A RETURN TO THE PAST
May 10, 3020
At six o'clock in the morning of May 10th, Rian knocked on Frodo's bedroom door. When he opened the door, she said, "Master Frodo, you have to get up now. Guntha has issued the order that you must arise from bed every morning at this time. Some of the servants have to get out of bed at three anyway so they can begin to prepare the morning meal. As you know, the fires in the kitchen and your bedroom, sitting room and your great hall are never allowed to go out, and servants stay up all during the night to keep the flames blazing in your hearth. Guntha must have his daily bath promptly at five in the morning, and then he wants his spiced tea and the dispatches brought to him in his room. He is a real stickler for order, I believe.
"Finduilas also said that Master Guntha said that you must eat your breakfast at seven in the morning and have it completed by 7:30 promptly. After you have completed breakfast, precisely at 7:45, you are to be escorted to the courtyard, where, under supervision of the guards, you are to perform vigorous exercises, such as running, jumping and preliminary practice in wielding a staff for self-protection. This is to be completed by a quarter after the hour of eight.
"Then, at eight, he wants to meet with all the servants in the servants' dining hall. You are not required to be present at that meeting, because he says he wants to talk to the servants only. Then Finduilas said I was to tell you that you were to meet with him in your sitting room when the clock strikes the half hour. Master Guntha also said that then you are allowed to have a light repast of tea and cakes and he will be joining you every morning to dine with you. He has the whole day organized this way for you, I am told by Finduilas, and he demands that you comply with his wishes. I do not know the full of it or what he has planned for you after his meeting with you, but I do not envy you.
"I do not like it one bit, my lord; I do not like it one bit!" Rian exclaimed. "Everything now is to be run by the clock and precisely as Master Guntha directs. Finduilas said that he told her that everyone must learn military discipline and order, for soon we will be leaving Gondor forever and taking you home."
Frodo portrayed by Hobbitness
Rian and Dirar portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator, Guntha and Alwan the Trainer portrayed by Angmar
Frodo: *Frodo wakes up with a start. He
sits bolt upright, blinking hard as he listens to Rian. His eyes
widen more and more with dismay. When she finally finishes, he
shakes his head dazedly, yawns, then moans sleepily*.......What?!
Rian: *Rian looks at Frodo in dismay, for she fears that she will get some of the details wrong if she must say everything again.* Uhh.... You are supposed to get up now, my lord... How much of what I said did you understand...? *She grimaces as she waits to hear his sleepy response.*
Frodo: Um...I don't know...there was too much!...*yawns* You said, get up...breakfast...exercises, something else...tea and cakes....meeting with Guntha...*yawns and practically falls out of bed. He splashes cold water from a bowl on his face*
Rian: My lord, now I must leave and attend to my other duties. Remember, your breakfast will be served at 7:30... and then fifteen minutes later, you will be escorted to the courtyard for your exercises. Then at 8:30, you will have a light repast and Master Guntha will be joining you. *"At least I think so... I hope." she thinks to herself* Perhaps I should have written all this down... *she murmurs to herself.*
Frodo: Seven thirty! Who gets up at seven thirty?!...and you said somebody has to get up at THREE?....*sighs* All right, I'll be right there...wherever I'm supposed to be...ah yes, breakfast. Thank you, Rian...oh, good morning, I forgot to say that. *grins at her over the towel he is using to dry his face*
Rian: Good morning, my lord *she smiles weakly, and then bows, leaving the room*
Frodo: *Frodo closes the door to his room, then begins dressing, muttering to himself* I'm surprised he didn't tell me what clothes I should wear!
Frodo: *After he dresses he rubs a stick on his teeth to clean his mouth, then starts for the door. Suddenly he remembers his hair is still askew in all directions. With a sigh he heads back for his mirror. He runs a comb through his hair, splashes some more cold water on his face to wake up, then starts for the dining room to have breakfast.*
Rian: *Exactly at seven o'clock in the morning, Rian knocks on the door to the sitting room, and upon gaining entry, she and other serving girls bring in Frodo's breakfast and put it upon the table before him. They attend him while he eats, and when he is finished, take the dirty utensils back to the kitchen. Rian lingers behind, however, and tells Frodo in a sympathetic voice* You have fifteen minutes to get ready for your exercises, my lord...
Frodo: *Frodo stifles a groan as he nods to her, but manages to force his face into a smile at the last second. He spends his fifteen minutes with his forehead down on the table, trying to get a little more rest. Then he trudges out to the courtyard.*
Narrator: *Exactly at 7:45, two guards wearing mail wait to meet him. When they see him come into the courtyard, one of them hails him* Your lordship sleeps late *his companion laughs*
Alwan the Trainer: Now, your lordship *Alwan says walking over to him* put on a bit of weight during the winter, haven't ye?
Frodo: *Frodo is used to seeing guards everywhere by now, but he still hates it, as do they all. Their joking increases his annoyance.* Hmm. Perhaps.
Alwan the Trainer: Now let me introduce myself *he says mockingly* I am called Alwan. You will never forget my name as long as you live. Take off your fancy waistcoat and give it to the corporal beside me. Popping a few buttons off it, haven't ye?
Frodo: *Glaring, Frodo takes off the waistcoat and hands it to the corporal. I'm sure I won't forget you, since you will probably work me to death, he thinks.*
Alwan the Trainer: All right now, let's see you run. Get started! Let's see those fat legs move! *he says as he holds a small flail in his right hand, striking it rhythmically against his left* I will keep time as you run. Now get to it!
Frodo: *How utterly ridiculous and humiliating. What is the point of this?...oh, wait, the point of everything that happens here is to make things difficult for me. With a sigh, he begins to run*
Alwan the Trainer: *The trainer and the guard lean against the outside wall of the stable, watching Frodo run* Move it a little faster! *Alwan shouts* A snail goes faster than you!
Frodo: *It is hard to run fast with no destination completely against his will...but he tries to run as fast as he possibly can. Soon he is panting and begins to break out in a sweat*
Dirar: I have seen broken down horses who were lame in at least one leg run faster than you! *the guard, Dirar, jeers at the halfling* Move it! Keep running!
Alwan the Trainer: Spavined, winded, sway-backed nags could run faster than your short, fat legs! Look at him try to run! Hahahaha! *they laugh*
Dirar: *Dirar almost doubles over in raucous laughter, slapping his thigh*
Frodo: *Despite the stupidity of this situation, there will be serious consequences if he does not cooperate...so he swallows his anger at their taunts and tries to make it propel him faster.*
Alwan the Trainer: Corporal, I do not think we can do much with this one. He's old and fat! Stop, halfling!
Dirar: Hold a carrot in front of his nose like one does in front of a lazy horse, and that will get his legs a'moving! *Dirar laughs uproariously*
Alwan the Trainer: It would take the lash to get this old, fat one moving! *he laughs*
Dirar: We shall lash the fat right off him! *he laughs even more*
Alwan the Trainer: Let the lash sing around his ankles Corporal. Get him moving again!
Dirar: *Dirar takes his own flail, and tapping it ominously against his hand, he walks up to Frodo and stares down at him maliciously* Get running, halfling! Or I shall lash the fat right off your chubby little legs, you engorged little rabbit!
Frodo: *I wouldn't be surprised if you did, he thinks. He has been standing with his hands on his knees, panting and glaring daggers at them, but now he bursts into a run again*
Alwan the Trainer: *After watching Frodo run for ten minutes and laughing at him as he does so, the trainer says* Halt, your lordship!
Frodo: *One more second and he felt he would drop. He staggers to the wall and leans heavily against it, gasping and clutching his chest. Great wet spots plaster his shirt to his chest and back*
Alwan the Trainer: Did you run like this over the plains of Gorgoroth when you went to return the Ring to our Master? Did you suffer and sweat for that? But your body is weak now, isn't it, Friend of Sauron? We shall get it in condition again! *he says as he strikes the flail against his left hand*
Frodo: *That breaks through Frodo's resolve. He whirls on the man with hatred flashing in his eyes, but cannot think of any insult hot enough to fling at the man*
Alwan the Trainer: *The trainer walks up to him and picks him up under his arms and brings him to face him* Did you run all the way to Mordor, Your Excellency? *he asks sarcastically*
Frodo: *Seething, Frodo continues to glare at the man. He does not dignify the guard's question with a response, but asks icily* Didn't I see you at Lugburz?
Alwan the Trainer: Perhaps you did, halfling, perhaps you did *he hisses and drops Frodo unceremoniously to the ground. Then, looking down at him, he laughs again and taps the flail against his left hand* How many miles did you travel from the Shire the first day, Friend of Sauron?
Frodo: Why should I tell you? *he spits angrily, momentarily losing control of himself* Maybe I don't even remember!
Alwan the Trainer: Halfling, in the Army of Mordor, it is expected that a man or orc will walk two to two and a half miles an hour at a regular pace. Then at double time, quick step, it is three miles an hour. And that is what you are going to do when you go back to your precious Shire - WALK AND RUN, HALFLING!
Frodo: *He struggles to his feet, pulling himself up by the wall. The anger suddenly vanishes from his face, to be replaced with something between desperation and hope*....Did you say I'm going back to the Shire?
Alwan the Trainer: Maybe, halfling, maybe not *he laughs* Maybe alive, maybe dead. But yes, Master Guntha has received word from our Master. You are to leave in the middle of July. Corporal Dirar and I will get you ready *they both laugh uproariously*
Frodo: *Maybe alive, maybe dead...but now he has a destination worth this effort! He does not care how hard they work him, even if they drive him with whips, if it means he will not stay in Mordor forever!*
Dirar: Every wretched step you took over some of the same course you will take again. And remember - when there is a whip - there is a way! *he leans towards the halfling, leering evilly*
Alwan the Trainer: Now march halfling! Throw your shoulders back and walk proudly forward! March! One, two, three, one, two, three....
Frodo: *He stifles the urge to beg them for a rest, and stumbles away from the wall. He tries to march, but he is very unsteady, and he sways precariously.*
Alwan the Trainer: The hobbit will march one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four... *he chants as Frodo marches back and forth across the courtyard* Corporal Dirar, throw him a staff! Let him pretend it is his sword! *he laughs again* His precious Sting!
Frodo: *winces...but tries not to let them see it. He thinks of Bilbo. Oh, what would Bilbo think of him now? Maybe it is better that he will never see Bilbo again.*
Dirar: Aye, captain! *he exclaims as he throws the staff at Frodo, and laughs as it hits him in the head and shoulder* You're in the army of Mordor now, halfling! Now get a move on! Show your Master what you are made of! Double time! Double time! Keep the pace! *he jeers and slaps his thigh*
Frodo: *He staggers backwards with a cry as the staff hits him. He waits a moment, grimacing and clutching his shoulder, then picks the staff up and obeys the order.*
Alwan the Trainer: March! March, maggot! One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, lift those legs or we will whip you more!
Dirar: Aye, maggot! Keep moving! You're in the Army of Mordor now! When we whip you into shape, perhaps we shall send you west to fight against the pale-faced Strawheads! Collect their severed heads and make a necklace out of their teeth; you shall look just like a little orc! Now march, slug! March!
Alwan the Trainer: Look at his fat little belly, Corporal Dirar! Soft, isn't it? Look at the pig! The scum from the Shire! In quite a hurry to get to Lugburz, wasn't he? Wonder if he is in a hurry to get back? *he laughs*
Dirar: Let him run around the Dark Tower! Let the little swine run around the Dark Tower! Or the orcs shall butcher him and serve him up fine!
Alwan the Trainer: You are going to learn to like us, Shire rat! Oh yes, you shall never forget either of our names! Now as you march, say this: "One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, I love the Shire but I love Mordor more!"
Dirar: *He cheers in derision and laughs mockingly at the halfling* Aye! And mayhaps when you get back to the Shire, you shall run back to Mordor to grovel and snivel at the feet of your Master like the misbegotten cur that you are!
Alwan the Trainer: Halt, halfling! *he shouts* At ease!
Frodo: *His ears ringing with their insults, Frodo catches the order through a hazy whirl in his mind. He cannot bring himself to say it...he says weakly as he marches* One, two, three, four....
Alwan the Trainer: Now, halfling, when you stand at ease, you do this. Show him, corporal, show him so he will learn!
Dirar: *Dirar holds his hands behind his back, looking straight ahead, his legs slightly apart, chest thrust forward. He relaxes and commands* Do it now, halfling! Or I'll whip you just for the fun of it!
Frodo: *Frodo drags his body into this position, though his legs tremble and burn with the effort, and his chest is so tight it hurts to thrust it forward.*
Alwan the Trainer: Doesn't he look fine, Corporal, standing there before us like that? He looks like one of the Mordor orcs, except he hasn't gotten the long, spindly arms of them.
Alwan the Trainer: *He looks straight at Frodo* Perhaps some time on the rack at Lugburz will correct that deficiency. Wouldn't you like to go back to Lugburz, Friend of Sauron? That could be arranged *He leers at Frodo*
Frodo: *Tries to keep the frenzied panic from showing in his face...he assumes an expressionless mask.*
Alwan the Trainer: Corporal Dirar, I understand our "friend" here *he emphasizes the word "friend"* is quite a favorite of the Master. In fact, I have heard that the Master wanted to make him court jester. I think he is humorous, don't you, Corporal Dirar?
Dirar: Aye, quite amusing *he chuckles* I can understand why the Master was loath to give him up.
Alwan the Trainer: Aye, quite loath, I hear, and with the talents they have in the Tower, Sauron's Friend could have been kept around for a long, long time for the entertainment of all of Sauron's court! Unfortunately, I never got to see him with his little light. Alas, what a misfortune that was. Perhaps he could carry a candle and a lantern all the way back to the Shire and pretend that it was his precious star-light. What do you think of that, Friend of Sauron?
Frodo: *I should be used to this, Frodo thinks. He remembers being dragged out in chains before whole crowds of jeering orcs and Easterlings--by Sam. At least there are only two tormentors here...and they are not hurting him...yet.* At least he has a chance to stand still...he does not reply, but stares into space and waits for them to finish taunting him.*
Frodo: *Suddenly he notices a burning sensation on his hand...he looks down and his ring is glowing. He hears the familiar mocking laughter of Sauron, like knives in his ears, and shudders.*
Alwan the Trainer: I should have let you die in the dungeon at Lugburz, halfling, where you were my charge for a time, but I had orders to refrain from killing you. How I would like to have impaled you upon a spear with your guts hanging out and dangling down your legs in the presence of my old army company, or slowly tortured you in the manner of the East. Bury you up to your neck in sand and slowly crush you with rocks, or tie you in the heat of the sun and smear honey all over your body and watch as the ants devoured you slowly. Ah, so delightfully slow! It is the way of the East. You would be honored to die by it, but I obey my Master and did not kill you.
Frodo: *Frodo snaps his head toward the guard and hisses quietly* You came pretty close to your wish if I remember correctly.
Alwan the Trainer: Or perhaps take my dagger and skin you slowly, piece by piece, bit by bit, leaving just a bit of skin on you to keep you alive for a while. Then I would watch you die slowly as my men hurled dung and urine upon your body and mocked you as you lay there dying. Ah, halfling, how I would have liked to have made an end to you! You would have destroyed our Master if you could have, and in doing so, brought great harm to the men of the East. I hate you, Shire filth!
Frodo: *When the guard mentions the Quest, a grim smile appears on Frodo's face. Perhaps some honor remains in him, if they still hate him so much here. They know where his true loyalties lie...and their scorn is a badge of honor for him. He nods slowly, and only whispers* I know
Alwan the Trainer: The staff that you have been given is to be your weapon. You will keep it, so learn to use it. When you are alone, practice with it, and always keep your candle lit in your lamp. It will be the Phial of the Elf-witch to you.
Alwan the Trainer: Now, snaga, you will report back to us promptly at two in the afternoon. Expect to do more than you did now. Expect to march for two hours, saying all the time to keep rhythm: One, two, three, four, I love the Shire, but love Mordor more. One more thing, halfling before you are dismissed. You will salute me each time you come in my presence. Attention!
Dirar: This is how it is done, O Most Loyal and Beloved Friend of Sauron. *Dirar thrusts his chest out suddenly, and clasps his hand, clenched into his fist, against his heart.* Remember to do this every time you report for duty in the Army of Mordor. *he laughs*
Frodo: *Resigned, Frodo imitates Dirar's movements and salutes Alwan, the man who brutally tortured him.*
Alwan the Trainer: Dismissed! Now run to your hall, halfling! Run! *He says and cracks the flail*
Alwan the Trainer: *The two Easterlings laugh as they see Frodo staggering back towards Baggins Hall*
Frodo: *Frodo collapses into the first chair he sees, his face scrunching up and his eyes stinging. He covers his face with his hands and sits silently for a while. Then he looks up frantically for someone he knows, hoping for a drink of water. He is reminded of the hunger and thirst of crossing the plains of Gorgoroth with Sam. Seeing no one, Frodo hobbles to the kitchen and asks a servant for a glass of water, almost crying.*
Rian: *Rian sees Frodo, panting and heaving and looking horrible. She quickly fetches him a cup filled with water and hands it to him*
Frodo: Thank you *he croaks and downs the cup of water without taking a breath. Simultaneously with her words, pain shoots through his chest. He stops drinking and grips a nearby chair, gasping. When the pain passes he drinks again, more carefully this time, then hands the glass back to her* Thank you *he says again, forgetting that he thanked her the first time.*
Rian: *Rian takes the cup from the halfling's hand and looks at him sympathetically* My lord, you must rest a while. But, um... *she falters, for she does not want to torment the poor halfling any more. At last she says softly* do remember your appointment with Master Guntha...
Frodo: Oh! *he groans, and sits on the floor with his head in his hands, too exhausted to think of climbing onto anything. Then he looks up at her* When is it again?
Rian: It should be now... *she grimaces* I am sorry, my lord... Do you want me to help you into your sitting room?
Frodo: *She is the most beautiful sight in the world right now, a familiar face when his erstwhile home has become another Lugburz. He smiles gratefully to her, nodding, and holds out a hand for her to help him up.*
Rian: *She takes his hand, and helps him rise to his feet, then slowly leads him to the sitting room. When they arrive, she says* Here you are, my lord; perhaps you will be allowed to rest for a while. *"At least, I hope so" - she thinks, but hope does not exist when fate is controlled by Mordor.*
Frodo: I wouldn't count on it *he says miserably, but then manages a polite smile at her*
Rian: *She opens the door for Frodo and leads him inside, stepping away when she sees Guntha and bows before him.*
Narrator: *When Frodo had first met Guntha, the man carried the marks of a careworn traveler, dirty, disheveled, reeking of sweat and covered in road dust. Now four days later, Guntha is clean and resplendent in a fine blue tunic and tan breeches. Seated at the table in Frodo's sitting room, he taps a finger impatiently upon the table.*
Guntha: Now, shakh, it is most regrettable to note that you are most unceremoniously late. Guntha not like that. Make way to be on time in future!
Frodo: *Frodo makes a halfhearted attempt at the salute the guards taught him, then climbs into a chair, wincing, for he is sore.* I'm sorry.
Guntha: Now why you carry staff into sitting room? You make war with Guntha? Not polite, shakh. Guntha not happy
Rian: *Seeing that there are no special orders from either Guntha or Frodo, Rian bows and leaves the room to get tea and cakes for the both of them.*
Guntha: *Guntha taps the table with a forefinger again* Shakh, sorry, you say? Do you not make learn where you came to be on time!
Frodo: *frowns, trying to understand the broken Common Speech* ....What? I...I will try to be on time tomorrow. *he concedes*
Guntha: *Taps finger over and over on table, becoming very impatient* What you no understand Guntha when he make talk? Guntha not pleased with shakh. Are you of hearing slow?
Frodo: *faintly* I'm sorry...I understand.
Rian: *Soon, Rian returns with a tray of tea and cakes for Frodo and Guntha. As she walks, she gnaws her lower lip, worried about all the new orders and her lord's new "advisor" - she remembers the old one, Vartang, quite well. She shudders slightly, as she puts the tray down on the table, stepping back and bowing to the halfling and the man seated*
Guntha: *He stops tapping his finger and lifts up his cup of tea that had been cooling and drinking from the cup. Then he puts it back down on the table.* Shakh, Great Master make present to you. Wondrously marvelous present it be. You will take back to place where you began, along with all the other presents Master makes to you. In every room where you sit at peace drinking tea be a clock from the East. You will take all of them back to place where you began so you will know how the clock draws to the hour, to the quarter, to the half, and back and forwards in endless cycles, and you will remember Great Master spared you time to look at clock.
Frodo: Back to the Shire? Clocks from the east?....This will go on even there?
Guntha: Aye, shakh, and you will remember who holds your life in His hands. Even there, shakh, even there, so count the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the months and the years and remember the Master of Middle Earth.
Frodo: *Frodo closes his eyes tightly, his right hand closing over the hand that bears his ring.*
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