Aarsh Tor Satum-ob, Shakh!
Day of September 22, 3019
Frodo portrayed by Hobbitness
The Nazgul, Shakh Kriithnariinuzurz and Lilandra portrayed by FreeFall
Lieutenant of Barad-dur, Pizdur Dothar, Finduilas, Elfhild, Elffled and Rian, Haleth and Frodo's Ring portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator, Sauron the Great, Shakh Skrishau, Vartang, Ceolwulf, Vardamir and Aldir portrayed by Wraith
Narrator: *Dawn spreads sluggishly beneath
the clouds that cover the Land of Shadows, and outside Frodo's
barred window, he can see a weak lightening in the darkness.*
Narrator: *The huge, black draped bed, his resting place for the night, seems to spread out around him like the plains of Gorgoroth themselves.*
Narrator: *The statue of Sauron, that Frodo had hurled against the wall, still lies there in shards upon the floor.*
Frodo: *Frodo realizes that today is his birthday. He is 51. How different this is than he had imagined it...how different his life is from all the other birthdays he has had*
Frodo: *Only a year ago, there was hope for the quest. He was still Frodo Baggins, hobbit of the Shire. Now he is the inconcievable...Friend of Sauron, traitor to the West...unwilling though he is*
Frodo: *Against his will his mind goes back to painful memories of the Shire, of Bilbo's old birthday parties, of Sam, Merry and Pippin*
Frodo: *His eyes are sad as he gazes out into the darkness*
Narrator: *Frodo's injured face and neck smart, and his hand, wounded on a piece of metal on the floor and the thorny webs in the hall, aches with sharpened pain as Frodo begins to stir for the day.*
Narrator: *The wounds bear proof that the happenings of the night before were not a dream.*
Frodo: *Frodo slides out of bed and walks to the window*
Frodo: *The pain reminds him of the events of last night, and how close he came to the morgul blade....he feels icy cold and shivers*
Frodo: *They held him down and put the blade to his heart...now he knows what Sam experienced*
Frodo: *He remembers how Sam spoke to him when he almost died*
Frodo: *Then he realizes his memory will be erased...he may not be able to remember that*
Frodo: *He sighs and leans his forehead against the windowpane, closing his eyes*
Narrator: *Once again, his breakfast is served to him, and after he is finished, the Lieutenant of Barad-dur is at his door to escort him once again to the great hall of Sauron.*
Narrator: *With resignation, Frodo falls into place behind the Lieutenant, and the Lieutenant's ten orc bodyguards soon fall in behind them.*
Frodo: *Terror blocks all thoughts from Frodo's mind. Only through some unknown grace does he move his weighted limbs into the dreaded hall*
Narrator: *The great hall has been cleared of its usual assemblage of servants, and now only the Lieutenant and the Nine attend to the Great Master.*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron sits on his great throne, waiting for Frodo to bow*
Sauron the Great: *He taps his chairarm impatiently*
Sauron the Great: *The noise of his fingers tapping on his chair sound like great drums playing and the echoes resound in the hall*
The Nazgul: *Nine dark hooded faces look down upon him*
Frodo: *Wearied of fear and tortures, Frodo inclines his head...quickly and guiltily*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron speaks* My Nine servants, is this the proper way for a snaga to bow to the Master?
Frodo: *You are not my master! The thought flares up before Frodo can stop it*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron reads Frodo's thoughts instantly*
The Nazgul: *smirks of satisfaction appear on unseen faces to the Hobbit, then look to their Master* it is not proper at all My Lord
Sauron the Great: My Servants, impress upon him the necessity of bowing. Cast him down and press his nose to the floor!
The Nazgul: *they shake their heads slowly and none step forward, but instead Frodo feels stabbing pain in his knees...he knows not which one delivers this.*
Frodo: *seized with fear from the night before, Frodo instinctively avoids their grasp*
Sauron the Great: Keep thy head to the floor, Master Baggins!
Sauron the Great: Wouldst thou like to do this for the rest of eternity?
Frodo: *grimacing at the pain in his knees, he falls further and lies on the floor*
The Nazgul: *they all strike their last bit of fury upon this relentless piece of filth*
Frodo: *A malicious hand seems to press him down*
The Nazgul: *each one holds part of him down and causes pain to that area*
Sauron the Great: Then attend to thy manners!
Frodo: *a low continuous moan comes from his tight throat*
Sauron the Great: Or I might just keep thee there forever! *Sauron has a mixture of anger and amusement in his voice*
Sauron the Great: Now Master Baggins, rise
The Nazgul: *The Nine release him*
Sauron the Great: Look into My Eyes
Frodo: *Frodo rises slowly and, shaking, forces himself to meet the burning gaze.. the gaze he had so determinedly fought off while he carried the Ring*
Sauron the Great: *Their gazes lock, and Frodo feels himself being drawn into the fires of Sauron's eyes, and there, Frodo feels his body melting slowly under the tortures of rising flames*
Frodo: *cries out and tries to look away*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron bends Frodo's will to his and forces him to continue lookin. All Frodo can see is a blazing eye, drawing him down and around like a swirling vortex. He feel pain ripping out his brain cells and turning them to jelly*
Frodo: *This is the torment he fears most...he feels it will burn away his sanity*
Sauron the Great: *Frodo feels his eyes melt and run down his cheeks as the brain flows out through the eye sockets*
Frodo: *He screams and trembles...completely unaware of everything but the Eye burning into him*
Frodo: *His body has collapsed and pants on the floor, but he does not realize it. All he knows is the malevolent will devouring his mind*
Sauron the Great: *Frodo's melted eyeballs seem to run down his cheeks as his melted brain mass joins the materials that drip off his cheeks and run down on his chest*
Sauron the Great: *The rest of his flesh melts and turns a molten mass still resting on the bones, and then the bones melt and slowly ooze into a small puddle on the floor, until only his unhoused fea remains, in servitude to Sauron forever*
Sauron the Great: *Frodo can hear the words...* Thy flesh hast been devoured, and thy shriveled mind is left naked before the Lidless Eye
Sauron the Great: *And then he hears other words, in the jumbled, distorted realm of the spirits* It is done!
Sauron the Great: Now wretch *Sauron says* Art thou so bold?
Frodo: *Frodo's fea curls defensively into itself. He is too afraid to make any reply...but a part of him remains himself, unclaimed by Sauron, and unclaimable*
Sauron the Great: *Frodo's soul now is left bare and exposed. The fires inside the Eye seem to intensify and now Frodo's fea feels as though it is in a fiery pit of torment*
Sauron the Great: *He keeps hearing the words* Now is thy boldness gone?
Sauron the Great: *In truth, Frodo's body remains intact and standing there, staring into Sauron's eyes, but his soul is left bare to Sauron's essence*
Frodo: *All of Frodo's strength is turned toward enduring the torment...he struggles to keep his own power of thought...the remaining part of his mind thinks the name Elbereth*
Sauron the Great: *And his gaze is penetrating, fearful, intense, levelling, destroying, wiping out resistance*
Frodo: *He is subdued, not so rebellious out of fear, but he will not acknowledge Sauron as master of himself or of Middle Earth*
Frodo: *He realizes he now faces the same fire that burned away Sam's essence*
Sauron the Great: *The words come to him now* I should slay thee!
Sauron the Great: Dost thou think that thou art equal with Me? *the words say*
Frodo: *He resolves not to let the same thing happen to him, at all costs*
Frodo: No, I do not, for thou art maia and I am mortal.
Frodo: *but that is as far as he is willing to acknowledge Sauron's power*
Sauron the Great: *A battle is waging between Sauron's mighty powers and small, yet determined, soul of the Hobbit*
Sauron the Great: *A blast of fire, as though from a smelting furnace, engulfs Frodo's fea* Thou speakest truth, mortal wretch
Frodo: *struggles against the feeling of utter worthlessness that comes from Sauron's mockery*
Sauron the Great: The truth will be gotten from thee here, where I can see thy fea and thou can see Mine, as much as I will reveal
Sauron the Great: But remember this, mortal. If thou darest defy Me again, next time thy flesh shall be stripped from thy bones and thou shalt come back to Me and abide with Me forever!
Sauron the Great: This is thy fate if thou darest take off thy Ring, and the fate of those joined to thee by their Rings
Frodo: *Fear unlike any he has ever known consumes him*
Frodo: I shall not let them come to that fate!
Sauron the Great: *With those words, the fierceness of the fire slowly begins to diminish*
Sauron the Great: Remember well, should thou take off thy Ring, what fate awaits thee! And the fate of those joined to thee, should they take off theirs!
Sauron the Great: *Then the fires are gone, as quickly as they came, and Frodo falls before Sauron*
Frodo: *Frodo lies unconscious*
Sauron the Great: *The Great Hall is now filled with deadly silence*
Sauron the Great: Let him lie there!
The Nazgul: *They look to the small curled up figure with pure hatred and stand in total silence...looming*
Sauron the Great: And then, My servants, awaken him with thy icy breath!
* Sauron the Great * I think it might be
The Nazgul: *all to Sauron in thought* As you wish My Great Lord*
The Nazgul: *They raise their heads...their chests rising and the room turns bone chilling cold...as frost appears on Frodo's body*
Frodo: *Frodo awakes with a shudder and gasps when he sees the nazgul towering over him, then scoots backwards, too exhausted to get up*
Sauron the Great: Master Baggins.....
The Nazgul: *The chill in the room fades a bit*
Sauron the Great: Now we must talk of the Rings
The Nazgul: *then fades completely now*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron nods to his servants and says* My servants, I am well pleased with you
Frodo: *Reluctantly, almost crying, he raises his eyes to Sauron again*
Sauron the Great: When thou art asked how thou came by thy healing, what will thou say?
Frodo: I will say that after many torments, the dark lord healed me, and I do not know why.
Frodo: *but he still bears the cuts on his face and hands, and the gashes on his hand and neck*
Sauron the Great: Master Baggins, indeed, thou wilt remain with Me many long years to come if that is the answer thou givest, and perhaps thy slaves will join thee here to keep thee company!
Frodo: No, no! Then what is the answer I should give?
Sauron the Great: Only this, and no more. Thou art to say, "I was healed by the hand of Sauron the Great."
Frodo: *Hatred flashes in his eyes*
Sauron the Great: Whoever asks thee this question, no matter how long thou livest, this is thy reply
Frodo: *May the Valar grant me a short life, he prays*
Sauron the Great: Though it be man, dwarf, elf, maia or vala, this is what thou art to say, if thou wishest to leave My halls!
Sauron the Great: But then, if thou wishest to take thine own life rather than saying this, that can be granted to thee!
Frodo: *His voice is low and hard* Then I shall say it, for I do wish to leave your halls, and I do not wish to doom the slaves in Nurn by my death
Sauron the Great: Then thou sayest well
Sauron the Great: Now what wilt thou say, should thou be asked how the Rings came to thy posession?
Frodo: *His voice grows even harder* I will say that I recieved them from you.
Sauron the Great: Nay, Master Baggins *Sauron smiles* Thou wilt say what My servant Vartang bids thee to say
Frodo: *raises his eyebrows*
The Nazgul: *The corners of their mouths curl up into sinister smiles*
Sauron the Great: Now, Master Baggins, thy time with Me draws shorter and shorter
Sauron the Great: I will say this unto thee. Learn to master thy Ring, and thou shalt do well
Sauron the Great: Listen to its words of teaching and become wise.
Frodo: *closes his eyes with a despairing sigh*
The Nazgul: *Their minds think of their own Rings for a moment*
Sauron the Great: Thou thinkest that it does naught but torment thee. Nay. Its powers are many. Learn what they are, and become wise!
The Nazgul: *......Great Giver of Gifts....*
Frodo: *reminds himself that though Sauron is powerful he does not possess wisdom*
Sauron the Great: Master Baggins.... dost thou wish a sword upon which thou canst end thy miserable existance!
Frodo: *Oh how he wishes it...what a relief it would be*
Frodo: *He does not want to die, but he does not want this life that is to be his.. but if he dies, his friends will be killed*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron hears his every thought*
Frodo: *he imagines leaning upon a sword...he does not think he would be able to fall on it...it seems wrong*
Sauron the Great: Master Baggins, thou canst be provided with a dagger or a short sword
Frodo: *Almost unbidden, Ceolwulf's screams come into his mind...how much more will they all suffer if I die, he thinks*
Sauron the Great: Die now and be no more!
The Nazgul: *Shakh Kriithnariinuzurz (Lord Nine The Forgotten) rests his hand on his hilt..all too willing to offer his blade*
Sauron the Great: *By thought he commands Kriithnariinuzurz to unsheath his sword and offer it to Baggins*
Frodo: I will not end in ignominy here in your hall!
Shakh Kriithnariinuzurz: *the sound of his sword being unsheathed echoes in Frodo's ears as he moves over to him with the blade*
Frodo: *holds out a hand, palm out, refusing the blade*
Sauron the Great: *Sauron laughs mockingly at Frodo*
Frodo: I am still Frodo Baggins. I still live
Sauron the Great: Kriithnariinuzurz, put thy blade away. The coward rejects it
Frodo: No, I reject it because I am not a coward
Shakh Kriithnariinuzurz: *Laughs a high pitched laugh and stands there tilting his head from side to side at the small creature then sheathes his sword and back away*
Frodo: I choose to survive your torments and to return to those who have put their trust in me
Sauron the Great: Now that we have dismissed the petty issue of thy death, we will go to more important matters - Thy Ring. As I have said, thy Ring is more than just a torment. It posesses powers
Sauron the Great: But think naught that it will make thee like unto My servants, for it will not. They have the Gift that is denied unto thee
Frodo: *struggles against the temptation of power, so strong from the One Ring*
Sauron the Great: Perhaps this Ring, Master Baggins, will replace thy love for My Ring
Frodo: *Nothing could ever replace the One*
Sauron the Great: *he laughs and the hall rings with mocking echoes*
Frodo: *he will ever suffer the hole from It*
The Nazgul: *Their minds weigh heavy with the thoughts of their Rings....chosen indeed...Sons of Sauron...they fill with pride..Master...ever loyal...ukil*
Frodo: *winces at the thunderous, crushing laughter*
Sauron the Great: Didst thou not wish power, Master Baggins? Thou shalt surely have it now. Thy Ring was made by Me in the forges of Orodurin, for thee, Master, Baggins, for thee *he laughs, a dreadful, menacing laugh*
Frodo: *draws in a slow, tense breath, and clenches his fists*
Sauron the Great: It was made through the power of the One, so now for as long as thou shalt live, thou shalt be joined to MY Ring!
Frodo: *part of him feels a desperate relief to be connected to the One in any way...the other part is horrified*
Sauron the Great: But now, Master Baggins, we shall celebrate thy Aarsh Tor Satum-ob
Frodo: *frowns confusedly*
Sauron the Great: *Reading his thoughts, a smile spreads across Sauron's face* Oh, thou shalt be connected to the One Ring as long as thou shalt live and perhaps beyond!
Frodo: *No, no, above all he desires to be free from It...that It had never been found*
Narrator: *At first the words "Aarsh Tor Satum-ob" that Sauron spoke in Black Speech are incomprehensible, but slowly, an understanding dawns upon him, and he understands their meaning*
Frodo: *His frown becomes even more confused* My...birthday, you said?
Sauron the Great: Yes, Master Baggins, the day is thy birthday, and you shall celebrate with a draught
Sauron the Great: My Lieutenant, has the draught been prepared?
Frodo: *gasps...his heart races in terror*
Frodo: What is it?...What will it do to me?
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: yes, my Lord *he summons an easterling underling to bring the draught*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the easterling soon returns with a large chalice of gold, the contents smoking slightly, and sending shimmering bubbles into the air. the easterling goes to frodo, bends down and hands it to him*
Sauron the Great: Drink, Master Baggins!
Frodo: *he asks again* What is it?
Sauron the Great: Mortal, would thou again like to be encouraged by aid of the feeding tube?
Frodo: *gives a small cry at the memory...the tube forced down his throat and Sam pouring wine down to choke him*
Sauron the Great: Make haste, Master Baggins. I do not have all this day to deal with thee
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the easterling waits patiently for frodo to take the goblet*
The Nazgul: *They become tense as he makes their Master wait*
Frodo: *Seeing no way out, he hesitantly takes the goblet and drinks from it*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the easterling waits for frodo to give back the goblet when he is finished*
Sauron the Great: To the dregs, Master Baggins! To the dregs!
Frodo: *It tastes horrible. He takes a long time to drink it...when he is finished angry, frustrated tears stain his face*
Frodo: *He hands it back to the easterling*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the easterling takes the goblet, bows to frodo, and returns to his station*
Narrator: *As Frodo drinks from the chalice, the recent wounds that he had received begin to slowly vanish from him*
Narrator: *He feels his entire body become warm and relax, but his thoughts begin to become muddled and all he can hear is...."I was healed by the hand of Sauron."*
Narrator: *"The Rings were made by a master metalworker in the marketplace at Thagurzgoi as my birthday gifts to you, my trusted friends. They are a token of my esteem for you all"*
Narrator: *And then, as the draught circulates within Frodo's body, what had befallen him at Lugburz since his arrival becomes a blur in his memor. He remembers no pain, no evil, nothing that happened to him, not the fight in the pit, nor the race through the corridors*
Narrator: *Frodo remembers being given a small, worn box that had belonged to Sam and promises that all his posessions that he brought to Lugburz would someday be returned to him*
Narrator: *No horrors will haunt his waking thoughts, but his dreams will be filled with horrible nightmares, which he cannot tell are real or not*
Narrator: *When he awakes, he will have a vague memory of what he dreamed and a sense of dread....that the torments in his dreams will befall his slaves, should he fail to do as he was told*
Sauron the Great: *Now Frodo once again hears the voice of Sauron* Go from My halls. Never come back, unless I bid thee too, but thou shalt always be drawn here
Sauron the Great: Now go! Get out of My halls!
Sauron the Great: *He points towards the great doors with a mighty hand and outstretched finger*
Frodo: *Frodo's eyes are glazed over. His mind is in a haze, and his vision is blurry...but he understands the command, and leaves Sauron's hall*
Frodo: *He stands outside the great doors, confused, and a little unsteady*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the lieutenant follows the bemused halfling. his orc bodyguards follow behind*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: Halt, Master Baggins. We go to the eyrie.
Frodo: *He is not sure what an eyrie is, but he stops, waiting to be guided*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: follow me *the lieutneant walks slowly down the corridor, so the bemused halfling can follow. he goes to the great eyrie where the fell beasts are housed*
Frodo: *Frodo's eyes widen at the great fell beasts, and he shrinks back in fear*
Shakh Skrishau: *Already astride his beast, Shakh Skrishau waits*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the lieutenant guides frodo to the great mounting platform so that he can climb up steps to easily mount the great beast*
Frodo: *His fear heightens his confusion...he knows he is afraid of the nazgul and the beast...but he is forgetting something....*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the lietuenant waits for the halfling to climb the steps*
Frodo: *oh..yes, he is leaving! But are they going to the Shire? or is it the other home...what was its name? He is not quite sure...he only knows what he is to tell the people when he arrives*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: Master Baggins, i know that you enjoyed your stay and that leaving greatly pains you, but alas, your time of departure has come.
Frodo: *He climbs up onto the fell beast, shivering from the nazgul's cold and groaning in pain from the morgul wound*
Frodo: *enjoyed the stay? He can remember nothing of it...he simply nods to the lieutenant*
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: *the lietuenant looks up at the halfling upon the great beast. he bows with a flourish, smiling warmly.* farewell, Master Baggins. your company has been most enjoyable, and it grieves all of us to lose the Great Friend of Lord Sauron.
Lieutenant of Barad-dur: Farewell, good Shakh.
Frodo: *That brings back some of his memory. He KNOWS he is not the Friend of Sauron. He frowns at the Lieutenant, then looks away into the distance*
Shakh Skrishau: *After Frodo is seated upon Shakh Skrishau's huge fell beast, the creature hops, then begins to run, flapping its wings as it goes, and soon, soaring out over the balcony of the eyrie, they are aloft.*
Frodo: *squeezes his eyes shut, afraid of heights*
Shakh Skrishau: *After circling around the tower and the mountain, which now heralds the day with a blazing bloom of lava, Shau Skrishau sets the beast's course southeast towards Nurn.*
Shakh Skrishau: *Frodo sits behind the Nazgul, and in spite of himself, his teeth begin to chatter, and his limbs shake as he feels that he is being enveloped in a cloud of icy darkness.*
Frodo: *hugs himself and curls into a ball as much as he can on the fell beast's back*
Shakh Skrishau: *The journey is silent, and soon down below, Frodo can see the vineyards, orchards, farms and houses of Nurn. Expecting soon to be back in his home, Frodo is disappointed when the beast is guided over the dread fortress of Durburzkala.*
Frodo: *When they pass his house, he twists around and shouts protests*
Shakh Skrishau: *Shakh Skrishau says nothing and seems to ignore the small passenger*
Frodo: *His heart sinks when the reach the fortress--one horror after another!*
Frodo: *Filled with homesickness, fear, and confusion, he weeps silently*
Shakh Skrishau: *Then circling several times high above the fortress, the beast slowly glides down until it is in the courtyard of the Durburzkala.*
Narrator: *In the courtyard, the many officers and men are gathered to the sides to avoid the downdrafts of the fell beast's wings. After the beast has landed, all fall upon their faces and bow before the Nazgul. Then after they have risen to their feet, a young man leads the group and approaches.*
Frodo: *Frodo perceives the men through the blur...he wonders what will happen, but he cannot seem to think very clearly*
Narrator: Broshan, Shakh gothurz *the man exclaims as he bows from the waist to the Nazgul and then to Frodo*
Narrator: *Shakh Skri turns to Frodo and hisses* Gukh! (Down)
*Frodo wonders what he says, but then somehow, he begins to understand. "He said 'down,'" and Frodo wonders that he can understand.*
Frodo: *Frodo looks down and his head spins...the fell beast is so high!*
Pizdur Dothar: *the young man, a soldier clad in the livery of mordor says* i am pizdur dothar, jump and i shall catch you.
Pizdur Dothar: *he waits for the halfling to jump*
Frodo: *He is so afraid to jump...it is like the cracks they had to leap in Moria...he remembers how afraid Pippin was then*
Frodo: *He jumps, then closes his eyes tightly, holding his breath*
Pizdur Dothar: *the man catches frodo and sets him on the ground*
Frodo: *opens his eyes and looks around*
Frodo: *Another dungeon...so close to his house and his friends...but will he be kept here forever now?*
Pizdur Dothar: Shakh Baggins, unfortuantely, Lord Vartang was unable to be here this morning.
Frodo: *Hatred surges in him at the name of Vartang*
Pizdur Dothar: *the fortress is a grim place, a dark tower, completely of black, with many turrets, each with archer slits. there is a wall around the whole fortress, great spikes adorn the top*
Pizdur Dothar: *they stand in the large courtyard. orcs and men stand at attention. the sky overhead is dark and the air seems chill*
Frodo: *He is grim and silent, like a lamb to the slaughter*
Frodo: *so tired....so dizzy....so afraid...he wants Sam...no, not Sam...tears start to his eyes...he wants Ceolwulf...but is Ceolwulf still alive? The tears drop and he wipes them away*
Pizdur Dothar: *the man speaks once again* we are overjoyed to see you on this great occasion of your birthday, shakh.
Frodo: *looks up at the man confusedly*
Pizdur Dothar: Aarsh tor satum-ob *he says with a smile*
Pizdur Dothar: Shakh, you look in excellent health. how do you feel?
Frodo: I do not seem to be sick anymore...*he notices surprised, then remembesr...* I was...healed by the hand of Sauron
Pizdur Dothar: *the man says cheerfully* you are the friend of Sauron, and He deals mercifully with you. come, let us go inside.
Frodo: *bristles at the title but follows the man, remembering the horrors Derufin saw here*
Pizdur Dothar: *he directs frodo to follow him into an large arched door leading into the fortress. the door is opened before them by the orcish guards*
Pizdur Dothar: *the man takes frodo down a corridor to a great meeting hall, which is filled with orcs and men, officers of the army of mordor*
Pizdur Dothar: *they all rise to their feet and bow when they see frodo*
Frodo: *he stumbles a bit, but makes it down the corridor and into the hall. He is startled when they all bow to him*
Pizdur Dothar: *the man leads frodo to the table, pulls out a chair and assists him in sitting in it. the room is dim, lit by torches and iron chandilers hanging from the ceiling*
Pizdur Dothar: *somewhere, far down the hall, the sounds of screaming can be heard, the last echoing wails of prisoners who have met their death at the hands of their tormentors.*
Frodo: *stares around the room, his eyes still glazed and bewildered*
Frodo: *He starts and begins to tremble at the screams...he breaks out in a cold sweat*
Frodo: *his palms become moist and icy*
Pizdur Dothar: *the man sits down beside frodo and says* now, shakh, it is our wish that we could honor you longer, here at durburzkala.
Frodo: *At first this reminded him of the Hall of Fire in Rivendell, and he was not sure where he was, but now he knows without a doubt he is in Mordor*
Pizdur Dothar: but your presence is required soon at your own hall.
Frodo: *begins to smile....maybe he really is going home*
Pizdur Dothar: *the man stands up and announces* A toast for Shakh Baggins on his 51st birthday!
Pizdur Dothar: May he live long in the service of Sauron!
Frodo: *His polite smile vanishes at that*
Pizdur Dothar: *all the orcs and men rise to their feet and say* to his birthday! to his birthday! to his service with the Great One!
Frodo: *He turns very pale and does not join in the toast*
Pizdur Dothar: *they all drink from their raised goblets, then take their seats*
Pizdur Dothar: *more screams can be heard from down the hall....*
Frodo: *service to sauron...all of a sudden terror assails him for no apparent reason. He gasps and winces, and it takes him long to still his shaking*
Frodo: *each scream heightens his sense of dread*
Pizdur Dothar: *goblets of wine had already been put upon the table in preparation for frodo's arrival. the man turns to frodo* drink heartily, shakh!
Pizdur Dothar: *he chuckles and slaps him on the back, almost knocking frodo from his chair*
Frodo: *Frodo takes the goblet of wine and begins to drink from it..then realizes he is thirsty and drinks deeply*
Pizdur Dothar: *the orcs and men begin to sing cheers and songs to frodo, all blatently off-key*
Frodo: *The songs sound discordant and nightmarish and mix with the screams in the distance*
Frodo: *Frodo wants nothing more than to leave this place*
Frodo: *He puts the goblet down, about half of it drained*
Pizdur Dothar: *after an hour of much drinking and singing, and the ever-present screams of those condemned to die, pizdur dorthar turns to frodo and announces the party is over*
Frodo: *He blinks hard, swaying in his chair, the potion and wine both taking effect*
Pizdur Dothar: Come now, Shakh, it is time for you to return to your own hall. We hope this celebration is to your satisfaction.
Pizdur Dothar: And when you next return to the Great Eye, say a good word for Pizdur Dothar in the fotress of Durubkala, Western Province of Nurn.
Pizdur Dothar: *he gives frodo a very friendly and hopeful smile, then gets out of his chair, pulls frodo's chair back and aids him in getting out of his*
Frodo: *Frodo returns the smile, but it is one of great relief. He is finally going home!*
Narrator: *Pizdur Dothar escorts Frodo out of the fortress and into the courtyard. Outside, a sturdy black pony is held by an orc. A large number of horses are held in wait for Pizdur Dothar and his men*
Pizdur Dothar: *the black pony is a bit fat. dothar turns to frodo and chuckles* his name is Raulik (beerbarrel)
Frodo: *A pony! Not a gaudy litter like they used before! Frodo is very pleased to be riding a pony as he did with his friends when they left the Shire*
Pizdur Dothar: but still, the animal is quite sturdy! he is a present to you from the officers and men at the fortress of durburzkala.
Frodo: Oh...thank you *He is grateful for the gift...but such horrors that these men commit here!*
Pizdur Dothar: do you need assistance in mounting, shakh?
Frodo: Please.. I am a little dizzy
Pizdur Dothar: *dothar bends down, picks frodo up, lifts him in the air and places him upon the pony's saddle.*
Frodo: *Frodo strokes the pony's neck*
Pizdur Dothar: *dothar and his men then mount their horses, and prepare to leave*
Pizdur Dothar: *the portcullis is raised before them, granting them safe passage through the great walls*
Frodo: *Frodo follows them on his pony*
Pizdur Dothar: *dothar rides ahead of the collum and leads the procession through the portcullis into the open*
Frodo: *A great weight is lifted from Frodo. Free!*
Frodo: *Free, and going home. He seems to rise up out of his body, and he finds his head nodding whether he wills it or no*
Narrator: *A journey of a few miles takes them to Baggins Hall. The orc guards bow profusely and open the gates to allow them entry*
Frodo: *It is not sleep he is drifting into...he is not sure what it is, but he is too tired and dizzy to think much...but he is happy*
Narrator: *Waiting outside the entry to Baggins Hall are many of Frodo's servants who are there to welcome him home*
Frodo: *Frodo smiles at them, though he cannot seem to remember most of their names*
Pizdur Dothar: *dothar says* Shakh, do you need assistance in dismounting?
Frodo: *Frodo almost slides off the pony as he leans toward Dothar to answer*
Frodo: ...Please *he says again, a little slurred*
Pizdur Dothar: *dothar quickly dismounts his horse and walks over to frodo's pony quickly. he picks him up once more and sets him down upon the ground*
Narrator: *A servant of the hall waits and leads Frodo's pony away as soon as he dismounts*
Frodo: Thank you *he stands looking around...wondering if this is real...everything swims before his eyes*
Pizdur Dothar: *dothar bows to frodo* farewell, shakh. i wish that you had honored us by your presence at the fortress more often, but i understand that you are leaving today.
Frodo: I am?...oh..
Pizdur Dothar: perhaps if you return, you can visit us. we would always be glad to welcome you.
Frodo: ah....we shall see
Pizdur Dothar: *he bows again to frodo, turns and mounts his horse once more. he gives an order to his men and they are away, riding back towards the fortress.*
Frodo: *Frodo turns toward the house, leaning against a column for support, and scans the entryway to see who is there*
Finduilas: *finduilas stands at the front entrance to frodo's keep. she runs up to frodo, kneels before him, takes him in her arms and embraces him* oh my lord! you are home again, safe and well!
Frodo: *He gasps as Finduilas embraces him....then gives a small startled cry...then embraces her back tightly*
Finduilas: *she rises takes him by the shoulders, steps back* let me look at you! you have changed!
Finduilas: *the other servants swarm around frodo and gaze upon him with astonisment*
Finduilas: you look like years have been taken off you! how did this happen?
Frodo: *He looks up at Finduilas intensely, hopefully. His eyes are still glazed and confused, his speech slurred*......Are you real?
Finduilas: *a confused look comes over her face* of course i am real, lord.
Frodo: *The answer drums in his mind like a thousand chants. He replies mechanically, as though he almost does not understand what he is saying* I was healed by the hand of Sauron
Finduilas: *she gasps and studies his face. the shock is evident in the tone of her voice* you were...healed by the dark lord?
Frodo: *nods slowly*
Frodo: *He reaches out a shaking hand to touch her*...but you are real! *his voice trembles and tears suddenly fall from his eyes*
Frodo: *he smiles through his tears*
Finduilas: *she hands him a hankerchief from the pocket of her apron, wondering what to make of it all*
Finduilas: *she says slowly* aye... i am real....
Frodo: *wipes his eyes with the handkerchief, then clasps her hand* I am so glad!
Finduilas: *her voice lowers* but my lord, i have sorry news for you.
Frodo: *His smile vanishes*
Frodo: What? *he asks in a hushed voice*
Finduilas: ceolwulf, elfhild, vardamir and aldir are still in the dungeon... and your banquet hall...please let me speak to you in private.
Frodo: *He remembers Ceolwulf and Elfhild well...Vardamir and Aldir he cannot quite picture*
Frodo: *He follows her* Are they alive? Are they all right?
Finduilas: *she dismisses the other servants around them and tells them to go back to their duties. the guards at the door open it for them, and she leads frodo inside the keep*
Finduilas: *she takes him to a small room off to the side, and closes the door behind her.*
Finduilas: i do not know how they fare in the dungeon, my lord. strange things happened while you were gone.
Frodo: Oh no
Frodo: *Fear is making him a little more alert*
Frodo: *He wishes to go and see them as soon as possible*
Finduilas: *she motions to the nearby table and bids him sit*
Frodo: *He sits*
Finduilas: would you like something to eat or drink, my lord? tea perhaps?
Frodo: Tell me quickly...then I must go to them
Finduilas: nay, there are guards, many guards at the dungeon. they will let no one pass... but my lord, you must see this.
Frodo: *Frodo's mind reels. He is torn between relief and sadness*
Frodo: *It is chiefly Ceolwulf and Elfhild who have been in his mind, who helped him resist the temptation to take his life, though he does not remember that now. But so great is his attachment to them, and now they are suffering some unknown fate just below him, but he cannot reach them*
Frodo: *This homecoming, this birthday is bittersweet*
Frodo: *He can hardly understand Finduilas--it takes all his effort to concentrate through his anger, frustration, and dimmed mind from the potion*
Narrator: *Finduilas begins to tell the story of what happened while Frodo was gone*
Narrator: *Years later, when the tale was finally put to ink and parchment, this is the way the chronicler recorded it in his book.*
Narrator: *On the first two nights of Frodo's absence, September 19 and 20, Vartang had summoned his nobles and friends to feasts. On September 21st, Vartang had received word that he would shortly receive a promotion for his loyal service to Sauron.*
Narrator: *To celebrate this event, Vartang had commanded that the third night's feast will be still greater and that there would be special entertainments provided and also the "company" of the fairest of the household staff.*
Narrator: *To himself, Vartang had bewailed the fact that he had ordered Elfhild to be confined in the dungeon, but he knew that the maiden had to "learn her lesson."*
Narrator: *Even more nobles packed Frodo's hall this night than the previous two. Elffled, Rian, Haleth, Lilandra and the other most comely serving wenches of Frodo's hall had been ordered to attend Vartang and his nobles.*
Narrator: *Orders had been given out that all the maids were to wear their best garments, perfumes from Khand which he had purchased for them and such jewelry as they posessed.*
Narrator: *Vartang had insisted that Elffled wear the emrald necklace that he had bought for her in the marketplace at Thagurzgoi. Vartang looked forward to this night with great eagerness and anticipation.*
Narrator: *The great hall was ablaze with torches and their light pierced the darkness almost as far as the most distant reaches of the hall which were still cloaked in shadow.*
Narrator: *The voices of the assembled nobles, who look forward to the third night of revelry, are loud and boistrous and many a wicked jest adds mirth to the evening.*
Narrator: *Before the feast is officially announced, the servants rush to and fro with great trays filled with drink, and some nobles have already become mellowed at the abundance.*
Narrator: *Vartang sits at the head of the table. His good friends, Pizbur Androg and Pizgal Ulfast, sit to Vartang's right and left.*
Narrator: *Seated further down the table are Haleth, Elffled, Rian, Lilandra and other serving girls who cannot help casting apprensive glances at each other.*
Narrator: *Rising from his seat and holding a tankard in his upraised hand, Vartang proclaims with a toast that the feast is to begin.* To the Master and His Lord Melkor! To the armies that will march triumphant! To war! To a bloody spring!
Narrator: *The nobles hold their tankards aloft and join him in the toast.*
Narrator: *Three courses of food are served. Between the courses, there are entertainments of jugglers, bards, and after the third course, a wandering entertainer with a trained bear, a special treat that Vartang has provided for his guests.*
Narrator: *Vartang sits in his great chair, feeling well pleased with himself.*
Narrator: *Throughout the feast, the slave women are silent, wishing with all their hearts that Frodo were there to save them from the degradation which they fear is sure to come*
Narrator: *After the table has been cleared, the musicians play in the background, and the servants carry great trays brimming with beer, wine, mead, stout and ale. Vartang holds a tankard of ale in his right hand and says to his nobles*
Narrator: Are not the slave women of Vartang very fair and enticing! Can like be found anywhere to compare to them!
Narrator: *The nobles' heads turn to look at the women and their faces are rank with grins and leers.*
Narrator: *As the night of drinking progresses, Vartang continuously looks at the females with an appreciating eye.*
Narrator: *After consuming quite a bit of every brew that was served, Vartang launches into a bawdy song about a shepherd lass and warrior on a fair green hill*
Narrator: *His nobles join him in the song and their voices join lustily in the chorus. The musicians increase their tempo as the song goes on.*
Narrator: *Vartang arises from the table and walks unsteadily to the large throne-like chair nearby on the dais.* Come to me, Rian and Elffled, sit upon my lap! *he commands*
Narrator: Haleth and Rian, show Androg and Ulfast your.... how shall I put it?... accomplishments *he laughs* Sit on their laps!
Narrator: *Androg and Ulfast push their chairs out. Androg beckons for Lilandra and Ulfast beckons for Haleth and the women go to them reluctantly, crimson blushes of shame written on their faces.*
Narrator: *Other nobles claim the rest of the maidens for the evening and drink much ale and wine.*
Narrator: *When the two women are on his lap, Vartang, his breath reeking with a mixture of different brews, smiles his wolfish grin at them, his perfect teeth gleaming* How well it is to be encompassed by such beauty!
Narrator: I want both of you *he looks from one to the other* to anticipate this evening as much as I do!
Narrator: *He puts one arm around Elffled and another arm around Rian and then tries to kiss Rian on the back of the neck. He then turns to Elffled, pulls her closer, and kisses her cheek*
Narrator: We shall have a good night tonight! *he says to them and laughs a wicked laugh*
Narrator: *The revelry hightens and the hall echoes with mirth. Some of the nobles, those who were not fortunate enough to have their laps blessed with beautiful women, are envious of their fellows.*
Narrator: *A few petty swabbles break out between them and goblets fly. Tempers rise and sseveral of them get to their feet and draw their swords.*
Narrator: *Vartang laughs in amusement at the display, his thoughts consumed with his plans for the rest of the evening.*
Narrator: *Laughing, Vartang picks up Rian and motions to Elffled to follow him. He looks at the nobles, some still at the point of blows and says* Carry on, my lords! I have better things to do!
Finduilas: Lord, it was terrible i tell you, terrible.
Frodo: *Frodo stares into Finduilas' eyes, completely in shock*
Frodo: *It is long before he can speak*
Finduilas: *she waits patiently for him to summon once more the ability to talk*
Frodo: *His unsteady body is held up by a hand that grips the edge of the table...the arm is rigid*
Frodo: *Finally he whispers, strained and furious*....He didn't!
Finduilas: it is the talk of all the servants this day. an absolute scandal!
Frodo: Elffled and Rian? *incredulous*
Finduilas: yes, i am afraid so... and all the other women of your household. i was only spared because i had to supervise the kitchen staff.
Finduilas: *she shakes her head* i am sorry that this is such a poor welcome for you.
Frodo: *He sits there numbly for a few moments....then suddenly jumps off the chair and with incredible strength, topples it and all the other chairs over*
Frodo: *knocks all Vartang's decorations off the table*
Finduilas: *her eyes widen* my lord! there is more!
Frodo: What could be worse! *he cries, still in the grip of an animal fury*
Finduilas: my lord, please sit back down! you must hear the rest!
Frodo: *flushed and shaking, he rights a chair and climbs back into it, surpressing his outburst*
Finduilas: if you had only been here! none of this would have ever happened!
Frodo: I am sorry! I am so sorry! But I could not help it!
Frodo: Curse them!
Finduilas: please, listen to the rest of the story!
Frodo: Curse them all!
Frodo: *on the verge of tears, he presses his temples and nods to her*
Narrator: *Finduilas continues with her tale. Right at that moment, a tall, gaunt, bearded figure clad in blue robes walks into the room and gazes upon the scene. He is scarcely noticed until he speaks.*
Narrator: *The old man said* The foul work of this night makes a din into the heavens!
Narrator: *Startled, Vartang slowly released Rian to her feet.* You fool! *Vartang said* How dare you disrupt this feast! Guards! Throw the old fool in the dungeon and keep him there until he rots!
Narrator: *The old man looked to Vartang, saying* Dark works for dark nights, I see, Lord Vartang. Such devilry must be exhausting!
Narrator: *Then, the old man held up his right hand and said* Caedo, losto!
Narrator: *Vartang and his nobles looked towards the man with mocking grins, but then their bodies slowly began to relax and their eyes began to close.*
Narrator: *Swords fell from hands and crashed to the floor. Goblets were overturned. Soon Vartang and all his nobles were slumped in their chairs or lay in the floor sound asleep.*
Narrator: *Then the old man said in a kindly voice to all the women* Leave now, maids!
Narrator: *The musicians looked upon the scene with astonishment and dismay, wondering how all the nobles fell asleep in exactly the same moment. Then they resumed their playing until the hour appointed for them to stop.*
Finduilas: and they still sleep now in the hall, my lord.
Frodo: *slowly raises his head from his hands* They do! *he says, astonished*
Finduilas: *she nods* aye, they still lie where they fell.
Frodo: *His slowed mind tries to process all she has said*
Frodo: *He looks around the room...looking for a weapon*
Frodo: *then he turns back to her* No one has come looking for them?
Finduilas: we look in from time to time, but still they sleep. dispatches have been brought for lord vartang, but he cannot read them and the hour draws on now to noon.
Frodo: Let them sleep *he says darkly*
Frodo: I have business with him....
Finduilas: *she shudders when she hears the manner in which frodo is speaking*
Frodo: *his fist clenches and a fey mood descends on him*
Finduilas: *she whispers* my lord! stay your anger!
Frodo: He shall not do this to my girls and live!
Finduilas: they were all asleep before they could aught, my lord. vartang and his louts sleep the slumber of the bewitched now.
Frodo: They were? *he leans forward, desperate for her to confirm it*
Finduilas: aye, my lord.
Finduilas: no amount of shaking will wake them up. all in the hall now sleep and all of vartang's men are afraid to go nigh them.
Frodo: *Relief descends upon him. The tension leaves him with such force that he falls off the chair and lands on his knees on the floor. He suddenly bursts into passionate tears...unsure exactly why*
Finduilas: *she gets out of her chair and kneels beside him, placing her hand gently upon his back* my lord?
Finduilas: now the old man is gone, and i do not know where he went.
Frodo: *He clings to her, unable to stop his tears, weeping as though for some great grief or suffering...but he cannot remember what it is*
Narrator: *Frodo, driven almost mad with rage, feels dark thoughts of murdering Vartang and his men while they sleep. It would be easy..... just cut Vartang's throat*
Finduilas: my lord, my lord *she says in calming tones* everything is all right. everyone is safe, and i do not think vartang will be holding another feast for a long time to come.
Frodo: *Frodo struggles to control himself. Soon he has stopped crying but his breath comes in gasps and he is still trembling*
Finduilas: while you were away, all of your things were packed. the order is to leave at dusk.
Finduilas: we had planned a small celebration for you, my lord. *she wonders if frodo is able to participate*
Frodo: *with an effort he manages to still the convulsive shaking...then he is overcome with exhaustion and struggles not to faint*
Frodo: Leave?....Where are we going?
Finduilas: *she shakes her head* i do not know where we are going, my lord.
Frodo: At least we will be together this time, I hope *he smiles sadly*
Finduilas: *she returns his sad smile* aye, we will all be together.
Finduilas: can you stand, my lord?
Frodo: *He stands and sways, rubs his hands over his face, and takes her hand, leaning on it in case he stumbles*
Finduilas: *she rises to her feet, still holding onto his hand to aid him in standing*
Frodo: Where are the others?
Finduilas: everyone is busy with last minute packing and cooking, except the four in the dungeon.
Frodo: *wipes a few stray tears at the mention of the four in the dungeon*
Frodo: Can I see them, the ones who are free?
Finduilas: *she is filled with confusion at frodo's changed apperance and behavior*
Frodo: I want to see Elffled and Rian...I cannot believe they are all right...until I have seen them
Finduilas: of course, my lord. *she tries to smile reassuringly* wait here and i shall fetch them.
Frodo: No! *cries suddenly, afraid to be alone...perhaps it will all vanish*
Frodo: Oh...I am sorry...
Finduilas: *she looks at him, puzzled at his sudden outbursts of emotion*
Frodo: I think...I think I will come with you *smiles nervously*
Finduilas: *she smiles back at him uncertainly* then we must go to the kitchen.
Finduilas: *she gestures for frodo to follow her, and leads him through corridors and hallways, until they reach the kitchen, a very large room built upon the side of the keep.*
Frodo: *He follows her into the kitchen*
Finduilas: *a few fires stil remain blazing in the fireplace, their heat going to the ovens to the side of the fireplace where last minute baking is being done*
Frodo: *cringes away from the fires and stumbles, falling to his knees...then gets back up, dizzy, and wondering why he reacted that way*
Finduilas: *the servants are busy cleaning pots and pans and taking things out of the kitchen to be loaded in the wains*
Finduilas: *rian and elffled, who had been ordered by vartang not to work that much in the kitchen, have fled there, seeking sanctuary*
Finduilas: *finduilas bends down and whispers to frodo.* the poor girls have been here ever since...last night.
Frodo: *Frodo bites his lip and shakes his head in pity*
Finduilas: they are still frightened, and fear that he will be back for them.
Frodo: He won't. I am here now.
Finduilas: *elffled and rian greet frodo when they see him*
Frodo: *Frodo holds out his arms to them*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled and rian rush to frodo, kneel before him and embrace him*
Frodo: *Frodo's tears turn to tears of happiness*
Frodo: *He strokes their hair and reassures them*
Frodo: It's all right, my dear girls, I am back now...*though his voice is weary and still slurred*
Elffled and Rian: *the girls still wear their party dresses from the night before. elffled wears the green velvet dress with the yellow underdress, and rian is clad in sky-blue silk with a white underdress*
Frodo: *The colors of the room blend together and swirl before his dazed eyes*
Elffled and Rian: *they say* my lord! we are so glad you are back!
Frodo: *Why should he be afraid that this is not real? Why wouldn't it be? But he cannot shake the feeling*
Elffled and Rian: *they had wondered if he would return or not, but it seemed he was of high importance wiht the dark lord, so they did not know...*
Frodo: So am I! I am so glad to see you again
Narrator: *Over near the fireplace sits Lilandra and Haleth. Lilandra is heart broken because her husband has been in the dungeon for three days now. Haleth and Lilandra talk together, commersating with each other*
Frodo: *Frodo hears their voices and looks to them*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled and rian rise to their feet* do you know where we are going, my lord?
Frodo: *shakes his head* No. I just heard we are leaving
Frodo: ...I don't know where
Lilandra: *her mind is a mess of thoughts as she is trying hard to concentrate on Haleth's words, who is just concentrating on keeping to the subject of her daughter... they are both clouded with emotions of recent events*
Frodo: But I must go to them *nods toward Haleth and Lilandra*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled and rian nod to frodo*
Frodo: I heard....*blinks hard* I heard their husbands....Lilandra's husband is still in the dungeon
Lilandra: *though her dazed mind she hears a different voice and she looks over her shoulder slowly*
Frodo: *he crosses the room to Haleth and Lilandra, stopping midway to steady himself at a table*
Elffled and Rian: *the girls look to each other..... didn't frodo know that haleth's husband had died?*
Haleth: *she looks over to frodo, who approaches, stumbling slightly*
Frodo: *He reaches them* My dear ladies, I am sorry they took me away....I heard....last night...but bless the old man!....and I am back now *smiles at them*
Haleth: *she rises from her seat and bows* welcome back, my lord.
Frodo: Thank you! *he bows to them, but then stumbles*
Lilandra: *the tale of her sadness and weeping is written on her face...she looks up with her red rimmed and puffy eyes and gasps lightly*
Haleth: *she looks to him to nod to her so she can resume sitting*
Frodo: *He remembers to nod to Haleth*
Haleth: aye, if it weren't for the old man...... *she trails off, and resumes sitting*
Lilandra: *she looks over him completely and thinks of her husband...yet again...her raspy voice whispers*... What such sorcery is this?
Haleth: i do not know but if it weren't forthe old man.... then things would have gotten ugly.
Lilandra: *her eyes roam Frodo's rejuvinated body and face*
Frodo: *Again his eyes glaze over completely and he replies with a voice almost not his own* I was...healed by...the Dark Lord.
Haleth: *she gasps*
Lilandra: *her eyes narrow and she nearly lunges at him* Liar!
Lilandra: you lied to me..you lied to us....my husband. Vardamir was right
Frodo: *The room slowly comes back into focus*
Lilandra: *she cries out in hysterics*
Haleth: you were....healed by the dark lord?
Frodo: *He becomes even more bewildered and upset at Lilandra's cries*
Lilandra: *her hands wrap around his neck*
Haleth: *she rises to her feet* please! let him go!
Lilandra: *tears streak her face* how could you lie to us? release Aldir now!
Frodo: I did not lie to you! I am not loyal to Sauron I never was!
Frodo: I never wanted them in the dungeon and I want them freed too!
Frodo: It is Vartang's order! I wish he were dead!
Lilandra: *her cries turn to sobs as she slides down his body. her fists clutch his clothes*
Frodo: *with shaking hands he embraces her tentatively*
Lilandra: *she trembles*
Frodo: We will get him out....
Frodo's Ring: *the ring on frodo's finger seems to purr seductively, promising him great power, and clouding his mind with visions of lordship over vast realms. remember your promises.... the ring says.*
Frodo: I don't know how... but we will
Frodo: *Right now, great realms do not seem quite as important as the plight of the people before him*
Lilandra: *she looks in his eyes* i don't trust this place..or you...or them...or anything
Frodo: *bites his lip and tries to nod, swaying*
Narrator: *In Frodo's Hall, the nobles lie sprawled upon the floor, sound asleep. Some lie upon their backs, their wine glasses having rolled out of their hands. Others lie with their fingers touching the hilts of their swords*
Narrator: *Two are locked with their hands clenched around the other's neck. There is spilled wine upon the floor, broken bottles, food half eaten and dropped*
Narrator: *Slowly Vartang begins to wake up, his head pounding. At last, he stumbles to his feet and looks around himself stupidly*
Narrator: *Other nobles begin waking from their sleep and as each wakes up, he looks at the other, confused, dismayed*
Narrator: *They silently go out of the hall, as though in a trance, walking through the hallways, their servants catching up with them, but none speak and some must be led by the hand by servants*
Vartang: *Vartang looks at them and wonders who they are, but then his senses begin to return to him. He thinks to himself.... too much draught, but it must have been a grand feast!*
Vartang: *He walks out through the hall, and smells food cooking. Ah, the kitchen, he thinks. At the thought of food, he begins to retch and holds onto the side of the hall to keep from falling*
Vartang: *He walks, staggering towards the kitchen, holding onto the wall as he goes*
Vartang: *He walks through the kitchen door, shaking his head and another wave of nausea hits him. He looks to Frodo* Shakh, I see you are finally back. Have a good time?
Haleth: *haleth looks towards vartang and bows as he enters. few others in the kitchen notice vartangs presence, so busy are they to load everything into the wains and to cook the meals before they leave and for the journey*
Frodo: *The dark look returns to his face. His voice is the hardest it has ever been* Get out!
Lilandra: *she inhales sharply at Vartang's presense and slinks back from Frodo and nears the fireplace*
Vartang: Lilandra, fetch me a chair. I need to sit
Frodo: Leave them alone! Leave us all alone!
Frodo: *each word is hard and pointed as a dagger* Get out!
Vartang: Shakh, you would turn an ill man out of his own hall?
Lilandra: *her shivering body moves to get a chair..anger and fear well up in her and she brings it to him*
Frodo: *He looks longingly to the knives for a moment*
Vartang: *he sits down in the chair, shaking his head and hoping his unruly stomach will control itself*
Frodo: Then go rest in your room if you are ill
Lilandra: *when her deed is done she begins to move away*
Vartang: Shakh, it is quite good here. I will stay
Vartang: Perhaps in a while, I will feel up to a goblet of wine. *The thought again sends his stomach turning. He thinks to himself.... I need wine*
Vartang: Perhaps a cold cloth would help? Lilandra, fetch up a bucket of water from the well
Frodo: *Frodo's eyes dart from Vartang to the women and back*
Vartang: Fetch it and be quick about it
Frodo: *but after a few times back and forth his head swims too much*
Lilandra: *she hurries over to the well.. lowers the bucket and then goes to get a cloth and brings them both back to him..places it at his feet*
Vartang: *He wonders why he woke up in the great hall instead of in his room. The events of the night are a blur*
Vartang: *All he can remember were some of the most wonderous dreams he had ever had in his life and he yearned to recapture them*
Vartang: *He looks over to Rian, Elffled and Lilandra with a knowing smile*
Frodo: *Frodo hisses and begins to rush toward him with an angry insult, but falls to his knees halfway there, his head in his hands*
Vartang: Shakh, did you drink too much too when you were at Lugburz? *he is cheered at that insult*
Frodo: *He struggles to his feet and finds a chair, then climbs into it, an island amid a swirling sea*
Frodo: I....I don't remember
Elffled and Rian: *elffled and rian wonder what vartang thinks in his drunken mind, but then again... they do not really want to know.*
Elffled: *elffled goes over to frodo and looks at him with concern* my lord?
Frodo: *Frodo squints up at her...her face is blurry*
Frodo: I am all right *he rubs his hands over his face again*
Vartang: My ladies, all most handsome and fair, perhaps another night *he manages a wolfish smile, flashing his perfect teeth*
Lilandra: *she stands behind the others...further from Frodo than the others...far from Vartang..she shuts her eyes tightly and shudders...relieved that she was rescued from the groping hands of another man.. she strifles cry as her mind thinks of her husband..when would she see him?*
Vartang: *He bends down, dips the rag in the bucket and puts it on his throbbing head*
Frodo: Never again! *he manages* Never, Vartang, if I can help it
Frodo: You...you...*he cannot think of an insult strong enough*
Vartang: *He holds the rag in his hand and looks to Elffled and Rian* Perhaps if you were kisses were as earnest now as they were last night, I would feel better... *he looks at them with a wicked grin*
Elffled: *elffled and rian both turn crimson. elffled bends down and whispers in frodo's ear* he is a liar!
Frodo: *whispers back to her* I know! Oh, I hate him
Frodo: *He slides off the chair and grips Elffled and Rian protectively by the hands*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled and rian hold frodo's hands. elffled whispers to Frodo* he is a piece of filth; it is natural that his mouth would spew it forth.
Frodo: *It takes him a moment to understand the insult, but then he smiles a little at its wittiness*
Vartang: *Vartang thinks he could overhear her whisper, but he could not hear all the words*
Vartang: Shakh, I know that you will miss my company but there is still much to do to prepare for your leaving
Vartang: I always keep in mind how impressed you are at the sight of the third son of the King of Khand *he says maliciously, hissing the words*
Elffled: *elffled shoots vartang a fiery look, then turns her head away*
Frodo: *He glares back, trying to remain standing up straight*
Vartang: But there is a matter of which I must talk to you in private
Frodo: *Dread fills him*
Vartang: *he puts the rag back to his forehead* Now I feel better
Vartang: But still..... Elffled, my shoulder muscles are sore. It seems I slept elsewhere than my own bed. Perhaps you know something about that? *he says with a mocking leer*
Frodo: *He is unaware that he holds the girls' hands tighter. "Don't leave me alone with him," he wants to cry to them...but he maintains his defiant front*
Elffled: *elffled turns her head back to vartang, glares at him, marches over to him and steps behind his chair. oh how she would love to stick a knife in his back!*
Elffled and Rian: *rian continues to stand by frodo's side, holding his hand, and wondering at her master's strange behavior. elffled begins to massage vartang's shoulders, loathing every moment of it.*
Vartang: ahhh *he says* a bit more to the left. Perhaps I should have bought you for my personal slave
Frodo: *Frodo sways and begins to lean against Rian in spite of himself*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled's fingers twitch, but she surpresses her anger, kneading vartang's muscles vigorously, wishing to bring him pain*
Elffled and Rian: *rian holds frodo up, biting her lip and wondering what will happen next in this mad realm in which they live*
Vartang: *Vartang shuts his eyes, then reaches back to Elffled's hand on his shoulder*
Vartang: You are very good at this, fair maiden
Elffled and Rian: *elffled does not dignify vartang with a response and moves her hand away from his*
Vartang: Playful today, I see. I like that in a maid. Shows you have a little spirit!
Frodo: *hating this scene, Frodo suddenly remembers a way to stop it* Vartang, I must speak with you as well
Elffled and Rian: *elffled sighs heavily, sounding much put upon.* how fares my sister in the dungeon?
Vartang: But, I suppose I will settle only for a kiss now, for I have business with the shakh. He grabs her hand on his shoulder and pulls it to his mouth and kisses it*
Elffled and Rian: *as soon as he lets go elffled pulls her hand backwards and wipes it on her dress*
Frodo: *gritting his teeth* Those in the dungeon must be released, or they will fall sick...if Ceolwulf is even still alive
Vartang: Ah, shakh..... if she wants, she can have many more kisses. She was eager last night. *he looks around at her and smiles*
Frodo: You lie *he hisses*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled looks at frodo desperately, feeling that her reputation is at stake*
Frodo: *As much as his foggy expression can, he silently reassures her that he thinks the same of her as he always did*
Vartang: *he laughs* We know, my pretty maid, don't we? *he smiles*
Frodo: I do not believe a word you say, Vartang, you decrepit filthy snake
Vartang: But I am finished with you now, Elffled. Go back to your tasks
Elffled and Rian: *elffled retreats from vartang*
Vartang: Shakh *he says as he rises to his feet* I am far from decrepit. Ask the maids if you have doubts *he laughs at Frodo wickedly*
Frodo: *cringes again when Vartang laughs at him...seized with an unknown terror*
Elffled and Rian: *elffled grabs rian's hand and storms away into the kitchen*
Frodo: *Frodo is left alone with Vartang*
Vartang: What a pity. They all have such tempers in the morning *he shakes his head*
Vartang: Come now, Shakh. We must go to your former room. I have something for you
Frodo: First, what of those in the dungeon?
Frodo: *He stays leaning against a chair, waiting for the answer*
Vartang: Let your fears for your slaves in the dungeon be laid to rest. I will order their release. It is a trivial matter and little concern to me
Frodo: Are they well?
Frodo: Has Ceolwulf been beaten again?
Vartang: The matter will soon be out of my hands *a look of sly cunning comes over his face*
Vartang: Come. The kitchen is no place to discuss business
Vartang: *he walks out of the kitchen and motions for Frodo to follow him*
Frodo: *follows him, hanging onto the wall*
Frodo: Tell me!
Frodo: What happened to them?
Vartang: *He stops and speaks to the guard in the hall and says* Free the strawheads, but bind the other two in chains
Frodo: *worry for Vardamir and Aldir rises in him*
Vartang: They shall march all the way to Minas Artano with their hands bound behind them in chains
Frodo: No, they must be released too! Especially Aldir!
Frodo: Vartang...! *looks to him pleadingly*
Vartang: No, they cannot be. They are too dangerous
Frodo: Lilandra will die of a broken heart
Vartang: *another sly smile comes to his face. He continues walking down the hall until he gets to the door of Frodo's old room. He commands the orc guards to open it and they do so*
Vartang: *Vartang walks in first*
Frodo: *Frodo stumbles in moments later*
Vartang: Come, Shakh *he motions to him*
Vartang: *After Frodo is in the room, Vartang takes a key off his belt and locks the door*
Frodo: *He makes his way toward Vartang, wondering what will happen*
Vartang: Sit down, Shakh.
Frodo: *backs away*
Vartang: Room has been most comfortable the past few days. I shall miss it
Frodo: *sits down in the nearest chair out of fear*
Vartang: Now there is something for you that I must give you
Vartang: *He goes to the cabinet at the side of the room, opens the doors and takes out a brown wooden box of no special interest. It just seems an ordinary box, something one would put jewelry in, or letters*
Vartang: *He takes it and walks across the room and hands it to Frodo* Open it, shakh
Frodo: *Frodo takes it and opens it*
Vartang: *When Frodo opens the box, he sees Nine golden rings* These are from the marketplace, Shakh, as you ordered, made to your specifications
Frodo: I did...?
Frodo: *He frowns, trying to remember where the rings came from*
Vartang: Aye, Shakh, a few weeks ago, as a gift to show your undying esteem for your servants
Vartang: The master metalworker of the marketplace made them. See how they are designed with such cunning crafts?
Frodo: I...I...but they were...oh! *a rush of fear surges though him as he remembers the feeling of death drawing near in terrible forms, and sees the servants experiencing it too...*
Frodo: ...*but no clear images come to his mind*
Frodo: I don't remember ordering these *he says, bewildered*
Vartang: Touch them, Shakh. Are they not fine things?
Frodo: *He reaches into the box and touches them*
Vartang: Shakh, you ordered them. I, myself, wrote down the specifications *The rings are unadorned with any visible markings and wrought of the purest gold*
Frodo: *shakes his head, frowning* I can't remember...
Vartang: The first, Shakh, to receive one, is your manservant, Ceolwulf. He is the first
Frodo: There is something wrong!
Frodo: *but he cannot remember what is wrong...he begins to panic inwardly*
Vartang: This is appropriate is it not, Shakh, for he seems to be the leader?
Frodo: Then he is alive!
Vartang: Aye, Shakh, alive, although somewhat bruised and battered
Vartang: You will give each Ring in private to each servant. You will say it is your birthday gift to them
Frodo: You tortured him again, didn't you *he says with pure hate*
Vartang: Nay, Shakh. But one does not recover from whippings rapidly, and I wounded the fool's arm when he attempted to take my life
Frodo: *nods, relieved at least for that*
Vartang: *His voice now low and almost convincing* Do you have a choice to receive the second?
Frodo: *There is something sinister about the rings. Oh, Elbereth, if only he could remember*
Vartang: Make your choice, Shakh, your second
Vartang: A good choice, Shakh, a very good choice
Vartang: I shall summon the two of them from the dungeon so that you may present your gifts. Perhaps you wish to add a bit of lore about gift giving customs of the Shire *he says with total, malicious mocking*
Frodo: No, don't move Ceolwulf that far. I will go to his room
Vartang: Shakh, he will be leaving tonight at dusk. All of them will be
Vartang: He can yet walk, though gingerly
Frodo: *His eyes begin to sting again*
Vartang: A wain has been prepared for him
Frodo: Good. I want to ride with him
Vartang: *Vartang goes to the door, opens it, speaks a few words to the guard*
Vartang: Shakh, you have your own pony. I thought perhaps you would lead the column *he laughs* Do you not wish to lead your way to freedom?
Frodo: I do not think I am fit to ride *his head keeps drooping*
Vartang: But shakh, have you not been refreshed during your stay at Lugburz? And how were you healed? *he says, knowing the answer*
Frodo: *His eyelids flutter closed and he says automatically in a tired whisper* ...by the hand of Sauron
Vartang: Yes, His mercies are ever enduring *Vartang smiles a triumphant smile at Frodo*
Frodo: *His chin rests on his chest*
Elfhild: *down in the dungeon, elfhild paces the floor of her cell, unsure if it is day or night*
Narrator: *In the cell beside her, Ceolwulf lies sleeping on his stomach on a bed of straw, his back in too much pain to lie upon*
Narrator: *His wounded arm is bandaged. In spite of the orc draughts which he has been forced to drink for two days, the marks of the whipping are still raw. He wakes, and then he hears the creaking sound of his cell door being opened*
Narrator: All right matey *the orc guard says* it's time for you to go up above since the dungeon is not to your liking
Narrator: *They pull Ceolwulf roughly to his feet but he staggers with the shock of standing*
Elfhild: *she looks to the opposite wall of her cell fearfully, convinced that unseen presences lurk there, watching her*
Narrator: *Soon two more guards go to Elfhild's cell* All right, lass, time for you to go up above. We will miss you down here *they say and laugh, leering at her*
Elfhild: *she tries to ignore them and quickly steps out of the cell, eager to leave*
Narrator: *Half dragging, half carrying Ceolwulf, the orcs escort him up the stairs and to Frodo's room. Elfhild's guards are right behind with her*
Frodo: *Frodo starts when he hears their footsteps*
Elfhild: *she calls joyfully to ceolwulf ahead* ceolwulf! ceolwulf! you are alive!
Frodo: *Frodo hears Elfhild's voice and hurries to the door as fast as he can, opening it and then leaning in the doorway*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf's head is spinning and his back is throbbing* Elfhild *he says* they cannot kill a man of Rohan so easily!
Frodo: Elfhild!...Ceolwulf! *He falls to his knees with the rush of emotion at seeing them*
Elfhild: *she beams, patriotic passions being roused by his words* aye! indeed, they cannot.
Ceolwulf: *With the exertion, Ceolwulf almost falls into a faint*
Narrator: *The orc guards say to Vartang* Lord, where do you want im put?
Frodo: *They are still far down the hall, Ceolwulf making slow progress but Frodo watches them intently as well as he can make them out...he squints*
Narrator: *Vartang says* Toss him on the bed *and when they get to Frodo's room, the orcs throw Ceolwulf upon the bed*
Frodo: *Frodo winces in sympathy*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf groans as the orcs put him down roughly upon the bed*
Elfhild: *elfhild follows the orcs into the room, bowing to frodo* my lord! i am so glad to see you again!
Frodo: *Frodo embraces Elfhild*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf's back and chest are swathed in bandages, and he wears a dirty, tattered tunic over them*
Narrator: *The orcs bow profusely and leave the room*
Frodo: I am glad to see you too, my dear
Vartang: *Vartang walks over and locks the door again* Now, Shakh, you can commense your celebration
Ceolwulf: Frodo, I did not think I would ever see you again!
Frodo: *Frodo climbs onto the bed next to Ceolwulf carefully so as not to hurt him*
Elfhild: *elfhild smiles at frodo, tears beginning to well in her eyes. she sits upon the edge of the bed*
Frodo: *He cannot speak for a moment*
Ceolwulf: Frodo, Frodo *Ceolwulf says* My prayers went constantly to the Valar for you! Asking for your protection and for the strength to sustain whatever might come!
Ceolwulf: Were my prayers answered? You look so changed...
Frodo: *Then he reaches out and smooths his hair, and chokes, full of joy and sadness*...Brother! I have come back, and you are alive.
Elfhild: *she shifts position, looking to frodo and ceolwulf* aye, that he has. he looks years younger!
Frodo: While I was there?...I don't remember...*a strange dazed look is in his eyes*
Ceolwulf: *He looks to Frodo* My little brother by adoption, as close to me as kin, what has happened to you?
Frodo: *shakes his head and shrugs* I cannot remember anything that happened there...hardly anything. I have tried but I cannot
Frodo: *hopes he will not have to say more*
Vartang: *Vartang leans against the wall, one foot propped up against it. He yawns* Shakh.... My head throbs from the festivities of last evening. Commence now the giving of gifts!
Frodo: *Frodo seems distressed by these words*
Ceolwulf: Frodo, I have a gift for you
Frodo: *brightens* You do?
Ceolwulf: It was here, in this room
Ceolwulf: Where is it now? *he looks to Vartang*
Vartang: Your simple gift was impressive, manslave, and it is still here in this room
Ceolwulf: Where, where? *Ceolwulf cries*
Frodo: Shh, don't worry yourself, it is all right
Vartang: *Threateningly, Vartang says* Later, manslave, after your master has given you a priceless gift
Frodo: *Frodo bites his lip*
Vartang: Shakh, give them the gifts! Now!
Frodo: *He goes to the chair and picks up the wooden box and takes out two rings*
Elfhild: we have all prepared a gift for you, my lord, but we shall present it to you later.
Elfhild: *she watches frodo with curiosity*
Frodo: *His expression as he brings them to the bed is worried and apologetic...and even fearful*
Frodo: *He struggles to remember what is sinister about the rings...but all he can remember is that the slaves will die if he does not give them*
Elfhild: we have planned a party for you, my lord, for your birthay, and to welcome you back.
Frodo: Thank you! *smiles to her*
Frodo: *He climbs back onto the bed*
Frodo: Ceolwulf... *He is very hesitant*
Frodo: ...I must give this to you....*He knows what he is supposed to say...but cannot remember if it is true or not*
Ceolwulf: *He looks to Frodo questioningly*
Frodo: *Frodo feels for some reason like he is being forced to strike Ceolwulf himself*
Frodo: *briefly he thinks of Sam, but pushes the thought from his mind*
Ceolwulf: Frodo, what is it? *Ceolwulf lies upon his back, the worse position that the orcs could put him in* Let me sit up
Frodo: Oh yes, sit up..help him, Elfhild
Ceolwulf: *He moves in bed and tries to sit up*
Frodo: *Frodo takes his arm and tries to help him sit up without touching his back...which is difficult*
Elfhild: *elfhild helps him to the edge of the bed*
Vartang: *Vartang laughs at them all* That will teach you, slave man, to keep your place!
Ceolwulf: *He looks at Frodo's hand*
Frodo: *Frodo sighs and squeezes ceolwulf's good arm*
Frodo: *There is a ring in the open palm of Frodo's hand*
Ceolwulf: *He saw that it was a ring, and he does not understand why he is being given such a gift*
Frodo: *He holds Elfhild's ring in his other hand*
Ceolwulf: Frodo, upon which finger are we to wear these things? *he suspects there is something very dark about this ring*
Frodo: *Frodo's expression confirms his suspicion and shows that Frodo is just as afraid of it*
Elfhild: *elfhild shrugs* i suppose any finger.
Frodo: I do not know which finger
Frodo: I suppose, as Elfhild says.
Ceolwulf: *He looks into Frodo's eyes* Why are you so hesitant in giving this generous gift?
Vartang: Put it on, you fool! It is more than you deserve!
Frodo: *looks fearfully to Vartang, then whispers to Ceolwulf*....I don't remember!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf takes the ring reluctantly from Frodo's hand*
Vartang: Put it on the index finger of your right hand *he sneers*
Vartang: Halfwitted fool, do you not know anything!
Elfhild: *elfhild looks over to vartang and glares, then turns her attentions back to frodo and ceolwulf*
Vartang: Put it on, I do not have all day! We must leave at dusk!
Frodo: *Frodo holds his breath*
Ceolwulf: Frodo, I do not understand what is the importance of which finger
Frodo: *for some reason he fears the moment Ceolwulf puts it on*
Ceolwulf: I do not understand this gift at all
Frodo: Neither do I *he says softly*
Vartang: *Vartang goes to the door and unlocks it, orders the orcs in* Come lads, the halfwitted fool is incapable of doing anything
Frodo: No, no! Put it on!
Elfhild: *elfhild gasps...what is the meaning of this? they look like ordinary rings. why the commotion?*
Frodo: Don't touch him! *to the orcs*
Vartang: Put it on him, beat him senseless if you must! Put put it on him!
Frodo: Ceolwulf! Please put it on!
Frodo: Don't make them beat you
Narrator: *The orcs rush to do as they are commanded. They wrestle him to the bed. One holds him down, the other forces the ring upon his index finger*
Frodo: Oh, Ceolwulf...I am sorry
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf screams* No!
Elfhild: *elfhild screams* what is the sense in this?! this is madness! *she rushes to the orcs upon ceolwulf kicking and hitting at them*
Frodo: *lowers his head and covers his face*
Narrator: *Then the orcs release Ceolwulf and he falls back in a faint across the bed and knows no more*
Vartang: Hold her and put the ring on her! *he commands the orcs*
Frodo: *Frodo takes this chance to finally embrace him knowing he will not feel the pain*
Narrator: *One grabs her from behind and pins her arms. The other goes in front of her and forces the ring on her finger*
Frodo: *looks to Elfhild* My dear! I am sorry...but please don't make them hurt you
Elfhild: *she struggles with the orcs, wondering what is the cause of this madness*
Vartang: Maid, begone!
Frodo: Vartang, why are these rings so important?! Why can she not stay?
Vartang: Send in your most comely sister, unless the shakh has another for the third choice
Frodo: I thought I would never see her again...that is the last I remember
Elfhild: *as soon as the orcs let her go, she rushes over to ceolwulf's prone form and gently tries to rouse him*
Vartang: *He turns to the orcs* Lads, stay here. The others might be reluctant too. Assist your master, the Shakh, the Great Lord of the Hall
Vartang: Then let her remain, Shakh, it matters not to me
Vartang: Who is your choice for the third?
Elfhild: *she turns to vartang, angry tears in her eyes* vartang, have you gone mad?!
Vartang: Nay, maid, you will be able to answer your own question soon eough *he laughs, a wild laugh like the howling of a wolf*
Frodo: *shakes his head, almost mad with frustration* I don't know who. Who is your next victim?
Vartang: Victim, shakh? Hahahaha....
Frodo: *then he turns his attention back to Ceolwulf and tries to rouse him again*
Frodo: *"It's your Sam calling.." he hears faintly...but then the memory is gone*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf, beyond the possibility of waking, lies across the bed*
Vartang: Pick, Shakh, pick!
Frodo: *shakes Ceolwulf harder, growing alarmed* Ceolwulf!!!
Frodo: Oh Elbereth, wake up, Ceolwulf *he is close to tears*
Elfhild: *she sits on the bed beside ceolwulf. her eyes narrow and she hisses at vartang* vartang, has the wine you so freuqently consume finally destroyed your mind? all this madness for.....rings?!
Vartang: Maid *he laughs* you will see and you will find the ring most appealing soon enough, and perhaps you will find even me equally appealing
Elfhild: *she spits on the floor, in the direction of vartang*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf moans faintly, a feeling of pain rousing him to his senses*
Frodo: *looks up to Elfhild* He's alive!
Vartang: Here are your choices, Shakh, chosen by me, to receive the honor
Elfhild: aye, my lord, and no thanks to the swine over yonder!
Frodo: That's it my friend, wake up, my brother *he ignores Vartang...unable to even make himself care about the ringss*
Frodo: It is all right, Elfhild and I are here.
Vartang: Rian, Elffled, Arnasa, Finduilas, Lilandra, Aldir and Vardamir
Ceolwulf: *his first waking thought he speaks out loud* this gift, though a very generous one, is no more than any other ring
Ceolwulf: Thank you, Frodo, for giving me this gift *he says in a stuccato voice*
Frodo: *shakes his head and sighs*
Elfhild: *she looks down at her ring, not really noticing it before, her mind being preoccupied with the madness with ceolwulf, vartang and the orcs*
Elfhild: *she looks to frodo, and smiles hesitantly* aye, a generous gift. thank you, my lord.
Frodo: *equally hesitant*...you are...welcome.
Frodo: *gently to ceolwulf* Come now, you must turn over.
Ceolwulf: But what I cannot understand *he says hesitantly* is why it must be forced upon us
Ceolwulf: A good idea, Frodo. My back pains me greviously *he takes his feet and slowly rolls over in the bed on his stomach*
Frodo: Ceolwulf, do you really think it was I who ordered them to do that?
Ceolwulf: No, Frodo. There is something behind this business, but I understand it not
Vartang: *Vartang sends the orcs out to bring in the other seven slaves*
Frodo: *has a sudden thought* Where is Sador?...or Finduilas? We must get you something for this pain, Ceolwulf.
Vartang: It is not necessary, Shakh. He will live
Frodo: *raises his voice, clear for the first time since his return* IT IS NECESSARY!
Vartang: *First Vardamir is brought in, his hands chained behind his back*
Frodo: *then his head swims and he rubs his forehead*
Vartang: This pup of Gondor shall be the third
Elfhild: my lord? do you wish for me to fetch something for ceolwulf's pain?
Frodo: Yes, please!
Frodo: *with that taken care of, he lapses back into his half stupor*
Vardamir: Now, what new madness brings me to your room?
Elfhild: *elfhild bows to frodo, and leaves the room*
Vardamir: *He looks first to Frodo, then to Vartang, who meets his words with a laugh*
Frodo: *is silent, hoping Vartang will do the deed instead*
Vardamir: I have been in this place but a few days. First I was greeted by two lords of Mordor, who held little respect, one for the other, and then without cause, I was put in the dungeon. Next I found myself bound in chains and brought here
Frodo: I am sorry, Vardamir
Elfhild: *elfhild soon returns with a goblet filled with wine and a tincture of poppy-draught...*
Frodo: These things were not at my order but I am sorry for your treatment
Vardamir: I quite realize *he looks to both Frodo and Vartang* that all of you are quite insane
Elfhild: *she goes over to ceolwulf's side and calls softly* sir? this will help with your pain.
Frodo: *Frodo's mind is so confused that he thinks...that may well be, Vardamir*
Ceolwulf: *Slowly he lifts his head*
Elfhild: *she helps hold his head up and holds the goblet to his lips...aiding him in drinking*
Ceolwulf: *With difficulty, he drinks some of the wine*
Frodo: *Anger at Vartang burns in him as he sees Ceolwulf reduced to this*
Ceolwulf: Thank you *he says*
Elfhild: you are welcome *she says softly, putting the goblet upon the table near the bed*
Ceolwulf: *He looks to her eyes and slowly a smile wreathes his face*
Frodo: *Frodo begins to smile too*
Elfhild: *she looks into his eyes and she smiles*
Ceolwulf: *then his head goes back upon the bed and he looks at her from the side*
Frodo: *For a split second there is only the three of them again, with no agents of Mordor keeping watch over them....then Frodo remembers Vartang and his heart sinks*
Elfhild: *she gently strokes his face*
Frodo: *smiles....a good match indeed, he thinks as on the night they told tales*
Ceolwulf: *He smiles at her again* Rohan *he says* and the plains.... *then he falls asleep*
Frodo: *smiles gratefully to Elfhild*
Elfhild: yes... *she whispers, quietly yet passionately* rohan....
Vartang: How long will this display go on?
Elfhild: *elfhild turns her head towards vartang and glares at him with hatred*
Vartang: The hours hasten towards dusk and we have a journey of eight or nine days ahead of us!
Vardamir: What next, Lords of Mordor, do you have planned in your madness?
Vartang: Lads, put the ring on this cur! *the orcs have no trouble from the chained Vardamir. One holds him, while the other puts the Ring on him*
Vardamir: You are all mad!
Vartang: Take him out, lads! Let him walk behind the baggage wagons!
Vartang: *The orcs lead Vardamir away*
Frodo: *Frodo scoots back and leans against the headboard*
Vartang: *Vardamir still believes that they are all hopelessly and forever mad*
Frodo: *Now that Ceolwulf is all right, that rush of adrenaline has passed, leaving Frodo even dizzier and more exhausted*
Vartang: Lads! Bring the women in! We will make this quick
Vartang: *He turns to Frodo* Shakh, give them the rings yourself, or so help me, I will slay them all before you and find replacements
Elfhild: *finduilas, elffled, rian and arnasa are brought into frodo's room, and wait, wondering what will befall them this time*
Frodo: *Frodo is glad he has already seen Finduilas, Elffled, and Rian*
Frodo: *He slides off the bed, stumbles to the box and takes the remaining four rings*
Vartang: *As Rian walks into the room, Vartang grabs her around the waist and holds a dagger to her throat. He forces her to Frodo* put the Ring on her finger, Shakh!
Rian: *rian gasps, feeling the blade to her throat...she does everything vartang commands her to do*
Frodo: *gasps* Vartang!!!
Frodo: *He rushes to Rian with the ring and puts it on her finger as quickly as he can*
Frodo: *The other three rings fall to the ground...he picks them up*
Vartang: *He releases her* The others, Shakh
Rian: *rian rubs her neck, and looks down at her finger, wondering what in middle earth just happened*
Frodo: *nods fearfully to Vartang and puts the other rings on the women, meeting their eyes apologetically*
Frodo: Rian, are you all right?
Rian: *each of the women look at frodo, then the rings upon their fingers, then at vartang and the chaos in the room*
Frodo: *he hangs onto the bedpost*
Rian: *she looks to frodo, saying softly* yes, my lord. i am just confused
Frodo: *laughs softly* So am I
Narrator: *Last to be brought in are Aldir, in chains, and Lilandra, beside him*
Frodo: *looks to them with deep pity*
Vartang: These are the last ones, Shakh, then your task will be done
Vartang: Put the Rings on them yourself
Frodo: *apologetic, almost fearful, he puts the ring on the chained Aldir*
Narrator: *Lilandra and Aldir look at Frodo questioningly*
Frodo: *then he moves to Lilandra*
Frodo: These are....these are...*looks to Vartang*
Aldir: Frodo *Aldir says* What is the meaning of this? *His wife clings to his arm with fear in her eyes*
Vartang: Gifts from the Great Shakh! Take them. He is most generous!
Aldir: *Aldir says to Lilandra* He is a friend. He means no harm. Take it
Frodo: *He takes Lilandra's hand hoping she will not struggle...*
Frodo: *He slips the ring onto her finger then kisses her hand*
Frodo: *bows, then steps back from them*
Frodo: *stumbles backwards to the bedpost*
Aldir: Thank you, friend, but I do not understand, no more than does my wife
Frodo: You are welcome....friend *sad smile*
Frodo: *softly* No more than do I
Rian: *all of the women wonder, too, about the meaning of this all.*
Vartang: Now go, all of you except Elfhild and the halfwitted fool who must remain here until he is loaded upon a wain
Frodo: Vartang, anyone who wishes may lead or ride the pony. I am going to ride with Ceolwulf and Elfhild.
Rian: *elffled, rian, finduilas and arnasa bow to frodo and reluctantly to vartang and leave the room*
Narrator: *Aldir and Lilandra bow to Frodo too, questions running through both their minds, and leave the room*
Vartang: *After they are gone, Vartang locks the door again*
Frodo: *moves closer to the bed where Ceolwulf is*
Vartang: Now, Shakh, the deed is done. *he laughs and sneers at Frodo*
Frodo: Yes...*he thinks: What have I done?*
Vartang: *He bows, a pretentious, wide, sweeping bow* Hail Lord of the Rings! *he laughs fiendishly*
Frodo: *His eyes blaze*
Frodo: *his fists clench and he trembles with rage*
Elfhild: *elfhild gets up off the bed suddenly, and stands facing vartang* keep your foul tongue between your teeth!
Vartang: May you, though a petty ring lord, begin to know in the depths of your soul how firmly joined you are to the only Ring Lord!
Frodo: *hisses* Never!
Vartang: *Laughs harder* you will see soon enough
Vartang: Elfhild, now, my comely one, try to take the ring from your finger
Frodo: No, don't hurt her!
Frodo: *holds out a warning hand palm out*
Elfhild: *she studies vartang's face* what is your game now, swine?
Vartang: *His hands clench in and out*
Vartang: *He walks over to her and slaps her across the face* Try to take it off as I have said!
Elfhild: *he catches her off balance and she falls to the floor*
Frodo: *rushes to her*
Elfhild: *she looks up to him and says with cold, icy fury* you have your brutes attack me and force me to wear this ring, and then you want me to take it off? truly the wine has destroyed what little mind you had.
Vartang: *He laughs at her, cold and cruel*
Vartang: You did not want this gift. Now thrust it from you!
Frodo: Vartang! Please! *remembers the incredible pain in his heart when he tried to take off his ring*
Elfhild: *her eyes narrow as she looks up to him* very well then. what does it matter anyway? *she takes her left hand and wraps her fingers around the ring, attempting to slide it off*
Vartang: Is it not, my fair maid, too pretty a bauble to throw away so recklessly?
Elfhild: *she grits her teeth and hisses* you told me to!
Vartang: *He laughs again at her, his mirth almost too much for him to bear*
Narrator: *The Ring on Elfhild's finger seems to groan as though hurt, then Elfhild can feel a pain running from her finger to her heart and it seems a hand clutches her heart in a cold and icy grip*
Elfhild: *she feels a reluctance to take off the ring, and then a pain in her heart. she looks up to vartang, trying to mask confusion on her face*
Elfhild: why do you wish me to take it off? *she asks hesitantly*
Frodo: *kneels behind her and supports her, his hands on her shoulders, knowing the pain she must feel from the ring*
Vartang: Your Master shall tell you, maid
Frodo: *looks at Vartang confusedly*
Vartang: But now, I will take my leave of you. There are still preparations yet to be made for our departure
Frodo: We will need help getting Ceolwulf to the wain.
Vartang: Be ready by dusk
Vartang: Shakh, that has already been taken care of. Your manslave will be taken to the wain. The pony will be tied behind
Vartang: Now, shakh, learn the lessons of the Ring. It has much wisdom to impart to you
Vartang: *he turns on his heel, leaves the room. The orcs follow him*
Frodo: *narrows his eyes*
Elfhild: *she rises to her feet and sits once more upon the bed... this day had been madness, with the whole ring affair. first it is forced upon her....why, she did not know. she would gladly have accepted it. then vartang wanted her to remove it, after going to so much trouble to get it upon her finger. and yet she did not want to remove it. she sighs heavily, her head hurting*
Frodo: Elfhild, are you all right by yourselves in the kitchen? I might not be much help in preparing anyway.
Frodo: I don't remember what happened, but I can't think straight and I'm ready to drop.
Elfhild: *she nods at frodo* aye, we shall be fine. vartang rarely comes in there, and there are many to help pack the wains.
Frodo: Very well. I will stay with Ceolwulf until we leave
Elfhild: *she looks to frodo hopefully* perhaps later, we shall have your party... after you have rested?
Frodo: *brightens* Oh yes!
Frodo: ...but I have no presents for you...other than the rings *his face falls*
Frodo: I will make it up to you later.
Elfhild: *she smiles at him reassuringly* do not worry my lord! your gifts were indeed grand, though i would have wished being given them under....different...circumstances.
Elfhild: my lord, may i have leave to return to the kitchen?
Frodo: Of course!
Elfhild: *she bows to frodo and turns to go* i hope you feel better, my lord.
Elfhild: *she waits* yes..?
Frodo: *He holds out a hand to her* Let me look at you
Frodo: I can't believe...*trails off*
Elfhild: *she turns back to frodo and approaches him. she is confused* i do not understand..
Frodo: I can't convince myself that this is real *he says softly* that you are really here
Elfhild: *she smiles hesitantly* i am real, my lord. i am really here.
Frodo: It seems I have been gone forever though I do not know what happened
Elfhild: you are back with us now, my lord, and there you will stay *i hope...she thinks*
Frodo: *smiles* Yes...yes I am
Frodo: *He curls up on the bed to rest next to Ceolwulf*
Elfhild: but the kitchen calls my lord. i shall see you again, later this day.
Frodo: *nods to her* Until then
Elfhild: *she bows and leaves the room*
Frodo: *He is already half asleep*
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