Aragorn concentrated on breathing, trying to shut
pain. He needed to get loose and get them out of
here. Doriflen was right about one thing: he had no intention of
waiting for that madman to return.
“Legolas?” Aragorn twisted in his bonds and
kneeled next to the
post, carefully easing his wounded leg out from under him. He
leaned forward to try to catch a glimpse of the elf’s face but the
prince’s hair had fallen over his shoulders, concealing his features
where he hung. “Legolas! Come on, wake up.” The ranger
glanced at the elf’s back and drew his breath in in a sharp hiss.
Legolas’ back was welted and bruised. Burn marks lacerated his
skin in odd patterns. “Damn, what did he do to you?”
His binds weren’t as tight as they should have been
and the human began
to work the rope back and forth against itself, straining at the knots
until they began to ease up. He ignored the ache in his wrists as
the rough hemp dug into his skin. Grabbing one of the loops with
his teeth he pulled the knot slowly apart. Within moments his
hands were free and he rubbed them gently, trying to ease the pain his
escape had caused.
Silently he moved in front of Legolas and awkwardly
crouched down near
the elf. Slowly easing his hands up the sides of the elf’s face
he tipped the prince’s head back, brushing the long strands of hair
easily out of the way.
“I have to get you out of here,” he whispered to his
He had no weapons and none had been left in the
unlike himself, had been staked between the two poles and secured with
manacles that were attached to the wood. Frantically he searched
the ground for something, anything to help him free the elf. His
fingers closed about a small thin tine. Doriflen had dropped one
of the tiny torture devices earlier and hadn’t noticed its
absence. The spoke’s needle-tipped point was perfect for picking
the locks on the manacles.
Limping back to the post, Aragorn attacked the locks
The small spine was perfect and Legolas’ right wrist fell free of its
bondage. The elf crashed to the ground, suspended by his left arm
Aragorn quickly moved around the prince and picked
him up off the
floor. Gently, the ranger rested the elf’s head on his shoulder,
pulling his friend against him, trying to ease the pressure to his
still manacled wrist. Aragorn carefully brushed away the blonde
stands of hair that fell into his eyes so he could concentrate more
easily on the lock. He could feel Legolas’ light, shallow
breathing as he held the unconscious elf, and he hoped that his friend
would be all right. The seconds dragged by as the ranger fought
with the cuff. It seemed as if it took forever for the lock to release
its hold on Legolas. Limply, the prince leaned into the human as
Aragorn compensated for the extra weight, pulling them both unsteadily
into a standing position.
Bending down, Aragorn tucked his head against
Legolas’ side and shifted
the elf onto his shoulder, holding the prince’s legs as he stiffly
stood from the crouched position. His wounded leg buckled under him,
threatening to collapse and send them both back to the floor but the
ranger quickly shifted his weight and was able to maintain his
balance. He limped towards the opening of the room and peeked
around the corner, glancing both ways.
No one was around and no sounds echoed through the
Carefully and quietly he edged out into the hallway and moved back up
towards what he hoped was Thranduil’s main palace and somewhere
familiar where he could hide. He needed to find a place out of
the way, someplace safe so he could see to Legolas’ wounds and his
He walked uneasily up the tunnel and through a
doorway that looked as
if it had been recently made in the wall that he walked through.
Rubble and stones littered the floor as he moved through the opening
but he didn’t take the time to ponder what it meant. Moving into a
passageway that he recognized from previous visits he passed a storage
room, marking the door in his mind and continued on. Testing the
doorways along the way the ranger kept searching for any place where
they would be unnoticed. Legolas’ weight under normal
circumstances would be a small thing to deal with, but with the wound
to his thigh, Aragorn was almost out of strength to continue their
flight. He grimaced in frustration, realizing that was exactly what
Doriflen had in mind – to cripple him.
He pressed in a door on his left. The dark room was
barely lit but for
a tiny shaft that cut through the rock to the surface. The sounds
of water dripping somewhere in the recesses sounded oddly in his ears
and the room was filled with a moldy scent. There was no telling
how long the chamber had been left unattended, unopened,
overlooked. Crates lined the walls and stacked in rows into the
interior of the room. It was perfect. They could hide
behind the boxes and never be seen.
Glancing back down the hall to see if their escape
had been noticed,
Aragorn edged into the room and quietly shut the door behind him,
throwing the bolt in place. He squeezed between the boxes and
pressed for the back of the spacious closet. Water dripped down
the wall of the limestone, ponding in a small pool before leaking out a
crack in the floor. It was here near the back wall that he
finally dropped painfully to his knees and lowered Legolas gently to
the floor, careful not to let the prince fall on his wounded
back. He propped the elf against a nearby stack of boxes and
quickly shrugged out of his overcoat, laying the long leather jacket on
the floor before easing Legolas stomach down onto the worn coat.
He gently pulled the elf’s arms out from under him, trying his best to
make the prince more comfortable.
It was cool in the chamber. Aragorn rose unsteadily
to his feet,
stepping towards the crates hoping that there would be something useful
in them. The first carton produced nothing he could use and he
dug into the next one. There were furs stuffed into the wooden
box and below them was a bolt of fine cotton spun for dressmaking – it
would do. He pulled the furs out and stacked them near Legolas’
head, dragging the cotton down with him as he re-seated himself next to
the unconscious elf. His fingers shook slightly as he brushed
locks of stray hair away from Legolas’ face.
“Legolas?” Aragorn bent close to the elf and
stared at the pale
face. The prince did not move. He placed his hand gently
between the elf’s bare shoulders, careful of the red welts that
decorated his back, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine now. I just have
to get you cleaned up.” He quickly began tearing the cotton into
strips. Dipping one length into the pooling water behind him, he
cleaned the ugly burn marks on his friend’s back, gently removing the
ash and soot left by the burning tines.
His own leg had begun to throb unmercifully and he
grabbed a length of
the fabric and wrapped it tightly around his thigh, stopping the blood
flow and closing off the wound. With that taken care of Aragorn
turned his attention back to Legolas. The elf was breathing more
easily now and the ranger began to carefully clean the deep, bruising
welts that crossed his back and wrapped around his ribs. He
hissed in sympathy as a soft moan escaped the prince. “I’m sorry,
Legolas. Shhh...I’ll be more careful.” He quieted the elf, gently
laying his hand on Legolas’ head and speaking softly.
When the elf’s wounds had been seen to, Aragorn
bound the worst of them
with strips of cloth and laid a barrier of the fabric over the prince’s
back before piling the furs on top of his friend to keep him
warm. He sat for moments in the dark silence, closing his eyes
and just allowing the stress of the whole day to roll off of him.
He hadn’t realized that Doriflen was quite as mad as he was. The
elf truly was insane. Pushing himself stiffly to his feet he limped to
the door and cracked the entry slightly open. He needed to find
some clothing for Legolas and some food for both of them. It
wouldn’t be much longer before Doriflen’s men found that they had
escaped and came looking for them.
There were no sounds in the long passage and he
crept out of his hiding
place, stealing back down to the storeroom he remembered passing
earlier. Aragorn was relieved when the door opened with no
resistance. He pressed inside and quickly rifled through the
provisions stacked there. Dried venison was stuffed into his
pocket and he grabbed a small stack of newly prepared tunics on his way
back out. He moved quickly towards the room where he had left
Legolas, surprised and grateful that their absence had gone unnoticed
Stealing back into the forgotten storage room that
served as their
hiding place, Aragorn quietly shut and locked the door behind him,
sliding the bolt into place so the door could not be opened from the
He was taken off guard as someone lunged at him from
attacker grabbed his head, one hand under his chin forcing the ranger’s
head painfully to the side, a slight twist emphasized his captor’s
seriousness and he groaned softly against the abuse.
“Where have you taken him?” a dangerously low voice
“Legolas?” Aragorn glanced out of the corner
of his eyes trying
to get a look at the person behind him.
“Aragorn?” The elf let up his strangle-hold on the
human and staggered
Turning quickly the ranger saw the way prince
stumbled and he dropped
the tunics, catching his friend before he fell. “What are you
“I didn’t know who you were.” Legolas grabbed
onto the human,
allowing the man to steer him to the back of the storeroom. “How did we
get here? Where are we?”
“Calm down.” The ranger gently seated his
friend on the pile of
discarded furs and gingerly knelt in front of him, careful of his own
wounds. He took the elf’s face in his hands and held him still,
“We are safe for now. We are not far from where Doriflen kept us, but
they will not suspect we are here. I got us free and found some
food and extra clothing.”
Legolas eyes were huge in the semi-darkness as he
listened to his
friend. He wrapped his slender fingers around the man’s forearms,
concerned about what may have happened after he passed out. “Did he
hurt you? Did he torture you?”
“I am fine.” Aragorn smiled at the worried elf, “I
got a little scratch
that is all.” He glanced down at his leg, a crimson stain had
spread across the lightly colored fabric that he had bound the wound
with and he grimaced slightly.
Legolas followed his glance and started. “That is no
“Hey!” The human whispered fiercely at the elf,
attention. “It’s fine.” He emphasized his words slowly and nodded his
head at the prince. “You are the one I am worried about.”
He carefully pulled the elf forward, allowing his friend to lean
against him as he inspected the wounds on the elf’s back once more.
“What did he do to you, Legolas?”
The prince closed his eyes tightly shut and shook
his head, moving away
from the ranger. Tears spilled over the brims of his eyelids and
he pressed his fists hard against his eyes trying to shut out the
emotions, trying to suppress the images and the pain. He felt
like an idiot for being this weak, but no longer seemed able to control
himself. Memories from his childhood mingled with the present and
made everything harder.
“No. It’s all right.” Aragorn pulled the elf against
him and held him
there until he stilled.
“It’s not all right.” Legolas didn’t move, he
against his friend. “He said he did the same thing to my father
only...” the elf’s words choked in a sob and he stopped speaking.
Aragorn shut his eyes tightly trying to control his hatred for the elf
that had done these things. Legolas continued softly, “He said he
did the same thing to my father, only worse.” The words were barely a
“Legolas, I am so sorry.” Aragorn tried to
comfort the prince,
“We’ll find your father I promise and together we’ll take back the
throne. He won’t hurt any of you again.”
There was no response from the prince and Aragorn
gently pushed him
back to stare into the glazed silvery blue eyes. “Hey, you with
Legolas nodded slightly and met his friend’s gaze.
When he smiled
Aragorn pulled him back towards him, resting his forehead lightly
against the elf’s as he spoke, “I brought food and clothing.
Let’s rest up here for a bit and then we can go find your father.
The elf nodded against him and finally returned the
Aragorn stood to his feet to retrieve the bundle of
tunics he had
dropped, when the door was roughly jerked against its bolt from the
outside. He crouched back down next to Legolas and peered around
the crates. The sounds of conversation could just barely be heard
beyond the heavy door.
“Break it in then!” Doriflen’s angry voice could be
heard yelling above
that of his men.
“Begging your pardon my lord, but that door is
always locked. A
cave-in caused by an earth shake sealed it off. The room hasn’t been
accessible in years.”
Legolas stared at Aragorn in surprise. The
voice of the elf that
had just spoken belonged to Brenyf, captain of Raniean’s guard.
He had just lied to Doriflen. The two escapees held their breath,
it would work.
It was quiet for several moments out in the
corridor, “Very well, move
on. But find them or it will be you I put in those stocks!” Doriflen
screamed at the guards as they moved off down the hall. He
slammed his fist hard against the locked door before stalking
Aragorn let his breath out in a rush as the hall
outside quieted once
more. He glanced at Legolas as the elf sat back down, closing his
eyes and breathing heavily. It had been very close, but Brenyf
just bought them a few extra hours.
Shakily, Aragorn stood once more to his feet and
retrieved the tunics
he had dropped near the door. He pulled out the venison and
handed a few strips to the prince as he reseated himself, unwadding the
clothing and looking it over.
He passed a dark green under-tunic and a darker
brown over-shirt to the
prince. “These look to be your size.”
Legolas took the proffered shirts and laid them in
his lap, tearing off
a bite of venison.
“You are shivering,” the elf observed.
“No. I think that last encounter just shook me up a
“No, you are shivering.” Legolas laughed lightly at
the ranger's denial
and pulled a fur out from under him where he sat, passing it to the
Gratefully Aragorn wrapped the fur around his
shoulder and nodded,
rolling his eyes. “Fine. I was shivering.”
“I know these things.” Legolas took another
bite of the
“Oh yeah, you know everything.”
They both laughed lightly, the tension easing as
momentary though it was, settled in.
“Well there are some things I don’t know,” Legolas
softly. His eyes drifted down to the fur beneath him as his
thoughts drifted to his father once more.
“Why don’t you get some rest?” Aragorn reached
out and touched
the prince’s shoulder gently. “Get into that clothing and rest a bit.
I’ll stay up and watch.”
“No. Strider, we need to press on. Who knows what
that madman is doing
or has done to my father? We need to find him.”
Aragorn held the elf’s gaze unwaveringly. “I agree,
but not with
Doriflen’s men hunting us. We are safe now.” He kept talking as
Legolas tried to interrupt, “Your father would want you to stay that
way and besides,” he smiled wickedly at his friend, “I am not carrying
you another step of the way!”
Legolas laughed and shook his head, stiffly
shrugging into the tunics
Aragorn had brought him. “Very well. You have a
The ranger leaned carefully back against the stone
wall, as his friend
gingerly laid down on the furs, easing onto his stomach with a soft
groan. The man draped a thick fur across the elf’s shoulders.
“Sleep, Legolas. I’ll wake you.”
With a slight nod the elf fell fast asleep, the
stress from his wounds
and the abuse to his body overriding his desire to begin the search for
his father. Strider was right. It would do no good to be
recaptured, for Doriflen would not allow them a second chance at
“Show me where it was that Doriflen kept us.”
back at Aragorn as the man quietly closed the door of the storage room
behind them. They had sheltered in the forgotten closet for a few
hours while the prince regained some of his strength, but he had grown
anxious to find his father and they had heard no sounds in the hallway
for quite some time. Thinking the passage safe, they set out to
find King Thranduil.
“I am not
going back there,” Aragorn whispered fiercely, glancing
over his shoulder as they stalked cautiously back into the bowels of
He bumped into Legolas who had stopped and was
glaring at the human.
“Strider, that room that my uncle had us in...” He thought through all
his long years in the palace halls, shaking his head softly. “I have
never been there before and yet Doriflen claimed we were just beyond
the storage rooms. There is nothing beyond the storage rooms.
They are a dead end.”
“They aren’t a dead end any more.” Aragorn edged
around the elf
and took point, leading them towards the storage area. “You'll
hate it in there.” The ranger glanced back at the elf with a
cryptic smile on his face.
“What does that mean?”
“Well for a race that hates caves you sure have
carved out a series of
tunnels that resembles them quite well.” Aragorn turned left at
fork in the hallway and stepped cautiously back into the room with the
“Strider!” Legolas glanced at the high, airy
decorated the tunnels they walked in, lighting the large passages and
causing the white stone walls to seem more spacious than they
were. “This is my home. How can you possibly compare the
palace to a cave?!”
Turning back towards the prince, Aragorn stopped
haven’t seen it down there. I have. Whatever that section of the
palace is, it’s not like here.” He waved his hand above them
indicating the air and light vents. “It’s...it’s evil Legolas.
It’s dark.” He was frowning as he thought about the tunnels he
had passed through on his way out of the lower dungeons. Casting
his eyes to the back of the storage room they stood in he quietly
continued, “Come on, you'll see.”
Stepping around the supplies that commandeered most
of the space in the
small room Aragorn pressed towards the back wall. He picked his
way around the rocks and debris that littered the back half of the
room. The huge break in the wall, obscured from view by the crates and
boxes, loomed darkly in front of them.
Legolas stopped walking and carefully looked over
the ragged hole that
had been made in what he had always been certain was nothing more than
a dead end. He fingered the jagged edges of the makeshift door
that had been broken into the wall. The soft rock that had
concealed the passage easily crumbled in his hands, nothing more than a
well concealed patch. The floor beneath his feet was littered
with rocks and rubble and he looked about him in confusion.
“What is this place?” He turned huge, confused
eyes on the man
that stood quietly off to the side, listening for any sounds of
“I don’t know.” Aragorn shook his head. If
Legolas did not
recognize it, then certainly the human had no idea.
Anger flared through the prince, igniting his
resolve with hot
flame. “We have to find my father. Doriflen must have known
about these tunnels all along. There is no telling what else he
has done to the kingdom.”
“Legolas...” Aragorn’s arm on the elf’s sleeve
caused the prince to
glance back at the human. “It truly is more like a cave than your
home,” he tried to warn his friend.
With a slight nod the elf stepped into the
passageway behind the
storage room. Indeed the ranger had been correct. Here the
air and light vents were few and far in between. The air was old
and held a slightly stale scent to it that he had not noticed when he
had been with Doriflen. The walls and floor were rougher. They
did not resemble the smooth, fair quality of workmanship that the elves
were famous for and Legolas found himself halting quickly after he
walked only a short way. It was true, the very place felt as
though a great evil had been worked here, whether recent or simply a
remnant of another age, the elf could not tell.
“You are right Strider.” Legolas glanced about
them in the dank
passage, “It is more like a cave, like the passages in
Eowioriand. But... but I have never heard of this place.
Why would it not...” His words were cut short as Aragorn grabbed
him, shushing him quickly and dragged him farther into the strange
He pressed himself into a deep recess, pulling
Legolas back with him
and turned his back to the hallway, hoping his dark overcoat would
blend in with the blackness around them. “Someone approaches.”
The ranger whispered quietly into the elf’s ear.
Legolas listened, throwing his awareness out into
the hall behind
them. Sounds of hurried footsteps reverberated on the rocky floor
and voices floated to them.
“I don’t care what you heard. The king and his son
returning. Doriflen is your master now. You would do well to obey
him,” a harsh voice warned.
“I will never call him lord.” Another answered in an
“Listen to him,” a voice that held ages of weariness
conversation, “It is not wise to cross Doriflen. You will not
survive it. Just do as he says and ask no questions. Come on now,
all of you. Let's collect those supplies Lord Doriflen asked for
and leave this place. I do not like the way it feels here.”
Their voices grew distant as they passed on through
tunnel, oblivious to the presence of the escaped prisoners.
Aragorn let out a deep sigh of relief - it had been
“Did you hear what they said?” Legolas stared
“I did. But it’s a lie.” The ranger tangled
his fingers in the
sleeve of the prince’s tunic and pulled him in the opposite direction.
“Come on, I’ll show you that room.”
Legolas stared hard at the two pillars that
decorated the now empty
chamber. Dried blood on the ground had stained the roughed rock a
dark ominous color. He swallowed hard, knowing the black drops
that stained the floor had come from him. He couldn’t repress the
shiver that overtook him as he thought back on his time here.
“Let us be gone from this place. It is not
good to be
here.” Aragorn stood near the rear exit. He glanced back in
at his friend, following the elf’s gaze to the reminders of his
torment. “Look! There is another entire section of passages that
lead off from this one. Let us try some of them. It may be that
we will find your father there.”
Legolas nodded absently. The whole turn of events
was almost more than
he could handle. His father had been taken hostage by his uncle,
an elf known for his cruelty, and was being held somewhere in a
labyrinth of tunnels that the prince had never even known
existed. Everything was wrong and he had no idea if he would ever
be able to right it again.
The elf turned to follow but was stopped as a dark
figure filled the
doorway behind him. Legolas swiveled on his boot heels in time to
see the captain of Doriflen’s guard step into the room. Surprise was
written on the guard’s face as he took in Mirkwood’s prince unbound and
ready to flee. “Stop!” he yelled at them before leaning
back into the hallway and calling for help.
Legolas fled out the back door, grabbing Aragorn and
pushing the human
in front of him. “We have been found!” he explained as he
pelted up the passage, adrenaline lacing like fire in his veins.
He had no wish to be caught by that madman who called himself his
The ranger ran behind him, slowed by the injury to
Spurred by the sounds of their pursuers he did not relent to the deep
ache the wound caused him as he followed the prince through the
unfamiliar halls, weaving in and out of different rooms, both large and
small. The interconnecting tangle of passages confused the human,
but he would rather be lost in the bowels of Mirkwood’s palace than be
caught by their tormenter.
Aragorn raced down the darkened tunnel that Legolas
had turned into, the
injury to his leg was causing him to move more slowly and stiffly
now. He grew frustrated with himself as the elf rounded a corner
out of sight ahead of him.
“Legolas, wait up!” the ranger called down the
The prince skidded to a stop and ran back towards
“Strider, are you are all right?”
“Yes.” The human had stopped and was standing
in the middle of
the hall. He bent over and gripped his thigh hard above his knee
trying to still the pain. “It just aches. I can’t keep up.”
“Alright, slower then, but we must leave this
area.” The elf cast
his eyes behind the man and listened intently down the tunnel. “We are
not safe here. Doriflen’s men are still near.” Legolas
stepped forward, intending to help Aragorn, allowing the human to lean
on him, but a low grinding noise stopped him as the shriek of metal on
rock filled the shaft and an iron gate fell between them, its pointed
tips driving hard into the stone floor.
Legolas barely had time to move out of the way
before the grate clanged
down against the stone, separating him from the human.
Aragorn lunged forward, grabbing the steel bars with
He pressed his body against the gate and tried to move the obstruction
up. Legolas threw himself against the metal bars on his side and
added his strength, but the steel door didn’t budge.
The sounds of feet running in the hallway behind
Aragorn echoed along
the stone shaft. The ranger glanced behind him, there was no way
out. Legolas reached frantically through the bars, grabbing the
Panic swept through his heart as Strider turned back
to the elf. He
pulled away from his friend’s grip and shoved the prince backwards away
from the gate, “Go!”
When Legolas didn’t move, the man grabbed the bars
and pressed his face
closely against them, whispering fiercely at the elf, “Go,
Legolas! Get out of here. They can’t get you again.”
Aragorn knew that Legolas was the one Doriflen really wanted, and the
young ranger couldn’t stand the thought of having to watch Doriflen get
another chance to visit his cruelty upon the prince.
“I can’t leave you.” Legolas shook his head
desperately searching for some way that they could both get out of this
together. He couldn’t let Aragorn be retaken! Who knew what
twisted things his uncle would find to do to the ranger? For no
other reason than because he was Legolas’ friend! Anguish
squeezed the elf’s heart tight as he tugged desperately at the bars
separating them. It was to no avail.
“You can’t stay. Quickly, before they find
eyes were huge as he begged his friend; he fought the fear that pounded
at his heart with every beat. His captors were almost upon them.
Legolas stepped forward, pressing his forehead
against the steel bars,
barely touching Aragorn’s. He wrapped his hands behind the ranger’s
head and held the man against him for a second, closing his eyes as he
fought the despair in his heart. He couldn’t believe this.
Not again. Not again! It reminded him of Moria all over...
his friend was trapped and he had no choice but to abandon him to what
he knew was going to be a cruel fate. The prince had sworn he’d
never be in this position again, he had sworn it! Legolas felt
helpless, anguished frustration sting his eyes.
Aragorn’s hands gripped his forearms tightly.
Legolas,” he whispered once more.
“I’ll be back, my friend,” the elf’s voice was
Aragorn nodded against him, closing his eyes as
Doriflen’s men rounded
the bend in the passage behind him. “Just make it soon.” His
voice trembled as he pushed himself away from Legolas and spun around,
pressing his back against the metal door. If they wanted him, they
would have to take him, for he wouldn’t go willingly. He heard
Legolas pelt up the passageway as the warriors fanned out in front of
him. One of them leaned around to catch a glimpse of the elf prince as
he passed out of sight.
“You’ll come along with us now,” Amon, the captain
of the guard,
“I don’t think so.” Aragorn’s voice was hard and
dangerous as he
viciously quashed the fear racing around inside him.
The commander of the elves laughed slightly, “Oh
really? You want
it to be rough then? Lord Doriflen is waiting for you. He
won’t tolerate your tardiness.”
“Lord Doriflen can sleep in Gorgoroth for all I
care. I am not going
with you.” The ranger stepped into a defensive posture and balanced his
weight, ignoring the pain that shot up his leg; he had no intention of
making his recapture easy on the elves at all.