Night of March 10, 3020

(Written by Wraith)
Algund, the man known as "The Captain," and two of his trusted aides, Mindon the Gondorian and Balrig the Dunlending, sit around the campfire this chilly night of March 10, 3020 in a wooded glade in Southwestern Gondor west of the River Gilrain, in the land that was once called Dor-en-Ernil, the Land of the Prince, but is now called Hyranugondor by the Mordor occupational force.

The Captain is the only one remaining of the original band of Dunedain outlaws who turned their backs on the West many years ago. The Captain's second-in-command and the other other remaining Dunedain were killed in a robbery that turned ill for them, and now Algund hopes to enlist Ceolwulf and Vardamir into his band. He has promised Ceolwulf, who The Captain knows to be an outstanding swordsman, the position of second-in-command, and will teach him the art of being a highwayman.

Some of the men are on picket duty tonight, watching for enemy soldiers of the province and looking for the arrival of Ceolwulf and Vardamir. The Captain grows impatient waiting and walks to the fire and gazes into it. Then he turns to Mindon and asks, "What of these two men? Do you think it is wise to bring them into our band?"

Mindon portrayed by Eowyn
Vardamir portrayed by Hobbitness
Narrator, Algund, Balrig and Ceolwulf portrayed by Wraith

Mindon: *Mindon, who sits upon a log by the fire, looks to The Captain* You know I never trust strangers.
The Captain: *Frowning, he asks* Then you say nay?
Mindon: *he looks into the fire and shrugs slightly.* It is your decision, Captain. I would never gainsay it.
The Captain: *Then he turns and looks to Balrig, who sits on the log near Mindon.*
Balrig: You want to know what I think, Captain? *he says with a huff*
The Captain: I would not have asked if I did not want to know the answer
Balrig: I hear one of them is a filthy Strawhead. That is your answer. *he says disdainfully* Forgoil *he spits into the fire*
The Captain: Then obviously you hold my wishes in ill favor
Narrator: *Ceolwulf and Vardamir lead their horses through the woods. Both men are apprehensive, feeling that they are being watched.*
Ceolwulf: Vardamir, do you feel eyes watching you too?
Vardamir: Aye, I do not like these woods.
Ceolwulf: *he laughs* Woods that a part-elf does not like!
Vardamir: *laughs* Ah, I like most woods, but these are the home of danger and secrecy where once all was free. It is as though even the trees speak of the fall of Gondor in whispers
Ceolwulf: Tis a far different land from the one that you once knew, aye, indeed!
Ceolwulf: *They walk on into the woods, expecting at any moment that the pickets of The Captain will lay hands upon them*
Vardamir: Tell me again why you think it is wise to come here, my friend?
Ceolwulf: What other choice do we have, Vardamir? We are wanted, escaped slaves. Both of us have a reward upon our heads. We could go to Rohan, I suppose, but the Enemy is here! And though we are only two, can we not fight Him in His lair?
Vardamir: *sighs* I suppose so. But I almost expect the trees themselves to reach out and grab us, like the legends of Fangorn Forest and the ents.
Ceolwulf: I know the legends of Fangorn Forest and I doubt there is an Ent here in these woods. Let us stay here in this land which was once fair but has been blighted by evil
Ceolwulf: Algund knows them and he has now turned against them. With him, there will be numbers and what could two men do on their own? Think of it, Vardamir. We can strike the Enemy right here *he says excitedly*
Vardamir: *Vardamir smiles in response to Ceolwulf's words, but in his heart he longs to return to his home and play his harp by the sea*
Narrator: *They walk on, deeper into the woods, and soon several shadows come closer and then materialize around them.* Halt! *one of them says* Who are you?
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf gives the reply he has been told by one of Algund's agents to give* Wayfaring strangers looking for friends
Narrator: *The man then says* We have been expecting you. Come, follow us. We will take you to the one whom you seek.
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf asks* Do we have to relinquish our weapons?
Narrator: *The man replies* Nay, The Captain gave orders that you are to keep them to show his good faith in you.
Vardamir: Many thanks! *Vardamir has been holding up his hands to show he is a friend, but now he brings them down to his sides*
Narrator: *The picket leads them on into the camp. The Captain sees them and says* Hail, Vardamir and Ceolwulf. Welcome to my camp
Vardamir: *Vardamir gives a curt bow and smiles graciously to the Captain*
Balrig: *Balrig gets up from his log and says* I shall take your horses. They will be in safe hands *Under his breath, he mutters* Forgoil
Vardamir: Nay, my friend *Vardamir laughs* neither of us is named Forgoil. I am Vardamir and this is my friend Ceolwulf *it is a veiled jibe at the man's taunt*
Balrig: Give me the reins of your horses. I do not want to quarrel with either of you tonight
Vardamir: *Still grinning, Vardamir hands over the reins of his horse*
Balrig: *The men hand him the reins of their horses and he spits on the ground, then leads the horses away*
Vardamir: *He is a little disappointed. He would have enjoyed jesting at this ruffian*
Algund: Welcome to my camp, gentlemen. Take a seat by the fire. We have wine and ale if you would care for any
Ceolwulf: Nay, not for me, I am not thirsty. Let us get to the matters at hand
Vardamir: Wine for me, thank you. *he smiles to Algund*
Algund: As you will, Ceolwulf.
Mindon: *Mindon rises from the log and walks over into the trees, where there are hidden many casks of wine, among other things. He fills up a wooden cup and takes it back to the camp.*
Mindon: *Returning, he hands the cup to Vardamir, and then walking around the crackling fire, he resumes his seat.*
Vardamir: *Vardamir nods to Mindon, then begins sipping from the cup of wine*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf sits down on a vacant log, sits looking at the fire for a while and then to the Captain, waiting to hear his first words.*
Algund: You know my proposal already, gentlemen, and I assume by your appearance tonight that your answer is favorable? *he asks*
Ceolwulf: *He sighs* We are desperate men as you are. I do not like this, no.
Algund: And desperate men must join together should they not for there is strength in number? *he asks*
Ceolwulf: Necessity makes strange bedfellows sometimes, tis true. *he says moodily* Vardamir, what say you?
Vardamir: *Vardamir feels his chest tighten, but he pretends that he is full of enthusiasm and toasts the endeavor* To the brotherhood of desperate men! I am all for it.
Ceolwulf: *Though Ceolwulf at one time would have laughed at Algund's offer, the blows of losing Elfhild and the treatment he has been subjected to have turned him into a harsh man.*
Ceolwulf: *All he wants now is revenge against Mordor and he will take it any way he can get it. Bouts of madness sometimes strike him now. He is equally tormented by the Ring he wears and the red sword that he has been given. Dark and somber are his moods, and any mirth that once lay within him is long fled.*
Ceolwulf: *Though he is troubled in his mind by what he is about to do, he has weighed all these things carefully.*
Vardamir: *Vardamir thinks it is a rash and dangerous thing they do, to risk their lives for vengeance against such a powerful enemy, when they could travel away and try to eke out a more peaceful existence.*
Ceolwulf: Then, Captain, *he sighs and shrugs his shoulders in resignation* as Turin Turambar once did, so will I do. But I must make one thing clear. We do not want killing! Not killing of the victims
Vardamir: *But after the adventures he has shared with Ceolwulf, Vardamir desires to stay with his friend, if only to provide a more rational perspective on things. He fears that Ceolwulf is slowly going mad.*
Ceolwulf: Do we have an understanding, Captain? *he says and looks up at him*
Algund: You ask a difficult thing, for sometimes the victims want to kill us *he laughs*
Algund: Self defense then, Ceolwulf, is that permitted/ *he says sarcastically*
Ceolwulf: Only when necessary, Captain. *he grates out these words harshly*
Vardamir: *whispers to Ceolwulf* Now, do try to overcome that desire of yours to get killed, and be sensible. Let us defend ourselves *grins*
Ceolwulf: *He whispers to Vardamir* Turin Turambar and his band stole by necessity, and so do we, but we will not kill the innocent, only the Enemy! *he emphasizes*
Vardamir: *nods vigorously*
Algund: Now gentlemen, welcome to my band of outlaws. You can both be very helpful to me.
Vardamir: Honored to be counted among this august gathering *he smiles wryly and drinks another toast*
Mindon: Welcome, *Mindon says, looking to Ceolwulf and Vardamir in the amber light of the campfire* the pay is not too good sometimes, but we always have wine and ale, and a coin or two.
Vardamir: Enough for any honest soldier!
Algund: And adventure *The Captain says, mirth in his voice* Never forget the adventure!
Vardamir: *He fondly remembers the time he spent wandering in the woods, living off wild roots and singing by the sea*
Mindon: *Mindon chuckles* Aye, always enough for "honest," hard working men.
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf slumps his shoulders, gazing into the fire, thinking his own gloomy dark thoughts.*
Algund: What other men can boast of being wanted in two countries? *he looks at Mindon*
Mindon: Aye, Captain, many are the deeds we can boast, not the least of which is the fact we are wanted in both Rohan and Mordor.
Algund: *The Captain scratches his chin and smiles* Name one other outlaw band that can claim that distinction
Mindon: We have made quite a name for ourselves in this world, and many would love to have our heads, but never will they leave our shoulders, if we can help it!
Algund: *The Captain laughs heartily at these words* See, gentlemen *he looks at Vardamir and Ceolwulf in the light of the fire* Adventure, what did I tell you?
Ceolwulf: *Something about The Captain's laughter irritates him and he is in no mood for mirth right now.* Captain, I have heard your boasts. Just tell us now what you want us to do.
Algund: Tell me this, gentlemen. How long has it been since your horses have been shod? *he laughs again*
Ceolwulf: Far too long, I fear, but what concern is that of yours?
Algund: Because I want you to get them reshod *he laughs*
Mindon: Aye *he grins* we are highwaymen - not a band of marauding footpads.
Algund: *The Captain laughs at that* Now, gentlemen, in the morning, I want you to ride to the village of Alfirin three miles to the west. Mindon will lead you to there.
Algund: Now you, Elf-man, *he says turning to Vardamir* you will come in very helpful here with your keen senses.
Vardamir: I'm listening with my best Elvish skill. *He leans forward to hear the Captain's words*
Algund: Never forget, I, too, have Elvish blood, for my ancestors, like yours, were from Numenor *he says with mocking laughter in his voice*
Vardamir: *He raises his eyebrows and smiles, but there is a challenge behind it. He thinks how this man has abused his country and his heritage*
Algund: And would it not be a great jest if our ancestors could only see us now!
Vardamir: They would mourn for the desperate straits we find ourselves in, we who once were such a proud people *he says sadly*
Mindon: Well, Captain, the blood of Numenor flows in all our veins, except in those of Balrig, and in our friend over yonder, Master Ceolwulf.
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf says testily* And I know you descendants of the Sea-Kings regard people of my blood as the lesser men! And your ancestors, all three of yours, were very eager to come and take from the Lesser Men long ago *he says angrily*
Vardamir: On the contrary, my friend. All men of the West have found the courage of the Rohirrim to be invaluable. *He drops his merry demeanor for a moment of seriousness. Then he smiles brightly to all of them and sips his wine calmly*
Mindon: *He shifts his position on the log slightly* The Sea-kings did not bother your horse herds up in Mirkwood.
Vardamir: *Vardamir's words were sincere, but he also seeks to keep Ceolwulf's temper from flaring up in this dangerous situation*
Ceolwulf: Aye, *he says and motions with his hand as though to dismiss them all* You do not need to tell me of Elendil, Isildur and Anarion and the Faithful, but I know this, not all of your blood is counted among the Faithful!
Vardamir: *anxiously drums his fingers on the side of his cup*
Ceolwulf: Your kin was swept away in the sea, but it was your kin that died, not those of the lesser men! *he says moodily*
Vardamir: Ceolwulf, no one is attacking you. We are embarking on a great adventure! Let us hear what they have planned for us.
Ceolwulf: And the bulk of your kin perished in the sea while we "savages" *he emphasizes the word* waited for your coming so that we could be "enlightened" *he says sarcastically*
Vardamir: *sighs, looks up at the stars in the night sky*
Ceolwulf: *He rises to his feet* As enlightened as were the lesser men when your ancestors came and robbed and took gold, silver and mithril and took many people back to slavery. I know the Numenoreans. I know my lore
Ceolwulf: *He speaks now with the passion of a visionary* Do not boast of your blood to one such as me, the Lesser Men! For it is obvious to me *he spits out the words* that we have all fallen far short of the mark
Mindon: *He leans back slightly, looking Ceolwulf up and down.* Ai! *he sneers* A Rohir who knows the lore of Numenor? And whom taught you that? A Gondorian, no doubt, for I have heard that the people of your land begrudge even the speaking of the common tongue, preferring to blather on in your own unintelligible language.
Vardamir: *groans, leans his head on his free hand*
Ceolwulf: Man! *He exclaims* Watch your words with me! No one taught me, except my sire! We are not ignorant men in Rohan, though some are unlettered, never are they to be called ignorant men who must be taught at the hands of the Gondorians!
Mindon: You seem to know quite a bit about Gondorian and Numenorean lore to have learned from a man of Rohan. *he says with snide disbelief*
Ceolwulf: You insult my sire! *he shouts, his hand going to the hilt of his sword*
Mindon: Nay, I do not insult your sire. *he says sarcastically, enjoying taunting this excitable man.* In fact, he must have been quite an intelligent man, to shun the ways of the Rohirrim and look to the teachings of Gondor!
Ceolwulf: I will not take your insults! Move away from the fire and draw your blade!
Mindon: *he waves his hand dismissively* Nay, nay, I would not want to kill you just as soon as you have joined our merry band.
Algund: Silence, all of you, or I will have my men lay hold upon you and tie you to trees for the night so you can cool off! I will not have dissension among my men! Choose now to agree between yourselves and have no fighting!
Mindon: *He looks to Algund in the dim light.* I shall not fight with the arrogant Horse Lord, if he does not fight with me.
Algund: Hot heads, both of you! *The Captain says, irritation mounting in his voice* Save your strength for the honorable pursuit of banditry!
Vardamir: *Vardamir stifles laughter at that*
Ceolwulf: I have no wish to come here and spread trouble *he says, thinking to himself, "Everywhere I go, I seem to cause trouble."*
Ceolwulf: *He moves his hand away from the hilt of his sword and sits back on the log* We will do as you have asked, Captain, and go to the village. What else do you wish us to do besides having our horses shod?
Algund: Learn all you can. Keep your ears sharp. Make friends among the villagers. Then I want you to journey past the village, six miles to the West upon the road. There, you will find the house of Lord Ashtum. Ride as disinterested travelers but keep your eyes open and look at the house so you will know where it is.
Ceolwulf: That is an easy enough thing to do. Now if someone will show us where we are to sleep, we will be taking our rest.
Mindon: Balrig has already ordered your blankets to be spread. Follow me, and I shall take you to them.
Mindon: *He thinks to himself, "Fine man of Rohan, ever were your people allies of Gondor," but he decides against saying the sarcastic comment out loud, for it would only cause more trouble.*
Narrator: *They follow behind Mindon and then when he has left them, Ceolwulf lies down upon his blanket and pulls the other blanket over him.* Good night, Vardamir.
Vardamir: Good night, Ceolwulf. You know, this would be easier if you would take my advice and stop trying to persuade people to kill you *he jokes*
Ceolwulf: *He laughs barely audible laugh at Vardamir's joke, wishing to think his own dark and brooding thoughts instead.*

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