Evening of February 27, 3020

After leaving the Woses, the Wild Men of Druedain Forest, two days earlier, Vardamir and Ceolwulf had made their way along the base of the White Mountains, keeping to the trees by day, the plain by night. They reach the gates of Minas Artano an hour after dark on February 27, and owing to overconfidence of the Easterlings whose discipline had become lax, the guards pay little heed to the two and have indifferently waved them through the gates.

Ceolwulf with Frodo perched upon his shoulders and Vardamir walk leisurely in the direction of Newburg west of Minas Artano. After they are sure that they are out of sight of the guards on the wall at the gate, the two men commence a brisk trot. Ceolwulf lags a bit behind Vardamir. Knowing how the Gondorian likes to jest, he says, "Do not boast about how quickly you can trot. I am hampered somewhat by my small burden."

Frodo, Eiriel and Tobir portrayed by Hobbitness
Vardamir portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator and Ceolwulf portrayed by Wraith
Eowyn portrayed Ceolwulf when Wraith portrayed The Captain

Vardamir: Let me carry Frodo; I can run twice as fast as you.
Ceolwulf: *speeding up his pace, he says* We will see about that! And I will carry Frodo. You would probably just fall and drop him and hurt him
Vardamir: Nay, *he boasts* I could beat you in any race, carrying not one but TWO hobbits!
Ceolwulf: *Breathing harder from the exertion and the weight, he says* You are...... safe..... there.... for we do not have..... another hobbit
Vardamir: Tis a pity - I would like to try to run pulling a cart full of them. I bet I could still run faster than you!
Frodo: *Frodo laughs at their jests*
Ceolwulf: Silence! We are..... reaching.... the.... outskirts of the.... city.... let us not go.... running in.... raising a cry about..... hobbits *his breathing is heavy as he pants*
Frodo: *Notices Ceolwulf's heavy breathing* Do you want to stop for a bit, Ceolwulf?
Vardamir: *he looks back to Ceolwulf* Aye, are you sure you can make it? I fear perhaps you shall collapse in the snow!
Frodo: *sends Vardamir a half-reproachful, half-bemused look*
Narrator: *Coming to the outskirts of the hastily built city of Newburg, they can see poorly constructed shoddy houses. Private homes and a few tradesmen houses are in evidence in the crowded, dirty streets*
Ceolwulf: We do not need to keep up our pace here. If we do, we just will call attention to ourselves. See the houses begin to grow closer together, and there are lights, many of them
Frodo: *looks around with interest, not having been to this part of the city before*
Narrator: *As they pass by allies, they can hear snorts and grunts, hogs shifting through the garbage that has been tossed in the allies. The foul stenches, hinting at unpleasant sights, fills the cold night air*
Frodo: *wrinkles up his nose*
Narrator: *Several men, obviously unable to hold their ale, stagger down the refuge covered gutters. Some men lie, sprawled drunken in the gutter, for they have been dragged by tavern-keepers who became tired of their babbling when they ran out of silver*
Narrator: *Though it is evening, beggars still hold out tin cups and cry* Alms, alms, alms for the poor! *Some are indeed unfortunate people, but others are charlatans who try to gain coins by pretending to be blind or lame*
Frodo: *The thought that some might be charlatans does not occur to Frodo. He wishes he had brought his purse so that he could give the beggars a few coins*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf stops* Frodo, I think I can put you down now. Do not be afraid. We are here to protect you. *At this time, a hog runs out of a nearby ally, squealing as it goes up the boarded walk*
Vardamir: *Vardamir watches as the hog runs by and then looks to Ceolwulf and Frodo. He asks, not a bit of mirth written on his face* Fresh boar... should we take it?
Ceolwulf: *Looks over to Vardamir* We are not that hungry, are we? *he asks*
Vardamir: *he shrugs* I do not know.... I have a taste for boar.
Frodo: *Looks to the pig, then back to the men* That hog is almost as big as I am!
Frodo: Ah, Vardamir, I think you just want to carry it so that you can race Ceolwulf while you both carry burdens!
Vardamir: *he lefts merrily at Frodo's comment* Aye... I could carry two boars and one hobbit, and still be faster than Ceolwulf!
Ceolwulf: *He thinks to himself... the Gondorians must be able to eat anything* Frodo, do not get near them, for they are wild and will turn on you and try to rend you. The people here allow the hogs to run freely in the streets, for they keep some of the garbage from the paths
Frodo: *nods to Ceolwulf, acknowledging his warning*
Narrator: *They keep walking deeper into the city until they see a sign, "The Blushing Maiden Inn," the words illuminated by two lanterns that hang on either side of the door.*
Narrator: *It is somewhat off the main street with a few trees around it, spared somehow from the fighting in the spring*
Ceolwulf: This one looks good enough. Shall we go in?
Frodo: An inn! O blessed Ceolwulf! Do they serve ale? *Bilbo's song about the tipsy cat at the inn starts playing in Frodo's mind*
Vardamir: *he looks to Ceolwulf* I believe that was a yes.
Frodo: A most emphatic one!
Ceolwulf: Vardamir, I believe it was too. *he says as he smiles*
Vardamir: *Vardamir walks over to the door and holds it open for Ceolwulf and Frodo*
Ceolwulf: I will go in first, "son" *He says as he walks through the door and walks past the innkeeper and into the tavern*
Frodo: *Frodo follows him in, gazing around the room, speechless with excitement*
Frodo: *He wonders if this will be like the Green Dragon*
Narrator: *The tavern is a large commons room, lighted by torches and lanterns. The smell of pipe smoke, ale and orc is strong and strikes their noses*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf leads them over to a table, whispering to Frodo* Remember, if anyone asks, I will say you are my son. Just keep your hood pulled low about your forehead
Vardamir: *he says in a low voice as he sits down* I smell orc.
Ceolwulf: *He whispers* That is because there are about eight or so of them in this tavern. No trouble now, you hear!
Ceolwulf: See? They have their own section in the room and probably keep to themselves
Vardamir: Only eight orcs? A pity. Business must be going down tonight. *he takes a seat at the table*
Frodo: *whispers* Ceol---er, Father....what is to be my name?
Frodo: *thinks: the less orcs, the better. Their stench spoils the wonderful homelike aromas.*
Ceolwulf: Tell them you are Cynefrid, son of Cearl *He whispers to Frodo*
Frodo: All right, Father *he whispers back grinning*
Vardamir: So, "Cearl" how old is the boy?
Ceolwulf: About ten this spring
Frodo: *his grin widens and he stifles laughter*
Ceolwulf: And by the way, Vardamir, those are not pure orc, though they smell it. They are mixes, probably about one fourth orc
Vardamir: I hope Cynefrid is not afraid of orcs. *he looks to Frodo* Are you?
Ceolwulf: My son is afraid of nothing. He is a very brave lad
Frodo: *Frodo puffs out his chest and beams as though the praise filled him with pride*
Vardamir: *he laughs* Ah, that is good then.
Eiriel: *Eiriel, the barmaid, sees the new customers and comes to their table* Good evening, sirs. What can I get for you tonight?
Eiriel: *She smiles warmly at Frodo, assuming him to be a little boy*
Ceolwulf: Good evening, lass. Ale and the specialty of the house for my son and me
Vardamir: *he looks up to the bar maid* Ale for me as well, and a plate of roast boar.
Eiriel: An excellent choice, sir, seeing that tonight the specialty IS roast boar, with a side of potatoes and greens.
Ceolwulf: Is the boar tender?
Eiriel: Yes, sir, as tender as one could wish!
Ceolwulf: Lass, if you can bring it quickly, there might be an extra piece of silver for you
Eiriel: *smiles to Ceolwulf* Thank you, sir, then I shall be as quick as I can. Anything for the lad, though?
Ceolwulf: Same as for me. The speciality of the house and a tankard of ale
Eiriel: *nods* Coming right up
Eiriel: *She goes into the kitchen and makes three plates of the house specialty, steaming roast boar. She puts the plates on a tray along with three tankards of ale*
Ceolwulf: *He turns to Frodo* Son, what do you think of this tavern?
Frodo: *The barmaid reminded Frodo of Rosie Cotton. If it weren't for the orc smell, and the tobacco instead of pipeweed, he could almost imagine this was the Green Dragon!*
Frodo: Oh, Father, I like it very much! I hope the food is good.
Ceolwulf: Son, I hope the food is good too. Perhaps we will get used to the smell after a while, but right now, one of the orcs is getting to his feet and the movement has stirred the air, swirling the odious scent this way
Vardamir: *he puts his hand to his nose* Indeed, that is quite a reek.
Narrator: *The eight orcs who were in a group or revelers all get to their feet and laughing and talking, they make their way to the innkeeper's counter and pay their bill. Then they go out the door*
Frodo: *Frodo involuntarily shifts as far away from them as he can. He is glad they are leaving. They certainly did not help one's appetite.*
Narrator: *With fewer people in the tavern, they notice a man at a table ahead of them looking over at them. Although his hood is pulled over his face, it seems obvious that he is staring at them*
Narrator: *He takes out his pipe and tobacco. Filling his pipe, he lights it with a candle on his table*
Frodo: Well, I'm glad they're gone. *glances at Vardamir* Though I am not afraid of anything, as my father says, I do not like orcs.
Vardamir: Aye, but at least their stench is lessening.
Frodo: *Frodo feels disoriented at the immense deja vu this strange man brings on. Why, he looks just like Strider did when Frodo first saw him.*
Ceolwulf: *He looks around the room expectantly, hoping to see the maid bring the food and ale and wonders what is taking her so long*
Ceolwulf: *He says* I wonder if they are out capturing the boar itself for the service here is immeasurably slow
Frodo: *chuckles*
Vardamir: They are probably in the alleyway behind the tavern hunting it now.
Ceolwulf: Vardamir, then they will find plenty of boar there, for I think that alley was filled with the swine rooting in the garbage
Eiriel: *Eiriel comes slowly back to their table, the tray balanced precariously on her shoulder*
Eiriel: *She carefully sets it down on the table and serves them* Sorry for the wait, gentlemen.
Ceolwulf: Thank you, lass, but I must confess that the service was not quite what I had hoped, but considering what we have eaten lately, at least we are getting more variety *he looks at Vardamir and laughs*
Vardamir: *he nods and laughs with Ceolwulf* A root can only be cooked so many ways before it becomes dull to the tastes.
Eiriel: I'm terribly sorry, sir. Can I get you anything on the house to make up for it? *raises an eyebrow at Vardamir's comment but says nothing*
Ceolwulf: Vardamir, I have had enough of these roots to last me for the rest of my life. At least it is boar tonight and not boiled, baked, stewed, fried sweet roots
Ceolwulf: Nay, lass it is all right. We are just happy to get something hot to eat that does not taste of roots
Vardamir: The swine can eat the roots and that is fine with us.
Ceolwulf: *he laughs at Vardamir's remark* We are men of the country and must eat what we can find growing. We come seldom to the city
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf senses that the man at the next table is taking in everything they say and he begins to become vaguely uneasy but says nothing*
Eiriel: Ah, welcome then! You shall find it much more hospitable here! *she smiles to them*
Ceolwulf: Thank you, lass. If we need more, we shall call for you *he says as he begins eating the roast boar, potatoes and vegetables hungerly and washing it all down with ale*
Vardamir: Aye, thank you. *he smiles to her, and then turns to his food.*
Eiriel: Enjoy your meal! *she curtsies and heads back to the kitchen, glancing over her shoulder at Frodo and thinking what a cute child he is*
Vardamir: *he looks to Frodo* So Cynefrid, how do you like the boar...?
Ceolwulf: *wipes his mouth off with his hand and says* I find it quite to my liking. I might want another meal. I did not realize how hungry I was!
Ceolwulf: Son, how do you like the meal?
Frodo: *Frodo chews the meat slowly, savoring it* It is wonderful! Very tasty
Frodo: *He drinks deeply from the tankard of ale, which he likes better than the fine wine he is always served at Baggins Hall*
Frodo: *Almost anything would taste good to him, he is so happy to be out of his gilded prison and to see his old friends again*
Ceolwulf: Cynefrid *he says in a low voice* what news of the keep since we left?
Frodo: *his smile fades as he realizes Ceolwulf's meaning. He glances to the man who is watching them, then back at Ceolwulf, wondering how much he should say*
Frodo: It goes ill at the keep, Father. We were...attacked, and we lost two.
Ceolwulf: *He begins to hear Frodo's thoughts in his mind... Frodo.... the rings....* Two, what a pity, but these attacks can happen any time *he says out loud*
Frodo: *Yes...yes, the rings. Very well*
Frodo: *He tries to communicate telepathically with both Ceolwulf and Vardamir*
Vardamir: *he leans forward slightly* Aye... wolves from the wild. What happened?
Ceolwulf: Wolves, such fearful beasts and the winter has been cold. They must go lean with hunger. Two of our people.... *he says and his voice sounds sad* probably two of the tenders of sheep
Frodo: *out loud* The wolves attacked us all....they were starving, desperate. They wounded many, but took two...we do not know what has become of them since
Frodo: Aye, it was the sheepherders they took *he says sadly*
Ceolwulf: *He cannot understand what Frodo is saying, but he knows that something terrible has happened*
Frodo: *It was bad! Vartang interrogated everyone he could get his hands on.*
Frodo: *He held me prisoner in my room until all was over, but later I found out what had happened. Under torture, Aldir confessed to your rescue, Ceolwulf, and to conspiring with you, Vardamir. Aldir was sent to hard labor, and Lilandra was imprisoned, and there they remain*
Vardamir: *Vardamir thinks he can hear Frodo, but he is unsure of the meaning of the words*
Frodo: *I plead for their release every month, but every month I am told no, and to come back the next month. They were not the only ones to suffer. Even Rian and Finduilas' boys were beaten. The stable boy Orodor was hurt too. They were all returned to me, though, except Aldir and Lilandra.*
Vardamir: *He calls out in his mind to Frodo... what has happened? I think you said Aldir and Lilandra were taken. Is this so?*
Frodo: *Frodo shifts his focus from Ceolwulf to Vardamir. Yes, Vardamir, that is so. Aldir is working in hard labor, and Lilandra is imprisoned*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf can only hear Frodo's thoughts, but not Vardamir's, for none of them yet have truly learned to master their rings and what powers they might hold*
Frodo: *I have lost count of the times I have pled for their release*
Vardamir: *Oh no! his mind cries, and the expression upon his face looks pained. Instinctively, he touches his ring, which allows him to hear Frodo better.*
Ceolwulf: *Frodo, this news has confounded me, mystified me. I feel great sorrow.*
Frodo: *Frodo senses that Vardamir wants to hear more. Vartang was worse than I have ever seen him before or since, he continues. Aldir confessed everything under torture, and then he was sent away to labor*
Frodo: *Frodo looks sadly back to Ceolwulf. To avoid calling the hooded man's attention to them, Frodo does not stare at his friends, pretending to be intent on his meal*
Vardamir: *He feels grieved, a grief that is old as time, a grief that seems to go back all the way to Beleriand, and these thoughts confuse him, something of the spirit that has passed down, and he feels the power of the Enemy as he has never felt it before.*
Vardamir: *For some reason, he begins to long wistfully to hear the sounds of the seagulls around Dol Amroth. Speaking again through thought, he says, I am saddened.*
Frodo: *Frodo wishes he could console them, but he grieves as well, and it is fitting to mourn the loss of their friends*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf speaks telepathically as his right arm goes over and touches the hilt of the sword in its sheath. He speaks telepathically... Frodo, can we devise a plan to aid them?*
Frodo: *NO! I do not even know where they are. Lilandra is probably inside some prison. They are probably heavily guarded. I do not think it would work. Please, do not do this again!*
Vardamir: *He begins to feel very sad and melancholy and hears once again the sound of the gulls in his mind... his features drop, making him look mournful and forlorn, and he sits there, in silence, his head bowed.*
Frodo: *Perhaps it might be remotely possible to rescue Aldir, but he has many more guards than you did, Ceolwulf. And anyway he will not go without his wife*
Ceolwulf: *Frodo... Ceolwulf's thoughts become aggressive and his fingers grasp the hilt of his sword. Surely there is some way. There is always hope. He looks at Vardamir briefly and sees no hope on his face. Is hope dead? he asks in his mind.*
Ceolwulf: *Then he thinks... was there ever hope in Rohan?*
Frodo: *Perhaps I will be successful....and they will be released.......* *he ventures weakly*
Narrator: *The man at the next table finishes his pipe and gets to his feet and walks over and stands at their table*
Frodo: *Frodo is leaning his elbow on the table and his forehead on his hand...he looks up suddenly and quickly looks down again, for he recognizes this ranger from the roadside ambush!*
The Captain: Gentlemen, sorry to interrupt your meal, but I thought you might like a bit of company. Mind if I sit down at your table?
Frodo: *Frodo does not trust himself to speak. His heart pounds. He remembers this man's sword at his throat*
The Captain: Perhaps we have some things in common we would like to discuss *he says with a smile*
Ceolwulf: *he looks to the captain of the renegade Dunedain rangers* Sit with the likes of you!
The Captain: Gentlemen *he says, his voice low* Surely you have sat with worse *he laughs*
Ceolwulf: *Suddenly, the connection between his mind and Frodo's becomes disrupted by jumbled thoughts.*
Ceolwulf: I can't say that I have ever sat with much worse than you. *he says with disdain*
Frodo: *looks up briefly to Ceolwulf, then quickly back down, leaning his forehead on his hand. He sighs, pretending to have a headache to hide his agitation*
The Captain: My, my *he says as he leans over and places his hands on the ends of the table* I would think that I had asked the king of the land to let me dine at his table!
Ceolwulf: You are an impertinent knave, sir.
The Captain: Such kind words from a fellow countryman *he says sardonically*
Ceolwulf: Since when did countrymen tie each other to trees? And waylay them upon the road, to take members of their entourage and hold them for ransom?
The Captain: Only when necessary *he says and laughs* And I assure you, my friend, it was very necessary
Frodo: *Frodo's voice is taut with anger in Ceolwulf's head* *This is the one who took Elfhild and Elffled...the villain! But he knows who we are!*
The Captain: *He looks down at Frodo* Ahhh... the friend of such an illustrious personage
Frodo: *coughs, tries to decide on a reply, but settles on looking confused and saying nothing.*
The Captain: *He says in a whisper* I know who you are. I know who all of you are. I advise you to let me sit at your table. Do not cause a scene. Do nothing to rouse these Easterlings who share the tavern with us
Frodo: *Frodo whispers venomously* You took my girls!
Ceolwulf: *he hisses through his teeth* I ought to take you outside right now and settle it like men!
The Captain: *He hisses* Shhh! Do you want to get us all killed? Pray, impetuous strawhead, we can go outside later if you wish, but now if you value your hides, you will let me sit at this table with no more ado!
Ceolwulf: *He rises to his feet, touching the hilt of his sword with his right hand, and hisses again* Get ye gone, treacherous knave! ...Or you'll leave once and for all! Now begone!
Frodo: *looks to Ceolwulf then sighs* It seems we have no choice. Sit DOWN, Ce----Father!
The Captain: Sorry, foolhardy strawhead, I would rather not kill you in here and get blood all over the tavern floor. Later, later. Save your bravado!
Ceolwulf: Let's take this outside... right now! *he rises to his feet and goes around the edge of the table*
Frodo: *Don't try anything, Ceolwulf! Stop this! You will get us all killed! Do you want to bring harm to Vardamir and to me?!*
The Captain: *Shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly* If you insist, I will give a few moments to a bit of light sport *he yawns, then straightens up*
Frodo: *out loud* Father, no! Do not fight!
The Captain: *Then suddenly, he swings his right fist and connects with Ceolwulf's jaw*
Frodo: *cries out*
Ceolwulf: *Taken by surprise, Ceolwulf rocks backwards, but quickly recovers.* Why you...!!! *he swings his right fist at the captain's face*
The Captain: I was waiting for that, strawhead *he says as he grabs Ceolwulf's fist before it reaches his face. Moving back, he twists Ceolwulf's right hand behind his back* Swagger now, golden bird! Swagger now!
Tobir: *Tobir the innkeeper, hunched over his book of records, hears the commotion and groans. Not another drunken fight!*
Tobir: *He trots over to Ceolwulf and the ranger* All right, lads, break it up. I'll have no fighting in my inn!
Ceolwulf: *Enraged, Ceolwulf struggles in the captain's grasp and kicks backwards at his shins, cursing heavily in Rohirric*
Tobir: *to the ranger* I'll have to ask you to unhand this gentleman sir.
The Captain: *Quickly moving to bear his weight on his left leg, he moves his right leg sideways and digs his spurs into Ceolwulf's calf*
The Captain: Innkeeper, this young rooster crows loudly and struts but he has not won his spurs yet!
Tobir: Ai! Did you hear what I said? *grabs the ranger's arm* I'll have no fighting in here! Stop this! This is a place for dining and merrymaking, not for brawling!
Ceolwulf: *He screams in pain, and goes down on his leg*
Frodo: *Frodo kneels next to him and takes advantage of this chance to put himself between the two men*
The Captain: *He whispers in Ceolwulf's ear* Never challenge a ranger unless you know their ways. Now, you fool, let me turn you loose, and stop your squawking
Frodo: *Taking a napkin from the table, he dabs at the blood on Ceolwulf's leg*
The Captain: Yield, or so help me, I will break your wing!
Frodo: *Frodo's familiar pleading sounds in Ceolwulf's head: Please, Ceolwulf! Please!*
Ceolwulf: All right, all right to keep the peace *he whispers, angered at the man and being defeated in the fight*
Frodo: *sighs in relief*
The Captain: *He releases Ceolwulf's arm from his grasp* Sorry about your arm, strawhead. You shouldn't be so stubborn
Ceolwulf: *He rights himself, favoring his leg, and glares at the man*
The Captain: *Laughs at the glaring look and sits down at the table beside Vardamir*
Tobir: *Glaring at the men, Tobir goes back to his records*
The Captain: *He puts one hand in the air* Lass, lass, tankards for ale for all at this table
Ceolwulf: Come, Frodo, this kind gentlemen *he spits out the words* has offered us ale. *he limps back to his seat, fuming*
Eiriel: *Eiriel hurries to their table* Yes sir, will there be anything---oh my! *she exclaims when she sees Ceolwulf's bleeding leg*
Eiriel: *Oh no, not again! she groans inwardly. The customers will be at each other's throats again!*
The Captain: *He looks at the lass* Hmm... are you the same fetching maid that I saw when I was here last time? *he smiles at her*
Eiriel: *Eiriel is doubly distressed to see that this is the man to whom she had taken a fancy* Y..yes....I am, sir *smiles weakly at him*
Eiriel: Did you...did you....ah...*gestures to Ceolwulf*
The Captain: Lass, a tankard of ale for me, and refill the tankards of my fine friends
Eiriel: Ah...I'm sorry, I should keep my mouth shut *she stammers, bows her head and disappears into the kitchen*
The Captain: And if you are quick about it, I will see that you get a silver coin or two for your effort *he calls after her*
The Captain: *He looks at each one at the table, first Frodo, then Ceolwulf beside him and then over at Vardamir who sits beside him*
Eiriel: *After a short while she returns with a pitcher of ale and a tankard. Her eyes are glistening and her lips tremble as she looks to the ranger*
Eiriel: *She attempts another smile* Here you are sirs *She puts the empty tankard in front of the ranger, then fills all the tankards to the brim*
The Captain: Thank you, lass *he says as he reaches into his cloak and drawing out a pouch of coins, he finds two silver coins and hands them to her*
Eiriel: Thank you kindly *she puts the coins in a pocket*
The Captain: There, that is a good lass *he says as he winks at her*
Eiriel: *sniffles and smiles back to him*
The Captain: Do not be alarmed, lass.... this was just a disagreement *he looks around at all of them* among friends *he smiles*
Eiriel: *turns to Ceolwulf* Sir, would you like some ice for your leg? *I suppose I should get used to this, she thinks grimly*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf glares hotly at the ranger... then looks to the barmaid* No, it is nothing. The cut was shallow.
Eiriel: Oh no...I am not alarmed *she is beginning to feel charmed again in spite of herself. Her smile grows more genuine*
Eiriel: Begging your pardon, sir, but it looks more than shallow to me *to Ceolwulf*
The Captain: Lass, we are all friends here *a beaming smile is on his face*
Ceolwulf: It is nothing *he says, irritated that he has been wounded and that someone notices it*
Eiriel: *Confused by the contrast between the ranger and the strawhead, she stammers* Ah...I think I will just get some ice...I will be right back *tries to smile warmly*
The Captain: Now gentlemen *he says as he picks up his tankard and drinks from it* Let us discuss things in a manner appropriate to civilized people
Ceolwulf: *his fingers tighten about his tankard and he feels the urge to throw it at him*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf's fingers tighten about his tankard and he feels the urge to throw it at the ranger*
The Captain: *Seeing the scowl on Ceolwulf's face, he shrugs his shoulders and sighs* My hotheaded friend, perhaps I have words to say to your benefit
Ceolwulf: And what would those words be? *he asks in a surly tone*
Eiriel: *Eiriel goes back to the kitchen and gathers some chunks of ice and places them in a towel. She then puts the towel in a bowl and gathers a pile of napkins.*
Eiriel: *As she does this she complains to her friends that the customers are brawling again*
The Captain: Ah, gentlemen *he says after taking a drink of ale* What is life?
Ceolwulf: *he clenches his tankard and exclaims angrily* You spurred me in the leg to talk about the meaning of life?!
The Captain: Why not, my strawhead friend? Should we not be philosophical about it all?
Ceolwulf: What do you want, treacherous brigand? *he demands* Speak plainly.
The Captain: Brigand I am indeed, and no doubt treacherous *he smiles at Ceolwulf* but we are what we are!
Eiriel: *Now shaking with nervousness, disappointment in the ranger, and anger, she returns to the table and places the bowl with the ice and the napkins on it* There you are, sir, if you want it. *politely to Ceolwulf* No charge. *she does not look at the ranger*
Ceolwulf: *he looks up to the girl and sighs* Thank you, maid. *he takes the ice and puts it on his wounded leg*
Eiriel: You are welcome *another forced smile and she goes back to the kitchen*
Frodo: *Frodo hands him the napkins and whispers* You might want to clean the blood off first. It's quite messy.
The Captain: *He looks at the others and sighs and shakes his head* It is always cause for gloom to see the clouds come across the face of the sun but there is no grief to compare to a scowl upon a pretty maid's face. I believe she is angry at me. *he shakes his head again*
Ceolwulf: *he groans, wringing out the cloth, bending down and pulling up his breeches leg, and wipes off the blood with the towel. Looking up at the ranger he asks with infuriation* What do you want?
The Captain: Your time, friend *he says and his face is unreadable behind the hood that is pulled over it*
Ceolwulf: My time! You have taken up quite a lot of it as it is already, and spurred me in the leg!
The Captain: *He leans across the table and hisses at Frodo in a whisper* Shakh.......
Frodo: *Frodo stiffens and narrows his eyes*
The Captain: *He looks to Ceolwulf and in another whisper he says* There is a price on the heads of both you and your friend. I could make sure I could collect it this very night. Don't you think you should talk to me?
Ceolwulf: *he whispers back* I should take my sword and halt your endless vile babblings!
Frodo: *puts his head in his hands*
The Captain: *he whispers back* One word from me and the two of you would be dead, and I would have the reward. Keep your tongue in your mouth, strawhead, if you value my silence
Ceolwulf: Then speak, scum of Mordor, traitor to your own people.
The Captain: We must of needs all do what we must do
Ceolwulf: Betray your own people? We must all betray our own people? If we followed your brand of wisdom, then we would cut the hearts out of our fathers and give them to Mordor!
The Captain: Nothing so extreme, my friend, nothing that extreme....
Frodo: *With an act of will Frodo stops himself from worrying whether or not he is a traitor*
The Captain: *He leans back in his chair and takes another drink from his tankard* We can do.... business together, you, your friend and me
Ceolwulf: What kind of fiend's business would you have us do?
The Captain: *Takes another drink from his tankard and sets it on the table and after wiping his mouth off on the sleeve of his cloak, he laughs* Drink up, my friends. Everything would appear much clearer then
The Captain: *he turns to Frodo and says in a low voice* Now, Shakh, I know you do not wish harm to come to your friends
Frodo: *Waves of fear course all through his body, but he tries not to show it.*
The Captain: Shakh, do you have any tobacco? After supper it is always good to relax with a pipe if you have any tobacco to put in it *he seems in no hurry to get into the nature of whatever proposal he has*
Frodo: *icily* No. I don't smoke tobacco. I have this pipeweed though. *hands him what is left of the pipeweed he bought at the market* Now out with it!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf finally drinks from his tankard, then puts it on the table. He pulls up his breeches leg and sees that the wound no longer bleeds*
The Captain: *he pushes the pipeweed back* I am not a beggar, shakh. I have tobacco in a great quantity. I even have pipeweed, for I sometimes I do business with the people of the Shire, or perhaps I should say my men do trade with the halflings
Frodo: *His eyes flash at the thought of this scum in the Shire and he takes the pipeweed back without a word*
The Captain: There are many of the Shire who are eager to accept my gold for the pipeweed. I am a trader in many things, you see... Pipeweed, gold, gems, and... even human flesh. There is a market for all
Frodo: *nods* I see. What do you want? *cannot suppress a shudder*
The Captain: Do not misunderstand me. I assure you I will be silent on the identity of all three of you
Frodo: *nods slowly, not trusting him*
Ceolwulf: *He looks to the captain over the rim of the tankard and asks skeptically* And at what cost, might I ask..?
The Captain: Ah... *he says* let me do some reckoning first. *he falls silent for a while...* The reward on the heads of the two of you is very high, and perhaps if my men and I captured you, we would have gold enough to rest a few months from the lives of highwaymen. For as you must guess, the life of a highwayman, the brigand, is a hard one and full of danger
Ceolwulf: We did not come here to listen to the rhetoric of an outlaw!
Frodo: *Frodo begins to understand Ceolwulf's bouts of violent anger. The normally gentle halfling is so frustrated that he feels he will do something rash very soon if the ranger does not come to the point*

Return to Third Age - The Aftermath

Return to Index