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Old 03-07-2011, 11:09 PM   #1
Mnemosyne
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White Tree The King's Players RPG

Yavannie 24, F.A. 21

A sudden gust of wind brought the sound of two faint bell-strokes to Brinn's ears, as she walked alongside the painted waggon. That was good, then--she was a terrible judge of distance when it came to big cities nestled in the mountains, but surely they were close if they could hear the bells of Minas Anor. The lands of the Pelennor smelled ripe with harvest--fruit from the orchards, bleached barleycorn, punctuated with whiffs of the Anduin itself. Behind and before them were the carts of merchants and farmers for the markets in the first few circles of the City, laden with casks of wine and oil from the Emyn Arnen. Every so often they were passed by one of these, for they were in no real hurry, and the mules that pulled their carts were not meant for speed. A few of the folk stared at the lettering on the sides, recently repainted in the style of letters that Gondor seemed to favor--

The King's Players!

Tales of Joy!

Tales of Woe!

Tales of Derring-Do!

feat. the Finest Dwarven-made Mechanicals you ever did see, so true-to-life you'll jump out of your seat

Not that that last bit was entirely true, but Father wasn't there to see it and Asta hadn't complained yet. It drew more people, anyhow.

"Hear that, Rollan?" she called up to the man driving the first cart.

"Loud and clear, my love," Rollan called back. "Maybe we'll actually have time to settle before we rehearse tonight!"

"Ah, wouldn't that be a lovely change of pace?"

"'Course, now that I've said something, and knowing our luck--"

"Don't say anything further, then!" said Brinn, laughing. "I'd like this to be a peaceful run, thanks, maybe pull in enough money that we can take a holiday for a couple of weeks."

"Well, Cormare always brings in plenty, from all over. Don't reckon those merchants that just passed us could make a profit on silk otherwise. Have you got everything ready to get in the city?"

"I think so," said Brinn. She looked down at her dress, which was rather more respectable than most of their costumes--just right to make the first impression. And she had run over in her mind the exact location of the inn-yard where they would be staying, and the innkeeper's name, and the official she always spoke to when they needed that particular market square that was right along one of the main streets, and she had the papers...

The papers.

They were still in the cart. "Half a minute!" she cried, and climbed up the steps in back of the cart to get inside. There, sitting on the trunk where the papers were, squished among racks of costumes and crates of props, was a maiden of about twelve years, reading over a script.

"Seri, dear," said Brinn, "why don't you come outside? The light's much better out there."

It took the child a moment to realize she was being spoken to. She put down the script and looked up. "Do you think I'll make a good Frodo the Warrior Halfling?"

"Well, the audience loved you last year--I don't see why not."

"I'm taller this year."

"The better to charge the gates of the Dark Tower with, then. Do stand up; I need to get our papers out of that chest."

Sereth complied, and Brinn opened the chest. On top were the papers they had procured last year, authorizing and easing their return to the White City to perform for the Ring-Day festival. "Thank you," said Brinn. "Now, come outside and take the air with me."

Sereth did so, leaving the script behind, and immediately began launching into a dramatic recitation of her cues and lines. So passed the next half-hour, until they reached the great and majestic mithril gates of Minas Anor.

Brinn made a full courtesy to the guard on duty and presented her papers. "I am Mistress Celebrindal," she said, "of the King's Players, requesting admittance to the City to prepare and perform our annual play for the Cormare celebration."

The guard looked through the papers, and nodded. "You may enter," he said.

"Thank you." Brinn nodded and waved at Rollan, who started the line of carts on their way into the city.

"You should have a fine attendance this year," said the guard, as the waggons passed through. "The preparations for Cormare this year have been twice as splendid as any year I can recall, on account of the King's special guests."

"I am sorry," said Brinn, "but we are a travelling group and were not aware of any special guests. Who might these be?"

"Why, the pheriannath, of course! I am certain you'll see them some time while you are here, for the people love to see them--the lord Samwise, and his wife, and his daughter, who is a lady in waiting to our beloved Queen. And since it has been many years since we have had those people to whom we owe so much in our midst, everyone wants to make the celebration this year especially grand. Your show, no doubt, will be a boon to our City."

Brinn thanked him for his kind words--he was a younger sort and not half as dour as so many of Gondor's men were--but she could not help but feel a little troubled. Halflings belonged in the Breelands, or beyond, in the Shire, not in Gondor! What in heaven's name could they be doing here?
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:10 AM   #2
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When Branor heard the familiar, and welcoming, ringing of the Minas Anor bell-strokes he jumped out of the cart. This was the fifth year he would visit Minas Anor, and he has yet to get tired of the place. This was the premier stage and there was always something new to do in the growing and lively city. He was hoping he would have time to explore the city more than in years past. Branor did not mind promoting the play or searching for patrons (since it gave him a chance to showcase to people his talents), but he wanted time to experience the city. After all, this performance was going to be about him, about Minas Anor. King Elessar is the star of the story, the Return of the King, and it was up to Branor to get the character right.

There already seems to be a buzz around Minas Anor about the King's Players performance, which brightened Branor up even more. Now he wouldn't have to spend too much time selling seats, if this was true. Also, he over-heard the guard telling Brinn the Lord Samwise would be attending the show. Samwise? This name sounded familiar. Samwise? It couldn't be Frodo's hobbit servant, Sam, could it? Sam died, and was unbelievably daft. No way could a servant become a Lord. This had to be a different Samwise, or Aldarion was going to need to re-write the script.

Branor had had his disputes with Aldarion in the past, however he had to admit Aldarion's talents as a writer. Aldarion knew how to appeal to a crowd by knowing when the script needed tension, drama, action, or romance. Branor was just of the opinion Aldarion could take a few pointers from him when it came to acting. He appreciated Aldarion leaving the Dol Amroth troupe to join theirs, but Aldarion needed to just focus on the writing.

Then around the same time Aldarion joined the King's Players, Branor had an opportunity to defect to the Swan Players. Once Branor realized he loved to (and could) act, it had been his dream to get on the big stage. Branor judged he would not come across another troupe as prestigious as the Swan Players. However, he could not abandon Brinn (and indeed he never told her he could have left), as surely joining the King's Players biggest rivals would leave behind bitter dregs. Branor could not do that, and in truth, he realized the King's Players were rising in fame. In what other troupe could you witness mechanical monsters and an actor of Branor's caliber?

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Old 03-08-2011, 09:51 AM   #3
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Therian could - and would - become anything. He was an actor, a master of fakery, of shams and chicanery. And today he was pretending he was entering Minas Anor with a different agenda.

How long had he been with the troupe? It didn't matter. Brinn would replace him as soon as she found someone who could act better than him, and he could not let that happen. When the time came, he would be the best confounded Eowyn the Shieldmaiden that had ever existed. These southerners... no matter how often he came to Minas Anor he could not get over their dour, self-righteous expressions, and there was something wilder and more concerning about the straw heads. He'd heard they sold their horses to the Black Riders during the War, and then holed up in some mountain to wait for the slaughter to end. Some bravery, that. And he was supposed to believe some lady princess of them had the brass to withstand the onslaught of the leader of the enemy? When the king and the prince and all were the type to hide away in a cave, Therian was supposed to believe that some thin pretty thing put away her apron and did what the men could not? Women could do many things, certainly, and far better than Therian could, but he would defy any man to show him a woman that could take him in a fight. Not that he would ever fight a woman, because that would be entirely inappropriate.

Warrior maidens. Therian shook his head.

No. He would enter the city with a showman's smile on his lips, because today he would be playing King Elessar! Of course, not really. In truth he would be playing Aldarion's completely unbelievable version of the yellow haired one. Dernhelm. Who would even call themselves that? Undoubtedly the story was at least partly fabricated. After all, what else would there be to keep the young women interested, if there were no strong female leads? Even if the Shieldmaiden was on the Pelennor, and even if she did kill the Witchking, it was probably by slitting his throat while he was busy attacking someone else. No doubt it was anticlimactic, if it even happened, and all that weaponry and banter and Black Breath was added later, to make it sound more dramatic. But still, on the stage, he would cry, "No man am I!"

But today, entering Minas Anor, he would act his best part, to keep himself from regretting his decision to join this troupe where he was so hated that he was required, through his natural lack of facial hair, to play a girl. He would tell himself all day that he was to be the King.

I am the King! he shouted in his mind, in the direction of the bells. And I have returned!
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:25 AM   #4
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"Will this accursed crowd never be quiet?" Asta muttered, not quite under her breath. She had been working since dawn repairing and oiling Smaug's jaw-joints, which had a tendency to seize up at the worst possible moments. Now she had quite the worst headache anyone had ever had, she was sure of that. She wondered how long it was until those frightful bells sounded the next hour, and how she would stand hearing them at close quarters.

Still, the Great Gate of Minas Anor was always something to see, and so she clambered over the gear to the front of the second waggon– a slow and careful procedure, as so much space in this waggon was devoted to her various puppets and mechanical props. Some could be packed away in boxes, but others were too large and complex of shape and had to be stacked on the floor and seats, cushioned as well as she could manage against the jolting of the cart. Smaug, of course, had pride of place, taking up most of the front half of the waggon, even with his wings of metal rods and silk tightly folded. Asta patted his muzzle affectionately, noting that the gold-painted scales were flaking a little around his nostrils.

She climbed onto the driver's seat beside the stocky, dark-haired young man who held the reins, bidding him a curt "good morning". She was in no mood for either the prompter's awkward courtship or for hearing the latest version of that play he was always scribbling at.

Coldan blushed, as usual, and greeted her eagerly, but as the vast gates of steel and mithril swung slowly open to reveal the marble streets of the white city gleaming in the morning sun, he fell silent in wonder. Asta too watched with an odd tightness in her throat, and for a moment her aching head was forgotten.

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Old 03-08-2011, 04:26 PM   #5
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Amdír son of Amrod looked out from the walls of Minas Anor, hoping to catch a glimpse of the King's Players returning. For the last few years, their visits to the Gondorian royal city had been the highlight of his days, now that his wife had passed on and his children grown and starting families of their own. Ever since Lord Hallas, who had been his master privately until he had been taken into his service as the Master of Revels, had taken an interest in the performing arts, and in the King's Players in particular, Amdír had been involved with the Players when they were in town. As a master carpenter, he had constructed their stage and sets, and done and number of simple, but important handy tasks necessary for their performances in the city.

With Cormarë looming near, Amdír had already begun thinking about this year's stage, and had inspected the pieces that remained in storage on Lord Hallas's estate to see what he already had to work with, though he would make no decisions until Brinn--Amdír never called her Celebrindal--came and told him what she wanted. The Players did not tend to need an elaborate set, apart from a way to decently disguise the mechanical nature of Smaug and its operators, because of the nomadic nature of their shows, but the audience for drama was simple enough in Minas Anor (unlike the more discerning nobles of Dol Amroth) that a grander stage helped command more attention from the public, and so more revenues, and Amdír felt that the Players enjoyed having their illusions aided by a backdrop and stage. Well, some of them, anyway...

Whatever the Players normally wanted, Amdír had the feeling that this year they would build grander than ever. Lord Cirdacil, who had only recently been appointed the new Master of Revels, on the single occasion he had had words with Amdír, had intimated that he intended to invite King Elessar himself and his guests of honour, the pheriannath, to attend the play at opening night. Whether Lord Cirdacil had issued such an invitation yet, or even intended to, was unknown to his household carpenter, and thus any answer back from the Citadel could naturally not be guessed at.

Looking out from the walls of the City, Amdír hoped the invitation had been made, and accepted. Twenty years before, he had fought in the Battle of the Pelennor, and though over two decades of peace had passed since then, he could not forget his first sight of the City, surrounded by enemies. Minas Tirith, it had been called then, the Tower of the Guard, and Amdír still thought of it thus at times, a bulwark against the evil mountains that could still be discerned in the distant east, even if the mountains were only evil in memory now. Amdír could also remember clearly the despair that troubled his first stay in Minas Tirith, at the Houses of Healing, as everyone waited for word of the army that marched on the Black Gate. He had briefly met Master Meriadoc, who was also at the Houses of Healing, together with the now-Prince and Princess of Ithilien, and knew that Master Samwise was one of the three other perians who had saved the day in Mordor.

How they had done that, Amdír was not so clear, despite twenty years of ballads and some discussion the previous season, when the Players had brainstormed ideas for the coming season's plays. Hopefully, the visit of Master Samwise would motivate an accurate retelling of that not-so-distant history, and if Amdír was lucky, he might even get to thank some of those heroes in some small way for what they had done, for the joy they had given him, and all Minas Tirith, when word came back from the Field of Cormallen that Mordor was defeated and Sauron himself destroyed.

Meanwhile, however, Amdír caught sight of the distinctive bright waggons of the Players, and began to make his steady way down from the walls of the Fifth Circle to meet them at their place of lodging.

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Old 03-08-2011, 05:39 PM   #6
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Harrenon was woken up by the sound of the bells. His eyes sprang open and he cursed himself for falling asleep in the cart exactly when they were approaching the city. He liked to see Minas Anor in the distance and watch as they approached it, until he could finally behold it in all its glory. He had been to Minas Anor quite a few times and he told himself that he should have gotten used to it by now. And yet, that first sight of the mighty city of Gondor was always something Harrenon still looked forward to, like a treat after a hard day’s work.

Harrenon leaped out of the cart. They were near the gate now. The city bells were ringing. They had arrived in time. It was easy to imagine that the bells were in welcome of the King’s Players. At least they should have been, Harrenon told himself grinning. They were the best theatre troupe in Middle-earth, weren’t they? And they were about to give their best performance so far. Surely they were the first ones to try a rendition of what had happened during the War of the Ring. Or, at least the first to give a reliable rendition.

“I wonder if the King himself will come to watch us,” Harrenon muttered, but he discovered that the thought of it did not bring him much joy. Actually, it terrified him. He was sure that if the King was among the spectators watching him, he would freeze on the spot and be unable to perform. Sometimes it happened like that with Harrenon. He was usually comfortable enough on the stage, enjoying the attention, despite his rather shy nature. But there were times during a performance when he suddenly found himself unable to say another word. Fortunately, it happened seldom enough for Harrenon to pretend to the other Players that he had forgotten his line. He still did not know whether they believed him or not.

But now was not the time for gloomy thoughts, Harrenon told himself firmly as the first cart of their group passed through the city gates. He was once more in Minas Anor, his favourite city in the whole wide world and he could not wait for the day of the performance. It was surely going to be a success for the King’s Players.
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Old 03-08-2011, 10:02 PM   #7
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The waggons rolled onward, turning down the main thoroughfare in the First Circle to the inn where they would be staying. It had a large yard in its centre, where the Players had put on their first shows in Minas Anor, and it could house their carts comfortably.

Good publicity, too.

They pulled into the yard, and Brinn sought out the innkeeper.

"Good day, Master Ingold," she said. "Have you been holding our rooms for us, or are the crowds too big?"

"We're almost full!" said the innkeeper. "But--I've been holding out for you--you're good for our business, after all."

"That means you won't try to charge higher this year, then, right?"

"Actually..."

Brinn laughed. "The rates we agreed on last year, thank you very much." She waved in front of him the paper that they had signed a year prior.

"Too clever by half, you are."

Brinn handed him a purse. "We'll get the rest to you after the show, as always."

Once the carts had been arranged in a fashion that appealed to Brinn, the mules were taken to their stalls by a few enterprising stable lads eager for tips. She spoke briefly with her husband, and then the two of them passed the same message onto the entire troupe, in the carts or stretching their legs.

"We have a few hours to get ourselves settled. Call for rehearsal is at the ninth hour, in the yard; we want things running as smoothly as possible before the actual performance."
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Old 03-09-2011, 10:58 AM   #8
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Branor agreed with Brinn's plan for the day to start dress rehearsal today, but was glad she was giving the troupe some free time. "Good plan, Brinn. I was thinking of saying the same thing myself. I had hoped for a chance to see the city some more, but we must not forget we are here to do a play. Well then, since you do not require my presense at the moment, I will take this time now to explore the city. And if I get the chance, I will try to find out how much interest and excitement there is for the show. Do not miss me too much, I'll be back before rehearsals"

He started to leave the rest of the players, but then he stopped to remind everyone not to start rehearsals without him. He could have sworn he heard more than a few grumbles, and sighs, of "We know."

Now Branor was about to leave, for real this time, when a friendly face approached. "Now here is a familiar face! It's good to see you again, Amdil!" Branor ignored the man's correction, for the man's name was Amdir, not Amdil. "You know the city well. I am going out as I desire to see what is new in Minas Anor. This glowing jewel of a city is always changing, is it not? What do you say about showing me around some? I would appreciate having a guide. I will even be able to get you a prime seat to our performance, The War of the Ring! Who can turn down that offer!?"

But again, before Amdir had any time to answer, Branor led him back to the troupe. "You all remember Amdir? He's going to guide me around Minas Anor. Does anyone want to come along?"

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Old 03-09-2011, 01:19 PM   #9
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Harrenon was relieved when they finally reached the inn. Maybe they would even have the chance to rest before starting rehearsals. That seemed likely at the moment, since Branor had expressed a desire to go for a walk through the city – which was even more relieving since Branor seemed in one of his pompous moods that made Harrenon feel quite put off most of the time. He shook his head with an exasperated sigh when he heard the man demand them not to start rehearsing without him.

“I wonder why we do not do that once,” he muttered to his fellow Players. “Just to see what he says afterwards.”

Yet when Branor told them that Amdir would be leading him through the city, Harrenon forgot his desire for some quiet time to himself. He had already had that in the wagon on the way to the city. Now he was in Minas Anor. He should take advantage of the opportunity to see as much of the city as possible. A walk would do him good. It would clear his head and help him get rid of the nervousness he sometimes felt when a performance was near. Yes, a walk would do him good, even if he was taking it with Branor – as a matter of fact, Harrenon did not dislike Branor; yes, he did find his manner exasperating, but usually endearingly so. He took a step forward.

“Well,” he began. “If you’re going, I think I will be joining you. If you have nothing against it, that is, and if I am not needed here, after all.”
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:50 PM   #10
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Brinn sorted through the papers one last time, holding her back where it had gotten stiff from all the moving and shifting. Now that the carts were no longer being used to move things, it was better to organize things so that they were easier to hand--and less likely for her to trip over. She'd stopped by the main prop cart to talk to Asta and make sure that all the mechanicals were in working order, and that turned into a process of pulling out all the things they would need for the Grand Tale of the War of the Ring. Now it was just a matter of making sure everything was perfect, and--

She heard a creak on the footboard behind her. "Are you planning on eating anytime soon?"

Brinn turned around. It was her husband. "Not at the moment. Why, what time is it?"

"Past noon."

"Already? But there's so much--"

"You need to eat, Brinn, and relax. Plenty of work to do in the coming week."

"Yes, but our first rehearsal's tonight--"

"And we'll have more to polish things nice and good. Come and eat, the common room's not too far off."

"I'll be fine, if you'll just give me--"

"What about Sereth?"

Yes, Sereth--she was young, and growing. It would not do to give her a poor example. "Very well," she said. "Let's eat."
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:16 PM   #11
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The Lord Samwise, Coldan pondered while he went to check that the mules where well stabled and fed. Now who's he? Some lord of the halflings, apparently. Well, even quasi-mythical creatures had to have some sort of aristocracy, Coldan presumed; but he had always been under the impression that the ruler of the periannath was Prince Peregrin, the warlord who had led the halfling host to the Pelennor. Could it be that Peregrin had died, and his successor had come to Minas Anor to swear allegiance to the King? That would explain why the guard at the gate had made such a fuss about Samwise's presence.

Returning to the yard, he found that the other Players had been joined by Amdir, and Branor was talking the carpenter into showing him around the city and asking people to come along. Coldan wasn't averse to some sightseeing himself - this was his third visit to the capital of Gondor, but the beauty of the White City never failed to impress his poetic soul, even when it no longer filled him with that wide-eyed, speechless admiration he had felt on seeing it for the first time. And then, of course, the city's taverns were calling to him; according to his father, the wine merchant, it had been the Dúnedain of Gondor who had first introduced viticulture to Coldan's native country, and although Dorwinion had since perfected the art to produce the finest vintage in Middle-earth, the sweeter wines of Lebennin and Ithilien were not to be despised. Not too much, of course, as he needed a clear head for the rehearsal, but a beaker or two couldn't hurt, could they?

Nevertheless, he held back and waited whether Asta would decide to come along. Her company during their approach to the city gates had just been enjoyable enough to leave him craving for more. Not that she was likely to take much notice of him with Branor around, but he couldn't just let the two of them roam the city without him. If she chose to stay at the inn, on the other hand, he might have the luck to get a few undisturbed minutes alone with her - maybe even long enough to work up the courage and explain himself to her this time.
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:26 PM   #12
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“Well,” said Harrenon. “If you’re going, I think I will be joining you. If you have nothing against it, that is, and if I am not needed here, after all.”

Amdír was not opposed to accompanying Branor and Harrenon about the city, since it seemed that Brinn did not intend to start discussing the construction of the set until rehearsal that evening. This was normal enough, though Amdír was guessing that it meant she did not foresee a larger than usual production. Well, he would see that evening one way or another. It was always exciting to watch the first rehearsal, when the play was fresh to his eyes and ears, and Amdír didn't mind waiting through it until they were ready to talk setpieces near the end.

Meanwhile, although Branor had essentially asked Amdír to show them around, the thespian from Dale had been to Minas Anor enough times over the past few years that he hardly needed Amdír or anyone else to lead him to his favourite haunts, and Branor's implacable energy drove him ahead of Amdír and Harrenon, as well as Therian, who had tagged along as well, perhaps guessing that Branor would be headed for a tavern. The erstwhile shieldmaiden expressed an interest in a tankard of ale, and as Amdír told him, Branor seemed to be headed in the direction of one of his favourite taverns, the Rohirric Unicorn, a small hole-in-the-wall up Lampwright's Street towards the Second Circle, which had an amazing brew of ale that Amdír agreed was justly renowned (he was the one who had first taken Branor there).

But as they rounded a bend in the Street, following the curve of the city circles, Amdír caught sight of a party sitting in front of the tavern, beneath the sign of the Rohirric Unicorn. Whether that was Branor's destination or not, the carpenter headed straight for it. He was certain that the small figure drinking lustily from a pint of the Unicorn's brew was a halfling, and could be none other than Master Samwise Gamgee.

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Old 03-10-2011, 02:22 AM   #13
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Aldarion didn't bother to peek out of his cart as the troop approached the white city. Not only had he traveled to Minas Anor several times in his youth, but he was also quite busy reading The King's Players' production "Dragon Hunter". Somehow this particular work had fallen through the cracks and escaped his attention over the past couple years. Through the first half of the script Aldarion had been unable to determine which supposed historical event it was based upon, but he was slowly piecing together that it was a ridiculous version of the tale of Fram and Scatha. Where did they get this stuff? I mean really- how do you get 'Hadda' for 'Scatha'? And he has a midget-dragon sidekick that tells jokes?

When the cart stopped at the gate Aldarion whipped out ink and a quill and began editing- a task impossible to attempt in a moving cart. Half listening to the exchange between Brinn and the guard, Aldarion stopped writing mid-stroke and called forward to Rollan, "Did that guard say 'Lord Samwise the pheriannath' is visiting?" Rollan turned part way around and nodded.

Lord Samwise? No... it couldn't be the Samwise from the War of the Ring. He was just a stupid servant. Perhaps Sam is just a common name up that way.... Yes, that must be it.

A short time later Aldarion was holed up in his room getting on with his work. He thought for a moment of doing a bit of touch-up on the "Tale of the Ring" script, but gave it up as a bad job. I've already looked at it plenty, and they're unwilling to budge on the remaining changes I would recommend. Why do they insist on playing Saruman and Denethor as comic roles when they provide opportunity for such perfect madness and horror? That Rollan... I'm sure he could play a fine straight role if he'd just try! Or if they'd just let me put Therian in one of those roles. I wonder why Brinn always insists that Therian be a lady? Therian doesn't contradict her, but I can tell he's unhappy about it. Bah! But for the usual farmers we always perform for here in Minas Anor I doubt it makes much of a difference.
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Old 03-10-2011, 05:16 AM   #14
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Asta left the Common Room for the yard, a worried frown on her face. Brinn had begun the meal by announcing loudly that everything looked delicious and that she hoped she would not stuff herself, but had soon fallen into an abstracted daze and had barely touched what was on her plate, despite Rollan's coaxing. Asta sighed. That Rollan! He did his best, but he was only a man, and had no idea how much looking after her sister really required.

She heard a familiar step hurrying to join her.

"Asta! I zought– zat is, I vondered if– if you're not too busy–"

She turned. "Oh, thank you, Coldan, but I know my lines pretty well already–" seeing his crestfallen look, she added, "mind you, Aldarion does keep tinkering with the script; perhaps we should go over Mary the Elf's part once or twice before the rehearsal, to make sure there's no nasty surprises."

"Actually, I zought, I zought perhaps..." Coldan took a deep breath, and his cheeks flushed a dusky red, "...zat is... er... zat's exactly vat I vas about to suggest."

They quickly ran through Mary the Elf's lines, the prompter sitting on the back step of the wagon, and Asta pacing up and down in front of him. Acting was not really Asta's strong point, but what talent she had was quite equal to this minor rôle, and indeed she particularly enjoyed enacting the Elf-maid's tragic, self-sacrificial death. Poor Mary, always taken for granted by the rest of the Fellowship...

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Old 03-10-2011, 06:04 AM   #15
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Unknown to any of the gallant troupe, their presence in the White City, and on this particular occasion of honour, too, had been long ordained at the very highest circles of the Court.

Some months earlier, it had all begun - as have begun other stories, both direr wars and higher romances than our own - with a jest, a coincidence, and a letter.

***

"Excellent news at last," the Lord Warden of the Exchequer, Cirdacil the Venerable, Lord of Burlach, expatiated to his close family as he mouthed his way through a prongful of excellent emulsified goldspinach.

For he was a man of precise, albeit frugal, taste.

Around his table sat a surprisingly young-looking and colourful company, when one considered the almost ostentatiously plain appearance of their host. Ecsichil, heir to the sloping city fief of Burlach, was a stolid gentleman with an evident weakness for scarlet drapery, in which he had enswathed his wife to the point of near total invisibility. On this taciturn lady's other side sat the second son, a bachelor, who always went by the by-name of Sador because of his unfortunate leg, born wizened; yet he was a handsome, dapper little man who seemed unable to restrain the gleam of manic intelligence in his every movement and word.

In between the two men in age were their sisters, graceful, tolerant and by some peculiarity, taller than their brothers; Aerwen, the elder, a diligent seeker after knowledge, was unmarried and likely to remain so, but Circilie, the whole family's favourite for the obviousness of her physical attractions and the calming nature of her conversation, was yet a new bride. This made her visit a rare occasion of family satisfaction, especially as she brought her new lord. Their union was already a success, as Circilie's figure was beginning to intimate; the man under question was the noblest and fairest in the room, Lord Amlach of Dol Amroth, an unlooked for catch for the new noble house of Burlach.

They were all delighted to see him; and he, though bored, was even more polite.

"What news, father?" Sador shot back. "The strife in Harondor?" Between them, the patriarch and his second son had done most of the talking so far.

"Closer, and more to my satisfaction, boy. I list little for your foreign adventures. No, it is this; the Master of the Revels, that wastrel Hallas, has resigned his responsibilities to spend more time hunting on his estate..."

Amlach, unnoticed, looked a little more interested. It always astonished him how little curiosity his father-in-law displayed about the humane arts; perhaps this new fascination was the signal of a sudden character change?

"...and I think I have persuaded our royal lord not to replace him. We are living in uncertain times," Cirdacil plodded on, oblivious to his son-in-law wincing at the sentiment and the cliche alike, "and, if the Reunited Kingdom is to be more than, let us say, a dream upon parchment, then, as I have always said, retrenchment must be the order of the day..."

Amlach watched the family's reaction, suppressing his disgust by running a hand through his wife's bright ringlets. Ecsichil was trying to catch a horsefly with his mouth, apparently. Amlach had never heard Lady Ecsichil express a view on anything. Sador was clever enough to be sychophantically attentive, Aerwen was above it all, and Circilie was playing with his own feet, in an admittedly rather adorable way. What a bunch of cultural Khandings he had on his hands here...

"If you reduce Gondor to a silent banking-house," he found himself shouting, "what remains to retrench?"

Before Circilie had laid down her palliative, soft hand on his arm, the old vulture had replied.

"Why, dividends, my boy."

***

"The man is a warrior, a prince and statesman! He should know better, much better, than a joke in such poor taste! If, indeed..."

Fragments of the Lord Cirdacil's white beard, efficiently if wildly rent, were filtering across his study. One got up Sador's sensitive nostrils, but he kept his cough quiet.

"I am certain His Majesty means no action not commensurate with the dignity and respect in which he holds you, honoured father..."

"...which is nothing! It can be none, no dignity, if he acts thus..."

The piece of paper uppermost on the desk looked surpassingly innocent. A centralised secretary hand and written with the utmost neatness,

To the Lord of Burlach,

The King Elessar, long esteeming your trusty and well beloved care of His Majesty's Exchequer, would like to confer upon you additional, signal and delightful favour.

Mindful of your lordship's long and proven role as an arbiter of taste, and of your late counsel given upon the setting forth from Court of the Lord Hallas, the King Elessar hereby raises you to the office of Master of the Revels with instant effect.


***

Sador had at last formulated the right soothing sentence.

"Father, you are right as always. The great conqueror of the Enemy, the heir of Elendil, would never trouble himself with a jest."

"But what, then, boy? What is the meaning..."

"The king says he is mindful of the counsel you gave him, father. He has appointed you to this post so that you may prove the rectitude of your view of it, once and for all."

Cirdacil was getting very old and he knew his second son was very clever, but he was instantly quick enough in the art of courtly administration to gather his son's meaning.

"You mean, my lad, that I, and not Lord Hallas, am to be the last Master of the Revels in Gondor? Through the...exceptional...quality of my offerings?"

"Precisely, beloved sire."

Cirdacil sat down, at last exhausted with the effort of shouting, at the desk which bore the hated missive, and picked it up.

"The letter avers that the next great Revel is to be a play - the very worst, morally, and the most extravagant kind among these fripperies - at Cormare, and in time for the visit of some obscure municipal dignitary, a halfling, no less, from furthest Eriador. By the Tree, for our state to be yoked to those penniless Arnorian maniacs and pint-size talking Druedain..."

"Father, father, be careful what you say!"

But Cirdacil's outburst was over. He had relaxed back into thought.

"Sador, were you following your brother-in-law's conversation at luncheon, when he began to rail regrettably on the deplorable subject of his provincial theatre?"

"I always follow conversation, father."

"What was the name of that rag-tag crew of mountebanks he mentioned that unfortunate friend has joined?"

"Apparently they have the affrontery to call themselves the King's players, father."

"See to it that they are hired!"

Cirdacil smiled, at last, with fully relished pleasure; but the moment was short, and his wrinkled face was tortured by worry as he glanced back at his departing son.

"...but whatever you do, don't pay the rascals in advance."

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Old 03-10-2011, 09:35 AM   #16
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Branor got ahead of the others, as he fondly began recalling the best places in the city. When he spotted the sign with a white unicorn head, upon a green background and gold trim, he picked up the pace even more. It was one of Branor's favorite places in Minas Anor and he beckoned the others to follow him in.

The small tavern seemed busier, and thus more crowded, than what Branor remembered. When Amdir, Harrenon, and Therian caught up with Branor, Amdir perked up at the sight of someone he must have recognized. "I do believe, my friends, that is Master Samwise Gamgee."

The three players traded perturbed looks with eachother, all realizing there may be a serious issue with the script. "Please tell us that is a different Samwise and not the servant Sam of the War of the Ring?" Branor asked.

It was a brief slience, but an awkward one, as Amdir looked perplexed by the question. "Uh, no...that is Samwise, Frodo's loyal companion in the quest to Mount Doom, the one and only Master Samwise. I hear he is excited to watch your performance, along with his family."

Branor's reaction went from perturbed to near frantic damage control. He pushed through the chairs and crowd as quickly as he could to get to where the hobbit was sitting. The hobbit's clothes were plain, but were certainly not attire a simple servant would be able to afford.

"Pardon me, but are you Samwise Gamgee, former servant to the gallant Frodo Baggins?"

"I am." said the hobbit smiling, mostly due to the awkward phrasing of Branor's question.

"Umm, you should be...dead?" Branor felt a sharp and rather painful jab to his ribs. It was from Therian's elbow who had now been next to him. Normally he would cause a huge fuss over someone hitting him (even if it was just an innocent knock trying to tell him to tone down), but Branor was too focused on Sam to care.

"I am sorry if it disappoints you that I am not." Samwise was still smiling though, probably due to Branor's complete ignorance. However, the hobbit did seem hurt when Branor followed up by saying "It does!" Branor suppressed another pained grunt as he felt a stomp on his foot, this one from Harrenon who was now on his right side.

"Er...I mean, it does, because you see...Master (it was weird for Branor to use that title for someone he thought was just a dumb servant to a great warrior) Samwise, I...and well my friends with me are part of the King's Players."

"You are!?" Samwise was suddenly more interested and invested in wanting to talk with Branor now. "Why this is what Gandalf would have called a chance meeting, I believe. My wife, Rosie and our daughter, Elanor, and I are greatly anticipating your rendition of the War of the Ring at the Cormare!" Branor gulped. "That's all Elanor has been talking about, these past weeks. She keeps telling me she wants to see the tales of Samwise the Brave acted out, instead of just hearing me tell them. I am not the greatest of story tellers, that was always Master Bilbo's specialty."

"Eh, erm, the problem we have sir is...our script-writer, Aldarion has you dying when the ghastly Black Lords, and their demonic King, attacked on Weathertop. I myself questioned our writer about the accuracy of the histories he had found, but he insisted you were Frodo's servant, and were trampled by the Black King's tusked and fell steed. That is why you see, Master Samwise, I thought you should be dead!"

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Old 03-10-2011, 10:02 AM   #17
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"Please tell us that is a different Samwise and not the servant Sam of the War of the Ring?" Branor asked.

Amdír paused. The brief silence was awkward, as Amdír tried to discern why the actor would not want to meet the very subject of their play, and then said slowly, "No... that must be Master Samwise, who was Frodo's loyal companion in the quest to Mount Doom. I hear he has been invited to watch your performance, along with his family."

Amdír was about to say something about how King Elessar had also allegedly been invited, but considering Branor's reaction, perhaps it was just as well that he didn't get that far. The actor was distraught, and pushed through the crowd to get at the Hobbit, with Therian and Harrenon following somewhat more timidly.

"Umm, shouldn't you be...dead?" As Therian elbowed Branor, Amdír figured out why the actor was so distraught. Clearly, the Players' script had a somewhat different ending than the veteran remembered. Fortunately, Master Samwise seemed to be taking it well--though Amdír was not listening to everything either he or the actors were saying.

"Eh, erm, the problem we have sir is...our script-writer, Aldarion has you dying when the ghastly Black Lords and their demonic King, attacked on Weathertop. I myself questioned our writer about the accuracy of the histories he had found, but he insisted you were Frodo's servant, and were trampled by the Black King's tusked and fell steed. That is why you see, Master Samwise, I thought you should be dead!"

The Hobbit seemed a little taken aback at Branor's somewhat frantic attempt at damage control, and Amdír decided to say something himself, before the actor decided that the Hobbit's pause was cause for further wild statements.

"I'm sure it will all reflect on you very well, Master Samwise," he said. "I was present in the crowd for King Elessar's return and coronation, and I well remember three other Hobbits standing with Lord Meriadoc. I'm sure it's well-known that you're... er... alive and well. Probably Branor is just misremembering the script--after all, the first rehearsal isn't until tonight."

Then Amdír had a stroke of genius.

"Perhaps you could give us your own account of events--just so that we can make sure there aren't any errors in the script. Little errors, I mean--I'm sure you don't actually die in it." The Players waited with baited breath for the Hobbit to make an answer.

"I reckon you have it right enough," said Master Samwise after a long draw on his pipe. "I was indeed Mr. Frodo's servant by all rights, what with tending his gardens with my gaffer from my tween years. We came to close enough to death in Mordor as it was. If Gandalf hadn't come and saved us on those giant eagles, the Black Rider probably would have had us, if the fires of Mt. Doom didn't get us first."

The hobbit drew on his pipe again.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:35 AM   #18
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Therian was relieved. "Our apologies for our friend Brandor's memory lapse, Master Samwise."

Sam took a sip from his pint, his small fist dwarfed by it. Was that the fist that brought down the Dark Lord? A fist so small that a pint of beer could crush it?

Sam smiled. "Well, I always said I was the simple one, really. Simple Sam, my gaffer always said, though Pip was the fool." He laughed to himself, and Therian wondered if there was some story there. "But far's I know, I didn't die."

"And," Therian added, "We are quite glad to learn it for ourselves first hand. It is not every day one meets a true hero."

"Ah, well," Sam said, "there were heroes of all shapes in those days. Any what stood against the big bad, that is, and that was not easy never mind how big or small or live or dead you might be. Dead was not so permanent then, you know. Even when King Elessar - he was Strider to us back then - came with the Dead Army, people ran with fear, but it turns out they were on our side, even if they were more on their own, if you follow me."

"I am sure we all do. Another drink?"

"Ah, yes, maybe just one more."

"A Dead Army? Ghosts? I had heard something of it," Therian lied, having never heard such a thing at all, "but I thought it must have been a mistake. Ghosts with swords? How could a ghost hold a sword?"

"Ah, well, you see, I never knew quite how that worked, but I think mostly folk saw them coming and just ran without staying to find it out themselves."

"I would fight gallantly!" Branor boasted.

"No doubt you would, Brandor," Sam said. "Some did. Princess Eowyn fought better'n most, and that Witch King was dead as they come!"

"Branor," Brandor corrected.

Therian elbowed him in the side. "Eowyn? The Shieldmaiden? She was truly there at the battle, amongst all the men? And truly fought the Dread Fell Rider of the Demon Black Dragon Beast? Tell me, is it true a witch cast a spell to give her the body of a man so she could fight and actually win?"
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:38 AM   #19
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Sereth didn't really feel like eating, but she tried to. Brinn would think something was wrong if she didn't eat, and Brinn had too much in her hands already so Sereth didn't want to add to her concerns.

The chicken was well prepared and delicious, but Sereth could not bring herself to enjoy the taste. She told herself she must be going crazy. What was wrong with her? She had been acting all her life and suddenly she felt nervous about it.

Of course, she always cared about how people liked her and how her performance was received, but it had always been a more pleasant sensation of anticipation. This year was different though. She didn't feel so comfortable with the role of Frodo anymore. It was a crucial role, but she would have swapped places with Therian any day, or with Asta, or anything... You're not old enough, she told herself, although another part of her kept asking why not?

Still, she could live with the situation. Any role that would take her to the stage was something to be happy about, and something as big as she now had should make her grateful. She needed to rehearse more. She wanted to make Frodo perfect - as heroic and as strong-willed and brave as he was in all the legends. And that would not work if she had this silly anxiety inside her.

And she could not eat either, she was chewing the same piece of chicken for more than a minute now. With effort, Sereth swallowed it and turned to Brinn, who was sitting next to her. She blurted out the foolish question that had been on her mind ever since they entered the city:

"Brinn - the Lord Samwise is not surely the Samwise?"
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:44 PM   #20
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Rollan was right--Brinn did need the food. She ate quickly, though neatly--there was still so much to be done!

Sereth, meanwhile, was only picking at her food--and she of such a growing age, too! She hoped the girl was not getting stagestruck, so odd in someone who had lived the theatrical life the way Sereth had. She looked up at Brinn, and suddenly said: ""Brinn - the Lord Samwise is not surely the Samwise?"

Brinn creased her brow. It had been something she was trying not to think on. "I do not know," she said. "Surely I had heard that Frodo was left to make the final stages of the journey alone, and the loss of his servant had heightened the tension so much more! You must admit it made the play much more dramatic!"

Rollan spoke up from his food--he had a bit of a belly and took especial care to furnish it at mealtimes. "But I don't think we have much to worry about from him. You heard the guard himself--he's a lord, and not likely to care so much about common entertainment, especially on the First Circle! He'll probably be too caught up in all the ceremony in the Citadel to give us any trouble."

"Even lords need to laugh, Rollan," said Brinn. "And Sereth has a point, anyhow. Everyone here knows that this Lord Samwise is a guest here, and his family. We may have to change things a little, just so they won't be confused, whether he is the same Samwise or not. Pay it little heed, Seri." She smiled, only a little more confidently than she felt. "We'll make it work, whatever it is that happens."

They finished their meal in silence--Sereth only half cleaning her plate. Brinn frowned, but didn't say anything. On their way back to the carts, Brinn took Rollan aside and said, "Do you think we should ask Aldarion to change the script?"

"Depends. Can we make him the comical sidekick? Ah, yes--the rustic, country lad, always quick to see the joy in a situation with his native wit!"

"You're too tall, love."

"I'll walk on my knees!" cried Rollan, and he immediately suited the action to the word, eliciting a laugh and a quick swipe on the head from Brinn.

That brought to mind another question, though--if the Samwise in the play was an esquire, how was it that he was now a lord?

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Old 03-10-2011, 01:07 PM   #21
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Harrenon wondered whether he had ever had the misfortune to be in a more uncomfortable situation before and decided that it surely was not possible. Nothing could have been worse than what was happening now. They had been in Minas Anor for less than an hour and Branor had already insulted someone who appeared to be a very important person in the city– despite everything they had heard of him. He stepped on Branor’s foot quickly, but did not dare to admonish him in front of Lord Samwise. He told himself that he should be thankful; that at least Branor had had enough tact to tell Samwise “We thought you were dead” than “We thought you were nothing more than Frodo’s halfwit servant”. Why had they been lead to believe that anyway? What else had they got wrong?

Harrenon was grateful that Amdir had the presence of spirit to ask Samwise for an account of what had actually happened. It was better that they knew soon what other false knowledge they had than to present an erroneous version in front of Lord Samwise and his family and who knew what other important personages. He listened apprehensively to the conversation.

Harrenon had to roll his eyes at Therian’s question about Lady Eowyn. It sounded ridiculous even to him and he was not so sure where Therian had heard that one. He turned his attention to Samwise to hear what he had to say.

“Now really,” Samwise said slightly uncertainly. “I haven’t heard any of the sort. There were no witches then – unless you count Lady Galadriel and she was in Lorien at the time. I’m sure Lady Eowyn was very much herself when she felled the Nazgul. But I wasn’t there, of course. Master Merry would know more.”

“Master Mary?” Harrenon asked puzzled, wondering why Samwise was calling an elf-maiden master. An elf-maiden who, moreover, should have been dead long before the battle of Pelennor Fields.

“Yes, of course,” Sam replied fixing Harrenon with a questioning stare. “ Master Meriadoc Brandybuck. Surely he too is in your play, isn’t he?”

“He…” Harrenon repeated, his voice dry, desperately attempting to compose himself and not give away another blunder the Players had apparently made. “Why…yes…yes, of course he is…”

He could see panic in Branor and Therian’s eyes and he could not blame them. Harrenon tried not to imagine how the others would react when he told them that particular piece of news.

“If I tell them Mary the elf-maiden of Rivendell is actually Meriadoc Brandybuck of the Shire,” Harrenon thought, swallowing uncomfortably. “Brinn and Aldarion are going to kill me. as for Asta…well, Asta will surely feed my body to the mechanical dragon if I tell her she’s actually supposed to be playing Meriadoc the Hobbit who doesn’t even die when we thought she…well, he did.”
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:11 PM   #22
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Branor's teeth grinded when Therian told Master Samwise that his name was Brandor. However, causing a scene in front the Lord and in the Rohirric Unicorn would be most rude and unprofessional. Branor knew what Therian was getting at, because on more than one occassion Therian had taken delight in provoking him. If that's the game Therian wanted to play, Branor knew precisely how to get back at him.

But there seemed to be more than just Samwise being alive that the King's Players have gotten wrong. As the hobbit began telling the troupe about the real Lady Eowyn, and Meriadoc Brandybuck increased panic crept in Branor's face. Branor thought they needed to keep composure though, because Sam's curiousity about the play was growing, "I must say these are some of the strangest questions about the War of the Ring that I have ever been asked. Of course the Lady Eowyn, was a lady and Master Merry was a he..."

Branor was sorely tempted to let Therian reply and hang himself by letting him boast to Master Samwise where he believed women truly belonged in society. However, since Amdir and Therian recovered for Branor's slip up well enough, Branor decided to in the very least, repay the favor.

"Yes, of course, we know that stuff. We have a firm grasp on the true events, but have met none of the real heroes we are to portray. So, we want to make sure we get their true personality and characters as close as possible. Why Harrenon is the dashing Elf Prince Legolas, as well as the dreadful Witch-King and my friend Therian, is interested in the Lady Eowyn, as he will be playing the Lady in our tale." But Branor, could not resist taking an underhanded swipe that he thought would get under Therian's skin. "Afterall, he is a strapping boy, is he not? I mean, with his youthful and adorable face, I thought he was perfect for the part. I, naturally, am to play the King Elessar." Branor proclaimed proudly.

"Is that so?" Sam replied. "Well, you may be interested to hear that the King has been invited to attend the performance too. I have no doubt, King Elessar would be most pleased to be portrayed by an actor as great and noble as yourself, Brandor." Branor ignored the mistake, mostly because it was clear to him, Sam had recognized his true gift. However, he did not catch the slightest of smirks that Sam gave Therian.

"Tell me about King Elessar some more, if you do not mind all these interruptions and questions. It would be the highest of honours if the King attended our humble play, and saw me in his role. I do not want to act as Branor would act, but truly want to transform into the wise and great King Elessar, on stage."

"I do not mind the interruption at all. It is not every day that you get to meet and talk with the actors who are playing as you, and your friends." Samwise raised his mug of ales and motioned for all four of them to sit. "Let me see, there is a lot I can say about King Elessar, or Aragorn as Mister Frodo and I called him, or Strider, as he was known in Bree.

'Indeed he did have many names, not as many as Gandalf, but still a handful. I do not want to keep you from your business too long, so I will tell you my first impression of the man. I will never forget that, at the Prancing Pony in Bree. He was the most dishevelled man I ever did see and was in desperate need of a bath." Wait, hold on? King Elessar, dirty? And smelly!? With all due respect, Master Samwise had to be wrong about the King.

'In fact, I told Mr. Frodo, that Strider had to be up to no good. He had done nothing but eye my master from a dark corner. I said he had to be a spy of the Enemy, and could not be trusted." Yes. Samwise, has to have someone confused with King Elessar. He was wrong and when Branor was just about to correct him..."I could not have been more wrong about him!" Ha, I knew it! "I am sure you know all the tales of his great and heroic deeds, so I will not go into all that, but Mr. Frodo and I owe him our lives. After Mr. Frodo defeated the Dark Lord, Gandalf had told us how Aragorn strove against the Dark Lord thru a palantir and then marched an army to Black Gates. It was all a diversion, to draw Sauron's Eye away from us, as you rightfully know."

That was it! It all made sense to Branor now. King Elessar's many names, his disgusting uncleanliness when the warrior Frodo, and his ignorant servant, first met him. Elessar was a secret double-spy! It was clear now, how Frodo was able to defeat the Dark Lord in single combat. No doubt, Frodo was a worthy champion, but that part of the tale always seemed fishy to Branor. Distracted Sauron by striving against him with the palantir. And Frodo obviously knew how to defeat the Dark Lord because Aragorn had given Frodo secret intel. Strider...no Aragorn! No Elessar! The secret double-spy-king, one of Sauron's most trusted spies, was really working for the greatest warrior in history, Master Frodo Baggins, and gave Frodo all the information he needed to defeat the Dark Lord in single combat! What this palantir thing the Master Samwise mentioned, Branor did not know, but he was sure to bring all of this new information to Aldarion's attention.

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Old 03-10-2011, 05:39 PM   #23
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Therian liked this Samwise quite a lot. More than he had ever liked Branor, at any rate.

"Branor," he asked, "Can I buy you another drink?"

Get him drunk, was the idea. Drunk enough that later, at rehearsal, he would flub his lines. I am the Thing, and I have returned! The King, I mean, I am the King, and I... it... Brinn, yer so pretty, did I ever tell you yer so pretty?

Therian snickered into his mug. "So, Master Samwise, if you do not mind me asking, how..." Therian considered his phrasing carefully. Meriadoc might still be a girl, after all, but it did not seem quite right, somehow. "How would you describe Mary? As... manly?"

"Ah," Sam swigged. "More like hobbity, though taller'n most."

That was unhelpful. "But... Mary... was Mary... at times in touch... with a gentler side?"

Sam raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Always got on well with the wee ones. My own girl Elanor is a favorite of Merry's. Always going on about playing Nine and Riders with Merry and Pip..."

Therian was at a loss, and the others seemed equally perturbed. It would not do to admit to Master Sam that they had no idea at all who this Meriadoc person was. Therian changed the subject. "Prince Peregrin, we know quite a deal about, since he is so well famed hereabouts, but Gimli... would you say he and Legolas... Well, were they quite close? With each other, I mean?"
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Old 03-10-2011, 06:01 PM   #24
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For all that Coldan had meant to spend his precious time with Asta somewhat differently, he did not regret missing out on the taverns of Minas Anor for now. Rehearsing her part with her was one of the few occasions when he didn't have to worry what to say to her but could simply sit there, listen to her voice and watch her, and for once, he didn't mind her forgetting about his presence while his eyes drank the peculiar northern charm of her sharp-cut features in rapt admiration.

Right now, she was in the middle of her romantic dialogue with Boromir at Rauros, which wasn't exactly Coldan's favourite part of the play. Truth to be told, it was largely responsible for the silently smoldering grudge he harboured against Aldarion. He could forgive the playwright for being wildly more successful as a writer than himself, even though his plays, in Coldan's opinion, were routine hack work entirely devoid of poetic genius; but to write a love story between his own character and Asta's into the play and get to kiss her on stage every night! How dare he! The worst thing was, for all Coldan could tell, she might even enjoy it.

Fool, he scolded himself, you have only yourself to blame. He should have declared his feelings to her long ago; the Valar knew there had been occasions enough. Not that he had much hope of her reciprocating - not with men like Aldarion or Branor around - , but to simply let the state of things continue like that was intolerable. If only her mere presence had not that strange power to scatter the carefully chosen words in his head like so much chaff and reduce him to incoherent stammering!

Noticing a brief hesitation in her voice, he snapped out of his miserable thoughts and offered, "I vill cleave - "

"I will cleave to you, Boromir, and turn from the Twilight", she continued, and he sighed with relief as they came to the end of the love scene and Boromir's death. On they went through the rest of her part - Mary's brief captivity with the Orcs, her escape and meeting with the Walking Trees of Fangorn Forest, her ride with the Rohirrim, and finally her valiant fight against the Witch-King and her tragic self-sacrifice, which Asta mimed with gusto. Coldan relished that scene especially. Although his love didn't blind him to the limits of her talent as an actress in general, it was unmistakable that this was her favourite scene and she put her whole soul into it. Not for the first time he found himself thinking that she would make a far better shieldmaiden than that pathetic Therian.

When she had finished impaling herself on an imaginary Witch-King's imaginary sword, he applauded enthusiastically. "Splendid! You're almost perfect. Only one very minor zing - ze scene vere you convince ze Valking Trees to plant zemselves in Isengard could perhaps do viz a little more fine-tuning. Maybe ve should go zrough zat once more?"

"Thank you", she replied curtly, "but it must be nearing nine bells. Isn't it about time for Branor and the others to come back? They'll be late for the group rehearsal!"
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:50 PM   #25
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Branor briefly contemplated Therian's offer. This was odd, Branor thought the whole time Therian was sincerely trying to provoke him. Maybe the elbow jabs and telling Master Samwise his name was Brandor were simple misunderstandings, and Therian was now trying to apologize. "I think I will, my boy, I am glad to see you have learned a lesson in apologies today."

Therian practically jumped out of his seat and quickly came back with a pint for Branor, and Master Samwise began telling the troupe about Legolas and Gimli. "Yes, I would say they were very close with eachother. They were as close as two people could get, I'd say just as close as Mr. Frodo and I. In those days, it was unheard of for an elf and a dwarf to have the friendship those two had."

When Branor finished his first pint, he saw Therian had taken the empty mug away and gave him a second. After the second one, Therian was still offering to buy him another drink. Only this time he asked if Branor could foot the bill and now being as drunk as he was, Branor had no problem doing, "Of course, my boy, of course" Branor emptied all the coins from one of his pockets and looked at the amount. "I will tell you....bring me 'nother pint right back, to this spot. Right in fron' of me. And how about you get another one for my new friend Masser Samwise. Tell you what too, since you..." he grabbed Therian's shoulder firmly, but in a friendly manner "yes you, have been such a kind friend lately...treat yourself to somethin'." Branor looked at the lump of coins in his hand again, as he slowly handed one coin at a time to Therian, until Branor had handed him all the coins. "Ther ya go, my boy, that shuld do it." He had handed Therian more than enough for three pints.

Soon it became clear to Amdir that it was nearing the hour when the players had to make it back to dress rehearsals. It was also clear, the trip might take a bit longer, as Branor was going to need to be half-carried back. "Thank you kindly for everything, Master Samwise. You have given us good details, that I do believe will make this a play to remember."

Branor managed to make it out of the tavern on his own, but it was soon clear he would need help walking back to the inn. Branor was hanging with one of his arms draped around Harrenon's shoulder, who seemed to be struggling keeping him up straight. Therian came over to lend his shoulder.

"I think I will take you all back with a different way, and hope the slower route will sober Branor up some." said Amdir, and Therian sniggered.

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Old 03-11-2011, 09:07 AM   #26
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Naturally, Brinn and Rollan were both getting ready at a leisurely pace in their wagon and it was clear from their idle chatter that it had dawned on neither that anything was amiss.

Asta gritted her teeth. Often it seemed to her that she was the only member of the troupe who ever had her wits about her.

"...might work," Brinn was saying as she helped her husband into the long robe dyed and patched in many violent and clashing hues that he wore as Saruman, the Mad Magician, "if we can get Aldarion to agree to some more revisions–"

Rollan laughed and said that the problem with Aldarion was usually getting him to stop. He started to add something futher about Aldarion's endless "improvements" to the Boromir-and-Mary scene but broke off as he noticed Asta climbing in from the back step.

"It's the troupe– they're gone!" she announced. "I mean, they're still not back yet! No sign of them, and it's close-on nine bells already. Brinn, could something have happened to them? What if someone drugged their ale in the tavern and now they're being carted off to Rhûn to be sold as slaves! I've heard stories, you know... We have to do something!"

They both tried to calm her, Rollan quipping that a bit of slavery would do Branor a world of good, and Brinn pointing out how many of Asta's alarms had proved false in the past, adding that she was sure there was still plenty of time and that Asta was probably imagining it was later than it really was.

Brinn did not get very far with this argument, however, for even as she spoke the silvery clamour of bells began, chime after chime ringing in the ninth hour since dawn. The three of them looked at each other in dismay.

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Old 03-11-2011, 10:49 AM   #27
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The bells started ringing for the ninth hour, and Amdír noted with mild alarm that they had not yet returned--indeed they were a few blocks away yet. Harrenon and Therian also noted the time, but Branor did not seem to grasp its significance.

"Do you think we can march at a faster pace?" asked Amdír, though Therian had already jerked Branor to move more speedily.

"We've already got the bad news that the play will need rewriting," he continued. "Let's not aggravate Brinn further by being later than need be."

"Bad newsh?" said Branor. "Rewriting the script is good! All Hail Elessaragorn Stridesalot, Spy-King of Arnor! Aldarion's going to love me!"

"So much for sobering him up," said Harrenon, even though Amdír thought they'd actually made progress since they left the Rohirric Unicorn. Branor's speech was hardly slurred anymore, though his walking was not yet steady.

As it turned out, they were only six minutes late when they finally reached the waggons... but Brinn already stood waiting.
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:46 AM   #28
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Brinn flashed a brief "I told you so" look at Asta before turning on the latecomers. True, five minutes was not such a terrible thing, but when you had been given six hours you really ought to be able to show up at least a little early.

"What took you so long?" she said. "Where have you been?"

Branor swayed a little on the spot. Oh, not again...

"And what in the Enemy's name were you doing, drinking so early--and when we have work to do?"

"Brinn," said Branor. "Shumthing important I need to tell you--the King--"

Doesn't have enough lines, Brinn thought.

Brinn pinched the bridge of her nose. "We don't have time for that now," she said. "Therian, Harrenon, freshen him up a bit, if it can be managed. We start in a quarter of an hour."

Sighing, she walked over to greet Amdir and begin discussing with him the sets, and what exactly had happened.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:24 PM   #29
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Aldarion glanced out of the window beside his writing desk, his attention swayed by the sound of crunching gravel and low murmuring.

"What took you so long?" he heard Brinn admonish. "Where have you been?"

Well finally they're back! Do they really have such little respect for rehearsals? Aldarion shoved aside his editing work and hopped out of the window to join the troop in the inn courtyard.

"Therian, Harrenon, freshen him up a bit, if it can be managed," ordered Brinn. "We start in a quarter of an hour."

Aldarion groaned, turned around, and walked back to his window and reached through it to grab the script on his desk. I may as well work on this travesty a bit while I wait. The dragon's death scene needs to be rewritten from the roots up I would say. I mean really- Fram throws a rock that knocks one of Scatha's teeth down his throat which then stabs through his stomach and causes him to bleed to death? Even if true, it's ridiculously anticlimactic.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:38 PM   #30
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For an older man to a younger woman of roughly the same social status, Amdír tended to be extremely deferential to Brinn. Whether it was because she was head of the company his master had assigned him to assist, or out of some reverence for her stage name and vast travel experience, the fact was that Brinn slightly awed the old carpenter. Consequently, since he had never before been involved in something that displeased her, being a reliable and punctual man, and not generally involved with Brinn except where the setpieces were concerned, and thus it was with a gulp in his throat that he responded when she called him over.

"We should probably discuss the sets tonight," she said, "since I remember it took a good week last year to get the old pieces out of storage, and back into the city, and that was without having to modify them drastically. First, though, what happened to Branor? He can be too heavy with his drinking, but he rarely gets like this before nightfall."

"He was, ah, overcome," said Amdír, fumbling for a precise way to put it. "Overcome by good fortune, I suppose you could say. Master Samwise Gamgee was at the Rohirric Unicorn, and let us speak with him for quite some time about his life and our play."

"Samwise Gamgee... the Halfling?" said Brinn. "Surely you don't mean the one in our play?"

"Yes," said Amdír, "Branor made the mistake of telling him he's dead, and the drinking started, I think, as an attempt to win Master Samwise's goodwill. I think that Branor had some idea of getting him to recount his memories of the War, so that he'd have material to give Aldarion, so that he could rework the play to not offend Master Samwise."

"Offend Master Samwise? Why should he care?"

"Apparently Master Samwise and his family are planning to attend the play," explained Amdír. "He said that his daughter has spoken of it frequently."

"So Branor drank too much because he was afraid because a Hobbit servant and his family might watch a play where he doesn't really appear?" Brinn was still confused, and Amdír realised that she did not know that the King was being invited.

"Well, he might have drank too much because Therian was encouraging him," admitted Amdír, wondering a second later if he should have said it, "but we were all anxious. Master Samwise isn't just some Hobbit servant--he and his family are the guests of King Elessar."

The dawn of comprehension appeared in Brinn's eyes.

"I should also mention that Lord Cirdacil--he's the new Master of Revels--mentioned to me that he was inviting King Elessar to this play, since he is so prominently figured in the tale it recounts."

Amdír let the import of his news sink in rather than press on with a further list of his own concerns about Master Samwise dying in the First Act--if he appeared at all.
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Old 03-12-2011, 12:13 PM   #31
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"So then he says, he says 'Of course she was a lady the whole time! That was the point, wasn' it?' and I says to him, 'In her heart, sure, but I mean in her armor. There wasn' any witchery or anything? Are you sure?' and he says he cannot be sure because he wasn' there hisself, what with being in Mordor at the time and all, but he was pretty downright sure that she was always a woman the whole time, even when she got hit with the mace and had her arm broke."

"I was there too," Branor groaned, his head wobbling a little. He looked down to double check that he was, in fact, sitting on the edge of a wagon. "I know what the halfling said. He said the King was a secret spy!"

"Really, Bran, he said no such thing."

"He did!"

Therian considered this. At first he had been inclined to keep his drunken associate from making a fool of himself to the Boss. But as Brinn glanced toward them, Therian thought better of it. Let Branor tell her that King Elessar was mucking around with allegiances during the War. Let him tell her he needed new lines written. You thought I was on your side, Dark Lord, but who is the lord now, huh? Who is the lord now!

Yes, let him tell her that...
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Old 03-12-2011, 03:25 PM   #32
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Aldarion watched the exchange intently. Branor was obviously drunk, so his account could not be trusted. Was the whole thing a joke or a misunderstanding? The primary point thus far seemed to be that Samwise was not a simple servant but an important Hobbit that now ruled the Shire- AND Samwise and the King himself would be attending the performance! If these things were true, some serious rewriting was in order, and perhaps some recasting.

Aldarion quietly moved forward towards the conversation, not wanting to miss a word.
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Old 03-12-2011, 04:32 PM   #33
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When Asta had left him standing there and run away to alert Brinn and Rollan, Coldan had tried to make the best of the situation and sequestered himself in his room in order to spend what time he could working on the play he had been writing (or pretending to write) for the last three years: The Fall of King Bladorthin, a historical tragedy in five acts chronicling the last days of the greatest king of Dorwinion. One day, when it was completed, he hoped he would be able to convince Brinn to perform it, and it would earn him the fame he deserved and put that over-prolific scribbler Aldarion in his place. The only problem with that was he had to finish it first, and circumstances seemed always to conspire against his making any substantial progress with the composition, so that after three years, he still hadn't written down more than a few pages of prologue and the beginning of Act I.

This Yavannië afternoon, circumstances conspired as busily as ever, for he had scarcely chewed the end of his quill for a quarter of an hour when he heard agitated voices in the courtyard. At first he tried to ignore them, refusing to let himself be disturbed, but suddenly it dawned on him that Branor and his companions must have returned and the rehearsal was about to begin any moment. Cursing, he dropped the quill, making an ugly blot on the much corrected manuscript, and hurried to join the others.

He was quite surprised to find that rather than getting ready to rehearse, the troupe was gathered around Branor, who was to all appearances solidly plastered and babbling incoherent stuff about the King being a secret spy. Bewildered, he nudged Harrenon, who was standing next to him, and whispered: "Could you please enlighten me vat ze Udûn is going on here?"
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Old 03-12-2011, 04:54 PM   #34
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The King? The King had been invited? Granted, Brinn understood the importance of courtesy invitations, but Amdir seemed to think that this was something more...

What was more, she trusted his judgment--he'd been a good worker for them, had a good head on his shoulders, and knew Minas Anor the way the players never would.

"How likely do you think it is that he would accept?" she said.

"We should plan, at any rate--Master Samwise seemed very interested in attending, and he has the King's ear."

There were butterflies in Brinn's stomach. Nervously, she swallowed and tamped them down. "We won't do anything until we have confirmation--surely, if the King himself, or even his royal guest, is attending, someone will want to ensure they have the prime seats. In the meantime, we rehearse as usual. Thank you for telling me this news, Amdir--Cirdacil, you say, is the man in charge of this? You'll have to tell me more about him."

Fifteen minutes later, Brinn stood in the inn-yard. The stage waggon's front was down, with all the set markings chalked in. Fortunately, at this point very little was there, although Asta would want to run the mechanicals, of course.

She cleared her throat and looked on at their audience--three cats and one small child. More would come, no doubt, as the show progressed. "My lords and ladies--" Strange, that some might actually be there this year! "--and people of Minas Anor, come and see the deeds of days past, come to life before your very eyes! We, the King's Players, will take you on a journey to the dark days of the War of the Ring, sharing with you the mighty deeds done, when all of Middle-earth lay under shadow, and the bravery of those who broke it. Watch and see, and let your minds now be drawn to earlier times and far-off lands, to the peaceful land called Shire, whence came the mighty warrior, Frodo the Halfling, and his companions!"

She withdrew to the side, clapping to encourage the invisible audience, as Sereth--looking all too nervous for Brinn's tastes--Coldan, and Amdir, stepped on the stage.

Then she walked back to find Aldarion and discuss with him what might have to happen if they needed to rewrite the script.
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Old 03-12-2011, 04:55 PM   #35
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“Could you please enlighten me vat ze Udun is going on here?”

Harrenon turned when Coldan nudged him and smiled wryly in answer to the latter’s question. Indeed, they seemed to have gotten themselves into a very fine mess. They had not even started the rehearsals yet – although they were quite behind schedule at the moment – nor did it seemed likely for them to start too soon if Branor did not sober up fast. And Branor’s state was not the most worrying thing. There was also the problem of what they had found out at the tavern. Harrenon sighed and shook his head,

“Branor got a little…over-enthusiastic with the drink,” he told Coldan. “Although, you could say this time it was not entirely his fault,” he added, casting Therian a pointed look. “And, well, there was also the unexpected encounter in the tavern…”

Harrenon paused, noticing that Aldarion had approached the group and was now listening attentively. Harrenon inspected him carefully, trying to determine his mood. Would he be too angry when Harrenon told him that most likely they would have to change a few important parts in the play? He took a deep breath and began, looking anywhere but at his fellow players:

“See, we ran into a Hobbit, and Amdir introduced him as Master Samwise and said he was Frodo’s companion. Apparently he is not dead. Nor is he the bumbling fool we believed he was…”

Harrenon paused, wondering whether it was safe to address the problem of Mary the Elf too, but then he decided that he should not be the only bearer of bad news. He would give Therian the chance of doing that. He had been at the tavern too, after all. Instead, Harrenon turned back to Coldan:

“So you see,” he finished. “You could say we are having a few…well, a few misfortunes.”
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:26 PM   #36
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(slightly in retrospect)

"Stop!" Sereth shouted. "With this ring I command the very breath in your lungs!" Her clear voice echoed in the small street behind the inn and a few mongrel-looking dogs started barking and running around, scaring off the pigeons on the roof.

Not nearly commanding enough, Sereth thought, even the dogs don't take me seriously, they just create more racket. Now the smaller dog was chasing the bigger one, and they managed to knock over a bucket full of water near the backdoor of the kitchen.

"Stop!" bellowed a voice from the open window. "Blackie and Nosey, stop right now!" The smaller dog let out a small wail, but both dogs stopped on the tracks. The innkeeper's son - a burly and unfriendly-looking man in his mid-twenties - came out and started telling the dogs off their behaviour. Sereth slipped to the shadows and quietly started making her way to the courtyard, smiling. Now she knew exactly what tone to use.

She heard the silver chiming of the bells. Should be there already! she thought and started making her way to the courtyard hurriedly.

It proved more difficult than she had thought, because she found two dead ends before finally getting to the main street which led to the inn. She had always been bad with directions, but she was sure that this time it was really because she didn't concentrate. Brinn won't like me being late, she thought. She really didn't want to give Brinn any more worries than she already had because of the big show coming up, but she just kept failing today.

She arrived just in time to see Amdír, Therian, Branor and Harrenon appear. She listened to their story with growing agitation. Surely it wasn't the Samwise and sure he wasn't coming see them and sure not the King too! How could she ever do her role so that it would please two of Frodo the Great Warrior's friends and companions on that dangerous journey?

Also, Branor was drunk, which was not good. He would mess up the rehearsal in that state, and she really didn't like the unfocused look in his eyes. It brought very old memories of Stepdad, and they were not pleasant. Therian was not much better, there was something in his attitude that Sereth didn't like. Not that she liked him too much in general, but he seemed especially mean tonight. Old Amdír at least was making sense and Harrenon - well, Sereth preferred not to pay too much attention to him because recently being too close to the young man with wild black hair and bright eyes had become slightly uncomfortable.

She stopped involuntarily stealing glances at Harrenon's direction when Brinn's words drilled into hear head "...in the meantime, we rehearse as usual. Thank you for telling me this news, Amdir--Cirdacil, you say, is the man in charge of this? You'll have to tell me more about him." Thank Eru! Sereth thought and hurried to busy herself with the costumes and stage design.

Fifteen minutes later, Brinn was welcoming the audience which was of course non-existent at this point. At their cue, Sereth stepped on the stage with Amdír and Coldan. She turned at Coldan's direction and was supposed to introduce their mission to the servant, but when she looked at him she couldn't help but say instead: "Coldan, you have ink on your face."
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:52 PM   #37
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Therian watched the rehearsal progress. He would not be needed until the Players got as far as the Misty Mountains, when he would don a cloak, be an orc, and die. Until then, he would serve a different purpose.

Sereth shot him an ugly look and Therian was reminded yet again that he was unwelcome in the company. Pity, because the girl was quite lovely, and in a few short years when she was marriageable, he had thought she might make a good match. Feisty, she was. She had seen the world, and knew of its troubles, and was still charming. Of course she wanted to spend her life as a director or some such, but she would grow out of that once it was time to get married and have children. All headstrong women did, after all. But she was young, so there was plenty of time for her to realize the error of her ways.

"Brinn," Therian said, "we've run into a bit of a problem."

"Yes, I've heard. The King is coming, and Samwise is not an idiot, and everything is going wrong."

"Yes..." He hesitated, "but what I was thinking was actually that there may be two characters named Mary. You see, Master Samwise told us that there is a hobbit named Mary, and the description did not sound much at all like our Mary. So it seems as though Merry the hobbit came along as far as Bree, where Mary the Elf lass joined them, and then Mary the Elf never made it as far as the final battle, which is why there was confusion about there being more than one..."

Brinn buried her face in her hands.

"Or there might just be one Merry and he is a he, and he is also only a couple feet tall, and he may or may not own the parts of the Shire that Samwise and Prince Peregrin do not? It was all pretty confusing, especially with Branor talking all about how our dinner companion was not really alive..."
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Old 03-12-2011, 07:02 PM   #38
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As Aldarion stood beside the stage dressed as King Butterbur, he heard Therian inform Brinn that there was possibly a huge problem with the "Mary the Elf" character. Unable to contain himself any longer, Aldarion stepped onto the stage right into the middle of Amdir, Coldan, and Sereth, who had been acting out an early scene from the Shire.

"Stop, stop, stop!" Aldarion insisted, not looking at anyone in particular. The actors froze and looked at Aldarion, perhaps wondering what they had done wrong. The players not featured in the scene looked up at Aldarion as well. He took a deep breath and spoke. "Should we really be rehearsing? Because from what I gather, we have one character in this thing that shouldn't be, we kill a character that should live and have more lines, our primary character is all wrong, and the actor that plays him is drunk!!"

A couple players slowly opened their mouths only to close them again. After a few seconds of silence, Aldarion spoke once more. "If these reports are true, then we essentially have a brand new production on our hands, and the sooner we get things sorted out the better. Personally I would prefer to perform some other tale- "The Fall of Smaug" or "The Halfling & The Trolls", or of course "The Children of Hurin" which I feel is our best to trot out for royalty. But really, any tale would suffice, so long as it is one that does not feature prominent members of our audience!"
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Old 03-12-2011, 07:09 PM   #39
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Therian leaned on the wagon. "Yes, well, that is wonderful and all, but it will not work."

Aldarion glared at him. "Why?"

"Master Samwise mentioned his daughter, who is a handmaiden to Queen Arwen, is coming and is especially excited to see the parts about her dear old pa."
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Old 03-12-2011, 07:14 PM   #40
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Aldarion threw up his hands in frustration. "Just perfect! Well then, if that is the case.... it seems we are stuck up a tree without an eagle."
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