A small old man clad in a white monk’s robe and silver colored sash followed the Dark Mistress closely. She was walking briskly, almost jogging, down a long black corridor to the map room of the Black Tower. Her steps echoed loudly in the ever deepening darness.
“Light,” ordered the Mistress.
The old man pulled out one of his hands from the depths of his volumous sleeves. He cupped it and whispered quietly. A small flicker of white began to glow in his palm. The light began to grow and spread across his hand. It spilled through his fingers, the rays dripping down the walls and across the floor.
The Lady quickened her pace. It was all the man could do to keep in step with her, though he was sure to keep a safe distance of a few feet behind her.
The air grew increasingly cooler as they passed deep under the tall Tower. The Dark Mistress flung wide the tall, wooden double doors at the end of the corridor. Inside, the air was full of dust and smelled musky. Tall red candles stood on numerous candelabra around the perimeter of the square room. Papers lay scattered across the floor and along many tall shelves.
Three large, arching windows were set in the far wall, throwing dark and ominous shadows across tables and pedestals.
She stopped in the door way, surveying the room. She found what she needed and bustled over to a long wooden table in the center of the room. Half way to the table, she bent and picked up a large roll of paper. With one sweep of her arm, she cleared the table. The papers and empty goblets fell clattering to the ground. She slapped the paper on the table and spread it flat. It was yellowing from age.
“Soon, Thralk,” she said. “You and I will control Middle Earth.”
She dragged her finger in a large circle around the entire paper. It was a carefully drawn map of Middle Earth, labeled in a thin spidery script.
“But there is more…much more.”
Thralk stood beside the Lady with his light hand held high over her shoulder. She reached past him to a shelf against the wall and pulled out another map. She unrolled the large scroll. It was a map of the lands that were known, including the Undying Lands, over Seas to the West.
“I plan to over throw Valinor as well.”
Thralk smiled slightly to himself behind his arm.
The woman tossed a thigh bone, of a near by skeleton, to Meneldil who sat with his back against a wall of the chamber. He held in his hand a large flat stone that had been sharpened to a point. He caught the bone with his other hand and began to whittle it into a small white scoop. Hours passed. The woman took many bones and, minutes later, cast them aside as gleaming, white, digging tools.
A pile had begun to form around her. She sat hunched over her delicate work, with her legs folded gently beneath her. Occasionally, she would begin to sing to herself as if telling a story in parts.
“We must be hasty, my boy. The guards rest only briefly and we mustn’t be caught!”
She carved faster and cast aside the newly formed spoon.
“These spoons wear quickly and we must have an ample supply, we must,” she said.
The hag set down her most recent project and surrveyed her work. She sighed and finally stood slowly.
“I believe we have collected enough spoons, my son. We should begin digging soon,” she said in a whisper. “Cooped birds must fly eventually.”
She smiled slyly at Meneldil. He nodded and stood. Meneldil stretched his arms high above his head and yawned. The two had not eaten since Meneldil’s arrival two days before and he was beginning to feel the effects.
He bent as he had many times and peered through the square hole in the wall. Earwen was now sitting with her legs bent in front of her and her arms wrapped around her knees. Her head was leaned back against the wall.
She looked no better than Meneldil felt. He blew a quiet bird call through his lips. She lifted her head and cast her eyes about cautiously.
After a moment of quiet surrveying, she noticed the small hole in the wall across the room. Meneldil saw her brow furrow. Earwen crawled slowly on all fours to the hole. She brought her eye slowly to the hole and gasped when she saw Meneldil waiting on the other side.
“Meneldil,” she whispered in a hoarse voice. “I’m so glad to see you. You will not beleive what I have had to endure here.”
“Shhh,” comforted Meneldil. “I know, I know. I too have witnessed it…from a distance.”
He smiled kindly at her. He saw her eyes crinkle in a smile. Earwen poked one slender, dirt stained finger through the small hole. Meneldil reached forward and linked his finger with hers.
“My boy,” said the hag’s voice in his ear. “The guardsies are coming! Quickly! We must hide the spoons!”
“Earwen,” he whispered quickly. “This hole will remain open always. Do not forget that I wait on the other side to speak to you. I love you.”
He squeezed her finger one last time and turned to the hag.
“How do we hide these tools? There seems to be far too many to hide on our bodies.”
She quieted him and motioned to a pile of rags in the corner.
“Those are the remains of one of my cell mates Don’t worry…the body has long been turned to ash by the evil beasts,” she added, seeing the sudden look of disgust on Meneldil’s face.
She scooped up as many spoons as her thin arms would carry and took them to the rags. She lifted up a flap and shuved them deep into the pile. She motioned to Meneldil to do the same. He gathered his spoons in his arms and also stowed them with hers.
She smiled reassuringly at him and sank down against the wall. She quickly lay on her side and pretended to be asleep. Meneldil sat with his legs folded infront of him and drew pictures in the dust and sang quietly to himself.
No sooner had they hidden the spoons and assumed their innocent guise before the lumbering guard passed loudly infront of their cell. The guard paused by the dungeon and peered between the iron bars. Meneldil decided to add an additional cover up by rocking back and forth and talking to himself.
Meneldil looked over out of the corner of his eye at the guard. He almost laughed when he saw a look of near skepticism and amusment flash briefly over the guards hideous face. The guard decided Meneldil was up to nothing of interest and kept up his rounds. Meneldil sighed and relaxed.
He stood and walked quietly over to the iron bars. He looked through the door and saw the boney back of the guard pass around a corner in the stone staircase. He listened to the quickly receding steps of the monster.
Meneldil turned around. He yelled and jumped back when he found the woman’s face, once again, pressed almost nose to nose with his. She laughed quietly at Meneldil.
“Why must you do that,” he asked in an exasperated tone.
“Because it amuses me it does, to see you young, courageous lads jump back from a small woman of no harm. All in good fun, boy. All in good fun.”
She smile at him. He smiled back sarcastically.
Meneldil brushed past her and once more stooped infront of the small hole in the wall. He called to Earwen with the same bird call. She was peering through the hole in moments.
She smiled at him.
“How are you faring, my love,” asked Earwen.
“I am as well as I can be in this place I suppose. And yourself?”
“The same, I guess,” she replied after looking away briefly to examine herself. “The food is meager but I had some stored in pockets the guards failed to locate.”
Earwen smiled again while she briefly brandished a crumpled leaf wrapping from with in her clothing. She replaced the package and gazed back through the hole.
“I have but one small question to ask you, love. How did you come to find me?”
Meneldil recounted watching the moster’s attack, his reasons for not providing aid, his brief ride on Gilthoniel, his appearance before the King, and his rather abrupt meeting of the hag.
Earwen laughed again.
“But no more about me,” said Meneldil. “How were you placed here?”
“I’m not quite sure how this all came about. I believe the dart was poisoned with a dilluted sleeping mixture.”
Earwen rubbed the side of her neck where the dart had pierced the flesh. She pulled her hand away and looked at it.
“The wound seems to be healing on it’s own accord. I remember being thrown in here rather roughly during one of my brief flashes of conscienceness. Once I hit the ground, though, all was dark again.”
Earwen sighed. She suddenly looked away towards where the cell door was. Meneldil saw a panick that he had never expected to see from her enter her gaze. He heard deep gutteral voices shouting at her amidst the clanging of the iron door.
Earwen backed away from the hole. Two masive guards grabbed her roughly by each arms. She fought back fiercly, but the two were very strong and she was no match. Earwen kicked and screamed and spat in their faces. Neither seemed to notice, dragged the struggling form of Earwen away and out of the rang of the small hole.
They never saw the missing square of stone. Meneldil ran quickly to the iron doors and looked out into the corridor beyond. He saw the guards dissapear up a winding staircase with the fiercly fighting Earwen held solidly between them.