Captive of Darkness
chief messenger of the Elvenking of Mirkwood, lay silently against the
pillows of the bed in the large guestroom that King Melèch had
him. He lay still, with his hands folded upon his stomach. His eyes
were not closed, but since elves slept with their eyes open, that gave
little indication as to his state.
however, was not asleep. He lay in silent wakefulness as he
contemplated his meeting with King Melèch. Something about the
not sit well with the elf, yet he scarcely knew what it was. More
disturbing, however, was the news that young prince Legolas and his
had never arrived in Dorolyn. What ill chance had befallen the envoys
Ardil could only guess and he did not look forward to bringing such
somber news back to his King.
had suggested an immediate search for the missing ones, and
agreed readily enough, pledging his own men to help. Ardil hoped that
there would be some innocent explanation for the delay, even though his
heart and his fears told him otherwise. He did not like to think of how
hard it would hit the Elvenking and Queen to have their only child
taken from them so early in his life.
bed was positioned under a shuttered window and, through the
elaborately carved wooden slats, the stars twinkled in. Suddenly a soft
voice made Ardil sit up and pay attention as a form momentarily blocked
the light of the stars outside the window.
of Thranduil, hear my words, for your king is in danger and your prince
even now lies in shadow and suffering in the dungeons below your feet."
The voice was barely above a whisper, but Ardil heard every word with
devilry is this that you speak?" Ardil demanded with both caution and
concern. "What know you of the fate of Prince Legolas? Who are you?" He
moved to open the shutters but the voice on the other side stopped him.
I am is not important and would be perilous knowledge for both of us,"
Elrond said firmly. "King Melèch is a traitor and not to be
seeks the destruction of the royal house of Mirkwood for reasons not
yet revealed. Prince Legolas is a prisoner and his companions slain."
eyes blazed with anger. "If what you say is true, voice in the shadows,
then there shall be grave payment extracted from the purveyors of this
scheme! I will not suffer any member of the royal house to be so
with caution," Elrond warned, glancing around and knowing he must go
before he was caught. Unknown to Ardil and the other elves, the
Mirkwood envoys were being watched closely and the guards at their
doors were there for much more than just their protection. "A small
company such as yours cannot hope to prevail against the entire might
of Dorolyn. Do nothing yet that would arouse suspicion or I fear you
will simply join the prince in his fate, or worse, you may betray his
identity. King Thranduil must be warned. There are ill deeds afoot in
Dorolyn and an evil shadow is growing. You stand on the narrowest of
threads; do not let it break."
words are all of dread, unknown one." Ardil shook his head, urgency and
doubt filling him. "But how do I know this to be true?"
was no answer and Ardil realized that the shadow was gone from his
window. Throwing open the shutters, he found no sign of anyone outside,
nor even traces of their presence on the ground below. He would have
thought the whole encounter a dream perhaps, but a moment later he
noticed something small and round shining on the edge of the
picked the object up and dread overtook him. A small, silver wreath of
leaves rested in his palm as he pulled the shutters closed once more
with numb movements, his attention fastened on the object in his hand.
It was unmistakably a buckle taken off the front of a quiver harness,
tooled into the shape of the royal crest of Mirkwood. Only members of
the royal house could wear that sign and only one member of Thranduil’s
family was missing at present. It must belong to Prince Legolas.
clenched the buckle tightly in his fist. So, the voice in the shadows
spoke the truth, or at least part of it. It seemed now that their
mission to Dorolyn had become suddenly perilous indeed.
leaned back in his seat, sipping at the tall goblet of wine in his hand
while he sat with Melèch, Elnon and Unuth at the King’s table,
the art and skill of several young ladies as they preformed dance and
song for their master, King Melèch.
Mirkwood elves were out searching the woods for their missing
companions with the dubious aid of Captian Dagred and a company of
Melèch’s guardsmen. Ardil had done a good job of playing his
not letting on that anything was amiss.
was a different feeling in the air today and Melèch sent the
away early. Elrond had reason to hope that they were finally going to
find something out.
down his glass, he turned to Melèch. "I have enjoyed my time
lied gracefully. "But I cannot tarry here forever, however pleasant a
thought that may be. I begin to think that your highness had naught in
mind but a pleasant holiday for us when you invited us to your
have to agree, Melèch," Elnon added somewhat less eloquently
elf. "You said it would be worth my while to come, but I have yet to
see proof of that claim."
Unuth said nothing.
did not seem put out by his guests’ impatience, in fact, it seemed to
amuse him somehow and Elrond felt the creeping suspicion that he had
been intentionally withholding his mind from them to bring their
attention to a sharper peak.
things come to those who have the patience to wait for them,"
said somewhat cryptically. "But the time is drawing near now and I
think we may begin to speak plainly. Elnon, is it not true that your
kingdom has been greatly afflicted by inner turmoil of late, while
wildmen ravage your borders?"
started to bluster but Melèch cut him off. "Come now, we are all
friends here. Let us speak truth. I know what I say to be the case. It
is through no fault of your own, of course; who does not have trouble
with the rabble from time to time? But how would you like to put down
those troublesome insurgents once and for all?"
scowled slightly, not liking it to be quite so well known that his
kingdom was facing serious problems. In truth Melèch had put it
lightly, for Elnon was facing all out civil war in Ilnnarion and was
much less sure of its eventual outcome than he would have liked to let
did not wait for the other king to answer, but turned to Elrond. "Lord
Esgal, your people are great metalsmiths, yet trade in your lands is
slow. I commissioned from you several unusual pieces of craftsmanship,
which you were gracious enough to bring me. Now, if someone were able
to pay you in advance, how many thousands of those do you think you
could create in a month's time?"
looked contemplative, steepling his fingers before him as he considered
the request. Fortunately he had learned all there was to know about the
people he was supposed to be representing before assuming this
identity, so the question was not a problem. However, it was a
twenty-thousand I would guess, but cannot say for sure because never
been given such a request. It would require great wealth to pay for
such an order." The words were calculated, but Elrond’s eyes piercing
as he tried to figure out where this was going. "Besides, to what use
could such things be put?"
"To supply an army, my friend, to supply an army."
eyes narrowed. The strange circles he had brought thither as part of
his cover seemed to be useful for nothing, yet Melèch spoke of
supplying an army... "Neither Dorolyn nor Ilnnarion combined have
enough men to fill that order, even should the items you require be of
use to them. I do not yet see your point, King Melèch."
"You will, you will,
when the time is right," Melèch assured, languidly filling his
own cup as if enjoying his game.
here, Melèch, this game has gone far enough," Elnon put in
curtly. "Speak plainly or do not speak at all. What is it that you are
will understand my plans presently, and see how they will benefit us
all," Melèch said, content in his own knowledge. "I know you
questions, but I cannot answer them yet."
"Then what is the
point-" Elnon started, but Melèch cut him off.
evening we will take a little trip together and all your questions will
be answered. You will understand everything then, my friends.
Melèch assured. "Now, would you care for some more wine?"
and Elrond left after a while to seek other pursuits, but Unuth
lingered behind. Elrond cast a backward glance at the slaver as they
left and Elnon saw the gesture.
do not know what the Rhûnsûl is up to," the King of
suspiciously. "But he knows more than he lets on. Did you note that at
lunch he was the only one silent?"
inclined his head thoughtfully. Yes, he had noted that. "And
not address him as he did us. Almost as if Unuth already knows his part
in whatever the king has in mind." The elf spoke plainly of his own
suspicions because he hoped to see more of Elnon’s mind on the subject.
scowl deepened. "I do not know if I like this."
said nothing, but he could tell that despite what Elnon said, the
monarch was nearly as desperate as Melèch had painted him. If
had a way out, Elrond had no doubt that Elnon would jump at it, no
matter how much he disliked Melèch’s high-handed methods.
had his own suspicions as to what was going on now, and he did not like
the picture it was beginning to paint. Somewhere, Melèch was
secret army of thousands and he doubted that helping King Elnon with
his domestic problems was the only aim he had.
party had recovered the two bodies of their fallen kinsmen from the
wood and bore them back to the palace with great sorrow. Melèch
his role just as he had told Legolas he would, and Ardil, for his part,
pretended to believe the King’s feigned sympathy. Ardil declined to set
a meeting date on the excuse that he was only dispatched to find the
missing envoys, not to act as Thranduil’s representative in this
was not at all pleased, but had no choice other than to let them go
with only the promise that other envoys would be sent after the fallen
ones had been properly seen to.
they departed, Melèch brooded darkly on his throne for a time
his servants stayed well away from him if they could. Finally he rose
and made his way directly to the dungeons.
sat quietly in the corner of his cell. He had begun to recover himself
from the cruel use to which he had been put and was able to meet
Melèch’s eyes with a calm, albeit simmering, glare.
see your plan does not go as well as you hoped," Legolas observed icily
as he rose to his feet, noting the King’s highly disturbed appearance.
A silent feeling of satisfaction filled him as he realized that Elrond
must have been able to warn the Mirkwood elves and effectively bollix
up Melèch’s plans.
eyes flashed. He was in no mood for impudence from one of his slaves
just now. Snapping his fingers, Melèch signaled to one of the
flanking him. The man slammed the elf back against the wall, socking
the defenseless prisoner in the stomach with an iron-gloved hand.
Legolas doubled over,
sliding down the wall a little until rough hands on his arms dragged
him back up.
I see that you have not yet learned your lesson," Melèch
you want me to give you back to my guards for further teaching?" he
said nothing, dropping his eyes and looking away. Melèch had
found something that the young elf was truly afraid of.
"Good. Then keep your
tongue in your head unless spoken to," Melèch snapped with
young prince was sullenly silent, but continued to watch the man before
him with concealed alertness. He was nearly certain that things had not
gone well with the Mirkwood envoys. If they had, Melèch would be
gloating to him now about the success of his plan, not simmering with
barely hidden rage. His thoughts were confirmed a moment later when
me, elf, you’re from Mirkwood, would the king send a messenger who did
not have the ability to represent his wishes?" Melèch demanded.
was tempted not to tell Melèch anything, but if he were stubborn
knew the king would punish him... and the young elf was not sure he
could take another hideous nightmare like the last that Melèch
inflicted upon him.
"It depends on their
errand..." Legolas answered slowly.
scowl deepened. That answer told him nothing, exactly as was intended.
He felt certain that Ardil and the others had not been level with him
somehow... but why or what they suspected he did not know.
monarch shoved Legolas back against the wall, his face two inches from
that of his prisoner. "Why would they not set a time?! What reason do
they have to put me off?! Don’t play with me, boy, or you will live to
regret it deeply!"
cannot tell you what I do not know," Legolas tried unsuccessfully to
keep his own irritation and anger out of his voice. "Their reasons are
their own and if you do not understand them, then how should I, who did
not even speak with them, do better?"
It really wouldn’t have
mattered what Legolas said at this point; the result would have been
struck the elf upside the head, slapping his cupped hand viciously
against Legolas’ ear. Legolas winced as the sharp pain stabbed through
his eardrum and made his head ring.
did they leave so quickly?" Melèch’s voice turned deadly with
suspicion. "Why would they take such care with two bodies and not even
seem concerned about looking for the third?" He had expected the
missing body to cause at least another day’s searching, but Ardil and
the others were in a hurry to leave and did not even appear to give it
a second thought.
"Answer me, why?!!"
Shaking Legolas until the elf’s teeth rattled, the irate king was
fairly screaming. He struck Legolas again.
wondered just how much was at stake here for so simple a thing to make
the King so furious and... and scared? Yes, that was fear he saw in
Melèch’s eyes, but why? What could make him so afraid of failure?
I tell you, I know not!" Legolas shook his head helplessly. He had his
suspicions, but nothing he could voice. There honestly was no real
answer he could give the King, but he was beginning to fear that
did not really want an answer. He wanted someone to vent his rage upon.
Letting Legolas go and
roughly throwing him forward, he sent the elf stumbling to his knees on
the cold stone ground.
"Flog him!" he
commanded his guard angrily.
clenched his fists as he was dragged to the wall and the chains about
his wrists were hooked into a large metal ring, holding him helpless on
his knees. He had done nothing to deserve a beating. This time he had
not even been talking back. He would be punished simply because it
pleased Melèch to hurt him and that made Legolas burn inside.
watched his guard whip the slave with cold rage flaming inside him. It
may not be the elf’s fault that things had gone amiss this time, but
that mattered little to him. Melèch was beginning to feel very
frightened, and that made him even more dangerous than his anger did.
If things fell through with King Thranduil, how then was he supposed to
fulfil his bargain? And if he could not... that was simply not an
stormed down the hallway with a dark cloud following in his wake.
Elrond observed his change in appearance from the day before when he
had spoken with such self-assurance and calm to his guests with a keen
eye. He knew about the departure of the Mirkwood envoys and had a good
idea what had brought about the King’s foul mood.
right sleeve of Melèch’s deep purple robe was dotted with darker
that looked disconcertingly like blood and Elrond was concerned about
where those stains were acquired.
highness, are you hurt?" he asked, falling into step with Melèch
gesturing at the discoloration on his sleeve. He knew full well that
the blood, if blood it was, did not belong to the King.
shook his head with a snort, as if noticing the stains for the first
time. "The elf bleeds like a stuck pig," he said with disgusted
The lines around
Elrond’s mouth hardened icily, but Melèch was too absorbed in
his own concerns to notice.
"Is all well? Or is our
trip going to be delayed?" Elrond prodded for information.
no, I promised tonight and tonight it shall be," the King said with
something akin to irritation. "There are just a few minor details..."
he seemed to be talking to himself.
Melèch stopped walking and looked straight at Elrond. "Tell me,
and do not lie, is what your craftsman told me really true? Are the
collars you forged truly unbreakable once fastened?"
Elrond’s eyes narrowed
as he tried to grasp the sudden shift in topic.
he gave you his word, then he spoke truly. My people do not hold their
reputation as the best for nothing." He spoke with pride that fit his
part well, but he let his confusion show as well. "Why do you ask?" He
did not fail to note the fact that for the first time he had been given
a purpose for the strange objects that had puzzled him so much.
waved the question off. "Tonight, Lord Esgal, tonight all questions will
be answered. Right now I have some rather urgent business to attend to.
If you’ll excuse me?"
Elrond nodded and
Melèch hurried away, leaving the elf to wonder at the king’s
heavy and thick seemed to flow out of the cavernous mouth in the cliff.
Melèch and Unuth entered the cave, leaving their sweat-flecked
outside. Unuth knelt and Melèch bowed.
voice that spoke to them was unlike any voice of man or beast. Its form
was hidden in shadow, but it seemed to tower over the two men.
~~"I grow hungry,
Melèch. You promise much but again you come to me empty handed."~~
"Only for a time."
Melèch did a passable job of hiding his discomfort. "Soon..."
~~"Every time you
tell me that!"~~ The dark voice exploded. ~~"And yet you have
not brought me what you promised..."~~
the being seemed to pause, sniffing the air as if having caught scent
of something that attracted its attention. Bending low, it bowed its
large, spiked head to sniff at King Melèch’s right sleeve.
creature drew back with a sharp, angry hiss.
~~"You lie to me,
Melèch!"~~ The being seemed to increase in size and height
as it reared itself up in anger. ~~"You seek to deceive me and put
me off when you already hold what I desire!"~~
actually shrank back a pace. "I-I don’t know what you’re talking about,
I swear! I tell you no lies! I am trying to set up the meeting, I am
your body you bear the blood of the Royal House of
Mirkwood and it is fresh! Do not think to hide this from me!"~~ The
cavern shook with the being’s rage.
Melèch looked at
his sleeve in shock and then his eyes narrowed as realization swept
is not you, but I who have been deceived, Dor-Gor," Melèch said
rising anger. "I did not know what I held, but no matter. I know now
and you may be pleased to know that I have at least one member of the
royal family on which you may whet your appetite, my lord, with more to
come." Melèch’s grin was hard and wicked.
Dor-Gor growled low in
his throat, but accepted Melèch’s words. ~~"Very well then.
Bring him to me that I might begin the process."~~
nodded, then spoke somewhat hesitantly. "Dor-Gor, listen, the men I
spoke to you about, I will bring them to see you this evening, I have
to be sure..."
~~"Bring me the elf
and I will suitably impress your petty pawns,"~~ Dor-Gor assured, a
greedy fire lighting in his eyes.