Night of November 6 - Morning of November 7, 3019

Two hours after nightfall November 6, Vardamir and Aldir slipped from the stable yard and made their way down the hill to the gate of the city of Minas Artano. When they were challenged at the main gate by a guard and questioned about why they were and why they were bringing an extra horse whose back was packed with a large bundle, Aldir told the guard that they were "men of the city" on their way to the tavern in Newburg bearing gifts to the ladies of the Blushing Maiden Tavern to give in exchange for their favors.

The extra horse was brought along in case Aldir chose a lady to ride with him and he needed the extra horse because he was too heavy for her to ride double. The guard accepted this story with a roguish laugh and a knowing look. After leaving the main gate, Vardamir and Aldir rode towards Newburg for about a half mile and then veered their course in an arc and swung to the east.

Ceolwulf portrayed by Hobbitness
Vardamir portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator and Aldir portrayed by Wraith

Aldir: *The night air is cold and snow lies upon the ground. They ride east about two miles, then Aldir calls to Vardamir* My friend, let the horses rest a bit and you can tell me more of your plan
Vardamir: *he slows his horse's pace, until finally stopping* My plan? *he laughs merrily* I have none!
Aldir: *his shoulders slump* No plan? What foolery is this?
Aldir: *A mixture of surprise, anger and disbelief races through his mind* You mean you brought me here and have no plan whatsoever!
Vardamir: I thought it would come to me on the way. The best ideas often come at times of need.
Aldir: But must you seek times of need in order to make plans? My friend, how could you ask me to come with you and you are prepared with no plan!
Vardamir: The only plan is to evade death and capture, if possible.
Aldir: Your sense of mirth is beyond me, Vardamir
Vardamir: *he laughs again* Well, I DO have something of a plan.
Vardamir: We shall ride to the ruins of Osgiliath, and stay there until tomorrow night. Then, when the guards who are escorting Ceolwulf to the dark lands stop there, we come upon them unawares.
Aldir: Then, at least, Vardamir, the journey will be unhurried, for we will be ahead of them on horseback
Aldir: But we must pay attention to our horses, so we do not overtax them in this cold night air and cause them to sweat, or they will fall ill of some chill
Aldir: For it is twenty miles to Osgiliath. Keep them at a walk and a trot. We are already hours ahead of the time that you have learned that they will move Ceolwulf from the prison. Our horses will be well rested after we rescue him at least
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf lies on the floor of his cell, on his stomach, his head resting on his arms. It must be night, for he cannot remember ever being this tired. But perhaps it is weakness from loss of blood*
Vardamir: *he nods, and then says with feigned indignation* And you did not think that I had a plan!
Ceolwulf: *He tries to sleep, but it only comes in fits, for his pain keeps him awake. This beating was worse than the last one.*
Aldir: Just a moment, my friend. I think my horse has something caught in his shoe. *Holding the reins, he dismounts from the horse, and quickly scooping up a handful of snow, he hurls it at the back of Vardamir's head*
Ceolwulf: *His mind roils with a thousand tormented thoughts, when he has energy enough to think.*
Vardamir: *startled, he looks around, and sees Aldir standing beside his horse, looking particularly smug.*
Vardamir: *he quickly dismounts, holding the reins and the lead rope of the spare horse in one hand, and with the other, forms a snowball and hurls it at Aldir's head*
Ceolwulf: *He remembers the glorious exhilaration of riding into battle alongside Theoden King...and now he is reduced to his own cowardice*
Ceolwulf: *The little beard he had grown back is now shaved off, and his hair is cut even shorter than before*
Aldir: *Foreseeing that his friend would do such a trick, he quickly ducks. He laughs*
Aldir: *Then he takes the reins in his hand and mounts his horse, and then begins trotting ahead of his friend* Come on, Vardamir, or I will in Osgiliath before you!
Ceolwulf: *He thought he would regain his honor with his rash, desperate attacks on Mordor's soldiers. "To die with honor is better than to live a coward," he has told himself.*
Ceolwulf: *Then why does he feel such shame now?*
Vardamir: I think not, my friend! *he quickly mounts his horse, kneeing his horse forward to catch up to Aldir and pass him*
Aldir: It must be about 9 o'clock by now, I would estimate, and it will take us six hours to reach the ruins. We will be there by three
Aldir: But as slow as your horse is, Vardamir, it will take him at least seven. *he knees his horse ahead of Vardamir*
Ceolwulf: *His actions have taken him away from Elfhild. All this stemmed from his desire to find her, to rescue her from the enemy, to bring her take her as wife*
Vardamir: Nay! My horse can go faster than the decrepit creature that you are riding! *he laughs and knees his horse ahead of Aldir*
Ceolwulf: *Suppose Frodo was right, and she does come back, and finds that he is not there? That it was his own folly that took him away?*
Aldir: Decrepit! That nag of yours is worthy only for carrion for vultures!
Ceolwulf: *In my attempts to regain my honor, to regain my love, he thinks, I have lost everything*
Aldir: *he knees his horse into a brisk trot and soon passes Vardamir, who must contend with leading the pack horse as well as guiding his own mount*
Vardamir: *he calls to Aldir* Careful there now! Or your horse shall be dead ere we ever reach Osgiliath!
Vardamir: *he knees his horse into a brisker trot and passes Aldir once again*
Ceolwulf: *At one time I was a King's Knight, and no one dared even speak out of turn to me. Now here I am half dead from the work of these foul demon spawn, and a slave, to be worked to death in the mines*
Aldir: *he shouts ahead to Vardamir's back* Your horse is both spavened and swaybacked! I wonder at how it even walks, much less trots! *he knees his horse into a slow canter*
Ceolwulf: *He laughs bitterly to himself as he thinks: If ever I had the chance, what a terror in battle I would be now!*
Vardamir: *he calls back* My horse may be thus, but it is far better than yours... which proves how utterly wretched yours must be!
Vardamir: *he knees his horse into a quicker canter, pulling the spare horse along as he rides. He laughs as he passes Aldir once again*
Aldir: *As he urges his horse into a gallop, his horse kicking up snow with his hooves, he passes Vardamir, and calls back* Not only is your horse spavened and swaybacked but its joints are old and brittle, and it is winded
Ceolwulf: *Through the slow hours, Ceolwulf feels Frodo reaching into his writhing, struggling mind. At first Ceolwulf tries to hide his thoughts from Frodo because he hates for anyone to see him in such a state.*
Vardamir: *he calls over to Aldir as he urges his horse faster than his and passes him yet again* My horse certainly will be spavened, swaybacked and winded if you overexert your old nag ere we reach Osgiliath and you must ride behind me upon mine!
Aldir: Vardamir *he calls to him as Vardamir passes* I would rather walk than ride behind you!
Vardamir: *he calls back, laughing* Good! It shall be good for you!
Ceolwulf: *But Frodo is insistent, and though Ceolwulf would not admit it, his "little brother's" presence is a comfort, so he allows Frodo to reach him*
Aldir: *He slows his horse down* And walk we must surely do, lest these horses be spent before the journey is hardly done!
Aldir: begun*
Ceolwulf: *Another wave of sorrow crashes over Ceolwulf as he realizes he will be forever parted not only from Elfhild, but from Frodo, and all his other friends in Frodo's household*
Vardamir: True.. *he says, and slows his horse down* Alas! We cannot race tonight... but it is better for you, I suppose... for you shan't taste the bitter taste of defeat! For I shall surely win in any race against you!
Aldir: Ah, that is true that you would, my friend, for you picked out my mount, and I know your judge of horseflesh well. You picked out the more worthy mount for yourself and gave the lesser to me!
Vardamir: *he laughs heartily*
Aldir: Now I propose that we rest the horses a while, and then lead them so they will not be overtaxed. Then at the end of an hour, we trade horses, and then see whose mount is the faster!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf can sense Frodo's great grief, and even frustration with him, but overriding all is Frodo's sadness and concern for him*
Vardamir: *he slows his horse to a walk* It is a bargain then. We shall rest the horses a while, then lead them, and I will let you ride this mount and I will take yours. But still, I shall defeat you in a race anytime!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf would hate to be the object of pity, but he can sense that Frodo's concern is tempered with respect...he knows Frodo has always held him in high esteem, and as time passed, Ceolwulf thought the same of Frodo*
Aldir: *He brings the horse to a halt, then dismounts and loosens the horse's girth a little so that it can breathe easier. Then he holds the end of the reins in his left hand and the reins close to the horse's mouth with his right*
Aldir: *They head east on the road*
Ceolwulf: *Well, if he can do nothing about the loss of his home, his honor, Elfhild, his other friends--and his health, it now seems--at least he has these last few hours with his friend*
Vardamir: *he waits for Aldir to catch up with him, and when Aldir has dismounted, he follows suit, loosening the girths and leading both horses*
Aldir: *Silently, they lead their horses onward, the only sound breaking the quiet of the night the heavy breathing of their horses*
Ceolwulf: *Both Ceolwulf and Frodo try to rise above their troubled thoughts by concentrating on each other's presence*
Vardamir: Aldir... you are breathing as hard as the horses. I can hear you above them.
Aldir: That is not the sound of my breathing, Vardamir. It is the sound of the air rushing through the vacant place where your brain should dwell
Vardamir: *he laughs merrily* Ah, that is a good one, my friend! But perhaps we should rest, ere your heart fail you from overexertion.
Ceolwulf: *As the night wears on, Ceolwulf feels some of his weariness leave him, and the pain in his back lessen. That is encouraging at least; perhaps now he can hope to survive the journey*
Ceolwulf: *But a journey to what? His heart plummets as he imagines being worked to death in the mines under the shadow of the Dark Tower*
Aldir: My heart is far more still than your mouth, my friend! Be glad that there is no movement along the road tonight, or your voice would alert them from miles around. You sound like a hen who has just laid an egg upon her nest and must go around the chicken yard and boast to all about her exploits
Vardamir: Louder still is your breathing. You sound like a rooster, long past his youth, and with a fat gizzard, who, struggling to give one last crow, falls over dead before the sound can escape his throat!
Aldir: Hush, Vardamir! I hear noises ahead of us!
Aldir: Let us get the horses off the road!
Ceolwulf: *Well, it will not take long to work me to death, at least, he thinks. There is hardly any strength left in my body, and I will never have the chance to regain it now*
Ceolwulf: *The thought fills him with new fury*
Vardamir: *He quickly falls silent and pulls the horses off to the side of the road. In a hushed voice, he says* There is no moon, and the night is dark. Let us hope they do not see us.
Aldir: *he says in a whisper* The only way I can even see the road is that it is far darker than the snow along the sides. Quickly, let us move away before they see us *he leads his horse off the road in a distance to the right*
Vardamir: *he follows Aldir and walks far from the road, holding his hand over his horse's mouth and nostrils, to muffle the sound of its breathing and to forestall it in case it tries to neigh. With his other hand, he also does so with the spare horse*
Aldir: *Aldir holds his horse and whispers words of encouragement to it while they listen for the approaching footsteps on the road*
Aldir: Vardamir *he whispers* how many do you suppose there are?
Vardamir: *he whispers back* About a hundred, by the noise of their feet. They wear heavy armor. Can you not hear the clanking they make?
Aldir: Certainly, I can hear the rattle of their armor. Do you think now that I am deaf?
Ceolwulf: *Frodo tells Ceolwulf not to think such despairing thoughts, that there will be a rescue attempt. But amid the endless wanderings of his mind, Ceolwulf barely registers the thought*
Aldir: Hold your horse's mouth tighter, lest he mistake you for one of his own kind and gives you an answering call
Vardamir: You should hold your horse's mouth tighter as well, though your voice would be answered by another kind.
Aldir: *They listen as a patrol goes down the road in front of them and then slowly the footsteps die away towards the west*
Aldir: *he looks towards Vardamir* Why do you think they are about tonight?
Vardamir: Let us hope that they are returning from duty eastward and are heading for one of the taverns in Newburg.
Vardamir: I think it is safe to go back to the road now, but we must be alert and keep listening.
Aldir: Perhaps we can hear them if any more come.... *he looks over to Vardamir* if you can keep quiet!
Vardamir: *he laughs merrily*
Narrator: *Throughout the night, they continue eastward, alternating riding their horses at a walk, trot or canter and then leading them for long periods so that the beasts will not be worn by the journey. Towards three o'clock in the morning, they approach the ruins of Osgiliath*
Ceolwulf: *Sometimes Ceolwulf can feel Frodo reach in and still his turbulent mind, but his thoughts are still dulled by pain and exhaustion.*
Narrator: *Snowflakes begin to fall in front of their eyes as a light wind from the East begins to blow*
Aldir: Now we have a long time to wait. Let us take the horses far back from the road.
Ceolwulf: *He becomes so frustrated that his eyes sting..if only he could vent his anger in battle! But even more than that, now, he wants to sleep.*
Vardamir: *For a moment, he looks to the dark looming forms of the mountains of Shadow across the river. Turning back to Aldir, he says* Aye, and hide behind the ruins.
Aldir: Let us see if we can find some shelter from the snow and wind among the ruins
Aldir: You always boast that you can see better, hear better and are swifter than I am. Now let's see how quickly you can find that!
Vardamir: Gladly! You hold my horse and the extra, and I shall look about. *he hands him the reins of both horses and then goes off to explore*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf senses that Frodo wishes he could stay awake for a last conversation, but knows he will need his strength the coming day.*
Aldir: *He stands there, exhaustion beginning to creep into his body from the 20 mile ride of the night. I am not in as good a shape as I thought I was, he admits to himself. Maybe I should lose a bit of meat*
Ceolwulf: *Just as after his last beating, Ceolwulf feels Frodo's hand on his back lessening the pain. Soon Ceolwulf is asleep, and it is as though he and Frodo were sleeping in the same room again.*
Vardamir: *After a few moments, Vardamir finds the remains of an old building. Part of the roof remains, and it faces westward, out of the path of the bitter wind from the east.*
Vardamir: *He walks back towards Aldir and beckons for him to follow* Come, I have found a place. It is in the leeward side of a building. We will be sheltered there somewhat.
Aldir: It is well, for the wind chills my bones. Lead me to it
Vardamir: Aye.. *he casts a glance eastward* indeed, this wind is bitter. You lead the horses, and I will set a picket rope and tie it between two stones.
Vardamir: *He leads Aldir between ruins and rubble, buildings of stone long abandoned.*
Aldir: *he follows behind him, holding the reins of the horses. Then coming to Vardamir, he stops*
Vardamir: *he takes a rope out of his horse's saddlebag, then ties it between two stones, stretching the rope out as he walks. Then he goes back to Aldir and takes his horse, puts a halter on it and a rope and
Vardamir: it to the picket line. He goes back to the spare horse and ties it to the picket line beside the other, then unsaddles both horses and puts the saddles aside over a rock*
Aldir: *he leads his horse to the line and then takes a halter and rope from his saddle bags, puts it on the horse's neck and ties him to the picket line and unsaddles him*
Aldir: It is a pity that there is no grain for them, for the poor beasts have had a long journey
Vardamir: That is where you are wrong. Let the horses first rest a while and cool down. I found a stream nearby where they can drink when they are cool, and I also brought grain for the journey.
Aldir: And feed bags too, I suppose *he laughs*
Vardamir: Of course. *he smiles smugly*
Aldir: Then while the horses rest, let us have something to eat. My wife has provided well for us
Aldir: *he goes over to the bundle that he has taken from the spare horse and begins to untie it* See, there is dried fruit, cheese, bread and flasks of wine and blankets!
Vardamir: Good! *he walks over to Aldir* Let us rest now and eat!
Aldir: Let us be sparing though. What is left must last you and Ceolwulf for a long time
Aldir: *He takes a flask of wine and a piece of bread from the bundle and walks over to the side of the wall and sits down*
Aldir: We will share the wine but we shall not drink too much
Vardamir: *After getting a small bit of bread from the bundle, he walks over to Aldir and sits down near him* Aye. We must conserve our supplies.
Aldir: Here, you have the first drink *he hands him the wine flask*
Vardamir: *He takes the wine flask and unfastens the stopper. He holds it up and says* A toast... to our success, or to a speedy death if we fail!
Vardamir: *he drinks sparingly and hands the flask back to Aldir*
Aldir: *he takes the flask from Vardamir's hand* No, I propose my own toast. To success and a long life!
Aldir: *he drinks and hands it back to Vardamir* Now don't drink much. There is plenty of snow to drink
Vardamir: Nay, I have had enough. I do not indulge the way you do. *he says with a smirk and puts the stopper back in the bottle* I shall drink the snow.
Aldir: *He eats his piece of bread and then washes it down with mouthfuls of snow that he brings to his mouth, blowing on the snow first so it will melt some* A chilly drink, my friend, but at least it will be filling
Vardamir: *he finishes his piece of bread* Now I must attend to the horses, for they have cooled. *he gets up and walks over to them, untying their ropes from the picket line. He leads them to the nearby stream, and when they have had their fill, he leads them back and ties them to the picket line. Then he fetches the feed bags and grain from the other supplies.*
Vardamir: *After putting grain in the feed bags, he puts them over the horses' mouths and fastens them there so that they can eat*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf's sleep was deep and dreamless at first, but after a while he begins to have strange dreams, haunted by black shapes and fire*
Ceolwulf: *Then come dreams of Rohan, Theoden and his court, and Brightmane. Ceolwulf's parents, uncles, and his two brothers talk with him again*
Ceolwulf: *Then Ceolwulf dreams he is in Nurn, showing Frodo the beautiful lands. Brightmane gallops up, having trailed his master all the way to Mordor*
Vardamir: *After tending to the horses, he walks over to the supplies and fetches two blankets. He goes back to Aldir and hands him both blankets* Here, you take both and rest. I will take the first watch
Aldir: Give me three hours rest and no more!
Aldir: *He pulls his hood over his head, wraps the two blankets around his shoulders and hunches down, his back against the wall, falling into a sound sleep immediately*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf lifts Frodo and puts him on Brightmane, then gets on behind him. Ceolwulf becomes one with his horse again as they ride across the fields.*
Vardamir: *He searches for a high, hidden place where he can observe the road. Finding the remains of an old guard tower, he climbs up into it to the topmost level and settles down to watch.*
Ceolwulf: *But as they ride, anxiety gradually dawns on Ceolwulf, increasing to a blaring alarm. Something is wrong...something is wrong with Elfhild...he cannot remember what, but he must find her*
Vardamir: *At least I am sheltered from the wind and snow and have a good vantage point both up and down the road, he thinks to himself, and begins softly humming an elvish tune*
Aldir: *His mind begins to dream of his wife and their fire and he can see her once again in the meadow watching as the spring foals play about the field, their mothers nickering anxiously lest they stray too far*
Ceolwulf: *The need to find Elfhild becomes an all-consuming urgency. Ceolwulf leads Brightmane on a desperate search, galloping far over many different terrains until until Ceolwulf has no idea where they are but it matters not, for he must find Elfhild at all costs...she is waiting for him.*
Ceolwulf: *Suddenly Brightmane jumps over a large stone, and Frodo falls off the horse. Ceolwulf looks back over his shoulder, crying out, but unable to stop the horse*
Ceolwulf: *So the dream continues, with Ceolwulf galloping away from Frodo, on an aimless, desperate search for Elfhild, completely lost, and borne on a horse he cannot control*
Narrator: *At six o'clock in the morning, Ceolwulf can hear the heavy footsteps of guards marching towards his cell. Soon, a key turns in the lock*
Ceolwulf: *A kick in his side wakes Ceolwulf. He squints up to find an orc leering at him* Wake up, straw'ead! Time to go!
Vardamir: *Six o'clock comes and passes and yet Vardamir lingers there watching. The hour eight comes. He stamps his feet and looks to the east, and sees a faint glimmer of a late dawn, hidden by the mountains of Shadow and the fumes of the Dark Land. Now I will wake him up, he thinks to himself, and climbs down out of the tower*
Vardamir: *He walks back to Aldir, and bending down, he shakes him gently to wake him from his sleep*
Aldir: *He stirs in his sleep, his body aching all over from the cold of the ground and the long ride* You let me sleep too late!
Vardamir: Good morning! I thought that a man of your constitution would need it.
Aldir: My constitution is it? *he rises to his feet, stretches his arms and shoulders, then casts a sideways glance at Vardamir, and rushes him, grabbing him by the back of the neck. He pushes him down into the snow and rubs his face into it*
Vardamir: Ahhhh!! *he finds himself face forward in the snow with Aldir's hands upon his head... muffled cries of* This is some way to greet a friend who wishes you good morning!
Aldir: *He lets him loose* Good morning, Vardamir. Now lead me back to your watch post and speak no more of my constitution!

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