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Subject: The Underworld

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Date Posted: 21:25:21 09/30/03 Tue

Her burst of determination faded quickly as she began to approach the part of town the address called for. The streets grew dirtier and narrower, twisting deeper into the underworld of Minas Tirith. It was a part of town that everyone avoided - unless you had no choice. The uneasy feeling grew as she walked past withered bundles of old
women sitting in filth on the doorsteps. She could feel their glittering eyes burning into her as she passed through. No one could pretend that her day dress was richly
made - but she could feel envious eyes on her even still. Ragged children ran bare footed through the filth, screaming and jostling her. She thought she saw one of them
carrying a knife.

She raised her chin proudly, and forced herself to keep walking. The stench rose around her in invisable clouds. But then who was going to venture down here just to clear out the drains? This place was ruled by the gang lords, not the city authorities. Everyone she saw must belong to some gang or other, they’d have to for their own protection. This was were the pickpockets and theives lived when they were not
roaming the streets. This was also the place were murders took place with no one turning an eye.

At last she reached the correct street and scanned her eyes along the dim line of dirty doorways. There was no numbering or labels, how was she supposed to find the right one?
“Excuse me” Noryn asked a woman sitting on a nearby doorstep, “I’m looking for the...” she glanced at the address on the message, “...the Shadow Place?...Palace?...” She couldn’t quite read the handwriting. The woman stared up at her without speaking, Her eyes vacant and bloodshot. She didn’t answer.

“It’s the one with the green door, down there.”
Noryn turned to see a toothless man leering at her.
“Thank you” she replied calmly and started along the street.
“Aren’t you going to repay me for my trouble?” the man asked, his hand reaching out to grope her.
“No” Noryn answered, slapping him sharply across the face. She added a few choice words and tripped him over. He was so drunk, that he just lay there staring at the filthy cobbles as if he didn’t realise what had just happened.

The green door looked just like the others, but Noryn rapped on it firmly before she could change her mind.
“What d'ya want?”
The door was opened by a huge man, so tall that Noryn found herself craning back to look him in the face. So wide, that there was no way she could pass him.
“Is this the Shadow Palace?...Place?” she asked, still unsure of the name.
“Could be...” he replied, slowly cracking his knuckles one by one. “What’s it to you?”
Noryn refused to be intimidated, she prided herself on her cold, almost aloof outer shell. She was certainly not going to show fear.
“I have a message for someone called...” she checked the parchment again “...Tyram”
There was a long pause
“You’d better come in then” the doorman answered at last, and stepped aside to let her past.

Noryn found herself in a narrow, dark corridor, lit only by a small burning lamp in one corner. The doorman closed the door and slid several bolts and chains across it.
Noryn tried to keep her face steady as her only route of escape was closed off.
“Hand over your weapons” The doorman droned mechanically as he turned.
“I don’t have any” she replied honestly. The doorman laughed,
“You expect me to believe that a little thing like you wanders through the streets of the Underworld without weapons? You must think I’m stupid.”
“I haven’t got anything” she kept her voice calm, “Search me if you must.”
The doorman scrutinised her face.
“Very well” he replied, and started running his hands over her body, patting the tight fabric of her dress. Noryn kept her face proud and stared straight ahead. She was sure
he was taking too long searching certain parts of her body, but at last he rose satisfied.
“Obviously you’re the stupid one” he commented. “Come with me”
She ducked under the tattered filthy curtain that hung as a separator at the entrance, and followed him down the narrow, dark corridor.

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