November 8 to 9, 3019

Having left Osgiliath around ten o'clock the night of November 7, Vardamir and Ceolwulf ride their horses throughout the night and by seven o'clock in the morning of November 8, they are approaching the Druadan Forest and the hidden Stonewain Valley.

A dense forest of snow-covered pine trees with a few scattered oaks lie upon either side of them. "I cannot find my way through this forest, even if I knew the path," Ceolwulf, a look of alarm upon his face, says to Vardamir riding at his side, "but I can tell from the icy chills that go down my back and the hairs that prickle on my neck that we are being watched."

Somewhere, from deep in the forest, they can hear the faint sound of drums being beaten, first here, and then there and then nowhere, and then everywhere.

"Whose hands pound the drums heard but not seen?" Vardamir asks.

"Friends, perhaps, although the swords we wear at our belts might belie that claim."

"Friends? Who can they be, here in this place?" Vardamir queries.

"They are called Woses, the Wild Men of Druadan Forest."

"Then what are they, friends or foes?" Vardamir says, a puzzled look upon his face.

"They were friends last spring when the Riders came here on the way to Pelennor," Ceolwulf explains to him. "Their head man befriended us and showed us a hidden path through the forest that would bring us quickly to the Battle of Pelennor. They talked with Theoden King, who offered them friendship, and they, a sorely beleaguered people, were glad to accept the friendship and protection of the Rohirrim."

Vardamir looks all around and listens for the drums that seem to be beating steadily stronger. "Well..." he says, "I hope they are still friends."

Wild Men and Ghan-Buri-Ghan portrayed by Eowyn
Vardamir portrayed by Hobbitness
Narrator and Ceolwulf portrayed by Wraith

Ceolwulf: Behind us there are foes, and possible friends to our front and sides, but we know who the enemy is behind us, so let us ride on!
Vardamir: Aye, and the beating of the drums along with our horses' hooves provides us with musical accompaniment *he laughs, spurring his horse onward*
Ceolwulf: *He looks over at Vardamir* I do not know if I care for this type of musical accompaniment, my friend
Vardamir: It is as though a bard were already singing the tale of all the trouble the Gondorian went to to rescue the hapless Rohirrim *he grins*
Ceolwulf: I appreciate your kindness and your risking your life for this worthless pelt *he says and frowns at Vardamir at his side*
Wild Men: *At that moment, a poisoned arrow goes by Ceolwulf's head*
Ceolwulf: My friend, I believe that they just hit a sour note *he says as he pulls on the reins, guiding his horse backward*
Vardamir: *Vardamir reins his horse backward as well*
Ceolwulf: Let us try to call a truce with these people
Vardamir: The music is not to my taste, either, after all
Ceolwulf: Dismount!
Ceolwulf: *He gets off his horse and stands holding the animal by the reins with his left hand and a few inches behind the bit in the right*
Vardamir: Yes, O great diplomat of Rohan *with an exaggerated bow and another wide grin he dismounts*
Ceolwulf: *He holds his hands in the air* Do as I do, Vardamir, and do not let your tongue be so quick with them
Vardamir: Well, if that is what it takes to save our pelts, I will comply
Wild Men: *Around them on all sides, out of the trees come strange, short men dressed in pelts and furs, bows at the ready*
Vardamir: Avaro naeth *he says softly to his horse* Tiro ven Elbereth!
Vardamir: *The horse glares at the men, then at Vardamir. It snorts and paws at the ground with one hoof*
Ceolwulf: We mean peace *he says loudly* See, our hands are in the air and we cannot touch our swords!
Vardamir: *Vardamir raises his hands and smiles at the men*
Ceolwulf: *He whispers to Vardamir* This is no time to argue with that beast of yours!
Vardamir: *Unruffled, Vardamir smiles blithely to Ceolwulf, then back at the strange men*
Wild Men: *One of the stumpy, gnarled men looks at them with distrust and asks gruffly* Why you in Druadan Forest?
Ceolwulf: Seeking passage through the forest on the way to Rohan
Wild Men: You dressed like Dark Man *he eyes him suspiciously* and reek of gorgun.
Ceolwulf: Do not let our appearances deceive you. We are escaped slaves, thralls of Mordor, not emissaries
Vardamir: We are going back to the free lands. I am of Gondor, and my friend is of Rohan.
Wild Men: Hm. You come alone. Up on Dîn, we see no one come. You no come with army. So perhaps... you tell truth. We no trust strangers who wander through forest, not in evil days.
Ceolwulf: We do not come with an army. There are only two of us, but on our trail there are many pursuers who track us, for if word has gotten out of Vardamir's escape and my rescue, I believe that the Easterlings will set their hounds upon us and trail us until they find us!
Vardamir: They are of Mordor, and you may kill as many of them as you like *he says smiling*
Vardamir: But do be so kind as to let us through. We are on your side and we mean well.
Wild Men: We hate gorgun, hate dark men, hate dark land. Come. We take you to Ghan-buri-Ghan, head man. *the wild men lower their bows*
Ceolwulf: Thank you. Shall we bring our horses?
Wild Men: Bring horses too.
Vardamir: Hennai---Thank you!
Ceolwulf: Thank you most kindly. We will go with you. Now can we put our hands down?
Wild Men: Put hands down, but give us swords.
Vardamir: *looks to Ceolwulf, frowning slightly*
Ceolwulf: Indeed, we will *he says as he slowly lowers his hands, and then with his right hand, he cautiously withdraws his blade from its sheath. Then putting it across his arms, extended out, he presents it to the wild man*
Vardamir: *Vardamir does the same*
Wild Men: *The wild men take the swords. One turns it over in his hands, studying it intently* This strange sword. *he says, his brow furrowed* I can no read what it say.
Ceolwulf: Aye, indeed, these are strange swords that we bear, but they were given to us. I can vouchsafe that they cut well and quickly
Vardamir: My sword served me very well this night in rescuing my hapless friend. *grins at Ceolwulf*
Ceolwulf: *Looks to Vardamir* My friend can tell you how he has lopped the heads of the orcs off with his
Vardamir: Aye, I lopped off their heads, slashed through their guts, stabbed them through...all things that should be done to any yrch. Tis a fine sword!
Vardamir: *Vardamir's horse snorts*
Wild Men: *Two wild men take the swords and step a bit away from the rest. The wild man who has been talking to them says* Cut heads off orc-folk, strangers, not wild men. *he beckons them follow* Come. We take you to Ghan-Buri-Gahn
Vardamir: Thank you kindly
Vardamir: *whispers to his horse* See? Unad nin trasta. Garo vronwe ah istathal bâd lín. (Nothing troubles me. Have faith and you will know your way.)
Wild Men: *The wild men lead them through the woods to the southern side, towards the mountains*
Vardamir: *The horse's eyes flash at Vardamir and it kicks at the ground impatiently. Vardamir chuckles*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf leads his horses and follows the wild men*
Wild Men: *As they walk, all around them, they can hear drums beating, but yet they see no one...*
Vardamir: *Taking his horse by the bridle, Vardamir follows Ceolwulf and the wild men towards the mountains*
Vardamir: Tolo [Come] *he pats the horse's neck and grins at its irritation*
Ceolwulf: *Although the Wild Men have befriended the Rohirrim the past spring, still Ceolwulf feels restless and worries what the wild men will do to them because of their swords and the way they are dressed*
Wild Men: *After some time, the drumming becomes steadily louder and they come to the entrance of a cave between two spurs of the mountains*
Wild Men: *The wild man says* You come in, horses too.
Ceolwulf: *He looks into the dark recesses of the cave and wonders if they are leading them in only to kill them both and steal their horses. A shiver goes along the back of his neck, but he tries to show no fear*
Vardamir: *Leading his horse in, Vardamir whispers to Ceolwulf* You are sure they are friends...?
Ceolwulf: *He whispers back to Vardamir* Let us hope so. In any event, it seems that we are at their mercy now!
Wild Men: You go in, we take horses.
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf wishes desperately that he still had his sword, for at least then he could die fighting, but now he wonders, will it come down to our bare hands against these strange small people?*
Wild Men: We like horse, take good care of them.
Vardamir: Avaro naeth *he says again to his horse* Minno ennas. (Don't worry, go in there.)
Vardamir: *He pats the horse again and turns it over to the wild men. The horse grows even more agitated, snorting at both Vardamir and the wild men. It whinnies and paws at the ground*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks to his horse and then to the wild men. He says to one of the wild men* Are you sure you will take care of them for us?
Wild Men: *One wild man takes Vardamir's horse and another takes Ceolwulf's* yes, we take care of horses good.
Vardamir: *smiles at the man*
Ceolwulf: *He watches as his horse is led away into the recesses of the cave. I just hope they don't eat them, he thinks*
Wild Men: Come now, follow us. *he beckons towards the cave*
Vardamir: At least it will be warmer in there *he says softly to Ceolwulf*
Vardamir: *nods politely to the man and follows him*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks at Vardamir, a pained look growing on his face.* It is too late now to do anything about it
Ceolwulf: *He reluctantly follows the wild man*
Wild Men: *They walk up a little incline through the pine woods and enter the darkness of the cave. Somewhere in the woods all around, drums beat constantly*
Ceolwulf: *He follows them silently and looks all about when he is inside the cave*
Wild Men: *The cave is dark and smoky, lit with an amber light from torches and large metal bowls filled with fire*
Vardamir: *Vardamir is very glad for the fire. It was bitter cold outside the cave*
Wild Men: *Wild men are all around, clad in furs... they look at them suspiciously*
Vardamir: Friends *Vardamir smiles to the skeptical wild men* thank you for your hospitality!
Wild Men: *The head man Ghan-buri-ghan sits on a throne carved out of a wooden log. As Vardamir and Ceolwulf pass, the wild men talk amongst themselves in their strange throaty language*
Vardamir: *bows politely to Ghan-buri-Ghan*
Ceolwulf: *He bows to the head man and says* Greetings. I am of Rohan and my friend is of Gondor
Wild Men: *The wild man squats down, bowing to Ghan* We find them in woods, they all alone.
Ghan-buri-Ghan: Rohan? We friend with horse-people, pass through in spring. They hate orc-folk, we hate orc-folk.
Ceolwulf: We hate orc-folk too *he says adamantly*
Vardamir: We Gondorians also hate the orc-folk. We have fought the forces of Mordor for many a year. We hold them back at the Anduin River. We are protectors of the Free Lands
Vardamir: *lowers his voice, teases Ceolwulf* and of Rohirrim in distress *grin*
Ghan-buri-Ghan: Is Dark Years now, stone-land overrun by gorgun. Wild man live in peace in wood, orc folk come in and kill us.
Ceolwulf: *frowns at Vardamir* It might be the reverse sometimes, my friend.
Vardamir: *smiles, nods* Sometimes.
Ghan-buri-Ghan: Orc and bad men come in wood, we kill them with poison arrow.
Vardamir: ...but not this time *grins again, enjoying Ceolwulf's irritation as much as the horse's*
Ceolwulf: Then you might have to kill many, if we are being trailed
Ghan-buri-Ghan: You escaped slave?
Vardamir: Aye, we both are.
Ceolwulf: Aye, that we are. Would you like to see the brand that we each bear?
Ghan-buri-Ghan: No, Ghan believe you. You stay in woods with us a while. We protect you.
Ceolwulf: What about our horses? *he asks anxiously*
Ghan-buri-Ghan: They stay too. We give them roots. Give you roots.
Vardamir: *bows* We are very grateful for your kindness.
Vardamir: What of our swords?
Ceolwulf: *he wonders to himself... what kind of roots is he talking about, and cannot imagine any roots tasting palatable*
Vardamir: *During his time of living alone in the woods, Vardamir often ate wild roots. The idea seems quite normal to him*
Ghan-buri-Ghan: We give you back swords. *the two wild men who gave them their swords approach them and give them back*
Ceolwulf: Thank you *he says as he bows to them*
Vardamir: *smiles broadly as he receives his sword and sheaths it* Thank you!
Vardamir: *bows*
Ghan-buri-Ghan: Sit down man of stone-land and man of horse-land
Ceolwulf: *He takes his sword and sheaths it and then takes a seat on the floor*
Vardamir: *Vardamir sits down beside him*
Ghan-buri-Ghan: You stay here, Ghan send men to watch the path you came by, and on road. We climb up hill, Elienach, can see far.
Ghan-buri-Ghan: You eat roots now, you hungry. Boiled roots, good.
Vardamir: Tis a great favor you do us. We are very grateful
Ghan-buri-Ghan: We hate the dark land, we help you run from it.
Ceolwulf: Thank you. Your kindness and protection are most welcome
Vardamir: *looks happily to Ceolwulf* It seems the wild men are bored tonight, too, and have nothing better to do than rescue you
Ceolwulf: I hope they do it as well at delaying our pursuers as they have in rescuing me *he says ruefully*
Ceolwulf: *Vardamir and Ceolwulf eat the boiled roots that they are offered and find that they are very pleasant to the taste*
Vardamir: *laughs* I marvel that you still manage to be unhappy when things have turned out so well for us.


Blood lust running high among Vartang and his troops, they push on through the snow covered land, but nature seems to be against them for the time. The orc trackers are slow in picking up the trail for much of has been obscured by the foot-deep snow, But at last, an orc says, "Look, see the dents left in the snow? Their horses have gone this way!"

Led by the orc tracker who is on foot, progress through the snow is slow and it is not until late in the afternoon on November 9th that Vartang and his troops enter the boundaries of Druadan Forest. The drums begin sounding almost as soon as they enter the forest. One of Vartang's companions riding beside him quickly becomes apprehensive, but Vartang knows no fear when he is on the trail of his prey.

Lord Lorwin portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator and Vartang portrayed by Wraith

Vartang: Onward, men! They cannot be too far ahead!
Lord Lorwin: I do not know... those drums have an ominous beat. *his horse shies backwards*
Vartang: Don't be a coward, Lord Lorwin. We are upon them and we shall stain their blood red in the snow!
Vartang: *Vartang's horse shies at the sound of the drums and scampers to the other side of the trail*
Narrator: *All the soldiers and cavalrymen look around about them cautiously, their hearts pounding in their chest, in time to the beat of the drums*
Vartang: We have nothing to fear from two escaped slaves *he says a dart passes in front of his nose and strikes the neck of Lord Lorwin beside him*
Lord Lorwin: *Lord Lorwin gasps... then slumps in the saddle, falling off the horse into the snow*
Narrator: *Soon the sound of screaming, plunging horses and the dying cries of men are heard all around Vartang and his men*
Vartang: *Though the blood lust still runs hot, Vartang cannot deny the sounds of death all around him and he reins his horse quickly to the left and follows behind his retreating troops*
Wild Men: *Darts seem to fly out of nowhere, striking the retreating Easterlings... and ever do the drums beat on... boom...boom...boom.... doom... doom... doom... pounding out a funeral dirge for the pursuers of Vardamir and Ceolwulf*
Vartang: *He lashes his horse frantically with his whip and guides it in a zig zag course, hunched low over the saddle, pressing ahead of the foot soldiers*
Vartang: *The horse, having caught scent of the fear all about him, races wildly along the path and soon catches up with the backs of the retreating cavalrymen*
Vartang: *When they finally come a safe distance out of the woods, Vartang turns his horse around and looks back at the forest, and raising his fist into the air, Vartang screams* Someone will pay for this!

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