THE HUNT BEGINS
Morning of November 7, 3019
Frodo portrayed by Hobbitness
Lilandra portrayed by FreeFall
Rian portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator, Orodor, Vartang portrayed by Wraith
Frodo: *Frodo spent the early
morning of November 7 in his room, still trying to talk to Ceolwulf
through his ring as long as possible*
Frodo: *Frodo knew the moment when Ceolwulf was taken from his cell, and he could feel every wave of shock and anger that burst over Ceolwulf's mind at the abuses of his orc guards*
Frodo: *Frodo tried to help Ceolwulf, to increase his strength, but the farther away Ceolwulf was taken, the fainter his voice became, and Frodo was no longer able to help him*
Frodo: *Frodo began to pray to the Valar for Ceolwulf, the same prayer that Ceolwulf had said for him the night he was deathly ill in Nurn*
Frodo: *By the time Frodo was finished, he could no longer sense Ceolwulf. He buried his face in his pillow and broke down completely, in the privacy of his room, but soon it is time for breakfast, and Frodo has to still his emotions to keep up the front for Aldir.*
Frodo: *He washes his face, dresses, and trudges down the hall, hoping that no one will notice how tired and upset he looks.*
Frodo: *Now he sits at the table. Rian has just brought his breakfast. Frodo smiles at her, trying to keep up a cheerful front*
Rian: *Rian sets the tray holding Frodo's breakfast down on the table in front of him. she smiles to him and says* Good morning, my lord!
Frodo: Good morning, Rian. Did you sleep well?
Rian: *she nods* Aye. And how are you this morning?
Frodo: I am well *he tries to put a merry ring in his voice*
Rian: *she senses that something is troubling him, but she does not know if she should ask, since he said naught and seems to be trying to hide it. So she says, smiling* That is good.
Frodo: I hope Aldir is better though.
Rian: *she nods* I was about to ask you about that. Do you know how he fares this morning?
Frodo: No, I have not been in to see him yet
Frodo: I will go after breakfast
Rian: Lilandra was very upset about his taking ill. I hope he feels better soon.
Frodo: Yes, so do I. They will both feel much better when he recovers *smiles*
Narrator: *A hesitant and light knock is heard on Frodo's door*
Frodo: *Frodo begins to eat the breakfast Rian has brought. His fork pauses midair at the knock, and his brow furrows*
Frodo: Who is it?
Rian: *she turns her head towards the direction of the door*
Narrator: *The knock becomes louder, more insistent*
Frodo: Ah...come in.
Narrator: *He can hear a whisper* Let me in!
Rian: Here, my lord, let me get that.
Frodo: *nods, alarmed* All right
Rian: *She walks over to the door and opens it for the newcomer, looking to see a man at the door but instead seeing a lad of about eleven.*
Orodor: Close the door quick! *he exclaims as he comes in*
Frodo: *Frodo's eyes widen*
Rian: *she does as she is bidden and quickly closes the door, then turning to the boy, she asks* What is wrong?
Frodo: *He wonders what a little boy is doing here*
Orodor: Perhaps nothing is wrong... but perhaps everything is wrong. I am from the stables, one of the stable boys. My name is Orodor
Frodo: Hello Orodor, pleased to meet you.
Orodor: *He looks around the room* I've never been here before. My, but this is fine
Frodo: Yes...but lad--Orodor--why are you here?
Frodo: What is the matter?
Rian: Come if you will and sit down, and talk to the Master. *she beckons towards the table where Frodo is sitting*
Orodor: I don't even know who the Master is. I have never been here before. Who is the Master?
Rian: Oh! I did not know that. He is the Lord Frodo Baggins, who sits at the table yonder.
Frodo: That's what they call me. Come, sit. I'm Frodo Baggins.
Orodor: But he is a lad like me!
Rian: *she laughs* Nay. He is a halfling.
Frodo: *genuine smile* No, I am quite old.
Orodor: I have heard of them *he says as he walks to the table and takes a seat*
Rian: *she follows him and takes a seat on the other side of Frodo and the boy*
Frodo: Then do I have the honor of being the first halfling you've ever seen?
Orodor: Oh! *he says as he puts his hand up to his mouth* I am supposed to bow to Masters
Orodor: *He gets up from his seat, goes over to Frodo, bows to his knees and puts his forehead down on the floor* Hail Master!
Frodo: For Eru's sake, lad, get up!
Frodo: There's no need for that *flushes scarlet*
Orodor: Yes, Master *he says as he gets to his feet*
Frodo: *This boy looks a little like Sam did when Frodo first met him*
Orodor: Indeed, Master, you are the first halfling I have ever seen
Frodo: Well, pleased to meet you then
Orodor: *he assumes a confidential air and leans towards Frodo* I have important matters to talk to you about, grave matters indeed
Frodo: *nods* Tell me!
Orodor: You see, it is this way *he looks to Frodo and then to Rian* I got up this morning, well before dawn. We sleep in the loft above the barn
Rian: *she leans forward slightly, listening intently to the boy's words*
Orodor: And so I came down the ladder and I looked for Vardamir to see what he wanted me to do first, but he was not there!
Orodor: *he looks around, wondering what this reaction will have on the Master and the girl who sits nearby*
Rian: *she looks to Frodo, uncertainly*
Frodo: *frowns in concern* What do you mean he was not there? *prays that no one will realize he is feigning*
Orodor: *he quickly puts his hands on his chest and then extends them up in the air* He was gone!
Orodor: And not only that, but three horses, three saddles, three bridles, three halters, three saddle bags, three feed bags, grain and many other things are gone too
Orodor: All the stable boys are astir. Everyone is looking for him *he says breathlessly*
Frodo: *widens his eyes, gasps, puts his hand to his mouth...then appears to think for a while*
Rian: *she wonders what this all means... it certainly appears that Vardamir has run away*
Frodo: So Vardamir has escaped
Orodor: *he nods his head up and down vigorously* Yes, Master, he is a runaway!
Frodo: He has wanted to run away from the moment he set foot here
Rian: *she worries for Vardamir's safety, for doubtless if he is caught, he will be slain*
Orodor: Now, Master, do you want me to run up the hill and sound the alarm? I am very fast. They will know in a short space of time!
Frodo: His desire to escape made him a poor servant...I think perhaps we are better off if you do not sound the alarm.
Frodo: He will have his freedom, and I will have a better stable hand.
Orodor: But the guards at the Citadel... don't you want them to organize a search party, get hounds and go after him?
Orodor: It would be very exciting!
Frodo: *waves his hand* No, it is not worth the trouble. It would only cause more trouble.
Rian: *she studies Frodo's face as he speaks*
Orodor: *A look of disappointment goes over Orodor's face* No, no, Master, it wouldn't be any trouble. I can run very fast. I have won many races. Let me go and tell them
Frodo: No, Orodor, you are not to sound the alarm
Orodor: But Vardamir is a horse thief! Took three of the best horses!
Frodo: It is regrettable, a terrible loss, and a crime on his part...but there will be more horses to buy. I am tired of putting up with his rebellion
Frodo: I think we are all better off this way.
Rian: *She suspects that Frodo speaks ill of Vardamir to protect him, for her lord does not usually speak ill of anyone, save those from Mordor.*
Frodo: *Frodo feels that if one of the servants actually had run away to escape, he would not send out a search for them...so in a way this is not entirely a lie.*
Rian: *How much Frodo is involved in this, she does not know, nor does she think it would be good to know. She just nods and says* Aye, he was a worthless servant. Good riddance.
Frodo: *He is surprised at Rian's words, but can guess the reason why she says them*
Frodo: *turns back to Orodor* Well, thank you for letting me know, Orodor.
Orodor: *Orodor looks disappointed at this opportunity for excitement, to escape, so he tries again*
Orodor: I counted them, three horses, three saddles, three bridles, three feed bags, three saddle bags, ropes, grain, and more! And you are letting him get away?
Frodo: Yes, lad, that's what I said. You are not to sound the alarm!
Orodor: *he bows his head, looking totally crestfallen* But I ran all the way here to tell you!
Orodor: I wanted to see them take out the hounds and turn them loose on the trail. I wanted to see the soldiers on their horses as they went to look for him!
Frodo: Oh, well, I am sorry for your disappointment, but all that must not be. Here's for your trouble. *hands him one of Finduilas' cakes from his breakfast plate*
Rian: *she looks at the boy sympathetically* I am sorry, but there will be other times. Maybe sometime Master will go on a hunt, and you can go with him...
Frodo: Yes, there will be other chances for excitement *smiles at the lad*
Orodor: *His eyes brighten up at the sight of one of the cakes and he rubs his stomach* I have not eaten yet this morning
Frodo: Come back and visit.
Orodor: But the hounds.... *he takes a cake and starts to eat it*
Frodo: Take another one then *hands him another one*
Orodor: Thank you Master *he says as he takes the second cake*
Orodor: Nothing ever happens around here *he says mournfully as he gets up from the table*
Orodor: *He starts to bend his knees and bow to the floor*
Frodo: No no no, get up
Orodor: *he looks up to Frodo* I am supposed to do this every time I see the Masters. If I don't, they will have me beaten
Frodo: *his eyes flash* They will? Who will?!
Orodor: *he gets up from his knees* They all do. Any of them!
Frodo: Any of who?
Rian: *she looks to the boy and says* Well, Lord Frodo will most definitely NOT have you beaten for anything.
Frodo: *smiles to Rian* That's for certain
Frodo: And if anyone threatens to beat you, or your friends, send them to me first *winks*
Orodor: *He starts to eat the second cake* Master, didn't you not know when a slave goes down the street, he must bow to the Masters... to those... *a frightened look comes to his eyes* to those... who invaded...
Orodor: *he finishes the second cake and looks over to the table* More
Frodo: Oh, child. *he sighs* You are a Gondorian, then, and lived here when it was still free.
Orodor: *He looks to Frodo* More, Master?
Frodo: All right *hands him another cake*
Orodor: Thank you, Master *he nods his head*
Orodor: I was born here in the city, eleven summers ago. My mother and father and I used to live down the hill from you. My older brothers were..... in the army
Orodor: *he bends his head, a sad look on his face* They did not come back
Frodo: *An old sadness that has lain dormant for decades reawakens, because this boy is almost exactly the same age he was when his parents drowned.*
Frodo: I am sorry, Orodor
Rian: Yes, Orodor, I am sorry.
Orodor: *He begins to eat the third cake greedily* I am hungry
Orodor: Everyone is sorry, Master *he shrugs his shoulders* But no one can do anything about it. The life of a slave is better than the life of a beggar
Frodo: I suppose so
Frodo: *The desire to reach in and fix everything for all these victims of the war he could have prevented is overwhelming*
Orodor: Oh, yes, I have seen them on the streets. Some have only one leg, others, no arms. Some, one eye or none. Soldiers, farmers maybe. They beg for their bread
Rian: *A pained, sad look comes to her face as she listens to Orodor.... once Gondor was a place of happiness, peace and prosperity*
Frodo: *remembers the time he and Ceolwulf gave out coins to the beggars in Nurn...maybe he can do the same thing here.*
Orodor: And the soldiers laugh at them as they go by, and sometimes they knock them to the streets and kick them and hit them and drive them away from the city
Frodo: That is terrible!
Rian: *she winces in sympathy* that sounds like something the dark men would do.
Frodo: *I must do something about it...what is there that I could do about it?*
Orodor: This is life, Master *he says, shrugging his shoulders again and looks once more to the table*
Frodo: Life can be better than this, lad, much better and I hope yours is someday
Rian: I've not walked about the City or Newburg. I usually stay around the kitchen and the inside of the house.
Orodor: Mistress *he looks at her* you should go to the marketplace and the city. It is very lively there!
Frodo: *gives up and folds the rest of the cakes in a napkin and hands it to Orodor*
Orodor: Thank you, Master! *he says as he takes the napkin and draws one of the cakes out of it and puts the rest in his ragged tunic*
Rian: Marketplaces can be very dangerous places... *she says, speaking from experience, remembering how assassins claiming to be Dunedain rangers sent a storm of arrows at Frodo and the slaves*
Orodor: Oh, Master *he says and puts his hand over his mouth again* I was in such a hurry to come here that I forgot to put on the livery of this hall and came in the clothes I slept in
Frodo: *He remembers the attack in the marketplace at Nurn, when Ceolwulf saved his life and almost died. He feels he might break down again, and begins to think up ways to usher the boy out*
Orodor: I won't forget next time! *he shakes his head back and forth* I will put it on, first thing before anyone sees me!
Frodo: *weak smile* All right! If you don't say anything, I won't say anything
Orodor: Master, Master, please do not get me wrong. Your livery is very fine, black and red, with the Great Eye on the back. I am honored to be allowed to wear it
Frodo: My livery....*echoes faintly*
Orodor: Yes, Master, yes *he nods again* Your livery. You are the Great Friend of the..... Master
Frodo: Well, lad. Enjoy your cakes, and be sure not to sound any alarm about Vardamir
Orodor: Master, I won't tell anyone. I promise! Although it would have been great sports to see the hounds when they howled as their noses were upon the trail and to see the great black horses as they rushed down the hill to join in the search. I have seen them before, when they went out to hunt for escaped slaves. They are grand, Master, but very fierce
Orodor: Master, maybe sometime when you visit the stables, you will remember me... my name is Orodor *breathless now* And I am least among the stable boys
Frodo: Of course I will remember you
Orodor: *He looks to Frodo and then to Rian, feeling that his stay has been too long. He bows from the waist to Frodo, then to Rian* Good day
Rian: *She smiles warmly at the boy* Good day to you too, Orodor.
Orodor: *The boy opens the door and goes out and closes it behind him. Then he goes back to the stable yard*
Rian: *She looks to Frodo, laughing lightly* He certainly was a talkative lad, wasn't he?
Frodo: *chuckles* A regular chatterbox
Rian: Ah... *she sighs and laughs softly* there was a woman in the Houses of Healing, an old wife by the name of Ioreth, who talked even more than he.
Frodo: Was she a friend of yours?
Rian: I did not know her personally, but all knew of her fondness for talking.
Frodo: *chuckles again* And what are the Houses of Healing?
Rian: The Houses of Healing, lord? *she asks, slightly surprised* Why, it was where all the sick were taken. There were many healers there, who were very skilled at their craft, the best in Gondor.
Rian: My father and I lived on the same level of the city as the Houses, the sixth level.
Frodo: What of your mother? If you don't mind my asking
Rian: *a sad look crosses her face* She died when I was only but a few years old.
Frodo: I am sorry!
Frodo: *He leans back in his chair and sighs* It seems everyone's life is so sad
Rian: *she gives him a small smile of reassurance* Do not be sorry, my lord.
Frodo: *returns the smile with an effort, thinking of the rescue attempt and worrying how it is proceeding*
Rian: Aye, and in times like these, it seems that sorrow pours down like rain from the sky. But we should not dwell on these things too long... *she gives this advice to Frodo, or perhaps to herself.*
Frodo: You are right, my dear child.
Rian: I think Orodor liked visiting... *she forces herself to say, though she is nervous, for she is very shy*
Frodo: Yes, I think so too. It reminded me of when I used to visit my Uncle Bilbo, the one who ended up adopting me. I used to look forward to those visits so much
Rian: *she nods* Once you told us of your birthday parties, the ones that you shared. *memories of Elfhild and Ceolwulf's constant smiles come to her mind and she grins* But you did not get to tell much of your tale!
Frodo: *Frodo does not manage to return the smile as he recalls that evening of storytelling* No...I never got to finish it. We did have a good time that night, didn't we?
Rian: *She knows that she should soon be heading back to the kitchen, to return the empty breakfast tray, but she decides to stay a little while longer.... Nodding, she says* Aye, that we did.
Frodo: *He can see that Rian wants to return to the kitchen* Well, I should go and check on Aldir
Rian: Aye, and I should be returning to the kitchen with the tray and dishes.
Frodo: *rises* I'll see you later today, then
Rian: *she smiles at Frodo* It has been good talking with you, my lord!
Frodo: Oh yes! Thank you for staying to talk
Rian: *Rising to her feet, Rian gathers all used dishes and puts them in the tray. She begins to walk towards the kitchen, then calls back to Frodo* Good day to you, my lord! *as she disappears into the great hall*
Lilandra: *Lilandra had slept uneven and dream filled sleep. The dreams were not pleasant and she constantly felt herself veering over to the bunched up blanket. She had always hated being apart from Aldir when he was away on duties of war, but them being together here was like an apologetic gift of fate that they would find each other and be together once more. She thought perhaps only death would separate them. Not him leaving her to perform another task. And she wept when she thought..yes..perhaps separation by death indeed.*
Lilandra: *Her mind was not quiet in thinking of the wicked hand dealt to them now by fate. How could she deal with this? How would he? And what was to come of them all? Somehow she found sleep that night..total exhaustion of the mind and body.*
Lilandra: *She woke the next morning with her arm draped over the blanket and she sighed as she awakened to reality once more. Aldir would want her to be brave and take care of herself and stay on task she must and intended to despite the shredding in her heart. She rose and fixed the blanket once more and dressed for the day and left for the morning jobs that must be done.*
Lilandra: *When she had finished clearing breakfast dishes and helping Finduilas, she wanted to go back to her room for it quieted her mind to see all was still going according to plan. She entered her room and sighed deeply as sadness began to filter in again once more*
Frodo: *Frodo walks back down the hall, to Aldir and Lilandra's room. He braces himself to deal with whatever state Lilandra might be in now. After taking a deep breath, he knocks on the door*
Lilandra: *Breath catching in her throat she moves up to the door and places her cheek upon it* Who is it?
Frodo: It's me, Frodo. I've come to check on Aldir
Lilandra: *she exhales when she hears his voice and opens the door to him*
Frodo: *Frodo enters quickly*
Lilandra: *she shuts the door behind him and faces him* Good morning Master....Frodo
Frodo: *smiles* Good morning Lilandra
Frodo: *whispers* All is still...according to plan?
Lilandra: *she lifts her chin with much strength as she can muster and smiles lightly..she is pale and her lips are of a ill coloring..her features seem laden with exhaustion and worry* as far as i know Frodo..yes
Frodo: As far as I know, too. They have noticed Vardamir is missing, but I forbade them to sound any alarm.
Lilandra: *her heart begins to beat faster and she wrings her hands together in front of her*
Lilandra: Frodo, this matter is very troublesome as you know
Lilandra: Any idea of them escaping..by the right person will bring much disorder to this house and punishment will be great, the lash hitting hardest on those who were false along with it
Frodo: *lowers his voice even more* You mean Vartang, and his brother the pretend king *sighs*
Frodo: If all goes as planned, there will be no one here to punish. All they will know is Vardamir escaped.
Lilandra: *she nods and wraps her arms over her shoulders* I know i must have hope
Frodo: Yes, we must. May the Valar protect them
Lilandra: indeed Frodo *she tries hard to contain her severe emotions*
Frodo: Did Finduilas come last night?
Lilandra: *nods* yes she did. She seemed very worried
Frodo: And has she taken care of you...given you anything you needed? You look like you are becoming ill
Lilandra: She is a very wonderful woman..one admire so much..yes she took great care of me
Frodo: *smiles* I'm glad...yes she is marvelous
Lilandra: my worry had taken over me Frodo. i suppose that is why i look as i do and i suppose i should be taking better care of myself
Frodo: Have you been eating?
Lilandra: It is hard with all this worry
Frodo: Yes...but you really need to eat.
Frodo: You really will get sick if you don't eat
Lilandra: *she turns from him and lowers her face and stifles a cry*..yes..yes.. i know
Frodo: *Sighs...he hates to see her distress and wants to do something, but again he is not sure what he can do.*
Lilandra: *she has felt much concern and closeness to those of the house recently..one she didn't think possible.. it was a feeling that warmed and bothered her...she did not want to become in a family way with them all. She thought of them all as slaves as she was..but from times in the kitchen and dining hall.. to her relationship with Finduilas..seeing the boys..to now Aldir's compulsion to go off to rescue Ceolwulf..perhaps they did all need each other in some way...it bothered her to trust.*
Lilandra: *She moves over closer to Frodo and looks down to him*
Frodo: Finduilas can come and bring you a snack...she made some of her sweet cakes today
Lilandra: Yes Frodo...perhaps i would like some
Frodo: *brightens* I'll get you some then. And there is chicken soup...Rian brought me some for breakfast.
Lilandra: Frodo? *she bends down to him*
Frodo: What is it?
Lilandra: Do you think he will come back? *her openness and vulnerability uncharacteristic for her but she did not care now*
Frodo: *reassuring smile* Yes, I do think he will come back.
Lilandra: *she places her hand on his shoulder* i shall have hope...i must...right?
Frodo: *nods, then softly* We must all have hope, no matter what
Lilandra: *she looks as if about to cry..but her eyes only well up*
Frodo: *Frodo is afraid that if she starts crying, he will too*
Lilandra: *she stands and regains her emotions*
Lilandra: i cannot even fathom him not coming back to me *she says to the air*
Frodo: I don't usually like to mention it, but this accursed ring let me see into his mind as he was riding away. His only thought was returning to you.
Lilandra: *she rushes back to him and places her hands on his shoulder and shakes him lightly forward* you saw his mind? you can see his mind?
Frodo: Not anymore *sadly* they are too far away
Lilandra: Frodo...*her eyes wide and intent on his*
Lilandra: you must tell me everything as soon as you know
Frodo: That is all I know, now...
Lilandra: you must try hard then..as hard as you can and focus
Lilandra: *she releases her tight grip on him* I'm sorry
Frodo: I have been doing that all day, Lilandra. They are too far away. I had to help Ceolwulf when they were marching him away...they hurt him so badly he might have died...but I can't see him anymore or any of them
Lilandra: *she slumps her head forward*
Frodo: He will do everything in his power go come back
Frodo: I think he will make it
Frodo: He is strong and determined
Lilandra: Aldir is a great fighter...Vardamir too...i will have faith *she says it as her own push to confidence*
Frodo: Yes, they give us good cause to have faith
Lilandra: *she pats his shoulder where she squeezed him and stands*
Lilandra: Let me be the first to know anything you hear from anyone...or the ring
Frodo: I will
Lilandra: i should probably return to my duties, keep my mind active
Lilandra: *she face him and smiles* thank you for your concern
Frodo: *smiles warmly*
Lilandra: We shall keep thinking with hope
Frodo: Yes...yes we shall
Lilandra: *her eyes drift to the blanket and she turns away from it* yes
Frodo: *Not only is it what Aldir would want, it is what Ceolwulf would want as well.....and Sam*
At noon, November 7th, Maugoth Vartang finally arises from his bed in the house of his brother, King Varyon I. He stretches his arms and then scratches his chest. He looks down at the sleeping Alana and then calls for his orderly to help him dress for the day. As the orderly comes in, the sound of his steps awakens Alana. Vartang looks at her and says, "Wine."
As the orderly helps him dress, Vartang drinks the goblet of wine that Alana has fetched for him. They hear a knock at the door and a guard begs admittance. Vartang looks to Alana. "What does he want at this time of morning?" Then he says in a louder voice, "Enter."
The guard comes into the room and bows. "There is news from down the hill, Great Shakh. The head groom at the Hafling's hall has just reported the slave Vardamir, who works in the barn, has escaped. The groom said that the stable hands searched all morning for him over the grounds and could not find him. The slave has also taken three horses and all accouterments." The guard asks, "Shall I sound the alarm?"
"Aye, by all means," Vartang says, "and bring in the hounds men. Call my nobles and my bodyguards, and we shall have a hunt! Tell the slaves to prepare plenty of food and drink to put on the pack horses. This will be great sport. My nobles and I were getting bored and having to attend so many matters of state. This will be a time of.... relaxation and refreshment." He looks to his orderly. "Let me first prepare a message for His Majesty." The orderly sits down at the table and takes up a quill and dips it in the ink as Vartang dictates.
"Sire, I regret to inform you that I will not be present at court this morning for an urgent matter of an escaped slave claims my attention. If you can tear yourself away from the great affairs of state that plague us, perhaps you would join my nobles and me and let the hunt begin. I shall await your word before setting out.
First, though, I must go down the hill and inform the fool Baggins of our planned day's entertainment. Your courier can reach me there.
Steward of Forogondor
His orderly gets up from the table and assists him with his cloak. Vartang says, "Now come here, sweet Alana, and give me a kiss before I leave." She kisses him and he bids her farewell and sets off for Baggins' Townhouse.
Vartang: *He walks down the hill
from the King's House, his two bodyguards following behind. The
doorman at Baggins' Townhouse blanches and trembles, then bows,
opening the door for Vartang and his bodyguards. He walks briskly
down the corridor, making his way for Frodo's room*
Vartang: *He sees Rian walking towards him down the hall* Maid *he commands* come here!
Rian: *she bows to Vartang and approaches him*
Vartang: I have not seen your lovely countenance for a few days. How fares the hall?
Rian: *She is glad he has not seen her for a few days - of all the men of Mordor, this one is most loathed by Frodo's servants..she responds* It fares well, my lord.
Vartang: Has all been quiet and orderly in my absence, Rian? *he looks at her intently*
Rian: Yes, my lord.
Vartang: *He walks up close to her, his breath reeking of wine* And have you missed me, maid? *he says and reaches his hand out and his index finger strokes her under her chin*
Rian: *she forces herself to stand still though his touch is most irritating. her heart pounds...she thinks quickly* ah... the hall is... just not the same without you.
Vartang: *He smiles at her and flashes his gleaming white teeth in a wolfish leer* Then, perhaps I can remedy that
Rian: *You stupid, loathsome fool! That was an insult, not a compliment. She stands there, feeling horribly awkward*
Vartang: I can see by your eyes that you have missed me *he says as he bends down to her and lifts her face up with his index finger to his lips*
Rian: *Automatically, she takes a step backwards*
Vartang: *he looks down at his index finger, extending into the air* Maid, I know you are shy... I could remedy that too, but I do not have time today. I am here to see your master. Where is he? Is he in his room where he usually is? He likes to stay there all day, like a badger in its den
Rian: Nay, my lord. He is in the sitting room taking his lunch.
Vartang: Well, then, maid, take us there, and I can enjoy your fair company a little while longer
Rian: *her shoulders slump ever so slightly..she had hoped he would let her go about her duties in peace* Right this way. *she says quickly and begins walking towards the sitting room*
Vartang: *Vartang and his bodyguards fall in behind her as she leads them to the sitting room*
Frodo: *After writing all morning, Frodo is back in the sitting room having lunch*
Lilandra: *Lilandra smiles to Frodo as she refills his wine*
Rian: *Soon, they arrive at the door to the sitting room. She opens the door for Vartang and his bodyguard*
Vartang: *They walk through the open door and Vartang sees Frodo and Lilandra. He walks to the table and then turns to the orc bodyguards* Lads, take your ease *The orcs walk to the side of the wall and stand there at rest*
Frodo: *Frodo turns ashen when he sees Vartang, but immediately tries to hide it*
Frodo: Vartang! *he tries to sound casual* what brings you here?
Lilandra: *her head turns in the direction of the door and she tenses greatly and stands erect*
Vartang: Shakh Baggins *a broad smile envelops Vartang's face* How good to see you again!
Frodo: Hello Vartang.
Lilandra: *she moves to retrieve a goblet for Vartang and fills it to the brim and hands it to him..knowing he will soon ask for it*
Rian: *Praying she will be unnoticed, Rian slips out of the room quietly, closing the door behind her*
Vartang: *He takes the goblet from Lilandra's hands* Ah, madam, you have learned my ways well
Lilandra: *her eyes try to avert his but she smiles lightly* Thank you my Lord..i try *how she hated lowering herself at his very word*
Vartang: *He drinks from his goblet* Shakh, I know that you would like to ask of me more time to visit you, but I have pressing matters to which I must attend
Vartang: Now if I may have a few words with you and your lovely slave wench, I will soon be on my way *He sits down at the table*
Lilandra: *she tries with all of her strength to keep an even expression*
Frodo: *deep breath* all right
Vartang: Madam, is anything amiss in the hall this day? You seem restless
Frodo: She has been ill
Lilandra: *her insides churn and twist and she looks to Frodo*
Frodo: making herself ill with worry over her sick husband
Vartang: *He holds his goblet of wine up and stares down at its contents and inhales its fragrance deeply and then drinks*
Lilandra: *she moves her gaze to Vartang* yes
Vartang: Madam, what seems to plague your husband?
Lilandra: He has a lingering fever..fatigued and cannot operate to perform his tasks
Vartang: I am interested in all that goes on in the Shakh's hall. Every small detail, any matters of concern
Vartang: Madam, that is news of most grievous import..... it would be a great shame if this illness should spread....
Vartang: *he looks to Frodo* Are you well, Shakh?
Frodo: I am quite well
Lilandra: He is resting..and he gets over sickness fast
Frodo: I do not think we need to worry about this minor illness spreading. When I was gravely ill, it did not spread
Vartang: *he looks back to Lilandra* Madam, is your husband a friend of another slave, one of the grooms in the stables? Perhaps you know him too?
Lilandra: *she hopes her pulse from her pounding heart is not visible in her throat* who is it that you speak of?
Rian: *Rian lurks outside the door, her ear pressed to its wooden surface... she keeps her eyes on both ends of the hall and all doorways so she can scurry off if need be*
Vartang: Madam, is your husband a friend of the groom Vardamir? I know they came together from Nurn
Lilandra: *her mind shouts and makes her stomach feel ill* yes we all came here together
Vartang: And I believe but perhaps I am incorrect *he strokes his beard* that they were comrades in the old ill-favored and ill-fated army of Gondor
Frodo: *looks down to conceal his anxiety, bends over his plate*
Vartang: Madam, is this true?
Lilandra: My husband regularly does not keep..friends. He is concerned only with me and my company
Vartang: Ah, but madam *he says and rests his elbow on the table, his head resting upon his hand, looking at her intently* Ah, but they were comrades. Surely comrades are friends
Frodo: Aldir is a very distant man, very private. He does not seem to me the type who seeks out friends
Vartang: Has war changed your husband so much?
Lilandra: Comrades are normal in war yes...but he no longer is an army
Lilandra: We are slaves now and go on that mentality
Vartang: *he looks to Frodo and then to Lilandra* Perhaps I am ill-informed then, for I had been told that their friendship remained
Lilandra: All the slaves here have a closeness through position
Vartang: *he drinks from his goblet* Then, madam, that is well for him, for his friend Vardamir is a breakaway
Lilandra: *her mind tells her body to breath normally*
Frodo: *should he feign surprise again? He frowns again, looking worried*
Lilandra: *she scoffs and shakes her head*
Vartang: *he looks at her, a smug look upon his face* So, of course, madam, since your husband and Vardamir are no longer close comrades, your husband would not know anything about where the man has fled? *he smiles*
Lilandra: My husband has been ill and in bed for some time now..and i have not heard anything of this matter
Vartang: Certainly, madam *he looks at her* your husband has been ill. It would be a shame to disturb him in his distress
Lilandra: *she begs her heart to stop thudding..she feels all can hear it* Vardamir is a man of impulse
Vartang: *he turns to Frodo* Now, Shakh, I have ordered a search to be made for the escaped slave *he drinks again from his goblet* I thought perhaps you would like to come along, Shakh? You stay inside too much. It would be good for you to go outside sometime
Lilandra: *she turns from them to gather a bottle of wine and as she faces away from them she shuts her eyes tightly and bites the inside of her cheek...then she faces them once more* More Wine?
Frodo: *He closes his eyes in despair, then opens them with a blank expression*
Vartang: Madam, please, my goblet is half filled. Fill it to the rim if you will
Frodo: No, Vartang, I am writing and cannot stop for this hunt
Vartang: *he extends his goblet towards Lilandra*
Lilandra: *she moves over to him and holds the bottle with as much of a steady hand as she can*
Vartang: Shakh, what are you writing? *he feigns interest*
Frodo: *colors..if Vartang finds my book, he will surely burn it*
Frodo: I am preserving the knowledge my uncle imparted to me when I was with him before I forget it all
Frodo: My uncle was a scholar, fluent in many languages and well versed in lore
Frodo: *He is really writing the story of the Quest, and what happened afterward*
Vartang: Books? They are of little interest unless they deal with military strategy. You waste your time, Shakh!
Frodo: We halflings have never taken an interest in military strategy
Vartang: Shakh, then if you are so caught up in this waste of time and cannot attend to the hunt with us, tell me this: *he leans towards Frodo, almost leering at him* Will you wish to see the head of your escaped slave when we bring it back?
Frodo: *He clenches his teeth and pales, but his face remains hard. He answers quietly* No
Lilandra: *she grasped only a few words but the words she heard made her almost drop the bottle*
Vartang: As you will, Shakh, but I would be glad to bring it back to you as proof that we had found him
Frodo: *quiet monotone* That will not be necessary
Lilandra: *recomposing* Can i get you anything to eat my Lord *she says to Vartang*
Vartang: *He looks to Lilandra* No, madam, but when I return from the hunt for the slave and have some time, perhaps you might care to come up the hill and pay a visit to His Majesty's Court? It has been some time since such beauty as yours has graced my Lord's halls
Lilandra: *she sickens more in her stomach with worry and disgust but thinks what is best* my Lord, whatever pleases you
Vartang: I think that would please me very much *he says, his voice a low hiss* But now, Shakh and you madam, I must see to the final preparations for the hunt
Vartang: *He downs his wine in a few gulps, then rises from his chair* Farewell and wish us success in the hunt
Lilandra: *she looks to Frodo a worried gaze*
Frodo: *Frodo tries not to glare after Vartang*
Rian: *Hearing the sound of the legs of Vartang's chair scraping across the floor, she scurries down the corridor, looking inconspicuous*
Frodo: *He prays that the Valar will frustrate their efforts*
Vartang: *He looks to the orcs* Come now, lads. We will have great sport *the orcs bow to him and then one opens the door for him*
Lilandra: *she can feel whole body tighten and her eyes remain wide on Frodo*
Frodo: *Frodo tries to maintain his blank expression until Vartang leaves*
Vartang: *As they walk down the hall towards the main door, he sees Rian and catching her eyes, he winks at her and leers*
Frodo: *As soon as Vartang is gone, he looks up to Lilandra*
Lilandra: *she rushes over to him and places her hands on his and falls to her knees*
Rian: *Rian forces herself to keep a calm manner and ignores Vartang*
Frodo: *He bites his lip and looks to her, his body slumping*
Vartang: Maid, will you not say farewell to me? I leave soon
Rian: *she bows to him* Farewell, my lord.
Lilandra: *her words are whispers and breathy with fright*
Vartang: Is that a way to say farewell? *he walks over to her*
Lilandra: Frodo...they mean to kill them
Rian: *she looks to him, swallowing*
Frodo: *his whisper is tense and almost breaks*...I know...
Vartang: Not a kiss to wish me goodbye?
Frodo: *He raises a hand to wipe at his stinging eyes*
Lilandra: Vardamir and Ceolwulf are to flee...perhaps already far ahead..i do not know...but Aldir means to come back.. his trail will meet theirs
Rian: *she evades his gaze* I... *pauses and then says uncertainly* words will suffice...?
Frodo: Hopefully he has already thought of that *he ventures weakly*
Vartang: Maid, you are much too modest
Lilandra: Frodo...you speak of hope when more and more it fades
Vartang: But ah *he says* I must leave you now
Frodo: What else can I do? What else can we do?
Vartang: *The doorman bows to him as he approaches and opens the door for him and after Vartang is gone, the doorman breathes a sigh of relief*
Frodo: *his hands begin to tremble in hers*
Lilandra: i doubt your word could have stopped their hunt
Frodo: I doubt it too
Lilandra: oh Frodo *she bows her head*
Rian: *Rian, too, breathes a sigh of relief when Vartang is gone... she misses Elfhild and Elffled and wishes desperately they were there to protect her from the advances of loathsome Maugoth.*
Lilandra: This all does not look good for any of us
Frodo: *If only Ceolwulf hadn't killed the orc, or if he had not come up with his mad plan, none of this would be happening*
Vartang and his bodyguards make their way back up the hill to the Citadel where the King has called court for the rest of the afternoon. His Majesty, King Varyon I, King of Forogondor, the Northern Province of West Mordor, and Lord High Governor of Minas Artano, declines his brother's invitation to join the hunt, saying, "I am far too busy with state matters to leave at this time."
By the time that the hunt is organized, Vartang and his nobles assembled, the many guards eager to begin the hunt, the hounds men ready to leave and all the servants and pack animals present and prepared, it is three o'clock in the afternoon. Most of Vartang's nobles are already drunken as they mount their horses to begin the quest for the escaped prisoner Vardamir. A piece of a tunic of Vardamir's has been obtained from the stables and the hounds smell it to learn its scent. Then at the edge of the city, the hounds are free and the hunt is on!
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