Evening of February 27, 3020

From February 25 to 27, 3020, Ceolwulf and Vardamir had journeyed from the Druadain Forest where they had been given sanctuary by the Wild Men since November to Frodo's home in Minas Artano. Restless from the long winter inactivity, both men had been eager to see their old friend and to leave the caves that they had shared with the Woses, the Wild Men. After visiting him for a while in his room, the two men had suggested to Frodo that he go with them to a tavern in Newburg, about a mile away.

They had their supper that night at the Blushing Maiden Inn and in the midst of eating, they had been approached by "The Captain," the leader of the gang of renegade Dunedain who had kidnapped two of Frodo's servants the year before. Try as they might, they could not persuade him to leave their table, where he insisted upon interjecting his comments into their conversation.

Finally after he had insulted Sidhiel, a traveling minstrel, Ceolwulf could bear his insolence no more and challenged him to go behind the inn to fight. Though The Captain was far superior in fighting prowess by virtue of his age and experience, Ceolwulf's sword had broken The Captain's during the fight. After apologizing to Sidhiel, the highwayman was finally able to persuade Frodo, Ceolwulf and Vardamir at least to listen to him and he had asked them to go with him to someplace where they could talk in privacy and discuss his proposal with them.

After leading them through darkened byways and back alleys of Newburg, The Captain finally led them to an alley, and after giving the password, The Captain had gained them entry to the establishment. Much to the consternation of Frodo, Ceolwulf and Vardamir, the house, run by a lady named Cuillwen, a beautiful woman of auburn tresses who seemed to be an old love of the Captain, was obviously a place of unsavory nature, frequented by people of questionable intent and an embarrassment to those of worth.

The Captain's proposal to Frodo was that, for a sum of money, the outlaw and his band could give Frodo safe passage across the White Mountains to the Shire and freedom. It would be safe, The Captain said, but he could take only one, for the danger would be great, both from the Easterling occupiers, and from the Rohirrim, whose territory they must travel to get to the Shire. The decision was left to Frodo, whether to trust The Captain's assurances of safe arrival, or to trust the promises of the Dark Lord that someday Frodo would be freed.

Frodo portrayed by Hobbitness
Vardamir portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator, The Captain and Ceolwulf portrayed by Wraith

The Captain: *eying Frodo speculatively, The Captain asks* What do you say to my offer, Shakh?
Frodo: I...I...*Frodo clenches and unclenches his fists, frowning in thought. His eyes stare at unseen landscapes in his memory and grow soft. Then he seems to return to the present. He looks at each of the men in turn, noting their expressions*
Frodo: *He runs through the arguments for and against going in his mind...the arguments against going seem stronger, but he does not want to admit it to himself. How can he give up the chance to go home!*
Frodo: *But he knows his decision is already made. His friends back in the Hall, and the girls in Minas Morgul, will die if he goes missing. They will be executed, for they will have no more purpose to Mordor. This is the only thing he remembers from his return to Lugburz*
The Captain: Shakh, good fortune has brought you here this night, and it is well for you that I was present at the tavern and recognized you. Shakh, why are you hesitant? Why do you tarry in your reply?
Frodo: *Frodo heaves a great sigh, steeling himself*
Vardamir: *As he sits at the table, Vardamir studies the face of the halfling, who is deep in thought*
Frodo: Perhaps your offer of this bargain is truly sincere...if it is, I thank you for this unexpected....kindness
The Captain: It is no kindness, Shakh. It is my revenge upon Maugoth Vartang and it is another way to pick up some more gold for my efforts *he says and drinks from his tankard*
Frodo: I wish I could agree to go with you, but there are others who depend on my presence here, and I cannot leave them.
The Captain: If you remain here, you have no surety that the Great Eye will honor His promise. What do you want to do? Stay here and all of you die together? Is there any consolation in that?
The Captain: As a man having experience with the minions of Mordor, I can speculate that the two servants presently with you, the women, the three maidens in Minas Morgul and the man Aldir and his wife, will probably be killed, whatever you do
Frodo: *Frodo's right arm rests on the table. He leans his head on his hand, and his fingers clutch and tangle in his curls as he sighs again*
The Captain: The only two of your servants who have ever gained freedom are your companions here this night and they gained it by their own efforts, and even then their chances of survival are tenuous.
Frodo: Maybe they will be killed....You see *he lifts his head and gestures as he explains* if I go, I can be sure they will die, and because of me. The only chance of saving them comes if I stay here
The Captain: I urge you to take this opportunity *he says as he looks at Frodo intently*
Frodo: *Frodo looks away from the man's intense gaze, afraid of breaking down*
The Captain: It will be your last opportunity I deem, and this only comes by good fortune.
Frodo: *But he immediately looks back at him* I know. I am sorry, but I cannot go with you
Vardamir: *He speaks to Frodo in thought... This man, I feel, is trying to use you for his own advantage, and thinks of you only as a device to wreak his vengeance upon Vartang.*
Frodo: *Gives Vardamir a halfhearted smile and replies in thought: Yes, I'm sure you are right*
The Captain: Shakh, reconsider my offer. Who knows, but that I was meant to be here this night to offer you this aid! *he says with emphasis*
Frodo: *Frodo has another moment of weakness as he remembers how Gandalf used to speak of things being preordained, of Gollum's unforeseen purpose... but none of Gandalf's words condoned the loss of innocent lives*
Frodo: I have no choice *he meets the Captain's gaze with equal intensity*
The Captain: Then, Shakh *his gaze, never wavering, he shrugs his shoulders and says* you are a fool!
Frodo: *Frodo chuckles slightly*
The Captain: And you waste my time in needless talk *he says angrily* What will you do now? Let your friends take you back to your hall where you will remain cowering until the next stroke of Vartang?
The Captain: You are little more than a thrall, and indeed, you must have earned the title that you bear - Friend of Sauron.
Frodo: *slams his fist on the table* Never!
Vardamir: *He looks to The Captain and says* He is not the Friend of the Enemy!
The Captain: Your outburst, shakh, proves your allegiance!
Frodo: What? How? That is folly! You know that I am a prisoner, that this is all a charade, and that I am loyal to the West!
The Captain: *puts down his tankard, pushes his chair back and rises to his feet* Then go back to your hall, you sniveling thrall of evil!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf rises to his feet and looks with anger at The Captain* You knave! You have no right to speak to him that way! If I had not already broken your sword to pieces, I would challenge you to a duel!
Vardamir: *Vardamir, too, rises to his feet* Watch your tongue, highwayman! *he says to The Captain*
Frodo: *holds up a hand* Please, don't fight! There is nothing more to do here. I cannot accept your offer, so you may as well leave us
The Captain: I will escort you to the alley and then I will leave you all, for I have no more business with you tonight. Turn down your last chance at hope and die here for all I care!
Ceolwulf: I suggest, sir, that you leave us now! We can find our own way to the door!
Vardamir: Aye, and we need no help from brigands.
Ceolwulf: Get up, Frodo. This pompous villain has said his piece and his worthless words are at last spent.
The Captain: Then good night gentlemen. *he says, goes to the door, and after opening it, holds it open for them*
Frodo: *Frodo is exhausted, and sadness weighs down his limbs. He doesn't want to argue anymore. He obediently gets off his chair and goes to stand next to Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf walks to the doorway and goes through it, casting glances of pure malice towards The Captain*
Frodo: *Frodo follows Ceolwulf out the door, feeling that this is all a strange dream*
Vardamir: *Taking a look around the room, Vardamir then follows behind Ceolwulf and Frodo. He pauses after passing The Captain, and says* The ways of a crooked man are never straight. *Then he resumes walking.*
Frodo: *smiles faintly to himself at Vardamir's words*
The Captain: *Watches as they pass through the doorway* Fools! *he spits*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf leads them back down the hallway through which they came, ignoring the giggling girls as they go. He takes them through the tavern and then walks through the outer door. He bows to Cuillwen, who stands there smiling at them, and then opens the door and walks out into the night*
Ceolwulf: *He inhales deeply of the night air* The air of the place was heavy with the taint of stale pipe smoke and ale. It is good to be back where the air is more fresh.
Frodo: *Frodo breathes deeply. The air clears his head. He smiles to Ceolwulf*
Vardamir: Aye, indeed it is. Twas quite an unsavory place. *he casts a glance back at the building as they walk*
Narrator: *As they walk through the alley, they see a hog rooting in the rubbage and rotten food that lies scattered about.*
Frodo: *Frodo is still deep in his own thoughts. After such a jarring experience, it is hard to remember the beginning of this evening, when they left on an excursion to the Blushing Maiden Inn*
Frodo: *They are supposed to be having fun tonight. It might be Frodo's last chance to enjoy himself, ever. It has not gone very well! He sighs again*
Narrator: *The hog squeals in surprise as he sees them and then goes back to rooting in the rotting filth of the alley.*
Ceolwulf: Perhaps the air is not so clean here for the hog has stirred up a stench. But at least it is better than inside.
Frodo: *The squeal startles Frodo out of his thoughts. He laughs softly and nods to Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *After passing through the alley they come to the main thoroughfare, and Ceolwulf bends down and puts Frodo on his shoulders* We must make haste, for we have lingered far too long in this place
Frodo: We have to go back?
Ceolwulf: Do you wish to stay in this alley and watch the hog? *he says and laughs*
Vardamir: Perhaps he wishes some roast boar! *he laughs*
Frodo: *as if awakening from sleep* What time is it? Oh no! Do they know I'm gone? Do you think they're looking for me?
Ceolwulf: Frodo, what other choice do you have than to go back?
Frodo: You're're right, I have to go back.
Ceolwulf: Perhaps Vardamir and I could take you with us, but then what will be the fate of the others?
Frodo: Don't worry, they will be all right. I'll look after them
Ceolwulf: Tis strange indeed that Vardamir and I are the only ones who have been able to gain our freedom *he says pensively* Only two out of nine, and seven still remain in bondage!
Vardamir: *He wonders at the fate of Aldir and Lilandra, what horrors they must be enduring, and a sense of grief comes on him again.*
Frodo: *Disappointed for all of them, and very sleepy, he wraps his arms around the top of Ceolwulf's head, puts his own head down, and rests up in his perch*
Narrator: *After reaching the thoroughfare, they pass shabby buildings, constructed in a haste,thrown up in disarray and disorder. Hogs root through the discarded remnants of food and squeal when they are disturbed*
Ceolwulf: Tis a filthy city and the place has lost all resemblance to its former beauty of the fields of Pelennor.
Vardamir: *nods in the darkness* Aye, ever does the filth of Mordor spread, like some blight that destroys or defiles everything in its path.
Frodo: I wish I could have seen it back then.
Vardamir: Before the war? The fields of Pelennor were covered by farms and homes. Everything was green, and the plain was dotted by copses of trees.
Ceolwulf: I only saw the fields in the midst of war and twas a most unpleasant sight to survey what had once been lush and green trampled under the heels and hooves of men and beasts!
Frodo: Well, it has been good to see you again at least, my friends. Will you come back?
Ceolwulf: Aye, Frodo *he says as they reach the outskirts of the city and he quickens his pace* we will come back... when we can.
Frodo: *He lifts his head, and his heart sinks as he sees they are approaching Minas Artano. And he could have been on his way to the Shire by now!*
Ceolwulf: But after we do what we have planned this night, there will never again be entry through the Unused Gate, for I am sure it will be sealed, or there will be a guard placed upon it
Frodo: *sighs* So you ARE going to rob Vartang's men. Be careful!
Ceolwulf: We will give you word, though, when we are in the city, when some of your servants go to the marketplace there.
Frodo: Oh, that will be wonderful! Thank you!
Ceolwulf: Aye, we will raid every train of wains that we can, for we have met other men such as ourselves amid the mountains when we were with the Woses.
Frodo: There are other escaped slaves?
Ceolwulf: Some slaves, aye, and robbers too. All desperate men driven by the misfortunes of war to go to the mountains and hide.
Frodo: *feels immense jealousy for those who are able to go and hide from it all in the mountains*
Ceolwulf: They seek the shelter of caves now for the winter, but in the spring, they will go down to the roads and there seek their fortune from those who pass by. Many are soldiers who lost all in the war, driven from their homes and families to do things that they never would have done before!
Frodo: Well, may the Valar protect them, for it will be a dangerous life!
Ceolwulf: We seek our fortunes and vengeance among the outlaws and robbers of the hills
Frodo: May the Valar protect you, too.
Ceolwulf: *Reaching the edges of the city, Ceolwulf's pace quickens to a slow trot and he holds Frodo tightly to keep him from falling*
Vardamir: What about your leg, Ceolwulf? *he says, looking to him*
Ceolwulf: Tis nothing *he says and shakes his head*
Frodo: *gasps* Oh, no! I forgot! I'm sorry, Ceolwulf! You shouldn't carry me
Ceolwulf: I assure you, I am strong enough to carry you and another halfling *he says and trots on*
Vardamir: Perhaps you are, my friend, but I still wager I could pull a cart full of halflings and beat you in a race, even if both my legs were spurred like yours! *he laughs*
Frodo: *laughs, enjoying their sparring*
Ceolwulf: No doubt you could, my friend, if you could ever keep your mouth silent enough!
Ceolwulf: *He trots on until after about six minutes, he halts on the road and looks around* Now, Frodo, we must find a way to pass messages to you
Vardamir: *he looks to Frodo* Who among your household can you trust?
Frodo: Finduilas and Rian, but they are afraid of Vartang, and rightly so. I wouldn't want to put them at risk
Ceolwulf: *He wonders to himself... and who could we trust in this foul city to take the messages?* Frodo, can you not send one of them to the market to look for something for you?
Frodo: Yes, they go to the market for me sometimes.
Vardamir: We would need someone whom we could rely upon to relay messages.
Frodo: But would you meet them there?....I don't know, what if Vartang found out? They would be killed!
Ceolwulf: Frodo, not if they were careful, for who would suspect such a thing as passing messages?
Vardamir: *He thinks of the minstrel girl whom he met at the tavern that night... but he is not very well acquainted with her.. yet.*
Frodo: Vardamir...*his voice becomes almost teasing* What about that lady at the tavern who sang? She seemed to...know you *grins* Maybe you could send her over to me and I could employ her as a minstrel and somehow, perhaps when I gave her the gold pieces, she could deliver the messages
Vardamir: *He looks to Frodo and laughs, his cheeks feeling slightly warm.* I would have to talk with her more, to see if she is trustworthy, of course.
Ceolwulf: We shall be back in a week's time, next Tuesday.
Frodo: *Frodo's spirits soar at this news* I'll expect to hear from you then!
Ceolwulf: Perhaps then, Vardamir, you will have the opportunity to meet her again, since she must live nearabouts
Vardamir: *a thought comes to him* But will she not wonder? When she saw Frodo, she thought he was a child. She does not know that he is a halfling who has his own estate.
Frodo: I suppose you will have to tell her who I am
Ceolwulf: Frodo, send either Rian or Finduilas to the marketplace next Tuesday in mid-afternoon and there will be someone there who will give them a message.
Frodo: I will!
Ceolwulf: At least you will know that you still have friends among the free, and in that, perchance, you can take comfort!
Frodo: *He smiles* Yes, that is my greatest comfort!
Ceolwulf: And you, Vardamir, next Tuesday, will seek out the maiden.... Perhaps you can discuss the interest you both share in music *he says and he grins but his face is unseen in the dark*
Vardamir: *he laughs* Aye, that I shall, and I shall also see if she is one who can be trusted to aid us in our cause.
Vardamir: It is my hope - but in these dark days, one never knows with whom they are dealing, friend or foe.
Ceolwulf: If she should prove untrustworthy.... it would go ill for the servant you send, for Vartang would like nothing better than another excuse to cause you grief. Though I think oft times that he needs no excuse!
Frodo: *Frodo's heart pounds wildly as he remembers the chaos Vartang caused. Ceolwulf can feel the heartbeat at the back of his head*
Ceolwulf: Now we have rested far too much and we must be on our way to take you back to your hall.
Vardamir: I can carry the halfling if your leg wearies you, Ceolwulf. I am sure I can travel faster anyway!
Ceolwulf: Then, perhaps, my friend, you should show us *he says and laughs* Begin running now, and let us see if you can journey to the gates of the city and then run back to us again. At least then, we would not be troubled by your boasts!
Frodo: *laughs*
Vardamir: *he laughs merrily* Then I shall do so! *he takes off running*
Frodo: *Frodo has a sudden mental image of Legolas gliding over the snow on Caradhras*
Ceolwulf: *shakes his head back and forth* Now let us see if he can live up to his boasts!
Frodo: He's not quite as fast as a real elf. *grins*
Ceolwulf: *steadying his grip on Frodo, he follows at a fast walk, limping slightly now as he goes*
Frodo: Ceolwulf, I can tell you're limping. Why don't you clear a path in front, and I'll follow behind?
Ceolwulf: Nay, Frodo, I can carry you well enough. Besides, it is peaceful without the endless boasts of our friend
Vardamir: *He runs on ahead, and in about five minutes, he comes to the gates of the city. Then turns around and begins running back, his long legs taking him far through the snow*
Ceolwulf: *Panting slightly, he increases his pace and is soon trotting, Frodo bouncing up and down on his shoulders*
Vardamir: *They soon meet Vardamir, who runs their direction* Hail! Well met! What took you so long? I have been waiting for what seems like at least half an age!
Frodo: Well done, Vardamir! *he laughs*
Ceolwulf: Bah! *Ceolwulf exclaims* We will never hear the last of this!
Vardamir: Let me carry the halfling, and I shall run again to the gate, and I wager that when I get back, you shall not have passed more than ten feet from this place!
Ceolwulf: Nay, you would be boasting so loud, you would trip over your own legs and fall and drop him
Ceolwulf: *Soon they see the lights of the city on the hill and Ceolwulf slackens his pace and then halts* Now, my son, I must put you down *he says as he lifts Frodo over his shoulders and sets him down*
Ceolwulf: Pull your cloak about your face and if all goes well, we will pass unchallenged through the gates
Vardamir: Hmm... *he says thoughtfully* I wonder if the boy has inherited his father's slowness in running? *he laughs*
Frodo: *smirks at Vardamir as he closes his cloak over his face*
Ceolwulf: *Bends down, picks up a handful of snow, and tightens his fists about it and then throws it, striking Vardamir in the chest*
Vardamir: Ai! *he exclaims, and quickly bends down, making his own snowball, and then throwing it at Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: At least you could not outrun that!
Frodo: *Frodo remembers countless snowball fights with Merry, Pippin, and Sam. Operating on instinct, he gleefully begins pelting the men with snowballs*
Frodo: *Besides, it works with his disguise as a young boy!*
Ceolwulf: *Laughing when the snowballs hit him, he says* Son, your aim is good!
Vardamir: Aye! Indeed, he is! Will grow up to be a fine archer someday! *he says, laughing*
Frodo: Perhaps, perhaps, you never know! Anything is possible! *a snowball strikes Vardamir in the back*
Frodo: Thank you, father! *as another snowball strikes Ceolwulf smack in the stomach*
Narrator: *The guards at the gate hear their merriment and one goes out and looks at them and sees them throwing snowballs in the darkness* Bah! *he says* Drunken fools returning from the tavern!
Narrator: *Ceolwulf leads them to the gate and waits for the guards to challenge them. The guard says* Halt, what is your business here?
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf bows to him and says* Tonight was my son's first time in the tavern and I fear he has drunk a little too much
Frodo: *walks unsteadily up next to Ceolwulf and hiccups*
Ceolwulf: Let us pass, for his mother will have concerns for him. Indeed, I fear her wrath at having brought him home so late
Frodo: *hopes the guard doesn't notice he is only pretending to be drunk*
Vardamir: *Vardamir stifles laughter*
Narrator: *The guard yawns at them and motions for them to pass through the gate, scarcely noticing them* Slaves *the guard says and spits on the ground* They have far too much freedom as it is! *he exclaims to his comrade* They come and they go at will all night and all day, going to the taverns of Newburg and coming back drunk. Their masters are far too lenient on them!
Narrator: Aye *the other guard says* They get too much of the ale and not of the whip!
Ceolwulf: *After having passed by the guards, Ceolwulf leads them up the hill, staggering as he walks and singing loudly* There was a tavern on a hill, where one and all could drink their fill
Ceolwulf: *After they get out of hearing range of the guards, he stops, pausing and exhaling his breath* Tis a good thing that their discipline is lax
Frodo: *nods*
Vardamir: Aye, and their hearing is not very good either - for they would have whipped you soundly after hearing that.
Frodo: *snickers*
Ceolwulf: My friend, you have great envy for my voice, for you cannot sing, and when you try, all birds and creatures in hearing range flee from the fell sound!
Vardamir: *he laughs merrily* You only wish, my friend, for tis YOU the one who is envious!
Vardamir: Why, I sing with the talent of the elves *he says proudly* in the league of Maglor of old!
Frodo: All right, I'll settle this. You're BOTH jealous of each other! *hits them with snowballs*
Vardamir: *laughing, he swoops down and pelts Frodo back with snowballs*
Ceolwulf: *He picks up a handful of snow and throws it in Frodo's direction*
Frodo: Two against one! Hey! *he laughs as he throws snowball after snowball*
Ceolwulf: Son! *he exclaims* Your mother will worry that you will catch your chill *then, laughing, he leads them up the hill. His back is pelted with snowballs as he goes*
Vardamir: *laughing, he says* I wonder if Fingolfin had this problem with his comrades when they crossed the Helcaraxë?
Ceolwulf: In such a situation, Vardamir, not even an elf could be merry! Not even you!
Ceolwulf: *As they near Frodo's hall, Ceolwulf says in a loud whisper* We must be quiet. We need to go around the edge of the wall to the Unused Gate, and I hope... I hope very much... that Vardamir has not lost that piece of wire!
Vardamir: *he fumbles with his cloak and tunic, trying to find the wire* I believe I lost it!
Vardamir: *he says innocently, biting back laughter*
Frodo: Oh! Vardamir! *he remembers to whisper at the last second*
Ceolwulf: Vardamir, if you have lost that piece of wire, then you must carry both Frodo and me up the branches of the tree *he says in jest*
Frodo: *presses his hand to his mouth to hold back laughter*
Vardamir: I am sure that I could do that *he boasts* but ah - here is the wire. *he says, taking the wire from a pocket in his cloak*
Frodo: You sneak! *picks up a handful of snow and makes a snowball, but remembers not to throw it for fear of being discovered. He puts it back on the ground*
Ceolwulf: Then hasten ahead and open the gate for us, and be quiet if you can, and stop up your mouth, for the guards will hear you and raise an alarm!
Vardamir: You worry too much, my friend! *he says as he runs on ahead to the Unused Gate. When he gets there, he sets his hand to picking the lock*
Ceolwulf: *Catching up to Vardamir, he says* Vardamir, robbery and breaking and entering must be your natural trade, and you have come by it by birth, for you can pick a lock as quickly as you can make a boast!
Vardamir: Perhaps, but my hands are more accustomed to picking the strings of a harp than they are to making mischief, but by necessity, I must set them to doing other things. *he pushes the door open and holds it for them*
Frodo: *lags behind, struggling through the snow, which is waist-high for him*
Ceolwulf: *Passing through the gate, Ceolwulf cautions them* Now we must be very quiet, for we will soon approach the hall itself. Frodo, I must pick you up again to help you through the snow *he says as he bends down, picks up Frodo and puts him on his shoulders*
Frodo: Thank you. We wouldn't have made very good time! But...I'm almost afraid to ask this, but isn't it Vardamir's turn to carry me? *grins*
Ceolwulf: *He stands there silently and then a loud sigh escapes him* In truth, Frodo, it may be a long time before either of us carries you anywhere.
Ceolwulf: *They reach the window to Frodo's room* Vardamir, open the window. Then after you have opened it, I will set Frodo inside.
Vardamir: *He nods and opens the window for Ceolwulf and Frodo*
Ceolwulf: *After putting Frodo inside, he crawls through the open window* We cannot tarry long now and can stay with you but a while. I have something I must do before we leave.
Vardamir: *Vardamir climbs over the window and upon entering the room, he shuts the window again, and closes the shutters.*
Ceolwulf: Now, Vardamir, this is your opportunity to prove the boasts of your great eyesight true. If you have the eyes of a cat in the dark, find us a candle and strike the tinder!
Frodo: *Frodo feels revulsion at the sight of his room in Baggins Hall. But it is worth it to save his friends.*
Ceolwulf: The elves were reputed in the days when the only light was the stars to be able to see in the dark. Now let us see if those tales are true
Vardamir: Those with elvish blood have exceptional eyesight, as we all know. *he says proudly as he finds a candle in the darkened room and lights it, then sets it upon the table*
Ceolwulf: *He sighs* Then, indeed, the tales must be true!
Frodo: *Frodo smiles to himself, wondering if Vardamir considers everything about himself to be exceptional because he has elvish blood*
Ceolwulf: Then, while you are at it, find me a parchment, quill and ink, for there is a message I must write.
Vardamir: Well, I do not want to rifle through all of Frodo's papers... *he looks to Frodo* Where do you keep your parchments and ink?
Frodo: In this desk, in this drawer over here. *goes over to the little desk and opens the drawer*
Vardamir: *He follows Frodo* Ah, hannon le - *he says as he bends down and takes from it a parchment, quill and ink*
Ceolwulf: *He walks to the table and takes a seat* Now the parchment, the quill and the ink
Vardamir: *Vardamir walks to the table and sets the items upon it, then sits down*
Ceolwulf: *He opens the jar of ink, and then dipping the quill in it, he writes*
Frodo: Ceolwulf, if I am right in my guess...I will give it to her if she comes at the spring equinox...but, you know I cannot guarantee....*remembers the dark days of Ceolwulf's imprisonment*
Frodo: *swallows, attempts an encouraging smile* But she will probably come, and you can send messages to her, too, then
Ceolwulf: *He shakes his head and continues writing* Nay, Frodo, you mistake my intent. This message is for others.
Frodo: *sigh of relief* Ah, then I cannot guess its recipient
Ceolwulf: We have left signs of our passing to and fro to your window, and when our footsteps are discovered, things shall go worse for you, for they will know that you have had visitors in the night.
Ceolwulf: I shall not waste the ink and parchment in writing a letter to another, for I consider her dead
Frodo: She isn't dead!
Ceolwulf: If she is not dead, she might as well be! For no one could come from that place unscathed, unblemished by evil!
Vardamir: *looks to Ceolwulf and nods slowly*
Frodo: I have not given up hope for Elfhild and Elffled! After all, I came back from the Dark Tower itself, twice, and I'm still myself. So don't give up hope. Maybe there will be a way to send her a message someday
Ceolwulf: *He finishes his writing and looks to Frodo* Only if I see her for myself alive and well, and in her right mind, would I believe! No one comes from that place untouched!
Ceolwulf: *He stands up, picks up the piece of parchment* Now, Frodo, my friend, we must say farewell
Frodo: *reluctant sigh* Do you think you'll ever come back to see me again? Though you risk your lives already, and I probably should not ask that of you.
Ceolwulf: *He hesitates and then looks at Frodo* After we are gone, they will know that we have come and they will seal the gate
Frodo: ...And you won't be able to come this way again.
Frodo: *tries to etch the images of Ceolwulf and Vardamir into his memory*
Ceolwulf: We shall come this way again. We shall go to the city, and to the west and to the south, but we will not be coming in peace. We will come to take from the takers and have our revenge
Frodo: *nods slowly*
Ceolwulf: *He looks down at Frodo and puts his hand on his shoulder* Hæ ábéodan, min fréond, or as we say in our language, farewell and good fortune, my friend.
Vardamir: *Vardamir rises to his feet and stretches slightly* And as the Elves say, namárië, or navaer, mellon nín.
Frodo: Namárië *he says softly*
Ceolwulf: Now we must leave you *he says as he looks into Frodo's eyes* Now open the window, my friend
Frodo: *Frodo sighs and starts toward the window, but turns, goes back to Ceolwulf and hugs him around the waist*
Vardamir: Aye, my partner in crime *After gathering their things, Vardamir walks over to the window, pulls back the shutters and opens the window*
Vardamir: *And quick as an elf, he is out the window and on the other side, waiting for Ceolwulf*
Frodo: *Frodo smiles sadly to Vardamir as he watches him climb out the window. Then he turns back to Ceolwulf. Unable to think of anything to say, he hugs Ceolwulf around the waist*
Ceolwulf: *Places his hand on Frodo's shoulder* We cane back this time. We will be back again. May your prayers speed us upon our journey. Now we must leave you
Frodo: I always pray to the Valar for you, for all of you. May They protect you. I hope you do come back!
Vardamir: *Whistles a bit of an elvish tune while he waits*
Ceolwulf: Now we have a bit of thievery to do before we go
Vardamir: Aye! And twill be dawn ere we do it if you do not hurry, you slowcoach!
Frodo: *smiles and shakes his head. Ceolwulf is always so eager to get himself into trouble* All right then, hurry up before it gets dangerous, and come back soon!
Ceolwulf: Do not be disturbed Frodo if you hear an alarm outside your window *he says, laughingly, and then leaves Frodo and goes out the window*
Frodo: *He stands on tiptoe and looks out the window, watching them, then he remembers to close the window and shutters*


After taking Frodo back to his room, Vardamir and Ceolwulf hasten to the stables, for only an hour of darkness yet remains before the dawn approaches. The horses recognize their voices and scent, for each one of the grooms had spent many a pleasant moment caring for the animals, feeding them, currying and brushing them, cleaning their hooves, shoeing them and braiding their manes and tails. Vardamir goes to a storage room and searches until he finds a farrier's hammer that is used for driving horseshoe nails into the horse's hooves and tucks it inside a pocket in his cloak. He gathers up a few horseshoe nails and puts them in the cloak with the hammer. After each saddling five of the mounts and placing saddlebags behind the saddles, Vardamir and Ceolwulf put halters on the horses' heads and attach long ropes to the hook under the halters. They put grain and a bridle in each one of the saddlebags, and along with the grain, they put a brush and a horse hoof pick. Then each man saddles and bridles a sixth horse for himself.

After leading the animals outside the stable, Vardamir and Ceolwulf mount their own horse and they lead five horses a piece. Both Vardamir and Ceolwulf ride around the stables to the right, keeping close along the same wall to which Frodo's room lies. The passage of twelve sets of horses' hooves soon obliterate the fact that anyone ever went to Frodo's room that night. They hasten to the Little Used Gate, which Vardamir picks with his strand of wire. Dismounting, Ceolwulf walks through the gate, leading his six head of horses. Vardamir dismounts his horse, takes out the hammer and a horseshoe nail and tacks up the parchment to the door that he and Ceolwulf had composed in the inn the night before.

"There," Vardamir says, "I doubt that the Easterlings will be impressed with our exploits of this night, but indeed no less do I enjoy boasting at making fools of them once again." Then, after leading the horses through the gate, he closes it behind him, and the gate clanks shut with its familiar ring.

Quietly, Ceolwulf and Vardamir lead the horses down to the hill, keeping close to the buildings as they can. In a back alley a short distance away from the gate of the city, each man mounts his horse and taking the lines of the other five horses, they touch their heels to the horses sides, and scream at the top of their lungs. Ceolwulf shouts, "FORTH EORLINGAS!" and Vardamir screams, "Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!"

The guards have scarcely enough time to scurry out of the way before the pounding stream of horseflesh thunders down upon them, rearing and plunging and hooves kicking as they gallop through the gates. The horses race wildly east along the road until Vardamir and Ceolwulf turn the horses north towards the mountains and the powerful legs of the steeds find the snow but a minor inconvenience as they gallop on towards the sheltering reaches of the Druedain Forest.

The next morning when the horse theft is discovered, the head ostler and the stable boys are all in a dither, wondering what bold thieves dared to enter into the barn during the night and steal the horses literally from under their sleeping noses, for the ostler and the lads were all fast asleep upon their beds of straw in the loft above. When the head of Frodo's household guards scowls at the message a short time later, there is no mirth upon his face as he curses when he reads the sign:

"We take now from those who took from us. How does it feel, O Thieves of the East, to be on the receiving end for a change? We are much obliged for these fine horses that you have donated and I am sure that our men will extol their praises as they ride them out to steal once more from those who stole from us. We look forward with our next meeting with you, for our swords are sharp and cry for vengeance, but only blood will recompense."
The Chieftain of the Brigands"

"Utúlie'n aurë! Auta i lómë!" - The day has come; the night is passing

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