Snaga awoke to the bars of her cell door clanging. She started out of her woozy state, and then instantly regretted her movement – it sent fresh waves of agony rippling through her body. She lifted her head, her eyes shadowed and sick, as Ghnakh came into her cell and slammed a clay bowl of soup onto the earthen floor. Snaga reached for the spoon, and was horrified to realize that she could not even lift the utensil. With a muttered curse, Ghnakh grabbed the spoon and shoveled the soup savagely down her throat. It was hot, and it scalded her throat. She made a weak sound of protest, and got a slap for her trouble. It sent the pain ringing inside her head, and she fell limp to the floor.
Ghnakh gripped her shoulders, shoved her against the wall, and kept pushing spoonful after boiling-hot spoonful of soup into her unresisting mouth. Snaga’s head lolled as the soup found its way down her throat, and she choked as some went down her windpipe. Ghnakh pounded her back until she had stopped gasping and continued to force-feed her.
At least the food’s edible, Snaga thought in a daze. As it began to find its way into her body, suffusing her with energy, Snaga began to open her mouth for the soup, leaning forward to swallow it, treasuring each scalding mouthful. Once Ghnakh realized, however, that she was enjoying her food, he promptly took the bowl away. A low moan escaped Snaga, and she lifted her hand weakly toward the bowl. “No more,” Ghnakh said viciously, “not for you, anyway.” He stood. The sight of the food going away was too much for Snaga, and she collapsed in a hopeless heap on the rough floor. The Orc kicked her in the ribs, and she curled into a ball, gasping at the pain and clutching her side. “Now that is the position you should have adopted when My Lord offered you his gift,” Ghnakh sneered. “A bit slow, aren’t we, Elf?” He moved away. “Anyway, you have a visitor, who will be quite happy to see you in that position, so I’ve no wish to move you.” He opened the door and stepped out of the room. Someone else walked in.
Please, thought Snaga desperately, not Sauron. I can bear anyone but him, even now, please not him! She heard footsteps in the room and sighed convulsively with relief. Sauron had no body. He could not be her visitor.
“Get up, snaga.” The voice was cold, female, and all too familiar.
I was wrong, Snaga thought, summoning what remained of her strength. I can bear anyone but Sauron and her. But who else would come to see me? Somehow she knew that the word `snaga’ on Galadwen’s lips was the word in Black Speech, not meant as her name. All she could manage was to lift her head and look up at her mother. She blinked up at her, then spat weakly on the dirt at Galadwen’s feet.
Galadwen gripped her by the hair, hauling her upright. She struck Snaga twice, once on each cheek. Snaga’s head snapped back and forth with each blow, offering no resistance. With a curse of annoyance, Galadwen dropped her daughter’s head. Snaga forced herself to stay up, to brace herself against the wall, to meet her mother’s eyes. “Well?” she asked, seeing no reason to mince words. “What do you want from me?”
A smirk twisted Galadwen’s mouth. “Firstly, look at me, granddaughter of Galadriel.” Snaga looked at her, dimly registering the name that she had never heard before. Galadwen was clothed in black, with hints of red in her gown, but that was nothing new. What was different was the diadem on her golden hair and the gold ring set with a dense black stone on the ring finger of her right hand. “Do you know what I am?”
Snaga gave a smile, no less savage for being weak. “You are my mother.”
Galadwen struck her again. “I am no longer your mother!” she crowed. “I am the Dark Lady, the Consort of the Lord of Mordor!”
“I thought that dubious honor was to be mine, Mother,” Snaga murmured, knowing she would be hit and savoring her rebellion. Let her kill me, Snaga thought. Let her kill me and then answer to her precious Lord of Mordor for it, and let her writhe under his hand! Please, let me die!
But Galadwen stayed her hand. “It was to be so, granddaughter of Galadriel, but you let it slip through your fingers.” She held up the hand that bore Darya, crying gleefully, “Now it is mine, as it should have been when I arrived here! But I was blinded by youth, and what I thought was love.” An insane light was in her eyes. “Elrond and Celebrian can have their precious Homely House for as long as it suits me to let them have it! It will be mine one day! Mine and Sauron’s!” She let out a high-pitched cry that shattered into Snaga’s ears; she clapped her hands over her ears and tried to shut out her mother’s mad laugh. Galadwen seemed to have forgotten Snaga’s presence; she laughed on, her voice cracking and reaching a pitch that made Snaga scream with agony. Then Galadwen looked down at her. “Oh, yes,” she murmured softly. “I forgot you were here.”
Snaga lifted her head and gazed blearily at her mother. “You are mad,” she choked, her voice rasping in her throat. “You are mad, and you don’t even see it.”
Galadwen lifted her hand. Snaga braced herself, her entire face quivering in readiness for the blow, but it never fell. Galadwen dropped her hand, still smirking. “And you should never have been born,” she replied savagely. “You do not know the value of power or freedom. That is what we experienced here, snaga, true freedom from all save the greatest power in all Middle-earth! But you were fool enough to throw it away. You are no daughter of mine. Let Galadriel claim you, let Celebrian try to take you as her own – oh, wait.” A hideously ecstatic light suffused Galadwen’s face. “I forgot, My Lord told me when I agreed to be his consort – Celebrian is gone.”
“You still hate her.” Snaga realized that she was the one speaking. Don’t be a fool, she’ll get furious. Her stupid voice spoke on. “You haven’t yet gotten over the fact that Elrond would rather have had her than you. He saw you for what you are, and what you are is absolutely insane, Mother. You could never forgive him, and you have not yet gotten over it. Don’t try to fool me, I’ve lived with you for more than a thousand years, and I can tell. I don’t think you’ll ever stop hating him – or yourself.”
Galadwen screamed in rage. She reached out and snatched Snaga by the throat, holding her up from the neck while striking her everywhere she could, digging her long fingernails through the cloth of Snaga’s dress to score bleeding lines on her daughter’s skin. Snaga hung, limp and choking after the first few blows, in her grasp, praying to any being who might possibly hear the plea of an Elf in Mordor to, this time, let her die. But the prayer was not granted – Galadwen finally threw her to the ground, a few inches from death again, kicked her savagely, and stormed out of the cell.
Snaga had heard something clatter to the ground as Galadwen left the dungeon. Bleeding from a plethora of small cuts, her head shaken, her insides rattling, Snaga forced herself to her knees and reached for the thing.
It was her dagger.
Galadwen must have taken to wearing it, and it had fallen from wherever she kept it when she had kicked her. Snaga ran her fingers down the leather sheath, curled them slowly into a grip around the hilt, and drew the blade. She felt her stiff features curve into the beginnings of a smile.
She would probably never get her sword back – Sauron and Galadwen would have had her room searched the moment she was thrown in the cell, and the beautiful Elven sword was doubtlessly long gone – but she still had her dagger, the weapon that had been her companion since the day she stumbled upon the armory. Two fingers glided down the smooth surface of the blade. Two other fingers, belonging to her enemy, had been severed by this same dagger, severed by her hand in her own defense. Both the weapon and she herself were blooded now. She was a warrior, and it was a weapon worthy of one.
I should try to find another dagger somewhere, Snaga thought as she slid the dagger back into its sheath and strapped it with fingers that still knew how to do it to her belt and underneath her dress. I heard Mother mentioning once that Elves fight with two daggers. I wonder if I could do the same.
The next day, Ghnakh came again with the bowl of soup. Snaga had made herself stay awake last night for as long as it took to form a plan for survival. She slumped against the wall, staring at the Orc with weary eyes. Ghnakh pushed her mouth open and began to shovel the soup down her throat. Snaga welcomed it, swallowing the hot food as eagerly as she could without being obvious doing such a thing. She made her eyes stay glassy, and only when she had had more than enough did she pretend to start actively swallowing. As she had expected, Ghnakh instantly took the bowl away and made for the door.
Snaga slumped back against the stone wall, her eyes brighter than they had been for weeks. She had gotten nourishment, and had been awake enough to sense and welcome it. She licked the last drops of soup off of her lips and drew the dagger through the slit in her dress. She held it as tightly as her weakened hand could, and moved her wrist up and down. She was shocked when she dropped the dagger after the third wrist elevation. I didn’t think I was this weak, she thought inanely. She bent down, scooped the dagger up, and slid it carefully back into the sheath, the sheath’s cold metal tip a comforting, familiar presence against her leg. Snaga touched the hilt for comfort, her fingertips brushing the pommel. She wondered who Galadriel was. It seemed clear enough that she was Galadwen’s mother.
Wait for me a little while longer, grandmother, Snaga thought, feeling a rising spark in her that had been missing since she was thrown in here. Wait for me to recover, and then I will come to you. The world did not seem so bleak now that she had a purpose in life. Wait for me, and then I will prove to you that I am strong. Snaga smiled a real smile. She had a plan.