March 4, 3020

One week has passed since Vardamir and Ceolwulf journeyed from the Druedain Forest and traveled to Newburg and it is now the fifth day of March. After transferring the stolen horses to some men that they had met in the mountains, they had been rewarded for their efforts with a sum of gold.

Saddling their own horses and thanking the Woses for their kindness, protection and hospitality, Ceolwulf and Vardamir bade farewell to them. When asked if they planned to go north when the winter had passed, they told the Woses that they were planning to travel west of Newburg to tap the riches of the Easterlings' purses. Ghan-buri-ghan warned them of the danger of such an occupation, but Vardamir and Ceolwulf laughed them off saying that all of life is a danger.

After riding to Newburg, they take lodgings in the Boars Head Inn, a less-than-savory establishment catering to the traveling public. After turning their mounts over to the ostler at the inn's stable, they make their way through the streets and throughfares of Newburg. Ceolwulf, now unrecognizable since his beard and hair have grown out and have been stained dark brown by walnut husks, and Vardamir, equally unrecognizable with his hair and beard grown out, amble through the streets of the town.

A week before, February 27, they had told Frodo that they hoped that he could send either Finduilas, Haleth or Rian to the marketplace around one o'clock in the afternoon, and if all went well, they would find someone who would be willing to pass the servant a message from them. Vardamir had suggested that perhaps if they could find Sidhiel, a minstrel girl, that she might be willing to aid them in their quest.

Now they wander through the streets of the city at noonday, looking for the girl. Vardamir asks Ceolwulf, "Your plan is very interesting but I doubt that it can work, for how will one of our friends, whoever it might be, Rian, Finduilas or Haleth, know that she can trust the messenger? You do not expect them to believe the story of a stranger who might just as well be a pick pocket, or a thief or anything else, do you?" Ceolwulf puts his hand on Vardamir's shoulder. "To claim descent from elves, your foreknowledge is woefully lacking. You will pretend to be her husband and walk with her, holding her arm," he chuckles, "as you approach our friends."

Note: A week from February 27 would be March 4, because the Shire calendar has 30 days, and most months in the Numenorean calendar have 30 days. In the Tale of Years in the book, the Entmoot began on February 30, 3019, and Eomer met Aragorn that same day.)

Vardamir portrayed by Eowyn; then by Hobbitness
Rian portrayed by Eowyn
Sidhiel portrayed by Hobbitness
Narrator and Ceolwulf portrayed by Wraith

Vardamir: *Vardamir laughs along with Ceolwulf* And perhaps if Frodo were along with us, he could claim to be our son!
Ceolwulf: Since we do not know her habits, this maiden of yours might be difficult to find *he says as he walks beside Vardamir along the side of the road*
Vardamir: Perhaps she plays the lute upon the street by day for coins, as she does in the tavern at night. Tis a common practice among minstrels.
Ceolwulf: In a city of this size, anyone would be difficult to find. Perhaps my idea is not so good after all *he says as he continues striding down the street with Vardamir*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel walks out of the house she shares with her mother, carrying her lute. Since it is noon, she figures many will be out on the streets buying food. She chooses a busy street corner and begins strumming the instrument and singing*
Ceolwulf: All right, my friend, let us see about the reputed extraordinary abilities of the elf-kin. You shuold be able to sense her presence anywhere now *he says as he sees a stray piglet run out in the street squealing, its mother quickly following behind it*
Vardamir: *He laughs merrily, though he really wonders if they can find the minstrel maiden, or if she can be trusted.* Of course, of course!
Ceolwulf: *Slaps Vardamir on the back* Now there is where your uncanny abilities would do us in good stead. If you have any abilities to read minds *he laughs* then try to read hers!
Vardamir: Ai! Alas, but there, I fear, the blood of the Elves runs out, for I doubt that I could read her mind; sense her character, perhaps; but as to devine her every thought; nay!
Ceolwulf: Few men can, my friend *he says and laughs, walking down the streets*
Vardamir: I daresay that perhaps even at times even the Elves lack that ability... *he laughs with Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *He grins* Who can understand women? Show me the man who says he can, and I will show you a liar!
Vardamir: *He laughs merrily* I do not even know if Manwe could claim that ability!
Ceolwulf: *After walking through the streets for about a half an hour, Ceolwulf looks around and frowns* I see no minstrel girl. I hear no music. Perhaps we have come for naught
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel dances on a small patch of dirt, gracefully swaying from side to side as she sings about gulls flying far over the sea*
Vardamir: *He puts his hand on Ceolwulf's shoulder* Hark! I hear the sweet strains of an Elvish melody! Are the Rohirrim deaf when it comes to music?
Sidhiel: *She beams when passersby drop coins into her small pot*
Ceolwulf: I hear nothing but the strains of the city, all mingled one with another, creating a vast din in my ears *he says and looks all about*
Vardamir: I have ears of an elf, and therefore, I can hear much better than you. Come, let us travel onward, and perhaps you shall not be so deaf.
Ceolwulf: Perhaps it is the sound of your voice constantly ringing in my ears that has brought me to deafness! *he says as he walks alongside Vardamir*
Sidhiel: *sings* O to be borne on the wings of a gull, flying far over the sea, gazing at infinite ripples of blue that seem to be calling to me
Vardamir: Hurry, up ahead! *he quickens his pace*
Sidhiel: *The melody of her song soars over the accompaniment, which seems like the rolling of waves*
Sidhiel: *More people drop coins into her pot*
Ceolwulf: *Still not hearing anything but the sound of fighting, brawling, horses neighing, pigs squealing, he tries to trust in Vardamir's senses and follows him*
Sidhiel: *She pirouettes, then spreads her arms wide as she ends on a high note. The people around her applaud. She bows and grins at them*
Vardamir: *Borne by his swift, long legs, he stops a good distance up ahead, and looks back, waiting for his slower-footed Rohirric comrade to catch up wtih him.*
Sidhiel: *She is silent a moment as she decides what to sing next*
Ceolwulf: *He quickens his pace and catches up with Vardamir. Then he looks down the street and motions with his hand* Look, there she is!
Sidhiel: *She plays a chord on her lute, then begins a slow song about a lady whose lover abandoned her for another*
Vardamir: *Turning his head towards Ceolwulf, he says* Aye, I have been standing here watching her while I have waited for you to catch up! Now can you hear the music, or are you still deaf?
Sidhiel: *This does not go over as well with the crowd, so she changes it a little to show the lady finding a new love and a happier future.*
Ceolwulf: No, my ears have been unstopped, and I can hear her quite well. Now which one of us is going to approach her and speak with her?
Sidhiel: *She speeds up the tempo and dances again. Finally someone drops a coin in her pot. Perhaps if she sang directly to some of them, they would give her more coins. Her eyes scan the crowd*
Vardamir: Perhaps we should wait until she rests from her songs, for we must of needs speak with her in private. However, let us join the crowd of listeners.
Ceolwulf: *He moves forward and begins elbowing his way through the crowd, ignoring the scowls on the faces of those he pushes aside*
Vardamir: *Vardamir follows behind, walking in the path that Ceolwulf is clearing*
Sidhiel: *Her song becomes livelier* Like a leaf that sways to and fro on the wind, so changeful are the hearts of mankind
Vardamir: *Soon they come to the edge of the crowd, where they stand and listen, ignoring the scowls and mutters of the people around.*
Ceolwulf: *He listens to the music and watches the maiden dance* She sings quite well
Sidhiel: *sings* From day to day we do not know what buried secrets themselves will show....*she stops and her face lights up when she sees Vardamir and Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *He smiles at her and then pulls out his coin patch and throws a coin in her pot*
Sidhiel: *she smiles and bows slightly to them*
Vardamir: Aye, that she does *he grins, and he, too, takes out his coin pouch and throws in not one, but two coins*
Sidhiel: *Her smile widens and she blushes, curtsying to Vardamir*
Ceolwulf: *He elbows Vardamir and then leans his head over and whispers in his ear* Do not be so ready to show the quanity of your purse, lest you arouse suspicion of where you obtained it
Vardamir: *He whispers back, with wry humor* I obtained it making an honest living, of course... *he then looks back towards the maiden and smiles and nods to her*
Ceolwulf: *He grins back at him* Yes, I daresay we are horse traders of a sort
Vardamir: *he whispers back to Ceolwulf* Aye, horse traders indeed.
Sidhiel: *finishes the song* We must learn to guide our hearts, though borne on stormy wave, then we shall earn the epitaph of captains strong and brave.
Sidhiel: *With a final chord she bows to the crowd. A few more people give her coins. She smiles again and thanks them, then picks up her pot, signaling that she is done performing for now*
Sidhiel: *As she straightens she looks at Vardamir and Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *He waits until the crowd begins to scatter and then touches Vardamir on the elbow and says* Now we must speak with her if we are to speak at all!
Vardamir: *Vardamir nods and takes a few steps forward, cheering* An excellent performance, maid! Well done, I must say!
Sidhiel: Thank you, Castamir! I'm glad to see you again!
Ceolwulf: *He walks up to her and bows* Good day. Your performance was outstanding
Sidhiel: *slight curtsey* Cearl, well met! Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it
Vardamir: *He cringes at the name Castamir, but he had mistakenly called himself that. Catching up with Ceolwulf, he bows to the lady*
Sidhiel: *she nods and smiles warmly to him*
Ceolwulf: It was a fine melody you played, but my friend is far more attuned to music than am I
Sidhiel: Aye, some have more of an ear for it than others. But I try to please all the passersby with my songs
Vardamir: *Smiling a charming smile to the lady, Vardamir says* I fear that is true, for never has he heard the music of the Elves, which I have; and indeed, Lady Sidhiel, your talent matches that of the Elder Race!
Sidhiel: *she gasps and her hand flies to her heart* Really?!
Ceolwulf: *He thinks to himself how he mistrusts Elves and wonders what was the fate that would ever pair him with such a friend as a boastful Elf-kinsman, Vardamir*
Sidhiel: *she blushes scarlet* Oh, my! Oh, thank you! *she surpresses excited laughter*
Vardamir: Aye! *he says brightly* If I did not know that you were of the Edain just as I am, I would have guessed that you were really an elf!
Sidhiel: *laughing, she waves a hand dismissively* Oh come now, you're flattering me! *She remembers the stories she has heard about elves, of their almost miraculous abilities and talents, all the fascinating legends of the elder days*
Vardamir: Nay! I speak only the truth. Your beautiful songs are capable of painting pictures in the mind, and that is truly the mark of a talented minstrel!
Ceolwulf: *Being a stern man by nature not given to much levity, and little valuing subtly but rather forthrightness, he walks closer to her and says* Can we go somewhere and *he looks around* talk... where it is not so public?
Vardamir: *He looks at Ceolwulf in momentary dismay... that was certainly abrupt.*
Sidhiel: *She was on the point of thanking Vardamir when Ceolwulf spoke. She looks awkwardly to him* Ah....all right, yes, let's go
Sidhiel: What did you want to talk to me about?
Ceolwulf: Shhh! *he whispers* Where can we go where we can speak in private?
Vardamir: *He looks back to Sidhiel and smiles sympathetically* One never knows when one is being watched. *He prays her loyalties do not lie with the Nameless Enemy.*
Sidhiel: *she raises her eyebrows, beginning to feel worried. What if they involve her in something dangerous?*
Ceolwulf: We will just take a moment of your time. We would like to ask a favor of you
Sidhiel: *She follows Ceolwulf and Vardamir* All right, I will listen
Ceolwulf: *He leads her into a darkened alley nearby. Going to the back of the alley, he says* My pardon, but this was the most convenient place I could see
Sidhiel: *She wrings her hands...there are spies everywhere, and the Enemy has many secret plans...there could be horrible consequences for her, for her mother, if she does anything suspicious!*
Vardamir: Tis a shame that men cannot speak openly anymore since the Enemy took control of this land. *he looks into her eyes with a searching gaze*
Sidhiel: *She begins question the men's loyalties and their intentions. Her palms sweat and she keeps glancing over her shoulder*
Sidhiel: Why have you brought me back here? *she whispers, flustered*
Ceolwulf: We have an urgent message to give to a friend and.... and... *he begins to stammer and looks to Vardamir*
Sidhiel: *her eyebrows shoot up again...she knew this was going to be dangerous!*
Vardamir: *He smiles appolgetically at Sidhiel* These are dark and dire times indeed, when correspondence must be conducted in secret, for the Enemy watches every step we take. I wish that we could drive Him from our land and things return to what they once were! *he looks to her meaningfully, trying to perceive if she agrees that the Enemy is evil... or if she serves Him*
Sidhiel: *She looks around to see if anyone is watching, then nods slowly to Vardamir. She leans in closer to them and whispers* Then you do not serve our Enemy?...Who are you? Where are you from? And what is your errand? Tell me plainly!
Vardamir: I am Castamir, and I am from Gondor. *he says softly* Might I ask whom you serve?
Ceolwulf: I am Cearl from many places. We are horsetraders, traveling about. The message we ask you to deliver is about a trade of beasts
Sidhiel: Why do you need me to deliver it? What have I to do with any of this?
Sidhiel: How do I know that you are not spies of the Enemy? Perhaps I have said too much already!
Ceolwulf: But in our last dealings in horses, one of the customers took issue with the mount that we traded for one of his. He is ill favored to us now.
Ceolwulf: And *he sighs deeply* we are avoiding him *he knows this tale is fanciful and unbelievable but it was all he could think of at the time* And we have heard that he is about in the city. *He smiles, he hopes convincingly*
Sidhiel: *frowns* You are coming to me just to avoid an argumentative customer...?
Ceolwulf: That is one way to put it. *He smiles weakly, then his words rush out hurriedly* All you have to do is give a message to a lady who is expected to be in the marketplace around 2 this afternoon, just the time he is reported to be most often about *he gestures with his hand again, thinking of his great skill in learning the art of deceit*
Vardamir: *He nods and smiles ackwardly* Aye, we just need you to do this one thing. A simple matter, really.
Sidhiel: Look, you know what these times are like. You want me to give a secret message to a woman while you try to avoid a man...? And you will not tell me the truth of the matter? I do not want to be arrested, nor do I want my mother to be arrested! And you still have not told me how I can be sure that you are not spies of the enemy, that you will not hunt us down already!
Ceolwulf: *He looks down and studies the toe of his left boot as he moves his toes nervously. He looks at her and smiles a sideways grin* Do we look like spies?
Vardamir: *he laughs nervously* Nay, we look like horse traders. Which we are. And good horse traders at that! *he shuffles his foot slightly*
Sidhiel: Where are the horses that you trade, then?
Ceolwulf: We have already traded them *he says and smiles at her triumphantly*
Vardamir: Aye, we are just on our way back. This is about a deal in the future, but still, we must avoid that man. We do not like to cause trouble.
Sidhiel: *sighs, shifts her feet and places her hands on her hips* All right, what is this message you want me to deliver? *she still eyes them suspiciously*
Ceolwulf: All we ask you to do is when a certain lady goes to the marketplace and looks at the merchandise there, that you feign looking at it too and then after moving up close to her, you whisper a message to her
Sidhiel: What is the message?
Ceolwulf: My friend, Castamir, here will go with you and point the woman out to you
Sidhiel: Tell me what the message is first.
Ceolwulf: It is about a horse, another trade. You are to say the horse has caught the smell of the Western air and travels there now
Sidhiel: *furrows her brow* If the horse is traveling away to the west, how can you trade it here?
Ceolwulf: *He intently studies his left foot again* This is merely a method that horse traders use, a form of code, if you will *he smiles as he studies a small speck of dirt that rests on the end of his left toe*
Vardamir: *He nods vigorously* Aye, a code. Very common in the business. It puzzles our competition.
Sidhiel: A code....yes....that is what I thought it was.....but I rarely hear of traders using them.
Ceolwulf: Aye! *he says as though a spark of inspiration just struck his mind* Our competition! And the buyer will know immediately what is meant by this
Vardamir: We are forced to pay taxes, you see; quite high ones, so we horse traders must conduct business which much secrecy, if you understand. *he grins ackwardly*
Sidhiel: Ah, to dodge the swindlers who work for the Enemy.
Vardamir: Tis a terrible business to be a part of, with all the competition, and the taxes, and all. *laughs again*
Sidhiel: But why have you come to me for this? Surely you have some other messengers already in your employ
Ceolwulf: We are new in the trading business. We are learning the finer points, if you understand my meaning
Vardamir: Aye, quite new... *he grins stupidly*
Ceolwulf: *He stops studying his toe and looks at Sidhiel, catching her eye* I fear we do not make very plausable liars, do we?
Vardamir: *He looks with dismay to Ceolwulf, and then back to Sidhiel, smiling once again appologetically*
Sidhiel: *smiles slowly* No, you are terrible at it.
Ceolwulf: We have not been long at the game of lying
Sidhiel: *This raises them in her esteem* What is really going on?
Vardamir: Aye *he smiles again* the men of Gondor and Rohan are doughty men and not accustomed to the craft.
Sidhiel: Tell me the truth then
Ceolwulf: *He sighs* We are horse thieves, pure and simple
Vardamir: ...Driven by the despair of the times. *he says quickly, in an attempt not to appear too villianous.*
Sidhiel: *she lets out a long breath, disappointed...she had thought they were honorable men at first.*
Ceolwulf: We are also escaped slaves. If you care to look, we can show you our brands.
Vardamir: *he sighs heavily* Indeed, I fear that is true.
Sidhiel: *She closes her eyes. She has seen escaped slaves! Now she is truly embroiled in a dangerous situation! Her life is in danger if anyone finds out! She bites her lip and wrings her hands again*
Ceolwulf: Our master *he sighs, wondering how he can ever explain this* is hated by the Enemy, watched constantly
Vardamir: *Vardamir studies Sidhiel intently.... her anxiety and fear are obviously apparent; but perhaps she is only acting to decieve them into a false sense of security? He prays this is not so.*
Vardamir: *He nods in confirmation to Ceolwulf's words.*
Sidhiel: *Her mind races, overwhelmed by the danger she is now in*
Ceolwulf: We wish only to give him the message that we are well and tell him of where we are going
Sidhiel: How can your master be a lord here and hated by the enemy? They do not go together! Who is he?
Sidhiel: And why in the name of El---why would you want to send a message to him, if you have escaped?
Sidhiel: Won't he come looking for you?
Ceolwulf: *He decides to study the toe of his boot once again and then signs and looks up* Does the name *he whispers to her* Baggins mean anything to you?
Vardamir: *Vardamir looks between Ceolwulf and Sidhiel, wondering if the name of Baggins will win them favor.... or disdain?*
Sidhiel: Shakh Baggins?! The Friend of Sauron? *disbelieving laugh* and you are trying to tell me that HE is hated by the enemy?!
Ceolwulf: If he were not hated by the Enemy, would we have to pass messages in secret between him and ourselves?
Vardamir: Aye *he nods vigorously* We would just journey to his keep and present him with our message!
Sidhiel: It is a strange hate that gives him honor and riches and fame!
Vardamir: The Enemy is strange, lady *he says gravely and sighs*
Ceolwulf: Baggins came to this dubious distinction and honor by an unwilling course
Sidhiel: *raises one eyebrow as she listens. She looks at Ceolwulf, expecting him to continue his explanation*
Ceolwulf: Perhaps you suspect us of joining with the Enemy in a plot to track out those opposed to Him?
Sidhiel: *nods* Yes, I do, but if you are, I am already doomed if you are in such a plot
Ceolwulf: Aye, indeed, what you say is true, but have we laid hold of you or put swords to your back to take you to deliver you to the Enemy?
Sidhiel: No....but neither have they done any of these thinks to Shakh Baggins, whom you say they hate. How is this possible?
Ceolwulf: He is the victim of revenge. That is all I can say
Vardamir: Also, the same could be said of you, I fear: that you could be a spy of the Enemy, who will report all we say and do to the soldiers who occupy this city.
Sidhiel: *backs away and puts a shielding hand up, palm out* No, no, no! I am no such spy! How could a spy of Mordor stand to sing Elvish songs?
Ceolwulf: But either we trust each other or we stand here all day in the alley debating and the woman will have made her purchases in the marketplace and return unto her people. 'Twould be a foolish one indeed to sing such songs in a place like this
Sidhiel: *At Ceolwulf's words, she presses her fingertips to her temples and groans. After a pause, she sighs and says quietly* All me your slave brands and I'll believe you
Vardamir: True; the servants of the enemy are loath to sing Elvish songs. Perhaps only a dark elf would do that, for they are accursed, and you are obviously not one of them!
Sidhiel: *she looks at Vardamir gravely, implying that she is consenting to this perilous plan mainly for his sake*
Vardamir: Very well, we shall show you. *he says, solemnly, as he pulls the edge of his cloak back so that it hangs in a baggy heap in the middle of his back.*
Vardamir: *With his right hand, he pulls the neck of his tunic down and shrugs his shoulder, revealing the mark of the Great Eye upon his skin.* Tis a wicked thing, is it not?
Sidhiel: *She looks at the brand of the Eye on his shoulder, and revulsion for the Great Enemy fills her anew* Aye, a cruel and devilish thing but so are all the works of the enemy
Ceolwulf: *He pushes his cloak back and he, too, shows her the brand upon his shoulder* And if it were not inappropriate, you could see the lashes upon my back that the Enemy has dealt me
Ceolwulf: *He pulls the shoulder of his tunic back up and drapes his cloak about himself* There, now are you satisfied?
Vardamir: *Covering the brand once again and readjusting his cloak, he looks to Ceolwulf and nods* Aye, they always beat those who stand up for themselves.
Sidhiel: *Her expression is grim, but her eyes hold more trust as she looks at them now* Yes, yes...*sighs* I am sorry for your misfortunes. It is truly their way *nods emphatically*
Sidhiel: My father died building the great temple. They worked him to death. They made him work when he was ill, and when he protested that he could work no longer, they beat him to death.
Sidhiel: *she nods again* Yes, I believe you, as much as I can in these ill times.
Vardamir: *A shudder runs through Vardamir, and he wonders if this shall be Aldir's fate - or perhaps it has already happened!*
Vardamir: *He looks to Sidhiel sympathetically and says with much compassion in his voice* I am truly sorry, lady, and indeed, I can understand your grief quite well... A friend of mine was sentenced to work upon the temple, and I do not know what doom has befallen him. I pray to the Valar that he will not suffer the same fate.
Ceolwulf: *He looks at her* Truly, lady, great grief has befallen you, for which we are sorry
Sidhiel: Thank you *she smiles sadly at them* I hope your friend will be spared.
Ceolwulf: Aye, a friend whose fate is unlearned... who was sentenced to this for aiding me to escape!
Vardamir: *He nods, deep grief upon his features*
Sidhiel: That is a grievous thing to bear. I am sorry. *she thinks: perhaps this is why the Rohir seems half mad*
Ceolwulf: The guilt is upon me, for if it were not me, he would still be safe and well with his wife at the master's hall.
Sidhiel: *She straightens and takes a deep breath* Well...what is this message I am to deliver, again?
Ceolwulf: This is the message that we want you to give to the servant woman. The horses are far finer towards the West. We travel there to buy and to trade. We will come back in a month. Do not worry about us, for we have friends in the West. Tell her this message is from Cearl and Castamir
Ceolwulf: The servant woman, of course, will not know you, but I have a plan. She knows Castamir here *looks over to him* He will go with you. The woman will understand *he looks Sidhiel in the eye* Now do you understand what you are to say?
Vardamir: *He nods in confirmation to Ceolwulf and looks expectantly at Sidhiel*
Sidhiel: I will try to remember it. *recites* The horses are finer in the West. You to there to buy and trade. You will be back in a month, and you have friends there.
Ceolwulf: Sidhiel *he continues to watch her* when we return in a month, where are you most likely to be found?
Sidhiel: I always sing in the taverns at night. I'm often at the Blushing Maiden Inn. I live near there as well, in a small house three streets away.
Ceolwulf: We will look for you there then. Come now, let us go to the marketplace, for it is the time that the woman is supposed to be there.
Sidhiel: *She nods to the Rohir and the shy Gondorian. Rehearsing their message in her mind, she follows them*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf leads them along the cobblestone streets, turning first at this corner, and then going forward and turning to another, until finally they arrive at the marketplace.*
Narrator: *Here, the colorful kiosks of the merchants lure those with money in their purse to look and to bargain for goods of all kinds - spices from the East, colorful cloth, arms, pottery of all kinds, clothes and linens. Merchants cry loudly to passersby as they hawk their goods. The din is terrific in the marketplace as rivaling merchants try to outshout the other.*
Narrator: Buy my spices! *one cries* Buy my swords! *another cries*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel prays silently to the Valar that no harm comes to her or her mother, that the men will prove honest. Her own thoughts pound louder in her head than the vendors' cries*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf puts his hand down at his side, a signal for them to stop, and he looks around for Rian*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel stops with Ceolwulf and Vardamir, fidgeting nervously as she waits for them to spot their friend*
Rian: *Rian and another woman servant of Frodo's household look at the silks that the fabric merchant is selling. Her fingers touch upon the soft cloth, looking at a bolt of light blue and thinking how it would make a lovely dress.*
Ceolwulf: There she is *he whispers to them* I will wait here. *He moves into the shadows of a doorway.*
Vardamir: Sidhiel, follow me and I will take you to the woman *he touches her arm as he walks towards Rian*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel goes to Vardamir, almost taking his arm instinctively. She smiles at him and drops her arm to her side, then walks with him towards the girl*
Sidhiel: *She sees many women looking at the bolts of fabric at this vendor's stand and wonders which one is Castamir's friend*
Vardamir: *His hood pulled low over his eyes to avoid detection, he walks with Sidhiel up to the kiosk. He moves beside Rian and says* Find anything you wish to buy?
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel appraises the girl--a young woman about her own age, with a sweet, likable face. Sidhiel smiles warmly at her.*
Rian: *She moves back slightly and looks to the strange man and woman who have just approached her, wondering who they are and what business they want with her - but then she recognizes Vardamir's voice*
Rian: *She gasps in a whisper, her grey eyes wide* Vardamir...?
Vardamir: Shhhh! *he whispers and pretends to be looking at a bolt of material* Do not make a cry!
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel's eyebrows shoot up. That was not the name he called himself! She cannot help giving Vardamir an accusatory nudge and questioning stare*
Vardamir: *He turns to Sidhiel and whispers* No, Castamir is not my name. I will explain later! *his voice is pleading*
Rian: *she nods in understanding* You should not be here, seen in public! *She looks between Vardamir and Sidhiel with curiosity and growing worry for their safety.*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel's eyes darken. It is not a good sign that this man, to whom she has effectively entrusted her life in joining this dangerous plot, has lied even about his name!*
Vardamir: We have no time to discuss this! You need to meet this maiden who is with me *he takes her by the arm and brings her about to Rian*
Sidhiel: *Trying to overcome her agitation, she smiles at Rian...and wonders briefly if this girl has Vardamir's heart.*
Rian: Ah, very nice to meet you. I am Rian, daughter of Rinir *she says, smiling awkwardly in bewilderment*
Vardamir: *He feels a rush of crimson coming over his face as he stands there embarrassed*
Sidhiel: *nods politely to her* A pleasure to meet you, Rian. I am Sidhiel *she doesn't want to give out any more information about herself than is necessary*
Vardamir: *He sighs in relief, his body relaxing* She will be the message bearer *he says, his voice almost a whisper*
Rian: Message bearer? *she asks softly*
Vardamir: Perhaps your master did not tell you of this, but a message relay system was needed. We cannot be seen talking to you!
Sidhiel: *Her heart pounds at mounting evidence of the danger in which they are all embroiled*
Vardamir: It is far too dangerous for all of us, but what could be more logical than two maidens meeting together and talking in the marketplace?
Vardamir: It is not safe to write a message so therefore Ceolwulf, I mean Cearl, *he blurts* have come up with a plan. You will memorize the message that Sidhiel gives you and take it to your master
Rian: *Rian nods to Vardamir* I can do that. *She prays she does not get caught!*
Vardamir: *His arm on Sidhiel's has been forgotten as he talks earnestly* Now Sidhiel, do you remember the message you are to give? You should practice, you know.
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel absently brings her hand up to rest on Vardamir's arm as she looks worriedly around at all the people who surround them*
Vardamir: *waits nervously, fearing Sidhiel has forgotten the message* Sidhiel, the message.....
Rian: *Rian waits expectantly to hear the message, her eyes darting to their sides and front every now and then, to see if anyone is taking too much attention in their conversation*
Sidhiel: The message is*frowns trying to remember* The horses are finer towards the West, and the traders are going there to buy and sell
Sidhiel: *She prays she will remember the rest....* They will be back in a month... Oh! And do not worry about them, for they have friends in the West.
Vardamir: *He breaths a sigh of relief that she remembers* You remembered it exactly, Sidhiel!
Sidhiel: *She breathes an equally great sigh of relief* Now, Rian, can you remember it?
Rian: *She looks slightly upward, her lips moving slightly as she memorizes the message. Then, when she is sure that she has engraved it upon her memory, she looks back to Vardamir and Sidhiel and smiles*
Rian: Aye, I think I can.... The horses are finer in the West, the traders are going there to buy and sell, and do not worry about them for they have friends in the West.
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel's expectant look turns into a grin* Yes, that is it! Except you forgot one thing. The traders will be back in a month.
Vardamir: Shhhh! *He says* Everyone in the marketplace will know what you are saying! *He tightens his hold on Sidhiel and then grasps Rian around her arm* Let's walk!
Rian: Oh! *she puts her hand to her mouth* Thank you for reminding me, Sidhiel!
Sidhiel: You are welcome *Sidhiel whispers to Vardamir* As if they didn't hear all those plans you made so loudly a moment ago?
Narrator: *The merchant looks at them with a disappointed look on his face* Come back, come back! I can give you a better deal than any other merchant in the marketplace!
Vardamir: Shhh! *he says and leads them quickly down the street, the other servant following rapidly behind*
Sidhiel: *looks over her shoulder and smiles politely to the merchant, but keeps walking with Vardamir, a little amused at his agitation*
Rian: *Rian quickens her pace to keep up with Vardamir, and prays that no one wonders about this strange procession*
Sidhiel: *He certainly isn't doing much to help their secrecy, either*
Vardamir: Surely *he says under his breath* there is someplace in this wretched city where people can talk in peace!
Sidhiel: Not in this wretched city *she says ruefully*
Narrator: *Back in the doorway, Ceolwulf watches them leave, smiling and chuckling softly to himself*
Vardamir: *A look of inspiration comes to his face as he exclaims* What about your house, Sidhiel? Could we not go there? *then realizing how stupid his idea was, he says* Perhaps that is not such a good idea.
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel has difficulty suppressing a giggle*
Vardamir: *An embarrassed smile comes over his face and he walks more quickly*
Sidhiel: *she pats his arm* Ah, Castamir, you do beat all *she laughs* Perhaps one of the taverns?
Vardamir: *His voice is quiet as he talks to them* Our voices might not be heard in the din of a tavern, tis true
Sidhiel: *nods*
Vardamir: Lead us to the best one if there is such a thing here
Rian: *Rian highly doubts that, and wonders what her father would think of her being in such a tavern. But, alas! she knows not his fate ever since the Battle of the Pelennor, after which she was captured*
Sidhiel: The Blushing Maiden Inn is as good as any other. It is my favorite place to sing. *she says quietly* Shall we go there?
Vardamir: *He thinks about the unpleasantness with Algund and hopes he will not be there at this time of day* Aye, that will do well enough
Narrator: *Sidhiel leads them through the streets of Minas Artano, out of the main city and into the Newburg. At this time in the afternoon, the tavern is quiet with few patrons. The innkeeper sits at his desk, working on figures, while one or two customers sit at the tables.*
Sidhiel: *She notices the girl Rian seems uncomfortable. She takes the girl's arm and smiles encouragingly* Come, it is not so bad there. I go there often, just to sing. It is not dangerous if you know how to handle yourself.
Rian: Ah... *she smiles uncomfortably* I hope so. I usually do not leave my master's house very often, only to go to the marketplace now and then, when needs be.
Sidhiel: It will be fine *she smiles again and drifts back to Vardamir*
Narrator: *After they all enter the tavern, the innkeeper, Tobir, greets them and asks them if they wish rooms. Vardamir says* Nay, we just want a drink from your fine place of business.
Sidhiel: *Upon entering, Sidhiel drops Vardamir's arm. She begins to feel uncomfortable herself. She usually comes here alone...and now here she is with one man and two other women! What if Tobir thinks it is a harem....?!*
Narrator: *Tobir barely looks at at them, distracted with his work and waves them ahead with his hand*
Sidhiel: *She is relieved when Tobir doesn't even notice she is there*
Narrator: *Vardamir leads them all to a table in a shadowy corner and helps them be seated. A serving maid asks them their pleasure and each one replies with the drink of his or her own choice. The serving maid carries in a tray with drinks and serves them. Vardamir takes a tankard of ale*
Vardamir: Now *he says* we shall all talk *he looks around the table
Sidhiel: *She fingers her mug of ale and smiles awkwardly at them all* Well...what shall we talk about?
Rian: *She looks to Vardamir and Sidhiel, smiling nervously. Looking to Vardamir, she asks* Ah... what brings you here? *the other servant sits silently beside her, observing with curiosity all that is going on*
Vardamir: Did the master not tell you? *he says as he lifts up his tankard of ale*
Sidhiel: *She remembers that the master they speak of is Shakh Baggins, the Friend of Sauron, whom the Rohir said is not really the Friend of Sauron!*
Rian: *Desperately, she tries to remember.... had she forgotten something?* I do not think so... we were surveying the cloth and other goods in the marketplace.
Sidhiel: *She is beginning to believe them, but still doubts whirl in her mind...why should she believe such an absurd thing about Shakh Baggins if they lied about their own names?*
Vardamir: *He wonders to himself if Frodo had forgotten that they had told him that they would be back in a week. Had something gone wrong?* Rian, does all go well in the hall?
Sidhiel: *She drinks deeply of her ale as she listens to Vardamir and Rian*
Rian: *Nodding, she says* Aye, as well as they usually do. Life is much more pleasant without Vartang's constant presence. *She does not want to mention the interrogation that happened after he and Ceolwulf escaped*
Vardamir: That is well, Rian. *He drinks from his tankard of ale* Perhaps I should explain to both of you what this is all about
Sidhiel: *puts her tankard down and leans forward*
Vardamir: When Ceolwulf and I last saw Frodo, we discussed with him our plans to give him messages. We can never go back to his halls again. It is far too dangerous
Vardamir: Sidhiel *he turns to her* has agreed to be our message carrier.
Sidhiel: *nervous smile*
Vardamir: Rian, we will return one month from today, but it is far too risky to meet you in the marketplace. We will give the message to Sidhiel and she can give our words to you. One of the other of us will meet Sidhiel and tell her the message she is to say. Now *he says and leans back in his chair, bringing his tankard once more to his lips* do you both understand?
Sidhiel: *she thinks again how he is an escaped slave...of a master who seems to be a complete mystery...her chest tightens with fear. She wrings her hands in her lap. She takes a deep breath and nods* Yes, I understand.
Rian: *Rian nods* Aye, I shall bring the messages back to Lord Frodo.
Vardamir: *Notices that Sidhiel is wringing her hands* Sidhiel, are you frightened?
Sidhiel: Yes! *catches herself and lowers her voice* makes me nervous. But, I will do it.
Vardamir: I cannot say there is no danger in this. As Ceolwulf says, life is uncertain, death is a surety, but while we are alive, let us live it to the fullest *he says enthusiastically, having heard Ceolwulf say the words often enough*
Sidhiel: *subconsciously leans a little towards him* Yes *she says softly*
Vardamir: *He drinks from his tankard again* We live it to the fullest.... that is, now that we have become *he laughs* knights of the road
Rian: *She grins at Vardamir's words, but then her expression fades* Aye, I am afraid too, *for indeed she has good reason to be, having felt the fury of the lash not too long ago* but I shall be of any help that I can.
Vardamir: *He reaches out and puts his hand on her shoulder protectively* 'Twill be all right, Sidhiel
Sidhiel: *reaches her hand up to his and smiles at him*
Vardamir: We have stayed alive this long, through many battles, many scrapes, and I have not suffered a scratch *he says triumphantly*
Sidhiel: Not all have been so lucky...but life is uncertain.
Vardamir: I am the lucky one! *he says* Luck follows me as surely as the day follows night
Sidhiel: *She realizes he is showing off to impress her and is amused again*
Rian: Well, *she says, looking to Vardamir* I hope your fortune continues to be good!
Vardamir: Did we not take many horses right from under the guards at the hall? *he laughs, hoping to impress Sidhiel*
Vardamir: Right from under their noses *he says, and drinks from his tankard again*
Sidhiel: *She smiles again, but whispers* Do not talk so loudly!
Sidhiel: *She shudders to think what would happen to him if he were caught for horse theft*
Rian: Aye, *she smiles wryly* indeed you did, and they made quite a stir about it! ...But no one suffered for it, and I am glad.
Vardamir: Sidhiel, I tell you I am the lucky one. The other patrons of this tavern seem to have had too much ale and are fast asleep *he puffs out his chest in pride at the trick they pulled on the guards*
Sidhiel: *grins at Vardamir, then shares a private glance with Rian as if to say, "Men are so funny!"*
Rian: *A somber thought comes to Rian's mind: these are just the words that a cocky young soldier says just ere he goes off to battle and then falls upon the field. She shakes her mind of this morbid notion and smiles to Sidhiel*
Vardamir: Sidhiel *he goes on, boasting* I fought in the Great Battle, I slew many orcs, and now I have a sword that sings through the air and cuts through steel as though it were butter!
Sidhiel: Oh my!
Vardamir: You should see it as it sings its songs of death! It glows bright in its red fury and though I do not wish to say how I came by it, I am indeed glad that I have it!
Vardamir: *He drinks from his tankard again and then looks down at the remaining contents and wonders at how quickly he drank it*
Sidhiel: *She raises her eyebrows when he says he does not wish to say how he came by it. There is too much secrecy here, and it bothers her*
Sidhiel: It must be a wondrous sword.
Vardamir: Truly, it is wonderful *he puts his tankard down on the table and instinctively touches the hilt of his sword* But it rests quietly in its sheath until it is drawn in anger *he says, and wonders if he should order another tankard of ale, then he thinks of Ceolwulf waiting somewhere outside*
Vardamir: My ladies *he says reluctantly* we should go
Sidhiel: Well, I will have to see this sword another time
Vardamir: Now let me go pay the tavern keeper
Sidhiel: Thank you, Castamir
Vardamir: *He rises from his chair and helps Sidhiel first and then Rian and then the servant*
Sidhiel: *even if his name is Vardamir, she continues to call him Castamir to preserve his disguise*
Rian: *Rian looks to Vardamir with a raised eyebrow* Castamir, is it? *she says softly*
Vardamir: It was all a mistake *he says quickly* Think not a thing about it
Sidhiel: Yes, Rian, you see, his parents could not come up with a name for him, so his father said in jest, "Let us just call him Castamir!" So his parents did so as a joke for so long that the name stuck *she grins at them both, enjoying this immensely* Of course they gave him a *proper* name eventually, but Castamir has always been his nickname!
Rian: *She laughs* Castamir it is... but this one is not a Usurper!
Sidhiel: Oh, no! *she says to Rian, then under her breath* I hope not.
Vardamir: Yes, yes, that is the way it was. Indeed, that is the way it was *he says quickly* Come now, we must go pay the tavern keeper
Sidhiel: *She follows him to Tobir's desk*
Narrator: *The tavern keeper, Tobir, still working at his figures, scarcely notices them at first and then looks up at them and tells them the price of the drinks.*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel greets Tobir, who knows her well since she has sung here for many nights.*
Narrator: *Vardamir reaches to the coin pouch at his belt, draws out at the required amount of coins and places them on his desk.* Thank you, good innkeeper, the ale was quite good. *Then he walks to the door and stands back and holds it open for them.*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel can tell by Rian's bearing that she is of noble birth. Sidhiel herself is not really high-born; she only has the poise and dignity of a lady. She lets Rian go first*
Rian: *Rian smiles and nods to Sidhiel in gratitude, and walks out the door ahead of her.*
Sidhiel: *Sidhiel follows next, thanking Vardamir for holding the door*
Narrator: *After they have all gone out of the inn, he walks with them down the street, talking to them as they go.* Farewell, Rian, may your steps be in safety on the path of peace.
Rian: Thank you *she says softly... remembering how she was whipped unjustly* safety is something we all need very much. May the Valar watch over the paths of both of you.
Rian: *She smiles to Sidhiel and Vardamir* I shall take the message back to Lord Frodo. Good day to the both of you! *She then turns and heads back to the marketplace, followed by the other servant.*
Sidhiel: Good day, and thank you
Vardamir: *He walks to Sidhiel and puts both hands on her shoulders and turns her to him* Sidhiel, thank you for doing this for us. Now, I want to give you some money. No, no *he says* not for payment, but just to help
Sidhiel: *she blushes* Oh, you do not have to do that. It is all right.
Vardamir: No, no, I insist. You said you and your mother were alone, so it must be difficult for you
Sidhiel: Yes...*she lowers her voice to a whisper* Don't mention my mother to anyone! If anything ever happened to her...*a fierce protective light shines in her eyes* But thank you, sir, you are very kind *her eyes soften again*
Vardamir: *He releases the hold on her shoulder and drawing forth his coin pouch from his belt, he reaches in and takes out two silver coins* There will be more *he says mysteriously* much more when we return. I promise you, Sidhiel, there will be many coins of silver and gold once we return from the West *he says excitedly*
Sidhiel: *She takes the two silver coins and puts them in her purse* Thank you. I hope so! *she remains looking into his eyes, which glow with enthusiasm* I hope so, for your sake and that of your friend. May the Valar watch over you
Vardamir: *He looks at her, reluctant to leave, then impulsively, he takes her shoulders again, pulls her up to him and kisses her upon the forehead*
Vardamir: *Then he releases her and steps away from her* Now, Sidhiel, may you walk the pathways of peace
Sidhiel: *A pleasant fire shoots through her and leaves her flustered but giddy with happiness*
Vardamir: *He quickly turns from her and is gone*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf watches from another doorway, smiles and chuckles to himself. Then he walks out and matches his stride to that of Vardamir and the two walk away down the street*


After Rian had delivered the message to Frodo that night, Frodo had sat alone, long in pondering. He wondered if the words had a deeper meaning than upon the surface, and he was greatly troubled in his heart.

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