Three months had passed since the four wanderers turned into the prisoners of Haydar. In that time they had learned little of their captor and his rowdy group of men, save for a few small, insignificant pieces of his history. In the old, rickety building that Haydar and his men had taken them to, there was a very basic cellar room underneath where the four travelers were kept. They were locked beneath the sand, in a windowless room where the only light came through the cracks of the wooden latch in miniscule shafts, leading down into the dusty room. With their eyes blind-folded and their hands and feet bound, there seemed little hope that one day they would be free of this torturous place.
During the day, when Haydar left on errands in the city, they would murmur encouraging words to each other or talk about possible means of escape. Legolas and Gimli told stories of their adventures through Fangorn Forest, the Glittering caves, and many other strange places they had visited. They also talked about the Fellowship of the Ring and its quest to destroy the ring. Morelen would sit and listen to the tales of Gondor’s King and how he bravely rode forth to the Black Gate and beckoned Sauron out from behind the menacing wall. Gimli talked mostly about the four Halflings and how they had proved their worth a hundred times over. Morelen remembered meeting three of the hobbits at least once, except for the Ringbearer himself. He had chosen to leave the shores of Middle Earth with Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf before she got the chance to meet him. This she greatly regretted, though it was no fault of her own.
Then, at night, Haydar and his men would return and the walls would shake with their loud banter and their raucous partying. The four of them learned to sleep through the noisy racket they heard above them. Occasionally, Haydar would come downstairs and taunt them with promises of freedom, or of an extra loaf of bread a day. Elboron thought that he was merely trying to somehow get them to turn on each other, which he knew wouldn’t happen.
One such night, Haydar entered the dark room through the creaky wooden hatch. The prisoners kept silent, not knowing at first who it was, or the reason for their random entry.
Without saying a word, Haydar strode across the room and gently grabbed Morelen’s arms to lift her. She had not stood in days, and her ankles were tied tightly together, so she immediately lost her balance and fell into his arms, clutching at him blindly.
She felt the finely toned muscle beneath her fingers and the soft material of his tunic, and she mumbled coarsely, “Who are you?”
“Your loving captor, of course.”
With disgust she tried to push herself away from him, but he would not let her out of his iron grip.
“Oh no, dearest,” he purred, “you are coming with me.”
She gulped and retorted, “I will do no such thing.”
He laughed a hearty, warm laugh. “And who are you to refuse me, woman? You seem to me a little…defenseless, at the present moment. Only fear not; I shall carry you so you do not have to walk.” She felt his arms reach down to her legs and swiftly lift her off the ground. The smell of him was haunting and dangerous, like some wild, toxic blossom she had never smelt before.
The others had been listening the entire time, feigning sleep. Elboron’s fists were tightened at his side with anger and restraint.
It’s not like you could get up and save her, anyway. He rationalized. Especially in your state. She will find a way out of this, I’m sure of it.
“Hold on, Elboron,” whispered Legolas after they had left. “The time will come; I think our best chance of escape will happen this night.”
Morelen felt the warmth of the light on her cold face as they left the dark and dusty cellar. She heard loud, boisterous laughter from all around her and the voices of many women, also. Haydar’s…friends, most likely. She thought to herself with revulsion.
I have got to get us out of here! If only he would take off this blindfold so I could see where I was headed! What’s taking him so long, anyway? This building isn’t that big
The light on her face seemed to fade away and she found herself once more in utter and complete darkness. He set her down on a soft surface and gently removed the cloth around her eyes. She blinked and looked around her, finding herself in a small bedroom with Haydar looming over her like a hungry monster. Oh no…not a bedroom. This is…this is very bad.
Much to her momentary relief, he turned away from her and opened a chest in the corner of the room. Pulling out some garments, he threw them at her. He then walked over to her and pulling out a knife, removed her bonds with gusto. She rubbed her sore wrists to get the blood flowing regularly again, looking down at the chaffed marks the tight ropes had left on her skin.
“Put them on.” He ordered her as he stood in the doorway, ready to leave. “Come and find me, once you are decent.”
His black eyes gave a most mischievous twinkle as he slammed the door shut. Fighting desperately to keep the tears from flowing, she wiped her nose with her sleeve and gradually stood up, tensing the muscles that had not been used in months. She was weak, very weak, but able to walk and move.
Desperately she looked around in the dark for anything that would save her, which would give her a chance to escape. Seeing nothing but the same chest on the floor, she ran over to it and searched eagerly for anything; a knife, in particular. Throwing garments this way and that, she came across two bottles filled with liquid. Taking the first and removing the top, she looked inside it and then hesitantly smelt its contents.
I have no idea what that is. It’s probably alcohol of some kind, or something. She returned it to the chest and then following suit with the other bottle; she smelt the liquid, closing her eyes to breathe it in.
Elbereth,she thought incredulously. I know this scent; but what is it? I can’t remember anything from my herbs lessons…oh why didn’t I listen to that woman? What is this stuff?
Racking her brain for any memory of the class, she decided to pocket it anyway, just in case she remembered later.Who knows; it might be useful.
Hurriedly she donned the outfit Haydar had thrown at her; a silky, baggy pair of pants that hugged her hips in a most flattering manner and a top that left her stomach and hips exposed. A light, transparent veil went over the bottom half of her face and finally, after many moments of debating, she got the nerve to turn the handle and leave the room.
Walking out of the room tentatively, the bright lights burned her eyes and she had to rub them to become accustomed to the light. Men and women walked by her without a single glance and one couple blew by her to lock themselves in the room she had recently occupied, shutting the door behind them.
Looking around and observing her surroundings, she searched for any windows or any unlocked doors that may give her a better understanding of the layout. Taking a turn whenever she felt like it, she found an older woman in what looked like a kitchen area. She was old and her back was hunched over.
Murmuring softly, Morelen said, “My lady, do you know where I can find Haydar?” Her voice did not sound like her own; it was harsh and rough from the lack of water and decent food.
The woman whirled around and for some odd reason, Morelen noticed that she wore only one large golden earring.
“You speak with an unusual accent, whore. Why do you wish to see Haydar, if I may be so bold as to ask?” Her voice was gruff and strong, and Morelen was a little intimidated by her.
“I am no whore, woman. And I speak with an unusual accent because I was not raised here. My name is Morelen, and I seek Haydar because I have been ordered to do so by him.”
The crone turned around again and eyed Morelen warily. Walking steadily up to her, the she removed Morelen’s veil and looked deeply into her eyes. Her scanning gaze searched the girl’s face and Morelen wanted to flinch, but did not.
“I know you.” She smiled, a crooked, toothless smile that made Morelen’s skin tingle.
“How do you know me?”
“Your mother was a wonderful woman; one of the most beautiful I have yet seen.”
Morelen’s heart dropped at the mention of her mother.
“How do you know my mother?” She said shakily.
“What have you got in your pocket?” The crone never answered her question, now pointing to the bulge in Morelen’s pants. Blast! I’ll be found out before I even get the chance to figure out what it is!
The woman’s old, wrinkly fingers reached into Morelen’s pocket and immediately her eyes widened at the object in her hands.
“A wise one you are, my lady.”
“This is Musafer,my lady. Quite poisonous. Although if you are planning on catching your kidnapper unawares, I suggest you pour it into the bottom of the glass before adding the wine. If you do not, you can visibly see it sink to the bottom of the glass. It is a heavier liquid.”
Morelen looked completely astounded, first because she had not been hurt by the old woman, and second that she had given her explicit advice on how to kill Haydar.
“Lady, how long does it take for the poison to take effect? And what are the symptoms?” Morelen asked, overcoming her complete shock and surprise.
“I’d say roughly ten minutes, though it works differently on different people. Usually those of bigger build can last longer, though ultimately it has the same effect on everyone. The victim usually becomes severely tired and incoherent. It is a pretty quick and painless death, lady.”
“Wait,” Morelen balked, a little suspicious, “how do you know so much about–“
“You had better run, woman, if you are to keep Haydar’s temper under control. He has never been the most patient of men. You will find him two doors to the right – you passed him on your way here, my lady. Also,” she pointed with her hands, “there are two ways out of here, for future reference. All the way down this corridor and to the left, there is a flight of stairs that will take you down to another room in the cellar. Across said room is an unguarded door. The other is all the way on the other side of the building to your right, which happens to be heavily guarded, as it is the most commonly used exit and entrance.”
Morelen stood baffled, bewildered that this woman had pretty much just doubled her chances of escape.
“You will help me and my comrades escape…because of my mother?”
A dark expression flashed across the woman’s face and she said huskily, “Your mother was one of the only people I could trust. I would not want her daughter, her only legacy, to die here in this hell hole. Now go, quickly.”
Wordlessly thanking the old, nameless crone, Morelen hid the jar in the folds of her baggy pants, hoping that Haydar would not notice. Steeling her nerves to go and find him, she thought to herself, This is probably our only chance of escape. I’ve got to do this…