Frodo and Gwindof played by Hobbitness
Elfhild and Elffled played by Eowyn
Ceolwulf played at first by Eowyn; then by Wraith
Narrator, Vartang, Algund, Asgon, Storeroom Guards, Adar the Guard and Frodo's Ring played by Wraith

Narrator: *Sleep comes fitfully if at all to the weary travelers as they are jostled by the undulations of the wains on the rutted road back to Baggins' Hall.*
Narrator: *The only one of Frodo's household who is able to sleep well is Sador, the Haradrim, who, after a few drinks of wine, could fall asleep in almost any situation.*
Narrator: *Vartang and his Easterling comrade, Ulfast, ride ahead of the wains and are the first to see the dim outline of Baggins' Hall through the pre-dawn fog of August 18.*
Narrator: *The wain bearing Frodo, Ceolwulf, Rian and Sador halts at the door to Baggins' Hall, and the travel-worn group leaves their home of the past day and begin to enter into the Great Hall, where they are welcomed by Findulas, her two sons, Anborn and Targon; Haleth and Firiel; and other members of the household staff.*
Narrator: *Frodo's courtyard is filled with the overpowering noise of the waiting Mordorian cavalry (100 men) and infantry (50 men).*
Narrator: *Two tracker orcs standing by their wargs bow when they see Frodo, but their wargs growl menacingly, flashing their yellow fangs.*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf knows Frodo has been greatly fatigued by the ordeal, and he picks him up in his arms and carries him into Frodo's bedroom, where he assists him in getting ready for a nap.*
Narrator: *Androg, clad in mail, is the pizbur (sergeant) of the cavalry company, and salutes Vartang when he sees him, as does a black uruk by the name Zgur, the commander of the infantry contingent.*
Narrator: *Ulfast, who is a pizgal (corporal), greets Androg and asks, "Sergeant, did you remember to bring my mail?"*
Narrator: *Androg answers, "Corporal, I entrusted it to the care of one of Captain Vartang's orderlies at his cottage." Ulfast replies, "Narnulublat, sir."*
Narrator: *Vartang speaks quickly, "Ulfast, we must hasten to my dwelling where we can don our mail."*
Narrator: *Arriving at his cottage, Vartang tells one of his servants to pack a few personal supplies and make sure the packhorses are loaded with ample quanities of wine and food for the trip.*
Narrator: *Then assisted by orderlies, Vartang and Ulfast put on their armor. They leave the cottage, followed by orderlies. Vartang tells the orderlies, "Have two fresh horses saddled for Corporal Ulfast and me."*
Narrator: *Then Vartang and Ulfast go to Shakh Baggins' Hall and find him resting in his room.*
Frodo: *Frodo has not slept but has huddled in a corner of the wain all night, hearing the words of the ranger in his head over and over. He seems to be in a daze*
Frodo: *The sight of the cavalry and wargs brings a terrified spark back into his eyes, but only temporarily*
Frodo: *Though Ceolwulf encourages him to sleep, Frodo lies staring up at the ceiling, wondering how in Elbereth's name he and Ceolwulf will get past the cavalry with the gold for the ransom*
Frodo: *He starts when Vartang enters the room. Exhausted, he wonders how he will find the strength for another confrontation with Vartang now*
Vartang: *Vartang strides into the room, followed by Ulfast* Hail, Shakh! We leave now to rescue your slaves!
Frodo: *sits bolt upright* What?!!
Frodo: No, no, no! I am going to pay the ransom! No one is to be hurt!
Vartang: *A surprised look comes over Vartang's face* Aye, shakh, did you think we would leave them to the predations of those fiends!
Frodo: *You are the fiends, Frodo thinks*
Frodo: The ranger promised me they would be unharmed and I believe him
Frodo: ....if I pay their ransom tonight
Vartang: It is unnecessary to spend any of your gold upon a ransom. Sergeant Androg has brought a company of cavalry and Sergeant Zgur has brought half a company of orc infantry and we are well fitted and armed. We will have the maids back here in four days safe and..... we can hope.... unspoiled....
Frodo: Vartang, I WANT to pay this ransom!
Frodo: I do not want those rangers killed!
Vartang: Nonsense, Shakh. Not one penny for ransom!
Vartang: Now you impede us on our mission of mercy
Frodo: Yes, all of it for ransom! I insist! Those rangers must not be killed!
Frodo: The girls will be fine if I pay the ransom tonight
Vartang: We must leave now, Shakh
Vartang: All know that the Dunedain lie like dogs. They will be killed whether you pay the ransom or not!
Frodo: The Dunedain are noble and honorable men
Frodo: the last of the greatest bloodline left in Middle Earth
Vartang: Foolishness, shakh! They are all outlaws, rebels and scum
Vartang: The finest of bloodlines, indeed, shakh! *he looks insulted* All know that the Variags of Khand have the purest bloodlines on the face of Middle-Earth
Frodo: *slides out of the bed and stumbles over to Ceolwulf* We must get the money now, and hurry! Let us go!
Frodo: Vartang, you cannot go on this mission! They will think I ordered it! King Elessar will think I ordered it! *his voice breaks*
Vartang: *He looks to Ceolwulf who stands nearby* Give him a sleeping draught and put him to bed!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks in disbelief at Vartang* a sleeping draught, lord...?
Frodo: No, Ceolwulf! *desperately backs away from him, looking towards the door*
Vartang: Aye, that is what I said, you fool! Are you deaf!
Ceolwulf: *he would attack vartang right now in frodo's hall, but he knew that the consequences would be very dire indeed. he looks to frodo then to vartang*
Frodo: *Frodo hangs onto the side of the bed and moans, covering his face. Then he makes a desperate dash out of the door and heads for the storage of gold coins*
Vartang: *Angry now, Vartang turns to leave* I have no more time to spend with you, shakh! It is your hall. Do as you please while I am gone, but I must go or these maidens' lives will be forfeited!
Frodo: *He sees Vartang leaving as he runs* Vartang, they will not be killed! Wait! Don't go now *he calls*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf follows frodo* Master Frodo! remember, we do not have to bring the coins to the bridge over the river until midnight!
Frodo: *Frodo wrings the hem of his vest, panting* There is no time! The rangers will all be dead by midnight!
Frodo: There are not enough of them to stand against all those soldiers and wargs
Vartang: *Vartang and Ulfast leave Frodo's room, go down the corridor and out the hall door, where their horses are waiting for them. They quickly mount up. Vartang gives the order* Ukh!
Frodo: Come, quickly, we must take the gold and follow them.
Vartang: *Without another word, the military force begins to move out, off Frodo's lawn, down the road, the horses trotting and the orcs trotting behind them. The warg riders go ahead*
Frodo: Remember how we loaded the cart before? Bring it and we will load all our coins onto the back
Vartang: *They are soon out of sight before Frodo ever gets to the gold storage*
Ceolwulf: i don't know if this will work Master Frodo.... but we shall try. come, let us go to the storerooms below
Frodo: *nods*

Ceolwulf: *soon ceolwulf and frodo go to the gold storage down under... they are met by guards*
Frodo: *In his haste he falls down the stairs to the storerooms, but he gets up stiffly having only been bruised*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf helps frodo back up* Master Frodo are you hurt?
Storeroom Guards: *The guards bow to Frodo*
Frodo: *grimaces* I'm all right
Storeroom Guards: Great Shakh, it is an honor to have you come to the store room today, but what is your business here?
Frodo: Take all the gold and load it onto the cart as fast as you can
Storeroom Guards: *The guards block the door, spears held crossed over* Just a moment, shakh....
Frodo: I do not have a moment! Do it with all speed!
Storeroom Guards: You must first state your business here before I can give you entry
Frodo: I am here to take the gold coins to pay a...friend for...a favor!
Ceolwulf: *he whispers in frodo's ear* Master Frodo, they do not look all too willing to leave their posts..
Frodo: *whispers back* Confound them all, what are we to do?
Storeroom Guards: Shakh, I am sure you have a very good reason, but there is a certain procedure involved before I can allow you entry. A mere formality, of course *The man is another Easterling and thinks Frodo is amusing*
Frodo: *irritated* What?
Frodo: What is this formality?
Storeroom Guards: Allow me to introduce myself. I am Adar of Rhun
Adar the Guard: I am a corporal in the Mordor Army assigned to this temporary duty
Frodo: Hail, Adar of Rhun, I am Frodo Baggins of the Shire and I need that money now
Adar the Guards: *he bows again* We don't get much company down here, you know
Frodo: *sighs exasperatedly* Ceolwulf, go get the cart, we can load it ourselves!
Frodo: There is no time to lose!
Adar the Guard: Except for the relief guards who come every eight hours, we see few
Adar the Guard: You cannot enter, shakh, without written permission from Shakh Vartang
Frodo: *bursts out* This gold was not given to Vartang! Why do I need his permission?
Ceolwulf: *bows to frodo and goes to get the cart... but stops when he hears the guard's words. curse that foul vartang!*
Frodo: He is far from here by now!
Frodo: *grates at having to use his "ties" to Sauron as a defense*
Adar the Guard: Shakh, you should have obtained permission from him before he left. I cannot allow you entry! *He and the other guard raise the spears higher*
Adar the Guard: Shakh, is that your slave man there? Could I ask a favor?
Frodo: *glares at the man* What?
Ceolwulf: Aye, i am Ceolwulf, servant to Lord Frodo
Frodo: That depends on what the favor is
Adar the Guard: Our morning vituals are late in arrival. Send him up to the kitchen and ask if they could hurry
Frodo: *rolls his eyes*
Frodo: There is no time for that. Our errand is urgent!
Frodo: *notices that the raised spears have a taller space underneath them...*
Adar the Guard: *He leans over so he can make sure Frodo can hear him* Then I will do you a favor. I will allow you in to look at the gold, but not to take any
Frodo: I need to take this gold to pay ransom for my servants
Frodo: Looking at it will do them no good!
Adar the Guard: Not one coin until you have permission from Shakh Vartang!
Adar the Guard: Don't you want to look at your fortune? There are chests of precious gems.... Diamonds, rubies, emralds and great chests full of gold
Frodo: *slips under the raised spears and pushes at a chest of gold*
Frodo: *curses when his slight weight cannot make it budge*
Storeroom Guards: *The guards go after Frodo. One stands behind him as Ador picks him up, takes him back out of the storeroom, puts him back in front of the door, shuts it and locks it, putting the key in his tunic*
Adar the Guard: If your manservant would go hasten the wenches to bring our breakfast vituals, we could have a little talk
Frodo: *Frodo struggles but is far too small to resist them as they put him outside the storeroom*
Ceolwulf: Master Frodo, shall i go tell them about the guards' breakfast?
Frodo: *sits on the stairs and puts his head in his hands* Very well, Ceolwulf, go
Adar the Guard: Shakh, do you understand? It gets very lonely down here. Naught to talk to but the other guards and the wenches when they bring the food
Frodo: But hurry back...maybe we can think of another way to get the ransom
Ceolwulf: *ceolwulf nods, bows and leaves, heading for the kitchen*
Narrator: *By this time, Vartang and his military force are five miles down the western road*
Frodo: *He thinks: But the rangers are probably dead by now! It will do no good! Aragorn will hate me even more! He will issue a warrant for my head. To think that it would come to this!*
Narrator: *Vartang knows that they must get back to the spot where the women were kidnapped so the wargs can pick up their scent and follow the trail*
Narrator: *The head guard at the storeroom is genuinely bored and lonely with the dull duty. He is hoping Frodo will spend the rest of the morning talking, because he seldom sees anyone but the other guards and serving girls. The other guards and the hall servants (those who have had the misfortune to be engaged by Adar in a conversation) avoid him like the plague because of his verbosity and his monotonous conversation*
Adar the Guard: While we wait for my food, shakh, I can tell you a story about my military experiences
Frodo: *Frodo still sits with his head in his hands, waiting for Ceolwulf's return, trying to think of a way to escape with the money*
Adar the Guard: That is, if you would like that. Or if you would rather not, I could tell you about my boyhood days in Rhun
Frodo: *beads of sweat form on his forehead. He has no time to listen to these stories now! He figures it is probably a ploy to frustrate his plans, as usual*
Ceolwulf: *ceolwulf soon comes back... a serving girl with him. she gives the guards their food and wine, then bows and leaves. ceolwulf stands near the despairing frodo*
Frodo: Sir, I have not the time to listen to your stories. I am in a desperate situation. It is life or death. I need that money now! *he begs*
Storeroom Guards: *The guards sit down in front of the door and begin to eat*
Frodo: You will let us in then?
Adar the Guard: Now Shakh, if you wouldn't get all hasty and upset your liver, I would tell you my orders concerning the disposition of the sum of gold
Frodo: *He wants to rush in with ceolwulf, but he does not want to risk harm to the man from Rohan*
Frodo: *sinks down on the steps again with a groan*
Adar the Guard: You do know, don't you, that always being in a hurry causes the utmost distress of the liver? Everyone in Rhun knows this
Frodo: I am only in a hurry when I know that honest men are about to die if I do not act!!!!
Adar the Guard: A distressed liver can cause an overaccumulation of bile, resulting in indigestion and stomach upset
Adar the Guard: Then the bile goes into the blood and causes a foul humor. Too much of this can kill you over a period of time
Frodo: Thank you, that would explain why I don't eat much these days. Please let us in now!
Adar the Guard: Not so fast, shakh! Remember your liver!
Adar the Guard: *He chews his food, then takes a drink of wine to wash it all down* You also need to chew your food slowly. I find it always works for me
Adar the Guard: Now if you are ready to hear about my orders, I will tell you
Frodo: Yes!
Ceolwulf: *it has been a long time since ceolwulf has been in the presence of someone so slow in getting to the point. almost like the ents of the old legends, he thinks, who took forever to say anything*
Adar the Guard: *He takes a piece of meat and begins chewing it slowly*
Frodo: Your orders, what are they?
Adar the Guard: *He takes a draught of wine, swallows it and begins to talk again* As we all know, there are four humors that affect the body. Blood, phlegm, choler, and black bile. Too much of any of these or a mixture can kill any man
Adar the Guard: I have always been most concerned with black bile *he takes a piece of cheese and chews it slowly, then washes it down with more wine*
Frodo: Sir! Your orders about the gold!
Frodo: What are they?!
Adar the Guard: Oh, yes, the gold
Adar the Guard: Shakh, you don't look very well. I would say you are affected with a phlegm or perhaps blood problem
Frodo: I am fine!!! What are your orders about the gold?!!
Adar the Guard: These can have a direct affect upon your temperament and I can see that you are someone who likes to do things in too big a hurry. You should settle down and rest and remember to chew your food
Frodo: *glances at Ceolwulf with exasperation and incredulity at the slow wits of this man*
Ceolwulf: *groans impatiently and is bored, having to suffer the talk of this man who seems preoccupied with his tempers*
Adar the Guard: Shakh, learn patience. I do not like to talk about the business of the storeroom while I am off duty and eating my breakfast
Adar the Guard: Here, have a piece of cheese. It is good for your digestion *He extends his hand with a piece of cheese in it towards Frodo*
Frodo: *stalks up to the sitting guard and says in his face* Sir, if you do not let me in there honest men will die. I need to know how to get that money now
Frodo: *waves the cheese away* No thank you!!
Adar the Guard: Both honest and dishonest men die upon the battlefield every day. What is another few to me? I am not there!
Ceolwulf: *if ceolwulf were on the battlefield, he would cut this man's tongue out and rid the world of his ceaseless chatter!*
Frodo: Very well then, Ceolwulf and I will do the work ourselves. *starts into the storeroom again and beckons Ceolwulf*
Storeroom Guards: *The guards sit in front of the door and hold their spears up in the air* You will have to move us first!
Storeroom Guards: *Each one of them is short and swarthy, and must weigh at least 200 pounds*
Frodo: *retreats with a sigh, pulling Ceolwulf back with him*
Adar the Guard: Now don't get your choler up, shakh. If you would ever stop talking long enough so I could tell you my orders...
Ceolwulf: *ceolwulf goes with frodo, shaking his head. says in a low voice* that man did not know when to stop his tongue!
Frodo: *nods to Ceolwulf and sits on the stairs yet again*
Frodo: *looks down and realizes he skinned his knee when he fell down the stairs. He dabs at the blood with a handkerchief while waiting for the guard to speak*
Frodo: *prays to the Valar that the man will finally divulge the necessary information....*
Ceolwulf: i do not think we can get the gold from the storeroom, master frodo....
Frodo: *sighs heavily*
Storeroom Guards: *Both guards finish eating and rise to their feet and resume positions at the locked storeroom doors, their swords crossed, barring the door*
Adar the Guard: Corporal Ador reporting for duty, shakh
Adar the Guard: *he gives him a military salute. The other guard does the same*
Frodo: *stares at them, dumbfounded. As though he hadn't been there all this time, and as though Ador hadn't already introduced himself!*
Adar the Guard: *He stands at attention* Concerning my orders, shakh. They are, to-wit, "The Storeroom Guards are to load 1,000,000 pieces of gold packed in bags upon sufficient number of the best packhorses"
Frodo: *screams* THEN DO IT!
Frodo: *sputters, too furious and humiliated for words*
Adar the Guard: *He ignores Frodo and continues quoting his ordres* "This duty is to be completed promptly by 9 o'clock August 18, 3019, Third Age"
Adar the Guard: "Under no circumstances is this duty to be undertaken before 6 o'clock this evening. All men assigned this duty must complete it by the aforementioned time or face penalty of ten lashes across the back"
Adar the Guard: "The Shakh and his slave man, one Ceolwulf by name, a Rohirrim slave, captured at Pelennor, are to be escorted no more than one mile past the gates of Baggins Hall. Then they are to return forthwith and resume their duties. If their period of duty for the evening is over by the time they return, they will be dismissed as usual." These are the orders, signed by Captain Vartang
Adar the Guard: As you know, these times are in the evening. It is still morning. But you have leave to talk to us, for you are our master
Ceolwulf: *ceolwulf rolls his eyes and groans loudly*
Frodo: *Frodo lowers his head to his hands again*
Adar the Guard: We are now once again on duty, and are to mantain military standards at all times until we go off duty in the afternoon
Adar the Guard: While we are on duty, we can say nothing unless addressed by a superior officer or unless some emergency arises
Adar the Guard: You will find this in Codes of Military Conduct, Nurn Contingency, Page 463, archived in the fortress of Durubkala and also at Lugburz
Frodo: *Frodo gets up shakily* I think....I think as you said, I am making myself ill. *turns to Ceolwulf and mumbles* Let us go back upstairs
Ceolwulf: A wise choice, indeed, Master Frodo.... *he goes with frodo back upstairs*
Storeroom Guards: *The guards at the storeroom door stand there, mantaining their military pose, spears still crossed before the door*
Ceolwulf: *as they go up the stairs, ceolwulf shakes his head and mutters* this is is nothing like the eoreds of the mark, not even when there is the full muster - the éoherë - assembled!
Frodo: I'm sure of that
Ceolwulf: not even in the Golden Hall do they have this much security nor do the guards vex people with so many words!
Ceolwulf: Now Master Frodo, let us go to the walkway and see if Finduilas can bring us some cakes and tea

Narrator: *It is the late afternoon of August 20 at the outlaw camp, two days after Vartang and his troops left Baggins' Hall*
Narrator: *Algund, the leader of the outlaw band, and some of his men are not present, having gone to relieve Frodo of his gold. Placed in command in his absence is Asgon, second in command*
Asgon: *The women are still tied to trees. Asgons says* Gwindof, old mate, it's time to free the women to they can eat and walk
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled sag against the ropes that bind them to the trees, having fallen asleep*
Gwindof: *Gwindof nods and replies gruffly* Aye, mate *strides over to the trees and unties the girls*
Gwindof: Time to have a walk around and a bite to eat!
Gwindof: We Dunedain are not fiends of Mordor who starve and torture their prisoners!
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled wake up and walk around stretching their legs once they are untied*
Asgon: *he walks over to Gwindorf and whispers to him* Keep trying to believe that Gwindof, old mate, and perhaps someday you will!
Asgon: But you are doing quite well in front of the women, just so they believe our story is all we care about
Gwindof: *nods to Asgon*
Elfhild and Elffled: *they do not hear the words of the two men.... they stay close to each other and close to the tree.. they are reminded of their days of captivity with the orcs*
Asgon: Now go about your tasks, Gwindof
Gwindof: *nods with a grunt and goes off*
Asgon: Just take care Gwindof, that you do not try to steal kisses from them as you did the last ones we captured. We must mantain the dignity of Dunedain at all times and not sink to the level of lesser men
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls hear that and look at each other nervously*
Gwindof: *Gwindof smirks and chuckles as he nods to Asgon*
Asgon: I realize the paths we tread are ones of danger and loneliness, but we cannot give in to base thoughts *he turns away from the women at that time because he knows a look of amusement must be on his face*
Gwindof: Quite right, sir, we must not! *tries to keep the smile out of his voice*
Asgon: *He gains control over his features and turns back to the women* Ah, alas, I feel pity for these poor women victims of the vices of Shakh Baggins!
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled look to each other, raising eyebrows simutaneously*
Gwindof: *scoffs at the name of Shakh Baggins*
Gwindof: *shakes his head in disdain*
Asgon: Ladies, you must understand. We did not want to take you prisoner and if we could, we would free you
Asgon: But, Shakh Baggins is a wicked and evil man. He had a precious posession that the Dark Enemy wanted. The shakh returned it to him and he was amply rewarded for his services
Asgon: Jewels and riches beyond belief was his pay for his treachery
Asgon: Stretch your legs and relieve your muscles, then eat. If you promise me you will not try to escape, I will not have you tied again. Do you promise?
Elfhild and Elffled: *they hear the man's words about frodo, they had heard differently however, from frodo himself.... they look to the man when he asks them to promise not to escape. elffled says...* we do not know where we are sir... escape seems a bit... unlikely.
Asgon: Gwindof! Where are your manners, old mate! I told you to give them food and wine!
Asgon: My ladies, you must understand. We have tied you for your own good so you would not wander away. There are terrible creatures in these woods
Gwindof: *bows deeply to the girls* Forgive me, ladies *he says in a deep voice* I forgot myself. I will fetch your meal with all speed
Gwindof: *he soon returns with food and wine for them*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild mutters under her breath* the orcs thought it best we be tied, as well. *elffled gives her a warning glance*
Gwindof: *Gwindof raises his eyebrows. His eyes look them over hungrily*
Elfhild and Elffled: *they take the food and sit down on the ground, elffled says* thank you, sir *elfhild* yes... thank you.
Gwindof: You are very welcome
Gwindof: *bows again and leaves them*
Asgon: *He walks over to them and stands in front of them* Ladies, I understand this was a grave hardship upon you but though the circumstances are trying, I would like to be your friend
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls look up at asgon.. elfhild mutters something dark in rohirric under her breath. elffled says slowly* our...friend? sir?
Gwindof: *stares at them with a wide grin, his big teeth shining*
Asgon: *He sits down in front of them, squatting down and resting on his heels*
Asgon: You know, Gondor and Rohan are friends. I can understand how you came by your servitude. You were captured. But I cannot understand your devotion and willingness to serve the fiend who is Shakh Baggins
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls begin to eat their food and drink the wine hungerly. they look up to asgon as he criticizes their master, stopping eating for the moment*
Gwindof: Yes! How can you refrain from hating such a vicious traitor, responsible for so much death?
Asgon: *He sighs deeply* My ladies, if it were up to me, I would take you across the mountains and by hidden paths and by stealth, I would take you back to Rohan, and there reunite you with your people
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild says, her voice soft yet dark* lord frodo is a kind and generous master.
Asgon: *He rises* Well, I see that no matter how hard I work to be your friend, you will not allow it. Your mind has been clouded by the evil of Mordor and you are given over wholely over to the enemy. You have my pity
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild says slowly* we are not given over to the enemy. we are merely slaves.
Gwindof: *sighs heavily, looking at them with pity*
Asgon: *He sighs again and walks away from them* Gwindof, they promise not to try to escape. Do not bind them to the trees.

Narrator: *It is 11 o'clock the night of August 18. At the bridge over the western river near Baggins' Hall, Frodo and Ceolwulf await the arrival of Algund, the leader of the outlaws. Frodo is sitting upon a small pony and Ceolwulf sits upon a black mare*
Narrator: *The night is a chilly one. They can hear the sound of the slow moving river as it rolls lanquidly under the bridge*
Ceolwulf: Master Frodo, he said we didn't have to be here until midnight. Why are we so early?
Frodo: *Frodo pulls his cloak around himself and shivers. He fights hard to stay awake after their sleepless night and nervewracking day of waiting* I don't know. Let us hope it is only a precaution
Ceolwulf: The packhorses are getting impatient and are getting hungry. would it be all right if i led them off a distance and let them graze? *he holds a rope with the string of packhorses attached*
Frodo: Very well, but keep an eye on the meeting place back here
Ceolwulf: i will, Master Frodo
Frodo: *He is afraid to be left alone so late at night, waiting for the men who tried to kill him yesterday, but he is not about to let Ceolwulf know that*
Ceolwulf: *he leads the packhorses a bit further away, then dismounts. he undoes the bits in their mouth, but keeps the halters tied to the main rope. they begin to graze*
Frodo: *His cough has worsened since yesterday and he pulls out a clean handkerchief. He went through two this afternoon, and Ceolwulf had to give him his medicine*
Frodo: *As he coughs into the handkerchief his mind goes back to the nights spent in the open air with the Fellowship*
Ceolwulf: *ceolwulf likes working with the horses as it reminds him of his days back in the Mark.... every horse that he handles he talks to it, and if he knows its name, he calls it by that*
Ceolwulf: *sensing a friendly handler in ceolwulf, all horses that he works with consider him a friend.*
Frodo: *He shakes his head. How can it have come to this? How can it end like this, with him forced to betray all his friends, to cause so much loss of life unwittingly?*
Frodo: *Is he really what the ranger said he is? Is he really guilty of so many crimes? He did fail...the Council's trust in him was vain...yet he did his best*
Frodo: *He could not help what happened!....but it happened anyway*
Ceolwulf: *as they graze, he walks over to each horse, stroking it on the neck, talking to it in low words. the horses almost seem to vie for his attention*
Frodo: *Was the Quest worth it? he wonders. Have I given up everything to be tormented by men who call me a traitor, and to wonder if they are right? Has any good at all come of what I have done?*
Ceolwulf: *but he thinks... how can ever really be happy living here? why have the valar allowed me to be here, to take care of the enemy's horses?*
Ceolwulf: *but perhaps then again, the horses here need a friend, and if I could be that to them, perhaps i have justified my purpose for being here.*
Frodo: *Perhaps it was better to have tried and failed than to have done nothing against the Enemy. Sam always believed that*
Frodo: *But the Enemy would not have his Ring back if I had done nothing, Frodo's mind screams, and he burns with longing for the One Ring...then with guilt for wanting it*
Ceolwulf: *but who knows fate and the strange workings of it all?* here, now, Fiilmor, old fellow, would you like a carrot? *the horse pushes against him* i have one for you old fellow, as i do for all your friends
Frodo: *And Sam would have stayed in the Shire and married Rosie Cotton! He would not have had to suffer that worst of fates that he has now, Frodo thinks*
Narrator: *After about a half an hour is passed, Ceolwulf thinks it is time that he should return with the horses back to Frodo and wait*
Frodo: *His thoughts stop and his hand clenches on the pony's mane as a spasm of painful coughing shakes him*
Ceolwulf: *he puts the bits back in their mouths, taking the reins in one hand the rope in the other, he gets on the black mare and returns to frodo*
Frodo: *He takes the bloodstained handkerchief away from his mouth and drops his arm wearily to his side, his head hanging, panting slowly*
Frodo: *Now my "Fellowship" is one soldier of Rohan, he thinks as Ceolwulf approaches. He wonders what has happened to all the rest of the Nine Walkers*
Narrator: *Silently out of the night, their horses' feet swathed in leather coverings to keep their hooves silent, Algund and two men ride up to Frodo and Ceolwulf*
Algund: Hail, Master Baggins!
Algund: You have kept your appointment
Frodo: *His head whips around in terror at the call*
Frodo: *nods and manages* Hail
Algund: Now if this poor, wretched Rohirrim who calls you master will give the horses' ropes to my man Cegund, we will conclude this meeting
Frodo: Sir, we must do this quickly. Vartang, my guard who put me in this position as a lord of Mordor, is on his way to attack you with infantry and wargs
Frodo: I tried to stop him but he left anyway. Let me pay you quickly so that you may avoid them *nods vigorously*
Algund: *He puts his hands on the reins on the pommel of the saddle and stares at Frodo incrediously* Are you a traitor to everything?
Frodo: *Frodo is shocked into silence*
Algund: You are indeed as faithless as your Dark Master!
Frodo: *replies in a quiet wounded voice* I am only trying to save your life
Frodo: Is it traitorous to rebel against the soldiers of Mordor who are my enemies too?
Algund: You put the lives of the rescuerers in peril!
Algund: How many others have you betrayed?
Algund: *A strange mist seems to come before his eyes. He raises his hand to wipe it away, but the premonition will not leave. He can see all of his men and himself being slaughtered by the sword. He knows in his heart that even though he has betrayed the deeds of his forefathers, the faithful Dunedain, that he still is gifted with the Numenorean proclivity of foresight*
Algund: *He thinks to himself.... we are betrayed! We cannot go back!*
Frodo: *looks desperately to ceolwulf*
Frodo: Sir...I...I...thought that you would return the girls as soon as I paid you! I thought that if you were attacked the girls would be lost!
Frodo: *panicked* Where are they? Are they all right?
Algund: Nay, the agreement called for them to be returned three days hence. The girls are far from here
Algund: But your information would be very useful! Now we know that persuers are on our trail!
Frodo: Why are you angry that I warned you against the forces of Mordor? How can you return my girls if you are dead?
Algund: Aye, indeed, you would betray anything
Frodo: *bites his lip and lowers his head, his shoulders shaking almost imperceptibly*
Algund: *He shakes his head in disbelief*
Algund: We will not be dead, shakh. For we will not go after Captain Vartang, but will cross the mountains by another pass. This time you have betrayed not only the enemy but yourself
Frodo: What!
Frodo: *gets off the pony and pleads with the man* Please give them back!
Algund: Since you are such a good spy, can you tell me approximately how many men are with Captain Vartang? Perhaps I will let you keep some of your gold if your words are true
Frodo: I'll do anything
Frodo: I don't care about the gold, just the girls
Algund: Do you care that much about your slaves?
Frodo: I did not see exactly...there were many
Frodo: Yes, sir, yes I do! They are good and noble women!
Algund: Tell me then how many Vartang had with him
Frodo: *looks to ceolwulf trying to remember how many there were*
Ceolwulf: *ceolwulf looks to frodo* i was not paying attention, Master Frodo. I was helping you. i do not remember how many there were in all...
Algund: Are you betraying everyone now?
Frodo: And I was ill so I do not remember exactly how many there were either...there were many...a couple dozen perhaps?
Frodo: *squeezes his eyes shut and shudders, then looks up trying to retain his dignity*
Algund: Oh, so few. That does not sound like Vartang. He always takes more than enough. We know his ways
Frodo: *desperately* Perhaps there were more then...
Algund: So now you tell me that Vartang has set off to rescue the women? You know that any attempts to rescue them break the terms of the agreement and forfeit the contract
Frodo: Sir, I tried to stop him!
Frodo: I am half his size and I am ill, and he does not listen to me! I could not stop him though I ordered him not to go!
Algund: But why do you tell me this? Are you that eager to betray anyone, everyone? Is all you think of yourself? Truly, you are faithless! *he spits*
Frodo: *Ceolwulf puts an arm out to catch Frodo as his knees go weak. Frodo braces himself and pulls himself up again*
Algund: *he bends his head down and puts his hand on his forehead* I cannot believe that even you, perfidious wretch that you are, would betray those who go to rescue the women!
Frodo: *whispers* I am just trying to help them
Algund: The men that I have with me and I cannot tarry, nor will we, laden with the gold that we are, try to waylay Captain Vartang, for there is not time anyway
Algund: He will have met up with my men by now. May the Valar pity them for Vartang will show them no mercy!
Frodo: *endless days of staggering through the dry plains of Mordor, starving, dehydrated, weighted down by the firey Ring....it is all he can think of...and now this*
Algund: I cannot sacrifice this gold, which will go for a noble purpose, to aid our King and the suffering civilians. If I were not encumbered by your gold, perhaps I could catch Vartang and his men as they come back, if they have not already killed my men
Algund: My curse is upon you! May you languish forever like Feanor in the Halls of Mandos!
Frodo: *murmurs bitterly* I am already cursed
Algund: *Cegund takes the rope from Ceolwulf's hand and joins with the others and rides off. Algund tarries behind*
Algund: If there is mercy in the Halls of Mandos, it is not for you! Faithless betrayer of the King!
Algund: *he digs the spurs into his horse's sides and rides off behind the others*
Frodo: *tears streaming down his face, he whispers fervently* No!
Algund: *he calls back* Farewell, accursed of the Valar!
Ceolwulf: Well Master Frodo, it looks like things are in a bit of a stew... to say the least *he says darkly*
Ceolwulf: At least Vartang will return the girls.... *he tries for words*
Frodo: *Frodo stares after Algund, still too much in shock to say anything*
Ceolwulf: maybe we should go home, Master Frodo? nothing we can do here. *he is thoroughly confused by this all*
Frodo: Maybe *he says softly*
Frodo: *turns around to walk back to the pony but his knees buckle under him*
Frodo: *he sits on the ground looking around confusedly*
Ceolwulf: *he gets off his horse, goes to frodo, picks him up and helps him walk to his pony*
Ceolwulf: it seems nothing you can do in mordor turns out right. it is like the ground is cursed... i wonder if it is..?
Frodo: *The climb onto a pony has not looked so high since he travelled from Weathertop to Rivendell*
Frodo: *shakes his head* I don't know
Frodo: Maybe it is I who am cursed
Ceolwulf: *he helps frodo get on the pony, praying to the valar he won't fall off to the other side the moment he gets seated*
Frodo: *sways precariously in the saddle, but manages to right himself*
Ceolwulf: *he asks in a hushed voice* did the dark lord curse you, Master frodo?
Frodo: I don't remember if he did explicitly...
Frodo: but there is this...*looks down at his ring*
Ceolwulf: maybe he sees everything we do, hears it too... he is a maia afterall.
Frodo: *shows the ring to Ceolwulf* This binds my life to his will. I cannot take it off or I will die, but through it he spies on me and his voice torments me
Frodo: *Frodo is not usually one to complain, but he is near his breaking point. He sighs brokenly* I am so tired, Ceolwulf!
Ceolwulf: *a look of pity comes to his face* a dire fate indeed, Master Frodo. come, let us go back to the hall, so you can rest
Frodo: *nods and follows Ceolwulf back down the road*

Narrator: *Far away to the west, the outlaws relax the night of August 20, confident that they will not be detected, for they covered their trail very well as part of the ruse. They wait for the arrival of their captain, who has gone to get the gold from Baggins*
Narrator: *But suddenly, they hear the snap of the twig in the woods, and instantly, they are on their feet and look around wildly*
Narrator: *They form into a defensive circle, swords forward. The girls are over to the side*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled, who are sitting on the ground beneath a tree, notice the outlaws have gone into a defensive formation. they look around nervously in the darkness*
Narrator: *A familiar voice barks out in the darkness* Lay down your weapons, or you are dead!
Vartang: You are surrounded! Give up!
Asgon: Drop your weapons men! They have us! *he unbuckles his sword belt*
Gwindof: *unbuckles his belt as well*
Vartang: *Vartang repeats the words of Algund a few nights before* Hail travelers! Well met. Now step forwards five paces lest an arrow find your spines
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls, fearful that a sudden fight will break out and they will be caught in its midst, cower at each others sides, poised to run*
Asgon: *Asgon and his men do as they are told, step forward five paces*
Vartang: Gentlemen, you make things so much simpler by your cooperation. Lay hands on them men! *Out of the darkness come the 50 orc infantrymen. They throw themselves upon the trembling outlaws*
Narrator: *A scuffle ensues but the orcs quickly force the inferior numbers of the outlaws to submit. The outlaws are surprised at the intensity of the orc attack... this was not part of the plan*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled are instantly on their feet. they hold their ground*
Vartang: *The orcs hold the men in a line in front of Vartang* You! Over there. What is your name? *he points to Gwindof*
Gwindof: *glares at Vartang and hisses* Gwindof is my name!
Vartang: Are you the captain of this sorry lot?
Gwindof: Nay! Our captain is Asgon, over there!
Vartang: And which is he? Point him out
Gwindof: *Gwindof points to Asgon*
Vartang: Then he is the first to die! *Vartang grins evilly*
Gwindof: *widens his eyes*
Vartang: *He commands the orcs to bring Asgon forward. The orcs force Asgon to kneel. He looks at Vartang in shock, then looks over to the women with pleading eyes*
Vartang: Bow your head you fool! Make it easier on yourself!
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls see asgons look and look to vartang. elffled says cautiously* my lord? perhaps you should have mercy on him...
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled then gasps, realizing the seriousness of this situation* at least not kill him in our sight!
Narrator: *Asgon refuses to bow his head. He says* I do not have to bow my head to you! *Vartang takes his two handed sword in both hands, raises it above his head to the side, then swings it down and lops Asgon's head off*
Gwindof: *Gwindof gasps with all the other outlaws*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls scream and cling to each other desperately, screaming and sobbing hysterically*
Vartang: Why do you scream, maids? He is one of your kidnappers. *The other outlaws struggle with their captors, but to no avail*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled, between sobs* you... you....did not even give him a trial!
Vartang: Such as this do not need a trial.
Narrator: *Gwindof is the next to be dragged forward and forced to kneel. Vartang wipes the blood of Asgon off on his cloak, then moves his arm back, moves his sword to the side and the head of Gwindof rolls off*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls closed their eyes tightly this time when the second man is forced to kneel. they wail louder, still clinging to each other*
Narrator: *The bloody carnage does not stop until 15 more heads join the pile. Vartang's cloak is splattered in blood by the time it is all over*
Vartang: *Vartang orders his men* Men! Collect the bloody heads and take them back as proof to Shakh Baggins!
Elfhild and Elffled: *by the time the execution is over, the girls are hiding behind a tree. elfhild retched upon the ground, her sister tries to comfort her, but feels like retching as well*
Vartang: *He approaches the two women* Sorry you had to see this, Elfhild and Elffled
Elfhild and Elffled: *they cringe away from vartang, stumbling upon the ground, looking to him with terror.. the event bringing back painful memories of seeing their mother pinned to the wall, an orc's sword through her stomach, as they were dragged out of the house*
Vartang: Have you not so much of a word of kindness for your rescuer? *he wipes his sword off again and sheathes it*
Elfhild and Elffled: *they bring themselves to kneel, their foreheads touching the dirt. muffled sounds of their whimpering and crying... a gesture pleading for mercy as much as anything*
Vartang: Your solicitude is most gratifying, but you do not have to roll in the dirt. Now get up and find your horses and let us go back
Elfhild and Elffled: *the two girls manage to get to their feet, elffled dragging her hysterical sister behind*
Narrator: *The heads of the slain are loaded on the backs of pack horses by Vartang's men. Then when the women are mounted, he gives the command to go, and soon they set out again for Baggins' Hall*

Narrator: *Two days later, August 22, the group rides up to the outer courtyard of Baggins Hall*
Narrator: *The tired and dazed girls are grateful to be back after their ordeal, but they do not know how to tell Frodo of the events that have transpired*
Narrator: *Vartang gives orders to his military forces to go back to the fortress, and excuses the girls to go into the house. His mood is grim*
Vartang: My ladies, I am sure my presence is not required to be with you today. I obviously need to take a bath and a good drink would suit me well
Vartang: I doubt that either of you would be eager to help me with my bath. I will bid you good morning, but I shall be back in the afternoon
Vartang: Ah, yes, lest I forget. Sergeant Androg may present the proofs to Master Baggins this afternoon. Company dismissed!
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls nervously bow to vartang, and retreat into the hall*
Frodo: *Frodo's condition has worsened while they have been gone. He is resting in his room with Ceolwulf reading at his side*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls are overjoyed to be back home, but the sight of the men being beheaded taints their happiness*
Elfhild and Elffled: *after greeting the other servants and saying their hellos and gratitude of the numerous "welcome home's," they go down the corridor to frodo's room*
Frodo: *Frodo has heard the commotion and is peeking out the door when they appear*
Elfhild and Elffled: *they see frodo peering from the door and smiles light their faces* lord frodo! it is so good to be back home!
Frodo: You're back! *he cries joyfully and rushes to throw his arms around them*
Elfhild and Elffled: *they kneel before frodo so he can hug them.... they embrace him tightly and begin to sob softly*
Frodo: *against his will Frodo tears up too...but he pats their backs and tries to comfort them*
Frodo: Are you all right? You aren't hurt?
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild begins to wail, a long undulating sound* oh my lord!! it was horrible.... the outlaws made us ride almost constantly and tied us to trees when they camped. but then vartang..... *hysterical sobs*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled says with a heavy sigh* i shall tell the story from the beginning, my lord. *elfhild is in no position to talk at this time*
Frodo: *Frodo hugs Elflhild tightly and rocks soothingly, murmuring reassurances*
Frodo: If you wish, child, I will listen, but you do not have to tell me now *he says to Elffled*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled* the time we spent with the outlaws was unpleasant indeed, but one of the men was kind to us. the others we tried to ignore and tolerate.
Frodo: *nods slowly, wondering which one was kind...perhaps it was the leader, who had almost killed him*
Frodo: *The cut from Algund's sword is still red on Frodo's neck*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled takes a deep breath and continues* but then lord vartang arrived with a large force of men. they surrounded the camp. the outlaws gave no fight, but...
Frodo: Oh no!
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled pauses and looks down* he called each one of the men out, all 17, and beheaded one right after another. the head of the first man, the one who was kind to us.... we saw it cut off right before our eyes
Frodo: *Frodo blanches, then closes his eyes tightly*
Frodo: Oh, no. May the Valar have mercy on them!
Elfhild and Elffled: *more hysterical wailing from elfhild. elffled continues, her voice cracking slightly* we did not look anymore, and soon hid behind a tree until it was all over. then lord vartang came to us and told us to mount our horses. then we all rode back here, the journey long and grim
Frodo: *Frodo would be weeping or feeling faint right now if he weren't absorbed in his worry over the girls*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled turns to her sister and tries to comfort her*
Frodo: *Elfhild's head rests on his shoulder and he squeezes Elffled's arm gently as she reaches over to comfort her sister*
Frodo: *he shakes his head* I am sorry, sorry that you endured that
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled looks up* we are in mordor, are we not? *she says bitterly* i suppose we should become accustomed to seeing 17 men beheaded.
Frodo: *Frodo wears a dark, faraway expression* You never become accustomed to seeing their horrors
Frodo: *Ceolwulf comes and embraces the girls, then takes Frodo back to his bed and they all sit and talk for a while*

Narrator: *Ever since August 15, the day of the War of the Second Darkness oficially ended, the Dark Lord Sauron has sat upon his Dark Throne brooding in black fury*
Narrator: *All officers in the Mordor Army, upon whom even a hint of suspicion of failure fell, had died in agony in the dungeons of Lugburz. Only two of the highest ranking have surrived, Maugoth Lomin and Mautor Vardnir, and they have been exiled*
Narrator: *Anger and disbelief are Sauron's moods, and it is well that when the Dark Lord is in a state of dismay, all of Mordor is in a state of dismay*
Narrator: *It is very well for Algund, the Dunedain traitor, who, in a moment of foreknowledge, decided it would be best not to go back to the fortress of Durubkala, but instead to move to the secret passes over the Mountains of Shadow to Ilithien*
Narrator: *Because of his Numenorean foreknowledge, his life has been saved*

Narrator: *After leaving Frodo that morning, Vartang had gone to his cottage and found a message waiting for him stating that Algund had never arrived at the fortress of Durubkala with the gold.*
Narrator: *Seething, Vartang hastily wrote orders directing that a fullscale search be conducted for the outlaw and gave the dispatch to the waiting courier.*
Narrator: *Then Vartang orders his servants to prepare him a bath. As he relaxes in his tub, he thinks about the disappearance of Algund. He ponders as the servant scrubs his back*
Vartang: *Curse him! Vartang thinks. He has escaped and taken the gold with him, but he will not get far. Our forces occupy Ilithien and Gondor. He is a dead man*
Vartang: *After his bath is completed, Vartang dresses, sits down and reads the rest of his dispatches and drinks a glass of wine*
Vartang: *Then he gives his servants orders for the rest of the day and he leaves his cottage and goes over to Baggins' Hall*
Vartang: *Vartang enters Baggins' Hall, asks a servant where the Shakh is, then goes to Frodo's room*
Frodo: *The long series of shocks he has endured recently has weakened Frodo. Noticing that he is taking a turn for the worse, Ceolwulf is making him stay in bed. Frodo is too tired to argue with that*
Frodo: *The girls are still in Frodo's room talking with him and Ceolwulf*
Vartang: Taaraanla zark, Shakh
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled immediately rise from their seat upon the bench and bow to vartang when he enters*
Frodo: *Frodo looks at Vartang confusedly, not understanding the Black Speech*
Frodo: *Frodo sits in his bed. Ceolwulf has placed pillows behind his back and head*
Vartang: *He sees Frodo's confused expression, decides he does not know Black Speech well enough to understand what he said, so he restates his greeting* Taaraanla zark, Shakh, good afternoon
Frodo: Ah. Good afternoon.
Vartang: *He sits down in a chair near Frodo's bed. He looks at the girls and commands* Wine!
Elfhild and Elffled: *they quickly rush to get him wine, accidentally bumping into each other. they blush, elfhild stops and elffled goes forward, fetching a bottle of wine and a goblet. she pours vartang a goblet of wine and hands it to him, then goes back to her sister's side*
Vartang: It is good to see that you have become so prompt of late *he looks to them and a wicked smile is across his face. He takes the goblet of wine and sips it*
Vartang: Shakh, it is sad news I bring you this afternoon
Frodo: *furrows his brow*
Elfhild and Elffled: *they retreat to the bench and sit down in silence*
Vartang: The rebel outlaw Algund has escaped with all your gold. We could not apprehend him
Frodo: *glares even more bitterly than usual at Vartang today, for the deaths of the rangers*
Vartang: But I have ordered a force of 200 and trackers to go after him. He will not get far
Vartang: I have also sent dispatches to the military commanders at Minas Artano to be on the watch for this man, his companions and the packhorses
Frodo: No, no, I don't care about the gold. He is supposed to have it.
Frodo: *remembers Algund's claim that the gold is to help the survivors of the war*
Frodo: Do not hinder them
Vartang: He will soon be captured and speedily dispatched
Frodo: *rubs his hands over his face*
Vartang: Shakh, he is a thief, traitor and an outlaw. A bandit! I will have his head for this!
Frodo: *who is the traitor, him or me? Frodo thinks*
Frodo: No, he is a dunedain ranger and they are honorable!
Vartang: Now, that brings me to better news. It is time for Sergeant Androg to bring you the proofs that we captured the other outlaws
Frodo: Proofs?
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild utters a small squeak, the beginnings of a wail. elffled elbows her and shoots her a warning glance*
Vartang: Aye, Shakh, I often think you doubt my word and do not think me a man of honor
Vartang: Perhaps you wished that they had been brought back alive so you could watch their tortures? If that is so, I give you my humble appologies, but my anger overcame me and I slew them on the spot
Frodo: No!
Frodo: Oh Valar....they are all dead then, as the girls said
Vartang: Ah, I hear Androg now!
Frodo: *looks to the door in terror...what gristly sight will this be?*
Narrator: *Sergeant Androg and two other man come into the room, bearing large baskets filled with severed heads*
Frodo: *Frodo cries out and turns his head away, cringing away from the sight*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild moans, a soft wail, and buries her face into her sister's shoulder. elffled closes her eyes and tries to comfort her*
Narrator: *After two days of being transported, the stench is overpowering*
Frodo: *Frodo freezes in shock for a few moments*
Vartang: Ah, Androg, show us the heads of the leaders and then all
Frodo: *then starts coughing violently*
Vartang: You two maidens are my witnesses that these are the heads of those who held you
Frodo: Not necessary! *he cries between coughs*
Frodo: Take them away! Oh Elbereth! Take them away
Narrator: *Androg bows, then reaches into the basket and pulls out the head of Asgon in one hand and in the other the head of Gwindof. He holds them there, the vacant eyes of the two heads seeming to stare in accusation at Frodo*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls continue to keep their eyes closed, and hope vartang and his sergeant will soon go away*
Frodo: *Frodo keeps his head turned away but still catches the sight out of the corner of his eye*
Vartang: *he says to the girls* I must have witnesses! Open your eyes or I will open them for you!
Frodo: *he brings up his hands to block out the grisly spectacle*
Frodo: Vartang, no! Do not do this
Frodo: not after what they have been through
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild begins sobbing violently but both girls open their eyes and turn their heads hesitantly towards vartang and androg*
Vartang: Do you swear that these are the heads of two of the men who held you?
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled chokes out* yes, my lord, they are.
Vartang: Then, Androg, show them the rest!
Frodo: *Frodo continues to cough from the stench, trying not to look at the heads*
Narrator: *Androg puts the two heads back in the basket. Then he and his two companions take out the other heads one by one and display them*
Vartang: Are these others those you recognize as the outlaws?
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled nods*
Frodo: *shaking, Frodo listens to the interrogation, chafing at his powerlessness to stop it*
Vartang: Then, Androg, I order you to take the heads to the center of the main village that the Shakh owns. Put the heads on poles on public display, until the vermin have stripped the flesh off. They will serve as a reminder of those who flaunt the will of Shakh Baggins!
Narrator: *The three men bow and leave the room*
Frodo: *Frodo turns to face Vartang* No, no!
Frodo: The will of the shakh? Then why must it be done against my will?
Vartang: It is the custom, shakh, that the lord of the province display the heads of those who offended him in the center of the village
Frodo: *as he turns he catches a glimpse of the heads and falls back trembling*
Vartang: Shakh, you are too ill to know your own will. That is why I must advise you
Frodo: *Frodo groans, then bursts out* Leave me, leave us alone!
Vartang: And do you, Elfhild and Elffled, swear upon the name of the Gods that all 17 of these heads are of the outlaws who took you?
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls nod simutaneously and sniff*
Vartang: Do you also solemnly swear upon the Gods that I am your protector and defender and slew those who would threaten your lives?
Elfhild and Elffled: *they nod slowly*
Vartang: Very well, then. We have reached an understanding, I think. *He smiles, flashing his perfect teeth and then returns his attention to his wine goblet*
Vartang: Leave you, Shakh? Your advisor will never leave you
Frodo: Vartang *he begs* please go away
Frodo: Please go back to your cottage
Vartang: I cannot, shakh. Even if I wanted to, for I have more news
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls wipe their faces with their sleeves and sniff, their crying subsided for the time*
Frodo: Then....at least leave my room...*the pain in his chest swells until it is all consuming and he cannot hold back another bout of coughing*
Vartang: There are oaths that I have taken, oaths that you cannot comphrend that forbid me ever to leave you until I have returned you to your home and accomplished my quest
Vartang: But Shakh, I am both your friend and your advisor. I have pledged to defend your life with mine!
Vartang: *he finishes his wine goblet, extends it out* More wine
Frodo: *Frodo hears Vartang over his own coughing but does not believe a word he says*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled quickly gets up, walks over to the wine bottle and refills vartangs goblet... then returns to her sister on the bench*
Vartang: Narnulublat, Elffled
Vartang: Though you might not want me as a visitor, I must continue here until conditions warrant otherwise. But I have more good news for you
Frodo: *presses a handkerchief to his mouth. It quickly turns red, and the sight of the blood sickens him even more*
Vartang: Would you not hear it?
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf gets up and rushes to fetch the brown medicine. He pours it quickly into a goblet of wine and brings it back to Frodo. He holds Frodo's head up and helps him drink it*
Ceolwulf: *He sees the bloody hankerchief and recoils. He goes to a trunk, looks in it and brings back another hankerchief*
Frodo: *He hates having to drink the medicine in this state. The pain in his chest and throat remind him of having the tube forced down his throat and choking on the wine back at Lugburz*
Ceolwulf: Here, give me that hankerchief, Master Frodo. Take this one. I will dispose of the other
Frodo: *nods to Ceolwulf and gives him the handkerchief*
Vartang: Shakh, I do not like the looks of this
Frodo: *holding the goblet in shaking hands, he attempts more swallows of its contents*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf takes the hankerchief and goes out the door with it. He gives it to another servant to be disposed of*
Vartang: *Vartang gulps his wine until he has finished the glass, a worried look on his face. He feels that he is being forced by Frodo's weakening health to divulge information before planned* More wine
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled leaves the bench, gets the bottle of wine and refills vartang's goblet... then returns to her sister's side. the two girls are for once very silent*
Vartang: *He takes the goblet and begins drinking it* Shakh, your condition has worsened
Frodo: *Frodo finally finishes the medicine and the empty goblet drops to the floor as he leans back against the pillows*
Vartang: This saddens me greatly, and the information presses me to tell you something I would not have otherwise
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf returns back into the room, picks up the goblet and puts it back on the bureau with the other dirty glasses. He turns to the girls* Please take these to the kitchen so they may be cleaned
Ceolwulf: I must stay with the Master
Frodo: *slow breaths rasping in and out of his damaged lungs, he looks to Vartang*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled whispers something to her sister and she nods. elfhild gets up and takes the dirty glasses back to the kitchen*
Vartang: *Becoming worried at Frodo's worstened condition and what it might mean to his own health, Vartang says* You need very powerful healing, Master Frodo
Vartang: The arts of Men cannot bring this
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild takes her time in returning to the room.... elffled remains on the bench in frodo's room*
Frodo: *widens his eyes. Oh, please, not the horrid spells and potions of the Dark Lord's sorcery*
Frodo: *They wouldn't take him back there....would they?*
Vartang: Master Frodo, there is only One who can heal you and we had hoped that this could be forestalled as long as possible, that your health would get better by the healing arts of men
Frodo: *barely audible* No!...oh, no, please
Vartang: Now with your steadily worstening condition, I am compelled to order your return far sooner than had been planned
Frodo: *sits upright again* What?!
Frodo: Return!
Frodo: To....
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled's eyes widen... certainly, he could not mean the dark tower?*
Vartang: *A few beads of sweat break out on Vartang's forehead and he gulps his wine hastily*
Frodo: Not to Him!
Frodo: Please, please not to Him!
Vartang: *He bows his head reverantly*
Frodo: *desperately, growing louder* Vartang!....
Frodo: *trembles convulsively*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild stumbles into the room, her hair disheveled, her face red and sweaty, smelling a bit odd. she bows*
Vartang: *Almost absentmindedly, his left hand wipes the perspiration off his brow while he holds the glass of wine with his right, then drinks*
Frodo: Vartang, tell me!
Frodo: Where are you going to take me?
Vartang: *he commands the girls* Bring me a bottle of wine now and then leave us! I must talk to the Shakh in private
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild hands vartang the remainder of the bottle of wine. elffled gets up off the bench, the two bow and leave the room*
Frodo: No! *holds his arms out to the girls, fearing he will never see them again and cries* No, oh Valar, don't leave!
Elfhild and Elffled: *they look back at frodo, fear upon their faces*
Vartang: Your manservant too must leave. The maids look as though they could use a good bath. They smell worse than horses!
Ceolwulf: *A look of concern on his face, Ceolwulf leaves the room and shuts the door behind him*
Frodo: *desperately* Ceolwulf!
Frodo: *Seeing that they are all too afraid of Vartang to go to him, he calls brokenly* May the Valar protect you!
Vartang: *Vartang gets up, goes to the door and opens it, looks down the corridor. Seeing no one there, he closes the door*
Vartang: *Still holding the bottle of wine, he takes it over and conveniently puts it on a nearby table*
Frodo: *sobbing hysterically* Please, Vartang! I'll do anything! Don't take me back there, I beg you!
Frodo: Please!
Vartang: *He pulls his chair up close to Fodo's bed* Now Shakh, we will talk, and I advise you to listen to me carefully
Vartang: Do you now listen?
Frodo: *buries his face in the pillow in despair, hiding from Vartang, still crying, but nods that he is listening*
Vartang: As you know, the Great Lord thinks of you almost as a son
Frodo: *gives a cry of scorn and disbelief*
Vartang: A recalcitrant one sometimes, but still a son
Vartang: And as such, He wishes only for your wellbeing
Frodo: *shakes his head, sobbing louder*
Vartang: Do you understand that, Shakh?
Frodo: That is a lie and you know it! *he cries*
Vartang: I know nothing of the kind, Shakh *he says coldly*
Frodo: How can you say that after finding me in my cell covered in blood and filth?
Vartang: Now, the Great Lord has already determined that you are to see Him at least once before you leave
Vartang: Your recalcitrance, Shakh, gave Him no other choice. A wise father always disciplines his son, but you will find His discipline always just
Frodo: *looks at Vartang with utter hatred*
Frodo: Hah!
Vartang: I realize Shakh that you are indisposed and do not understand what you are saying, but understand this, if you can. His gentle Hand of mercy must be upon you for you to be healed!
Frodo: I would rather die!
Vartang: That is not possible, Shakh
Vartang: Your request is denied
Frodo: *thinks he may mean the morgul blade and wails passionately*
Vartang: One month from now is your birthday and a festive celebration has been planned by the Great Lord
Frodo: *soon he quiets down and buries his face in the pillow once more, sobbing quietly*
Vartang: But first He has presents to give to you before that date
Vartang: *he looks down, his eyes hooded* However, there is a problem, which I cannot discuss
Frodo: *looks up* What?
Vartang: I told you before there are certain things I cannot discuss *his voice is icy cold* so do not ask me of them
Frodo: *Frodo stops crying and turns deathly pale. He slides out of the bed and falls to his knees before Vartang*
Elfhild and Elffled: *while frodo and vartang are talking, the girls take a bath.... afterwards they put on clean clothes*
Frodo: *he struggles to speak through his great terror* Please...not the morgul blade!
Frodo: Anything but that
Vartang: *He looks at Frodo with a look of utter hatred and disdain* Shakh, do not grovel before me, like a beaten orc!
Vartang: What! You would not want that blessing? *a look of disbelief comes over his eyes*
Frodo: I do not want to grovel, I hate it, but I will grovel upon my face to avoid that fate!
Vartang: I would only hope that I could earn it!
Vartang: Shakh, you would turn down such a high honor?
Frodo: Yes! Yes!
Vartang: To have life everlasting within your hands?
Frodo: *nods vigorously*
Vartang: To cheat the Demon God of your fea forever?
Vartang: I would take this gift in an instant if it were offered!
Frodo: *shakes with sobs again and his voice rises in another wail*
Vartang: I only hope someday I might prove worthy to receive it!
Vartang: But Shakh, it is not to be that. I give you my word of honor
Frodo: Oh, thank you!
Vartang: That is not your fate
Frodo: *he sighs with relief*
Vartang: Your fate has been determined otherwise by the Master of the Fates of Arda!
Frodo: *then seethes that he groveled before Vartang for nothing*
Frodo: *struggles to climb into the bed but falls to the floor*
Frodo: *makes it into the bed on the second try*
Vartang: Now on your feet! Do not grovel before me again unless I give you reason to! *he looks at Frodo with a cold stare*
Frodo: *Feeling exactly as he did in front of the orcs who tortured him, Frodo nods gravely, his eyes wide in fear against his will*
Vartang: Shakh, do you wish to hear the rest of my news at a later time? I was prepared to share another glass of wine with you *he laughs*
Frodo: No, no wine *his stomach turns at the thought*
Frodo: But...*he draws a shaky breath* do not keep me in suspense...go ahead and tell me
Frodo: *he prays to the Valar for strength*
Vartang: Then I will have one myself *he finishes the contents of the glass, goes over and pours himself another goblet*
Vartang: You are to return to Lugburz September 19, stay there that night and the next. You will return back the 21st
Frodo: I will return back? *disbelieving*
Vartang: You cannot go sooner unless you go by wain! Do you wish that?
Vartang: Your slaves will be safe in my hands until you return. You cannot take your manservant. There are some journeys you must go alone
Frodo: *thinks of the girls alone with Vartang* Well...I suppose the quickest way is best
Frodo: I would not wish him ever to go there!
Frodo: I would rather make that journey alone than with him
Vartang: You cannot go now! It is impossible
Frodo: *His face begins to take on the grim determination it had as he entered Mordor for the first time*
Vartang: *For the first time, Vartang seems to be concerned. He gets up, still holding his wine goblet and walks about the room*
Frodo: *looks to Vartang questioningly*
Vartang: *He looks around, almost as though he expects the walls to have ears* You cannot go the quickest way at this time, Shakh. It is not possible. You must wait then until September 19
Frodo: *He wishes he did not have to go at all...* Very well *he says quietly*
Frodo: How am I to go there then if not in a wain?
Vartang: *He continues walking around the room, drinking his wine as he walks, obviously disconcerted about something*
Vartang: *he stops, takes another drink and looks at Frodo*
Frodo: *Frodo is too upset to notice Vartang's disturbance*
Vartang: You will go by the best possible way, Shakh. Do not ask me questions
Frodo: *meets Vartang's eyes defiantly*
Vartang: Do as I say and ask me no more
Vartang: You will leave September 19 for the Dark Tower
Frodo: *raises his head, grim resignation in his eyes*
Frodo: *nods slowly*
Vartang: *He looks at Frodo's Ring apprehensively*
Frodo: I will be the same as I was before
Frodo: You thought you had broken me but you had not and you never will!
Vartang: Now, Shakh, I will tell your manservant to increase the dosage of your medicine
Vartang: Break you? Why would I break you? I am your protector. I will see you back to the Shire or my name is not Vartang!
Frodo: *nods absently and looks away from Vartang. He is not worth an argument*
Vartang: Do not tell your slaves of our discussion.... or... *he looks at Frodo's Ring*
Frodo's Ring: *Frodo's Ring seems to feel hot and grow heavy upon Frodo's hand....a warning to Frodo.... speak not a word of this. I command thee*
Frodo: *Frodo's eyelids flutter and he shudders in great pain*
Frodo: *with reluctance, he nods his assent to the voice that Vartang cannot hear*
Vartang: *Vartang silently prays to Melkor for Frodo's health and his own*
Vartang: Now shakh, that we have reached an understanding, I have more good news for you.
Frodo: *raises his narrowed eyes to Vartang*
Vartang: I have received a message from Lord Lorthang. He wishes a chance to come and visit you and to make amends for his behavior. He has requested an audience with you September 10th
Frodo: *raises his eyebrows in surprise*
Frodo: I suppose I have no choice but to have this audience, have I not?
Vartang: He says that he is most eager to see you
Vartang: Shakh, you are the lord here. I am but your advisor, but I knew that you would answer in the affirmative, so I have taken the liberty to send your mesasge to him
Frodo: *nods with a sigh*
Vartang: He and his entourage will be here the night of September 9. I have planned great fesitivites in your name in his honor
Frodo: *Facing Lorthang seems like a small trouble now, compared to returning to the Dark Tower and the presence of Sauron*
Vartang: Now, Shakh, having given you all your news, I will leave you
Frodo: *His fists clench the sheets. That will make him look even more like a traitor*
Frodo: *nods to Vartang staring coldly after him*
Vartang: By the way, my compliments as usual on the wine. I will give a mesasge for your servants to come back. *He puts the empty goblet back on the table, bows goes to the door, opens it and walks down the corridor*
Frodo: *As he waits for the servants to return, he whispers the Elvish prayer to Elbereth Glithoniel*

Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled, their hair still a bit wet from their bath, come back to frodo's room, bow and enter. finduilas comes soon after with a pot of tea and a tray of cakes, which she puts on a nearby table*
Frodo: *Frodo looks at them all with a strange expression*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf comes in shortly after, a look of concern upon his face*
Frodo: *He looks very shaken, but ice cold with grim resignation*
Frodo: *He seems to look past them, past everything to worlds they have not seen, turning over things in his mind that they cannot guess*
Elfhild and Elffled: *finduilas talks to the girls for a moment, giving elfhild a bit more mint, to ease her stomach, which had been troubled earlier...*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf goes over to him, puts his hand on his forehead, feeling his temperature* Master Frodo, your face feels flushed
Frodo: *He wants to reassure them that he will be here almost another month, but he cannot tell them what happened*
Frodo: *Frodo meets Ceolwulf's eyes with great sadness*
Ceolwulf: Lord Vartang told me to double the dosage of your medicine
Elfhild and Elffled: *finduilas leaves the room with a kind word and a smile, and the girls go to the bench and sit down, looking anxiously at frodo*
Frodo: *Perhaps Vartang tells the truth...perhaps he will return, but will he be himself? Will he not go insane at another sight of the Dark Lord?*
Ceolwulf: The next time you have a coughing spell, I am to strengthen the dosage
Elfhild and Elffled: *they listen into frodo and ceolwulfs conversation, but it seems frodo is distraught and ceolwulf is the only one who is speaking*
Frodo: *nods vaguely to Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: Master Frodo, what did he say that was so upsetting?
Frodo: *suddenly clasps Ceolwulf's arm and pulls him into a tight embrace, as though it were the last time they would meet*
Frodo: I cannot tell you
Ceolwulf: Then it must be bad, Master Frodo, if you cannot tell me
Frodo: I am forbidden to tell you
Elfhild and Elffled: *the twins get off the bench and hesitantly approach frodos bed, standing beside it*
Ceolwulf: Forbidden? *a questioning look comes on his face* Why forbidden?
Ceolwulf: Is something more strange than usual going on?
Frodo: *pulls away from Ceolwulf and rubs his temples*
Frodo: *tears up again* I cannot tell you!
Ceolwulf: What could be more strange than the sight of baskets of skulls in the hall!
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild whimpers slightly*
Frodo: *succumbs to quiet sobs again, hunched forward with his face in his hands*
Ceolwulf: *he pats him on the shoulder* There, there, Master Frodo, don't take on so. Maybe it isn't that bad...
Ceolwulf: *he thinks to himself: it is probably worse*
Frodo: *His too-big nightshirt falls off one shoulder revealing the tops of ugly, deep scars*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf pretends he does not see it, but he winces as he beholds the scars*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild puts a mint leaf in her mouth and chews it slowly*
Frodo: *raises his head and pulls the nightshirt back up with a meaningfull look at them. He does not say anything but his ring begins to burn nonetheless*
Ceolwulf: *A look of knowledge begins to form on Ceolwulf's face and he understands Frodo is trying to tell him something without using words. He pats him again on the shoulder*
Frodo: *raises his hand to clasp Ceolwulf's*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled whispers* are you....leaving us... my lord..?
Frodo: *Frodo whispers back brokenly* I am forbidden to tell you *he says again*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled looks down, then back up* i understand...
Ceolwulf: *His voice is very quiet* Shakh, perhaps tomorrow you should talk to.... *his voice becomes lower* the old man
Frodo: *a gleam of hope dawns in Frodo's eyes* Yes!...perhaps! I will talk to him...but...hopefully he will see without my having to say
Ceolwulf: Derufin, he is a strange one. I think he is a bit fey *he keeps his eye on Frodo's Ring*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls notice ceolwulf's gaze upon the ring.... they too look upon it furtively*
Frodo: *The Ring begins to glow as the voice warns Frodo in his mind that he is saying too much*
Ceolwulf: Master Frodo, I think you should rest the remainder of the afternoon. All these things have quite worn you out
Frodo: *leans back against the pillows, but continues to stare at them all as though he wanted to say something*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild looks at the ring with admiration, how beautiful shines the gold.... she stares at it a moment, then shakes her head slightly and looks back at frodos face*
Frodo: *After a pause he looks at them all and says simply* You are all very dear to me
Frodo: *If I should not return, he wants to say, or if I should return....changed, I want you all to know that.*
Frodo: *but he cannot say those things*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls smile at frodo. elffled says softly* you are almost like one of our own kin to us, dear lord.
Ceolwulf: *a look of enlightenment at last finally appears on Ceolwulf's face*
Frodo: *a small smile of relief appears on his face when he sees Ceolwulf's recognition*
Ceolwulf: *He gazes, almost hypnotized by the Ring and he slowly begins to draw his short knife from the belt around his waist. He holds it up and looks at Frodo questioningly*
Ceolwulf: *his eyes say, should I? Should I?*
Frodo: *Frodo's eyes widen as understanding dawns on him. Oh, if only Ceolwulf could cut the ring off!*
Frodo: *He looks down at his hand*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild and elffled look at ceolwulf and his knife, and back at frodo who looks at his hand, wondering what silent exchange is going on by glances and gestures*
Frodo: *Would it really kill him, he wonders? And if it did, would that be a good thing?*
Frodo's Ring: *The Ring begins to throb and hum like an angered bee as though aware of his thoughts. It lashes out to him and he feels his heartbeats beginning to constrict, as though held in the grip of a fiery hand*
Frodo: *Frodo gasps and his hand reaches up to clutch at his heart*
Frodo: *His face contorts in pain*
Elfhild and Elffled: *the girls eyes widen and they rush to his side, hovering over him* master! what is wrong?
Frodo's Ring: *The Ring says.... No, no, you do not want to do that. You want to live, not die! Do not part Me from your hand!*
Frodo's Ring: *Or the consequences will fall on others, not only yourself*
Frodo: *Frodo grits his teeth and tries to think of a stinging retort, but cannot for the pain fills his mind*
Frodo: *At that he gives up his struggle and is able to lift his head to the girls*
Frodo's Ring: *Behold your slaves. They will suffer if you die..... they will be in the hands of their opressors. The Ring laughs at him... Weakling, weakling!*
Frodo: *For them, then, Frodo replies in his mind. I will endure it for them*
Frodo's Ring: *The Ring gradually stops its humming and releases its grasp upon Frodo's heart*
Frodo: *Frodo's hand drops from his heart and he sinks into Elffled's arms*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elffled holds frodo in her arms... she cries out* master! are ou all right!?
Frodo: *She can feel his heart racing and his body trembling, but gradually it subsides*
Ceolwulf: *A look of unbearable sadness on his face, Ceolwulf puts his knife back in its sheath on his belt*
Elfhild and Elffled: *elfhild takes frodos hand and holds it, her fingers gently stroking his*
Frodo: *Frodo looks down at her and smiles wanly*
Frodo: *He says softly* Better now.

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