After midnight, April 11, 3020

The outlaw camp was in a state of alarm at the death of their captain during the early hours of April 11. Men were disbelieving that The Captain had at last been killed, and some brought torches and looked down at his ashen face to make sure that indeed Algund was dead. Pursuit was certain and there was no time for any words over his still form. The outlaws wrapped The Captain's body in a blanket, placed his body in a hastily dug shallow grave and covered it with earth and mounded it with loose rocks they found lying about in the woods. There would be standing stone or memorial ever erected over the man who had failed the West.

Ceolwulf had fallen into a somber mood, blaming himself somehow for the death of The Captain. He stood at the cairn for a time and pondered upon matters of life, death and revenge. Then, turning away from the grave, he walked back to the camp and into the tent of the dead captain. Adibe and her daughter Debanni sat huddled on a pile of blankets in the corner of the tent. "Algund is dead," he said, "and I am now captain of this band. What am I to do with the two of you now?"

Outside the tent, they heard the sound of hoof beats. "Vardamir," he thought, "returning with the boy Candon," and he turned away from the women and went back outside. "Ill fortune has followed your name, Castamir. The Captain is dead, slain in an ambush when we took the boy back."

"What now, Cearl?" Vardamir asked as he stood with a wide-eyed Candon near the fire.

"A counsel," replied Ceolwulf, and walked over to a felled log on the perimeter of the firelight. He stood upon it. He waited until the men had gathered around him and he was sure that he had their attention. "The Captain named me as new leader and lead you I promise, if you are willing to follow where I take you." Though Ceolwulf was thought by the men to be a grim and somber man, he was in good favor with the rest of the outlaws, and most of them gave their assent to his being leader.

"We must disband for a time, and each go his separate way, and thus stand the better chance to elude capture. Meet me in one month from today in the foothills of Tarnost at The Captain's old meeting place. If fate favors me, I should be there by nightfall. In the month's duration until we meet, keep yourselves hidden so as not to raise an alarm."

"Captain," some of the men asked, "where will you go?"

"I follow the flight of the geese north. Castamir and the boy will go with me."

"And what about the women?" some of them asked with knowing looks and sly winks of the eye.

"They will go with, me of course," he said, "for am I not chieftain of this band and take the bulk of the spoils? Does any man challenge me that right?" He touched the hilt of his sword, and no man would gainsay him.

He went back to the tent, where Adibe and Debanni waited with fear in their eyes. "Gather what things you may have. I have ordered two horses saddled for you. You will go with me." With that, he turned away from them and walked out of the tent. He went to his horse and held it by the reins, waiting as Vardamir finished loading their possessions on two pack horses.

Adibe portrayed by Eowyn
Debanni portrayed by Madurz
Vardamir portrayed by Hobbitness
Narrator and Ceolwulf portrayed by Angmar

Vardamir: *Vardamir is in a mood of melancholy as he loads their belongings onto the horses. It is a sad day when he and Ceolwulf must enter the business of thievery and the separating of families. Once, he was a soldier of Gondor and Ceolwulf was a King's Knight of the Rohirrim...and before that were Vardamir's lovely days of wandering the woods, playing his harp, and singing by the sea. Now he feels dirtied by their new occupation. Two families parted in one night--Candon and Berenon, and now Lord Ashtum's family. Vardamir sighs and smiles sadly at the grim Ceolwulf.*
Debanni: *Debanni had been silent and hardly looked anyone in the eyes since her time with Algund. She could hardly stop trembling since her encounter with him. She was relieved of his death but still was not at ease with her situation. She despaired for her and her mother and her heart ached for her brother. She kept to her mother's side and went with her at every step*
Ceolwulf: *He walks over to Adibe, holds her horse's reins, cups his hands and offers them to her for a footstep* My lady, I am sorry *he says as she mounts the horse and hands her the reins* but I will take you to a place where you will be safe. I promise.
Adibe: Where are you taking us? *her voice is a whisper as she takes the reins from the outlaw's hands.*
Ceolwulf: To Dunland *he says grimly and then turns to Debanni* Shall I help you mount your horse, my lady?
Debanni: *her eyes move from her mother's eyes who shows more composure than her now in contrast to when they first arrived here. She looks to the ground and nods and speak softly* yes
Ceolwulf: *He cups his hands for her as he did for her mother and assists her in mounting the horse*
Vardamir: *After securing the last of the packs, Vardamir goes to Candon and tries to smile as though everything were all right.* Are you ready to go?
Debanni: *she takes the reins and thanks him and looks ahead..not making eye contact with him*
Adibe: Dunland, sir? *Adibe asks as she looks to Ceolwulf* Why there?
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf mounts his own horse* It is my understanding, lady, that your people in long years past were friends with the Dunlendings. Is this so?
Vardamir: *Candon's wide eyes roam from figure to figure, all over the landscape, off into the distance...he is no doubt thinking of all he has left, and the mysteries to which they travel*
Vardamir: *He seems excited and frightened at the same time. Vardamir tries to make it all seem like an adventure. With exaggerated bravado, he hoists the boy onto a horse, then mounts his own horse and pulls it alongside Candon's.*
Adibe: Aye, many, many years ago, it is said that the Haradrim sailed north and allied with the Dunlendings in an attack made upon the lands far north... But you would do this for us? *she asks softly* For these lands far north, I believe your people were from, and both my land and the land of the Dunlendings are enemies of your realm.
Debanni: *Her mother seems to talk to this man freely. But then she remembered that she spent some time with him. She was glad and assumed her time with him was not like hers with Algund. She smiled lightly, figuring her mother was not hurt. Her smile fades. She looks over to the man her mother speaks to, then looks away*
Ceolwulf: Not anymore *he says as he touches his heels to his horse's sides* We are allied since last year. *He rides ahead of all them, for Algund had told him of a pass across the mountains*
Vardamir: *Vardamir makes sure Candon is steady on his horse, then starts off with the boy riding at his side. Soon they are alongside Adibe and Debanni. Vardamir notes Debanni's fearful manner with concern. He leans over and speaks over the horses' hooves* Are you all right, lady?
Debanni: *From staring ahead, lost in her own thoughts that his voice shakes her from. She was confused at his tone and question that seemed of concern and she bows her head* Yes. I am..well. Thank you *she holds the reins tightly*
Adibe: *Adibe urges her horse forward, and soon rides beside Ceolwulf.* Why are you taking us to Dunland, sir, and not back to Lord Ashtum? *she asks softly*
Ceolwulf: Because, my lady *he says patiently* your husband will kill us!
Adibe: *She nods and looks down at the pommel of her saddle. So this was it - she and her daughter were being kidnapped by this strange man and taken far, far away from their new home in Gondor. She would never see her husband or son again; the latter separation grieved her heart, but the former did not. He would probably like her less if she had been returned, for she daresays that he would have gotten far too accustomed to her absence. Besides, she already had a replacement... her life mattered little to him.*
Vardamir: *At Ceolwulf's words, Vardamir hears a sharp intake of breath at his side. Candon is pale with fear, and his eyes are beginning to fill. Vardamir smiles down at him* You will like it in Dunland, if you want adventure.
Debanni: *Her gaze again falls on her mother's who now shows once again that fear and sadness.*
Ceolwulf: Ceolwulf presses onward throughout the night, riding northwest, not letting them stop for rest until dawn when he calls a halt.* You may dismount *he tells them* There is food in your saddlebags and a wine skin tied to the back of the saddle. *Then he gets off his horse, stretches*
Adibe: *Adibe alights from her saddle and after stretching, takes a step towards the saddle bags. She gives her daughter a comforting look, at least an attempt of one, and retrieves the food from the bag*
Vardamir: *Vardamir dismounts, then lifts Candon off his horse. While Candon explores the campsite, Vardamir approaches Debanni. He bows* Would you like some help dismounting? *smiles up at her*
Debanni: *She looks down to him and wants to be able to tell him she is fine and can manage on her own but she is afraid to protest and she offers him her hand*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf takes the wineskin from the back of the saddle and drinks a stout swallow of wine. The two men then take off the saddles and bridles and then put hobbles on the horses' legs and turn them loose with halters about their heads*
Vardamir: *Vardamir drinks from the wine flask, then offers Candon a drink. The boy is used to goat's milk and water, but he is thirsty, so he accepts. Vardamir suppresses laughter when Candon's face screws up and he bursts out coughing.* You will get used to the wine in time *Vardamir grins*
Adibe: Come, Debanni, let us sit down and rest for a while *Adibe tells her daughter softly, and then sits down on the grass, wet with the night's dew. She unwraps the food, which is bundled in a cloth, and spreads the cloth out upon the ground, setting the wineskin aside it.*
Debanni: *She sits down close to her mother and now with her she feels as she did when she was just a little girl. Debanni had been pretty strong...but she surrendered now to fear. Not having her brother around now to have to give courage to, she was now the child once more.*
Ceolwulf: *He slings the wineskin over his shoulder and chews on a piece of meat as he walks over to the women. After swallowing the dry meat, he says* The horses must rest if we want to keep up their health. Without horses, we are lost. We cannot walk to Dunland. It is too far and there are very likely pursuers upon our trail. I wish that things could have been another way. It was not my design that The Captain keep the two of you, but what is done is done and there is no way to undo it. You must make the best of it as we must do *he turns away from them and walks into the woods*
Vardamir: *Vardamir wants to follow him and make further plans, but someone must stay to guard the women and Candon. Ceolwulf must be in another of his gloomy moods. Sitting with Candon across from the women, Vardamir looks up from his supper and smiles awkwardly at them, not knowing what else to do.*
Debanni: *She looks at the food and feels a rumble in her stomach..she takes up a piece of meat and chews it and instantly feels nauseous. She swallows it down uncomfortably and settles for a drink from the wineskin*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf had heard the sound of running water when he was back in the camp. Now finding the stream, he bends down and throws water over his face, trying to wash the grime that has been part of his disguise. He plunges his head into the stream water, but little of the walnut stain that has colored his beard dark will come off. He curses, then wipes his face off with his sleeve. How will he ever lead Vardamir, the two women and the boy over the mountains? First he must find the pass and he is not quite sure where it is. He stands by the stream a while, thinking, then he walks back towards the camp.*
Adibe: *Adibe slowly eats her food, glancing back to the east, towards the city called Tarnost which had been given to her husband, and further east and south, towards the land of Harad, the land of her birth. All the green lands of this part of the realm of Gondor are bathed in a soft, sunny peach light, the warm glow of early dawn, and the ground is still dewy from the night before. She would never see either Tarnost nor Harad again. But perhaps things would be better in Dunland, and in her thoughts was a flicker of hope, but soon crushed by the direness of their situation: mayhaps not, and they would die in the wilds or die at the hands of the Dunlendings, who (it was said) had allied themselves now with Rohan. Her gaze shifts to her daughter, she looks at her sympathetically, deeply worried for them both.*
Debanni: *Takes her mothers hands into her shaking ones. She inches closer to her and looks up to her with eyes welled with tears* Mother?
Adibe: *Adibe squeezes her daughter's hands and whispers softly* Yes, Debanni?
Debanni: *She stares into her mother's eyes and searches them and sees they are deep with their own sadness and her mind is heavy with her own fear and thoughts* Nothing
Debanni: *She does not want to cause her mother any more worry or pain of suffering that is not hers to bear*
Vardamir: *Vardamir excuses himself when he sees Ceolwulf coming. He rises and goes over to him. They are close enough to watch over their charges but out of earshot* Well, I am sure the ladies will enjoy their new lodgings among the Dunlendings.
Ceolwulf: *He glares at Vardamir* What do you expect me to do? Take these dark eyed beauties among the Rohirrim!
Vardamir: *Vardamir speaks seriously now, not wanting to awaken the madness in Ceolwulf* Of course we must go to Dunland. How far are we from the pass?
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf mutters to himself, speaking about "Uncivilized barbarians, why would a man of Rohan present such women among his people? He would be laughed at!"*
Ceolwulf: Over three hundred miles *he says briskly* We cannot even see the mountains from here, but we know they are there, somewhere. We just go northwest until we get there. The Captain said that the way to the pass is over the River Lefnui and near three lightning blasted pine trees in the hills. Those are our guides. When we see them, we go north and the ground will steadily rise under our feet. Let us hope there are not many lightning wasted trees!
Ceolwulf: But there is another way, I hear, if we would take it, though I would hesitate before I would set foot in the accursed place! Besides that, surely now it is heavily guarded
Vardamir: Your first way sounds simple enough, though with our luck all the trees in our path will be struck by lightning. *he laughs* But what is this other way?
Ceolwulf: Where the dead men dwell *he says and shudders involuntarily* After I was captured, upon the way to Nurn, I talked with another prisoner. He said that the accursed valley was cleansed. I say, however, only fools would take such a route with no promise of passage, and I would daresay that something still lurks there!
Vardamir: *Vardamir's eyes widen* Yes...yes, it will be much safer to take them the first way...only the constant threat lightning shall endanger us there. *grins*
Ceolwulf: But *he says and a fey mood takes him again* what is there to lose? There will be many men upon our trail with hounds, no doubt. Let us take it, for we are dead men anyway! Saddle up Vardamir! We ride!
Vardamir: *Grabs Ceolwulf's arm to stop him* Nay, Ceolwulf, it is not so dire as that. We are well hidden, and the women and the boy need rest! As do the horses, and as do I. *he yawns* If you want to stay up and wander the woods, and then fall asleep in your saddle, go ahead, but I am going to get some sleep!
Ceolwulf: Stay here then and rest, Vardamir, but I ride ahead, and I am taking the women with me! *He begins begin catching and saddling the horses, laughing as he does, a fell mood upon him* We are cursed Vardamir. You know that! Our lives are cheap
Vardamir: *narrows his eyes* Look, perhaps you value neither our lives nor those of the women of Harad, but I am not risking harm to that boy. We must stop and rest, if only for his sake---he is a Gondorian!
Ceolwulf: We are fools and we are all mad! *Ceolwulf rants and his eyes have a strange look in them like blue fires*
Ceolwulf: *He finishes saddling three horses and looks to the women* Are you coming with me! *he shouts wildly*
Vardamir: Ceolwulf, I know some dark force works at you, and at me, too, sometimes, but you must fight it. It does no good to let it torment you. Come and take some rest.
Debanni: *This man had seemed rather calm before and his manner mild and now he seems altogether different and she becomes very uneasy and then hears the other man speak in contrast to the wild one. She stands and looks between them, nervous and confused what to do*
Adibe: *The unrest between the two men had caught Adibe's attention, and she had studied them carefully, noticing that the lighter haired of the two, the one whom she was the most familiar, was acting strangely and quite peculiar.*
Adibe: *Now the man demands of them to come and follow him on this journey into the wild and unknown where dangers abound, and he seems uncontrollable, like a madman or like a dog frothing at the mouth.*
Adibe: *She cannot help it but a shudder goes through her, but she quickly tries to hide her discomfiture, lest her daughter see it, and become more frightened than she already was.*
Ceolwulf: *He drops the reins of the three horses to the ground, and as they are trained to stand when this is done, they wait patiently, their heads turned towards him. He walks to Debanni and looks at her with a strange expression and then he picks her up, throws her on the horse, then hands her the reins.* Come with me *he says* into freedom, or *he laughs* into death!
Debanni: *She cries out as she is lifted onto the horse and tears streak her face as she looks to her mother, frozen in fear but she longs to jump off of the horse but sees the wild look in the man's eyes, under his twitching brows and thinks against moving. His statement causes her to shake fiercely as she tries to right herself on the horse. Looking to her mother*
Vardamir: Stop that! You're scaring her! *Actually angry with Ceolwulf, Vardamir grabs him forcefully and holds him by the arms* What is the matter with you? Are you mad?!
Vardamir: *A long pause ensues. Vardamir stares into Ceolwulf's face and sees only animal rage and blind confusion. Vardamir's expression changes from angry to deeply concerned. His grip on Ceolwulf's arms loosens a little, and his lips part in astonishment as he realizes that Ceolwulf truly is mad.*
Debanni: *Burned in her mind is Algund's face...wild and uncaring..angry and cruel. She lets another soft moan escape her lips and fears this man will hurt her too. She thinks of the fate of the future of her life to come and figures soon she will be numb to this kind of harsh treatment. So this was it. Her pleading eyes look to the wild man*
Ceolwulf: *He shakes off Vardamir's arms, then looks at him for a brief moment. Then he draws his right arm back and hits him in the chin* Yes, I am mad! *he says as he watches Vardamir stagger backwards*
Adibe: *Adibe gasped as she saw the brigand throw her daughter upon the horse, but the dreadful scene passed before her eyes so quickly that all she could do was merely stand there and watch helplessly. Now the two brigands are fighting amongst themselves, and she fights the terror that rises up inside her.*
Vardamir: *Ceolwulf's blow knocks Vardamir to the ground. He sits there gaping at his friend in shock, rubbing his chin. Rage boils up in Vardamir, but then grief overcomes it...but just as quickly, his practical side takes over. Perhaps this is just one of Ceolwulf's occasional fits.*
Vardamir: *Vardamir gets up, then surveys the strange group, assessing the situation. What if this is not a temporary fit? What if Ceolwulf stays like this? If that happens, Vardamir realizes he must take control and care for their charges. Candon comes up beside him, crying softly, and unwittingly cementing his resolve.*
Vardamir: All right, Ceolwulf *he says gently* We will do what you say. Come, Candon *he lifts Candon onto his horse*
Ceolwulf: *He looks at his friend, scarcely seeing him now for the fury that boils inside him, the fury that he cannot even explain.* Let us ride! *he says grimly*
Vardamir: *Vardamir goes to Adibe and cups his hands to help her onto her horse* Come, lady, I fear we must rest later.
Adibe: *Adibe nods to the darker haired man, and using his cupped hands as a stepping platform, she mounts the horse. She looks over to her daughter, knowing that her terror must be great*
Debanni: *Debanni's eyes focus on the whimpering boy who looks nervous. She wonders who he is and instantly grieves at the separation of her and her brother*
Vardamir: *Lastly, Vardamir mounts his own horse. He rides between Candon and Ceolwulf, casting frequent glances to the women* Lead the way, Ceolwulf *he says sadly. In his mind he remembers the road Ceolwulf said they must take, and decides to lead them himself...but to let Ceolwulf think he is still the leader.*
Vardamir: *Vardamir hopes to keep the pace slow to save the horses' strength, but he must keep the fey Ceolwulf's horse in sight...he smiles encouragingly to his charges, but his heart sinks at the sight of Ceolwulf's crazed eyes, at his spurs digging cruelly into his horse, at the sound of his mad yell.*

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