On The Book of Thursby.

The Book of Thursby (BoT) is a long running work of fan fiction rooted in several major Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.  It chronicles the history and adventures of Benjimir Thursby and the lore of the gaming guild I founded in 2008 as part of The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). However the work has grown to envelope many characters, most my own, others included with the blessing of their creators.

In every game I play there is a Benjimir.  I take my inspiration from Gen. George Patton’s poem “Through a looking Glass, darkly.” Many face, many names, but always me.  In this way the Lore behind each game has ties to that of the next game and coming of Benjimir.  Thus in my gaming and role playing I enjoy the personal fun of always being rooted in a grand never ending adventure.

For each game I play there is a new Volume of the BoT.  

Read long enough and you will notice the links connecting the worlds and story together.  The connecting lore is personal headcanon of course.  I don’t hold anybody to it in RP or for guild membership.  I have carefully written the BoT to keep the nods to headcanon out of sight and not a part of in-game RP.  And within a single volume the story is essentially self contained.

So when interacting in-game you would never know or hear of anything but compliant LOTRO lore for example.  I dislike doing things that ever require people to bend their IC foundations.  

It is a topic I handle carefully as there are some that recoil at even the concept of headcanon that isn’t entirely orthodox.  I am always happy to answer questions.

On characters.

Since 2008 I have occasionally written characters I RP with, with their permission, into my stories.  With LOTROthat practice has expanded and there are several characters are or were actual player characters not my own.  I wouldn’t mind ghost writing for more characters but my plate is full at the moment.

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Preface to The Book of Thursby: Sons of Numenor

The Analects and Collected Journals of Benjimir

and

a

History of Deeds and Contributions

of the

Thursby Family

During the Late War of the Ring.

As compiled by Tenifalas Thursby.

F.A. 107

To begin, I wish to establish my voice in its place among the chorus contained within this volume. I was named Tenifalas by my mother, the eldest and to my knowledge sole male heir of the late Benjimir of Belfalas. This work contains my father's assorted journals and notes, spanning from his period of service to the Prince, through the late War of the Ring. In addition, it compiles stories from those with whom my father served in fellowship and arms during those times. Where multiple accounts of given events exist, a narrative is presented to convey the details.

Early in my distant kins time among the Numenorean colonists in Middle-Earth, the sire name of Thursby was taken, to honor the first family with whom our blood mixed. The Thursby line, being a family of craft and trade since before the fall of Numenor, never held deed or title. Rather, its reputation was built on the renown of vessels built by our kin and the wealth earned in commerce with Middle-Earth. The time of the Lost Isle and forefathers of the Thursby family line are not subject of this volume. Yet, both bear direct influence in its rise in Middle-Earth and thus to the command which sent my father to Eriador and war. - Tenifalas Thursby., F.A. 107

*******

Couriers and Recalls.

"When the seas become rough, gulls will fly inland seeking shelter, often many miles beyond the sight of water.  It was a telling oman to my crew that the gulls were fleeing to high seas on an easterly wind as we put into port." - Benjimir Thursby, The Analects.

"Couriers and Recalls.”

The approach to the quay was quite.  Little in the way of command was required as the crew was well versed in hoisting and taking in sail.  Harlond was located south of Minas Tirith along the shore of the Anduin river.  The approach required sailing into both wind and the flow of the river.  Oars were manned to allow the vessel to turn back downriver, as to port with her bow facing downstream.  The work was eased by the addition of the crew from her sister vessels which were lost during the sortie.  The commander of the three vessels that set out months before joined Captain Benjimir on deck, looking out over the ruined city of Osgiliath to the north.  Osgiliath was the last and chief defense against the ever festering Enemies to the east. 

"To Port mister Bondermir and rack oars."  Benjimir called out from the forecastle.  The vessel began to make her turn to port, at last letting the wind and river work to her advantage.

Fishing and merchant vessels felt the first press of the enemy abroad before the first Orc had assailed Osgiliath.  In years of escalating boldness, pirate fleets from Umbar, haven of the Faithless and their disciples, assailed ship and port alike.  As with the guard of watch which the southern Kingdom of Gondor had maintained across the land, the boundaries of safe waters had rolled back to the shores of the coastal fiefdoms.   The battle at sea was now some ten years in duration.  What proper navy Gondor had once kept seaworthy was long since committed to the depths.  The crews of the lost ships were scattered to what now passed for a fleet.  Intense devotion and pride kept the fighting traditions alive among the mariners.  They fought very differently as well as very different enemies than their countrymen ashore. 

"Amidships, take-in sail and cast line."   Benjimir called out.  The fields of the Pelennor at harvestmath, white walls and gated levels of the fortress city of Gondor now rose above Benjimir. 

The vessel putting into port this day had been among the first to put to sea and battle.  Not war.  No such declaration had been made against Umbar, nor even the pirates awash in Gondorian cargo and blood.  Certainly no effort to provision Gondor with a navy were made.  Such was the will of the Steward of Gondor.  The strength of Gondor at sea came from Belfalas, Anafalas, and the fiefdoms to the south of Minas Tirith.  That support had made it possible to hold a line in the water that kept the Enemy away from most of Gondor.  Thus far, the distance from their home ports kept the threat from venturing further north than the Bay of Belfalas.  

Past voyages had ended like this one.  Others with with a measure of satisfaction.  There were no longer cries to return to sea seeking to avenge losses nor any sense of shock at them.  What held now was the most any at sea knew could be achieved.  The Enemy had itself paid for what it took many fold.  Yet no expectation of victory raised voices in song nor lifted spirits aboard ships such as Benjimir's.  Only the desire to never permit defeat while any alive could put to sea. 

"Drop anchor, linesmen stand too fore and aft.  Mister Bondermir, prepare to hail our arrival."  Benjimir ordered. 

The quay had only a few small boats docked, none of size or lines of the approaching vessel.  She was neither a ship of war nor a merchant vessel.  Her hull was laid down within site of the castle of Dol Amoroth in Belfalas, built in a yard owned by Benjimir's own family.  A main mast and smaller masts fore and aft could allow her to hoist more sail than merchant vessels or fishing boats. Her lines nearly suggested a ship of Umbar with sharp edges along the bow and castles fore and aft.  Yet she road higher in the water than they did her decks sloped inward from the water line.  She was fast as most any at sea, hard to board in combat and her crews came to feel it's name was both title and promise.

"Entulesse arriving!" Bondermir, the ship’s first officer cried out, ringing a bell mounted to the aft mast twice.

The linesmen threw ropes to the men waiting on the quay, one, dressed in a hauberk emblazoned with the White Tree crested with seven stars of Gondor was looking intently at the forecastle and the men there.  He shouted up to Benjimir, “Ahoy aboard, is the ships master with you?”

“Aye,” Benjimir hailed back, “but master Gatewood of the Andustar is here too, he commands this mission.”  Benjimir gestured to his commander.

“Verily, I come from the Citadel seeking the Entulesse and bearings dispatches.  You are ordered henceforth to the Citadel with all possible haste Captain Thursby.” The courier called back.

“Have you no dispatches intended for the commander?” Benjimir asked, the Entulesse now squarely against the quay and being tied-off by the men ashore.

“Nay sir, but I should venture that the Lord will wish a report from commander Gatewood as well.  I have mounts here at the stable waiting.”  The courier answered, gesturing to the stable some ways from the ship.  Benjimir nodded in acknowledgement and turned to commander Gatewood.

“Three months at sea, the loss of two ships, and we return to a courier asking for me and no obvious interest in speaking to you sir?”  Benjimir posed to Gatewood who was still pondering the curious welcome himself.

“You have me at a loss mister Thursby.” with which Gatewood and Benjimir turn to walk to the quarters.  Such a summons demanded immediate response and despite having to leave as soon as the gangway had been laid down, the Citadel demanded proper uniforms for whatever the visits purpose.  “Mister Bondermir, see to the docking, we will be below.”  Benjimir instructed and ducked through the passage entrance in the forecastle.

Some minutes later the gangplank was hoisted over the side of Entulesse and the master and commander strode down to the quay.  Each now dressed in the black hauberk, crested with swan wings at the chest and white down the center.  The mariners hauberk was little worn at sea and even less frequently seen ashore in these days.  The wings recalled the ships that carried the faithful of Numenor to Middle-earth in a past age and were often associated with Befalas and the Prince Imrahill’s standard.  The courier stiffened to attention as they approached, he led them to the stables where they mounted and began a swift ride to Minas Tirith.

As they rode commander Gatewood queried the courier as to the purpose of the summons.  “Is the commodore not aware of the dispatch we sent when we entered the mouth of the Anduin?  I cannot recall one of my captains being summoned in my stead.”

“I know word of your return was received m’lord, the couriers from the delta remain swift.  All about Harlond know of the loss of Andustar and Rommena.  There is a council underway at the Citadel.  They likely as not will want you hear your report of your ships’ sortie.  However I was only given orders to summon the captain as soon as he could debark his ship.”  The courier explained.

“I have served my own stay in the Guard friend, I am sure you have some word as to the reason for my being urgently called on.”  Benjimir asked.  He had indeed begun his time in the service of Gondor as a guard in the Citadel.  Several of his brothers had likewise served.  The Guard was at once a common soldiers duty but considered high honor in Gondor.  There was accordingly a pride among those who share such service and this was what Benjimir sought to cull information from the younger lad.

The courier glanced toward Benjimir as they rode.  “A messenger from Belfalas arrived shortly before your vessel.  What word he carried I do not know, but the Steward issued his summons for your shortly after.  I would say it was that, not some notion of the Lord Denethor that brings you to the Citadel.  More than that I do not know Captain.”  

“Thank you.” Benjimir said sincerely.  

The men continued their ride at a renewed pace, in silence save for giving passwords to challenges as they passed through each gate of the city.  At the upper most level, their mounts were taken to the stables and the courier lead them to an anteroom adjacent to the hall of the King.  A council of the cities commanding guards and actuaries was taking place.  The Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor could be heard questioning several men.  After nearly an hour of waiting a page took commander Gatewood to speak to the council.  The gathering ended with the commander's report and he reappeared at the door to the anteroom seemingly relieved yet purplexed.  Benjimir rose and moved to speak with him in the Hall.  He had been in the Hall before, but the statues of the late Kings and throne set on high drew his eyes even as he spoke to Gatewood.  

“Where away?”  His eyes now seeing the Steward shielded by a variable wall of knights and attendants.  

“They appear as uninterested in my report as their attention to my return suggested.”  Gatewood said.  “The only question of note was if you had survived and were in my company.”  He continued.

Denethor’s eyes caught sight of Benjimir from across the hall.  Then he gestured to him and asked dryly “Is this the one?”  A knight at Denethor’s side nodded.  The knight had a crest akin to Benjimir’s own, he was from Belfalas and in the service of the Prince.  “Very well then, take and be gone with him.  If his father thinks it wiser to secure commerce hither and yon over the shores of Gondor so be it.”  Denethor said with crass disdain.

The council dispersed as the Steward turned and left by a passage to the rear of the Hall.  The knight approached Benjimir and nodded respectfully.  “Captain, you have been recalled to Belfalas at the request of your Father Tinafalas, by the grace of my lord and with leave of the Steward.  You are to travel to Dol Amoroth and await the pleasure of Prince Imrahil.”  The knight handed a scroll to Benjimir, affixed with the seal of his father.

“I am at the Prince’s service. I will depart at once.” And with that Benjimir bowed, turned and with commander Gatewood departed for the stables.

*******

"Prescient Recollections"

"When Numenor fell the Undying Lands were removed from Middle-earth.  Thus the ban of the Valar similarly fell to ruin.  Nothing kept men from sailing far into the distant waters.  Even so, few of my kindred nor any of the Middle-men ventured terribly far to the west.  Stories of seeing the fabled top of Meneltarma would regale ale infused company in many a common room in Gondor.  However there existed an unspoken dread that kept virtually all from seeking for fish or fortune where the lost isle was charted to be.  It was the lingering memory of the great Powers, vague and without form.  The awe of the departed Valar which once filled the hearts of free people had fallen to simple fear and supplication to power.  The Enemy knew this well and did not fail to play upon it."

– Benjimir Thursby, "The Analects." 

"Prescient Recollections"

The commander and captain rode through the white roads of Minas Tirith in no obvious haste.  The manner and detail of the summons coming at the end of long and costly sortie compounded the sense of foreboding the swift dismissal brought.  All the same, the wafting of kitchen smells, the sound of laughing and children provided a measure of comfort.  It was not until they passed the sculpted mithril doors of the main gate that Commander Gatewood broke the silent journey.

“Any thought as to the cause of your summons home?” Gatewood asked Benjimir.

Benjimir was drawn out of his silent thought and shook his head.  “None, but that reminds me…” he replied and slipped his hand into his hauberk and withdrew the scroll he was given.  

Taking advantage of the long and straight path along the causeway to the outer wall near Harlond, Benjimir allowed his mount to guide itself.  Breaking the seal and opening the courier case containing the scroll he noted it was that of the House of Thursby, not the Prince Inrahil nor of the Admiralty. 

The first curiosity was addressed by finding a second scroll kept within the first.  Of fine white paper rich with cotton.  Orders of discharge he knew before reading the separation terms.  He reviewed and then slipped the orders behind his father’s scroll.  With flared brows Benjimir absorbed the letter of discharge from the Admiralty.  

“It would appear that I am being absconded to the service of the Prince at which point I will be considered released from service to Gondor as an officer of the fleet.  My final order is to con the Entullesse to Dol Amoroth where it is being released to the service of the Prince in defense of the fief.”  Benjimir reported as he more carefully read through the message from his father Tenefalas Thursby.

Gatewood’s mood turned grim but his face brooked no surprise at the news.  

“Losing the Entullesse will be sorely felt but I will be surprised if there is not more to know about that development.  What of your father?”  Gatewood asked.  As eldest son of the patriarch of House Thursby, Benjimir held title and duty outside his oath to defend Gondor.  The summons and his final order could only be part of the same development.  

Benjimir finished reading and returned the scrolls to the case.  Taking a breath he gathered the words to summarize his father's communique.

“Formal to excess but such is our way.  I would be offering supposition to say what the cause for the discharge to the Prince’s services is but it seems certain that is a means to an end.  My brothers have already been recalled home and Tenefalas will hold council with us as soon as I arrive.  The Entulesse is to prepare to sail while that is taking place.”  Benjimir finished.

Gatewood nodded.  The officers had served about and beside each other for over a decade.  They kept to the forms and rank and formality were honored. However a genuine bond of friendship had become the most valued and trusted quality the men shared.  

“Tenefalas is not one for fatherly sentiment is he?”  Gatewood asked.  Benjamin smiled.

“In his fashion he is.  Ours has not always been a warm relationship but not for lack of love.  We share the common loss of my mother and our roles in the House hierarchy tends to lead to tension.”  Benjimir explained.  

“Your mother was revered well beyond Belfalas, I don’t think you have spoken of her before.” Gatewood offered.

“I am my mother’s ghost.”  Benjimir said.  “Tenefalas is, in a sense, a steward of the leadership of the House of Thursby, as Denethor is Steward of the throne of Gondor.  Here, because the relics of our House are Passed down the line through my mother as he married into the family.” Benjimir said.  The implications were not lost on Gatewood.

“By right then you ought to be lord of your house then?” Gatewood asked genuinely curious despite being ordinarily uninterested in heraldry and kin strifes.

“I think he might have found that to his liking.  However in the tradition of our House I traveled abroad, trained in the service of the Steward which until these orders, save for leaves of absence to tend to the needs of our Kin.” Benjimir said as the White City began to fall further behind him.  

Gatewood nodded. “So this is not the first the Steward has been asked to give you leave?” he asked.  They stopped at a small grotto with a water trough for mounts.  The Pellenor Fields were lush at this time in the spring.  Small farms, paths for walking, surrounded the main road along undulating land.  The beauty was not conducive to urgent travel.

Benjimir smirked.  “Asked. Or told.  I am not unknown to the Steward, my sur name ensured that.  My enthusiasm for council he was not aligned with surely has not been forgotten either.” Benjimir said as a courier raced by toward Harlond.

“What was the council?” Benjimir was asked.

“As much whom it was given too and by as what.” Benjimir said.  “A traveler, Thorongil, who had the favor of the Steward gave council that malcontents and raiders near Umbar were a seed of danger.  After much debate, most of which Denethor opposed, the Steward agreed and a squadron from the Home Fleet was detached to Thorongil’s command.” Benjimir explained.

“Wait, if he opposed it why did he agree?” Gatewood said, confusion growing obvious in his gaze.

“Ecthelion, not Denethor.  Denethor was jealous I think of Thorongil having favor beyond his own with his father.  My own possibly overstepping why position by endorsing the raid also incurred his wrath.  He ensured I was detached from my year of duty within the Tower Guard and to Thorongil’s charge with the Home Fleet.  Youthful over exuberance maybe.”  Benjimir responded, leaving Gatewood’s expression adding awe to still greater confusion.

“The Umbar raid, I know it, we still demonstrate it as the naval war conclaves.  But that was 2980, going on neigh thirty years.  I was only a small child, how old were you, are you, to have been sent into battle?  I never placed you as more than three score as the years pass.” Gatewood asked, the confusion being replaced by simple awe.  

“It is the leagues not the years. I was just of age at the time.   Thorongil we think was equal to Denethor’s years.  More the reason for him to resent his father giving heed to an another.” Said Benjimir.

“A custom he has carried forth in deriding the young lord in favor of his brother.  Regrettable.” Gatewood lamented as they remounted and continued for Harlond, now in view beyond the gates of the outer wall surrounding the fields. 

“Very much so, he favors deeds and action, if rash, over council and making the long fight. Which is why I think he holds the Fleet is such low regard.  Which we may all regret in the future.” Benjimir said, his tone turning lower.  “Oh?” Gatewood responded in curiosity.

“Denethor lost the argument but much as he had command enough to assign me to the fleet, he ensured only a squadron was given.  A token of what laid at anchor or quay at the time.  It was council from the Prince Imrahill, who had only newly assumed the lordship from his Father that sent the squadron to the bay of Ciryaturs.  A mix of vessels assembled there from the Prince’s own home fleet and those of the House of Thursby.”  Benjimir paused to draw water from the saddle bag.  Gatewood drew a smaller metal bottle from his own and drank.  Benjimir declined the bottle as Gatewood extended it towards him.

“The combined fleet departed over several nights in differing directions, assembled again in blue water before moving to Umbar.  There, on a moonless night, the fleet disbursed.  Some effected landings on the cape of Umbar and cut-off the watch towers from raising the alarm as we entered the bay.  I accompanied a landing of men with Thorongil on the quays as another force landed to assail the harbor’s gates from the outside as a distraction.  For my part, I gained some note for having crafted a device, balls of tarred rope set aflame and flung with sling shots at sails.  It helped for its part in setting much of the of the fleet aflame before the rebels could respond in force.” Benjimir remembered, gazing ahead as his mind wandered back to the memories of the raid.

“The rebel vessels were aflame, the ships at anchor were hotly engaged with the fleet and our men on the cape and outside the gates were fleeing back to their boats when the harbor master, or maybe the chieftain of Umbar himself attacked.  We were between two burning raiders, covering the last of our party boarding skiffs.  I watched as Thorongil defeated him with my own eyes.  He leapt aboard the launch and we made good our own escape as the fleet withdrew.”  Benjimir drank again shanking his head as he recalled the sights.  Gatewood took a long draw and emptied his flask as they approached the gate to Harlond.

“What came of Thorongil, until you mentioned him I knew nothing of there being such a person.  The written accounts speak to the Steward sending the fleet, the rest was assumed to have been his plan.” Gatewood said, as his mind processed a different truth than the one he had accepted many years before.

Benjimir shrugged.  “The fleet returned to Belfalas.  There was much rejoicing.  I accompanied the Home Fleet to Harlond, the reception was at best muted.  Few reports were taken beyond Thorongil’s, Denethor’s doing.  Not long after Thorongil left without announcement or comment.  Ecthelion died a few years later and Denethor assumed the seat of the Steward.  From that point forward keep of the Fleet fell into decline.  Draw your own conclusions as to why.” Benjimir concluded as his mount neared the port stables.

Gatewood shook his head and dismounted.  “Enlightening as it is unnerving.  But thank you for the tale.  I would not have known.” He said as the officers pulled their saddle bags off their mounts and walked toward the Entulesse.  There they found a dispirited courier sitting at the top of the gangway.  It was the same that streaked past them hours before as their mounts watered.  At their approach his head rose and he swiftly walked down the gangplank.  Bondermir approached the side of the ship watching the courier depart.

“Commander Gatewood?” the courier asked.

“Aye, where away lad?” Gatewood replied.

“Orders sir” the courier extended a message pouch to Gatewood, who accepted it.  The courier gave his obedience and hurried to the stable.  Gatewood opened the package and reviewed the orders, inscribed on a pristine white sheet akin to that on which Benjimir’s discharge had been written on.

“Lords.” Gatewood cursed, shaking his head and biting back a look of disgust.  He paused a moment before looking to Benjimir with a look of resignation.

“It is the Steward’s pleasure that the Home Fleet join all surviving vessels at the bay of Belfalas and be given over to the command and service of the Prince or whomever they were absconded to served from.  But not before offloading weapons and marines.  The war at sea is over for Gondor.  Too, it seems is my own service.  I am to return to Gondor after the fleet disbands for commission into the Guard of the Tower, or whomever ever else sees fit for my service.”  Gatewood unceremoniously pushed the message back into its case and the case into his saddle bag.  His face betrayed a deep sense of disappointment and sadness.

Benjimir looked to the Entulesse and Bondermir, who nodded slightly, surely knowing by now, through whatever means, what Gatewood had just learned.  “Maybe for the best. Gondor not presenting a battle pennant against men who would see it razed to the ground does leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  We did not have terribly much to offer in opposition however.  Where would you go after this final order?” He asked.

Gatewood seemed unsure.  “Standing watch at a door doesn’t suite me, but I never contemplated needing to seek one until retirement.” he said.

Benjimir smiled and patted his friend and fellow officer on the back.  “Sail with us then.  If nothing else it will save you a horse ride.  And maybe the Thursby Company can find work suiting a man of your qualifications.” This drew a smile from Gatewood and the men boarded the Entulesse.

*******

"A Farewell Homecoming."

 Knowledge is the anvil over which we shape destiny with the hammer of wisdom.”
– Karilon Thursby

"A Farewell Homecoming."

Bondermir had in fact teased the news of the Fleets demise from longshoremen hours earlier.  On his initiative, the crew had disbursed to the store houses which held supplies specific to Entulesse as well as her late sister ships.  There would be no return they knew.  As that was the case, the crew saw to taking most any Fleet assets to be found with them.  Tellingly several longshoremen presented themselves at the gangway with their families in-tow as preparations to sail neared completion.  

"The young ones settled below?" Benjimir asked his first mate Bondermir.  

"Aye sir.  Our bounty of cargo is lashed down.  If we see action along the way home, we will have a crowded deck." Bondermir replied, Benjimir nodded, his gaze intent on the glow of lights about Minas Tirith and the Pelennor fields in the distance.  The setting sun still illuminated the sky but the east facing mountain from which the city was carved, cast an early shadow across it and the fields this time of year.  

"How fitting." Benjimir mutter in a muted voice.  His eyes fell to the Harlond gate where a single cloaked rider was passing with no urgency at all.  Bondermir turn to Benjimir.

"Say again Captain?" He said.

Benjimir said nothing but shook his head curtly.  He turned around and leaned back on the rail and looking out towards Osgilith and the mountains beyond.  The city was more garrison now than anything else.  However little of Gondors might ventured in numbers outside if it.  Beyond the crest of the mountains the sky was dark ahead of the hour.  He shook his head again, this time slow and ruefully.

"I don't expect action on this voyage.  The watch towers at Tolfalas and enough of the fleet remains on patrol.  I would be more leery of the the eastern shores.  Our passengers speak of the fell folk pressing the last free villagers to the western shores.  They seem to fear for future." Benjimir said.  

Bondermir nodded and lifted his head in gesture to the fore and aft of Entulesse.

"They do not stand alone." He said.  At the quays about Harlond a smattering of vessels could be seen making hasty preparations to sail.  Fishing boats, a pair of merchant vessels, none of any guild or Lord.  All loaded to gunwales.  "This started shortly after we began to move stores aboard.  And sir I doubt there is a water worthy boat north of Harlond that has not already passed down river." Bondermir said.  Benjimir crossed his arms and locked eyes with his friend for a moment and shook his head and pursed his lips.  The men turned as a bosun approached, Gatewood as well several strides behind.  The gloaming had drawn the lamp wrights out and the pier was now lit by braziers and post lamps.

"Sir. Stores are secure, the ship is ready to depart on your word sir." the bosun reported.

"Very well.  Single up lines and prepare to cast off." Benjimir said and returned the bosun's obedience as he turned to carry out his orders.  

As the officers exchanged greetings Benjimir's eyes fixed on the line rider who was nearing the gangway.  "Courier?" Gatewood suggested?

"Negligently slacking if so." Bondermir said as Benjimir lead the three to the gangway. In the lamp lights he considered the approaching rider. The rider's cloak was of a fine cloth, seemingly different shades of blue depending on how the light struck it.  It's grieves had not the customary White Tree of Gondor's navy but uplifted wings if a Gull which almost shimmered in the light.  He began to smirk before calling out to the rider.

"Where away commodore?" Benjimir called out, causing Bondermir and Gatewood to straighten the postures and exchange sideway glances. 

Halting The rider lifted a leg up and over the mount and slid to the ground.  The hooded rider looked up as it walked to the foot of the gangway.  The voice which replied was a higher register than the any save Benjimir expected.  It seemed to cut through the sounds of accelerating preparations to cast off and into their ears with a rich tone.  "Permission to come onboard and for passage to your destination captain." the rider said.

"Granted with thanks for our journey being graced by your sailing with it.” Benjimir said as the commodore turned toward the mount and whispered to it.  The mount dipped it's head, turned and trotted casually toward the gate.  

The commodore climbed the gangway and slipped the hood.  Revealed was a woman with a mane of deep gold hued hair drawn back into a thick single braid, keen blue eyes set amidst a face of flawless light skin, keen but soft features and the distinctive ears of the Fair Folk.

"Golodh." Benjimir said pressing his right hand to his heart and bowing his head slightly.  He smiled warmly.

"Ionneg." the commodore said, returning the smile and touch of his arm.  

“Gentlemen, Commodore Aubreen Tsubaki, commanding the home squadron.  Commodore, my first mate Bondermir Exedines and commander Lucien Gatewood.” Benjimir introduced the officers to Aubreen.  They bowed and were acknowledged in turn.

“We were not informed you would be joining us, is the remainder of the admiralty relocating to Dol Amoroth?” Benjimir asked.

“The admiralty is no more. The admirals have accepted assignments in the sister services or taken to their retirement.  The home squadron has this day been sent orders to depart immediately for Dol Amoroth as you have been.” the commodore said.  Benjimir checked his reaction but not his first officer could not.

“If the couriers are as swift the squadron will be leaving its stations within the day.” Bondermir said.  Benjimir nodded but addressed the commodore first. 

“Of yourself though, commodore?  Are you to serve under the prince?” asked Benjimir.

“No.  My council was also deemed unrequired to the steward and with my squadron disbanded  I am released back to the service of my Lord in Mithlond.  Lacking an active command you may by all means address me in the familiar also.”  Aubreen said as Benjimir, brooking no emotion, considered the developments.

“Very well.” he said with a nod.  The bosun returned and reported the ship was ready to depart.  Benjimir looked to Bondermir.  “Those orders could have been sent with the Entulesse.  As it is, sending them courier means the secure waters we expecting will be open to the enemy well before we are able to pass.” he said.  Aubreen curled the edge of her mouth and tipped her head slightly.  A discreet and lamenting agreement he knew.  

“Mister Bondermir, drop all lines, make for the fast water and get us under sail for Dol Amoroth.”  Benjimir said finally.  Bondermir nodded and turn toward the bosun.  “And Bondy, unrack the oars, call for volunteers.  We need to move with haste.” Benjimir added.  Bondermir nodded and began calling out orders.

History and pride not withstanding Benjimir knew a navy was a situational necessity most of Gondor’s history after Numenor was lost.  As Gondor became more inwardly focused under Denethor, punitive raids, ale hall fancying of retaking Umbar, fell by the wayside.  Outwardly the protection of village, fisherman and merchant vessel were the Navy's mandate.  More practically if less obvious was the need to guard the numerous rivers which wound their way to sea from the Ered Nirais.  An enemy free to navigate at will would be able to portion and consume Gondor like a pie.

Benjimir walked to the quarterdeck with Aubreen as Gatewood retired below deck.  A bell rang twice followed by Bondermir.  "Entulesse departing." A handful of longshoremen watched as the dark water grew wider between Entulesse and pier.  "Not unlike the gap between Gondor and it." Benjimir thought.  

"Bosun, case the colors.  Raise the Prince's pennant." Benjimir ordered.  Swiftly the banner of the White Tree was lowered and stowed.  In its place rose the standard of Prince Imrahil.  A silver swan.  Before long the oars reached out from the lower decks and bit into the water.  About the Entulesse fore to aft the boats and merchant's vessels set sail and oar, anxious not to venture the Anduin far from the last warship in Gondor.

*******

"One by Sea."

“To many the lands west of the Anduin were akin to a small island. It was enveloped by the sea to the west across which no man would venture and Elves vanished into. To the east were the dark lands, Mordor, Harem and Umbar festering with ancient hate for the blood of my kindred. Even now we have never ventured beyond the known lands and waters. It is little wonder the Enemy stoked such fear at it’s approach. Facing strange and endless foes, we were all of us trapped and with no escape.”
– Benjimir of Belfalas, “The Analects”

On the quarterdeck Benjimir and Aubreen took counsel through the watches. The Entulesse and her unexpected floatilla reached the island citadel of Tolfalas at the mouth of the Anduin river. The island guarded the entrance to the river and the surrounding villages. So long as it stood, little could travel the surrounding waters unannounced. The island itself retained a garrison and was patrolled. Against a determined effort the sentinel isle would fall and such would compel the fief’s defenders closer to port. For the time being however the cape was carefully guarded on the water. Even in the moonlight Benjimir watched as ships cruised in threesomes, giving challenge to ships before breaking off to resume their patrol routes.

The myriad of vessels slowly went about their own courses as the Entulesse sailed around the cape of Belfalas atop of which the white walls of Dol Amroth seemed to gleam even moonlight. The anchorages surrounding the cape were crowded with displaced vessels. Despite the dangers at sea and coast any who could reach the cape sought to draw near to the sense of security the fortress city engendered.

A hour short of dawn the Entulesse paused at a buoy marking the pilots anchorage outside of Dol Amroth’s main port until a tender delivered a pilot to her. The port lay at the foot of the promontory hill leeward of the cape. As the Entulesse lay briefly at rest taking aboard the pilot Benjimir took a moment to look out on the Bay of Andustie. Not a proper name, it took it’s common title from the prevalence of Thursby Company vessels and commerce that was found within it. Within site of Dol Amroth was home. The island on which an age prior Tonderia Hall, matron of the kinship had set the families hall on.

Benjimir left the conning duties to Bondermir. As he had the full of journey from Harlond Benjimir continued speaking with Aubreen. His attention restored she resumed where she had left some moments prior.

"You have spent your life preparing for "A" fight." Aubreen said as an instructor might. "The enemy has spent two ages preparing for "THIS" fight." she continued. Benjimir nodded respectfully.

"Aye ma'am. If it were a simple manner of seeing an army, or fleet but that does not appear the way of this. Where do you expect to make your fight when it comes? Will you take a ship into the west instead?" Benjimir asked.

Aubreen and Benjimir knew each other's minds well. She was valued councillor to Benjimir's family and his chief instructor in matters of nautical warfare and history of Middle-earth. He was an apt pupil and she a surrogate after the death of his mother decades prior. Now they were trusted friends at the start of uncertain times as Entulesse sailed along the edge of the Dol Amroth promontory to it's port.

Aubreen shook her head and lean forward on the gunwale. She looked over the rise of hill and over the citadel tower. "I will not leave these shores for the west. And I will make my fight with a sword in hand or in heart." she said. Benjimir leaned along the gunwale beside her and they spoke no more.

At reduced sale and oars unracked the Entulesse directed by the pilot to a reserved slip at the quay. Unlike Harlond the port was busy with all sort of vessels. Under sail were numerous ships of war. Two flanked Entulesse until she neared the quays, harbor patrols Benjimir thought. Elsewhere merchant vessels flying the banner of House Thursby were loading and unloading dry goods.

Benjimir gazed at the Harbor Masters tower. As if taking its cue from that, a figure took to the tower steps and moved swiftly down. “Entulesse, arriving.” The bosmen called out as the ships bell rang. By the time the gangway was set in place the figure was now clearly a courier. Gatewood approached from the quarterdeck, a cabin attendant pulling a short haversack with him.

"Ahoy aboard, is Captain Thursby present?" the courier cried out as lines were being secured. Benjimir, still in his formal Mariners hauberk turned to Gatewood standing beside him and asked, "Did we not just do this?"

Gatewood chuckled. "I earnestly hope not. I believe I will make my retreat before a fate worse than yesterday besets me. Good hunting and Valar speed Captain Thursby." Gatewood said and the men shook arms. With that he about his business with the Harbor Master to gather a reckoning of what ships had come from the squadrons and complete his final orders.

Benjimir beckoned the courier aboard and took his message. Again he was to proceed in haste to a meeting. With whom the courier would not say.

Deck officers were set and orders to re-provision the ship after debarking passengers and surplus given. The courier led Benjimir to Mariners Hall. There Aubreen took her own leave to sup with her kinsmen at a nearby hall more to the liking of the Fair Folk.

Mariners Hall was Inn, Public Room and the harbor pilots Guild Hall. It was crossroads to mariners, merchant's, passengers and travelers. The first level features high ceilings and white stone walls on which black metal braizers with neat flames glowed. The tall windows allowed generous natural light to shine into the massive foyer Benjimir was led through. Many an occasion he had broken bread in the common rooms and slept peaceful nights here during his youth. Now as then he took liberty of a small baked trifle from a silver tray on the front desk as courier led him past. They proceeded down a hall to the last and largest of the private dinning halls. There two guards in the Prince's livery stood guard.

Benjimir checked over his hauberk for powdered sugar and nodded to the courier to open the door.

Within, at the far reach of the hall, before a generous fire were three chairs. In two of these sat the Prince Imrahil. Beside him Benjimir's father Tenefalas.

"Master Thursby, welcome." the Prince Imrahil spoke warmly evenly from his chair.

"My Lord." Benjimir said making a formal salute. In his mind Benjimir had assumed whomever he was summoned too would carry message or orders, news of some importance. At once the past hours and observations came into keen focus. The ill reasoned orders from the Steward, the negligent disbandment of defenses, the intense guard over which local waters now lay, and his own recall home. Upon seeing the Prince, Benjimir realized there was higher and urgent purpose at least to his return.

From the second chair, around the corner of the high back came a second voice.

"Welcome my son." Tenefalas said, in soft tones as he delicately form leaned about to greet his eldest son. He wore simple but luminous white robe befitting his long years.

"Father." Benjimir said bowing slightly, now in at least the slightest way beginning to feel unnerved. The unexpected presence of Imrahill caught him off guard less than seeing how time had aged his father.

"Come captain, I would have what news I may before haste requires I depart. Council with your farther was not an opportunity to miss." Imrahil told Benjimir, gesturing to his father.

Benjimir sat in the open chair. A server brought a tray of wine and cups and the three sorted through the more banal matters which from his bearing were not foremost among the Prince's care. "Tell me of the state of the things with the enemy son." Tenefalas asked. The mood grew more somber immediately.

"The enemy holds all of South Gondor from the River Pores and along the coast. Haradrim patrol the coast and roads north, Faithless keep watch south along shore the to the cape of Umbar. Coarsair raiders have pressed Tolfalas but as yet not pressed into the Anduin." Benjimir took a sip of wine and continued.

"They, the Coarsairs, are making sorties ever deeper into the Bay of Belfalas." Benjimir said. The Prince looked thoughtfully into his cup. "They could become a risk to safe passage around Point Anafalas." He posed. Benjimir nodded. It was an exercise in etiquette, much was already known to Tenefalas and Imrahil which Benjimir knew. But these were the forms followed among people of rank or privilege.

"What constitutes the Fleet that is being massed here? What may we expect to marshall from Gondor?" Imrahil asked.

"The surviving units of the Home Fleet, a squadron of ships. The Anafalas squadron. Silver Swan ships." Benjimir said. He nodded toward his father in deference. "The White Fleet of course." Benjimir noted.

"How does the enemy strength rate?" Tenefalas asked.

"Before taking commands ashore, the admiralty insisted to Lord Denethor the Enemy was well assessed and checked." Benjimir said, making little effort to mask a hint of disdain.

"They had no idea." Tenefalas snorted.

"They had no idea." Benjimir affirmed. And lifted his glass half mockingly. "Our numbers are too few to keep proper watch in blue waters. If we kept watch over Tolfalas and the Anduin delta, we found the enemy coming unseen at patrols in open waters. If we patrolled in force at sea, raiders assailed Tolfalas." Benjimir detailed.

"Corsairs aren't blue water raiders." Imrahill said rhetorically to Tenefalas who nodded.

Benjimir continued, "All the same they are making the effort to draw us out. And employing newly built ships. Larger, unwieldy, wide beam and shallow drafts. Not blue water raiders." Benjimir said as the Prince nodded grimmly.

"Somber news captain." The Prince met Tenefalas' eyes and they exchanged nods. "We are on the precipice of great and terrible times captain. Your father and I have spoken of this. Such I leave his care to discuss with you. I must away." The Prince rose and did Benjimir in-turn. Turning to Tenefalas the Prince placed his hand to his chest, heart and lips and bowed. He nodded to Benjimir and left the hall.

Benjimir turn his head to his father and flared his brow as he sat again, drawing his chair near to the old patriarch. "How may I serve father?"

Tenefalas looked at his son and after a long gave and silence spoke softly. "For the last time as my son and first as the heir of our House." From bedside him in his chair Tenefalas lifted a scarab holding a curved blade and unsheathed it. A dim sheen grew from it. Benjimir recognized it immediately as the the Dagger of Warding, His father sheathed the Dagger and extended it to his son.

Benjimir looked at the blade and stiffened his posture. As he leaned toward his father's hand to take the Dagger. His hand gripped the Dagger and paused. "Father, is all, are you well?" He asked.

Tenefalas relaxed his hand and withdrew it. Benjimir instinctively worked to afix the blade to his belt. "Well enough for the moment. Sit. You cannot linger long."

Benjimir sat. "Why the haste, your journey from Tonderia, the Prince, the fleet. Well enough seems as chaos." Tenefalas nodded his head in understanding.

"For some time I have counciled the Prince to press the Steward to prepare for Gondor's many enemies from places unseen or expected. Yet he has remained fixated with only one foe and stronghold. Against Mordor alone is where he wills all his effort toward." Tenefalas said.

"No eyes to the sea or north. He no longer takes council from you?" Benjimir asked.

"Not for several years. Not even so much of a reply to my letters. He sees word of troubles in distant places and our family advocating for the fleet as for the interest of our own trade. His decision to disband the fleet was given seed by the Prince though." Tenefalas said, leaning back and sipping his wine as Benjimir's eyes flared in confusion.

"The Prince believed that a credible force could still be marshaled to turn back the Enemy from Belfalas but wasted if allowed to sink and rot. He was able to gain the Stewards permission to lay claim over what vessels remain." Tenefalas said. A knock on the door and Bondermir entered at his call. "Have his sea chest left here lieutenant." Tenefalas said and swiftly Bondermir lay his captains chest inside the room and left.

"The Prince does not wish to act against the will of Lord Denethor and create a rift between them. Thus he cannot in honor provision or commission any to act in his stead. However he would have knowledge and benefit of commerce from the north lands." Tenefalas explained.

Benjimir began to see the threads connecting events and intentions together. His father and he drew long drinks. The exposition was about to finally give way to his purpose to come.

"This night you will sail to Mithlond. Your task is to travel to all Thursby Company interests. Openly, you are to see to matters of ledger and coin. Improve affairs in the north. " Tenefalas said and gestured toward the door. "What I want you to do is seek for the signs of Enemy. If you find them, use the company trade and usual communiques to return news to me." Tenefalas finished.

"Then I am not to….." Benjimir began but his father interjected.

"I sent word Denethor for your release back to the service of the family which not coincidentally came as orders recalling the fleet were being sent. Thus all else being true, you are serving on my commission, none other. This war of our age is over for you at sea son. If Gondor is assailed without warning or challenge it would be ruinous for us all. And no force of arms can be spared to the north so we must move unannounced and unseen. Our House will stand and it will serve as it always has, led now by its heir." Tenefals said and gestured at Benjimir's waist and continued.

"The Relics." Benjimir said.

"The Dagger…….for now the Beacon will remain with me at Tonderia for now. I do not feel it is done there yet. Or with me at least." Tenefalas said wistfully at the end.

Benjimir felt relief at his father retaining the Beacon of Anduste. The Relics, gifts from the Fare Folk ages ago, were kept by the leader of House Thursby. The Beacon, not a seeing stone in the fashion of the highest forms of the craft, instead gifted dreams portending important considerations. The Dagger of Warding was an Elvish blade which akin to the Beacon gave warning.

Benjimir's relief was short lived. "The Beacon will come to you on this journey Benjimir. Either if the war goes ill in the south or when my time as spent." Tenefalas paused looking at his son. Sentiment was never effusively spent between them, what might have been said was known all the same.

"A vessel from a friend will bear you north. Now I recommend a change to common appearance. Speed of the Valar to you Benjimir." Tenefalas said. Benjimir rose and stepped toward his father and taking a knee before Tenefalas. He spoke no words but clasped his shoulder, then turned to leave. As he stepped away Tenefalas offered a final thought.

"Son, always bare in mind that the Enemy harbors more hate, for all existence, than any of us have the capacity to love. His hate comes from fear. His fear comes from the memory and knowledge that he can lose all to what he hates most. Numenor Prevails."

Benjimir looked back and nodded thoughtfully and said, "Numenor Prevails."

*******