Curse of the Tower Lords

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Real time is: 13:40:58 MDT on Mon Jul 26 2004.

Rath Corsair: Courtyard
A large softly-lit courtyard splits the Rath Corsair, and a huge artesian-fed fountain sits in the middle of the courtyard. The fountain depicts the slaying of the Gondorian King Minardil by the Corsairs in T.A.1634--one of Umbar's greatest victories. A circular lawn surrounds the fountain and several stone benches provide a place for conversation and rest. A grand and ornate building lies to the west, and the dark remains (much out of place here) of a ruined tower lie to the east.
The night sky is clear with only slight wisps of clouds overhead. The nighttime autumn air is hot around you.

The summer has turned into an autumn, and although the air remains hot in the land of Harad, the nature is now less in bloom; the winter lying ahead is on its way. The night is dark and hot in the City of Umbar, which rests in the bottom of the Bay like a small lake of candles and gems, sparkling the light of life between the Sea and the harsh lands of Harad.

The Courtyard of the Upper Umbar is somewhat silent but well-illuminated, for this part of the City is always maintained in a fine condition. Clean and smooth are the ancient marbles of these streets, and well-polished are the facades of the mighty architecture.

From the great Museum of Umbar emerges a figure that often emerges from that building at late hours. He is clad in nothing but black embroidered with gold in places. A cape covers most of his appearance from behind, but it does not hide his most visible mark of identification; the black mask of iron, cruel and inhuman. The face of the Dread Corsair.
The Corsair Lord is accompanied by three young noble Corsairs. Given to be taught by him by their noble fathers, these boys are referred to by people as his crew, his disciples, or his retainers.

The Courtyard is unusually empty, even for this late hour. A lone figure, a tall dark man, stands at the edge of the fountain, whose waters appear black with nary a reflection, even with all the torches and lanterns around. The dark man does not cast a shadow, he is cloaked to them instead, and the torch light vanes as it reaches from the edges of the courtyard toward the center.

The Dread Corsair steps outside and turns to watch as his men close and lock the doors to the Library. They have indeed been given the proper keys to pass into that building at their own hours; something that the keepers of the Library though wise as they saw how much the Lord spent time in the Map Vault.
But suddenly, the Corsair turns, the light of a nearby torch glittering on the embroidery in his cape. And then, without a word, he looks at the figure near the fountain. In a few seconds, he is already on his way towards the centre of the Courtyard, his disciples remaining at the door, looking at the sudden hurry of their Lord.
But there is little need for words for the masked man. As soon as he is within five yards of the figure, as he is leaving the area where the light still reaches, he halts, and puts his right knee to the ground, and bows his head.
"Master," speaks a hollow, inhuman voice in the night, destroyed by violence, twisted by the Mask, "You are here. Welcome." The welcome is more a request of an audience.

The dark figure does not respond at once. As you come closer you hear that he does not stand in silence, but instead speaks or chants very quietly, in a hoarse whisper, in no languange that you understand. The water in the fountain flows black, and chilly mist raises from it and creeps along the smooth stones of the courtyard.
Finally, the black figure turns away from the fountain. A void of impenetrable darkness stares at the man from under the hood, where the face should be but not even a glint of light in the eye can be seen. Voice speaks from the void, quiet, cold, hissing, like rustling of dead lives on the cold stones of a deserted graveyard, "Yes, I am here. And you have failed us".

Khazamr has the smell of magic upon him. Not that of yours, but another of your kind. And yet also, a waning, faint mark of sorcery from ages ago.

The dark man makes a step forward, and the aura of flowing shadows moves with him, reaching out toward the kneeling Corsair. Words of the same disembodied voice rustle along through the cold shadown, "You made a pact with the darkness which you cannot renounce. Darkness gave you strengh, but your strength belongs to us. And yet, I am here, now, to let the darkness flow through another soul, the new Seaward Lord. Why?"

The man in the black iron mask levels his head now, looking almost straight forward, somewhere at the feet or other... base... of the Mordor Lord before him.
"My loyalty is firm and unquestioned, Master," speaks the hollow, twisted voice, its words spoken carefully. The voice does not waiver, but it is grim and dry. It seems perfectly aware of its lack of ability to affect whatever is to come, and therefore obedient to take what may. "I bear you a token of my loyalty," speaks the Corsair Lord, and draws his cape behind his back now, revealing his armour from the front... And revealing his left arm, the arm with no hand but only a cold blade of steel instead.
Without a word, he produces a black leather pouch from under his cape. He holds the pouch in his hand and says: "These are the bones that remain of my hand."
The hand which he himself cut off to satisfy Indur the Nazgul.

"The new Seaward Lord is my gift to you, Master," replies the Lord of the Corsairs. "He is my apprentice, and I have prepared him for your service." Although he must be aware of the fact that the Wraith already knows what he is about to explain, he goes on: "Ever since I became yours, Master, I have done what I was commanded to do. I have cast fear and death to the hearts of Gondor. I have captured and burned countless ships. I have captured the kin of Imrahil, and cursed her daughter with my blood that runs Your names. Yet I am not eternal, and it took me years to find an apprentice."

After a pause, he goes on, speaking with honesty and humility: "Once I found the right one, I prepared him for you. I aided him to power. I taught him the ways of a Lord. He took the name of Mazrakhor, and finally grew to be the Corsair Lord worthy to be my follower. And now..." The masked man finishes, "...He is ready. And you have come, for you have foreseen it."

Gothmog considers the Corsair in silence for a while. The throbbing aura of shadows surrounds the kneeling man, hangs over him, but does not quite touch him, yet. "All of that you have done, yes, with the power that we gave you. But your apprentice grew haugty and proud. He thinks himself the source of his strength, he has the presumption to test his will against that of the darkness itself." The pulsing wall of shadows inches closer. "He was wrong. But you should have prepared him better. You will atone for this mistake". Darkness flows into the kneeling Corsair.

One might expect the Dread Corsair to scream, to fall over, to convulse. But no... What happens in truth is far worse than expected. He leans forth in pain, until his palm is on the ground and he is there like a burnt shell; and he hisses a gurgling, perverse hiss through the iron Mask, his convulsing jaw drawing the Mask down an inch from his forehead, so that the black spikes that are in his flesh draw long wounds into his scalp. And he remains there, burning inside out in darkness.

The roiling shadows withdraw at last, flow back into the black void, and the torchlight reaches out. weakly and unsteadilly, toward the center of the Courtyard and the Corsair who is writhing on the cold stones. The wraith speaks again, "The time has come for your apprentice to swear his own pact. Black blood will flow from your veins into his, and he will surrender himself to the darkness fully".

Gasping behind the Mask of Iron, the Dread Corsair leans back and regains his position on one knee again. Black indeed is his blood that now trickles down the iron mask. Black as always, flowing either here in the heart of Umbar or in the main of Gondor. "He shall join us... or die, Master," says Black Khazamr.

A few breaths are taken before the Lord speaks again. It is the inevitable, undeniable truth that still demands to be spoken. "I am yours, Master," he says. "On you command, I shall lay your vengeance upon anyone."

Gothmog considers the Dread Corsair for a few moments, then, the shadows flicker around him momentarily and he steps forward, "You serve, true. This will not be enough to subdue the new Seaward Lord, for his will is strong. Yours must be stronger. You need ... encouragement" At this word, Gothmog reaches forward and holds his gloved hand out, almost touching the man. Shadow deepens around his fingers, then, like a drop of black tar it falls on Khazamr's head. "You shall will him to serve the darkness and bow to our master. Only then, when your blood flows into him, this torment will flow with it and out of you".

This time the Corsair Lord convulses clearly and visibly. Enormously strong and all-suffered may this shredded and dismembered man be, but the coldness the kind of which is in the drop of the Nazgul is superhuman. As though he had suddenly been frozen from his heart and lungs, the man coughs a cough of black steam as if he were in a dark, cold land... Even though the night of Harad is hot enough to draw sweat out of any living man.

The Dread Corsair no longer speaks. His neck is drawn back in the coldness, and his remaining eye stares wide open at his Master through the triangular eyehole of the Iron Mask. Yes, indeed, he has understood.

Gothmog and Khazamr proceed to the Seaward Tower

Seaward Tower: The Hall of the West
This large, five-sided room is at once austere and impressive; it would seem the later rulers of Seaward Tower have not the same taste for ostentatious displays of luxury as did their predecessors. The floor is of cold flagstones, and grey, as are the walls; the great hearth sports no decoration aside from the great seal mounted above it.
Yet that is upon the eastern wall; to the west is the wide window that looks out above the sea, and the roaring of the Lord of Waters fills the chamber when that portal is unshuttered. Beside it, a narrow alcove houses the spiral staircase that leads upward.
After the sun has set, the eerie glimmer of oil lamps mounted upon the walls competes with the dancing light of the flames in the hearth. South, in a direct path from the wall, a high dais rises above several steps, and there sits the throne of the Corsair Lord.

Mazrakhor enters the room from upstairs.
Mazrakhor has arrived.

Peerless is this night amongst the recent annals of the Seaward Tower; the Hall of the West is all but empty, abandoned by its guardians and servants like. Some of the oil lamps that burn upon the walls have flickered and died, lending the shadows strength and the night cold. Such it is that the pale-faced, dark-eyed Lord of Seaward that emerges into the empty hall from the stairwell is greeted by naught but silence.

Dark is the night of Harad like any other autumn, but this night, the Hall of the West is indeed darker than any other spot in the land.
Two visitors have come to the Tower of Seaward, and the great double doors open before them. No starlight enters the Hall, for the darkness that follows them is impregnable.
The first to enter the Hall of the West is Black Khazamr, the Dread Corsair, a man who once ruled all that is seen around, but who has not been seen in the Tower for a long time. Behind him, however, is the One who draws the most fear and attention.
The Dread Corsair walks into the Hall of the West, his heavy footsteps even more hollow and dead than usual. With determination, the Corsair Lord walks across the stone floor of the Hall, straight towards Lord Mazrakhor.
"Good eve, my apprentice," speaks the hollow, dead voice of the Dread Corsair, and his voice brings about him a coldness that is not natural. "We have a matter to discuss."
The air is thick with ill omens.

Darkness flows through the open doors and settles into the form of a tall man robed in black. Doors shut behind the two, cutting off the voices of the city, and the hall is silent but for the voices of those in it. The dark void stares at the Tower Lord from under the hood, silently.

Mazrakhor falls instantly to his knees, head bowed low in deep, fearful deference... To the Black Rider, but also to the Lord of Corsairs. He utters but a single soft word, however, which writhes with dread. "Yes..."

The Lord of the Corsairs is far from his usual, patient but foreboding self tonight. Now, he is determined and sure in his actions. As the Lord of Seaward falls on his knees, the Dread Corsair walks up to him and, without a word, shoves his heavy boot in his face. "Get up! Do not squirm like a worm in your own Tower, Lord Mazrakhor!" echoes the inhuman voice of Black Khazamr.
The Sting, cold and sharp, flashes in the nightly rays of the moon and stars that flow into the Hall through the Western windows. Gothmog remains silent for now, the black aura pulses around him, and shadows tear from his black robes and drift away, slowly dissipating into a sickly haze which creeps along the floor and slowly pools in the hall, dimming the light of the torches.

No sound is uttered by the Lord of the Seaward Tower, but he rises to his feet unbidden, the mark of Khazamr's boot black against the unearthily pale skin of his face. Perhaps it is that he quavers, for his words are as soft as the fading light of the lamps.
"What is it you wish of me, great lords..." the long, heavy words ensue.

"Everything, my apprentice," replies the man in the iron mask. "Everything."
Now the Dread Corsair steps aside as if to remove himself from the direct line between the Wraith and the Tower Lord. "I have prepared you for a long time now, Lord Mazrakhor. From the tribal man called Mahir you became a respected Corsair, then a rebel leader, and a Tower Lord. You took the name of Mazrakhor, already foreseeing that which was ahead."
With a nod, the Dread Corsair finishes: "And now you are ready. He has come to claim you for himself. Lord mahir of the desert tribes shall die. Corsair Lord Mazrakhor shall be born. Now take off your shirt, get down on one knee... And prepare to join your Master."

On the part of the Seaward Lord, no word of response is uttered. Instead, Mazrakhor merely does as instructed, till the silken robes and tunic he wore lie discarded the floor, his knee his upon the ground, pale hands atop it as he waits.

Slowly, Gothmog moves across the floor, his long flowing robes seamlessly merge into dark shadows and he appears to glide over the smooth stones rather than walk. The wraith comes to observe the two man from the side, but still at a fair distance from both.

The Dread Corsair nods slowly as his apprentice does as commanded. Without a word now, he points the Sting at his own right hand and draws a long parallel cut from his wrist to the tip of his middle finger, so deep and precise that by the time the blade reaches the end of its cut, the blood has already begun to flow down to the floor. The pool is black, and it steams.
Stepping closer to the Lord of Seaward the Dread Corsair sticks the Sting in the man's chest where his heart beats, cleaving deep again with the precision of a surgeon. A deep wound is opened to receive what is to come.
And then he puts his bloody hand upon the wound in Lord Mazrakhor's chest, and lets his blood flow on top and inside him. And in a dark voice, he says: "Serve the darkness above all others, Mazrakhor. Serve until your death, which you may one day be awarded with." As he speaks, his mouthpiece steams black steam into the night, the steam breaking between the iron spikes into twenty little snakes... And his eye burns a black flame there in the dark.
The spell bestowed in him finds its target.

As the blood of the Corsair and his apprentice mix, a shadow flows out of Khazamr's hand, almost as thick as the blood itself at first, then disperses into the air, joining the hanging dim haze.