A Sea of Stars-a tale of dangers and love: Chapter Nine
The creature dragged Earwen's struggling form further away from the protection of the bush. She kicked and scratched, but to no avail. Meneldil lay still for fear of frightening the beast and causing more harm to Earwen than it already intended. Meneldil was helpless. He heard the ringing of metal being drawn from a scabard as Earwen drew her short utensil knife from it's place in a small caseing along the side of her boot. She jabbed it into the creature's back as it turned rather clumsily and tryed to pull her from behind.
The same terrible scream cut through the night when the thin steel knife tip just barely scraped the tough, leathery, outer flesh of the beast. Meneldil grimaced. All too well did the scream remind him of that of the Nazgul's beckons to one another. The demon reached over his shoulder and pulled the knife harmelessly out of his back. The tip was bent.
Earwen was astonished. How could the creature's flesh simply resist a knife of the warriors of Lorien? she thought. The demon threw the blade over the edge of the narrow path onto the sharp rocks below. They never heard it fall.
He reached for Earwen's shoulders and brought her head down sharply upon a rock. Then, when Earwen did not fall still, he rumaged around in a small leather satched slung diagonally across his chest. He pulled out a tiny, thin tube. The demon placed the tube to his lips and blew. Something flew out of the tube. Whatever it was caused Earwen to cease all movement. Meneldil peered closer. He saw a thin shafted dart lodged in the side of Earwen's neck.
The dart is black so it must be poisoned, thought Meneldil. The creature slung Earwen across his shoulder and spread it's leathery wings wide. He ran to the edge of the path and lept off. Meneldil nearly screamed, but he held it back. He raced to where he had been looking over the edge to find the beast plumeting fast into the dark abyss.
At what seemed the last second, he pulled up and headed skyward. He took a sharp right and disapeared behind a jagged, snow capped peak. Meneldil sat up. He finally stood, scooped up his pack, and leapt aboard Gilthoniel, who had risen and cantered out of the attacker's way.
He spurred her into a pace that was as fast as he dared go on the narrow, winding path. His hair flew out behind him in a golden veil. The air seemed to grow more chill despite the growing dawn. The first kiss of light upon the Misty Mountains was appearing, though barely changing the hues of blacks and blues of the rocks.
Meneldil leaned into each turn and urged Gilthoniel still faster. Snow began to fall in a soft drift. The flakes fell in a lazy, confused manner. Then the wind began to pick up. Meneldil's eyes were reduced to mere slits to prevent the now sharp flakes from stinging them.
He began to wonder if he would ever catch up with the beast. When he rounded the side of a ridge, he found the creature flying low in decent. It was headed towards a small, glowing cave in the side of the mountain. Light spilled out of the entrance, bathing the mountain side for a few feet in it's raidiance before being lost to the darkness that shrouded the crevass below.
He slowed Gilthoniel to watch the demon. It was flying in a tight, quickly lowering spiral. Meneldil could tell it was battling with the elements. He could see a faint, fluttering of green cloth over the demon's shoulder. Meneldil pulled Gilthoniel to a halt and tied her loosely to a near by boulder. He would have to continue on foot. He patted Gilthoniel's neck. Her breathing came in clouds of white.
"You've been a good guide, my friend. Wait here for my return," he muttered to her. "You must not let yourself be seen, as you are one of the most important parts of this journey."
She pricked her ears forward and grew stock still as if listening to his commands. He patted her twice more and set off along the path in a crouched position. Meneldil heard the soft out burst of breath when Gilthoniel lay down quietly and blended into the rock formations.
Meneldil picked his way stealthily along the path. He made sure he stayed closely pressed against the mountain side. When he was within a few yards of the cave opening, he reduced his crouch to a crawl on all fours. He scooted forward and craned his neck around the side of the entrance. Something whistled past his ear and bounced off of the rock wall beside his head.
It landed next to his left knee with a hollow, wooden thud. An arrow. Meneldil nearly panicked but managed to keep his composer. He glance quickly to the sorounding mountains. Directly accross from him, he could faintly see a hunched figure balanced precariously on a boulder. It looked somewhat like the guardian Gargoyles located around the borders of Mirkwood.
It had in it's massive hand a bow and a knocked arrow. Meneldil cursed himself for failing to look for protectors. He had cursed a little too loudly. Spears clanged near him. He found two more creatures holding the crude spears in an X infront of him. They too were hunched as it seemed this was the way their spines were constructed.
One reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt in a firm grasp. He could tell these two guards were not as clumsy and unpolished as the scout who had found Earwen. Meneldil twisted in the creature's grasp only to find that it was much stronger than the scrawny, emaciated figure suggested. He was pulled rather roughly and reluctantly into the cave.
A small fire was burning brightly in the center of the entrance hall with four other creatures hudled around it for warmpth. His captures took him through the first hall of the cave and down many winding and confusing paths. Hundreds of torches rested in woven, wooden brackets along the stone walls. They finally passed through one, slightly wider, hall.
There, Meneldil saw a large bon fire burning merrily within the rather large cavern. Seated in a crudely fashioned chair, carved out of the stone wall in the back of the cavern, was another demon. This one was somewhat larger than the others and it was clear to Meneldil that he was the leader and had obtained this position of leadership through rather brutal force.
His muscles were larger and more defined, yet he still carried the distiguishable hunched and scrawny figure of his species. The beast spoke some unknown language to Meneldil. When Meneldil shook his head to show that he didn't understand, the leader tryed several others that Meneldil still didn't recognize. He finally spoke halting Common Tongue.
"You are elf correct?"
"Why you traveling through our mountains?"
Meneldil chose his words carefully so as not to offend the leader in any way.
"My companion and I were sent through this path on a journey West to the Grey Havens."
"Who you sent by?"
"The Lord Celeborn...," he hesitated," and Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien."
The leader contemplated his words. He looked at Meneldil with what would have been a skeptical look if it were carved on a human face.
"Why you need go this way? Why you not choose other path?"
Meneldil told the leader of what the Lord and Lady had told Earwen and himself. He started with when they arrived in Lothlorien and finished at where they were now, with the exception of the attack on their camp ground five nights ago.
The leader looked at Meneldil with a blank and unreadable expression. He finally waved at the guards holding Menedil and spoke to them in their own native tongue. It sounded much like the gutteral speech of the dwarves. The guards bowed to him and hooked one arm each under Meneldil's.
"What are you going to do to me," he asked in a tone that was inteneded to sound neutral but somehow came out panicked.
"We put you in dungeons. We will decide what do with you later."
Meneldil scowled at him. The guards dragged him away and through many more winding paths of stone. The pulled open two large, iron-barred doors. The dungeon they threw him into was damp and smelled of mildew. It was large with a high ceiling. The only light came from a small circular glass window cut into the stone. The glass work is remarkable for such creatures, thought Meneldil. The clear panes of glass were each cut into delicate shapes and formed to the likeness of a sun.
Chains and cuffs hung loosely and unoccupied along the walls. A disintegrating skeleton rested with it's back against the wall and gleaming white skull slumped on it's shoulder. Meneldil shuddered to think that the same fate could become of him. A faint shuffling sound could be heard next to him yet out of his range of vision. He froze. It was so quiet he almost thought he imagined it. Then heard it again, this time right behind him. He whirrled around to find a face almost nose to nose with his.
He yelled and jumped back. He stumbled to the ground and lay stuned for a moment. He opened his eyes. Once again, the face was pressed up close to his. It was bleached white from lack of sun and the eyes were icy blue. A sharp nose adorned the wrinkled visage. Meneldil scrambled backwards on his elbows. The figure was doubled over him and shuffled along with him. The face cracked to show a nearly toothless grin.
"No need to cause a fright, my son," said a voice just like the crackling of leaves beneath one's feet on a Fall evening. "I am not here to hurt thee, just to examine."
A thin boney finger reached out and poked his nose.
"Oh my you are a young one aren't you?! Barely old enough to know how to act around the ladies, eh?"
It laughed. The laugh was a light fluttery one underlaid with a slight wheezing. Meneldil could not decide if the figure was male or female.
"I know where the pretty misses is being held, my son. You best be nice to the old hag women while you still live."
"You know where Earwen is?!" Meneldil could not keep his silence any more.
The figure straightened up slightly with his sudden outburst.
"Yes, I does. You must follow me to where the one of golden hair be kept."
The figure stood fully and moved into the sunlight filtering through the skylight. She was slight with a featherweight frame. She had pale white rags draped loosely about her thin form. Her head was bare save for a few whisps of pale white hair hanging about rounded ears.
Meneldil stood, still wondering whether or not to trust the one who called herself hag. She stooped down near one of the walls and her face crinkled in an expression of thought and concentration.
"The pretty miss is being kept next door, she is."
She drew a small box on the stone with one long pointed nail. The tiny square of stone fell away to reveal a smaller dungeon adjacent to their's. She pressed one paled eye to the hole then withdrew. She pulled away a moment later and motioned for Meneldil to look also. He had to bend all the way over for the hag had placed the square very close to the ground.
His eyes grew wider. What he saw was a figure clad in the greens and greys of Lorien laying on her side. Her neat, golden braid was no longer wrapped twice around her head, but instead it lay frayed with loose ends on the ground beside her.
"Earwen! Tell me if there is a way to get there!" Menelidil was practically screaming.
"Hush, muh boy," she placed a hand roughly over his mouth. "The guardsies mustn't hear us!"
Her pale eyes were casting about wildly.
"We must be sneaky about this buisiness. This will cost us our lives if we is noisy about it. Now, my son, I know a way to get there but, like it you won't."
"Please, tell me. This is a very desperate situation!" He flung his arms wide in a sign of desperation. "I love that maiden."
The hag's eyes softened when she heard that. She turned her back to Meneldil.
"It goes under the King's chambers."
"But the chambers are a long distance from here. How can a path lead to a space just next door but travel so far away?"
"Ah," she turned around. "that is where you are wrong, my son. You see," she motioned to the far wall, "all that winding does no good but to confuse the enemies. The King sleeps in the rooms next door, he does."
She shuffled over to the wall and tapped on it lightly. The tapps echoed faintly across a room. The hag was indeed correct.
"The passage way lies beneath this wall here. All we have to do is scoop out the old dust and dirt covering the hole!"
"Yes but what tools have we got? The few weapons I was carrying were taken by the guards."
"I have not spent my hundred years here twidling muh thumbs, my boy."
From within her rags she pulled out a smooth spoon of bone.
"The poor sonny over there," she pointed to the skeleton,"lent me my materials. All I had left to do was sharpen a stone on the floor and start carving. Bone is very though it is. The passage was made long ago, my son, long before even I was caught. All we have to do is scoop out the dirt and grime and we have a way next door my boy!"
Meneldil was starting to think that this ridiculous plan might actually work.