THE DARK FORTRESS OF DURBûRZKALA
(Terror in the Marketplace - Part Two)
Frodo played by Hobbitness
Finduilas, Elfhild, Elffled and Rian played by Eowyn
Narrator, Derufin, Vartang, Ceolwulf, Sador and Alai the Orc played by Wraith
Narrator: *It is now the night of June
16, the day after the attack in Thragurzgoi*
Narrator: *For two nights and a day, Sador and his Orc assistant, Alai, have tended to Ceolwulf, but there has been little change in Ceolwulf's condition since the night before. Ceolwulf lies sleeping fitfully, his body covered with perspiration. The orc bends over him now, wiping him down with wet cloths in hopes of taking down the fever. Sador is sleeping in a comfortable chair nearby, exhausted after the long vigil*
Derufin: *Derufin comes to the door and hesitates to come in*
Frodo: *Frodo has rarely left the room all this time. His armchair is pushed up against Ceolwulf's bed, with pillows behind Frodo's head and back. He holds Ceolwulf's hand and continues hoping that he will wake up*
Derufin: *he says quietly, softly* Frodo?
Frodo: *Frodo looks over to the door and gives Derufin a halfhearted smile*
Derufin: *quietly, he says* May I come in?
Frodo: Please *Frodo beckons him over*
Derufin: *Derufin walks into the room, stands at the foot of the bed and looks down at Ceolwulf. His look is grave, but he says nothing*
Frodo: *Frodo keeps silent a while, but then begins to speak to the man, for he reminds him of Gandalf*
Finduilas: *finduilas comes to the door, and looks inside, concern upon her face. she asks* can i get you anything? how is ceolwulf?
Derufin: Nothing for me Mistress Finduilas. The young man sleeps
Derufin: He is in a land which we cannot enter, a land of sleep and restless dreams *he looks up* But I cannot enter that world. I am not a sorcerer. I have no powers
Frodo: It is strange...I have not known him long at all. But I almost feel as though he were Sa--....as though he were my best friend whom I lost.
Derufin: How came your friend to pass?
Frodo: It was....well....it was in Mordor
Finduilas: *she stands by the doorway, praying to the valar that the young man will live.*
Frodo: *having great difficulty speaking of Sam's torment in the Dark Tower*
Derufin: In Mordor, there have been many there who have passed beyond the sea, most before their time had been ordained, passing with anguish and torment
Frodo: He will never pass beyond the sea. He will remain there forever. *he covers his eyes with his hand*
Frodo: *straightens with a heavy sigh*
Derufin: How so? For it has been said that all among the Edain shall pass someday beyond the circles of the world. Why tarries your friend? Is he elvenkind?
Finduilas: *the gift of the one to men, she thinks, not to be bound forever to the circles of the world, but to pass beyond it in death*
Derufin: Then what?
Frodo: *His hand rises to his left shoulder and he grimaces* I cannot speak of it now. I will tell you later...after Ceolwulf recovers
Derufin: Then to speak of it must be a terrible thing indeed
Frodo: *nods, taking Ceolwulf's hand again*
Derufin: *his gray eyes look down at Ceolwulf's prone body, tossing restlessly upon the bed. The room seems close, the air hot and muggy, with the sickly smell of disease permeating it. He says softly* Ceolwulf is young, strong. He should live, but...
Sador: *Lost in a dream of oliphants charging across a great plain, Sador smiles in his sleep*
Frodo: *Frodo has been fighting tears all this while, and now he can't hold back a few quiet sobs. He wipes his eyes and tries to compose himself*
Sador: *Sador begins to stir and then wake up. He slowly drops his feet to the floor and smiles, a large grin, gold tooth gleaming in the candlelight*
Frodo: *Frodo looks at him almost angrily*
Sador: *He sees Finduilas* Ah, Sador need tea now. Tea from Harad!
Finduilas: *she notices sador, who has just awakened. she laughs and smiles* ah, the spicy tea that you like so well?
Sador: Yes! Yes! Mistress Finduilas. Sador go to kitchens with you. Drink tea there. Orc! Orc! Take care of Strawhead
Frodo: Wait! What about Ceolwulf?!
Frodo: Look at him, he's in pain
Sador: *Sador gets up and goes to Finduilas*
Frodo: Can't you do anything for him?
Sador: Oh Orc take care of him. Orc good assistant
Frodo: But he isn't getting better!
Sador: Sador need tea, with sugar, much sugar. Sador go talk to Mistress Finduilas
Sador: No, small master, he no better, but Sador need to think of himself now. Tired. Lost much sleep. Orc is good. Orc Alai. He be good
Frodo: Oh, very well, then, go. *looks away and pounds his left fist on the arm of the chair, then winces and his right hand goes to his shoulder again*
Sador: *Sador and Finduilas go out the door, down the corridor to the kitchen*
Sador: *Down the corridor, he walks beside Finduilas* Ah, good, Mistress Finduilas. You nice large woman. Appreciate Sador *he grins shyly*
Finduilas: *does not like being called "large woman" but she considers the fact that this man is from harad and does not know the common speech very well. she smiles at him, and laughs dispite herself*
Finduilas: aye, sador good doctor. he needs a cup of his favorite spicy tea
Sador: And you, Mistress Finduilas, you drink tea with Sador?
Finduilas: *she nods* i shall have a cup with you
Sador: Ah, good, good *he bows repeatedly* Sador no like scarecrow women. Sador like women with something more than bone to them *he looks her up and down and smiles*
Derufin: *Derufin chuckles softly to himself and then sits down at the chair Sador just left*
Derufin: *He relaxes comfortably in the chair and stretches out his feet* I always wondered if Alatar ever came back from the East
Frodo: Who was he?
Derufin: But no matter. That does not concern us, does it Master Frodo?
Frodo: Perhaps not
Derufin: Ah, an old friend of mine. I have not seen him in many years
Frodo: Who are you, then, if you don't mind my asking?
Frodo: You must have been on a quest of your own, of some sort
Finduilas: *in the kitchen, sador entertains finduilas with a story about an oliphant calf*
Derufin: You ask who I am? I am Derufin, they all know that
Frodo: I know your name, but nothing else about you
Derufin: A quest? *he closes his eyes and looks thoughtful* Yes, it was somewhat of a quest! Aren't we all on some quest in life?
Frodo: *growing curious*
Frodo: I suppose we are
Derufin: I last lived in Gondor shortly before the War, but I have seen many lands, many countries. Before that, I spent many years on my own *smiles* adventure in the..... the East
Frodo: *Excitement is beginning to spark in his eyes. He smiles like a hobbit lad* You are an adventurer then! I used to love stories of adventure
Frodo: *his smile fades when Derufin mentions the East*
Derufin: Yes, yes *he looks up* you could say that I am an adventurer. Now the East is a strange place, a strange place indeed. It holds many wonders and many mysteries, and I have seen some of them *he smiles*
Frodo: Oh, please tell me
Derufin: Another friend and I went there, long ago. Curumo was his name
Frodo: *curiosity is draining the grief from his face*
Derufin: Yes, we were quite good friends. Curumo taught me many things, but it appears he did not teach me quite enough *a wistful smile comes over his face*
Derufin: *he brightens* But aren't we always learning, Master Frodo? Isn't there something new every day to be learned?
Frodo: *smiles weakly, quickly looks away and down at his hands*
Finduilas: *...meanwhile, in the kitchen, finduilas' two sons come in the kitchen and overhear some of sador's tale. their eyes spark with interest, so sador stops, and starts again from the beginning*
Sador: *Sador becomes animated at the attention of his audience and begins to tell the tale again.* Yes, yes, large oliphant calf, big, big *this big spreads his arms into infinity* He very smart, he do tricks *he bends over, and speaks to the boys in confidential tones* He stand on his head!
Finduilas: *the boys eyes widen as sador goes on, and they gasp in amazement, and clap their hands*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf moves in his sleep, and mumbles something about azure seas and a ship with a silver sail sailing into a dark blue horizon*
Derufin: *he whispers to Frodo* Master Frodo, Ceolwulf says things in his sleep that do not bode well for him
Frodo: *Without knowing why, Frodo feels a sharp pang of longing at Ceolwulf's words*
Derufin: Perhaps, perhaps... I have something that might prove helpful. It is from the East...
Frodo: *looks up at Derufin, eyes widening with hope*
Derufin: Or rather, it was something that a friend told me about in the East, long ago
Derufin: Let me go get it
Derufin: *he rises from his chair, goes over and opens the door and goes out*
Frodo: *While Derufin is gone, Frodo sings the prayer to Elbereth as he has done a thousand times these two nights and a day*
Derufin: *A short time later, he comes back in, carrying a small, blue earthen bowl in his hands. He bends over and puts it on the floor, takes a tenderbox from his robe and strikes a flame*
Frodo: *watches with interest*
Derufin: *Slowly, a pale blue smoke begins to rise from the bowl*
Frodo: *his jaw drops*
Derufin: *Then it spreads out across the room into a blue mist*
Frodo: *stares dumbfounded at Derufin*
Derufin: *The room is engulfed with the scent of pleasant smelling flowers of unknown origin*
Frodo: *Frodo is surprised that the scent does not make him cough*
Derufin: *He stands above the misty smoke and chants in a strange language, but Frodo can understand it* Rivers of water, fields of light, cast away shadows that come with the night. Fear and shadows, darkness and pain, wash away gently, in showers of silvery rain
Derufin: Catchy tune isn't it, Master Frodo?
Derufin: *He clears his throat* Ahem, how thoughtless of me! I should have sung it from the beginning!
Derufin: *Looks at Frodo with a wry smile* Sometimes my memory is not what it used to be
Frodo: *smiles through his amazement*
Derufin: Well, it wouldn't do at all now, if I didn't sing it, now would it?
Frodo: I suppose not!
Frodo: What is it?
Derufin: Oh, just a little melody I picked up somewhere
Frodo: *This man is more mysterious than Gandalf, Frodo thinks*
Frodo: *vaguely wonders if it IS Gandalf come back from the dead...but no, that would be impossible.*
Derufin: *The blue mist curls through the room and in a deep voice, Derufin sings the words of the chant. He leans back on his heels* Yes, yes, quite a pleasant tune, isn't it?
Derufin: *The smoke is pleasant to the lungs and nose and seems to disappear almost as soon as it is formed*
Derufin: Ah, I don't need this now do I? *he looks down at the pot on the floor and bends over and picks it up* I will just take it back to my room. Wouldn't want to trip over it now, would I? *he grins*
Frodo: *smiles back at him*
Frodo: What was that spell?
Derufin: Why, spells? That was no spell. I am not a sorcerer. It was just some words I heard, long ago, somewhere far away
Frodo: Ordinary words and songs do not cause smoke to materialize! Are you a wizard?
Derufin: The friend told me that the words were spoken in a land somewhere very far away across the sea
Derufin: A wizard? Do I look to be a wizard? I am just a traveler, and a slave, like the rest
Frodo: I knew a wizard who looked like an ordinary traveler
Frodo: but he was truly a great wizard
Derufin: *He looks at Frodo with a twinkle in his eye* I am a quite ordinary slave
Frodo: *laughs nervously, not knowing what to make of all this*
Derufin: *he laughs* Very ordinary slave, not a thrall though. Don't think that, but a slave
Frodo: The same as I am
Frodo: *he says with determination*
Derufin: Well, almost. Maybe not.... quite..... the same *he smiles again* But very much alike *he says brightly* Yes, quite indeed
Frodo: Oh...I am not really a lord here. I am a prisoner, the same as you are. But perhaps we are alike *he also smiles again*
Derufin: Now, I will take this bowl back to my room and clean it out
Derufin: *He looks at Frodo again* A prisoner? It appears so, doesn't it...
Frodo: Does it? I would think it did not
Frodo: but I am
Derufin: Sometimes we are not quite what we appear to be *smiles at Frodo* But then again, I am quite ordinary
Frodo: *The only indications of his imprisonment are the scars on his face, neck and wrists*
Derufin: I will come back to see our friend later. Now let us allow him sleep
Frodo: Was that...song to heal him?
Derufin: Heal? Do you think words can heal?
Derufin: Then perhaps if you think so, maybe, maybe just maybe we will see
Derufin: *He turns and goes out the door, a spring to his step for one so old*
Frodo: *Frodo searches Ceolwulf's face for signs of improvement*
Finduilas: *in the kitchen, elfhild, elffled and rian join finduilas and her two sons, and sador begins to tell the story about the oliphant again*
Frodo: *hears laughter from the kitchen*
Finduilas: *the story becomes more embelished with each telling, and the size, intelligence and talents of the oliphant grows ever bigger*
Narrator: *A few minutes pass after Derufin leaves and Ceolwulf slowly opens his eyes*
Frodo: *Frodo draws in a sharp breath*
Frodo: *his hand tightens on Ceolwulf's*
Ceolwulf: *He looks at the ceiling as though in surprise* Where is the ship with the silver sail and where is the blue one who called me back?
Ceolwulf: *He looks at Frodo* Where is he!
Frodo: *smiles* It was Derufin. He has gone back to his room
Frodo: *so he is a wizard, Frodo thinks*
Ceolwulf: No, it was not Derufin. It could not be he! I know him!
Frodo: Perhaps he is more than he appears to be
Ceolwulf: No, no, Master Frodo, this was a young man with a dark beard, dressed all in blue! It was not an old man!
Frodo: *furrows his brow*
Ceolwulf: He stood on the shore and called to me as I stood in the stern of the ship
Frodo: I have heard that things appear different on the other side
Frodo: ...as they truly are, it may be
Ceolwulf: I wanted to go on the journey! I wanted this very much, but he called me back. Why did he call me back! Who is he?
Frodo: I do not know who he is
Ceolwulf: What is the meaning of this dream? I have never seen the sea, nor a ship, nothing, not a gull!
Ceolwulf: The only waters of any measurement I have seen are the Snowbourn and the Anduin
Frodo: I know it is tempting to go. I have been called back too, many times. But it was not time. You are too young, much younger than I am. I am glad he called you back
Ceolwulf: But in this dream.... Could I have something to drink? Please, water
Frodo: *smiles* Of course!
Alai the Orc: *The orc quickly gets up and pours him a glass of water from a pitcher on the table*
Ceolwulf: *He attempts to help him drink it. Ceolwulf says* No, I can drink it myself, but thank you. You can help me sit up though
Alai the Orc: *The orc pulls Ceolwulf back on the pillows and props him up*
Ceolwulf: How long have I slept?
Frodo: Two nights and a day
Frodo: How do you feel, my friend?
Ceolwulf: Disappointed that I could not complete my journey!
Frodo: You will complete it someday
Frodo: at the right time
Ceolwulf: The seagulls called to me. They say that only elves hear the call of the birds, but I heard it. They told me I was going to a far away land
Frodo: *intense whisper* I think the ship was going to the Western land across the sea, the Elvenhome *faraway look*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the three girls come to frodo's door. they bow hesitantly, yet do not enter. they ask softly* how is ceolwulf doing?
Ceolwulf: But then, friend, why did the blue one call me back?
Frodo: Because...you are needed in Arda
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks down, embarassed, and says to the girls* Doing better
Frodo: Who knows? You may have children who would never have been born had you died now
Frodo: *smiles up at the girls, his eyes shining with relief*
Ceolwulf: *a faraway look comes in his eyes* Yes, but the journey...
Frodo: *squeezes his hand, looks down, whispers* I know
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *they enter the room, and walk to ceolwulf's bedside. looks of joy are upon their faces. elffled said* i am so glad that you are doing better, we all feared there was not much hope
Ceolwulf: How will I ever know my destination... *his voice tapers off*
Ceolwulf: *A sudden thought hits him* At least it was not my sword arm!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild nods* aye. one is always in need of that arm
Ceolwulf: *He stammers* Ah... ah... it... it... would be... yes, be better if you came back.. um... when.. What I am trying to say is...
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild looks at ceolwulf and raises an eyebrow. slowly she asks* yes..?
Frodo: *frowns, a little worried*
Ceolwulf: I do not have even a.... um.... tunic.... um.... and it would be best... if.... I had one!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild nods understandingly* ah. then we shall come back at a later time... *smiles and laughs* *the three girls leave the room... as they walk down the corridor, faint giggling can be heard*
Ceolwulf: *He flushes a bright crimson*
Frodo: *still chuckling* Oh, come now, my friend, they could only see your arms and shoulders!
Frodo: But we'll get you a tunic
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled and elfhild were always used to seeing their father and brother working out in the fields with naught but their braies on... but it suddenly dawns upon rian that yes indeed ceolwulf was not wearing a tunic. she had not noticed in her worry. she blushes red and giggles more*
Ceolwulf: Yes, but this is not appropriate to be... to be.... um.... seen.... this way
Ceolwulf: At least not for a man of my class, not among company
Ceolwulf: Perhaps a night shirt *he blushes again*
Ceolwulf: *He looks at the orc* Right over there, in my trunk, you will find one
Alai the Orc: *The orc quickly goes over to the trunk that has been assigned to Ceolwulf, fumbles around and pulls out a white night shirt*
Alai the Orc: *He helps Ceolwulf put it on, wondering at the fate that cast him to wait upon a hated Rohirrim*
Frodo: Be careful, don't hurt his arm *he warns the orc*
Ceolwulf: *Gingerly, he pulls the sleeve over his injured arm with his good hand*
Ceolwulf: The pain is gone, Master Frodo. It is strange. Very strange. Who was here?
Frodo: *smiles broadly* I told you, it was Derufin. He is certainly more than meets the eye
Frodo: I know not what he is, but I am thankful that he is here!
Ceolwulf: I have found when I arrived at Pelennor that nothing is too strange to be seen and since coming here, I know it
Frodo: *nods* True, true
Sador: *Sador has regaled Finduilas and her sons, the two maids from Rohan and Rian with the oliphant story numerous times. Sador has been happy to be the center of attention, but now he thinks! The patient, the patient! Must see about the patient*
Sador: If you all will excuse Sador, he go see about small master and strawhead *He gets up and bows to them all, twice to Finduilas*
Sador: I like your cakes. Make Sador buns of cinamon for breakfast tomorrow. Please. Sador never forget if you do!
Sador: *He looks to Finduilas* All women in my country know way to man's heart is through stomach! *He rubs his ample ponch*
Sador: And Sador's heart is almost as big as his stomach
Finduilas: of course, you shall have cinamon buns tomorrow! twould be a great reward for honoring us so with your delightful stories. *she laughs*
Sador: Stories! Sador has many stories! Sador always has stories. Many stories *holds his hands out wide apart*
Sador: Big stories! Ladies like, boys like, all like! All be happy! *He smiles and flashes his gold tooth*
Sador: Now must go. Must see about small master and... *a sad look comes on his face* dying patient
Finduilas: *she nods, and a concerned look comes to her face* will he... live?
Sador: Sador think not. Blood too long from arm. Arm die, soon turn green. Smell like almonds, very bad
Finduilas: *shakes her head sadly, feels helpless* oh, i hope not
Sador: Sador try to save him, try hard, but too long between injury and when Sador doctor. Very sad, very sad *Sador bows again and leaves the room, and goes to Frodo's room*
Frodo: *When they enter, Frodo goes to meet them excitedly* He's better! Derufin healed him! He's better! *suddenly realizes he has just walked across the room*
Sador: *Sador looks at Frodo with a doubtful look* Better? How he be better?
Frodo: *too astonished at his own increased strength to answer at first* ...Derufin cast a spell, and blue smoke filled the room, and he said a prayer
Frodo: a little while later, Ceolwulf woke up
Frodo: Now he says the pain is gone
Frodo: *he grins*
Sador: *he strokes his beard and looks at Frodo* Derufin? He slave, like Sador, but Sador doctor, good doctor. All know Sador in Harad. Know he good doctor He cast spell? Spell of smoke? What sorcery is this!
Frodo: *pats Sador's arm reassuringly* You are a good doctor, but so is Derufin. I do not know what the spell was, but it healed him!
Sador: Sador no like other doctor when Sador is doctor. What trickery this!
Frodo: *shrugs, smiling, then goes back to Ceolwulf*
Sador: *He thinks to himself: Perhaps this would be of interest to shakh.. hmmm... spell maker, what be this?*
Sador: Ah, little master, this be interesting. Good man, you say, make spell of blue smoke? A very good man, Sador say. Yes a good man, and a powerful man *The expression on his face is unreadable*
Frodo: *nods uncertainly*
Sador: Where this man come from? They say he from Gondor. Is he from Gondor?
Frodo: I do not know where he is from
Sador: Maybe Sador did not hear right. Maybe words translate wrong in Sador's head?
Frodo: *He feels better, but still tired, and has to sit down again*
Sador: Maybe come out all wrong. Sador has some trouble still with common speech. I see patient look better, much better *he has a speculative look*
Frodo: Well, the important thing is that he is better!
Frodo: *smiles at Ceolwulf*
Sador: Ah, yes, very good. Strawhead be better. Sador see!
Sador: *Sador thinks to himself: Maybe old man not what he seem to be. Maybe he something else. Maybe Great Master would like to know. Shakh Vartang have gold coin for Sador's information maybe. He grins.* Very good news, small master!
Sador: Sador go now. Must chant great song of praise to Great Eye for thanks for this wonder *he bows and turns and goes out the door*
Frodo: *rolls his eyes when Sador leaves and shares a knowing look with Ceolwulf. Will they never be rid of the strange wailings and ceremonies?*
Ceolwulf: These are heathens. They worship the evil Shadow Lord
Frodo: *nods with a little shudder at the mental image of Sauron on his throne extending the Ring*
Ceolwulf: I know this. I believe I was dying but I was called back for some reason, and it was not to die a slave in Nurn!
Frodo: No, no it was not
Ceolwulf: My arm burned with fire. I fell into a delirum and fever
Frodo: *nods sympathetically*
Ceolwulf: Strange visions came upon me. I saw myself forced to bow before a great dark throne and a figure upon the throne... he wore a Ring on the index finger of his right hand and when he spoke, he spoke with a voice of thunder
Frodo: *gasps and cringes involuntarily*
Ceolwulf: A herald stood before him and proclaimed "This is Artano, King of Men. All hear him and obey!"
Ceolwulf: I dared look up at him upon his throne, and his eyes shot flames of fire that seared my eyes and drove into my brain. Then I felt myself falling into a deep, dark chasm, and I knew death was coming for me
Ceolwulf: Then suddenly I found myself upon a ship, upon a blue sea, a ship with a silver sail, that sailed into the sunset. I welcomed the journey as a great relief from the figure with the blinding gaze
Frodo: *moves his thumb back and forth on the back of Ceolwulf's hand as he holds it*
Ceolwulf: Then, something compelled me to go to the stern of the ship and look back at the shore
Ceolwulf: *He looks at Frodo and smiles*
Frodo: *smiles back at him*
Ceolwulf: And I saw him, the blue one. He smiled at me pleasantly and bade me with his hand to come back. Then he disappeared in smoke of a blue mist, and I found myself awake
Ceolwulf: And I saw him, the blue one. He smiled at me pleasantly and with his hand bande me to come back. Then he disappeared in smoke of a blue mist, and I found myself awake
Ceolwulf: But now the pain is out of my arm, like a serpent that has been crushed. But I still... *he looks somewhere far in the distance, past the walls of the room into infinity* I will always wonder about the journey not taken
Frodo: My friend, we must all die someday. You will take the journey then, and death will hold no fear for you
Ceolwulf: *he laughs, then looks thoughtful* No *he still looks into the distance beyond the room* No fear
Ceolwulf: For if death is nothing more than a journey upon a fair ship upon a calm sea with the voice of the gulls calling ever, then there is nothing at all to fear
Frodo: *whispers* No, nothing at all *his voice trembles*
Derufin: *Derufin walks up the corridor from his room. Sador, puffing at a rapid speed for him, passes by and Derufin looks at him as he goes down the hall. He comes in the room, shaking his head*
Derufin: *He looks at Ceolwulf* You have truly come back
Ceolwulf: *He looks at Derufin* Yes, my first time at sea and it was cut short *He exchanges knowing glances with Derufin*
Derufin: Perhaps only delayed for a while, my friend
Frodo: *looks up at Derufin with sudden worry*
Derufin: But now it appears your doctor moves his copious form down the hall as a fat beetle looking for a bit of carrion *he laughs*
Derufin: But this time, his haste forstalls his busy tongue. Perhaps he goes to the kitchen *he chuckles*
Derufin: *a thoughtful look comes to his face* If he keeps out of mischief, this fat beetle, I will be content
Derufin: But now, Master Ceolwulf, you need to sleep
Derufin: I will wait here for your doctor to return
Frodo: All right...but could you give us a moment alone, please?
Derufin: *He leaves the room and heads for the kitchen, where he soon finds Sador, sitting before a platter of cakes*
Frodo: *Frodo smiles warmly at Ceolwulf* Well, they are all going to fuss over you now, and just in case you sleep for another two days, I wanted to make sure I tell you...
Frodo: *he suddenly becomes very serious and looks deep into Ceolwulf's eyes* Thank you for saving me, for taking it for me.
Frodo: That arrow would have struck me
Ceolwulf: Saving you? Any man of Rohan would have done the same!
Ceolwulf: We stay by our friends
Frodo: Ah *he smiles wryly* you forget that I am a "Friend of Sauron"
Ceolwulf: You think I would believe anything that viper Vartang says!
Frodo: only a true friend would have done that for me, though you and the twins are the first Rohirrim I have met.
Ceolwulf: *A smile comes on his face*
Frodo: *smiles even wider at Ceolwulf's words*
Ceolwulf: Rohan is a fair land of horses, great plains, a place of freedom, where no man among us will ever bow the knee to the Enemy. The horse runs freely upon the winds, and we ride the winds with them. Free men, who serve a great king
Ceolwulf: *he looks down* But now a new king, Eomer
Frodo: Ah, I am sorry.
Ceolwulf: Theoden King fell at Pelennor. I saw him fall
Ceolwulf: But, alas, my horse took heel at the sight of the Black Captain. I could not control him, and I could not control my own fear. If I could, I would have run as rapidly as my horse. For no man could stand to that dark spectre!
Frodo: The Black Captain...who is he?
Ceolwulf: The leader of the Fell Riders of Darkness, not living, not dead, and the worst of foes
Frodo: *Frodo blanches and trembles a little*
Ceolwulf: I did not take time to argue with him as to his claims. Soon after, I was taken captive, and herded with other captives to the side of the field. Most were slain. All the wounded were
Frodo: *shakes his head*
Ceolwulf: But some they picked out and boasted of their "mercy." I was one of them
Frodo: Ohhhh yes, their "mercy" *uncharacteristically bitter*
Ceolwulf: We were given neither food nor water and a few days later, their stinking orcs held us while our heads were shaved
Frodo: *shakes his head again* I am sorry for you
Frodo: all the poor lads at Pelennor
Ceolwulf: And they taunted us and threatened us with swords and spears, called us cowards, the strawheads, the ones who ran. What will you do without your golden manes, they said, and laughed. All who fought were killed on the spot
Frodo: *his eyes widen*
Frodo: And you did not fight them?
Ceolwulf: Then they stomped our hair in the blood of our comrades
Ceolwulf: Nay *he turns his head away* I was a coward
Frodo: Oh, my dear Ceolwulf.
Frodo: It was wise not to fight them
Ceolwulf: for I was ill and could not fight. Strange dreams were upon me, nightmares
Frodo: Look at me. I am going to keep telling you this until you believe it. You are most certainly not a coward.
Ceolwulf: Nightmares in the day, constantly, and fear, great fear. Dark shadows persued me and I saw my land in flames, my countrymen slain, all gone, faded, burned. The dreams still plague me sometimes
Frodo: Perhaps our friend can help you with that too *smiles*
Ceolwulf: Something tells me now that the dreams are gone. I can only hope that they are replaced with dreams of the sea and the gulls, and the horizons that go on forever
Frodo: *wistfully* I hope so
Ceolwulf: And I speculate, perhaps, the blue figure had something to do with it
Frodo: *thinks: and I wish my dreams would turn to those horizons as well*
Ceolwulf: And maybe, just maybe, there is something more to him than meets the eyes
Frodo: There most definitely is
Ceolwulf: *His face relaxes and a look of peace comes over him*
Frodo: *smiles and rests in the chair beside him*
Ceolwulf: Yes, the gulls *he says as he begins to doze off into a true sleep. Soon, the gentle sounds of his snoring are heard*
Frodo: *Almost, almost, it feels like Sam has come back*
Narrator: *Time passes. Ceolwulf dozes and so does Frodo. The orc falls asleep in a corner. Nothing more is seen of Sador that night*
Narrator: *Soon comes the dawn of the 17th, two days after the attack in the marketplace*
Narrator: *The kitchen servants are up and they busy themselves with their duties*
Finduilas: *finduilas directs them and they prepare frodo's breakfast*
Narrator: *By dawn, the news is all over the hall that Ceolwulf is greatly improved and on the way to recovery*
Narrator: *Finduilas has a breakfast of tea, cakes and some fruit prepared for him, because Sador has ordered that he should not eat too much this soon*
Frodo: *Frodo sits in the chair dreaming that Sam is standing before him as a hobbit smiling at him*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf eats it all and asks for more but it is denied to him, on the orders of his doctor, so he contents himself with another glass of wine and asks for a bath*
Narrator: *Sador will allow this and orders Frodo out and into his sitting room, while the servants bring a tub and pour the water for Ceolwulf's bath. Ceolwulf is grateful for the chance to wash the grime from himself. After Ceolwulf has bathed, Sador dresses the wound, and finds that it looks almost healed. He curses the "devilry" of this*
Frodo: *Frodo asks to be taken to his bed instead, having spent two days and nights in the armchair*
Narrator: *Frodo is picked up unceremoniously by an orc and forcibly taken to his sitting room and put in a chair, where his breakfast is served. There is no argument with the orcs. They have been given their orders*
Frodo: *sighs and eats his breakfast in the chair*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the three girls come in to visit with frodo. after all the customary formailities are over, they ask him how ceolwulf is getting along*
Frodo: He is doing well, very well!
Frodo: It is truly amazing
Frodo: but I am grateful
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled smiles* good. i hope my tourniquet helped him. though i am no expert at things like that, no one else would do anything for him. derufin told me that he was improving
Frodo: Yes, it did, thank you! I did not know what to do for him
Frodo: It is likely you saved his life
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the girls take seats at frodo's large table*
Frodo: *Frodo is glad for their company*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled smiles* he would not get any help from that vartang, that's for sure
Frodo: Oh, no, not from that...*stops himself from completing the insult for the walls have ears*
Frodo: How have you been, since, you know...how are you doing?
Frodo: All of you, I mean
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled guesses that frodo was going to say a nasty curse about vartang, but broke off. she nods understandingly*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the girls smile, and elfhild says* we are doing well, as well as can be in these lands.
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *finduilas comes in with a pot of tea and sets it on the table... then goes back to the kitchen. there are cups for all on the table*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled pours frodo a cup of tea* *rian looks down* you mean what happened in the - in the grove. i still have nightmares, where i am in numenor of old and am being dragged to the temple to the - to the enemy
Narrator: *Outside, the sounds of a galloping horse are heard in the front courtyard*
Frodo: *Frodo reaches across the table and takes her hand in his small ones*
Narrator: *Soon hurrying footsteps are heard in the corridor*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian looks up at frodo, and manages a weak smile*
Frodo: *his words are cut off by the footsteps and he looks up*
Vartang: *The door is opened and in saunters Vartang, his cloak stained with dust. His eyes bloodshot, he reeks of wine. He comes in the door and shakes the dust off his cloak*
Vartang: *He looks around the room* Ah! What a charming domestic scene. How cozy!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the loathed one has come back, is the thought in the girls' minds. reluctantly, they scoot out their chairs from the table, and bow before vartang*
Frodo: *Frodo tenses but remains erect in his chair*
Frodo: *He is able to bow now but Vartang does not need to know that, does he?*
Vartang: *He nods at them and smiles* Such a scene like this is enough to make me give up my bachelor ways forever and exchange my life in the barracks for my own hall!
Frodo: Vartang, we were simply discussing Ceolwulf's health
Vartang: Yes, my own hall! What a pleasant thought. And what more a pleasant thought it would be to have a lady to grace my hall *he looks boldly in each girl's eye*
Vartang: Ah, is the slave man dead yet?
Vartang: *He nods to the women to be seated*
Frodo: *look of pure hatred* No! He is much improved
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the three resume their chairs, and wish vartang would go away*
Frodo: Have they found my attackers yet?
Vartang: Improved! you say. Improved! Few recover from wounds such as that without having their limbs sawed off!
Frodo: *does not reply, waits for his question to be answered*
Vartang: Ah, shakh, I was just coming to talk to you about your attackers, as much as I would like to talk about matters of the heart *he lears at each girl*
Frodo: Really? *raises his eyebrows*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild turns up her nose at vartang. he is not even fit to scrape the dirt from her horse's hooves*
Vartang: But *he looks around with a mock puzzled expression* No one offers a glass of wine to a weary traveler!
Vartang: No wine!
Frodo: Vartang...my attackers *he has suspected that Vartang was behind it from the first*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *with a sigh, elffled gets up, and pours vartang a goblet of wine and quickly returns to her seat*
Vartang: *He grins at her* So you, gentle maid, take mercy upon a weary traveler and pour him a draught to slake the dust of travel from his throat? Excellent, excellent!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled gives him a look of disbelief that he would make such an utterly stupid statement*
Vartang: *He looks at the table where the goblet of wine has been poured for him* Then I am in your eternal gratitude, fair maiden, and I will offer a toast to you!
Vartang: Here is to Elffled of Rohan! The land of the Horse Lords! A land that has always paid tribute to Mordor in fine horses
Frodo: *folds his arms, tilts his head and continues to bore holes in Vartang*
Vartang: The land now *he emphasizes* that now pledges fealty to the Great Lord of All!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled rises to her feet and slams her fist down on the table* you lie!
Vartang: *He looks at her with a mock offended expression* Lie? You say I lie? Nay, maid, in your patriotic zeal, your false hopes are dangerous!
Frodo: Vartang! Leave off insulting these ladies and tell me who my attackers are!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled curses vartang at the top of her lungs in rohirric with every possible curse imagined with many references to barnyard animals*
Vartang: Temper, temper, my gentle dove! Do not upset yourself. Do not alarm yourself! There is no shame in a country falling to a Great Lord!
Frodo: *Though he is half her height, Frodo goes to Elffled, takes her arm and tries to calm her down*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild eyes the table knife, and says, her voice deadly cold* be quiet vartang lest you have no breath left to form your lying words
Frodo: Elffled, Elfhild *he cries desperately* Do you want us to have to mourn another now?
Vartang: Now, if the great shakh will permit me to sit at his table and drink my glass of wine in peace, I will tell all, including the fall of Rohan
Frodo: *gestures wearily to a chair* Sit
Frodo: *returns to his own chair*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled, panting with rage, and elfhild, in a cold fury, heed frodo's warning reluctantly. elffled resumes her seat, but both girls continue glaring with hatred at vartang*
Vartang: *Smiling a broad grin, he bows to Frodo and takes his seat*
Vartang: *He takes a long drink from the goblet* The fall of Rohan.... Helm's Deep.... great was its fall. Though its defenders were valiant, they could not hold and the walls were breached
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *nightshade, elfhild thinks darkly. nightshade would stop his lying tongue... forever*
Vartang: *He looks around with a puzzled expression on his face*
Vartang: *Then takes another drink of wine* So the slave man lives?
Frodo: *notices the girls growing more and more upset* I do not wish to hear about the...fate of Rohan. I wish to hear who my attackers are.
Frodo: Yes, he lives!
Vartang: He still has his arm? It was not cut off?
Frodo: No! He almost died but he was healed! *slams his palm down onto the table* Now tell me who was behind it, you murderer!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild says coldly* you would wish, vartang
Frodo: *catches himself and sits back awkwardly*
Vartang: Murderer! Shakh! What foul spirit has come over your tongue!
Frodo: *sits panting, looking at the table*
Vartang: An Elvish wight has posessed you! Murderer! I am a soldier. I have murdered no one. All that I have slain were slain in battle!
Frodo: *he begins to cough and holds his napkin to his mouth*
Frodo: *he soon stops but notices there is blood on the napkin again*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild laughs sarcastically at vartang's statement*
Frodo: *looks up to glare at Vartang, not sure whether or not to believe these words of his...he is inclined not to believe him*
Vartang: *Vartang sees the blood on the napkin, gets up and goes to the brown bottle. One has been placed in every room that Frodo frequents. He comes back and pours some of its contents in Frodo's tea* Drink this, shakh, you have strained yourself!
Frodo: *angrily takes the tea from Vartang and drinks it*
Frodo: *thinking how ironic it is that Vartang probably tried to kill him and now is giving him medicine*
Vartang: *A pained look is on his face* Shakh, you always underestimate me and my abilities
Frodo: *The slave market, the fights in my room, the ceremony of sacrifice, the close call with Ceolwulf...it is a wonder I am still alive, he thinks. Vartang must want me dead*
Vartang: *he holds the wine goblet with one hand and drinks from it, and he gestures with the other hand* Shakh, where do you think I have been for the past few days? It saddens me that your words attempt to diminish my abilities
Frodo: *struggles to keep the anger from his voice* I do not know, where?
Vartang: *He puts the wine glass on the table and he spreads his hands out in a gesture of friendship* Working for your benefit!
Frodo: I said nothing about your abilities
Frodo: *raises his eyebrows skeptically*
Vartang: Always, shakh, you underestimate me
Frodo: Oh? As the ceremony of sacrifice was for my "benefit"? As the processions acclaiming me as Friend of Sauron are for my "benefit"?
Vartang: How this saddens me *he smiles at Frodo, his lips pealing back in a wolfish grin*
Vartang: *He bows from the waist* Shakh, all are for your benefit! The ceremony of sacrifice was held in your honor
Frodo: *he clenches his fist and presses it to his forehead, shaking with rage*
Vartang: And what can we do but proclaim your rightful title to the people? The people now worship you. They are in awe of you. They see you almost as a god
Vartang: How I envy you! I would give my life to be heralded as "Friend of Sauron"
Frodo: *shakes his head dismissively. It is pointless to argue with Vartang; he is too stubborn*
Vartang: Would that I could exchange places with you!
Frodo: I would wish that too!
Vartang: I would give my soul *he clenches his fist* for it
Frodo: *raises an eyebrow and thinks of the morgul blade* Would you?
Vartang: To be allowed in the Master's great hall is an honor so far denied to me
Vartang: Yes, shakh, any of us would. Any of the loyal servants of Mordor would give everything for your title
Frodo: Then, indeed, I wish our places had been exchanged
Frodo: I wish it had been you who was taken to him and not me
Frodo: I wish it had all befall-----*well, that is too cruel of him, he should not say that*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian thinks... heathen fools, they would give everything to be "honored" by a dark enemy who is filled for malice and haterd for everything and wishes to bend all to his will. indeed, what folly!*
Frodo: I wish you had stayed there instead of me and my friend.
Vartang: Anything, I would give anything to have been in your place!
Frodo: *Frodo suddenly bursts out in bitter laughter*
Vartang: To wear a Ring such as you do, a gift from the Master
Frodo: *continues the laughter, sounding somewhat crazed, until he has to wipe his eyes with a napkin*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian thinks... then you, vartang, foolish lout, would give everything to receive nothing in return*
Vartang: *He takes another drink from the goblet, then kicks his chair back, and rises to his feet*
Vartang: The first toast I gave was to beauty. The second toast I give should have been the first! To the shakh! To the Friend of Sauron!
Frodo: *silently thanking Derufin for his newfound strength, Frodo quickly excuses himself, escapes from the room and throws himself on his bed*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian wonders if frodo has finally gone over the brinks of sanity into a world of no return. fear seizes her... that would mean they would be alone... with the foul vartang as their master. she shudders*
Vartang: *He downs the rest of the contents of his goblet* See? The mark of a truly humble man. He is so overcome by the high honors that he has been paid by the Great Master that he is overcome with humility
Frodo: *He buries his face in a pillow and his shoulders heave as he tries to compose himself, to ignore the taunts the voice of Sauron screams at him through his burning ring*
Vartang: *He looks across the table at the three maids* Now, we four can drink the toast
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian quickly clears her throat and speaks suddenly* i think... we should all go see how lord frodo is doing. he... was coughing earlier. he might be getting worse. come, elfhild and elffled...
Vartang: *Vartang quickly moves around the table and grabs Rian's arm* Not so fast, pretty maid!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian looks up at vartang, her eyes wide with fear* please kindly remove your hand from my arm
Vartang: How can I relinquish such an object of beauty? *He tightens his grip on her arm*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian* please, my lord, unhand me
Vartang: Nay, gentle maid *he grabs her other arm* I know you don't want that. Your eyes say you don't!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild rises suddenly from her seat and faces vartang* do as she says pig
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: or soon you shall be turning on a spit with an apple sticking out of your mouth
Vartang: *He looks at Elfhild* I appreciate your solicitude on behalf of your friend, but I assure you, all I want to do is drink a toast with her and with you too, if you will!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled, too, rises from her chair* i know you are a man of little honor and scant courtesy, but it is wise not to provoke my sister. let go of rian, and leave us all alone
Vartang: Is a toast so great a thing?
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elffled's eyes narrow* i have heard of no customs where a toast was given when a man is holding a woman's arms down against her will
Vartang: *He looks down into Rian's eyes* If I release you, will you drink a toast with me?
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian* y.. yes, but only a toast, and only if you release my arms
Vartang: Consider it done *He slowly lets go of her arms* Was that so difficult?
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the twins give vartang simmering glares*
Vartang: Now, Rian of the lovely face, perhaps if you.....
Vartang: There might be a set of earrings to go with the blue necklace I bought you
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian quickly gets out of her chair and moves to the other girls' sides... not wanting to be trapped unawares again*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian* that is quite all right, my lord. i do not wear ear-rings
Vartang: Perhaps you should try it sometime
Vartang: Now, we will drink a toast. A promise is a promise! I will pour the wine. Your servant, my ladies *He gets the wine and three goblets and fills their goblets with wine*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *they look at him with distrust*
Vartang: *He refills his own goblet and raises it up*
Vartang: To the Master! To Mordor! To the vassal states! To future conquests!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild's eyes narrow, and she meets his toast with her own* to the downfall of the nameless enemy and the destruction of the dark land! to the free people of the west and future defeats of the armies of evil!
Vartang: *His eyes narrow and he frowns* That was a toast made in haste and I will not accept it! Then I will add another thought to the toast
Vartang: Here is to the three, the two maids of Rohan and the one of Gondor! May their backs never feel the lash, nor the heat of Arien in the fields of Nurn! *A cold and calculating look comes over his face*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *all three girls glare at him*
Vartang: Ladies, perhaps you should reconsider. At least drink a toast to the latter!
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *reluctantly they take their goblets from the table. elfhild says softly* to my toast, and to your latter one, perhaps
Vartang: *He holds the glass aloft and to his lips until the contents are consumed and he sets the goblet on the table*
Vartang: While your spirits are to be admired, your judgment is not. Do you forget who it is who determines whether you will go to the fields or stay here?
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the girls drink from their goblets of wine, each participating to the toast of her choice, none of which glorify the nameless enemy or land*
Vartang: Or perhaps you forget. The lot of you could be on the auction block tomorrow. I determine your fate! You are owned by Sauron. All three. Same as your *he laughs a cold chilling laugh* as your..... hahahaha.... master
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian says* lord frodo is our only master upon this earth. and should he fall to harm, doubtless the one who caused it to him will suffer
Frodo: *In his room, Frodo has spent himself with weeping for all his pent-up grief. As he lies there quietly, he remembers that Vartang never said a word about his attackers*
Vartang: You maids are quite amusing, but now I must go see your..... hahahaha..... master!
Vartang: *He leaves the room and goes down the corridor to Frodo's room, opens the door and stalks in*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian murmurs under her breath* and may the nameless enemy punish you with torments to rival those of angband the old should you cause lord frodo harm
Vartang: Ah, the invalid! The color is back on his face
Frodo: *sits up quickly when Vartang enters*
Frodo: *tries to make his voice strong* You have seen Ceolwulf then?
Vartang: *He stands in the doorway and bows to Frodo. The orc grovels on the floor*
Frodo: *nods to them uneasily*
Vartang: I see him now *he moves his hand in a dismisive fashion*
Frodo: *almost pleadingly* Vartang, who is trying to kill me?
Vartang: Great shakh, the news I bring is disturbing
Vartang: Hardly can I bear to tell you of it
Frodo: *He is going to lie, thinks Frodo. He does not care at all. He hates me.*
Vartang: *He moves out of the doorway and leans against the side of the wall, one foot propped up on it. He folds his arms and looks at Frodo*
Frodo: *sits on the side of the bed, his legs dangling above the floor, looking back at Vartang*
Vartang: I have questioned countless witnesses over the past two nights and days, trying to determine who was the perpetrator of the foul attempt upon your life
Vartang: The witnesses proved stubborn. Their lips could only be loosened with torture
Frodo: *his lips part in horror*
Vartang: The lips of three now are sealed forever, and no more can be learned from them
Frodo: *wails* Oh no! *clamps his hand over his mouth in despair*
Vartang: The last one died when his legs were sawed out from under him. The other two died sooner, weaker men
Vartang: The lips of the fourth one though yielded fruit. We gave him a merciful death for his cooperation
Frodo: *quietly slips to the floor unconscious*
Vartang: *looks down at Frodo speechless. He walks over to him, shakes him, picks him up and puts him back in his bed*
Frodo: *wakes up with a start*
Vartang: Now to the bad news
Frodo: *rubs his hands over his face*
Vartang: Expected, of course, but bad for you, I suppose. Crooked men walk crooked paths
Frodo: Just tell me who it was you m.....who it was
Frodo: *he can no longer stand to look at Vartang*
Vartang: The fourth one, under persuasion, revealed a plot. Dunedain rangers *he says with a smug look*
Vartang: But we expected so
Frodo: *stares at Vartang dumbfounded*
Vartang: Yes *he becomes eager* Yes, Dunedain. The rejects of the old country of Arnor
Frodo: I know who they are!
Vartang: Fell men, very dangerous. Zealots. Your fame, apparently, has spread to other lands
Frodo: I know who the Dunedain are and they would never do anything like this
Vartang: And now for your great deeds, they seek to kill you
Frodo: When they fight a foe they fight him head on
Vartang: They are zealots my lord. Fanatics. They will do anything
Frodo: No, they are not. I knew a Ranger, very well. They are very wise
Vartang: Then perhaps you would like to look at the bodies? *he gives him another wolf grin*
Frodo: *Frodo's ring taunts him, enjoying every moment of his pain: You know who it is. It is Aragorn, punishing you for your failure, for your traitorous deeds*
Frodo: *You betrayed the Fellowship and all the West! He knows you deserve torment and death*
Vartang: And you will see by their stature, the color of their hair, the color of their unseeing eyes, that they truly are descendants of Numenor. The bodies of several still are intact
Frodo: I do not wish to see them, but...but *brightens at the idea* send Derufin to see them for me! He will know as well, he has traveled much
Vartang: And I can order them brought here if you will it. Of course. Any can see the bodies of the assassins
Frodo: No, ask Derufin to do it for me
Vartang: For that matter, shakh, I will order them put on public display
Frodo: No! That is not necessary!
Vartang: Right outside your window if you wish
Frodo: I do not wish to see them!
Vartang: Then your slave Derufin can see them at the fortress alone
Frodo: But make sure he comes back unharmed!!
Vartang: I doubt the old man has the wit to know the difference between one corpse and another. He will be unharmed. My word is given
Vartang: The old man's life will be in my hands and quite safe
Frodo: Perhaps...perhaps I will go instead
Frodo: *considers that Derufin will be tortured if he goes there, and no one else will be able to tell if they are rangers*
Vartang: Yes, indeed, the shakh should behold the faces of the men who tried to kill him
Frodo: *but even if they are dressed as rangers, how will he be able to tell if they were dressed that way after death?*
Vartang: Great shakh, if you do not wish to see the bodies and you do not want the old man to go alone, take him with you and let him see them while you wait. Perhaps he will entertain you with his simple babblings on the way there. But we must hasten for I have neglected my responsibilities here in my zeal for seeking out the criminals who sought to murder you
Frodo: Very well, let us take him...
Frodo: but how do I know he will not be tortured while he is in there?
Vartang: If we wished to torture him, he would have already been tortured. But he is worthless. I do not know why the old man was allowed to live. He is a burden, useless, not even good as a house slave
Frodo: *raises his eyebrows* I thought I decided whether or not he is tortured
Vartang: *he shifts his position along the wall, puts one foot down and raises another to support himself*
Vartang: Shakh! *He puts a patient expression on his face* you know you would recoil at ordering torture, even when it is necessary
Frodo: *under his breath* because it is never necessary
Vartang: But, as I say, we must hasten. I will go and order your litter. You summon the old man. When you are ready, your servant will bear you to the litter
Frodo: My servant? Who? Ceolwulf usually carries me, but he is still hurt
Frodo: And Derufin is old
Vartang: Your orc, your loyal, faithful orc *he grins*
Vartang: *Vartang turns and goes out the door, back to Frodo's sitting room*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *all the girls are back sitting at the table. upon hearing the loathed vartang's footsteps approaching, they rapidly get out of their chairs, then bow and remain standing*
Frodo: *punches the pillow, then buries his face in it again, wanting Sam...no, Ceolwulf*
Vartang: *He bows to them and then walks to Rian*
Vartang: It would honor me beyond measure for you to accompany me on a short journey.....
Frodo: *swallows his pride and calls for the orc*
Vartang: To the fortress near the village
Alai the Orc: *The orc, who always waits outside the door, comes in, bows, picks up Frodo and takes him to his sitting room, where he is to wait for his litter*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the girls bow to frodo when he approaches. rian asks vartang* is lord frodo accompanying you on this journey?
Vartang: Aye, that he is
Frodo: *though he tries not to, Frodo appears frightened*
Vartang: And so is old Derufin *he pauses* You know, the man is old, almost anything could disturb him
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian looks vartang in the eyes* does lord frodo wish me to go on this journey?
Frodo: *shakes his head*
Vartang: Rian, it would settle the old man's mood to see you with us
Vartang: Shakh, you are not going?
Frodo: No, I am going, to see to Derufin's safety
Frodo: but I do not want the girls to go
Frodo: there is no reason for them to go
Vartang: Shakh, it would put me in a better mood if Rian accompanied me. And you do want to see your friend in a good mood *he grins*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian looks at frodo with a despairing look*
Frodo: *Friend?! he wants to spit. At the same time he catches Rian's pleading look. Should he subject Derufin to Vartang's anger or Rian to his advances? Once again he is torn between two of them*
Vartang: *Vartang orders a servant to go summon Derufin. A horse has been ordered to be brought for him*
Frodo: *through clenched teeth* I want to see you in a good mood but I do not want Rian to go
Vartang: A trip would be good for her
Frodo: She is needed here
Vartang: Let the simple girl from Gondor behold Mordor in its glory
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian thinks... oh what wretched place am i to go to now? what horrors am i to see this time?*
Frodo: She has already beheld it, at the ceremony a few days ago! *he says bitterly*
Vartang: True, shakh, she did, but there are other wonders to behold
Frodo: She will NOT go!
Vartang: I insist she goes with me. The others can stay
Vartang: Ah, well, shakh, it really is not necessary for you or the old man to see the fortress *a crafty look is in his eye*
Frodo: *exasperated and weary, he again almosts resorts to pleading* Vartang, why must you do this?
Vartang: To educate these peasants and to let them enjoy the company of something they probably never experienced in their lives, a nobleman of Khand
Frodo: Yes *alarmed* it IS necessary for us to go! But not for Rian
Vartang: Do you not want her to associate with her betters? To elevate her humble position?
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian glares at vartang. she was no peasant, she lived in the city of minas tirith.*
Frodo: Her position is not humble. She is a lady of Gondor.
Vartang: The blood of kings of old flows through my veins. I am from the royal house of Khand
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *....and what is the royal house of khand, rian thinks, but a bunch of heathens in a forsaken land? blood of the kings of darkness he may have yet i have the blood of numenor and elros in my veins*
Vartang: It is said that my line mixed with that of the great Kh.... a great King. Yes, a very great King. The House of Khand and the House of Rhun joined long ago, and proudly I bear this honor
Frodo: That may well be, but what has it to do with our trip? She shall not go
Vartang: You should be grateful that I will allow these peasants to be in my presence! I waste my time, I see, with these peasants. There are many willing lords in either of the two lands who would give me their daughters!
Frodo: Then take them and leave us in peace
Vartang: *He takes his hands and puts them palms down towards the floor in a gesture of finality* Then I will not take any of the mares! Not the three! Not the sway backed old nag in the kitchen! *he turns from them and stalks out the door*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian mutters* good riddance
Vartang: *He takes the reins from his horse from an attendant, mounts it and waits for Frodo and Derufin*
Frodo: *whispers to the girls* Go, quickly, hide from him, do something somewhere else. I have to go to him
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the girls nod. rian says* yes my lord... we shall leave ere he comes back to spread his foul words. thank you *the girls disperse into the household*
Frodo: *Soon Frodo comes out of the house, carried by the orc, with Derufin beside him*
Narrator: *The orc takes Frodo to the waiting litter and places him inside it. A servant holds a cold black stallion for Derufin*
Derufin: *he looks back at Frodo with a grin, strokes the horse's neck* Now I go on one of these trips of yours, Master Frodo
Frodo: Derufin, I am sorry, I have a terrible errand for you, but I cannot bear to do it myself
Derufin: *In the company of the two great lords, he looks towards Vartang* Do not pity what cannot be helped
Narrator: *Vartang gives the order and the entourage moves down the road leading from the hall to the main road, a dusty thoroughfare with many coming and going*
Narrator: *There are no heralds today, no trumpeters, and the procession moves quickly, with Derufin riding behind Frodo's litter*
Narrator: *Soon, in the distance they can see a tall, dark, foreboding tower. A dark cloud seems to hang about it, though the day is bright and clear*
Frodo: *Frodo is again being borne on the orc's back to Lugburz, catching his first glimpse of it and his last glimpse of daylight, even if it is Mordor's dim glow. He turns away from the tower before him*
Narrator: *The Fortress of Durbûrzkala, a place thought not to exist and spoken of only in myth, looms ahead*
Frodo: *but as he turns away he seems to see only Sam's face exchanging terrified looks with him on that day that seems so long ago*
Frodo: *He almost expects to find Sauron himself inside*
Narrator: *Despite the warmth of the day, an icy chill seems to grow around them the closer they approach the fortress. Mordor only allows enough sunlight here to grow crops*
Narrator: *But far in the distance, on three sides, they see a dark shadow, part of the essence of Mordor, that is always nearby, though the light might deceive one into thinking or wishing he were somewhere else*
Frodo: *Frodo hugs himself and huddles down in his litter. His shoulder begins to pain him again*
Frodo: *He shivers against the cold*
Narrator: *In the sky above, somewhere near the dark mountains, five shapes appear. They call to each other, whether welcome or warning cannot be known to Frodo, but Derufin looks up* Dark riders *he says under his breath*
Narrator: *The face of Vartang on his horse cannot be seen, but into his eyes comes an adoring look, and he bows his head*
Frodo: *Frodo cries out in pain when the Nazgul's calls reach them*
Vartang: *Vartang then looks up and says reverantly* Shakhu-izub! *He turns back and looks at Frodo* We have been honored by Their presence!
Derufin: *Derufin says* The fool!
Frodo: *Murderers! The same ones who held me back while Sam was stabbed! Perhaps the one who stabbed me, or the one who tortured me in my cell!...Frodo's mind screams*
Vartang: *Vartang turns his face away from the sky and looks back at Derufin. He hisses* Seal your lips before your betters!
Frodo: *trembles and moans in terror and pain, sweat pouring down his face*
Vartang: Tend your master! *He pauses, looking up into the sky reverantly as the shapes go out of sight. Then he touches his horse's sides with his spurs*
Narrator: *Soon, they are in the courtyard of Durbûrzkala. The litter bearers halt and Vartang reins in his horse. Derufin follows suit*
Vartang: Come, old man, follow me. Your master will stay here
Frodo: Wait *Frodo manages to say*
Frodo: Let me explain this to him
Vartang: No! Let his eyes see. That is explanation enough! Come, old fool, let your halting steps bear you inside
Frodo: Derufin, see if the bodies they show you are Dunedain Rangers!
Derufin: *Derufin looks at Vartang and Vartang averts his gaze. He waits for him in the courtyard* I am to see bodies, Master Frodo? Whose?
Frodo: *his voice breaks* While we tended Ceolwulf they tortured these people to find out who attacked me
Frodo: They say the bodies inside are my attackers, and that they are Dunedain Rangers
Derufin: Their minds always think evil. They know no bounds
Derufin: Rangers, I doubt that *he says and strokes his beard*
Frodo: I suppose even if they are Rangers, we will never know if they were my attackers or not
Frodo: I doubt it too
Derufin: Some trickery afoot here *he says in a low voice*
Frodo: *nods and whispers pleadingly* Try to unravel it for me
Vartang: *Vartang seethes while he waits*
Derufin: Puzzles, I was good at that, back in the East. Yes, puzzles. I like puzzles
Derufin: I will see what is to be seen in this den of ghouls
Frodo: Thank you!
Derufin: *He smiles at Frodo and then follows Vartang inside*
Frodo: *sits uneasily in his chair, half expecting another attack*
Narrator: *The fortress' great doors open and then close behind Vartang and Derufin. They clank shut with an air of finality*
Narrator: *Frodo waits in the outer courtyard, surrounded by orcs who eye him, and some sneak a subtle lick of their lips. Their yellow eyes gleam and some of them finger their necklaces of finger knuckles and bones around their necks*
Frodo: *Unlike the ones at his cottage, these orcs are just like the ones at Lugburz*
Narrator: *Time seems to drag out. The orcs are encouraged and some come closer, pressing right up to the litter and look down at Frodo with leering eyes*
Frodo: *a look of intense hatred, anger and terror burns in his eyes that has not been there since he was last tortured*
Narrator: *Some reach out long, dangling arms and touch the sides of his litter, some pressing harder than others, causing the litter to shake slightly*
Frodo: *Paralyzed with fear, Frodo watches them with the defiant mask etched on his face*
Narrator: *And to Frodo's horror, he sees a long black arm with talloned claws on the fingers coming under the canopy of the litter. One grunts and says* Mmmm, aaps... mmmm.....
Frodo: *grips the arms of his chair with white knuckles*
Narrator: *All quickly scurry away at the sound of the great gates opening. Vartang comes out with a triumphant look on his face. Derufin follows, a grim look on his*
Vartang: *Vartang saunters up to Frodo's litter*
Frodo: *Frodo's head is bowed far down to his chest. He is in a swoon*
Vartang: *A look of disgust comes on his face and he turns away, mounts his horse* Bear the litter back to the shakh's hall! I have more important business elsewhere!
Frodo: *raises his head at Vartang's shout*
Narrator: *Vartang gallops out of the courtyard and the litter bearers pick Frodo's litter back up. They pass under the archway and to the outside. Frodo does not see, but overhead of the archway there are huge iron teeth of the portcullis looming overhead*
Narrator: *The portcullis can be lowered at any time, trapping anyone between it and the great gates. Two gates, perhaps many more, guard Durbûrzkala*
Frodo: *very, very glad to leave this place, and glad that Rian did not come*
Derufin: *As Derufin rides under it, he looks up at the teeth, and thinks to himself.... A death trap for any caught between. He encourages his horse to move a little faster*
Narrator: *Soon, the entourage is back at Frodo's house. Derufin dismounts the borrowed horse, turns his reins back to the waiting attendant. The orcs lower Frodo's litter to the ground, and his servant picks him up and prepares to take him in the house.*
Narrator: *The doors to the hall are opened by the waiting guards*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild, effled and rian bow to frodo as he enters and greet him with choruses of hails and welcomes*
Narrator: *The orc puts Frodo down in his chair in the sitting room*
Frodo: *Frodo smiles at the girls and opens his arms to them*
Derufin: *Derufin waits until Frodo is seated, then he draws a chair and sits down beside him. He looks to the three girls* Some water please?
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *they rush into frodos arms and shower him with hugs and kisses to the forehead, thankful that he returned safely from the evil place*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild quickly fetches derufin a glass of water. she turns to frodo* are you thristy too, my lord?
Derufin: *He nods to her and thanks her*
Frodo: *Frodo nods, smiling, breathless with relief*
Derufin: *Derufin drinks from his water, then puts the glass down and rests his head on his hands, his elbows on the table*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the three girls also take seats at the table, though ready to bolt at first sign of vartang*
Frodo: *Frodo's smile fades* I'm sorry, Derufin. *He goes to Derufin, leans against his chair and puts a hand on his shoulder*
Derufin: *He takes a deep breath* Never have I seen such a sight, not since.... the Battle of the Cam... *his voice trails off*
Frodo: *bows his head*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *the girls listen intently, grave looks up their faces*
Derufin: The sight was much the same! Bodies, hacked, dismembered, dying in agony. Always I seem to be in the wrong places at the wrong times *He thinks to himself... perhaps I have been gone away too long*
Frodo: No, you were there because I took you there
Frodo: Now I almost wish I had gone by myself and taken the burden of that sight on myself
Derufin: No, I was there because I wanted to see it
Frodo: You did?
Derufin: An evil place, beyond belief. Yes. Your eyes should be spared that
Frodo: *looks down and clenches his fist, biting his lip*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian shudders, so glad that she did not have to go*
Derufin: Yes, I have seen sights such as this, and worse, but I never wanted to see them again
Frodo: *softly* Have you seen the Dark Tower?
Derufin: No, I have not been in it as yet, and I trust I will not. But I know the One who dwells in it. Have I not lived long enough in the East? *he says with a rueful look and taps one hand on the table* Perhaps a little too long
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *but, i thought he was from gondor, elffled ponders*
Derufin: *He looks up* They were indeed as Vartang said men of Gondor. The look is unmistakable
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian pales* t..they were?
Frodo: But were they rangers? Were they Dunedain rangers?
Derufin: Yes, sadly to say, tall they were, and their unseeing eyes were gray as the sea water
Derufin: That I cannot say, just that they were Gondorians. Corpses can say much in their silence but never enough
Frodo: *groans in frustration* Then they could be any prisoners from Pelennor or from the conquered city since the battle!
Frodo: They could have nothing to do with the attack!
Derufin: Yes, they could. They were noble looking men, though, those who still had faces. Prisoners I would daresay
Frodo: *Frodo hurries outside and can be heard being sick*
Frodo: *comes back in looking embarassed*
Frodo: *returns to his seat as though he hadn't been gone*
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *elfhild bites her lip and looks away, trying to avoid tears. oh, how she wishes she were home. though doubtless nothing remains of her home*
Derufin: *Shakes his head* That was not the worst of it though. Some of the dead reposed with peaceful looks. It was the living that would make a strong man sigh in pity
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian whispers to frodo* my lord, are you all right?
Derufin: Their dungeons seem to have no limits and Vartang took me deep into the earth before we came to the bodies. Suffering, screaming, men, some women crying in anguish, some hanging from chains, some clenching the bars at the tops of their cell doors with skeletal hands*
Frodo: *trying to hide his intense turmoil, he barely looks at her* I'm all right...thank you
Elfhild, Elffled and Rian: *rian moans* ohhhhhh.... valar help us!
Derufin: And all around, the air was filled with rottenness, corruption, a stench of death. A place of no mirth. A place of no laughter. It is Angband the old
Frodo: *suddenly bursts into tears* Stop, oh Valar, stop or I will go mad
Derufin: The dead were the lucky ones. They are in peace. I do not wish to see such a sight again
Frodo: Nor do I, I would forget all that forever
Derufin: It appears I sought to leave the East but now I find myself right back here again, and I have tarried here far too many years as it is
Derufin: But, perhaps, just perhaps, I was brought here to do some good *Takes another sip from his glass of water*
Frodo: *looks up at him* Good! You can think about good after seeing all that?
Derufin: Yes, Master Frodo, I see good. Look to the sky! Arien shines. Even in this fell place. And whether he likes it or not, Sauron depends upon her to bring forth the crops to feed his armies!
Frodo: But she cannot stop all the horror from happening
Derufin: And after she has made her journey into the West for the day, Varda will send the stars. This is a promise from the One
Derufin: But no matter how strong the enemy is, Arien will shine, the stars will shed their light and maybe, Master Frodo, just maybe someday you will go home *he laughs* and maybe I will too!
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