Captive of Darkness
next three days passed uneventfully. King Melèch’s three
guests remained, enjoying his hospitality, although King Elnon seemed
to become easily impatient as he did not yet appear to understand the
full reason for his presence. However, the days of hunting with King
Melèch’s excellent dogs and falcons and nights of luxurious
kept his complaints down to a minimum.
paid close attention to all that transpired, although it did not help
him overmuch as of yet. He watched Lord Esgal very closely as well and
a shadow of suspicion began to grow in his mind, yet what exactly it
meant, he could not tell.
opportunity for Legolas to repay the kindness that Lord Esgal had shown
him came quite unexpectedly several days later, and it was only because
of his growing suspicion and keen mind that the elf realized it for
what it was.
was about midday and the weather was fair. As Melèch and his
preparing to set out on yet another hunting party, Legolas filled
quivers and inspected arrows for them as the horses were
gathered. It was his job to be sure that none of the arrows they were
taking were bent or feathered incorrectly. The feel of the darts
in his hands kindled in Legolas his deep desire for escape; yet,
in the courtyard of the palace, surrounded by milling guardsmen, was
hardly the time to consider anything.
regarded the arrow in his hands. It was adequate, but he could tell
that the feathering was off ever so slightly and the point not as true
as it could have been. With mild disdain he flipped it into one of the
waiting quivers. It was actually one of the better-made arrows. The elf
found the weapons of the men clumsy and awkward compared to what he was
used to, but of course did not feel inclined to point this out,
especially since Melèch couldn’t have cared less for his opinion
less than five hunting falcons wheeled overhead, filling the air with
their eager calls as they waited for the hunt to begin.
Melèch’s large, black hunting bird glided down on the air current
land gracefully on his master’s arm. Legolas could have sworn that the
creature glared at him before fluttering away again, as if mocking the
fact that he was free to go and come as he pleased and Legolas was not.
The elven archer found himself calmly considering how very easy it
would be to knock the gloating falcon out of the sky.
"You are lucky that
I do not have my bow, mocking one," Legolas thought disparagingly,
before turning back to his work.
a loud commotion broke out overhead as two of the falcons got into a
row about something and started fighting; diving and swooping at one
of them took a strong peck to his wing and plummeted from the sky,
catching himself when he was only about a man’s height from the ground
and turning his dive into a clumsy glide. The falling bird nearly
struck Lord Esgal and the tall man stepped backward with incredibly
quick and graceful reflexes. The attacking bird followed his fallen
companion down, swooping low, his entire attention on his quarry.
stepped back into the diving falcon’s path.
ducked at the last instant, dropping to one knee in a dodge which spoke
well of his instincts, but the bird’s extended talon’s snagged in the
turban that the nobleman never seemed to be without. The bird
accidentally yanked the turban right off Lord Esgal’s head as it pulled
up out of its dive.
that momentary instant, while all other eyes were turned upon the
loudly squabbling fowls, Legolas’ sharp gaze caught a glimpse that
confirmed his growing suspicion. He also knew that King Melèch
other men present must not be allowed to know what he had just
Melèch was just turning to apologize to his guest when Legolas
purposefully knocked over the large rack of hunting gear that he had
painstakingly sorted out earlier in the morning. The heavy-laden shelf
tipped over with a crash as weapons, supplies and snares went
clattering to the cobblestones. The huge noise caused all eyes to turn
on Legolas, which was what the elf had wanted.
fool!" Melèch shouted angrily at his slave as Legolas quickly
to a crouch and started picking things up. The King’s heavy boot landed
a hard kick in the elf’s ribs, making Legolas catch himself on his hand
to keep from falling over sideways.
"They say that elves
are graceful, but I have never had a more clumsy slave!" Melèch
berated with irritation.
by the others who were watching Melèch and Legolas, Esgal
pulled his long brown hair free of the clips that held it back from his
sorry, it won’t happen again," Legolas forced himself to say, keeping
his eyes downcast so that the King could not see that he did not mean
what he said.
Out of the corner of
his eye, Legolas saw Esgal pull his hair forward to frame his face,
covering his ears, neck and shoulders.
better not," Melèch huffed, but he must actually have been in a
mood that day, because he let the subject drop and gave Legolas no
further grief over the matter.
"Lord Esgal, I trust
you are all right?" Melèch turned apologetically back to his
nodded, retrieving his unwrapped, trailing turban from where it had
dropped to the ground some yards away. "No harm done, King
re-wrapped the turban quickly and efficiently, carefully encasing his
head once more.
appears the falcons too are in high spirits today." He spoke lightly to
the king, but his eyes darted to where Legolas still knelt, gathering
scattered equipment, and a silent look of understanding passed between
them. Lord Esgal knew what Legolas had done and why.
was approaching and the light was fading, but Legolas was still hard at
work. He had been set the task of washing the white and grey
cobblestone pavement that covered much of the enormous courtyard. On
his hands and knees with a bucket and brush, Legolas had been scrubbing
at the grimy tiles for hours. Earlier he had had to contend with people
constantly walking across the surfaces he had just scrubbed and
tracking more dirt where he had recently washed, but now the courtyard
was still and he was the only living thing out there.
he suddenly found himself confronted by a pair of light, wrapped
leather boots, he looked up to find Esgal looking down at him. This
Legolas was not surprised. He knew that Esgal was the only person in
the palace who could approach him without his knowing, and now he knew
Legolas raised himself
to his knees and sat back on his heels, waiting for the other to speak
floors is not a fitting task for a prince, I fear," Esgal said quietly,
dropping down into an easy crouch so that he could speak with Legolas.
stiffened slightly and his eyes narrowed. How did Esgal know he was a
prince? None here knew that, or at least, he hoped they didn’t.
seemed to read his thoughts in his eyes. "Nay, your secret is safe, but
I could not look upon the son of Thranduil and mistake him for anything
else. Prince Legolas I assume?"
did not answer, but replied with his own statement. "You are an elf."
He knew it was true, and that explained the odd familiarity he had felt
towards Esgal from the beginning. However, the prince did not yet know
what this knowledge meant. Just because this fellow was an elf did not
make him a friend or mean he was not a foe in league with King
you do not wish it known, although for what reason I cannot guess,"
Legolas spoke plainly. Of course, Legolas now realized that in Elvish esgal meant "hidden", very appropriate for this elf, whoever he was. He
did not see why he had not thought of it earlier, but supposed that you
did not find what you were not looking for and he had had no reason to
think of Elvish meanings for a man’s name.
of Esgal’s hands drifted up to touch the side of his head where his
gracefully pointing ears were carefully concealed by the turban he
wore, enabling him to pass as a man.
"For now let us say
that it is important that Melèch not know who I am," he said
I don’t know that," Legolas inclined his head to the side. "You have an
unfair advantage on me, Lord Esgal. You know who I am and why I am here,
but I know not the same of you. Nor do I know why you have cause to
know my father and yet I recognize you not." There was no use denying
the truth of his lineage when Esgal was obviously already certain of
Esgal seemed somewhat
hesitant and Legolas realized that perhaps this elf was as wary of the
prince as Legolas was of him.
must remain a secret for a time, young one," Esgal said finally. "For
your own protection as well as mine. But you have my thanks for your
aid in keeping my cover this afternoon."
nodded, unsatisfied but left with little choice other than acceptance.
"You are welcome, but I am not young and I do not need you to protect
smiled wryly. "So proud, young prince, so sure of yourself," he laughed
softly, a quiet, mellow, musical sound. "Forgive me then, noble elf,
when you have seen the passing of as many Ages as I have you will
understand that a matter of a few hundred years or more seems to be
merely the lifespan of a child."
bowed his head in acceptance. If Esgal was really as old as he said,
then he deserved the younger elf’s veneration, not his impudent
questions. Still, Legolas wished he understood more.
Esgal rose quickly, his
sharp ears picking up the sound of approaching footsteps that even
Legolas had missed.
must not be seen together," the elder elf whispered softly and Legolas
nodded, quickly bending back over his work. He still did not know if he
could trust Esgal or not, but neither would he give him away to the
likes of King Melèch.