On second thought, perhaps a bat would be better, he told himself, seeing as how there was absolutely no light in the tunnel and he did not have time to go inside and fetch himself a candle.
The tunnel, once he was within, seemed endless, as well as lightless. Not to mention foul smelling. He reckoned it must go far beneath the ground, beyond the house. She was taking no chances, it seemed.
He dearly hoped he would be able to find his way out again.
At last he came upon something that rose out of the ground. Perching upon it, he discerned that it was made of wood. He dared not reassume human shape here, however, for fear the cloak would not allow him to shift his shape so far under the ground. The thought of being stuck here in human form was slightly terrifying.
Well, at least he knew where to find her now. It was just as he had suspected.
You will be avenged, Mother, he thought soberly. But I hope you are in no hurry.
So how shall I do it, he thought as he found himself above ground once more. Burn her? It would be fitting enough…but perhaps too quick. He knew he could not keep a fire going down in the tunnel, not long enough to consume her completely. He’d had to wait until she was above ground and awake.
But he liked the idea of imprisoning her even better. Letting her die slowly underground. He would have to find a way to seal up the cellar window without Hyldreth noticing.… If he could strew the tunnel with silver objects, then She could not pass through it. He had made sure to explore the entire passage to see where it ended, just in case there were another outlet. But where to get the silver? The cloak would not work if he had silver on his person, according to Hyldreth. He poked about the kitchen, only to find that the utensils were of pewter. He had brought some silver coins with him, but not nearly enough. Surely Hyldreth had some. She had to have money to buy food. Perhaps he could offer to go to market for her some time. Or accompany her there.
And he would have to go down without the cloak. The thought of it made him shudder, but he would do it if he must.
And then he remembered the garden-spirits.
Those tree-maidens, who had appeared the previous evening. Could he enlist their aid? Would they be willing to align themselves on his side? Or would they betray him to Celirwen and Hyldreth?
Dare he take the chance?
Perhaps if he went and made serious love to them, then maybe they would be his slaves, and would do all his bidding...However, the problem with that was that he'd had no experience whatsoever in that field, save in his own imagination. He had never so much as kissed a girl in reality.
Nay, perhaps he had better do the job himself. And killing Hyldreth was out of the question. Even if he’d had no qualms about doing so, he was certain the garden-spirits would not take it kindly, and would turn on him.
That would not do.
In the meantime, he looked forward to going out again in the night. This place was making him restless, even with the cloak. Or perhaps because of the cloak.
Perhaps he could just do the job tonight, and have done with it.
Late in the afternoon, after eating a bit of dinner, he thought of going down into the garden, and seeing if he could coax out a tree-fairy or two. They might prove better company than Hyldreth, at any rate.
Perhaps he should wear one of the suits in his wardrobe; the clothes he was wearing were rather old, not so well fitting as they had once been, and wanted washing. Even if he had sworn that morning not to touch any of the ones in the wardrobe. Who had died so that he might be suited out?
But he was wearing the cloak now, and the idea no longer repulsed him as it had done.
Back upstairs he went, and opened the wardrobe to examine the new clothing.
There were some handsome articles among them, to be sure. He could not charge Celirwen with having bad taste, whatever her other faults might be. Examining a white shirt, he did detect a few tiny spots of what were most likely dried blood. Nevertheless, he thought perhaps it would appeal to the garden-fairies, and he laid it over a chair and selected a tunic of an attractive dark grey woolen material with a bit of white embroidery on the breast, a pair of black leggings, a beautiful belt of bronze links with a steel buckle made like a lion’s head, and the nice black leather boots. It was maddening that there were no mirrors, so he would not be able to see how he looked, but he would just have to do without, he supposed. He had to remove the cloak in order to dress, and as he laid it over the chair he immediately felt the distaste he had experienced that morning.
And he felt naked without the cloak.
In utter dismay he sat upon the bed, clutching the cloak to him. What to do now? Perhaps he had better just leave. Put on the cloak, fly over the wall, then leave it behind, fetch his horse and go home. Then destroy the cloak. He was beginning to feel its power, to understand how it was his mother had come to him. The cloak must have worked its evil in Celirwen, splitting her in two, until the better part of her was pushed out entirely, and somehow took on a solid form. Would this cloak do so to him? He could feel its power now, attempting to cleave him, suck out the good in him, such as it was. Would it be pushed out entirely, and take on a life of its own? He did not wish it. Very likely his bad part would destroy the good part, just as Celirwen had destroyed Curonel, taking her back into herself, and overwhelming her completely.
It terrified him to think the same might happen to him.
Perhaps he should go downstairs now, enter the tunnel without the cloak, and do what he had come here to do, dispatch her with the silver dagger. Then go. And if Hyldreth tried to prevent him…well, he would do what he must. He would just have to live with it. It would be her fault for getting in his way.
He began to shiver. And now the cloak was calling to him, more and more insistently.
He put it on, and felt relieved almost to the point of ecstasy. That was so much better. He could scarcely believe he had agonized so over the thought of what it had been doing to him. He undressed himself beneath it, and put on the new clothes.
There. If only he could see how he looked.
Then he noticed it was growing darker outside. Wonderful. She would be coming up soon.
The days were most definitely growing shorter.
Perhaps if he could burn the box in which she slept…then she could not return to it. Or he could drag it out the window, take on the shape of something strong, a horse or mule, and haul her out. He chuckled to himself at the idea. Then she might be trapped out in the sunlight....
His thoughts grew ever more fiendish, as the afternoon wore on, and Hyldreth came to make up the fire.
She looked startled to see him, in his fine clothes, and the black cloak pushed back from his shoulders.
Indeed, she looked a bit frightened. The thought was not at all displeasing to him.
“How do I look?” he asked her with an attempt at gallantry.
“Very dashing…and rather wicked,” she said.
“It would be nice if there were a mirror about the place,” he said, “so I could see for myself. I don’t suppose you’d allow me to accompany you when next you go to market, and see if there are any mirrors to be had anywhere?”
“Oh, I am sure your mother would see fit to acquire one for you,” she said, “if you are that keen to have aught. But you can take my word that you look fine. I do not deal out useless flattery.”
“Well, I thank you,” he said. “But I would still like to see for myself.”
“By the way, your mother is bringing some of her friends over tonight,” Hyldreth said as she began making up the fire. “A sort of garden party, as it were.”
“Thanks for the warning,” he said. “I regret to say I shan’t be able to attend, as I have other plans for the night.”
“She wished them to meet you. You need not fear; they will have fed already.”
“Well, I do not wish to meet them. I’ve other places to go.”
“Such as?” She lifted her eyebrows.
“Now who’s asking questions?” he said. “I’m going courting, if you really must know.”
“Looking for that lass you met last night?”
“So She told you what happened, did she? Nay, not that one. There’s someone else.”
“Are you going to do tricks for her? Turn yourself into a dog and follow her about? She would love that, I am sure.”
“If you’re so keen to know, I’ll tell you when I get back,” he said. “But don’t count upon it.”
“Are you sure you wish to leave tonight?” she said standing up and picking up the metal kindling basket. “Your father may well be coming.”
“All the more reason to go,” he said. “Give him my regrets, will you.”
“Are you not at all curious to meet him?”
“Not in the slightest. He never had the least bit of interest in me, why should I be interested in him? He can go chase himself down a rat hole for aught I care, and you may tell him I said so.”
He felt a knot rising into his throat, and hated himself for it, and for the way his lower lip quivered as he spoke.
She looked at him with something akin to sympathy, which was all the harder to bear.
“You look so like him,” she said a little wistfully.
“Then forget the mirrors,” he said. “I don’t wish ever to look at myself again. I would sooner look like a troll. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way. Have fun at the garden party.”
He turned and flounced out of the room, down the stairs, and into the hallway that led out the back door. It was growing dim outdoors, and he told himself he had better be gone before the guests started arriving.
And then he saw that one of them was already there, standing before the door in the wall. A figure with a peculiar glow about him, clad in gorgeous array--black with gold and scarlet embroidery, and a medallion showing a large ruby, hanging from a chunky gold chain. His hair hung long and pitch black behind him, his face pale and majestic...the features disconcertingly similar to Gaergath’s own.
Beside him sat a big dog with silvery-grey fur--or was it a wolf?
The boy could only stand and stare, rendered entirely speechless.
“Greetings, my son,” Sauron said solemnly.