Captive of Darkness
was beginning to fall when Melèch gathered his guests and a
company of his guards to the courtyard to prepare for their mysterious
trip. Elnon blustered and wanted to know where they were going, but
Melèch refused to say.
felt a growing apprehension stirring in his heart, but did not yet know
what the warning meant. He was surprised to see that Legolas had been
brought out and was apparently going to be brought with them. The
younger elf’s eyes were glazed with pain and Elrond noted with cold
anger the way that Legolas held to the wall for support as he was
dragged forward by a leash-like chain connected to the iron collar on
simple, black, long-sleeved tunic the elf prince was wearing hid
whatever had been done to him earlier in the day, but from the way
Legolas stumbled as he walked, Elrond knew that whatever the clothing
concealed was serious. Clenching his fists tightly at his side, the elf
lord had to contain his own disgust and ire as he remembered
heartless comments about Legolas earlier.
made no sound when the guards grabbed him by his raw shoulders and
jerked him to a halt in the middle of the courtyard, but the pain was
clear on his unnaturally pale face. He was in so much pain that he felt
ill and wavered slightly on his feet as the long leash-chain connected
to his neck was fastened to the horn of Captain Dagred’s saddle.
had been beaten many times since becoming Melèch’s slave, but
he been lashed so severely as he had been this morning. Melèch
determined to make the elf scream and had refused to call his men off
until Legolas could not help the sounds that the pain wrenched from
loss and the severity of his injuries were making the elf dizzy and
Legolas felt his heart sink as everyone mounted up and he realized that
he was intended to have to keep pace with the horses. Normally, this
would have been no problem for the elf but, in his current condition,
the thought made Legolas want to weep for exhaustion and pain. His
hurting, traumatized body was about ready to quit on him and he was
dangerously close to wishing that it would.
did not realize until the party started off that Legolas was going to
be forced to jog behind the horses. He clenched his jaw as he watched
the young elf toil stoically along behind Dagred’s horse. The prince’s
face was impassive as he pushed himself to keep up with the trotting
horses, fighting with the chains on his ankles that shortened his
naturally long stride. Graceful even yet, it took another elf to see
through Legolas’ facade of strength and know that he was in trouble.
the first mile or so, Legolas began to stumble as he ran, feeling
wearier than he felt an elf ought. The chain on his collar continued to
pull him forward as his feet struggled to keep up. He felt incredibly
dizzy and faint. Underneath his clothing, his wounds were still
bleeding. Holding the lead chain in his hands, he tried to keep it from
making the edges of the iron collar dig into his neck as he fought to
keep the pace and not weave as he jogged.
guided his horse over until he was riding next to King Melèch.
too much was risky, but neither could Elrond keep silent and watch the
younger elf suffer. Glancing back at Legolas, Elrond kept his features
impassive. "Your slave is having some trouble, your highness," he
remarked as off-handedly as he could. "I fear he shall slow us down.
Would it not be better to let him ride behind one of the others and get
on about our business more swiftly?"
back at where Legolas was still toiling on. He seemed to consider the
idea before shaking his head no.
will keep up or pay the price. We will not be slowed," the king said
coldly. In his mind, Legolas had a lot of paying to do. He had kept his
true identity secret from Melèch and caused the king much grief.
However, Melèch was sure that what Dor-Gor had in mind would
pay the elf back for his deceit.
With nothing more he
could say, Elrond let his horse fall back a little, where he could
surreptitiously keep an eye on Legolas.
pushed himself as far as he could go, but it was not far enough. Two
miles later he fell to his knees and was dragged forward by the chain
for a few paces. He scrambled to his feet, only to fall again a few
steps later. He tried to undo the thick clasp that connected the chain
to his collar, but it was designed to only be able to be opened by
someone working it from the other direction. It was not intended to be
removed by the person wearing it. Legolas could not get his feet under
him fast enough to regain his footing and keep up with the horse and
the elf prince clutched the chain tightly to keep from getting dragged
by his neck as he scraped roughly across the ground for several yards.
Dagred pulled his horse
to a halt and jumped down.
knelt in the dust, knowing what was coming but unable to make his
reeling body go any further. His breathing was fast and ragged as he
hunched in on himself, instinctively tightening as Dagred approached
moaned softly through his teeth when Dagred’s riding crop landed across
his already abused shoulders. His body trembled, his strength spent. He
wished he would die and leave this place of suffering once and for all.
For an immortal, such a wish was a serious thing indeed.
up, slave! Get moving!" Dagred ordered brusquely, hitting the elf again.
Legolas fell forward onto his hands, unable to keep from whimpering in
pain. But he could not rise.
actually flinched when Dagred struck Legolas. He knew the young elf did
not have the power to go on and felt the bile rise in the back of his
throat when he heard the soft sounds of the prince’s distress.
elf lord closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath to calm
himself. His head told him that he could not endanger his mission when
he was at last so close to finding out what he sought, but his heart
told him that he could not stand by and watch this happen if he ever
wanted to be able to live with himself again.
jumped down from his horse. Covering the distance in several long
strides, he quickly and calmly unclipped the lead-chain from the front
of Legolas’ collar. Practically shouldering Dagred out of his way, the
elf lord wrapped his arm under Legolas’ armpits and pulled the younger
elf swiftly to his feet. Crossing back to his own horse while
supporting his companion, Elrond pulled Legolas up onto his mount with
a surprising amount of grace, seating the prince in front of him.
Dagred and the others
were so surprised that they did not react for a moment.
a cold and, he hoped, careless gaze upon Melèch who was staring
intently, Elrond strove for as much flippancy as he could. "By the
stars, Melèch, if we wait for this drudge we will never
King Elnon came to his aid, the haughty monarch’s impatience bubbling
over, as it was want to do. "He’s right, you know. Can’t we just get on
with this? I do not wish to spend the rest of my life here."
bowed to his guests’ wishes, even though he did not like being told
what to do with his things. He cast one last, hard glance towards
Elrond before spurring his horse and ordering his men onward again.
leaned weakly forward against the protective embrace of Elrond’s arms
as they rode, although the young prince was obviously trying to be
strong and not disgrace himself in front of the elven lord. Now that he
was this close, Elrond could see that the back of Legolas’ tunic was
stained with blood that the dark color of the fabric hid from the
should not have done that, my lord," Legolas whispered around his still
labored breathing. He feared that Elrond may have just put himself in
grave danger because of the kindness he had shown him.
was silent and Legolas closed his eyes, seeking the strength he could
not seem to find. "I’m sorry," he whispered quietly, miserably.
have nothing for which to apologize," Elrond’s voice was soft and
grave, yet surprisingly gentle too. "Hush now, and save your strength;
I feel we may soon both have need of all the strength we possess." The
shadow and warning in his heart and mind were growing stronger the
closer they got towards wherever Melèch was taking them.
company stopped at last in front of a large cave. The entrance of the
cavern yawned from the craggy rocks surrounding it like the gaping maw
of a giant dragon, the huge stalactites hanging from the ceiling
looking for all the world like massive, threatening teeth.
cave was dark and horror flowed out of it. Both elves could tell that
whatever was inside there radiated evil like a festering carcass
radiated stench. They were not afraid, but wariness came over them both.
and Unuth dismounted first, followed more slowly by the rest of the party.
The King of Dorolyn left most of his guards outside, bringing only
Dagred and one other to handle Legolas, whom Dagred took away from
Elrond with a withering glare.
felt the darkness flowing out of the cavern as if it were a cold stream
slamming into his chest and resisted as he was dragged forward towards
the entrance. He felt suddenly sure that doom was waiting in there, in
that inky darkness, and he was in no hurry to meet it. His eyes widened
slightly. He did not know what it was he feared, but a cold blackness
was clutching at his heart and something inside of him was screaming
that he must not pass underneath that shadowed arch.
kicked the back of the elf’s knees but, instead of pushing him forward,
that dropped the weakened prisoner to the ground again. This time it
was Melèch who stooped and grabbed Legolas’ collar.
now, your highness," Melèch sneered as he jerked the elf
to his feet. "There’s someone here who wants to meet you and it’s not
polite for a prince to keep people waiting."
On their right, Elrond
stiffened almost imperceptibly at the words.
it were possible for Legolas’ face to get any paler, it did.
knew. Somehow, Melèch knew who he really was. A small thrill of
ran up his spine as he was manhandled through the entrance and under
the dripping, fang-like projections that hung above them.
Unuth and Elnon followed, although Unuth seemed to know his own way
quite well and Elrond’s suspicion that the slave trader already knew
what was going on went up a notch.
complained about the dank darkness of the cave, but his objections were
hesitant, as the oppressive atmosphere of the place seemed to affect
King Melèch’s hunting falcon seemed completely untroubled,
down to follow them in and light upon one of the jutting stone ridges
not too far inside.
For his part, Elrond
felt as if his flesh were literally crawling.
"This is an evil
place," Legolas’ words, strangely calm and detached considering his
position, spoke what was in Elrond’s mind.
and the other guard lit their torches and the firelight bounced off the
cave walls, casting eerie illumination on the pillaring stalactites and
stalagmites that hung like great bats from the ceiling above and
protruded up like teeth from below.
around them, huge columns of jagged stone stood among the smaller
stalagmites, stretching back into the incredibly vast cave, farther
than the eye could see. For some reason, they seemed neither natural
nor benign, but one hardly knew why. About two hundred paces in, the
natural look of the cave ceased and it appeared as if miners had been
at work, for one could see the signs of pick and shovel work on the
walls. While the natural stalactites ceased, the huge pillar-like
structures continued on, looking as if they had been chiseled out of
the solid stone for some purpose.
turned to his guests, his gaze fixing on Elnon and Elrond. "Now is the
time for questions to be answered," he said with a dark glitter in his
I propose is an arrangement that will benefit all of us. What would you
say, Elnon, if I had an army that could put down the rebellion in your
land once and for all, and all it would cost you was the price to arm
them? Esgal has already told us that for the right amount his people
can provide whatever we need," Melèch said.
looked slightly skeptical. "If it were possible, I would say it was
worth my while, if it were possible," Elnon stressed the word. "But
Dorolyn has no such army and I do not see one in this dark hole."
almost imperceptibly. "That’s because you’re not looking hard enough."
a large shape rose from the shadows at the back of the cave, almost as
if one of the giant pillars had come to life, causing everyone in
the party except Melèch, Unuth and the two elves to jump and
rose to his full ten-foot height and Legolas’ eyes widened at the
The creature was unlike any he had ever seen before. Proportioned in
some respects like a man, the creature could have been mistaken for
some kind of troll, except that its face was far more cunning and it
not shy away from the daylight filtering in from the cave mouth. Tall
and compact, it looked as if it had been hewn out of living stone and
only this moment come to life. Its rough, granite-like hide folded and
rippled in a totally unnatural way as it moved.
lords of the mortal world,"~~ Dor-Gor greeted with an ingratiating
grin that seemed somehow fake on his frightening face.
was unabashedly hiding behind Captain Dagred and the other guard,
peering fearfully up at the monstrous being before them. He was the
kind of man who was very comfortable and strong when ordering the
execution of dozens of helpless villagers who were accused of harboring
insurgents, but a downright coward when it came to anything that he
could not control. "W-what is it?" he asked Melèch fearfully.
Elrond’s eyes narrowed
sharply. The elf already knew the answer to that, although he had
thought this all but impossible.
is of an ancient race that was around back when the world was young,"
Melèch informed calmly. "His people are something like living
strong, and unbreakable. Look around you, my friends, this is our
army," the king swept his arms around the inside of the cave. Suddenly
the brooding presence of the huge, odd-shaped stone pillars made sense.
They were not stone, they were more creatures like Dor-Gor and yet...
they did not move.
army is useless, Melèch," Elrond shook his head, rapping on one
pillars with his knuckles. "They are as dead as stone."
~~"Oh no, not dead,
just in a very deep sleep..."~~ Dor-Gor laughed. ~~"You
see, many centuries ago we had some... differences... with the local
people. The King of Mirkwood and his people ruthlessly bound us to this
enchanted sleep and sealed us up inside this cave, encased in solid
granite. But they erred in their plans and my sleep was not so deep as
the others."~~ A fierce hatred flared in his eyes and his gaze
settled on Legolas. The young elf shifted uncomfortably. He got the
distinct feeling that Dor-Gor too, knew exactly who and what he was.
was well aware of the events Dor-Gor mentioned, and knew the details
the creature had left out. A very long time ago, back when King
Thranduil was a young elf and Elrond’s own father and mother were still
walking the plains of Middle-earth, these creatures had plagued and
ravaged the countryside of this area, causing great death and
destruction. One of the most difficult problems with them was that they
did not reproduce after the normal manner, but fashioned more of their
kind from hewn stone and breathed life into them by some dark art, so
their numbers could expand dramatically in a very short time, if only
they had enough stone to work with.
a combination of cunning and strife, the elves had finally put a stop
to them once and for all, and Legolas’ father and grandfather had
sealed them in their stony tomb, where they were supposed to remain
forever... But, obviously, something had gone wrong.
awakened Dor-Gor by accident, but fate has smiled upon the chance and
provided us with an unequaled opportunity," Melèch picked up the
explanation again. "Do you not think that your insurgents would flee in
terror if such an army confronted them, Elnon?"
Elnon nodded slowly,
his greed overcoming his fear. His eyes narrowed slightly. "All for a
fee to you, I suppose?"
shrugged the question off. "Certainly I have incurred expenses...
Unuth’s slaves are not cheap, and it took all of them that he could get
to clear this cavern. It seems the air is unhealthy down here after a
while and a disappointing number of them kept dying," the words were
callous and uncaring. "But from you, Elnon, I will take nothing for
myself, only the cost of Lord Esgal’s armaments will I ask of you for
the assistance of my new army."
what does Dor...whatever his name is get out of this?" Elnon pressed
again. The king was obviously of the opinion that no one did anything
for nothing, and he was right.
one, protection." Melèch was obviously very pleased with his own
"You see, these beings’ skin is so tough that naught can pierce it.
They have only one weak spot, directly between their collarbones. And
that, Lord Esgal, is where your puzzle piece comes in."
Elrond understood. Of course, the rings he had brought Melèch
perfectly around Dor-Gor’s neck, and shield the soft spot at the base
of his throat from any harm.
the second place, Dor-Gor here cannot leave this cave until his
companions are awakened but, to do that, he needed someone to bring
the means with which to rouse them," Melèch continued. "That,
have now done."
a nod from Melèch, Dagred and the other guard grabbed Legolas’
roughly and dragged him forward. Legolas resisted, but was forced to
his knees in front of the hideous creature.
stooped, placing his huge, chiseled, ugly face only a few inches from
the young elf’s. The creature’s long fangs glistened wickedly.
prince, your fathers laid this curse upon us, but you shall pay the
price,"~~ he smirked evilly.
jaw tightened and he stared icily up at the monstrosity, refusing to
pull back in fear, or give any sign of the terror that was flowing
through his veins.
Legolas spat the elves’ ancient name for these creatures. "You are
still spoken of in our legends and your legacy is an evil one. It makes
sense now. All that stone in the quarries, it was not for building, it
is for you, for you to shape more of your own twisted kind out of once
you have your full strength back again." Horrible understanding washed
know it, now take your knowledge to the grave with you. The rest of
your miserable kind will be joining you soon enough, for we are
unstoppable! And this time we will deal with you elves once and for
all,"~~ Dor-Gor threatened.
Legolas did not flinch.
"You were defeated once, you will be again."
Dor-Gor just laughed. ~~"I
think not, little one. And, even so, you will not be there to see it.
Prepare him."~~ The
last command was given to Dargred and his companion. Dagred tangled his
hand in the elf’s hair and pulled Legolas’ head forward, while his
companion held the young prince’s shoulders, exposing the elf’s neck.
lifted a sharp, jagged piece of stone that resembled a twisted dagger
and placed it tip-down against the base of Legolas’ skull.