A BRIEF SOLACE FOR A TRAITOR
Before Dawn, October 2, 3019
Frodo and Ashgaz portrayed by Hobbitness
Madurz portrayed by Madurz
Narrator, Khamul and Vartang portrayed by Wraith
Narrator: *Ashgaz, captured by the Witch-King
on October 1st, was brought to Minas Morgul and held in the deepest,
darkest cell far beneath Minas Morgul*
Narrator: *Held not by chains or manacles, his spirit and body are held immobile by the power of the Black Captain. All Ashgaz can do is stand and wait*
Narrator: *He cannot feel the cold chill of the pit, for he is undead and neither heat nor cold hold power over him*
Narrator: *But his mind lives, and some faint shreds of his will still linger, for indeed, he is a most stubborn hobbit, even in his state*
Ashgaz: *He stands paralyzed, staring into the darkness, feeling unthinkable evil seep into his bones, his mind*
Ashgaz: *He is afraid that at this last, he will falter, and they will claim him...they will turn him into one completely like themselves, as he has always feared*
Ashgaz: *It takes all of his strength to keep the small flicker of Peter Bracegirdle alive, but he does it, consumed with the effort of every excruciating second*
Ashgaz: *Ever in the mind of what is left of Peter, he sees Mary, hears her cries and her pleas*
Ashgaz: *"Don't go back to them!" she said...and here he is*
Ashgaz: *But every time he thinks this, he feels a great sense of shame...that he really is a traitor as they say he is. He has betrayed the Master...and his master....Khamul*
Ashgaz: *He remembers the day he saved Khamul's life*
Ashgaz: *The sheer hatred was still there, for what Khamul had done to him...but there was also loyalty*
Ashgaz: *He had not wanted Khamul to die...but oh, he had wanted to die! And now he will get his wish, he thinks with a mixture of fear, sadness, and relief*
Ashgaz: *Fear of the unknown, fear of the pain it may bring, sadness for the Shire, and his family, and Mary, and what will never be*
Ashgaz: *and relief, oh, blessed relief to be free of this living curse that steals away his essence though he fights it with all his strength...soon, there would have been nothing left*
Ashgaz: *But now, he will be the fea of a hobbit, he hopes...may the Valar have mercy on him!*
Ashgaz: *A slight shudder courses through his rigid body as Angmar senses that thought and sends waves of fire over him*
Ashgaz: *It will be over soon, he thinks*
Ashgaz: *So the eternal battle rages within him...longing for the Shire, hatred for Mordor, hatred for Khamul....but he is one of them*
Ashgaz: *He remembers the time Angmar punished him with fire and serpents, much as he is bound now, for calling on the name of Elbereth to save the lady Eowyn...he wonders what happened to her*
Ashgaz: *It was partly for her that he ran away...he did not want to lead her to her death...and he saw what a demon Khamul really was when he attacked the Rohirrim*
Ashgaz: *What a demon Peter himself was becoming, with every new feeling of loyalty to Mordor*
Narrator: *After the feast and the dance, the Morgul Lord had left Minas Morgul upon a fell beast and did not return for hours, but now he is back and a fury is upon him*
Ashgaz: *But...it was Khamul who freed him from the snake pit*
Narrator: *He and Seven of the Nine await the presence of Ashgaz in the throne room*
Ashgaz: *Who is he now? Peter? Ashgaz? Who will he be in the morning, when Ashgaz is no more?*
Narrator: *This is the business of Minas Morgul, to deal out judgment and justice upon traitors and evildoers*
Narrator: *Angmar sits upon his throne, his eyes gleaming blood red in fury*
Narrator: *Khamul has been ordered to bring the prisoner before them. He is accompanied by the Lady Madurz*
Ashgaz: *He stands there bound amid turbulent thoughts...sometimes he feels the morgul blade, sometimes the blade of Westernesse...always Mary's arms*
Narrator: *Khamul walks down the hall to Ashgaz' cell, his lady beside him*
Ashgaz: *Ashgaz still wears the clothes he wore in the Shire...when he was briefly Peter, a shirt, trousers, gloves, boots, and a hooded grey cloak to hide his invisible face from the hobbits who would have been afraid*
Khamul: *Khamul speaks to Madurz* My lady, the fool will die today. That will be the only verdict of this trial
Madurz: a fool indeed he is *though she wishes it could be different*
Ashgaz: *He cannot see Khamul and Madurz until they are right in front of him...but he hears their voices...and his heart bleeds anew*
Khamul: What other verdict could there be for a traitor whose will is so weak that he cannot be rid of his westward leanings?
Ashgaz: *Weak! he thinks. It has taken all of my will to resist you*
Khamul: He shall die and we shall rejoice in it!
Madurz: i do not suspect the verdict would be anything less
Khamul: Let him go to the Void, where there is only death
Ashgaz: *I saved his life....he dealt me the morgul blade yet I loved him...and he rejoices now in my death*
Khamul: Let his fea perish amid unqenchable darkness!
Madurz: it seems he would rather be anywhere than here
Khamul: *Their steps come closer to Ashgaz' cell*
Ashgaz: *His mind writhes in turbulent agony*
Khamul: *There is no guard at the door. None is needed. Yet the door swings open before them.*
Ashgaz: *They were like his father and mother, while he was here, bound to them...at least he felt that way*
Ashgaz: *If only they could understand...if only Madurz at least, who is mortal, could understand! He wants to beg them, especially her, not to hate him*
Khamul: *Khamul walks in first through the narrow door, Madurz follows him*
Ashgaz: *He remembers how Madurz comforted him when he was wounded, and how Khamul once thanked him for saving his life*
Ashgaz: *and promised him a black waistcoat...he almost smiles wistfully*
Ashgaz: *Then he gasps in horror as he realizes again how loyal to Mordor he has become...they are fiends and he must resist it...but oh, it hurts*
Madurz: *she enters and sees the small cloaked figure*
Khamul: *He walks up to Ashgaz and towers over him. He says some words that Ashgaz cannot understand. Then he says* The spells that bind you are released, O Ashgaz
Khamul: Your limbs may move. Your tongue has speech
Madurz: *moves beside Khamul and tilts her face down to Ashgaz*
Ashgaz: *moves quickly over to them and grasps the bars of the cell* Thank you Mast----Khamul!
Madurz: *her eyes are hard but her hand still moves to cover his that holds the bars*
Khamul: I am still your Master, snaga, until the last breaths have left your withered lungs!
Ashgaz: *He lowers his head and his icy cheek rests against her hand...he sighs sadly*
Madurz: *she clenches her teeth as she feel the coolness of his skin*
Ashgaz: Master....I asked you this once before but you would not answer
Ashgaz: Perhaps now, it does not matter so much to you
Ashgaz: Why did you do it?
Khamul: It was a mistake! *he hisses* A most unpleasant one for me!
Khamul: Would that your accursed life had been robbed from you ere we ever saw you!
Ashgaz: *He lifts his head. He can see Khamul's face, now hard with hate, his voice venomous...but Ashgaz can remember when it was soft*
Ashgaz: *Madurz sees nothing, but Khamul sees the face of Peter under the hood, quiet and sad, with haunting eyes, framed by his small fists that grip the bars*
Khamul: Move back, my lady, so I may open the door to the inner cell
Madurz: *brimming with feelings mixed of anger and sadness she moves her hand away from Ash's*
Madurz: *she steps back*
Khamul: *He speaks a word of command* Badz! *the door opens*
Khamul: *He goes inside and motions for the lady to follow him*
Madurz: *entering slowly..she moves closer to Ashgaz*
Khamul: They await you, Ashgaz
Ashgaz: *He gasps softly*
Khamul: Pray only that the Morgul Lord shall be merciful to you
Khamul: Beg him that it be quick!
Ashgaz: It is time then *he says softly, disbelievingly*
Khamul: For you know what can be done to us, you of all know........
Ashgaz: I know, I know well *his voice trembles a little*
Khamul: It is not yet time, Ashgaz. You can buy a few moments more
Madurz: *she takes a knee beside Ashgaz*
Khamul: To cling, to clutch to your worthless, miserable existance, before you go plunging over the Edges of Night, beyond all callings
Ashgaz: No *he whispers firmly*
Ashgaz: Not the Edges of Night *more to himself than to Khamul*
Khamul: There will be a trial, Ashgaz, but I think we already know the verdict...
Ashgaz: *meets Khamul's eyes gravely and nods*
Ashgaz: *I go to the One, he thinks to himself*
Madurz: *places her hand upon Ashgaz's shoulder*
Ashgaz: *looks to Madurz*
Khamul: *He hears the screaming thoughts in Ashgaz' mind* NAY! Mandos will send you far into the Darkness that is the Void
Madurz: *she knows he is frightened*
Ashgaz: *covers Madurz's hand with his small, cold one*
Ashgaz: *His head droops*
Madurz: *she smoothes her hand over his curls*
Ashgaz: *But he remembers Mary.."You are still my Peter, no matter what they did to you"*
Khamul: *He laughs, his voice cold and echoing* Do you think you could find mercy with Mandos!
Ashgaz: *He closes his eyes and imagines Madurz's hand is Mary touching him again*
Ashgaz: *Terrified of Khamul, he instinctively moves closer to Madurz*
Madurz: *hands that have dealt much pain and felt the rush of much blood seem gentle upon him*
Khamul: Nay, Ashgaz! There will be no mercy there for you, for you have.... been with us too long
Khamul: You are more like us now!
Ashgaz: *He rallies at that* No! For I rebelled and left you, to return to my home!
Madurz: *she feels more sadness...anger that he did not try to learn to accept his gift*
Ashgaz: *flinches as he realizes those words will turn Madurz against him...if only this would all end soon, and the Valar would have mercy on him*
Khamul: *It seems to Ashgaz that his mind is being crushed and rendered asunder by Khamul's whithering thoughts*
Madurz: *she moves her hands from him and looks down*
Ashgaz: *He trembles under Khamul's punishment. Cries of pain escape him and he slumps to the floor*
Khamul: You think you can obtain mercy from Mandos by leaving us! Nay, Ashgaz! You ran because you are a coward!
Madurz: *she turns away and does not console him in this moment of pain*
Ashgaz: *He is alone, confronted by Khamul...now he sees only the fiend who did this to him*
Khamul: You had not the courage to do a simple mission!
Ashgaz: No. I ran because I could resist you though you dealt me the spell which should have bound me in a single instant!
Ashgaz: I ran because I was determined not to be conquered!
Madurz: *she grits her teeth*
Khamul: Coward! *he hisses* You know that is not true! You did not have the courage to send the woman to her death!
Ashgaz: I had the courage *he shouts now* to go to my own death to save her!!!!
Khamul: The taint of the edain reeks from you!
Ashgaz: Good! That means I am still a hobbit in some deep part of me!
Khamul: And it will be your death, Ashgaz
Ashgaz: Then let it come *defiant* I welcome it!
Khamul: *Khamul's eyes flame bright red and he hisses like a viper*
Madurz: *she lowers her head more from his remark...hating her mortality more and more each passing day*
Ashgaz: I welcome death to be freed from YOU! *he spits the words out with all the surpressed hate of these many months for the one who did it to him*
Khamul: Shun immortality with us and seek it at Mandos? Nay, snaga!
Madurz: *she looks up to Ashgaz with narrowed eyes*
Khamul: You have an hour yet ere the trial
Madurz: *she takes him by the shoulders and makes him face her*
Khamul: How would you spend it? In begging for forgiveness?
Ashgaz: *His chest heaves...he looks into her face*
Madurz: your words...you disappoint me...your actions...you fail me
Madurz: i payed you little thought when you served me wine
Ashgaz: *He is struck speechless for a moment...shame washes over him*
Madurz: but my faith in you grew
Madurz: you sought to protect me...
Madurz: you journeyed with me... stuck by me...i believed you would kill for me..
Ashgaz: *hesitates at that*
Madurz: and then you went and sent Neithan and his men free!...
Madurz: one who would see my death!...
Ashgaz: *He sighs heavily*
Madurz: you disappoint...
Ashgaz: *She can never understand...*
Madurz: but Ashgaz...
Ashgaz: *his bowed head rises and he looks to her again*
Madurz: even after that...even still..even after i hated you for you...and still am angered...you redeemed yourself..
Madurz: you put yourself in the way of Khamul..before the blade struck him
Madurz: you protected something more dear to me than the breath in my lungs
Madurz: *her hands on his shoulders knead deeply*
Ashgaz: *looks to Khamul too and says softly* He was dear to me too
Madurz: Ashgaz....why...why not try
Ashgaz: *Though he should not be, he thinks...but I cannot help it...may I be forgiven*
Madurz: try to accept
Ashgaz: *shakes his head*
Ashgaz: I cannot
Ashgaz: And it is too late now anyway. I am going to die in an hour
Madurz: i will never forgive you for this for utter denial and disobedience
Ashgaz: Oh! *he shudders and shrinks away from her in utter agony*
Ashgaz: No, Madurz, no, not you
Madurz: *she moves and pulls him back into her grasp and shakes him hard*
Madurz: you wanted to leave me
Khamul: *He looks down and sees Ashgaz' small face, the eyes sad and wistful*
Ashgaz: No... not you
Ashgaz: I pitied you...*he hesitates long, then finally says in a whisper* I loved you
Madurz: pitied me? love me?
Madurz: *she lowers her head and closes her eyes*
Ashgaz: *nods* Almost like a second mother
Khamul: *He hisses viciously and turns his back to Ashgaz*
Madurz: *she is about to scream at him but stops*
Madurz: *her grip lessesns, rigid with tension*
Madurz: *shakes her head* no!
Khamul: Love? *he hisses* He speaks of love?
Ashgaz: *hangs his head in shame...shame for her rejection, shame for his feelings toward her and Khamul*
Ashgaz: *He should hate them...he cannot*
Madurz: *looks to Khamul* yes my love
Ashgaz: *They, he thinks bitterly, know nothing of love!*
Ashgaz: *and anger for his lost Mary fills all his being*
Khamul: Love? *he hisses slowly* Your kind holds no love even for each other
Khamul: *He turns back and faces Ashgaz*
Ashgaz: Oh, we do
Khamul: There is another of your kind here
Khamul: He betrayed the West for gain, for riches and thralls
Madurz: *she moves her gaze back to Ashgaz and scans him small figure shrouded in black*
Khamul: *His glowing, angry eyes penetrate into Ashgaz' sorrowful ones*
Khamul: Know at your moment of death that one of your own kind willingly brought back the Ring to my Master
Khamul: So perhaps there is love... *he hisses, a triumphant note in his voice* for Sauron the Great!
Madurz: *she smiles lightly*
Ashgaz: *The room swirls around him....then his face hardens*
Ashgaz: No! *he cries* It is not possible!
Khamul: Ah, then, you would see for yourself?
Madurz: *she sighs....if he could have just tried..loses herself in her own thoughts*
Ashgaz: He is here?
Khamul: My lady, tell him what your eyes have seen
Ashgaz: *memories of the Shire flood him*...Frodo? *half wistfully*
Madurz: *he would have stayed with her and become loyal...Khamul's voice breaks her thoughts*
Khamul: Tell him of the halfling!
Madurz: *her eyes turn dark*...
Khamul: Tell him of the Friend of Sauron!
Ashgaz: *breathes in horror* No!
Madurz: The halfling is a popular one...he is very favored...and unlike you..loyal
Ashgaz: *Disbelief and anger war within him*
Madurz: and he does not even share the sacred gift as you do with the Brothers
Madurz: He has many slaves
Madurz: oh yes Ashgaz
Khamul: Yes, Ashgaz, many of them, but he is loyal to the Master, so different from you
Ashgaz: Is it Frodo? Is it really Frodo? He could not have....it is not possible!!
Khamul: The Master rewards those who honor Him
Madurz: *Ashgaz voice is so much smaller than those she is used to*
Khamul: His name is Shakh Baggins, snaga. He is a mightly lord of Mordor now, held in high esteem by all
Ashgaz: *Oh! How could he! he thinks*
Khamul: Would that you could have been as he!
Khamul: Had you stayed, Ashgaz, had you not fled, you would have found your reward - power and rule
Madurz: tell me now then Ashgaz..knowing of this halfing and his loyalties...do you wish different?
Madurz: could you not accept?
Ashgaz: *shakes his head* No! And if it is true, HE is the traitor
Khamul: this one of your kind has brought us joy.... while you have brought us only pain
Khamul: And me, the condemnation of our Master!
Khamul: Would you see the one more worthy and noble than you?
Madurz: *she shakes her head and places her hand on Ashgaz's*
Ashgaz: Yes....yes....let me see him! *so that he may tell me it is not true!*
Khamul: Nay, snaga, you must beg it from me as a boon!
Khamul: On your knees and bow to me! Plead to see him!
Khamul: And then perhaps, if you appeal to my mercy, I shall remember how you spared me from Them
Madurz: *she asks slowly of him* do as he says
Khamul: I owe you that much, snaga, perhaps
Khamul: For to fall into the hands of the powers.... by Melkor! That is a fate I do not savor!
Ashgaz: *He meets Khamul's eyes and stares at him long...to bow to the one who stabbed him...his master and great enemy*
Ashgaz: *But his desire to see Frodo is great*
Ashgaz: *He falls to his knees, still glaring up at Khamul*
Madurz: *her hand still on his as she feels him move down*
Khamul: Snaga, your obeisance does not please me, for it is false!
Ashgaz: *hangs his head and sighs*
Khamul: Beg me now and show your humility!
Ashgaz: *He closes his eyes tightly and thinks of the time Khamul rescued him from the snake pit*
Ashgaz: I beg you to grant me the boon of seeing my countryman
Ashgaz: *Then he bends quickly and touches his forehead to the ground*
Ashgaz: *straightens, peering up at Khamul*
Khamul: At least then perhaps, snaga, you will learn humility and gratitude before your death
Ashgaz: *Gratitude! Gratitude! You did this to me!*
Madurz: *she was deeply angry with Ashgaz...he was disloyal to all she held dear to her..all that was engraved upon her soul...she would revel in death of anyone who was against her and Them... and with him went the last bit of humanity that might be left*
Khamul: Arise, snaga. I will command him to be brought here
Ashgaz: *inclines his head, then rises stiffly to his feet*
Madurz: *she releases his hand*
Ashgaz: *He looks to her with great sadness...though she cannot see it*
Khamul: *His thoughts go to some of the dark robed figures, other wraiths who move noiselessly through the corridors*
Ashgaz: *She is the one who is truly lost, not him*
Madurz: *after Ashgaz would leave her she would not have any feeling for anyone save The Nine and her Master...but ashgaz was so small*
Khamul: *The others hear his call and silently go to Frodo's chambers, knock upon his door*
Frodo: *Frodo has been mourning for the parting of Aragorn and Arwen since he woke from that terrible dream. He is jolted from his thoughts by the knock*
Narrator: *Outside Frodo's door, two dark robed figures eminating cold stand and wait for him to answer their knock*
Frodo: *His face is flushed and tear-stained. He splashes water from a stand on his face, dries it, then goes to answer the door*
Narrator: *Both hooded figures bow before him silently*
Frodo: *He draws in a sharp breath, afraid to move or speak in their presence*
Narrator: *They step back from him and beckon him with their hands to follow*
Frodo: *manages to nod and follows them...they remind him of the Black Riders... He fled from them at every turn, and now he follows them*
Narrator: *They turn from him and the two whose spirits were claimed by the Morgul blade begin to walk through the corridor, motioning him to follow. They beckon him to follow them down the stairs*
Frodo: *Frodo follows them, struggling down the large stairs*
Narrator: *Deeper and deeper do they take him, down, down into the very stomach of Minas Morgul, dug deep into the rocks*
Narrator: *At last the stairs end. Somewhere down other darkened corridors, Frodo can hear the faint screams of prisoners in pain at the hands of their tormentors*
Narrator: *The air is chill and dank and an icy coldness seems to penetrate Frodo's bones*
Narrator: *They lead him into the opening of a cell, stand aside and point to the doorway, gesturing for him to enter*
Narrator: *He sees the long sleeves of their robes extended as though pointing inside the cell*
Frodo: *This looks like his cell in Lugburz! Is it all to begin again? Frodo panics, but has no choice but to enter the cell*
Frodo: *Wide-eyed, he walks inside, then grabs onto the bars to steady himself*
Narrator: *Inside Frodo sees the Lady Madurz, Khamul and a smaller figure in a dark robe*
Khamul: *Khamul turns and bows to Frodo* Hail, Shakh, Friend of Sauron!
Madurz: *still on a knee next to Ashgaz...she bows her head to Frodo*
Madurz: Shakh..you grace us once again
Frodo: *Frodo glares at Khamul and Madurz, bristling visibly at the title Friend of Sauron*
Khamul: *Khamul moves away from Ashgaz and says* Snaga, meet one of your Betters
Frodo: *But when his eyes light on the small robed figure, he blanches, and almost faints*
Frodo: *He cannot speak...it must be Sam!*
Madurz: *she stands...keeping her eyes on Ashgaz but moves to Khamul's side*
Ashgaz: *Ashgaz has been watching Frodo intently since he entered..he is sure it is Frodo but is not sure what to think*
Ashgaz: *He takes a step forward to see his face better*...Frodo? Frodo Baggins?
Frodo: *Frodo has backed into the corner, panting, his face anguished*
Frodo: *He tries to interpret what he has seen...it must be Sam, but Sam does not recognize him anymore...but maybe his memory has been restored? Frodo's heart rises with hope, but then he realizes the voice was not Sam's*
Frodo: *It was vaguely familiar, but he could not remember whose voice it was...could there be another hobbit wraith?*
Frodo: *He manages to nod at the small wraith's question*...Yes...yes...I am Frodo
Frodo: But who...who are you? *swallows hard*
Frodo: *His face contorts and he tries hard to keep from bursting into tears*....Are you Sam?
Ashgaz: *He can only think of Khamul's words*
Ashgaz: *He longs to prove them wrong. Frodo, a traitor to the West, bringing the Ring back willingly? Impossible! It cannot be true.*
Ashgaz: *Why would Frodo be so distressed if he were held in high honor here, if he were loyal to Mordor? Why would he show such hate towards Khamul and Madurz?*
Ashgaz: *When Frodo mentions Sam, Ashgaz smiles sadly, remembering the kind gardener, and how he was carried away on the fell beast. He wonders what happened to Sam..if he was conquered in the end*
Ashgaz: *Despite his own suffering this night, Ashgaz feels sorry for Frodo's grief over Sam. But he considers it a good sign--Frodo would not feel much of anything for Sam anymore, if he were loyal to Mordor*
Ashgaz: *shakes his head* No, Frodo
Ashgaz: It's Peter. Peter Bracegirdle. Remember me?
Ashgaz: I used to buy vegetables and flowers from Sam at the market. I bought some buttercups for Mary from him, once
Ashgaz: I came to Bag End a few times to listen to Bilbo's poetry
Ashgaz: You were going to come to my wedding
Frodo: *Frodo trembles all over with horror*
Frodo: Peter!...Peter, the little Bracegirdle lad! How did you...what happened....who....*then his eyes rise to Khamul, and animal rage flashes in his eyes*
Frodo: *He sees again Sam being stabbed by Angmar. Now he must also picture the Bracegirdle lad being stabbed by Khamul!*
Frodo: *His eyes turn back to Peter with infinite sadness. He goes to him, bracing himself, and places his hands on the small wraith's shoulders*
Frodo: Peter my lad...what happened to you?
Khamul: *Khamul looks first at Frodo, then at Ashgaz* Shakh.... this was one of my servants....
Khamul: What you could have been... *he laughs*
Frodo: *Frodo gasps and staggers backward from Ashgaz, shivering, his hand rising to his left shoulder*
Ashgaz: *tilts his head and looks questioningly at Frodo*
Ashgaz: *Then he notices a faint glow, perceptible in his grey wraith world, in Frodo's shoulder*
Ashgaz: *His eyes widen, but then he is flooded with relief that Frodo somehow escaped the doom that fell on him and Sam*
Ashgaz: I went to visit Fatty Bolger. He gave me some clothes you left behind, when you went to... *swallows, remembering Khamul's words...willingly?...but why Frodo's sadness and pain, then?*
Ashgaz: I saw three Black Riders on the road
Ashgaz: *nods to Khamul* He was one of them
Ashgaz: They were talking about you, Frodo
Ashgaz: They were looking for you
Khamul: Ashgaz! *he says and Ashgaz can see Khamul's teeth are bared*
Ashgaz: *shrinks away from Khamul with a terrified shriek*
Khamul: *Then he sends Ashgaz a thought.... Silence, if you want your death to be less painful!*
Ashgaz: *looks fearfully to Khamul, then covers his face and slides down the wall to sit on the floor*
Khamul: *The thoughts go on.... be careful what you say, snaga..., or your death shall be agony beyond any you have ever known!*
Frodo: *Frodo kneels beside him, glancing angrily to Khamul*
Khamul: *Impress the shakh. Tell him how kind we are! He laughs evilly*
Frodo: *He sees the little wraith shuddering in a small curled up ball. He knows all that the Nazgul have done to him, and cannot imagine what they can do to one fully under their power*
Frodo: *bracing himself again, he touches Peter's shoulder*
Frodo: It was for me then?
Frodo: *his mind reels*
Khamul: Shakh.... your time grows small..................
Frodo: *Frodo looks to Khamul, fathoming new depths of his immeasurable cruelty*
Frodo: *His hand tightens protectively on Peter's shoulder...he can almost imagine it is Sam*
Ashgaz: *lifts his head and replies* I can't say!
Ashgaz: *suddenly bursts out* Oh, Frodo, say it isn't true!
Ashgaz: I always thought you were a regular gentlehobbit!
Ashgaz: You didn't bring back the Ring, did you?
Ashgaz: Or if you did...not willingly!
Ashgaz: You didn't bring It back willingly, did you?
Khamul: *Khamul sends a terrifying thought to Ashgaz and it feels like his mind is bursting apart*
Madurz: *her jaw clenches as she silently watches them*
Ashgaz: *shrieks again and slumps against Frodo*
Khamul: *A thought message goes to Ashgaz... Your tongue shall be torn from your mouth if you say such things again!*
Frodo: *Frodo feels covered in ice. But he can bear it. It was worth it to comfort Sam, and it is worth it for this poor lad too*
Frodo: *Gritting his teeth, he puts his arms around Peter as he did to Sam long before*
Frodo: *his voice is low and hard* No. I did not bring it back willingly. Never!
Frodo: Let your mind be at rest, Peter, for our kind!
Madurz: *becomes very angered....her eyes narrowing to slits at Frodo*
Frodo: I am not loyal to them *he almost enjoys Madurz' anger, feeling the trill of defiance*
Khamul: *Frodo now feels Khamul's thoughts.... A dark cloud of pure hatred seems to envelop his mind and body. Frodo's left shoulder begins to burn as though a thousand shards of ice were embedded in it and twisting*
Madurz: *her eyes move to Ashgaz and soften*
Frodo: *Frodo clenches his jaw until it aches, but his arm remains around Peter. Regaining his composure, he lifts the younger hobbit's chin*
Frodo: Now my lad, tell me, what sad fate has brought you here?
Khamul: *Khamul hisses at Frodo... No more! Silence!*
Ashgaz: *He is immensely grateful for Frodo's reassurances...but he senses that they both are being punished for their words*
Ashgaz: *His glance moves back and forth between Khamul and Frodo*
Ashgaz: *He marvels that Frodo has the courage to look into his unseen face*
Ashgaz: Well...why I'm here?...I don't know that I can say...
Ashgaz: *looks to Khamul* Master...please, I don't want...
Khamul: *He sends Ashgaz a thought..... Say no more, lest you doom him to a fate like your own!*
Ashgaz: *gasps, his hands flying to his mouth, and falls silent*
Ashgaz: Well....in the war....
Ashgaz: *His eyes remain always watching Khamul's*
Khamul: *Khamul watches Ashgaz like a serpent observing its prey before it consumes it*
Ashgaz: My masters brought me there, to serve them
Ashgaz: It was a...high honor *grates the words* to be brought to such a war against such a...foe as Gondor.
Ashgaz: *looks to Frodo, wishing Frodo could see his raised eyebrows*
Ashgaz: *turning back to Khamul* But I did not deserve this high honor.
Khamul: *Ashgaz can see Khamul's face, lit with a pale light, his dark eyes flashing warnings*
Ashgaz: I had special tasks *stresses the word* to do, but I was....incompetent.
Ashgaz: I could not do my duty. I was a failure
Ashgaz: *he almost begins to believe the words as Khamul's eyes burn into him*
Khamul: *Khamul nods in approval at Ashgaz*
Ashgaz: And I was a...a...at the last...I was a traitor. *hangs his head*
Khamul: *He sends him a thought message... Go on, snaga, tell him. Make your words fair*
Madurz: *she releases a long sigh as he speaks*
Ashgaz: My master was....*his voice almost breaks on the word* good to me...but I...could not do my duty *looks to Frodo. By Frodo's expression, Ashgaz sees he understands the coded words*
Khamul: *Snaga, mortals are easily swayed by fair words, he says in a thought message*
Ashgaz: *His voice becomes hollow* I abused the great privelege of being one of Them, and in the end, though I could have been a good servant, my master could only consider me a mistake
Khamul: *He sends him another thought message... Snaga, why does it have to be in your last hour that you learn wisdom?*
Ashgaz: *turns away from Khamul and looks to Frodo*
Frodo: *Frodo's expression is one of heartbreak and awe*
Madurz: *gnaws on her lip as she hears Ashgaz's words*
Frodo: *He tries to hide it from Khamul, but his face glows, and he cannot help smiling at Peter*
Frodo: *He did not think it was possible to resist as much as this lad has done! How it gives him hope!*
Frodo: *But what a tragedy the boy's fate is*
Frodo: A traitor to them? *he says, smiling with tears in his eyes*
Narrator: *Outside in the bailey near the inner wall, Vartang supervises the assembly of Frodo's slaves and guards*
Frodo: *embraces Peter as the wraithling nods*
Frodo: My dear boy *he whispers* I am so proud of you!
Madurz: *she angers even more at Frodo's actions*
Narrator: *Vartang thinks to himself.... he is late as usual, but one of the High Ones called him*
Frodo: *They cannot conquer forever, he thinks in bittersweet joy*
Frodo: *It is true!*
Narrator: *Aldir, Vardamir and Ceolwulf sit upon black horses. The men's heads hang low and their eyes stare vacantly, as though they had been drugged*
Ashgaz: *Peter...not Ashgaz...thrills at Frodo's praise*
Ashgaz: *He is so grateful for the comfort of seeing Frodo before his death*
Narrator: *Lilandra, Rian, Finduilas and her two sons stare at the three men, their greetings caught in their throats at the sight of them*
Ashgaz: But now....*he continues softly*
Ashgaz: Now I must endure the punishment for my....crimes.
Madurz: *dislikes Frodo's arms about him and silently fumes*
Ashgaz: *watches Frodo's face* The trial will be in less than an hour
Khamul: Shakh... *Khamul says* Your audience is an an end.
Khamul: *Ashgaz... he says in a thought message... it is time*
Madurz: *she tenses and looks to Ashgaz*
Ashgaz: *suddenly jumps to his feet* No, please, please! Just one more minute!
Ashgaz: Please, please
Khamul: *The two black hooded servants who brought Frodo there peer in the doorway and wait*
Madurz: *how he beams for time with this other Hobbit..she fumes more*
Khamul: *Ashgaz... he says in a thought... is that your last request?*
Ashgaz: *nods vigorously*
Ashgaz: *Yes, yes!*
Khamul: *He looks to his lady*
Khamul: Shall I show mercy?
Madurz: *looks to Khamul*
Frodo: *Frodo rises slowly, comprehending what is happening*
Frodo: *His face is grave*
Khamul: Does not Mordor always show mercy?
Madurz: indeed it does love
Frodo: *A low rasping growl escapes the back of Frodo's throat*
Madurz: what is it dear Ashgaz wants love?
Khamul: Our esteemed servant wishes more time.... but he has an appointment. He does not wish to be late
Frodo: *Ashgaz...they call him Ashgaz, Little One. It is not even a name! Frodo seethes inwardly*
Frodo: Do not fear, Peter *he says gently*
Madurz: *looks to Frodo who shows her much hate in his eyes and looks to Ashgaz*
Khamul: *He turns to Frodo* Shakh, Friend of Sauron, my servant must attend to urgent business. I offer you my appologies
Frodo: It is much better where you are going *smiles sadly to Peter*
Madurz: *she finds it hard to contain her anger now*
Khamul: And you, Shakh, have your own appointment to keep....
Khamul: Now, go, Shakh! Go to your destiny and let him go to his!
Madurz: *how dare Frodo assume anything for Ashgaz.... what would be better*
Ashgaz: Oh! Frodo! *clings to him*
Narrator: *The two dark hooded servants move through the doorway. Ashgaz can see them. They are men. The two wraiths were both Gondorians, who found the Morgul blade*
Madurz: *she watches the display as Ashgaz clings to Frodo*
Frodo: *Frodo struggle to maintain his composure. He feels like weeping and cursing Mordor and all that dwells therein*
Narrator: *The men say* Do not let us detain you, shakh.
Madurz: *she looks to them all around her who were gifted*
Frodo: *stares in horror at the wraiths who were once men*
Khamul: *Khamul says* Lest you like it too well here, Shakh, and wish to stay...
Frodo: *takes Peter by the shoulders again*
Frodo: Come now, my boy, we must go
Frodo: You to your fate and I to mine
Madurz: *wants to slap his hands off of him*
Frodo: I envy you! *his voice breaks*
Khamul: Nay, Shakh. You two will go seperately
Frodo: I do not know how much longer I will stay with them but you will be free soon
Frodo: Think of that, and that only
Frodo: *squeezes Peter's shoulders, then lets go, smiling at him*
Khamul: *He turns to Ashgaz* Yes, Ashgaz, the Shakh will be free, but not so free as you
Madurz: *how he fills Ashgaz with even more rebellion*
Narrator: *The two wraiths take Frodo, one by each arm. They hiss at him* Come Shakh
Ashgaz: Goodbye Frodo!
Ashgaz: *raises a gloved hand in farewell*
Narrator: *Their hands are icy and one of them puts his hand on Frodo's morgul wound*
Khamul: Come, Shakh... *they say and their voices are mocking*
Frodo: *Frodo cries out, then twists and calls in a strained voice* Goodbye Peter! May the Valar protect you!
Khamul: *Khamul's body jerks, as though hit by a blow*
Khamul: *He turns to Frodo, his eyes glaring*
Ashgaz: *His heart aches to see how they hurt Frodo*
Madurz: *she squeezes Khamul's arm*
Khamul: Go, shakh! Go! Before....
Ashgaz: Yes, go, dear Frodo. *smiles sadly though it is unseen*
Ashgaz: *He has mastered his terror, and hardly trembles now*
Ashgaz: *Frodo's words have gone to his heart. He WILL be free soon. Oh, what a relief!*
Narrator: *The two wraiths pull Frodo from the cell and take him back up the stairs and finally out to the bailey*
Ashgaz: *But may the Valar protect poor Frodo...the thought makes Ashgaz's mind burn but he does not care*
Madurz: *hurt eyes move to Ashgaz*
Khamul: *Khamul looks at Ashgaz* For your insolence at the end, may the Morgul Lord fry your body slowly with fires akin to those of the Mountain of Doom*
Ashgaz: *May the Valar protect you, too, Madurz...though you would not let them*
Ashgaz: *lowers his head and hugs himself*
Khamul: *May you burn in agony!*
Ashgaz: *I do, Master...I do*
Ashgaz: *I always have!*
Madurz: *had he been given a blade he probably would have shoved it through her heart at Frodo's command*
Khamul: *Curse you!*
Ashgaz: *His head jerks up, and his eyes flash*
Khamul: *He bends down and picks up Ashgaz by the foot and hoists him up high in the air. He shakes him*
Khamul: *He holds Ashgaz' body out from him like it was a piece of filth*
Khamul: For your insolent tongue, Ashagz, for your treachery, I make this vow to you.. and may you hear it in your dying moments!
Khamul: When spring comes and the armies march, many shall taste the Morgul blade in your name!
Ashgaz: *His jaw drops*
Ashgaz: Oh, no, Master! I would rather they died than that!
Khamul: And remember as you die, that you have marked them, for I would have slain them, had you not spoken the words of insolence!
Madurz: *she can no longer help him now for he has shown much disobedience and much disloyalty to Them and to her....The Morgul Blade....it hit hard by Ashgaz's words*
Khamul: It is too late, Ashgaz. Your time has come
Ashgaz: *the cell fills with loud despairing wails*
Khamul: But remember, as you die, one for every year of your wretched life
Madurz: *anger....sadness....and emotions high mixing of recent times*
Khamul: Thirty men will become our servants because of you, Ashgaz
Khamul: *He drops Ashgaz hard on the floor and kicks out the door of the cell*
Ashgaz: *Ashgaz stares after him in bitter silence*
Madurz: *she bends to Ashgaz...wanting to hug him..wanting to crush him*
Khamul: Thirty men will join us because of you, Ashgaz. Remember that and tell it to Mandos, and may the curses unending be upon your head!
Ashgaz: *He begins to hate him, really, truly hate him*
Khamul: Your fate awaits, Ashgaz. Go meet it!
Madurz: *she looks down to the small hurdled body*
Madurz: *shaking her head as her hand reaches out to his back* look to me Ashgaz
Ashgaz: *He sits up with her help and looks into her face*
Madurz: the Morgul Blade is something i will accept willingly and its wound will be one of honor...but your actions and words bring wounds of pain to me and i am angered at you..and angered at myself for allowing that
Ashgaz: I am sorry for that...I do not want to cause you pain
Madurz: i don't know i bent to you
Madurz: perhaps cause you are..so small... perhaps i just wanted to keep you
Madurz: but that will be my last mortal mistake *she breathes deeply*
Ashgaz: *shivers slightly, close to tears*
Madurz: yet...i would...like to hold you..
Ashgaz: *looks up to her, touched*
Madurz: *she pulls him roughtly to her and smoothes her hand over his head over and over* why...
Ashgaz: *He tenses at first, then leans against her, beginning to cry, and clinging to her*
Madurz: *he curls so small in her arms*
Madurz: i could have watched you...grow
Madurz: *she moans in some kind of agony*
Ashgaz: *His mind is in too much turmoil to understand much of what she says*
Ashgaz: *A crushing flood of emotion sweeps over him*
Madurz: *she squeezes him* no..no...*her mind twists painfully* go!
Madurz: *releases him as quickly as she grabbed him*
Ashgaz: No *he sobs* oh Madurz, don't let them....*then is ashamed for saying that*
Ashgaz: *stumbles to his feet*
Ashgaz: I'm going
Khamul: Walk ahead of us, snaga. Up the stairs
Madurz: *she rises slowly...taken aback by her own outburst*
Ashgaz: *But he does not move...he stays staring at her as she rises*
Ashgaz: Madurz... *he whispers longingly, barely audible*
Madurz: *she hides her pained expression*
Ashgaz: *Then guilt washes over him, from Peter Bracegirdle, not Ashgaz...how dare you feel for her? Do not be a true traitor at the last! Remember Frodo*
Khamul: Ashgaz... *Khamul says threateningly* do you wish to be dragged to the trial?
Ashgaz: *shakes his head* No *he says softly*
Ashgaz: *turns and walks to the head of the group*
Madurz: *she stands near Khamul and takes his arm*
Khamul: *Khamul takes her arm and walks to the stairway*
Ashgaz: *Mary, he thinks...now I fulfill my word to you*
Ashgaz: *He remembers the last thing he said to her... "I go to the dark lands, but not for long, and you will see me again"*
Ashgaz: *A smile slowly grows on his face*
Khamul: *They climb up many flights of stairs until finally they are on the ground level.*
Khamul: To the throne room, Ashgaz. You know where it is *he gestures to the set of stairs leading up the tower*
Ashgaz: *He looks up the stairs, then climbs them, poised and graceful*
Ashgaz: *Almost there! Almost free!*
Narrator: *Soon they get to the third story. They go down the corridor until they come to the door leading to the throne room. It opens before them*
Narrator: *Khamul walks to his throne, instructing Madurz to stand behind his seat*
Madurz: *she moves to the back of his seat...her composure totally changed now and looks on*
Ashgaz: *It will hurt, but not for long, and then, and then! He wants to shout and weep with relief*
Narrator: *Ashgaz, Peter, the son of Rudigar Bracegirdle, is left to stand in the center of the floor, awaiting judgment and his final doom*
Narrator: *The two dark hooded ones take Frodo out to the bailey, where awaits his entourage. They escort him to his pony. Vartang ignores him*
Vartang: Mount up! *He commands*
Narrator: *Ceolwulf, Aldir and Vardamir and the three women and two children are already upon their horses*
Narrator: *The armed escort mounts their horses*
Frodo: *He is carried out to the waiting servants, blinded with tears, barely aware of his surroundings*
Frodo: *He stumbles between the hooded escorts*
Vartang: Shakh, ride beside me
Frodo: *He mounts his pony and brings it beside Vartang, too upset to argue*
Narrator: *After all have mounted, they ride across the bailey. The inner gate opens for them and soon they go through the portcullis as the outer gate opens*
Narrator: *Aldir, Vardamir and Ceolwulf ride as though they are dead men, scarcely aware of where they are*
Frodo: *As Frodo's head gradually clears, he notices the men's state, and his worry increases*
Narrator: *As the last of the entourage passes through the outer gates, they close behind them*
Frodo: *New anger explodes in him as he wonders what was done to them*
Frodo: *He longs to bring his pony beside them and ask, but he is afraid of Vartang*
Vartang: *Vartang looks down at Frodo as Frodo rides his pony* Enjoy your visit, Shakh? *he says as his lips curl back in a wolfish smile*
Frodo: *looks ahead with a disgusted scoff*
Vartang: I doubt you will remember any of it... *he laughs and digs his spurs into his horse's sides*
Frodo: *He freezes, his mouth open...so that is what happened before, and what will happen again! Will Peter be completely forgotten?*
Narrator: *The horse is soon at a full gallop. Frodo's pony struggles to keep up. They ride down the glowing road, first going west, then turning east as it switchbacks*
Narrator: *The city behind them glows upon the hill. The tower turns from left to right and back again*
Narrator: *The meads of charnel flowers bloom on either side of the road, their sickeningly sweet smell wafting through the air on an eastern breeze*
Frodo: *grimaces and makes his breathing deliberately shallow*
Narrator: *Everything seems at peace on this early morn. And they all, except Vartang, try to remember what befell them in the dread city. The further they ride towards the west, the more it all seems like a pleasant dream as their memories fade*
Narrator: *But through their dim senses, they are aware that three members of their company no longer ride with them*
Return to Third Age - The Aftermath
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