrindor to rifle the chamber in the Tower and once he finds what he wants isn't there, he will correctly deduce that we took it away and will come after us. Ondoher's house was ransacked, according to Brand, and he may do the same at the Moonswan. With more people in the building it will be more difficult but we all know Celebrindor has command of the dark arts and he may choose to turn them on us.

It is now mid-afternoon and I need to cash another of father's letters of credit. Then this evening we meet Dringol at the Eagle & Elf. Ranmes confirms she will be leaving on the third and it shouldn't be difficult for Celebrindor to discover this so we may expect a visit from him or his cronies at any time in the next 36 hours and perhaps further harassment as we make our way home. I'm glad we will be travelling in caravan with Ranmes.