Muse Quest - Chapter 7: A Bunch of Coconuts
Eicys shrieked, but before she could do anything, the tracker orc pulled out a long dagger and stabbed her straight in the stomach. Both of them stared as blood slowly leaked from the wound. Gray, lumpy, gruel-y blood.
The orc was so surprised to see his quarry bleeding gruel, he let go of the dagger and stumbled away. Eicys, numb and shuddering with shock, yanked the weapon from the ruined plastic baggie under her sweater and without even thinking plunged it straight into the goblin's throat. The creature gurgled and kicked out its hideous life at her feet, blood spattering everywhere, and when it finally went limp Eicys staggered away into the trees and retched until her breath came in sobs.
Finally she fell to her knees, exhausted, and surveyed the blood-spattered mess before her. She wanted to cry. She tugged out the last few bags of gruel from where she'd stowed them under her sweater and let them drop listlessly to the ground. Through a haze she could make out the far-off sound of the Uruk's encampment, and suddenly decided that those fanfics she so much loved had been unrealistic in the extreme. She'd always wanted to see Middle-earth, but now, given the choice, she'd trade every particle for a hot bath and safe bedroom - and perhaps a fluffy pillow or two.
Something about the sight in front of her made her feel like a little girl again, and all she wanted to do was hide somewhere and never come out. Instead, she struggled to her feet. Those monsters had her sister, and her friends, and she wasn't about to let them get away with it. Clenching her teeth, she gingerly approached the orc lying sprawled among the leaves, and began to strip off its armor.
Half an hour later, a small orc shambled into the Uruk camp, holding up a torn sweater and punctured gruel bag to show the captain. He grunted and waved it back into the ranks, but Eicys managed to throw a wink at her friends before disappearing into the crowd.
"That foul disgusting maggot!" shrieked Cebu as the goblin winked. "How dare he! Where's my sister?!" She lunged forward with her bound hands outstretched, tears of fear and fury staining her face. Dilly grasped futilely at the back of her shirt, but Cebu continued her attempts to reach the orc until a she had the feet kicked from under her by the same uruk who had overheard her escape attempts.
"No more o' that, hear?" he demanded. "Now answer me! What was that snappin' noise?"
Cebu just stared at him defiantly. The orc raised his fist, and Dilly hurriedly intervened. "Oh...uggh. Mmm..." she stretched out her neck and back, "Just my back. It's been creaking and snapping ever since you threw me down here like a ton of bricks!" She paused. "Tuima's been snapping loudest of all," she commented pointedly.
"The elf?" asked their captor, guffawing stupidly. Tuima leveled a narrow gaze at Dilly before turning her full freezing glare on the uruk. He stopped laughing abruptly. Angry tarqs had that effect on orcs.
"Well stop yer snappin' or ya won't have no bones left ta snap!" the orc said, in an effort to save face. He stomped off muttering.
"That was close," breathed Dilly. Then she noticed Cebu scrabbling on the ground again. "What are you doing?" she hissed.
Cebu sat up with the arrowhead back in her mouth and resumed sawing on her ropes.
The others watched in horror as the strands frayed. "No! Cebu, don't do it!" whispered Dilly, but her friend didn't seem to hear.
Then Eredolyn acted on instinct. "Everyone! Start singing!"
"Singing?" Dilly demanded skeptically.
"Yes! The noise will drown out the snapping! QUICK! SING!"
After some confused muttering, everyone began picking up the song 'I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.' And of course the same orc came back again.
"What are ye doin' NOW?" he growled.
"Well, we're singing." Eredolyn replied coolly.
"Ya know what I'm gonna do now?" he snarled, drawing out a knife.
"You won't do anything," Eredolyn said, "because you said you'd do something only if you heard snapping ro...uh, Tuima's bones snapping, that is. And they weren't snapping!"
The orc looked even blanker than usual. "Ya call yer screechin' singin'?"
"Yes. It's called 'I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts'."
"Well let's hear it then!" He grinned threateningly.
More confident now, since the orc wasn't going to kill them after all, the three captives bunched themselves around Cebu to hide her sawing, and started singing: "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts, *deedilydeedee* There they are a' standing in a row... Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head-"
Right there the group ended abruptly, because of course no one knew how the rest of the song went.
The orc laughed, "well, yous utter one more peep n' I'll cut yer TONGUES out!" and departed.
"So... how does the song end?" Tuima whispered.
Eredolyn looked almost as blank as the orc had. "I dunno... never thought about it before. Huh."
Tuima seemed to take this as further proof that her fellow captives were a few branches short of a mallorn, and merely looked resigned.
The news of Eicys' demise seemed to have been the signal the orcs were waiting for; they began gathering supplies and moving off. The four captives were once again hauled to their feet and made to march. But Cebu refused to move. The orcs cursed roundly in their snarling language, but nothing could be done. Cebu had no intention of reaching Orthanc, at least not with her hands tied. And worry about her sister made her so bravely defiant that even when the orc captain used his whip, the only movement he forced out of her was a shambling walk, bumping into the other girls so that they would conveniently fall. Tuima began to smile grimly, and they all joined in with a will, stumbling so frequently that almost no progress could be made.
At last, when the orcs were frustrated enough to tear out their straggly hair, the captain called another halt and ordered the girls carried. They were hoisted, Merry-and-Pippin style, onto their captors' backs, their faces pressed against orcish heads. It was enough to turn even an elf's stomach, which it very nearly did. Tuima gagged so convincingly that the orc turned to stare at her warily, and immediately loosened his grip.
Dilly noticed this and smirked a little before imitating retching sounds of her own. It wasn't difficult while being squashed against greasy matted hair that smelt strongly of rotten meat. In fact, it was entirely too easy. But the orc had apparently so little regard for hygiene that even the thought of being spattered with SonicBurgers and gruel wasn't terribly threatening.
"Weak stomach, hey?" he grinned, foul breath leaking from between his sharp teeth. "Won't take long to break yeh once you've spent some time in the tower, then. Beau'iful, ain't it?" He nodded toward a sinister-looking pinnacle of rock looming over the plains.
"Oh yeah," she snorted into his filthy hair. "It's such an attractive hunk a' rock."
The orc seemed to take this as a compliment. "Aye, the place is a sight for sore eyes if ya please. 'Specially the dungeons. You'll be seein' them a real soon!" He leered at her and added, "You best be quiet or I'll cutcher tongue out."
"Saruman wouldn't be too pleased with you if you did that," Dilly said calmly, ignoring her frantically beating heart. She felt sure the orc could feel it clear through his armor.
He paused nervously, but then gave an ugly laugh. "Who's teh tell him, though? You? Wi'out yer tongue?" he sneered derisively, showing yellowed fangs. "Mebbe then I'd get a chance at havin' some fun of me own." He jogged her suggestively with an armored elbow, laughing more than ever when Dilly gasped in pain.
This place was horrible, she decided, her breath sobbing through her throat in frightened bursts. Absolutely horrible. She was tied so tightly her fingers were going numb, she was bruised and bleeding and exhausted, and the thought of what might await her at the end of all this was more terrifying than anything she'd ever felt. Added to this was the thought of Eicys, most likely killed; her family would never know what had happened. Dilly wished miserably they'd been nicer to the youngest girl in the group.
Things could obviously not get any worse...And then they did. The orc carrying her began singing. It was an awful song, full of blood and pain and fear, and sung so terribly off-key as to be almost unbearable. Dilly grimaced and rolled her eyes at Tuima, who wore an expression of abject suffering. Dilly gave a small snort of laughter and the elf smiled back ruefully before a cloud of reeking smoke drifted between the two.
The orcs had begun to slow, winding their way around large holes in the ground that issued foul smokes and stench, luminous in the darkness. The base of the tower was wreathed with them, the polished stone reflecting the ominous glow.
There was a long stairway leading to a doorway that was cut into the tower. Dilly and the rest were thrown to the ground where their bonds were cut and ripped away, grating on already raw skin. They were mercilessly forced to climb the stairs until they reached the doors.
"We got 'em, Gramareth, you best let us in quick," growled the leading orc.
"I was movin', hold it!" came the reply, and the thick obsidian doors of Orthanc swung slowly open.
They walked into a....welcoming area.... and were led down more stairs, and more stairs, and more stairs. It kept getting darker and colder, the putrid air sliding down their throats as they descended yet another staircase. Dilly's legs were about to give out when they reached a landing. She started to panic as she looked around. "Where are you, Eredolyn?
Tuima, Cebu, are you there?"
There were only muffled grunts in return. A torch was lit as a screeching of metal on metal was heard. An orc grabbed Dilly by the hair and dragged her to an open cell.
"These be your new quarters!" he laughed, thrusting her inside. She had barely a glimpse of the tiny room before her head slammed against the slimy wall. As the darkness began eating at the edges of her vision, she could hear shrieks and struggling: her friends were being taken away. She had time for one despairing cry before blackness claimed her.