Morning of March 11, 3020

Vardamir and Ceolwulf have come to the village of Alfirin to make friends and to learn any information that they can about Lord Ashtum and his daily habits. When first arriving at the village, they inquired of the young boy, Candon, if there was a blacksmith in the town. The boy, excited at seeing strangers, gladly took them to the blacksmith.

After their horses were reshod, Ceolwulf said to Vardamir that he wished to look over the village, and the boy offered to act as their guide. Ceolwulf then said to the boy, "That would be good of you, lad. We have never seen this country before. We are knights looking for employ in the service of some lord."

Candon showed them through the village, a very small place, and then took them to his grandfather, old Berenon, a cobbler.

Vardamir and Candon portrayed by Eowyn
Berenon portrayed by Hobbitness
Narrator and Ceolwulf portrayed by Wraith

Candon: *Before them stands a thatched roof hut, the house of Candon's grandfather. Candon looks to Ceolwulf and Vardamir and says cheerfully* Here is the house of my grandfather, Berenon, the Cobbler of Alfirin.
Berenon: *Berenon sits on a three-legged stool at a rustic table, stitching leather to make a shoe. He looks up when Candon, Ceolwulf and Vardamir enter*
Ceolwulf: Thank you, lad, for showing us here. *They tie their horses to iron rings set in a stone outside*
Candon: Of course! *Candon opens the door, and runs inside. Seeing his grandfather, he exclaims* Grandfather! Grandfather! These men are travelers in this land, and I wanted you to meet them! *Candon opens the door for Ceolwulf and Vardamir, leaving it open behind him.*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf and Vardamir walk through the door and into the house, bowing to the grandfather when they see him.* Hail, sir. *they say*
Berenon: *His grey eyes twinkle* Are they now! Well, lads, what brings you here? Come, my boy *he says to Candon* steady this leather for me while I stitch it. My fingers aren't as nimble as they used to be *he laughs a bit gruffly*
Candon: *He walks over to the table, and steadies the leather for his grandfather so he can better work with it.* They have come from far away, and have come to our village.
Ceolwulf: Sir *Ceolwulf says as he and Vardamir walk nearer to the table* I am Cearl and this is my friend, *he says looking over at Vardamir* Castamir
Berenon: From far away, have you? *He squints at the men* Ah! Pleased to meet you, Cearl and Castamir. That's an odd name, if you do not mind my saying, Castamir is.
Vardamir: It is a pleasure to meet you, sir. *A pleasant smile is on Vardamir's face but he inwardly cringes at the name he mistakenly gave himself.*
Vardamir: Well, when I was young *he laughs, uncomfortably* my parents did not know what to name me, so they called me this as a jest, but the name stuck...
Berenon: Ah! Ha ha ha! So that is how you came by it. Well, as long as you are nothing like the Castamir of old, you are welcome in my house. *he winks*
Vardamir: Oh, nothing like that Castamir *Vardamir laughs, a bit less nervously this time, sensing that the old man does not take too much offense at his name.*
Ceolwulf: Your grandson has told us that your name is Berenon and that you are a cobbler of shoes. *He looks at Vardamir* Castamir, my boots are in need of resoling and I am sure yours must be too
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf, his hair and beard now stained with juice from the husks of walnuts to give him the appearance of a Gondorian wonders if his guise will hold yet again.* Sir, we are knights out of employ and are looking for a lord whom we may serve
Berenon: Well, lads, I am afraid luck is not with you. The only lord here is the new one who came after Gondor fell. *his face darkens* Lord Ashtum, his name is.
Berenon: You are both from Gondor or the surrounding lands, from the looks of you? Times have changed, ah, greatly changed! *sorrowfully*
Ceolwulf: Yes, we are both from Gondor *He says, lying. He thinks to himself, "Lying comes so easily now."*
Ceolwulf: We are not especially particular in what lord we serve now, for by necessity we must eat *He says, hoping his lying words will not be detected.*
Berenon: *Berenon nods slowly* Yes, yes. It is a sad day when knights of Gondor must stoop to serving the Enemy! But you are forced to it, yes, you must eat. Have we anything to serve them, Candon? See what is in the pantry!
Ceolwulf: Do not trouble yourselves, sir, in preparing anything for us
Berenon: No trouble at all, my boy, no trouble at all *he gets up, huffing, and rummages around the cupboards*
Candon: Aye, we are glad to have company, and help weary travelers!
Berenon: Lord Ashtum! *he spits as he hobbles across the room* If ever a fat swine stole the food from starving children's mouths, it is he!
Vardamir: *He turns to Ceolwulf* What luck! We find ourselves in the home of a cobbler, and our boots are in dreadful shape. *He lifts his foot slightly and points to a hole in his boot.*
Ceolwulf: Yes, what luck to find a cobbler! And our boots in need of resoling.
Vardamir: How long will it take you to resole our boots? Should we leave them with you overnight?
Berenon: *Berenon forgets his search for food* Why, look at those dreadful boots! How can you walk on such as those? Give them to me, and you'll swear they were new when I give them back!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf sits down on a bench and removes his boots, the bottoms of his chausses covering his feet.*
Berenon: *He squats and rests his hands on his knees, squinting at their boots* Yes, yes, I can have those ready for you in the morning, lads. Why don't you stay with us for a while? We haven't had any visitors in ages!
Ceolwulf: *He looks to Vardamir* That sounds well to me. Does it suit you?
Vardamir: Aye, we are quite weary from the road and twould be a welcomed change to have a roof over our heads. *sitting down, he removes his boots and places them beside Ceolwulf's*
Ceolwulf: We can pay you, sir, for your trouble by coin or by labor
Vardamir: Do you have grain and hay for our horses, or a fenced pasture where we may turn them?
Berenon: Oof *he grunts as he bends down to pick up the two pairs of boots. His long grey hair falls in his face, but underneath his eyes crinkle with a smile* So many questions!
Berenon: I can hardly keep up with you! Let's see, let's see...
Berenon: You can pay me with labor. We do not have a horse, so you can help us tend our crops. I am sorry, but we have nothing but grass to feed your horses. We have never had much, and most of what we had was taken away when Lord Ashtum came to power!
Ceolwulf: *He grits his teeth at what Berenon says, hating the Haradrim invaders, but he does not show his disdain.* We will hobble our steeds once again then as we do every night
Vardamir: Sir, if you do not have your garden already spaded for spring, we can break the earth for you; just tell us where you keep the tools, so that we may find what we need.
Berenon: *Berenon shuffles back to his table, sets aside the leather he was working on, and begins inspecting their boots. At Vardamir's words he looks up, his eyes wide with joy*
Ceolwulf: We can help you plant your carrots, and tend to your seed beds
Berenon: Oh! Lads, that would be wonderful! The tools are in the shed behind our house. The work will go quickly now, my boy! *he claps Candon on the shoulder*
Ceolwulf: Vardamir, will you fetch us our old boots from our saddle bags? We can put them on while we work
Vardamir: Aye, we can weed your seed beds and help spade your gardens. *Rising to his feet, he leaves the house, and goes to the horses waiting outside.*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks to the old man* Castamir has a great love for plants. I believe sometimes he even talks to them *he says with a smile*
Berenon: *Raises a grizzled eyebrow* Talks to plants, eh? I never heard tell of that before. But then again, I have been known to..."encourage" particularly stubborn leather to bend.
Vardamir: *After a few minutes, Vardamir comes back into the house, wearing his old boots, which have well-oiled leather despite their age. Ceolwulf's boots, which he carries, have grown old and shabby with travel.*
Vardamir: *He hands Ceolwulf's boots to him, and then sits down upon the bench, wondering what all has been said in his absence.*
Ceolwulf: *He takes the boots from Vardamir, and bending down, he draws them upon his feet. He looks to Vardamir* Castamir, I have just told this fine gentleman that you often speak to plants. Do you gainsay me?
Berenon: *He begins working at removing the old, worn soles from their boots, chuckling to himself as he waits for "Castamir's" answer*
Vardamir: Nay; though they do not have the gift of speech, a certain comfort, and perhaps wisdom, can be gained from talking to plants and trees. They do listen, perhaps, though they cannot respond.
Vardamir: *He smiles to himself, reflecting proudly upon the Elvish blood that runs through his veins.*
Berenon: They do, now do they? Now what do these plants gain from listening to us? And what can we gain from a plant, besides dinner? *he jokes*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf groans to himself, thoroughly tired of hearing the virtues of the Elvish blood extolled*
Ceolwulf: I neither talk to nor hear plants speak, and I would worry about my senses should I start *he says smugly*
Vardamir: Why, trees DO talk, in a sense, but not like we are used to; they rustle softly in the breeze and creak and groan in the heavy wind. I am from Dol Amroth, originally, many leagues from here on the coast, and we are distant kin to elves, for the place at one time was an elvish harbor.
Berenon: *As Vardamir talks about the speech of trees, Berenon shares a puzzled look with Candon, who is stifling laughter*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf rises to his feet* Then since the day is yet young, Castamir, let us go outside and work, you, weeding the plant bed, while I spade up the garden.
Ceolwulf: *He looks to Candon* Lad, show us to the place of our labor.
Candon: The garden and plant bed are behind the house, sir. *Candon says, rising from his seat and walking over to the door, waiting expectantly for the two men to follow.* I shall take you there.
Berenon: Many thanks, my lads! I will have lunch ready for us at midday. *he returns to his work on the boots*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf and Vardamir follow the boy outside, and after he shows them the plant bed, Vardamir goes to weed it. He takes Ceolwulf to the tool shed and finds a spade for him. Then both men set to work at their tasks.*
Candon: *After Ceolwulf and Vardamir have been set to work tending to the garden, Candon skips back to the house, whistling a faint tune under his breath.*
Candon: *He opens the door, leaving it open, but then remembers to close it. After doing so, he walks over to his grandfather and sits down beside him* Grandfather, what do you think of the two men?
Berenon: *He stops his work to study a crack in the ceiling* Well...upstanding young men, I'm sure, but a bit of a strange sort. Don't get too near the tall grim one, boy. He makes me nervous. And the other, the elvish one that talks to plants! *he laughs, then sobers* I wonder what happened to them, to drive them half mad.
Berenon: *muttering to himself, he bends over his work again*
Candon: Aye, perhaps that is true, but they could tell us grand tales about adventures and places far away, things that none of the villagers would have ever heard of! *he says excitedly, a dreamy look upon his face.*
Candon: Certainly, they are not all that strange...? *he asks, hopefully* Maybe they would even know a tale or two about dragons! *he exclaims* Perhaps they have even fought one!
Berenon: *Berenon ruffles the boy's hair* Dragons, my boy? I doubt it! In these hard times, who knows what stories they have to tell. I might not want you to hear them.
Candon: But grandfather! *he says excitedly* What if dragons still were around, like in the old tales and legends? If anyone knew, perhaps it would be them, seeing that they are indeed strange sorts, very mysterious.
Berenon: *He hesitates, his eyes twinkling, then grins* All right, then, go ask them about dragons. But don't be disappointed if they say they've never seen any!
Narrator: *Out in the garden, Ceolwulf raises his spade above his head and then bringing it down sharply, he cuts a gash in the fresh spring earth. Then over and over, he works through the garden, spading it up for the spring sowing. After a while, beads of perspiration dot his forehead.*
Narrator: *His strong muscles drive the spade until after three hours labor, he has half the small space prepared. Next will come the breaking and smoothing out of the ground before Vardamir can sew the seedlings. He stops for a while, leaning on his spade, resting.*
Berenon: *Meanwhile, Berenon has taken the old soles off one pair of boots and is cutting out new soles for it. The whole time, Candon has pestered him about dragons.*
Vardamir: *Vardamir bends down and unfastens the muslin tacked on to the frame of the plant bed and then rolls it up and places it upon the ground. Then he kneels and begins carefully weeding the plant bed*
Narrator: *About the time that Ceolwulf is halfway through spaying the garden, Vardamir finishes his weeding. Ceolwulf looks to Vardamir and says* I could use a draught of water. Where do you suppose is there a well?
Vardamir: I could use a draught myself - I see that Berenon has a well over yonder by the tool shed.
Ceolwulf: Then let us walk over and draw up some water *he says as he places his spade down on the ground and walks over to the direction Vardamir was pointing*
Berenon: *Berenon has taken a break from his work to prepare a modest lunch of bread, cheese, and milk from their goat. He sends Candon out to call Ceolwulf and Vardamir*
Vardamir: *Rising to his feet, Vardamir follows Ceolwulf to the well* Here, I shall draw it up for us *he says, and then lowers the bucket down.*
Berenon: *While he waits for the boy's return, he sets out plates for the four of them, and serves the food*
Vardamir: *After drawing up the bucket, he picks up a drinking gourd and dips it into the water and offers it to Ceolwulf.*
Ceolwulf: Nay, nay *he says to Vardamir* The first to draw the draught should be the first to drink of it
Vardamir: Gladly, but it is your loss - *he chuckles, and drinks from the gourd. After taking his fill, he hands it to Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *He takes the drinking gourd from Vardamir and drinks deeply, his mouth dry and parched from his labors* The water tastes pure and sweet, drawn deep from the earth
Vardamir: Aye, of course it does - tis water from Dor-en-Ernil - though over by the coast, the water is even sweeter. *he grins proudly*
Ceolwulf: *He thinks to himself... Why does it always have to be Elvish water or Elvish song or Elvish this or Elvish that? My people have never trusted elves, and my friend is enamored of them!*
Ceolwulf: *He drains the gourd dry of the water and then ties it back to its string which hangs from the frame of the well.* Indeed, my friend, the water of the Snowbourne is every bit as sweet as the waters of Dor-en-Ernil!
Vardamir: Ah, but sweeter still would be the water if the surrounding lands had been blessed by elves! *he jests merrily.*
Candon: *At that moment, the two men see Candon running towards them* We are taking the mid-day meal, and we have plenty for you! *he calls out breathlessly as he runs* Will you not come join us?
Ceolwulf: We shall be honored to eat with you *he says, glad of the distraction of the young boy, for he is wearied of listening to Vardamir's constant boasting of elves*
Candon: Good, good! *he exclaims, beckoning them onward with his hand* And perhaps you could tell us a tale while we eat? *he asks, a hopeful expression on his face as he turns back towards them* Aye, perhaps we can tell you a tale as we eat *he says as he follows Candon back towards the house*
Candon: *Candon leads them over the garth, the spring grass bright green and the ground slightly damp. He opens the door for them and waits for them to enter.*
Berenon: *Berenon sits at the head of the table. On each plate is a piece of brown bread with goat cheese on top, and a small cup of goat's milk to the side. In the center of the table, the rest of the loaf of brown bread sits on a platter, and more goat cheese fills a bowl.*
Berenon: *Berenon rises to greet them* Come, sit down! I am sorry we have nothing more to offer you. When my son was alive, he would hunt sometimes, and we would have meat. But he died at Pelennor...*faraway look*...and anyway, now we are not allowed to hunt on the lord's lands.
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf and Vardamir walk to the open door and sit down at the table.* It is a plentiful meal to spread upon the table, and we are greatly obliged to you, sir
Vardamir: *Vardamir nods and looks to Berenon* Aye, sir, we are very grateful and appreciative for your most welcome hospitality to these two weary travelers. Now, let us look to the West ere eating, to remember Numenor that was, Elvenhome that is and what is beyond Elvenhome and will be forevermore, as is our custom.
Berenon: Aye, Castamir, my boy and I always observe that custom. *He turns to the West and stares intently at lands and days that have long passed away*
Vardamir: *He looks out the window towards the West, and is silent for a moment, reflecting upon his own thoughts. Perhaps the words " Numenor and Gondor that was" should be added, for Gondor as he once knew it has passed away just like Numenor of old, but yet Elvenhome still exists, and what is beyond Elvenhome will always be.*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks towards the West, more out of respect for his host and his friends, but thinking to himself how many of the Numenoreans long ago regarded the men of Middle Earth as the "lesser" ones and suppresses any comments*
Ceolwulf: *As he looks to the West, it seems the Ring upon his right index finger begins to tighten slowly. "Curses," he thinks. "The devil is back!"*
Berenon: *Berenon breaks the period of silence by turning to his plate with a satisfied sigh* Well! Enjoy your lunch now, lads, for you have certainly earned it. You are a great help to me and my grandson. We would have had a terrible time of the work by ourselves.
Vardamir: *Vardamir grins* Aye, we are famished after our travels! But think naught of our labor; twas only fair to repay you for your hospitality and tending to our boots.
Ceolwulf: *Glad that the custom is over and he can eat, for he has worked up a hunger, Ceolwulf dives into his food and begins to eat ravenously*
Vardamir: *Vardamir eats with equal hunger, yet not so sloppily as his Rohirric friend.*
Berenon: *Berenon smiles as he watches the men eat. He eats his own food slowly, savoring the milk and cheese. If there is not enough grass later in the year, the goat might stop giving milk, and if things get bad enough, they might even have to kill the goat for the meat. He is glad he has the cheese to offer to his guests now*
Ceolwulf: Sir *he says, pausing between mouthfuls* you say your son died at Pelennor?
Berenon: Yes, yes I did. He was a brave soldier, and a good man, my son Bainion. At least he left me a grandson to keep me company *he smiles at Candon*
Ceolwulf: *So many conflicting thoughts fill Ceolwulf's mind as he shares the meal with Berenon, his grandson, and Vardamir. "Should I even mention Pelennor?" he asks himself, torn between the fact that he fought there but that he also ran away. Something else gnaws at him now. The Ring upon his finger and the sword that he carries at his side. "Sometimes I think I am being driven mad. So many things have happened to me. Defeat first, and then the disgrace of slavery, then losing Elfhild. My dreams are troubled. My days are strange. She has betrayed me," he thinks, "but what could I expect in a place like that? They have probably driven her as mad as they have me."*
Ceolwulf: Aye, tis good that you have a grandson *he says, disguising his thoughts by his grim visage*
Berenon: *Berenon keeps a wary eye on the "tall grim one," especially when the man looks at his grandson.*
Candon: *Candon beams with pride, knowing that his grandfather and the stranger are talking about him, relishing in the attention, for they do not get many visitors here in the village.*
Vardamir: *Candon beams with pride, knowing that his grandfather and the stranger are talking about him, and he relishes in the attention, for they do not get many visitors here in the village.*
Berenon: *Berenon winks at the boy, then addresses Ceolwulf and Vardamir* How went the work?
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf quickly finishes the meal and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Then he leans back slightly in the bench, feeling refreshed from the food.*
Ceolwulf: Sir *he says* I have spaded well-nigh half the garden and since Castamir did not spend all his time addressing the plants in conversation, he has finished weeding the plant bed
Vardamir: Aye *he grins at Berenon* you will find your plant bed well weeded, and not a one of the seedlings having been ripped up by mistake!
Berenon: Wonderful, wonderful! Castamir, I trust the weeds did not take too much offense when you uprooted them? *he asks merrily*
Vardamir: Ah, weeds, weeds; they know not to grow there, but they are unruly plants. *he grins* Serves them right, for they know better *he laughs merrily with Berenon*
Berenon: Ha ha ha! *slaps the table laughing*
Berenon: *He takes a long drink of milk, then wipes his mouth on his sleeve* Well, I have made good progress on your boots, for my part, as you can see *he nods towards them*
Ceolwulf: Sir, time passes quickly when with jovial companions and partaking of good food. If we do not get back to our tasks in the garden, we shall not complete them ere the day draws to its close
Berenon: Very well, me old son, go finish your work, and I will finish mine! *he begins to clear the table*
Candon: *Candon looks to Ceolwulf and Vardamir, with an excited, dreamy look upon his young face* Perhaps when we take the evening meal, both of you fine sirs would be willing to tell us a tale...? Oh! *he gasps* Perhaps one about dragons, if you would happen to know one!
Ceolwulf: *He rises from the bench* Lad, perhaps we know a tale or two about dragons and would be glad to tell it at the evening meal *He turns from the table and goes to the door and opens it* Castamir, we have work to do
Candon: Oh, I was hoping that you knew a tale about dragons! *Candon exclaims as Ceolwulf begins to leave* Please tell it this eve! *he wonders if it is just a tale that he knows, or perhaps, his own tale - hopes it is the latter; he never knew someone who had dealings with dragons before.*
Vardamir: *Vardamir looks to Berenon as he begins to rise from the bench* Thank you again, sir, for working on our boots and providing us with victuals. *Rising from the bench, he looks to Candon and says* Perhaps I know a tale too, lad - we shall see! *he smiles, and then bowing to Berenon and his grandson, he walks to the door*
Berenon: We will see you in the evening, then. Good afternoon, lads *he calls after them*
Berenon: *With Candon's help he finishes clearing the table. While Candon washes the dishes, Berenon takes up the boots to work on them again*
Narrator: *The two men leave the house and return to their tasks in the garden. By late afternoon, Ceolwulf has finished spading the ground and then he and Vardamir rake it, smoothing the surface for planting. Then the tender seedlings are planted with great care by Vardamir.*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf jokes with him* Castamir, take care lest you hurt one of them and it cries out in pain!
Vardamir: Nay, nay, I would not want that - *he says with all seriousness* for then I would have to compose a song of lamentation to honor its memory. *his somber expression changes and he bursts out into merry laughter.*
Ceolwulf: I think such a ballad would bring misery to my ears, Castamir!

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