The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 86: Gifts in Darkholme
We sail on for a few more days, and eventually spot familiar-looking ships. Soon, on the horizon, we see the jagged mountains beyond the city of Darkholme. A pair of sleek, dark ships peel off in our direction. Ah, yes, they have those dragonish emblems that we recognize. Mandorak signals to the other ships that they should stop now. They signal back something that we don't quite understand. In fact, they are not even slowing. The Darkholme ships swoop in on either side of our little entourage, so that we can even see the red serpent devices on their black sails.
It is the Darkholme equivalent of a Coast Guard. The escort us the rather far distance to the harbor. Another large ship swoops in our direction. It is towing two small ships. Like the others, this ship parallels our course, following our path closely. We are signaled into a particular dock. As we pull into it, the original two ships fall away, and the two small ships heave to, not far from our dock. The third major vessel docks across from us.
As we tie up, we see a tall dark man, with an armed escort, come off that ship, and head our way. Mandorak calls out a warning, and says that its time to bring out the first level of gifts. As the group marches closer, we can tell that it is someone we've seen before. Mannie recognizes him as someone who was on the ship that escorted us in on our previous voyage. The dwarf snags up a Level One gift, and steps forward to greet our black-clad visitor, and announces, "My friend, it is a pleasure to return to your lovely country of Darkholme. Please accept this small token as a gesture of friendship between your country, and my home of Lanthil."
The fellow hooks a black gemstone on a silver chain out of his black clothing. The silver of the chain is the first non-black item about him. The young man with him announces, "I am being Lieutenant Rash-An. Present to you Captain Kra'hl Dish'kahn." The tall man bows slightly, and Mannie bows slightly more in response. (He is, after all, not the captain, but only the chief engineer.) He hands the captain the gift, the captain holds it for a moment, then passes it to the lieutenant.
The captain now conducts his own conversation, as he clutches his stone. "Are you the captain?"
"No, I am the engineer. Our captain is feeling unwell. Your Elvish is excellent. People had not spoken it so well the last time we were here. How long ago was that by your reckoning? We know that time flows differently in different places around the Open Sea."
"It has been 393 cycles of the sun since you left."
We are startled, and it shows. Mandorak admits, "To us, it has only been thirty to forty cycles."
Now it is the Black Captain's turn to look startled. Mannie continues, "We know we must get written permissions to be here, and to move about. Do we go to… the Prefect of the Gate?"
"You must see the Prefect of the Harbor first. I will have Rash-An escort you. Are the other ships with you?"
"Yes, they have traveled with us, but they are not on our diplomatic mission. Theirs is a trading mission."
The Black Captain turns to his lieutenant, and hisses his instructions . Then, tucking his mysterious black stone back under his clothing, he returns to his ship. Lt. Rash-An leads us (and a large collection of gifts, held by Eric) to the same building we languished in once before. It still has two guards. We notice a fellow in green robes leaving, who looks at us and does a double-take. Oddly, it is someone we don't recognize. He darts back inside, and comes out again, bringing a young man in brown robes.
We meet them half-way up the steps. They hiss back and forth with our lieutenant. "The, uh, steward you will take." We accept this. A second brown-robed man hastens down the steps, carrying a leather satchel. The first man removes documents and a small pouch from the satchel, then asks us, "You are… Lanthil?"
Mannie continues to assume leadership. "Yes, we have come from Lanthil. It has taken us longer than we thought to return here. To us, it has been only thirty-some of your cycles since we left here."
"Ah. One in ten. We had expected… You will need papers." He looks again at Mandorak. "You are shorter than I was led to believe?" "Our captain is indisposed today. I am Chief Engineer Mandorak Craggenhilt."
"Ah." Mannie is of a lower status than expected. Oops. He leads us into a real office, with a desk, and stool, and bookcases full of scrolls. The man working there pulls out a black gem of his own, and introduces himself, "I am Hahltahn, Steward of the Harbor."
Mannie introduces himself again. Hahltahn asks him for more titles. Mannie reels off a lengthy series of titles in Dwarvish. Eventually, the Steward hears one he fancies, "Ah. That one about the silver. What is that, again?" He writes it down. Mannie explains that he is the Chief Engineer, so he is also the First Mate. This appears to be a better title.
Mannie asks if Khazad is still working in the…?
"No, he doesn't work here, he works in composing," explains the Steward.
"Could we get word to him that we have returned? We'd like to say that we would be honored to meet him again."
"Yes," assured the Steward.
We've hit that weird social setup again. Mannie tries to get past it. "How can we get word to him?"
"You can't" is the response.
Mannie presses, "Who could?"
"Anyone who is of the city. Anyone who speaks for the palace, the city, or the harbor could tell him."
"Would you do that for us?"
"It would be possible," evades the Steward.
Mannie makes one, final attempt. "Forgive me for being a barbaric outlander, but I don't know how to ask properly to get word to Khazad that we are here."
The Steward seems to show understanding. "Khazad will know," we assures us.
"It is nothing." The Steward speaks very firmly. "You now have paper for you, and paper for your ship." He hands Mannie two documents, as he describes them. "In a tenth-part of a day, you return here. Show paper to guards. But cannot go past the first street."
Mannie accepts the papers, we all bow, and we are led back out of the office. We are then passed off to a guard, who leads us back to the bottom of the steps of the Prefecture. The guard helpfully points to our ship.
We obligingly head back to our ship. On the way back, Mannie in particular checks for us being watched. Yes, we are not only being watched, we are being followed. We'll put up with it.
On our dock, we show the guards the permit for the Tindomë. With the other permit in hand, we head for the Eagle and the Nighthawk, which docked near us on same dock. As we approach the Eagle, an officer heads over and calls out "Ahoy." She grants us permission to come aboard.
We ask if her captain has returned from the Prefecture yet.
"No, he's still getting his permits."
We explain that now the Darkholmers have gems to aid their understanding of Elvish. Bavor volunteers that he has not been able to identify the gem. "It's more translucent than obsidian, but less so than smoky quartz."
The officer admits that the permit process is going more slowly for them than for us. They are interested in our meeting with the Black Captain. He is their Admiral of the Fleet. This must mean that we are a real diplomatic mission. We explain that we saw him on the ship that stopped us on our previous trip. They assure us that it is rare to see him.
Since we had just stopped by to say hello, we do not stay long. As we prepare to disembark, she asks, "Are you expecting a delivery?" She gestures to an anxious young person pacing in front of our ship. We trundle over to our ship. The lad comes running over, stops, and studies Mannie. Mannie points to himself, "Mannie. Mandorak." "Ah! Master my says shop is to visit." He hands Mannie a piece of paper, with the sketch of a sign. The sign has an arm, holding a curved sword. Mannie smiles broadly, shows his travel document, and warns "First street only." The lad doesn't understand. Mannie has Eric draw a map of the dock area, up to the first street, but no further. The boy points to a location on the near side of the first street, hands the map back, and runs off.
Mannie gathers us together, and announces, "I'm going to this shop here. Either you stay here, or you come with me without wandering off. We only have the one travel document. Who is coming?" He is joined by Bavor, Eric, and Eïr. We pass one sign with a snake on it, which bothers Eïr, and come to the shop that matches the drawing of the sign.
It appears to be a shop that sells weapons, and the sort of clothing that is associated with weapons. Mannie spots a source of vibes off to the left, and follows his senses. There is a display case, and a workbench, with a workman at it. The workman is too tall to be a dwarf, but he is shorter than most. He closes the box he was working out of. "Hello," announces Mannie.
The fellow grins broadly, showing off the gaps in his teeth, and gestures, showing off the rings on his hands. Mannie comes closer, and looks at the daggers in the display case. They're nice, but not dwarvish. The worker then shows him a sheathed dagger in a very dwarvish style. It's still not dwarf-made. Mannie looks very closely at it. Could this be a copy of dwarven work? He notices that there is a small rectangle of parchment, half-hidden under the leather of the hilt.
Mannie decides he has to have this. He offers coins, and the workman picks out two. "Mandorak," he says, smiles, and nods. Bay is puzzled at his friend's purchase, but doesn't ask anything about it immediately.
Eïr goes poking through the clothes. Soon, she finds a leather shoulder bag. It is made of a very solid leather, ideal for carrying bottles and other items that should not be crushed. It also has a hidden entry on the bottom, which just might be useful for picking up items without anyone noticing. She doesn't have any coins of a small enough value, but Bay offers her some. In gratitude, she slips a small, sparkly stone into his pocket, to his great gratitude. Bay makes a purchase of his own: a dark green, embroidered vest, lined with chain mail.
On the way back to the ship, Bavor asks his fellow dwarf why he bought this unnecessary dagger. Mannie explains about the hidden parchment. Back on the ship, they duck into Mannie's cabin, where, with his personal tools, the Chief Engineer soon has a small, folded piece of parchment freed from its bindings. It unfolds into a brief message in Dwarvish. On closer examination, it isn't actually in Dwarvish. The first and last words are "Dwarves" but the remainder, while written in Dwarven characters, is actually written in an archaic Elvish. Bay puzzles his way slowly through it:
Then, Mannie notices that the second "Dwarves" lacks the accent, so that it should only be read as the sounds: Hazad. Or Khazad. So, where is the Temple of the Scrolls?
Updated: Feb 8, 2008
©2002, 2007 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.