Muse Quest - Ch. 2: Of Closets and Gruel

The night wore on, and finally the big party was over. People began filing out of Caroline's house, thanking their host and snagging leftover cookies and chips. Tuima was happily munching on another brownie as she left the house with Dilly, Eicys, and Eredolyn. "I cannot cease eating this wonderful delight! It fills me with such wonder!" the elf declared.

"Sheesh! The way she's going on, you'd think she never tasted chocolate before!" Eredolyn mumbled to Dilly.

"Hold up!" Eicys cried, yanking back the distracted elf. "There she is - over there!"

The girls backed down behind the exiting crowd of people when they spotted their red-headed target on the other end of the front lawn.

"The E.I.Cebu," Dilly whispered solemnly.

"That's the E.I.Cebu?" Tuima exclaimed. She studied the girl with poofy red hair: a harmless creature who had just enjoyed herself at a party and was now walking home, eating a leftover cookie. "But there's nothing evil about her!" the elf said.

"...Did we say there was?" Dilly asked incredulously.

"Hold a moment! When we were back inside, you explained to me that the only way this Lady Coralie would write her next chapter would be if we captured this E.I.Cebu. And I consented to help because I thought she was in some way hindering the Lady..."

"She IS hindering Lady Coralie, in a way." Eicys explained. "If she isn't made a hostage to motivate Lady Coralie to start writing, then there probably won't ever BE a Chapter 41!"

"This is a justified ransom, if you will." Dilly commented.

"Although it grieves me to lock away my own sister," Eicys continued, "if it means that Lady Coralie will write her next chapter, then it is a sacrifice...I am willing to make."

The girls softly applauded Eicys' moving speech. Then with stifled giggles and hard shushes, they crept down the street, soft as shadows, stalking the E.I. Cebu as she trotted merrily home.

The first thing the the E.I.Cebu did after arriving home from the party was rush eagerly to her computer. She logged into and immediately headed to the Reading Room. With her heart pounding in anticipation she clicked on the Featured Authors and scrolled down to see if Lady Coralie's 44 articles had jumped to 45.

She slumped back into her chair. No, it hadn't. With a deep sigh the E.I.Cebu half-heartedly checked the comments for Chapter 40 - "The Questioning" to see if there was any news from the Lady. She was disappointed once again. There wasn't anything from Lady Coralie, just a new post from Dilly.

"Thanks to the E. I. Cebu and her mouth.... (I'm a friend of hers from school) I got caught up in your story. She will die soon if you don't post! (not really but please continue for her sake). But if not for her sake, do it for my sisters' sake. I tell them a new chapter every day and I am coming to the end! They will kill me! If you don't post soon, you are going to have a lot of dead people to answer for. Even just a comment now and then would be nice. Just so we know that YOU aren't dead."

She shivered, and not for the first time began to regret the day she had introduced her sister and her friends to the magic of Lady Coralie. Eicys had been acting so strange at the party, especially after getting together with Eredolyn and Dilly. Cebu did not like the way things were heading.
A knock at her bedroom door startled her. She walked over and opened it to find Dilly, Eredolyn, and Eicys followed by a fourth person. The E.I.Cebu hadn't seen her at school, but was excited to meet her. The new girl had dark brown hair and the most realistic elf ears she had ever seen before. Surprised, she quickly invited them in, noting with a twinge of foreboding the coil of rope in their hands and the light of fanaticism in their eyes.

"Hey guys!" she said brightly, trying to cover her apprehension. "What brings you all here?" Then, quickly deciding she'd rather not find out, she hurried on, "Who's the friend? I LOVE your ears!" she nodded towards the new girl.

"Oh, this is Tuima." Eredolyn informed her. "We've just finished introducing her to 'An Aussie in King Aragorn's Court'."

"Oh!" The E.I.Cebu gushed. "Isn't it GREAT! Let me tell you!" She sat back down on her swivel chair and slid smoothly to her computer. "Did you check out the new comments on Chapter 40? They say that there's a good chance Lady Coralie will post within the year!"

"A year?" demanded Eredolyn, folding her arms. "No way are we going to wait that long."

"But there's nothing else to do," Cebu insisted nervously.

"Well, actually, there is," Dilly smirked.

Cebu shivered. "What do you mean?"

" tell you the truth old friend...we're desperate." Eredolyn confessed. "It's the absence of Chapter 41, and gosh darn it we're gonna do something about it."

"That something includes you, E.I.Cebu." Tuima put in.

"Me? But..." she stared at the circle of fanatics surrounding her. "Wait!" she began.

"Get her!" cried Eicys. The girls made a rush at their friend sitting helplessly at the computer desk. Cebu shrieked and sprang from her chair. Or rather attempted to spring; it is not easy making a getaway while sitting in a wheeled chair tucked close to a desk. She fell in a flurry of red hair, wires, mouse, and keyboard. Several keys popped loose and rained down on the advancing fanatics like a modern version of Gandalf's fireworks. As she scrambled to her feet, Cebu shoved her chair at the other girls and fled down the hall, keyboard letters falling from her curly hair.

Tuima nimbly avoided the flying chair and streaked after the E.I. Cebu, the others close behind. Eredolyn was yelling some war-cry that sounded like an Old English translation of "For Coralie!"

Cebu snatched the back door open and hurtled across the dark backyard for the shelter of the woods that lay just beyond. She was grateful she had exchanged that costume for a t-shirt and jeans as she battled the tangled mass of scrub oak, getting her hair caught in the branches several times.

The third time she stopped to wrench her impossible hair out of the twiggy trees, she felt someone grab her arms. She gasped in shock -- she hadn't heard anyone coming! -- and went down in a heap with Tuima on top, quickly joined by the others.

In the blink of an eye the E.I.Cebu was trussed up tighter than Frodo had ever been in Shelob's web. To her utter frustration the frail looking cord would NOT break!
The successful party dragged her through the dark backyard, into the dim house, down the stairs to her room in the basement and with a not-so-gentle shove they tossed her into her closet and locked the door. She was a prisoner in her own home!

"It's for your own good!" Tuima called through the keyhole.


"Lady Coralie is STILL not writing!!" Dilly banged furiously on the already damaged keyboard. The group was lounging about in E.I.Cebu's bedroom, which had become their base of operations (it was extremely convenient that Cebu's parents were away for the week).

Eicys jumped off of Cebu's bed and ran to the computer where Dilly was sitting. "It's been three days since we wrote Lady Coralie our threat! Doesn't she even care that one of her personal fans is being held hostage?"

"Mmm-mmph!" was the reply from the closet.

"Oh shut up!" Eredolyn called to the poor E.I.Cebu. "You had your gruel for today!"

Eicys raced over to the door and sang the song from Oliver through the keyhole, taunting their prisoner:

"Food, glorious foooooood!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we're in the mooooood!
Cold jelly and custard!"

Tuima rose from her seat by the window. "The Lady must be hesitant to acquiesce; she would not desire to encourage such violent acts, nor might she be entirely confident of the verity of your message."

Everyone stared at the elf in silence.

"I thought I was a nerd," said Eredolyn finally.

Then Eicys snapped her fingers. "Y'know what I think? I think Lady Coralie isn't taking our threat seriously!"

"Oh!" Dilly nodded knowingly. "That makes sense."

"That's what I just said!" protested Tuima.

Eredolyn ignored her. "Well, we'll just have to turn to more drastic measures if Lady Coralie thinks this is all a joke!" she cried. She leaned over Dilly and began typing furiously on the keyboard.

"Nothing TOO drastic, I hope." Tuima interjected.

"Cebu deserves every ounce of what's comin' to her! She's the one that introduced us to Lady Coralie's writing, and has made us lose SLEEP at night because of it! Don't worry, Tuima. This is for a just cause. Oh, and take off those Halloween elf-ears already! They're probably moldy by now!"

Tuima fingered her pointy ears and wondered whether she had just been given an insult. She decided to let the matter slide, and she leaned over Dilly, who was already being leaned over by Eredolyn, to see what message the girl was banging out now to Lady Coralie:


*Author's note: While slightly modified from reality, this chapter is historically accurate and can be proven by examination of comments following ch. 40.

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