Dark Hath Been Dreams of Late
By Eowyn

The dank, foul smelling dungeon was illuminated by torches, their flickering amber light cutting through the darkness, only to show the blood stains upon the stone walls of no escape. Orcs and evil men with glittering eyes filled with morbid and wicked glee tormented the weary prisoners, the sounds of their agonized moans and howls of pain driving their tormentors into a frenzy of murder and death. Whips cut into flesh, sinews were torn by the pull of the ever-grinding wheels of the rack; the smell of burning flesh from brands and red-hot tongs filled the already foul air.

To the sounds of the prisoners' screams, moans and pleas for mercy, a young maiden danced. Her lithe form moved gracefully through the darkness; her feet lightly touching upon the floor before springing up again in twists and turns. Sometimes her veil would tickle the face of one of the prisoners, but he paid little heed to her for his mind was lost in the grip of pain. As she danced, she tapped out an exotic melody upon her thumb cymbals to the tune of the lash coming down hard upon the sturdy back of a man from Rohan.

An imposing figure of darkness watched the gruesome scene with cruel, diabolic pleasure, two red-hot flames blazing from within the recesses of his dark hood; the fires of his eyes burning like those of a demon from the darkest, oldest hell. A hissing sound escaped the unseen lips wreathed in shadow, and from out of his darkling form, he emitted the very essence of Death.

A maiden with hair the color of straw sat upon his lap; a vision of loveliness in this place of misery. On her face there was curled a wicked smile, and her icy blue eyes glittered with delight as she watched the bloody spectacle before them. "My lord," she asked softly, her voice sweet as honey, as she looked into the dark hood, "such sport is splendid indeed, but creates quite a thirst. Pray would you like some more wine?"

The figure rose a hand, icy with the chill of death, and softly stroked the maiden's hair. "Narnulublat, faandruk. I have read your thoughts; a question is upon your mind. Ask it of me, and perhaps you shall receive." He chuckled deeply, his eyes glowing a bit redder.

Batting her long lashes slightly, she lifted the goblet to his unseen lips. "Well, my lord, it is thus - I wish to ask of you a boon." Her voice was as rich as velvet as she spoke. "See the prisoner yonder - the strapping young Eorling to whom the orcs have taken the lash." A look of nostalgia crossed her face, and for a moment she was sorrowful; yet the mood passed as quickly as it came and she smiled again, her teeth glittering in the light of the torches. "He reminds me of Ceolwulf; therefore, I think the wretched knave should receive more lashes."

"My lord," a soft voice purred from beside the chair upon which the imposing figure sat, "the halfling prisoner who was captured in the battles of the last summer reminds me of my old master. I think that his screams should be louder." The maiden lounging at the feet of the shadow darkling was identical to the one sitting upon his lap; possessing the same straw-colored hair and glittering blue eyes.

"How could I turn down the requests of two maidens as fair as the both of you?" his voice was soft and kind as he spoke. A smile played upon his unseen face, his eyes burning a dull red as he looked down upon the maidens in glowing approval.

The cloaked king of evil then raised his hooded head. His voice was filled with a dreadful and terrible might as he gave forth this command:

"Give the Rohir twenty more lashes and skin the halfling alive!"

The two maidens giggled softly as the screams of pain rose up and echoed off the dungeon walls.


Though one slept in the hut of Berenon the Cobbler in the village of Alfirin and the other slept in what was once the White City of Gondor, Frodo and Ceolwulf both awoke at the same time, their faces covered with sweat, great screams of horror tearing out of their throats. Panting and trembling, they both looked around, but all was as it had been ere they had fallen asleep that night. The dreadful scene in the dungeon had been just a nightmare, and they breathed shaky sighs of relief that they had not actually been observers to that sight of death and torment. Yet the Rings upon their fingers glowed on their own accord, a baleful light which seemed to mock and taunt them cruelly. It was then that in Frodo's heart, a seed of doubt had been planted, and the sapling which grew within Ceolwulf burst forth into new life, becoming a dark tree bearing even darker fruit.

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