THE MINSTREL GIRL
Evening of February 27, 3020
After three months, Vardamir and Ceolwulf had both unexpectedly announced themselves with a knock at Frodo's window during the early evening of February 27. After a joyous reunion, Ceolwulf had proposed that all three do what seemed an impossible thing; take Frodo and venture out and have a pleasant evening in a tavern at Newburg.
Things had gone well until a hooded stranger came to their table and demanded that he be allowed to sit with them. Frodo, Vardamir and Ceolwulf had soon realized who the man was - the man known as "The Captain," the leader of a band of outlaw former Dunedain rangers in the employ of Mordor. In the autumn, The Captain and his twenty outlaws had waylaid Frodo's entourage, which was returning from a visit to Lord Lorthang, then lord of the Southern Province of Nurn. The robbers had quickly subdued Frodo's escort and had bound them all to trees. Then telling Frodo that he was going to take the maidens Elfhild and Elffled and hold them hostage, he had demanded a huge ransom for them and implied that they would be killed if Frodo did not pay it. Vartang and his men had finally rescued Elfhild and Elffled and Vartang had killed seventeen of the outlaw band. After Frodo had paid the ransom and The Captain and two of his comrades were on their way back to rejoin the rest of the outlaw band, The Captain had had a premonition that he should not return to the rest of the outlaws but should instead flee for his life. Indeed, his premonition was true, for although he and Vartang had been in collusion, Vartang had planned all along to kill the outlaws so there would never be a chance that they might someday tell the truth: that the kidnapping plot had all been a farce, another trick of Vartang to bring pain to Frodo.
The Captain and the two remaining men of his band had then left Mordor with the ransom payment and journeyed to Ithilien where they had hidden in caves in the mountains known only to them, knowledge gained from the days before they had betrayed the West and joined Mordor for gain.
Ceolwulf, Frodo and Vardamir refused to let him sit at the table with them, but the man had been adamant in his demands. Ceolwulf's hot temper flared and he challenged the brigand to go outside and settle it like men. Disdainfully, the outlaw had implied that Ceolwulf was no match for the skills of the fighter, and indeed, Ceolwulf was not for "The Captain" was a man of little honor. Treacherously, he had struck at Ceolwulf with his fist and landed a blow to his chin. Ceolwulf, although shaken by the blow, had struck at him, but through agility and skill, the outlaw had quickly pinned Ceolwulf's right arm behind his back and threatened to break it. Ceolwulf had struggled and tried to free himself, but the Captain had just laughed and raked Ceolwulf's leg with his cruel riding spurs. After pleas from Frodo and the innkeeper to stop fighting, Ceolwulf had yielded and taken up his seat again. The Captain seemed more eager to talk than fight, though, but he was ambiguous in what he said, and his meaning was hard to interpret.
Knowing that Ceolwulf and Vardamir had a price on their heads, The Captain knew he had the upper hand in his dealings with Frodo, Ceolwulf and Vardamir. After returning to his seat by Vardamir, The Captain had resumed speaking, "The reward on the heads of the two of you is very high, and perhaps if my men and I captured you, we would have gold enough to rest a few months from the lives of highwaymen, for as you must guess, the life of the highwayman is a hard one and full of danger."
Ceolwulf had said coldly, "We didn't come here to listen to the rhetoric of an outlaw!"
The moment was a tense one with the tension building by the second as all were silent, when a newcomer was seen talking to the innkeeper Tobir at his counter in the front. When the stranger took off her cloak, revealing a slender, innocent-faced young maid, all eyes in the tavern were upon her lithesome form and gracious manner.
Then a part orc customer at another table took in a sharp intake of breath and said in a low, appreciative voice, "Whattdya know lads, it's a laidie!"
Frodo, Eiriel, Tobir and Sidhiel portrayed
Vardamir portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator, Ceolwulf and The Captain portrayed by Wraith
Sidhiel: *The newcomer speaking with Tobir
is Sidhiel, a young Gondorian lass. She wears a long, eye-catching
red gown. A thick brown braid hangs over her right shoulder.*
Sidhiel: *Her movements are poised and graceful. She would almost seem a bit reserved if it were not for her easy smile as she converses with Tobir*
Sidhiel: *Her dramatic eyes widen a bit under raised eyebrows as she asks Tobir a question. When he answers, she grins and drums her fingers excitedly on the counter as she thanks him.*
Sidhiel: *She turns from the counter to the tavern guests. Though most of them are watching her, she seems used to this; indeed, it seems to be her purpose in coming here.*
Sidhiel: *As she turns, she reveals a lute that she carries under one arm. She takes a small bowl out of her cloak pocket and sets it before her*
Sidhiel: *She smiles brightly to the tavern guests* A pleasant evening to you, good folk! By your leave, I should like to entertain you with a song
The Captain: *The Captain takes in the arrival of the fair maid and the sight of her silences him temporarily*
Sidhiel: If the song pleases you, do be kind and drop a few coins in my bowl! *gestures gracefully to the bowl at her feet*
The Captain: *He looks at Frodo, Ceolwulf and Vardamir* Gentlemen, perhaps our discussion should halt for a bit as we listen to a fair songstress
The Captain: For who would not be willing to listen to the song of a bird in the wilderness?
Ceolwulf: It would be far better than listening to you, varlet!
Vardamir: *Vardamir, grieving deeply since hearing the news of Aldir and Lilandra, has spoken but a few words the entire evening and sits silently, his head bowed, unseeing eyes staring down at the table*
The Captain: *The Captain reaches inside his cloak, taking out his money pouch and takes three silver coins and tosses them into her bowl* Sing for us, maid!
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel holds her lute in front of her, ready to play it, and bows to the Captain* Thank you kindly, sir!
Narrator: *At his generosity, the other guests at the tavern begin tossing in coins to the singer's bowl. Some of the orcs leer at her but when they see the scowling looks of the other patrons, their faces soon take on a less hideous appearance*
Sidhiel: *She begins strumming her lute. Her fingers dance merrily over the strings, and the music flows from them like a stream's water running waters over rocks*
Narrator: *At the first note of the lute, the patrons in the tavern go silent, each thinking his own thoughts as he hears the song of the lute*
Ceolwulf: *He hears the strains and shuts his eyes and he sees herds of horses galloping across the rolling plains of Rohan*
Sidhiel: *As the music gains momentum, her body begins to move to the rhythm. Her dance seems a natural progression of the song, as calm and poetic as the waves of the sea*
Sidhiel: *Her fingers strum a delicate
final chord and she smiles and bows to the patrons*
Narrator: *The clients in the tavern listen to the music and her song and for each one, the song calls up different memories, different reflections. They are silent a while when the last chord has played, and then they burst into applause and shout* More! More!
Vardamir: *He has sat there quietly, deep in profound mourning, but vaguely through his darkened mind, he hears the sound of the lute and the strains of the maiden's song. He raises his head.*
Ceolwulf: *He draws out his coin pouch from his cloak. Then looking at the coins inside, he takes out one piece of silver and tosses it into her bowl.* Thank you, maid, but my money pouch is very thin
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel bows repeatedly, acknowledging the applause. Pushing a wavy curl behind her ear, she says to Ceolwulf* Then your coin is the more appreciated, sir
Sidhiel: *She looks around to the other patrons hoping some others will give her coins.*
Ceolwulf: *He bows to her* If there were more, maid, you would receive it but I am a poor man, and my son, to my regret, has none
Ceolwulf: *He turns his head to Frodo and whispers* Cynefrid, do not start giving her coins, or these cut throats in here will know you have plenty to spare. Then it will be all that Vardamir and I can do to protect you when we leave here!
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel notices Frodo for the first time. Thinking him to be a child, she steps closer to their table, clasps her hands together and exclaims* Oh, he is simply adorable! *smiles at Frodo*
Vardamir: *Vardamir looks around, slightly confused, as though waking from a deep sleep. Quickly realizing what is going on, he draws out his coin pouch and takes a silver coin from it and throws it in the bowl
Frodo: *Frodo nods to Ceolwulf* Yes, father.
Ceolwulf: Lass, the lad is my son, Cynefrid, and I am his father, Cearl, if you do not think me too forward in introducing us
Vardamir: *He smiles at the maiden and then looks to Frodo* Aye, and a good boy he is.
Frodo: *Frodo enjoyed the song immensely. It reminded him of the music of the Hall of Fire in Rivendell. The lady's beauty recalls the exquisite loveliness of the elves as well. He smiles back to her, secretly amused*
The Captain: *The captain takes out his coin pouch, counts out three more silver coins and tosses them into the bowl* Any songbird who sings as you do is worthy of an ample reward *then he winks at her*
Ceolwulf: Man, whatever your worthless name might really be, keep a civil tongue in your head in the presence of a lady!
The Captain: *He smiles at Ceolwulf* I do not need advice from you, strawhead!
Sidhiel: *She ignores the unpleasantness and responds politely* Pleased to meet you, Cearl and Cynefrid
Vardamir: *he looks to the maid and smiles again* Your song was lovely, its beauty like that of the elder race.
Sidhiel: *Surprise registers on Sidhiel's face as she meets Vardamir's eyes: she can discern traces of the Eldar race in his face. His eyes have the same fire she imagined the heroes possessed in the tales of old*
Sidhiel: Thank you, sir, for your generosity and your high compliment
Vardamir: Ah, but no words could compare to a song so lovely.
The Captain: *Growing impatient now, The Captain says* Gentlemen, if you wish to conclude our dealings tonight, we must get on with them, although I, like the rest of you, would enjoy a few moments of time with the lass
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel involuntarily backs away from the Captain, her smile growing awkward. She wishes to go back to her music*
Ceolwulf: Keep your blackguard tongue in your mouth, or consider I have challenged you to go outside!
Sidhiel: Oh, no, sir, really that will not be necessary!
The Captain: *Yawns* Strawhead, I am wearied with your attempts at showing off your fighting prowess tonight. I shall keep my silence
Vardamir: *he looks to The Captain and Ceolwulf* Gentlemen, must we fight in the presence of a lady?
The Captain: Nay, *he looks to Vardamir at his side* nay, we do not need to fight, but it appears your friend insists upon it. I would much prefer having the lass sit at our table or better yet, taking her to another table. What say you, lass?
Vardamir: *quietly* I do not think she would like to sit with the likes of you.
The Captain: I would rather hear that from her own lips!
Sidhiel: Ah...*she smiles nervously*....but the customers have asked for another song. I am sorry *her eyes travel back to Vardamir of their own accord*
Sidhiel: *She is able to read and write, and ever since she read tales of the Eldar race, she has been fascinated with all things Elvish. She recognizes something intangible in Vardamir*
Sidhiel: *She wishes she could converse freely with him, but this ruffian makes her uncomfortable, to say the least.*
The Captain: But lass *he says and smiles at her roguishly* what if I give you a gold coin to sit with me?
Sidhiel: *She cannot think of a polite way out of this one. She glances toward the other customers who asked for a second song, then anxiously back to the Captain*
Vardamir: She doesn't want to sit with you any more than we want to sit with you. Find your own table!
The Captain: *He exhales in a long sigh and then turns to Vardamir* We are of the same race. Surely there must be understanding somewhere between us?
Vardamir: I do not know your story, but you strike me as an unsavory character, and my friends do not care for you at all. *he looks to the maid with an apologetic look* Forgive us; we are having a dispute with this fellow beside me.
The Captain: *His hand strikes out like a snake and grabs her wrist, pulling her down close to him so she must look into his eyes* Maid, these two are wanted outlaws. Best be advised to chose better company
The Captain: But keep your silence *he whispers* they are desperate and would not hesitate to slit your pretty throat
Sidhiel: *Her eyes narrow and her whole body tenses. She straightens as much as she can and tries to wrest her arm from his grasp, staring him down*
Vardamir: Ai! *he exclaims* what are you doing?! Unhand her!
The Captain: *he keeps his grasp upon her wrist* If you do not believe me, ask them yourself
Sidhiel: Let go of me *she hisses with subdued fury* I think it is time I went back to my performance!
The Captain: *Then, releasing his grasp, he smiles over at Vardamir beside him*
Sidhiel: *Shaking with rage, she smooths her dress, then looks to Vardamir*
Vardamir: *Vardamir's eyes narrow at the captain* You are an ill-mannered boor; to bring a lady into this disagreement. *he looks at the lady apologetically* I am terribly sorry about this, lady.
Sidhiel: *she smiles gratefully, calming herself* Thank you, sir.
The Captain: *he looks up at her and whispers* Ladies do not generally frequent such places, maid!
Sidhiel: *Furtively, she begins backing toward her bowl, her fingers strumming the lute quietly. The soft music weaves into the conversation, a silvery undercurrent. She waits for the right moment to sing. The Captain's words are met with an unreadable candor as she strums the lute louder*
Vardamir: What type of lout are you, man? *Vardamir asks, having little recollection of the fight between Ceolwulf and the Captain earlier, for he was too deep in mourning* First you trouble us, and then you insult the honor of a lady!
The Captain: *becoming irritated, he says harshly* What the maid needs is a man of quality
Vardamir: And you consider yourself as such? Ha! *he bursts out into laughter*
The Captain: *He turns back to Vardamir and hisses in a whisper* At least I had sense enough not to become a slave *then he looks at him, smirking*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf, angered beyond the ability to stand it, says loudly* Let's just go outside NOW!
Sidhiel: *Her hand leaves the lute. Her lips part, and from them issues a sustained, velvety tone, ever growing in strength, until the guests' eyes are on her again*
Vardamir: Yes, I think that would be a good idea.
Sidhiel: *She begins to sing a vigorous song to dispel the tension. It sounds like a tune of merrymaking, but it is in a minor key, and the words tell of the strange injustices of fate*
The Captain: *Kicking his chair back, he rises to his feet* You really want to die, Strawhead?
Sidhiel: *she loses her place in the song*
Ceolwulf: *He looks to Frodo* Cynefrid, stay inside. You don't want to see this
Vardamir: *Vardamir wonders who this man is and why he is troubling them.*
Frodo: *Terrified, Frodo grabs Ceolwulf's arm* You cannot do this. This is madness. Stay here and listen to what he will say! There is nothing else we can do
Narrator: *The two antagonists leave the table and walk towards the door leading to the back of the inn. Ceolwulf is second to leave and slams the door loudly behind him*
Frodo: *Frodo cannot believe that Ceolwulf has done this again. He groans and puts his head down on the table*
Vardamir: *He looks to Frodo with a bewildered look* What just happened?
Narrator: *The other guests, accustomed to nights like this, pay scant attention to the two adversaries and go back to their drinking and laughing*
Frodo: *Frodo looks up* He is going to get himself killed! Why must it always be a fight? Why? Even the lady did not want a fight!
Narrator: *After a few minutes, faint cries of men cursing and shouting from outside penetrate the din of the tavern*
Vardamir: I do not even know what has gone on. I came in here, and then I heard the news of Aldir and Lilandra, and I know naught that has come to pass since then.
Frodo: Ce---my father's hot temper has been roused again.
Frodo: The man *gestures to the captain's empty seat* insulted the lady, the singer. Father grew tired of his lewdness and challenged him.
Vardamir: *looks to Frodo* Your father is a good man. That strange fellow, though I had never met him before, was quite uncouth and ill-bred, to talk to a lady in that way.
Frodo: Aye, he is an evil man. He even grabbed her by the arm and tried to force her to sit with him! *The sight of the ranger mistreating the minstrel girl brought back vivid memories of Elfhild and Elffled's terror when they were kidnapped*
Vardamir: *Anger flares within him and he speaks in a whisper* Aye, and he was threatening to reveal who we are as well!
Frodo: *leans closer to Vardamir* He worries me. I have met him before. He is dangerous and treacherous!
Vardamir: *a look of concern crosses his face* Perhaps I should go see how Ceolwulf is getting along.
Frodo: *Frodo grows even more frustrated* Oh, no, Vardamir, don't go and fight too! They need to be stopped, not egged on!
Vardamir: I'll see to the matter... Perhaps I'll stop them, or perhaps I'll go join the fray. *he says nonchalantly and then scoots back his chair, rising to his feet*
Frodo: *Frodo groans again and drinks deeply of his ale, now left alone at the table*
Vardamir: *he looks over to Frodo and laughs* Careful there, lad, don't drink too much just because your father isn't here to see you.
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel still stands in the center of the room, where she left off her song at the commotion. She fingers her lute nervously, glancing to the door at the noises from the fight*
Sidhiel: *She notices the "boy" is alone at the table and looks through the crowd for Vardamir. She spots him heading for the door*
Vardamir: *He goes to the door and puts his hand on the latch, listening at the sounds of the fighting coming from outside*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel rushes to him* Sir! You're not going to go and fight, too, are you? And leave the child alone in such a place as this?
Vardamir: *He looks to her and smiles* I shall do what I must, lass, but now I go to retrieve his wayward father. Would you mind terribly to stay with the boy for a while? *he asks hopefully*
Sidhiel: Oh, no, I will stay with him. But do bring his father back soon! There are too many fights here. We need no more chaos in this land, and the men always have to end the night in a brawl...*she twirls the lute in her hands and her voice quavers*
Sidhiel: It would be so terrible if that child were to lose his father tonight!
Vardamir: *he nods* Aye, the land has seen much strife. I shall see that no harm comes to the boy's father... Perhaps you could sing the lad a song; twould be calming to him.
Sidhiel: Thank you, sir, so much! I will go and sing to the boy. *her hand brushes his arm as she passes him. She looks back over her shoulder, worried about the fight, then goes to sit with Frodo at the table*
Vardamir: *He smiles as she passes, his gaze lingering. Then, he turns back to the door, and goes to see about the fight.*
Narrator: *The crowd in the tavern, caring nothing about what is going on outside other than a mild interest, drink themselves to excess, laugh, talk, make jokes. Life and death to others is an inconsequential matter worthy of little notice.*
Narrator: *Some patrons still sober but with not enough silver in their pockets to buy another drink grow bored with sitting at the tavern and wander out behind Vardamir to watch the fight and make bets with nothing to back them up but promises*
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