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10 October 2008 @ 07:38 pm
kin-strife: Part 20  
In which we set off for Pelargir; Ranmes gives Ragnor a brief introduction to the politics of Umbar; we return to Pelargir without event to find Doronil, Merethin and Tegilbor recovered; Ragnor’s father reveals that Tegilbor points the finger at the Queen; Lord Lintoron and the Hyarmenost family turn traitor, but quietly; Ragnor gets a job; Doronil wants to swap places with Ragnor; Brand learns how to resist the Dark Arts and disposes of the maps; everyone is invited to a party.

May 3rd 1441

We’re all up bright and early for a fast start but there are a few errands that intervene. I’m feeling guilty over the innkeeper, who is still at the Houses of Healing, so I take Aerin over to examine him. He has actually recovered his wits but is still shaken physically and emotionally. At my suggestion, Aerin advises the healer in charge that the patient suffered attack from the Dark Arts but we are assured that he will recover fully in time.

On our return, I overhear Brand buying a bottle of strong spirits to lubricate his travels. Students!

Ranmes then arrives with a squad of a dozen soldiers as a guard (what a comment on the times we live in that a civil servant should need such an armed guard to travel within the borders of Gondor) and so we set off.

During the journey, I make a point of cultivating Ranmes acquaintance. She is a senior civil servant working for the city of Pelargir. As a major maritime and naval port, Pelargir’s affairs take her all over Gondor and she expects to sail for Umbar soon.

I ask her for a brief introduction to Umbar politics: Umbar is a little out of the sphere of Gondorian politics but is linked to Pelargir by common interests, such as trade. The persons of import are the governor, Telemnar (the Queen’s father), who is opposed by Menalmir, the Lord Captain (and 3rd in Gondor’s naval hierarchy), these reflect the polarisation of the Court around Murabeth and Castamir’s uncle, Morlaen.

She comments that Pelargir’s politics centres around the Court and the amount of influence exercised with the King, whereas Umbar’s politics focuses on whether to expand overland in to Near Harad or down the coast past the Raj, possibly in to the domains of the mythical Storm King (a shadowy threat in the far south).

Umbar has a wide hinterland with many client chieftains in Near Harad. Trade tariffs and tribute give Umbar a large disposable income which is normally decided by an annual budget. Normally this happens in the late summer but events have brought this forward this year due to attempts to open up trade further abroad.

Telemnar favours opening the land routes, which would focus attention on areas close to hand but Menalmir, as a sea captain, looks to maritime expansion. It so happened that several years ago, perhaps the leading merchant venturer in Umbar, one Kunbeshu, built the largest merchantman ever seen in Gondorian waters, filled it full with trade goods and sailed south.

Nothing was heard from him until last November, when word arrived that he’d turned up in Bozisha-Dar, intending to over-winter there before returning to Umbar in the spring. His imminent arrival, with possibly a great profit from trading with nations hitherto unknown to the south.

Ranmes understands that it is unknown whether Kunbeshu would support Telemnar’s land faction or Menalmir’s sea faction but it seems to me that if Kunbeshu’s expedition can only lend weight to the sea faction – unless he’s discovered some horror to be avoided at all costs (though if this is the case, it would seem insufficient to prevent Kunbeshu’s return) – especially as Squire Gordacar (a mover and shaker of Umbar) built his ship and invested heavily in the venture.

Ranmes expects to represent Pelargir’s interest in this big budget discussion, which is likely to focus major funds on supporting land or sea expansion on a strategic basis for the foreseeable future. She doesn’t expect to have much say in the final decision but at least she can make Pelargir’s voice known and will report on matters raised. It seems this has to be done in person if any information deemed ‘sensitive’ is to be sent with any despatch as the Cor Aran now controls the express letter courier service.

In my opinion she seems to be looking forward to going. I ask outright which side she would support. He response is slightly guarded but her opinion is that it’s folly to expand so far afield as the Sea Faction would choose.

May 8th 1441

We have an easy ride to the river, where I pay Ilvren, Aerin and Brand this week’s wages. The journey downstream is swift with little incident.

May 13th 1441

We arrive in the early afternoon of May 13th and, after bidding farewell to Ranmes, I hasten straight to the Houses of Healing, where I’m told Doronil was taken several days ago to our house and has since made a full recovery, as have Merethin and Tegilbor thanks to the dragûl root. This is the very best news I could have wished for; I see Aerin home to Neithan’s house and depart for home immediately.

I give Father a brief summary of my trip and he compliments me on my success. On receiving my letter about dragûl root, father and Lord Lintoron (father of the dead Valadan) arranged for the three patients to be removed from the Houses of Healing and treated clandestinely, 48 hours earlier than announced publicly, and then interrogated regarding the events leading up to their poisoning. (My, my! What suspicious minds?)

Doronil and Merethin knew little but Tegilbor was very revealing. I recall his uncle, Orthelion, claiming that a stray letter sent by Tegilbor from Umbar had gone astray, and that Orthelion thought it most significant. It seems while in Umbar, Queen Murabeth’s agent in Umbar, Rivonthel, had approached Tegilbor’s groom regarding information from his previous service to Lord Captain Menalmir.

It seems Rivonthel wanted plans to Menlamir’s house and grounds; no purpose was given but it would seem sinister. The groom told Tegilbor’s cook, who had been Tegilbor’s nurse when he was a child and is apparently as loyal as family, and the cook went straight to Tegilbor.

Tegilbor advised the groom to stall Rivonthel. Meanwhile he wrote to his uncle, Orthelion, outlining what he knew of this apparent plot against Menalmir and asking for advice. This went by express courier, which as Ranmes had mentioned, is a service controlled by the Cor Aran. It was this letter that went astray, doubtless intercepted by the Cor Aran, possibly a contingent specifically loyal to the Queen, who would have thus been alerted that a neutral party was privy to a plot by her faction in Umbar.

After this we are left with speculation, but Lord Lintoron and father are certain that persons loyal to Queen Murabeth ordered the assassination of Tegilbor to prevent news of the plot spreading. That it was organised by her steward, Khoradûr, points a finger directly at the Queen.

But Khoradûr may have had his own agenda, as evidenced by his aside regarding a possible ‘3rd choice’ for the throne of Gondor; and he arranged for the simple assassination to devolve in to the farce of a mass poisoning. It also hid the fact that Tegilbor was the target most effectively. How unfortunate that Tegilbor failed to die?

Lord Lintoron and father want to bring Castamir down in revenge for the hurt done to their families. But for this they will need an alternative candidate. Unwilling to turn to Eldacar, father says they want to learn more about Khoradûr’s ‘3rd choice’.

For now, Tegilbor has been spirited away by his family for safety while it has been generally announced that none of the three men could add significantly to the information gathered by Aerin’s investigation.

Father wants to maintain the fiction of a rift between the two of us. He has found me gainful employment as Clerk of the Keys in Pelargir. It means I will be his main agent on the Pelargir docks with access to all his warehouses. Best of all I shall receive a stipend of eight crowns a week!

I shall pay off Aerin and Ilvren (both will easily find alternative employment) but I shall retain Brand as my scribe. Father says I shall be free to involve myself in Bauglir’s schemes to whatever degree I see fit.

Then I see Doronil: he is hale and hearty with a rip-roaring plan for us to change places in father’s grand schemes. He has no interest in politics or in Telerien, whereas he implies she might be very interested in me. He fancies a career as a merchant prince (he’s sailing south shortly – isn’t everyone?) and he thinks I should marry the princess and eventually succeed father as the family’s man at Court.

He’s quite forceful and I fear he’s already talked to Telerien (I just hope neither he nor Telerien have gabbled any of this to the Queen). Now he’s recovered, I’m beginning to recall his shortcomings – I commend his decision to follow a mercantile career but gently try to persuade him that I’m not yet ready to commit to marriage, and that perhaps I lack the maturity to start a political career. May be in a decade or so?

So overall, aside from the distant threat of wedding bells and the knowledge that the entire family are suddenly latent traitors, I’m feeling pretty pleased with the world when I drop in on Aerin to advise her that her next wage will be her last. While there I tell Brand and advise him of my new job (I think the rest of it needs discretion).

Brand is happy enough to be my scribe, retained at his current wage. He advises that we should keep copies of the maps found in Minas Ithil, the originals to be kept hidden in the loremaster’s hall.

He tells me he discussed Umbar with his loremaster, Earnil. The Temple of Melkhor was thrown down but the last priest of the Temple, Zimrakhil, made a dying prophesy that the Temple would be rebuilt. Brand asks after the best defence against Dark Arts and the cults that wield them and Earnil advises willpower is the best defence.

May 14th 1441

While at Neithan’s house, Pimm drops by to invite everyone, me included, to a masked ball. Apparently it is a yearly dinner and dance thrown by Pelargir’s underworld (all the wheelers and dealers in the city’s semi and not-so-semi criminal classes). I nearly decline, mindful of my station, but then, why not? It might be fun. I’m sure I’ve got a domino in my wardrobe somewhere.