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Windblown gulls shivered on their cliff-top eyries
as the crone wiped the spittle from her cracked and salt-dried lips.
Far below, where dark green strands of kelp twisted like mucus,
the cold northern sea threw itself ceaselessly
upon the land’s jagged teeth.
Long sea miles distant, the creak of timber
and the crack of sail drew ever nearer
as the thin black-robed figure began her ancient work.
Making the signs of Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Death
she mused on how quickly the holy-men had fallen
to the wild reavers from distant shores.
How they had died beneath axe and blade,
their soft prayers lost as their sacred places
burned about them in hellish ruin.
She drew new signs in the direction of the North Star
and thought on how her Novice grandson was one of many
slain at the plundered coastal monastery.
Staring up at the silent cosmos,
she recalled her daughter’s tear-stained face,
twisted in anguish and crying out for vengeance.
Satisfied for now she wheezed a dry cough and nodded,
for she was no longer alone.
Down at her feet sat a squat, dark figure grinning at the night.
"Hammar yfir mer halga ve theta ok hald vordh” it said thickly,
hefting a heavy thrice-knotted rope.
A cloud blotted out the bone-clean moon.
Dawn broke to the sound of gulls screaming defiance
across the chill voids of a bitter morning sky.
Oblivious to their cries the two cliff-top figures watched impassively
as three dragon-ships rode the swell below,
making for the bay and safe harbour.
It was time to begin.
The shorter figure smiled and deftly undid the rope’s first knot,
and immediately the wind strengthened, buffeting ships askew.
Helmeted men fell about cursing.
“One for God” murmured the old woman.
Muscular fingers tore open the second knot
and the rising wind suddenly shrieked,
ripping jagged holes in sails,
sending rigging crashing down upon terrified oarsmen.
“One for Odin” whispered the crone blankly into the flying spume.
Then the third and final knot was loosened.
A howling black whirlwind suddenly lashed across the bay,
giving birth to a Kraken-ridden maelstrom
that sent strong timbers splintering.
The three doomed ships collided again and again,
dashing each other to pieces and finally breaking asunder
to sink swiftly and without trace.
No more would those reavers come a-killing now,
thought the grandmother of saints
as the wind died quickly with its victims.
“And one for Loki” intoned a guttural voice at her shoulder.
High above, the gulls wheeled and laughed madly
as the rising sun shone blood-red on a calm and glassy sea.
© Alan Hodgson
© "Sinking of Numenor", John Howe, www.john-howe.com
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