GIFTS AND REGRETS
May 24, 3020
Ever since the arrival of Guntha, Frodo's days had turned into a regular schedule of torment. Up at 6 o'clock in the morning, Frodo was forced to eat a hasty breakfast if he wanted any breakfast at all, and then he must hurry to the first of his three daily training meetings with Pizdur Alwan and Pizgal Dirar, whose chief delight in life seemed to be to torment Frodo.
Pizdur Alwan had been one of Frodo's torturers in Lugburz, and it seemed to Frodo that he could remember every blow and kick that the sergeant had been overjoyed to deliver to Frodo.
Three training sessions were administered to him each day, and the two had him parade before them in the courtyard for long hours every day. "One, two, three, four, I love the Shire but I love Mordor more" had been the chant to which he had been forced to march, always carrying a giant man-sized staff. When Frodo failed to march double-quick, Corporal Alwan had been quick to lash Frodo's ankles with a vicious flail that seemed to be part of the man's right hand.
After the morning's training was over, Frodo had tea with Guntha of Southern Rhûn, whose struggles with learning Common Speech made it difficult for Frodo even to understand the man. After morning tea with Guntha, Frodo had his lessons with Master Raznag, a loremaster and teacher of the East, who lectured on the history of Mordor and the East for two and a half hours every morning before finally releasing Frodo for an hour to have mid-day meal. The meal mainly consisted of the Mannish cram bread, lettuce with bitter herbs, stringy, overcooked meat of mutton or goat and water, sometimes mixed with goat's milk.
After he had finished his meal, Azal the orc, who had been assigned to help him learn his lessons, intimidated Frodo into drinking a small measure of wine, which obviously had been laced with poppies or some other potion, because after drinking it, Frodo had always drifted off into a semi-dreamlike state of strange and sometimes violent dreams.
After he had awakened, there was another two hour session of training with Pizdur Alwan and Pizgal Dirar, and then Frodo had, what Guntha was fond of calling "time of great solitude," to use as he wished, but Guntha had advised him that he should use that time to pray to the Master Melkor for guidance.
After Frodo's time "to himself" there was another almost two hour training session during which if Pizdur Alwan was in a good mood, he would allow Pizgal Dirar to demonstrate the use of a staff as a weapon to Frodo. This almost always ended with Frodo's being thrown to the ground, and then prodded back up from the ground by Dirar's staff.
After that, it was time for Frodo's supper with Master Guntha, who monopolized the conversation with admonitions to Frodo of how he should pay more attention to his training sessions and learning his lessons about the History of Mordor and the East.
After supper, Guntha would tell Frodo that he was his "guest" and that Guntha would guide him, sometimes walking and sometimes riding with an escort of cavalry about the Pelennor Fields. "Shakh become great strong Halfling, walk all the way to Shire," Guntha often told him on these journeys.
Two weeks had gone by since Frodo's training had begun, and every night, he had fallen asleep as soon as his head had grazed the pillow, and when he awoke the next morning, his aching muscles complained of another day like the one before. Tonight, Guntha had advised Frodo that he should walk upon the newly built great road to the Temple, while Guntha rode his horse and observed Frodo's progress. After Frodo had painfully walked a mile North, he could see the Great Temple looming up like a giant monolith on the northern horizon. "Shakh is pleased, no?" Guntha had asked as he sat upon his horse and looked down at Frodo. "Great Master always do thing, make small shakh happy," he had said, and in the dwindling daylight, Frodo could almost swear that he saw Maugoth Vartang's face mirrored in Guntha but quickly shook the thought away as only a phantom caused by his exhaustion.
"When we get back," Guntha had said, "Shakh and I have wine together." He turned his horse to the south and the beast walked slowly. "Come, we go back. Guntha have great surprise for Shakh tonight."
After returning from their trip, Master Guntha and Frodo had gone into Frodo's hall. Guntha was exceptionally polite and almost friendly that night, and helped Frodo into his chair. When Rian came into the hall to attend them, Guntha said, "Ree-aann, bring tea for shakh and Guntha. Tea has had faintly spice too much. Change that. Make please thanks."
Frodo portrayed by Hobbitness
Rian, Guards and Unna portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator and Guntha portrayed by Angmar
Rian: Very well, sir. *Rian says, accustomed
to the ever-changing and peculiar tastes of this man. Always was
the order... more spices, cooked in different fashion, done a
different way. She sighs, and leaves the room to get the tea.*
Rian: *Soon, Rian returns, carrying a tray with a pot of tea and two cups. She sets it down on the table, and fills a cup for Guntha and a cup for Frodo. The tea is very spicy; made of dried fruit and vast quantities of cinnamon.*
Frodo: *Frodo stares blankly around the room. Stars swim before his eyes. He is becoming used to these wavering, brilliant stars; they usually appear a few times a day since his training began. Desperate to keep his mind off the "lessons" about Melkor and Sauron that are constantly repeated to him, Frodo often finds ridiculous things popping into his mind... Right now, he is utterly fascinated with the ripples of color in the growing and contracting stars, and how they mirror the colors in the wall tapestries.*
Frodo: *Frodo blinks hard when Rian returns with the tea, and the stars disappear. He is vaguely disappointed. Now he will have to look at Guntha instead. He smiles up at Rian* Thank you *He sips his cup of tea, coughing slightly from the strong taste* It's very good
Frodo: *He forces himself to look at Guntha. He will reveal his "surprise" any minute now. What if his surprises are even worse than Vartang's?*
Rian: *Rian looks at Frodo with pity. Ever since they had left Nurn, he had been in the blossom of health; now, ever since this new man took over the household, poor Frodo seemed to have taken a turn for the worst. She smiles sadly at him.*
Frodo: *Frodo smiles back. Thank goodness that they have at least let him see Rian often throughout the day. The sight of his old friend gives him much needed strength.*
Guntha: *He takes a sip from his teacup and looks to Frodo* Shakh, cinnamon make the juice of the tea leaf to endure better, no?
Frodo: Yes, much better.
Guntha: You will like the surprise better, no, than bad news? So Guntha give good news first
Frodo: *Oh no, there is bad news too?...But perhaps Guntha' "bad news" will be good news to Frodo...wait, is that the right way around?....Frodo yawns and sips his tea again, then nods mechanically. Perhaps Guntha' "bad news" will be good news to Frodo...since what is bad news to Mordor is good news to him...so the bad news will be good news and the good news will be bad... so then the surprise will be...good or bad? Frodo yawns and sips his tea again, then nods mechanically.*
Guntha: Guntha has gifts to present. Great gifts, good gifts, that will help shakh. All will make good for you on journey, all be needed. *He motions to two guards standing along the wall* Shakh now need gifts. Bring first!
Frodo: *Frodo's heart starts to thud. If they say it is a gift, it is always something bad. If they say it will help, it will make things worse.*
Guards: *One of the guards walks over to the table, holding a small bundle in his hands. When Frodo opens it, it appears to be a fuzzy heap of woven hair.* Shakh once have shirt of mithril-mail. Now have shirt of other kind. Put it on!
Frodo: This is a....shirt?.....*he tries to keep from groaning. More discomfort! How awful to have to wear this coarse hair! But why is he surprised? They always try to make his life a torment.*
Guntha: Shakh, this shirt make you great pleased. Was made from hair from elf heads. Wear it in good health.
Frodo: *He gasps and drops the shirt. He stares at it in horror...a shirt made from the hair of killed elves! He raises his eyes to Guntha, almost ready to plead with him... but then he realizes it would do no good. He tries to put on the expressionless mask that has served him in the past.*
Guntha: Shakh is greatly pleased. Elf hair might be good luck, since elf whose hair this was from was sacrificed on altar to Melkor and Sauron. Will make you strong and protect you. You already have one gift, your staff. Let it be your sword. Guard, *he says as he turns to the guard* bring in the other surprise
Guards: Yes, sir *the guard says and bowing, leaves the room.*
Frodo: *He clamps his hand over his mouth...the elf was sacrificed to Melkor and Sauron! Chills snake through his limbs. He prays for forgiveness. Spared from having to reply, he waits with trepidation for the next "surprise."*
Guards: *The guard returns, a young woman by his side. She has golden hair and is fair of face, vaguely bringing to mind memories of Elfhild and Elffled. She wears a fine dress of sparkling white, a vision of loveliness to Frodo's tortured mind.*
Unna: *The woman speaks, and her voice is rich and deep, touched heavily with an unfamiliar accent, yet strangely akin to those of the Rohirrim of Frodo's acquaintance. A small lantern she holds in her hand, a candle in it flickering brightly.*
Unna: Ringbearer... *the woman began, speaking with great thought in her rich, sonorous accent, as if trying to recall a ponderous speech which she had been instructed to say.* I come to you, not the last of our Master's servants. For you this has been prepared. In this lantern is caught the light of Udun's Flame, set amid the... ether...? of heaven. *She pauses for breath, blue eyes glancing upwards in thought, and then continues* It will shine still brighter when trouble is about you. may it be a light to you in dark places where all other light lights go out! Remember the Master and His Ring! *she smiles to Frodo and Guntha, hoping she remembered all the words she had been instructed to say.*
Unna: Oh... *she continues, having forgot one important point* And keep your wick trimmed and your chimney clean. *Smiling again, she extends the little lantern to Frodo, and waits for him to take it.*
Frodo: *When the woman entered, Frodo's breath caught in his throat. For a blissful moment he thought it was Elfhild or Elffled come back to him. But then he realized it was a different woman altogether. Comprehension dawned on him by degrees during the woman's speech. A light when all other lights go out? That is what the Lady of Lorien said of the phial of Earendil! Now Frodo realizes his oppressors' scheme to mock him and his Quest yet again. So they are giving him another light, but this flame is of Udun, born of the evil of Mordor.*
Frodo: *Fury rises in him, but he suppresses it. Surely, the woman is not at fault. He takes the lantern without much expression and puts it on the table before him. Silently he resolves never to use it...but what if his refusal to use it brings harm to his friends?...His head hurts. He will think of that later.*
Unna: *The woman smiles to Frodo and withdraws her hand, and gracefully bowing to him, she moves away upon quiet feet, returning to the side of the guard.*
Guntha: Shakh, came you this way prepared for a journey, so shall you go back upon your homeward journey. Now rise *he moves his hands* stand before me and prepare yourself. Guntha wish to see great shakh and how he will look. Put shirt upon your body; you are to wear this at all times unless you take bath. It will be protection unto you, and hold your lamp. It will lead you and guide you. One more thing, Shakh *he says as he reaches for a document on the table* This map shows you the route that you will take. When you go forth, take with you your staff, your lantern, the map, and your shirt, and one more thing. *he looks to the guard*
Guard: *One of the guards escorts the golden haired woman out of the room, but the other guard walks over to Frodo and presents him with a bundle of fabric. It is a dark cloak - an orc's cloak, well worn and filled with a foul stench - with a brooch the moon-symbol of Minas Morgul.*
Guntha: Wear this in luck. It is doomed so.
Frodo: *Frodo closes his eyes and heaves a deep breath, trying to control the surge of anger and humiliation. All the most cherished symbols of his Quest have been turned into symbols of Mordor. Must he go to the Shire dressed like this?! Why, they will think.....ohhh.....so that is what they plan. The Shire will turn against him because they will think him loyal to Mordor.*
Frodo: *Frodo's fingers dig into the foul orc-cloak. He bows his head, takes a moment to master himself, then climbs down from his chair. First making sure Rian is out of the room, he unbuttons his shirt and gingerly puts on the one made of elf hair. Then he fastens the orc-cloak around his shoulders with the moon-symbol brooch, his fingers trembling with rage. He stands before Guntha thus, his eyes narrowed, bitterly silent.*
Guntha: *Guntha smiles a lopsided smile at him* The shakh is now ready for travel. *He dismisses the guard and then looks to Frodo sadly*
Frodo: *Not wanting to dignify any of this with a response, Frodo maintains his stony silence.*
Rian: *After some time has passed, Rian comes back into the sitting room. She espies Frodo in his strange garments and smiles sadly at him again, feeling deep pity for his cruel plight. A kind, sensitive maid, she often feels the pains of others acutely as her own. Bowing, she stands alongside the wall.*
Guntha: Shakh, make yourself be seated. Guntha has news, bad news.
Frodo: *Frodo had forgotten about the bad news. An exasperated look crosses his face before the rigid mask returns. With some difficulty, he climbs back onto his chair and prepares for the worst.*
Guntha: *After finishing drinking his tea, Guntha turns to Frodo* The news is sad, shakh. My sorry to bring to you. I have received news that three slaves you own are dead, and I must be one to bring news.
Rian: *Rian gasps, her hand flying to her mouth. What did the man mean? Three slaves! Could it be...?*
Frodo: *The color drains from Frodo's face. Every muscle tenses. Three slaves...he thinks he can guess who they are. But shock numbs him for the moment. Leaning slightly forward, he shares a horrified glance with Rian, then turns back to Guntha and chokes out* Who?
Guntha: The news Guntha say one maiden from Nurn called Arnasa by name and two maids from Rohan, called Elfhild and Elffled, daughters of Eadbald. But perhaps make shakh feel better knowing that it was said in the message I was to give you that all three brought delight to the Nine Lords, the Nazgûl, while they yet lived. And for a woman, *he says as he looks at Rian* what greater tribute can there be in that?
Rian: No! *Rian gasps in horror, bursting into tears and sobs, her heart in dreadful turmoil of agony and anguish. Greatly had she missed her good friends since they had been taken so many months before. And now they were dead, and who knew what cruel treatment they received ere they died? And forced to bring pleasure to the undead host... she could not bear to think of her old friends suffering such a dire fate. And what would be her fate? She was as helpless as the twin sisters had been, completely at the mercy of fiends who have none, a Dark Lord filled with malice and hate, especially for the Halfling who was her own master.*
Rian: How did they die? *she cries, her breath coming in quick gasps, mind reeling from the shock. Her breathing becomes heavier and waves of heat swirl about her, bringing with them distorted colors of red and black. The room spins and she slumps against the wall. When would the sorrow and fear ever end? It was just too much to bear, too much.*
Frodo: *Something bursts inside Frodo when he hears the girls' names. He seems to float in a sea of numbing, icy water. He hears Ceolwulf's voice in his mind: "You left them there!" But before Frodo can react, Rian bursts into tears and begins to faint. Frodo rushes over to her. He takes her hand...but what can he say to reassure her? There is no comfort here.*
Guntha: Guntha does not know the manner in which they died. Now whilst I know that you must be in sorrow, there are other, more important matters, that I must discuss.
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