Captive of Darkness
scum. These rocks won’t move by themselves!" one of the guards growled
harshly, giving Legolas a sharp cut across the back with the ribbed
whip in his hand.
features were tight and pinched as he struggled with the rage that
burned inside him towards these people. Remaining silent despite the
taunts of his captors, Legolas hefted another huge chunk of rough,
hard-edged rock and carried it over to the small cart, which was
quickly filling to capacity.
of hopeless slaves toiled in these rock fields, thralls of King
and doomed to harvest stone and gravel for the use of Dorolyn from now
until the day they died, which would be quite soon because mortality
rates in the stone quarries were high.
of cruel, sneering slave drivers watched over them, driving the poor
souls without rest. But of them all, Legolas was the only slave who had
the dubious distinction of having his own personal guards assigned to
him. Then again, Legolas was the only slave whose entire life was not
bound to this one, grinding task. No indeed, King Melèch liked
his favorite decoration handy; however, Legolas had been nothing but
trouble for his captors since the day they took him.
elf’s strong will refused to be broken and he could not be moved,
either by pain or coercion, to break his vow to never acknowledge the
wicked King as his Master or his Lord. The three weeks Legolas had been
in thrall to Melèch had been absolute hell for the elf. His
impudence had earned him a week and a half’s worth of hard labor in the
stone quarries as punishment.
guards Melèch assigned him were responsible both for making sure
the prisoner did not escape, and that he pulled the double and
sometimes triple work-shifts that the King had assigned in an attempt
to drain some of the spirit out of his unruly slave. What Melèch
not count on was the strength of elven endurance.
could keep going for far longer than the guards who watched him, which
angered the men to no end. They took shifts while Legolas was forced to
toil both night and day. Elves need little rest and had their own ways
of regaining their strength even while on their feet and moving. So,
for the first three or four days of his sentence, Legolas had not shown
even the slightest sign of fatigue. However, as the second week drew
on, the harsh, unyielding labor that was uniquely ill-fitted for a wood
elf began to take its toll on the young prince’s spirit and body.
did not help that the men guarding him delighted in making the elf’s
life a misery. Because they could find no legitimate complaint about
his work, they resorted to creating them and nothing Legolas ever did
was fast enough or good enough to suit them.
iron chains connected Legolas’ wrists and ankles to one another and to
the thick iron collar around his neck. All together the ugly manacles
must have weighed well over thirty pounds and lugging their weight
around all day did nothing to ease the elf’s job.
the tools provided him, Legolas chipped another block of stone off the
rock face he was working on with repeated blows from a dull-edged pick.
Rolling the huge boulder he had created along the ground with a sizable
amount of effort, Legolas got it to the cart and lifted it in on top of
the others. He was breathing heavily from exertion and perspiration
covered his body, making his torn, soiled clothing cling to him as he
elf’s long fingers were cut and bleeding from over a week of handling
and hauling the sharp, jagged pieces of stone. He had wrapped cloth
around his palms and wrists as the other stone workers did, but even
that protection could not prevent the cuts and blisters he had acquired
in his time here.
his guard’s lash came down across Legolas’ shoulders, catching the elf
off guard and making him stumble on the uneven ground. Legolas fell
painfully to his hands and knees on the rocks, which just gave his
captor more of an excuse to beat him.
scrambling to his feet with a surprising amount of grace given the
circumstances, Legolas returned to work, but the taskmaster only found
some other excuse to berate him.
call that work?" the man sneered deprecatingly. "Look at the sloppy
angles on those pebbles that you’re chipping out. You think we can
build anything with those?" A stinging slash of pain across the elf’s
shoulders emphasized his words. "So much for elvish craftsmanship!" the
Legolas clenched his painful hands into fists. He
had just about had it with these impossible, arrogant humans.
you want perfection in your stonework, get a dwarf," Legolas said
shortly, his eyes snapping with irritated fire as he turned towards the
man. "The skill of the elves does not lie in grubbing about in the
earth, nor in the chopping of lifeless rock."
Predictably, Legolas was struck to the ground for
his bold words.
on the chain that connected the elf’s collar and wrists before he could
rise, the guard pinned Legolas to the earth on his stomach.
have far more lip than is good for a slave," the man said darkly,
raising his lash and letting it fall repeatedly across his helpless
grimaced in pain as the new welts were laid on top of old. He knew that
if he just lay still and took it, the lashing would be over sooner, but
his strong spirit rebelled at the submission that such a thing required.
struggled with the man holding him down, nearly knocking the taskmaster
off balance. Of course, the fellow did not respond well to that at all.
Legolas in the chest with his other leg and grinding the chains more
firmly into the rocky earth, the man swore at the elf angrily. "Feisty
one, hm? We’ll have to take that out of you, won’t we?"
sucked in a quick, gasping breath as the cruel lash fell twice in the
same spot, cutting him deeply. The guard metered out six more searing
strokes before he finally stepped back and allowed the elf to rise
slowly and painfully back to his feet.
in deep, shuddering breaths, Legolas staggered slightly and had to
steady himself against the wall for a moment. He was weary in a way
that elves rarely were. He had been allowed less than five hours of
rest total since he had been brought here over a week ago. The work was
draining and the abuse just kept getting worse.
"Go on, back to work!" the merciless taskmaster
demanded, aiming another whistling slash at the elf’s bloodstained
Legolas gave a small, gasping cry at the agony of
the unexpected blow before he caught himself and quickly cut it off.
elf’s long golden hair was tied back in a ponytail to keep it out of
the way, but some had worked itself loose and clung to his face,
falling in his eyes. Pushing the stray strands back with trembling
hands, Legolas wearily lifted his pick once more.
hung over the land and the bright stars twinkled down from the sky
above. Work in the quarries never ceased, but continued in shifts
through the night by torchlight. Legolas had to wonder what incredible
need for stone and masonry Dorolyn had that it should require such
extreme measures. He was finding many mysteries about this place.
of the time, the elf was required to work through the night as well as
the day without break, but tonight he was actually granted a few hours
rest. It was well, because Legolas needed the break more than he wanted
to admit even to himself.
sheer weight of the hopelessness of all the other beings around him
formed a dark cloud that tugged at his spirit. As Legolas sank
cross-legged to the ground, he closed his eyes with a sigh as if
to dispel the grey cloud lingering about him.
chains rattled and grated as he settled himself back against the cleft
of the rock behind him, grimacing painfully as he leaned against his
he opened his eyes again, Legolas could see the bright, star-filled
heavens looking down at him and felt a certain amount of peace fill his
being as he took strength from the unchanging face of the sky. His gaze
sought out Eärendil, the star most dear to the elves, and there it
fixed. Even here, in the midst of all this misery and suffering,
Eärendil still shone. Evil men like Melèch could not
harness the stars
and bring them to their knees, and neither could they harness Legolas’
one knee up to his chest as he let his weary, hurting body recline
lightly against the rocks, Legolas began to sing softly in his native
tongue as he gazed up at the stars. It was a soft, haunting tune, but
not a sad one. It spoke of the passage of time, of the changing earth
and the unchanging stars. It spoke of things the young elf had yet to
experience and of understandings far older than his comparatively small
As Legolas sang he felt better, and his clear voice
became louder and more sweet, if that were possible.
flowing elvish words floated on the wind and seemed to stir some buried
spark in the hearts of the hopeless drudges still laboring in the
quarries, for they all looked up and a thoughtful look flittered across
previously numb faces.
"Shut up, you!" one of Legolas’ guards snapped
elf complied, but he smiled quietly to himself in the darkness. They
could silence him, but they could not silence the song of the stars,
nor still the hope that rested in the heart and soul of every living
thing, waiting only to be awakened by a kindred flame with enough
strength to push away the darkness of despair.
was surprised when he was taken from the quarries the next day and
carted back to the palace. He knew he still had at least two more days
on his sentence and it was not like these people to give him a reprieve.
questioned, his guards said only that King Melèch was
guests and wanted his new trophy to attend him. Legolas’ lips curled
disdainfully at the thought, but he gave them no excuse to abuse him
further. He had learned long ago that these people were not hesitant to
punish any infraction, real or imagined.
back at the palace, the elf was washed up and his wounds tended.
Dressed in tunic and leggings made of deep emerald velvet as befitted a
royal slave, the only thing that now denoted Legolas’ status was the
gold-plated chains that replaced the scuffed, iron ones he had been
the elf was brought to the King, Melèch frowned in grim
because if it were not for his shackles, Legolas had a bearing and
carriage that made him look more like nobility than the king’s own sons
see the kind of life you could have if only you behave yourself,
Nindäl," Melèch said as Legolas was forced to kneel and pay
Legolas met the king’s eyes squarely. "Golden chains
are still chains," he said coldly. "I see little difference."
grinned thinly. This slave had a unique knack for getting under his
skin. He was a man who liked to feel powerful and in control, but
Legolas had the exact opposite effect on him.
having some guests for dinner tonight. You will serve us. And, make no
mistake, if you embarrass me in front of these people I will have not
only you, but every kitchen slave on the staff flogged within an inch
of their lives." Melèch’s dark, brooding eyes said that he did
idle threats. "So unless you want their blood on that pretty head of
yours, boy, you had better not disappoint me."
nodded curtly. Melèch had already learned that almost the only
secure the elf’s good behavior was to link the consequences of Legolas’
actions to the fates of other innocents.
dinner guests proved to be a very odd assortment indeed. One of the men
was tall and noble looking with flowing dark brown hair that spilled
out from under a shimmering turban that encased the fellow’s head. The
cut of the man’s clothes was simple, yet their texture and richness was
exquisite in an understated sort of way. The second guest was a
decidedly haughty fellow who wore so much jewelry and finery that
Legolas thought he must surely tip over under its weight. The third
however, seemed the most out of place. He was dressed well, but looked
unaccustomed to the fine attire. A long scar marred one side of his
face from forehead to chin, slicing directly across his eye, yet
apparently missed damaging the fellow’s vision. Bushy eyebrows
and beard complemented the man’s squinting eyes and, although Legolas
tried to never form premature opinions about anyone, he did not like
that man from the first.
"Welcome, friends," Melèch greeted his guests
courteously. "I am honored that you accepted my invitation."
brown-haired one just nodded his head and scar-face grunted, but the
glitteringly bejeweled man looked around with a certain amount of
is odd company I find myself in, Melèch," the man said
as he cast a meaningful glance at scar-face. "Exactly what is the
nature of our business?"
the fellow had totally ignored the King’s title, Legolas guessed that
he too, must be royalty and the notion was confirmed a few moments
will explain all in time, Elnon," Melèch said, doing a good job
hiding his irritation. "But first, I believe introductions are in
order. King Elnon of Ilnnarion, this is Lord Esgal from beyond the
Misty Mountains," he gestured to the tall, regal man. Legolas knew that
Ilnnarion lay to the west of Dorolyn, but since no home country was
given for Lord Esgal, he could not place him. "And this is Unuth.
Formerly from Umbar, he has recently turned his attention to our area
the world." This introduction was made of the scar-faced one.
Legolas’ lip curled slightly in concealed disgust as
his dislike of the fellow solidified.
Esgal raised one trim eyebrow. "The Corsairs of Umbar seldom stray so
far from their ships," he observed coolly. "It is a riddle, what brings
you so far from your home, Master Unuth?"
Elnon snorted slightly. "Not so much of a wonder if you keep your eyes
open. If I’m not very much mistaken, Unuth here has been enjoying the
pickings of our rich lands for the past several years. Are you not the
leader of those brigands that men call the ‘Rhûnsûl’, or
wind’ because nothing good ever blows in from the east?"
grinned and gave a small, mocking bow. "My reputation precedes me, I
see." He did not seem at all disturbed by the stuffy nobleman’s words,
indeed, he seemed to enjoy their scorn.
past several years, Legolas had heard much of the Rhûnsûl.
Unuth and his
band of pirates and highwaymen had been terrorizing the countryside
north of Mirkwood for some time now, burning, pillaging, looting and
taking captives. The main function of the Rhûnsûl was as
although none knew where the poor souls they took as slaves disappeared
to, only that they were never seen again.
was indeed a strange gathering and Legolas’ interest was piqued. He was
not too sorry, now, that he was required to be here. The longer he
in Dorolyn, the more he felt certain that King Melèch was up to
something... something bigger than the elf could yet guess at. If he
had the chance to overhear some of these men’s conversation, he might
learn something of value.
the three guests were seated around his elegant table with Elnon on his
right, Esgal on his left and Unuth across from him, King Melèch
his hands, signaling that he wanted Legolas to pour their wine.
obeyed, fetching the fluted wine pitcher and filling the glasses in a
clockwise circle, starting with King Melèch’s and moving to King
next. He kept his eyes bowed to his task and moved quietly as was
expected of him, partly because of the threat hanging over the other
hapless servants’ heads should he misbehave, and partly because he
wished to be allowed to stay and serve them, that he might be able to
listen as they spoke.
you my new prize?" the King commented as Legolas filled Elnon’s cup.
Although Elnon seemed loath to admit it, he did seem quite impressed by
the unusual servant.
elf?" the King of Ilnnarion said with surprise, before he quickly
pulled his carefully polished disdain back into place. "I’ll wager he’s
more trouble than he’s worth."
smiled. "Oh he’s a stubborn one, no mistake, but we’re working on that,
aren’t we, boy?" he said, purposefully running his hand down Legolas’
back, which was turned to him, knowing the elf was still sore from his
body healed far faster than that of a man, but the abuse was fresh yet
and Melèch’s movement was unexpected, so the elf actually tensed
jerked slightly when the King intentionally applied pressure to the
still raw welts that Legolas’ tunic concealed. A momentary wince of
pain crossed the elf’s fair features before Legolas quickly banished
it, schooling his face into its impassive mask once more and moving
stiffly around Elnon to fill Unuth’s glass.
Esgal watched all this with out comment, but a dark shadow of
disapproval flickered in the depths of his deep brown eyes as his gaze
followed Legolas around the table.
asked you a question, slave," Melèch’s voice was sharp and
fingers tightened around the handle of the pitcher. He hadn’t realized
the King’s statement wanted a reply, but now that he did he felt his
stubborn pride rising up to refuse.
said, aren’t we?" King Melèch’s tone was deceptively soft, but
could hear the danger in refusing it. Quashing his pride, Legolas
forced himself to answer for the sake of the others.
sir," Legolas still refused to acknowledge Melèch as he wished
acknowledged. He knew he would pay for not calling the King "Master" as
he desired, but that was unavoidable.
Melèch glared daggers at the slave, but said
nothing for the moment. He would deal with Legolas later.
"So what think you, Unuth? You know the worth of a
slave," Melèch said casually.
Legolas felt the brigand’s eyes appraising him and
was repulsed by their mere gaze.
one would fetch a pretty price my lord," Unuth said with calculating
eyes. "He’s a real looker," the man complimented, but Legolas did not
like the look in his eyes when he said it. "Oh yes, there’d be a lot of
uses for him." Unuth calmly pinched the elf’s arm, feeling his muscle
tone between his fingers.
Unable to stop himself, Legolas jerked his arm away
from the loathsome man’s touch.
grinned. "He’d fetch more when he was properly broken, however," he
as if speaking about a horse. "If your lordship was interested in
selling, I’d buy him myself..." he left his offer open.
shook his head. "I’m not in the market to sell right now, Unuth, but I
may let you borrow him some time if you wish. It could teach him a
valuable lesson." He said the last part looking straight at Legolas. It
was a threat and the elf knew it.
say that elves are immortal," Melèch took a drink from his
smirking. "I suppose that makes him an heirloom I can pass down to my
The guests chuckled at his words, but Legolas did
not find them at all amusing.
elf moved to fill Lord Esgal’s glass last. He could feel this man’s
eyes on him as well, but the weight of his gaze was not nearly so
repulsive as that of Unuth. In fact, as Legolas drew near to pour the
wine, he had the oddest feeling. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but
it made him look up. For a brief moment he caught Esgal’s eyes. The
young elf faltered, surprised by the sudden spark of recognition he saw
in the man’s somber gaze. He had never seen this man before that he
recall, but something about him made Legolas do a double take.
loss of attention to his task caused a few drops of the ruby-red wine
to spill onto the glittering white tablecloth beneath.
Melèch’s hand came up and he backhanded the elf so hard that
was flung to the floor. The pitcher fell from his hands and came down
next to him with a crash, creating an even bigger mess.
from the unexpected blow, Legolas pulled himself quickly to his knees,
wiping his bleeding mouth with the side of his palm.
"Clumsy fool!" Melèch berated. "Clean this
mess up, at once!"
dipped his head in a quick nod and fetched a rag, keeping his eyes
downcast so that Melèch would not see the burning ire in them.
Esgal’s eyes followed Legolas silently but, when
Legolas looked at him, the tall man quickly wrenched his gaze away.
"Lord Esgal, did you bring with you the items I
commissioned made by your smiths?" Melèch inquired.
nodded slowly. The items spoken of were huge, peculiarly shaped metal
circles, made to fasten in the back and lock shut. Imbedded inside the
thick plates was a fine obsidian powder, or so the specifications said.
The purpose for all this, Esgal could not begin to guess.
"I have it, but I must admit that its usefulness
eludes me," he said curiously.
now it is enough that you have them. I will inspect them later,"
said graciously enough, but avoiding answering Esgal’s question.
rest of the meal was blessedly uneventful, so Legolas kept his ears
open and his mouth shut as he served them. When he was not serving, he
was expected to stand patiently in the far corner of the room, where he
could easily be summoned if needed. He had no trouble standing
perfectly still for long periods of time, and listened attentively to
all that was said. For although the intention was that the slave
serving should be on call, but too far away to hear anything discussed,
that plan did not take into account the power of elvish hearing.
Legolas’ sharp ears were able to clearly pick up everything said.
his disappointment, there were no clear plans discussed, and he began
to get the feeling that not even Melèch’s guests fully
the King of Dorolyn had in mind as of yet. However, the vague drift
that Legolas was beginning to get disturbed the elf greatly and in the
back of his mind he feared that it meant grave danger to more than just
Mirkwood and his family.
stars were out again as Legolas made his way softly and silently out of
the dark hole of a room he was supposed to spend the night in and crept
out into the still courtyard. He moved very carefully, trying to keep
down the sound of his chains’ rattle with moderate success. For one who
was used to being able to move soundlessly, the bothersome impediment
of the chains was very irritating.
Legolas made it to the courtyard without drawing notice. If only it
would be that easy to escape the palace altogether... but the elf
knew that it was not. Once already he had tried to escape, only to find
what a difficult proposition that was. The result had been
excruciatingly horrible. Legolas was not about to try that again unless
he was certain he could make it away.
Legolas wanted only to see the stars and smell the fresh air. He hated
being cooped up inside the thick stone walls of the palace.
by the fountain and listening to the soft burble of the flowing water,
Legolas shrugged stiffly and painfully out of his tunic. Melèch
dealt lightly with him after the king’s guests had retired.
dipped a clean rag in the cool water of the fountain. His face
tightening with pain, he ran it over the back of his burning shoulders.
The cloth came away stained red and Legolas leaned against the fountain
edge for a moment, breathing heavily in an uneven and somewhat ragged
cadence. At Melèch’s bidding, the man delivering the whipping
worked the slave cruelly and Legolas still felt lightheaded and ill
from the pain.
chafed horribly at his captivity and helplessness. Always foremost in
his thoughts was the impending danger facing his family. Mirkwood was a
good ten-day ride from here and no doubt King Melèch did not
bring suspicion by making the first contact. Doubtlessly, his intention
was to wait until the elves began to wonder why they had not heard back
from their envoys and sent out another party to find word of them. Then
it would be easy for the King to feign surprise, saying that no
emissaries ever arrived. A search would be made which would eventually
turn up the carefully planted remains that Melèch would be sure
might take at least a week or two more before anyone from King
Thranduil’s court should become concerned enough to begin the long
journey out here. Legolas wondered if when they arrived he would have a
chance to try to contact them... however he doubted that
would be stupid enough to grant him that opportunity.
least with the passage of time, it became less likely that anyone would
be able to tell which elf bodies lay hidden in the forest... Legolas’
heart tightened at the thought of how it would hurt his father to hear
of his death. For any immortal to perish was a sad waste, and he was
sure that his father would grieve for him all the harder because, from
the view of an elf, Legolas had barely begun to live.
Lost in his own thoughts, Legolas was not aware that
anyone else was present until a quiet voice behind him made him jump.
"Do you seek the solace of the stars, young elf?"
Legolas whirled around to see Lord Esgal standing
behind him, gazing at him with mysterious, but not unfriendly, eyes.
the life of him, Legolas could not imagine how this man had managed to
sneak up on him like this without his knowledge. Shaken, the elf
quickly snatched his tunic up and slid it back over his hurting
of stone are hard to breathe in," Legolas said warily. "I sought only a
few moments of the free air, no more." He defended his actions somewhat
apprehensively. The proud elf would have been loath to admit it, but he
was afraid of garnering Melèch’s wrath twice in one night.
when he already hurt so badly.
"Peace, young friend, you have nothing to fear,"
Esgal shook his head. "I do not intend to report you to your master."
jaw tightened. "I have no master," he said fiercely, before he could
stop himself and keep silent as prudence would have warranted.
brows knit tightly, but surprisingly not with anger or even
indignation. He raised his hand to hush the elf. "I would be more
careful with my words if I were you. Your pride will not help you here,
I think," he cautioned.
Legolas looked away. The warning was surprisingly
sincere, but that did not mean he accepted it.
"You are hurt." It was not a question.
Legolas nodded noncommittally. "A little. It is of
no matter. I should go before I am missed."
"Sit," Esgal commanded quietly and, to his surprise,
Legolas found himself obeying.
Lord Esgal seated the elf on the low edge of the
stone fountain and sat down behind him. "Let me see your back."
Legolas complied without really knowing why he felt compelled to obey
this man. Dropping the open-fronted tunic from his shoulders, Legolas
let it hang down against the stone ledge they sat upon. His arms were
still looped through the sleeves, but his back was sufficiently
revealed to satisfy the nobleman behind him. Pulling his long hair over
his shoulder, Legolas took care to make sure it did not cling to, or
further aggravate his injuries.
eyes looked slightly saddened and perhaps even a little angered when he
took in the elf’s bloody back. Legolas’ fair skin was marred with layer
upon layer of raw, ugly welts that spoke of harsh and frequent
older stripes from yesterday were already healing thanks to the elf’s
naturally fast regeneration processes and, remarkably, they left no
lasting scars, but tonight’s whipping was still fresh and raw. It was
almost a curse in this case, the fact that the elf healed so quickly,
because it left Melèch free to visit his ire upon Legolas as
he wished without inflicting permanent or lasting damage upon the
slave. Yet, just because it healed swiftly did not mean that the abuse
did not hurt Legolas terribly.
picked up the discarded rag Legolas had had a moment before and dipped
it in the fountain. With surprising gentleness, the nobleman washed the
blood from the elf’s back and shoulders, carefully cleansing the cuts
stiffened and sucked his breath in sharply, but made no other movement
or sound, even though Esgal knew that what he was doing, gentle as he
tried to be, must be causing the elf great pain. Legolas’ body trembled
slightly under Esgal’s hands, but it was not something that the elf
seemed able to control and the nobleman did not fault him for that.
regret that you were placed in disfavor earlier on my account," Esgal’s
halfway apology was totally unexpected. "Is that why you were beaten?"
shook his head stiffly, biting his lip against the pain. This beating,
like many others, was solely the result of the elf’s absolute refusal
to acknowledge Melèch as his lord and master.
"I seem to have a way of getting on King
Melèch’s bad side," the elf admitted.
said nothing but finished his ministrations. Legolas was surprised at
the amount of healing he felt in the man’s hands and touch.
do I know you, sir?" Legolas inquired hesitantly as he pulled his tunic
stiffly up again, shaking his hair off his shoulder so that it fell
down his back once more. Somehow it did not feel odd or demeaning to
call this man by a term of respect.
look in Esgal’s eyes was unreadable. He shook his head. "I do not
believe we have ever met before." That didn’t seem to answer Legolas’
question, somehow, but there were no other answers forthcoming.
should go back now, before someone else catches you here," Esgal warned
and Legolas nodded. He may have been pressing his luck, but he
hesitated one moment longer.
"Lord Esgal, why did you come out here
tonight?" he queried, wishing to understand this strange contradiction
of a man.
Esgal treated him to a mysterious smile. "I, too,
came to see the stars."
Legolas turned and started to walk away when a
barely audible whisper from the man behind him made him freeze in his
shines bright tonight, you see?" Esgal said so softly that even with
his elvish hearing Legolas was not even sure he had heard rightly.
was the ancient name for Eärendil, the evening star. How did this
strange man know that? There were many elves who had forgotten it.
Legolas turned back abruptly, but Esgal was already