Have you tried to escape? Eowyn asked.
Gudyth shook her head. Leffeda tried. She said shed
get to Caras Arnen and bring some of Prince Faramirs men
to save us. She slipped away when the goblins were taking us
to the pit, and she was gone for three days, then they brought
her back, and ate her.
One of the other women moaned. Stanhilda and Leffeda
were sisters, Gudyth explained.
Poor thing, Eowyn whispered back. She tried to
picture Stanhilda as she must have looked before the years of
captivity had reduced her to skin and bonea pretty young
girl, dressed in a velvet gownand it occurred to her that
all of these women must have come from the City, since there
were very few homesteads in the southern hills, and it seemed
unlikely that any of them would have been travelling alone...
What happened to the men? she asked.
Eaten, said Gudyth. Or sent down to the lowest
levels, to mine the saltthe strong ones, that is.
Did you lose someone?
He was sent to the mine, said Gudyth. Then she
looked Eowyn in the eye for the first time and said, with a
sudden flash of spirit, But, I swear to the gods, I would
have cooked him for the goblins if theyd wanted
to eat him.
Ee wants erthe new one, said
one of the goblins.
His comrade with the keyring took it from his belt, and went
through his laborious ritual, trying each key in the lock until
he found the right one.
She had been watching the goblins carefully, and had noticed
a small opening in the cavern wall that did not appear to be
guarded, and which looked as though it might lead to a tunnel.
And, although she realised that, even if she succeeded in escaping
from the Great Cavern, she would almost certainly get lost in
the warren of passages beyond, she had decided that she would
wait for Legolas for two daysas best she could judgeand
that if he had not come to her by then, she would escape, and
She knew that her plan might prove fatal but, still, she felt
much better for having a plan.
At last, the goblin got the door open. You,
he said, jabbing a warty finger at Eowyn, and... You!
He pointed at Gudyth. Come on!
Eowyn glanced at her new friend; the other woman seemed resigned.
Together, they allowed the goblins to lead them out into the
cavern and, through the excited crowd, to the edge of the mud
pit, where the hideous Goblin King sat waiting for them.
He raised his hand, then let it fall, and the guards pushed
the two women into the mud.
And, as she tumbled, Eowyn spotted something that changed her