During an autumn storm, a ship was wrecked below the section of the Red Cliffs on which the Moonstone Fortress stood. As is natural, all the folk of the fortress (yes, all nine of them — nine, from a fortress that could shelter scores!) hurried down the steep paths to the beach north of the castle to see what they could salvage. There was little of use to be found, and only one survivor: a Black Númenorean prisoner, who was not drowned because he held onto the piece of timber that had anchored the chains to his leg irons. This was Zôkhad, a cruel but intelligent man. Yet even a Dwarf would be slow to recover from battle wounds, a flogging, and then near-drowning. Gedron, fascinated by his guest, spent many of the weeks of Zokhad's convalescence listening to the former commander's tales. In the history that Zokhad told his young host, the commander was a wronged hero, and the Lords of Umbar were ungrateful wretches or witless fools. In turn, Gedron described his penniless plight. Zokhad began to consider the possibilities of this mighty castle, owned by an unworldly young man who seemed easily influenced. At first, he thought in terms of a land-based band of robbers, or perhaps a protection racket. Later on, however, he was able to tour the Moonstone Fortress and observe its other great feature: a secret haven in a cavern below the cliffs and the castle, a hidden harbor capable of holding two or three ships, if their masts were stepped.
Zokhad promptly changed his plans. Indeed, he and his young protege had to take to robbery afoot or on horseback at first, but when enough funds were obtained, they might buy a ship. Thus they managed to buy a small sailing ship of the type used for coastal trading, which Gedron optimistically named the Bay Eaglet. Zokhad knew, however, that a larger ship was needed to intimidate other vessels. Thus, on a foggy day in early spring the next year, a small warship of Umbar came upon a coastal trader in trouble. She seemed to be listing badly, and her captain (who sounded very young) shouted that they had been attacked by pirates! The Umbarite hauled alongside and grappled to, taking the survivors aboard. The grateful victims brought along the paltry remains of their cargo: several small casks of strong wine, which they insisted that their rescuers accept. The Umbar crew, not at all reluctant once the ship was safely anchored in a small cove, accepted. The apparently sinking ship was, of course, the Bay Eaglet. with her ballast drastically rearrranged by Zokhad, who knew well just how much such a ship could stand. He also knew that the captains of Umbar were always instructed to rescue traders and passengers who might have useful information about pirates or Gondor. The young captain was Gedron, his crew were the best Moonstone cutthroats, and the wine — was poisoned. Soon the Umbarites were dead or dying, and the ship, which had been followed at a distance by the Bay Eaglet, was Gedron's
62 years old, but the long lifespan of a Black Númenorean was his, so he appeared no more than 40. Even taller than Gedron, and more muscular, the ex-commander cutted an impressive figure as he stalked the deck of the Master Seawolf (which he considered to be actually his, no matter what he told Gedron). His eyes were a cold, clear grey, very startling in his deeply tanned face, and his hair, worn plaited into many braids, was a dull black and never curls. He had little patience with others, except for Gedron. His forbearance toward his protege would seem to be a redeeming weakness, but in actuality, Zokhad felt that he had only to wait for the reckless Gedron to be killed in a raid, leaving Zokhad in charge of the two ships and the Moonstone Fortress. Meanwhile, he bid his time and enjoyed the slaughter from afar, as he dared not risk news of his continued existence arriving in Umbar until his new fleet was strong enough to withstand a raid from his old enemies. To this end, he hoped to capture other warships soon, or even buy a new ship. Zokhad favored black clothing and armor: a recent acquisition was a breastplate of black dragonskin, which protected him as if it were steel plate, although it weighed no more than rigid leather. A mithril headband adorned his head and protected him as if it were a helmet. His handaxe was Dwarfwork from the north. Around his neck on a mithril chain was a priceless artifact: an Amulet of Sea-mastery from Númenor. This large aquamarine, set in silver and engraved with runes, allowed its owner to predict the weather for 24 hours ahead with 99% accuracy, to always know true north, and to detect obstacles beneath the water to a depth of 100 feet. It operated continually, serving its wearer as an extra set of senses. Only 15 of these amulets were ever made, and the locations only six of these were known (Círdan the Elven Shipwright had one).
- MERP:Pirates of Pelargir