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Muse Quest Chapter 9
The captured girls sat in their various cells. Predictably, Tuima was fuming, Dilly was feeling anxious, and Eredolyn was happily investigating the corners. Cebu, however, was curled into a ball of misery black enough that even her bright red hair had lost its usual poof and fell disconsolately in her face. No one knew what had happened to her sister, but that horrible blue-eyed goblin had held up Eicys’ sweater and winked, and Cebu was in an agony of fear that perhaps the fiend had – Wait.
Goblins don’t have blue eyes! Cebu sat up so quickly that stars danced before her eyes in the blackness of Saruman’s dungeon. She held onto the thought like a lifeline. Goblins don’t have blue eyes. But Eicys does!
Cebu wondered frantically what to do. She had to know! Because the next time she saw that tracker goblin she would either hug her or murder it.
A faint muttered cursing reached her ears, and Cebu jumped up happily. Only one person she knew could swear so fluently in elvish. “Tuima!” she cried.
The muttering stopped. “Cebu?” the elf asked hesitantly.
Then, “Cebu!” someone shrieked joyously. “You’re here too?”
“Eredolyn?” the redhead demanded incredulously.
“Yep! So that’s three of us – where’s Dilly?”
“The uruks threw her in one of the first cells,” said Tuima.
“Stupid orcs. Hee-hee, never thought I’d have a chance to say that for real! Like in the Very Secret Diaries. `Day 37. (I think it was 37). Killed by orcs. Stupid orcs’.” Eredolyn laughed.
“Well, it’s only day 1, and I have no desire to be killed by orcs, stupid or otherwise,” said Tuima crisply.
“Is there an `otherwise’?” Eredolyn inquired.
“No. Are there any loose stones in your cell?” the elf asked impatiently.
“Haven’t looked yet. Hang on.” Cebu’s face disappeared from the bars on her cell door, and she began scanning her tiny prison, working her fingers into joints in the walls. “Yech,” she sputtered, getting her fingernails full of slime. “This place is gross.”
Tuima was silent. Curled in a corner of her cell was an ancient skeleton, green with age, and bearing marks of torture. The elf rubbed her arms miserably. This whole tower stank of death and pain. The sooner they escaped the better.
The stone seemed to press all around her, and her eyes hurt from straining through the murky darkness. She shuddered. Elves do not like caves. Tuima longed for a light – and almost immediately got her wish, though not in a manner she would have hoped for. Torchlight flickered from somewhere down the passage, growing steadily brighter. A group of burly uruks tramped toward them, talking loudly and swinging vicious-looking weapons, some of which they kept pointed at the two girls in their midst.
“Dilly!” cried Tuima. She thought wryly that only a few hours ago she would have hardly been pleased to see the dark-haired mortal, but now she was filled with relief. Dilly’s companion was a pretty blonde girl with a line of scratches running down her face. The look she directed at the uruks said very plainly, “take off these chains and give me a weapon and you’d be yammering for a cell of your own in seconds.” Definitely Rohirric, Tuima decided, with a faint smile.
The uruks reached Eredolyn’s cell and hauled her out. She seemed almost indignant at the rough handling. The uruks were completely baffled at her air of condescending play-along, and left her next to Dilly. There was a pause, as the creatures hesitated at whom to take out next. Cebu had fought like a madwoman when they put her in the cell, still frantic over Eicys’ fate, but no orc was ever anxious to be around an elf, either. Eventually they threw open Cebu’s door and seized her by the hair. She yelped and twisted and battered her captors with blows, but they threw her next to her friends and stuck a spear against her throat until she quieted. She threw such a poisonous look at the spear-carrying orc that he nearly dropped the weapon.
Tuima was next, and better prepared than the others. She gripped the round stone she’d pried loose from the wall, and hurled it neatly into the first uruk’s face. He howled and clutched his nose, blood streaming through his fingers. A second orc rushed in, and Tuima whirled and kicked him just below the kneecap. It was a handy trick she’d learned in combat, and usually rendered the enemy lame and useless. Of course, she was usually wearing heavy boots in combat. Tuima was left gasping with the pain of a broken toe, perhaps two, as the armor-clad uruk laughed gratingly. She was seized around the middle and hurled into the group of orcs, ringed with spears, and made to march with the others. The elf limped in furious silence, humiliated. She did not look up until they reached the heavy black doors of Saruman’s audience chamber.
* * * * * * * * * *
Taras peered uselessly through the bars in his door. That was the second time today he’d heard voices – not orcs, definitely human voices. Female, too, by the sound of them. He’ d decided from the occasional scuffling noise and howl of pain from an orc that that servant girl of Saruman’s – Wlore? – had gotten into trouble again. She’d been in the cell next to his for a few days after rubbing muck from the orc-pits into Saruman’s laundry. He smiled sadly. He missed the Rohirrim’s cheerful defiance.
But from the echoes, this was more than one girl – three or four, he decided. “There seems to be a sudden influx of young women in Middle-earth,” he thought wryly. He wondered disconsolately how this group had been caught, and strained his eyes around the iron bars. Eventually the echoes faded, and Taras kicked his heavy cell door miserably. Of all the ironic punishments, after being let out one day for questioning, the orcs had thrown him into the wrong cell. He had been working at the bars in his old one for weeks, and they were almost ready to pull free, when he had been stuck in this one, directly across the hall. His bid for freedom lay three feet and a hundred miles from his grasp.
Taras slumped against his door and tried to shut out the silence. It had been so quiet now, for months. In the dark, lonely silence of Saruman’s dungeon, Taras of Dol Amroth battled noiselessly with his despair.