Morning of November 6, 3019

The next morning after Ceolwulf's trial, Frodo sits at the table in his sitting room and looks at the breakfast that the servants have brought. Vardamir comes into the sitting room carrying an object wrapped in a faded scrap of homespun.

"Master, after they were brought here October 9, some of Ceolwulf's things from Nurn were taken to his room over the stables, while others were brought to your room. I did not think that it would be good now anyway to bring you the rest of his possessions, but I found something that I think you should have."

He puts the object down on the table and pulls away the cover. It is the carving of the horse that Ceolwulf had made for Frodo for his birthday. He walks to the window, and pulling aside the cover, he looks out and says, "The land lies covered in whiteness, and if there is this much upon the ground here in the south, I would wonder what icy chills must lie to our north." He closes the drapery and turns back to Frodo.

"Last night, I left my room over the stables, and making my way across the courtyard, I went to a little used opening in the wall. There, I found that the lock, though a formidable piece it was, can easily be picked with the aid of a wire."

A grin covering his face, he says, "Master, I see by the look on your countenance that you are surprised that I have such skills, but never forget, I am trained in the ways of the Dunedain and I know them well." For the first time, Frodo notices Vardamir's long, slender fingers, the fingers of either a musician, or a master thief.

"Taking a branch from a nearby tree, I cut it with my dagger and made a walking stick that did quite well in such a fix. My cloak, pulled low over my face, I hunched my shoulders and feigned a limp, hoping that those who saw me would think me either an old man or a cripple. Then I made my way down the Mundburg. The guards at the gate ignored me, for what have they to fear? The land for hundreds of miles about is in the fell clutches of the enemy, and by their overconfidence, they grow careless."

"When I felt that I was well past the notice of anyone, I left my ruse and hastened to Newburg. I had heard of a tavern there where many a customer of questionable repute goes and frequents and makes merry. Information is easy to come by there, for many a drunken lip will tell too much ere his companions bid him to silence. This then is what I learned, and I take it to be true, for it was spoken from the mouth of one of the Citadel guards himself."

"He boasted openly that once again the great Maugoth Vartang makes a fool of the one called 'The Friend of Sauron.' The lout boasted as he held a tankard of ale to his lips, 'The Shakh will feel great pain on the morrow; the prisoner Ceolwulf, the slave of the fool Baggins, is to be sent to Barad-dur, there to waste his miserable existence out in labor, under the lash of the taskmasters. Is this not a great jest upon the Shakh?' he mocked in a snarling voice."

"His words set the whole tavern to mirth. I stayed there yet the space of an hour longer, but no more information did I learn. Then I left and made my way back thither by the same ruse and way that I had used before."

Frodo protrayed by Hobbitness
Vardamir portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator and Aldir portrayed by Wraith

Frodo: *Frodo has slumped farther and farther in his chair while Vardamir spoke. Now Frodo's right elbow rests on the table, his bowed head leaning on it, his fist clutching his curls. He squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head slowly*
Frodo: *Through his tightened throat he manages a hoarse whisper* No...not possible!....*his left hand continues to run across the carving as though he is afraid it will disappear*
Vardamir: I can save him!
Vardamir: Either let me try or condemn him to the pits of Mordor!
Frodo: *raises his head, looks to Vardamir* How?
Frodo: How are you going to spring him from solitary confinement in a prison of Mordor?
Vardamir: All I need are two horses, some food and his sword and mine
Vardamir: I will get him ere he ever reaches the Dark Lands
Frodo: *slams the flat of his hand onto the table* That's exactly what he said about Elfhild and Elffled and it has gotten him here. He was going to take on all of Minas Morgul singlehandedly!
Frodo: It can't be done!
Vardamir: He will be taken tomorrow, driven on to work in the mines
Frodo: *tries to beat down the false hope Vardamir's words awake in him*
Vardamir: When they take him from the prison, they must march him many miles ere they reach the bridge.
Frodo: True...but he will be guarded
Frodo: It would be a great risk to fight his guards singlehandedly
Vardamir: Let me take care of that... the Dunedain have ways. It is a chance, but we must take it. Perhaps they will camp before crossing the bridge.
Frodo: We? Don't expect Ceolwulf to be able to fight. They gave him thirty lashes *his fists clench*
Vardamir: And by the darkness of night I think I can do it.
Vardamir: Then they will have to go slowly, and then I can do it!
Frodo: Vardamir, I want to believe you can do this, but when so much is at stake I need to know more than "the Dunedain have ways"
Frodo: What are you going to do?
Vardamir: Slit their throats in the dead of night and pick the locks upon the chains that bind the prisoner.
Vardamir: They are overconfident as it is. They will be careless.
Frodo: *stares back and forth between the horse carving and Vardamir*
Frodo: ....It is a terrible risk....
Frodo: *meets Vardamir's eyes* Are you absolutely sure you can do it?
Vardamir: *looks in Frodo's eyes* By the blood of the elves that flows through the veins of the Numenoreans, I can do it!
Vardamir: Do you not think me more than a match for orc guards whose brains move slowly?
Frodo: Of course I do, Vardamir, it is only the number of the orc guards that worries me
Frodo: and you sound like Ceolwulf before he...went mad
Vardamir: We are all mad here, but this is our only hope.
Frodo: *bites his lower lip to still its trembling. He studies the carving, all its intricate detail, the mane and tail flowing in the wind, the proud expression..so like Ceolwulf himself, bold and strong*
Frodo: *At Vardamir's words he turns around and manages a grin*
Frodo: Perhaps it is
Vardamir: So what say you?
Frodo: *Hesitates, sighs....* I don't want the same thing to happen to you...
Vardamir: I would ask Aldir to go with me, but he has a wife and I do not think he would risk it.
Frodo: If you are caught, you will surely be killed. I am worried...but I do hope you succeed!
Vardamir: With him at my side, I know I would not fail.
Frodo: I leave it up to you whether or not you speak to him of this
Vardamir: I believe I will ask Aldir...
Vardamir: Won't he be coming by this morning?
Frodo: Yes, I believe so
Vardamir: I need his help.
Frodo: *Frodo drums his fingers on the table and takes a deep breath*...very well then.
Aldir: *He kisses his wife goodbye that morning and watches her go to her work in the kitchen. Then walks to Frodo's room and asks permission from the guards to enter*
Aldir: *Then, having been granted it, he opens the door and goes into Frodo's room*
Aldir: Master *he bows* and Vardamir. Good morning
Vardamir: *he looks to Aldir who has entered the room* Good morning, my friend.
Frodo: *Frodo sits at the table with Ceolwulf's carving in front of him. Both Frodo and Vardamir wear intense expressions, Vardamir's of determination, and Frodo's of worry.*
Aldir: Any letters to be written today? *he asks in resignation*
Aldir: Anything to which I need to attend?
Frodo: *looks up to Aldir, his face strangely dazed. He answers quietly* No...no letters today
Aldir: Then what would you have me do, master? *he still dislikes Frodo but his feelings towards him improved since he was given the parchment*
Frodo: I have nothing for you to do this morning, Aldir...*looks to Vardamir*
Vardamir: Aldir *he says in a low voice* have a seat. We must talk.
Aldir: *He looks from one to the other, uncertain, then deciding that since Frodo has nothing for him to do, he will sit and talk.*
Aldir: My friend, Vardamir, what do you wish to discuss?
Vardamir: *he, too, takes a seat* Aldir, last night, I sneaked out of the city and went to a tavern in the Newburg. There, I overheard that Ceolwulf was to be sent to Barad-dur to work out his life in labor.
Vardamir: I overheard these tidings from one of the guards of the citadel, and I believe it to be true.
Frodo: *As they talk, Frodo turns his attention back to the carving, trying to memorize its every detail. He traces the expertly carved lines of the horse, imagining Ceolwulf carving it for him*
Aldir: This is a sad thing, but what can we do about it? Nothing
Vardamir: Ceolwulf will be taken beyond the shadowy mountains tomorrow. If they camp near the river that night, we could sneak into their camp, and silence the guards
Vardamir: Then, I could pick the locks of Ceolwulf's shackles, and free him.
Aldir: That is not an easy matter, Vardamir, and you know it well!
Aldir: You could not walk up to the guards and persuade them to lay down their weapons just like that
Vardamir: Of course not. We come upon them unawares and slit their throats.
Aldir: Ha! My friend! *he laughs* And you think they will not protest?
Frodo: *Frodo closes his eyes and rests his face on his hand again. This is all so surreal, his whole life since his capture. It almost seems that none of this is real at all...
Frodo: ...that he has been thrust unawares into someone else's life. He finds himself thinking, "Where in all this is Sam? Why doesn't he come back?"*
Vardamir: They have relaxed their guards, and are comfortable in the belief that they control all the happenings of the land.
Frodo: *Then he must remind himself of the terrible reality. Ceolwulf, not Sam, now. Ceolwulf. But Ceolwulf can be saved....may the Valar grant it!*
Vardamir: They are slow and incompetent, and we could easily overtake them.
Aldir: I understand now you speak of "we." What do you mean?
Vardamir: *he leans forward slightly* I was hoping that you would accompany me on this mission.
Aldir: What? A mission into death? A mission into folly? Do you not remember, I have a wife!
Vardamir: *he sighs* I know all these things. But it is our only hope. And you were once a soldier, and you faced the risk of these things every day.
Aldir: Now I am but a slave, as are you, Vardamir. You think too high now!
Vardamir: We are still Gondorians. They cannot change that. We are skilled in the art of war, and I am adept at woodcraft and picking locks.
Aldir: Vardamir, this is a fool's errand!
Vardamir: Do you not remember the oath you took to protect Gondor and its friends? Is Ceolwulf not of Rohan, an ally of our land?
Aldir: *A stricken look comes over his face and he feels a sense of guilt* We are soldiers no longer, and Gondor does not exist
Vardamir: True, but Arnor does.
Vardamir: Therefore, your oath to the Steward and King still holds.
Aldir: How could only two men do this thing?
Vardamir: As I have said, the guards are overconfident and not overly competent. Certainly, we are more than a worthy match.
Aldir: *He ponders the words of Vardamir, and becomes thoughtful and quiet*
Frodo: *Frodo ponders his words as well, and remembers how Sam rescued him from Cirith Ungol*
Frodo: Well, the more who undertake this mission, the better for is, is it not?
Vardamir: You have a sword, generously *he smiles wryly* given to you by Mordor. Do you lack the courage to use it?
Frodo: Perhaps I should come as well.
Aldir: But Vardamir, the swords are cursed. They say that we serve Mordor
Frodo: *closes his eyes again as he remembers the curse written on the swords*
Vardamir: *he shrugs* So they say of Turin's. But still, he killed the dragon.
Aldir: *He looks to Frodo* You cannot come. There might not be a return to this
Frodo: *quietly* So much the better for me
Aldir: Aye, Turin killed the dragon, but neither you nor I are Turin
Aldir: It is a fool's journey and you would add another?
Frodo: Only to help
Vardamir: The more the merrier as we go off to our death.
Frodo: *grim smile*
Aldir: But my wife... I cannot leave her!
Frodo: I could go in your place, Aldir
Vardamir: You did once before to go to war. Are you coward now? And is she a coward?
Vardamir: Certainly she knows that men must go off to war, to secure the saftey of their lands and the lands of their friends. This is a mission to rescue a friend.
Aldir: She knows that, and she is not a coward. But she has been asked to give so much already and can I ask her to give yet another thing with no hope of success?
Vardamir: Success is never a certain thing. It never is in any war, in any mission. But we cannot control that.
Aldir: And even if we were to be successful, which I doubt, where will you take Ceolwulf?
Vardamir: We would have to flee, to the mountains perhaps.
Vardamir: You could go back. Follow my directions, and they will not notice your comings and goings.
Aldir: But how are we to get through the city gate? Shall we lay a spell upon it? Vardamir, Vardamir, my friend *he shakes his head* Neither of us know sorcery
Vardamir: I was able to walk through the city gates unmolested with only my cloak and a staff as disguise.
Aldir: But we would have to take horses. Are we to disguise them with a cloak and staff!
Vardamir: We could ambush some guards in the darkness of night and take their clothes once they have been subdued.
Frodo: *shakes his head at the audacity of the plan*
Vardamir: Then we ride from the city, dressed in the livery of Mordor.
Frodo: *then he realizes:* That's exactly what Sam and I did!
Frodo: *flushes, realizing he spoke that aloud*
Aldir: Ah, a simple thing. Slit a few throats, take the livery of Mordor. We already have swords. Why not, since you seem to be bent upon killing us?
Aldir: *he thinks.... tonight perhaps*
Aldir: *But he tries to push the thought away from him as he remembers Lilandra*
Vardamir: True, we do risk being killed. But we are completely at their mercy anyway. If they wish us dead, they will kill us anyway.
Vardamir: they will just kill us*
Aldir: I must speak to my wife first. I cannot leave her this way
Frodo: *Frodo is becoming so intent on this plan to save Ceolwulf that he is close to attempting it himself if the men decide against it. If Sam could do it, I can do it, he thinks*
Aldir: I must talk with her. I must look into her eyes and hold her as I tell her these things
Vardamir: Decide quickly, Aldir, for if the deed is to be done, it must be begun tonight.
Frodo: *New sympathy for Ceolwulf's plan to free Elfhild seeps into his heart as he realizes he now wants to do the same thing for which he chided Ceolwulf*
Aldir: Let me first talk with her, and then I will make my decision, Vardamir
Vardamir: The parting will be a sore trial for her, but let us hope that it will only be a temporary one.
Vardamir: But if you do not go with me, I will go alone.
Aldir: Then, perhaps, you may have to go alone, for if she bids me stay, I cannot deny her!
Frodo: *The urge to apologize to them all surges over him yet again...but they would not know for what*
Frodo: You need not go alone, Vardamir, for if you will have me, I will go with you whether Aldir comes or not.
Frodo: *His eyes glaze over as though one of his old fits were upon him* Ceolwulf shall not go to Barad-dur!
Aldir: Nay, Frodo, 'tis not possible, for if you should disappear, Vartang would scour the face of Gondor to find you! You must of needs stay here to make all appear well.

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