Legolas pushed a wayward strand of hair out of his face only to have
the light, teasing breeze blow it back down again. He was still
worried about Trelan, but right now he was glad that neither he nor
Raniean were present. They would never let him live this
down. Never. After all, it wasn’t every day that you got to
see the prince of Mirkwood down on his knees scrubbing built-up,
caked-on grime out of the bottom of half a dozen huge feeding
It wasn’t that Legolas minded working, or working hard. Or even
dirty work for that matter, although it was not his preference.
He had never been the type to sit around and let others do things for
him and prided himself on independence. However, he knew that his
friends would tease him mercilessly if they could see him now because,
when they were young, punishment for their childish antics usually
meant helping the palace staff with the scrubbing or the gardening or
something of that nature.
At least the elf was beginning to feel better. The first few days
had been sheer misery. The violent illness that had gripped him
in the beginning had faded now, but Legolas could tell he was still not
fully healed. The poison yet lingering in his system, kept under
control by the daily treatments that the breakers gave him, continued
to sap a small part of his strength, although the prince was becoming
accustomed to its presence and no longer noticed it as pronounced as it
had once seemed.
THUMP! Fastred’s body slammed
into the soft, sandy ground in the center of the pen across the field
on Legolas’ left. The breaker rolled once before getting back to
his feet, scowling at the horse that had just thrown him. The
large, powerfully built chestnut stallion nickered as if happy with
itself and danced lightly away, its dark eyes following the human and
seeming to speak a warning about what would happen if the small bipedal
being attempted to get on its back again.
Léod, kneeling on the grass and scrubbing feed-troughs next to
Legolas, looked up and laughed. “That’s it, keep at him,
Fastred! I think you were on a whole five seconds this time, that
has to be a new
Fastred glared at his friend, dusting his trousers and muttering.
They had been trying to saddle-break this particular horse for the
better part of two weeks, thus far with no results other than a host of
bruises. It took Fastred nearly ten minutes to actually corner
the horse long enough to get the blindfold on him again so that the man
could swing up for another try. He lasted only three seconds this
The breaker sprawled in an undignified manner and this time Legolas
could not help but join Léod’s laughter. It was amusing
how cantankerous animals could be around humans.
Fastred saw the elf laughing at him as well and glared harder. He
was used to Léod’s goading, but Léod had his own share of
bumps from this horse and had earned that right. “Hey, what are you laughing at, elf-boy?”
“You,” the prince admitted without compunction. “He’s never going
to let you ride him that way unless you break his spirit, but by the
time you do that he will have lost the very spark that makes him
valuable to you.” The elf’s tone was light but his eyes a little
sad. Some horses could be safely and happily saddle-tamed in the
method they were attempting, but somehow he could tell right now that
this one never would.
“Oh, and you think you could do better?” Fastred snorted.
Everybody was an expert, from a safe distance.
Legolas just smiled and shook his head wryly. “Yes.”
“Well I would love to see that,” the human dared him. “Please, by
all means...” Fastred gestured towards the horse who was restlessly
pawing the earth and glaring.
The prince accepted the challenge without hesitation, rising to his
feet and easily swinging over the fence.
Fastred and Léod exchanged devilish grins. This kind of
work always looked easier
than it was and they fully expected their latest co-worker to eat dirt,
and his words, very quickly.
Legolas stretched out his hand, talking softly to the horse in his
native tongue as he approached. The horse nickered and backed
away, its dark, liquid eyes wide.
The elf paused, his tone turning even more gentle. This horse had
been hurt. Somewhere, someone had abused it and it was not going
to let anyone get that close again. Legolas understood that
feeling and whispered quiet, comforting words as he edged closer,
leaving a path open if the horse wanted to run so that it did not feel
The huge stallion snorted and eyed the elf suspiciously, but did not
try to run away. Once the prince had his head, Fastred moved to
slip the blindfold on again, but Legolas waved him off as the horse
began to shy away. “Thank you, that won’t be necessary.”
“He’ll buck you off before you even get on!” Léod laughed at
what he perceived as inexperience.
Legolas ignored him as he swiftly and gently removed the bit and bridle
from the horse, unfastening and taking the saddle off next.
Fastred smirked, folding his arms. “Giving up already?”
“Hardly,” Legolas allowed himself to flash the two humans a puckish
grin as he swung smoothly up onto the horse’s back in one fluid
Fastred scrambled back over the fence quickly, anticipating a very
The horse, however, seemed a completely different animal. It did
not buck or rear, or seem to reject the presence on its back as an
intrusion. The stallion fidgeted and stirred restlessly at first,
but quieted quickly under the prince’s soothing voice, and a few
minutes later Legolas had it walking around the ring and following his
every command as if it had been tamed since a foal.
Freca came out of the building across the way. “What are you two
staring at like slack-jawed idiots?” he asked Fastred and Léod,
before seeing Legolas in the breaking ring. “Wait a
minute...isn’t that Firebrand?” Of course it was and a closer
look told the man that Legolas had not been lying to him, nor muddled
by illness a few days ago when the elf asserted that he did not need a
bridle to ride.
“Not bad,” Freca approved, slapping the other two men casually upside
the head when they did not stop gaping in shock. “Not bad at
all. Will he let anybody else on him though?”
Legolas patted the stallion’s neck. All living things seemed to
have a natural affinity with elves, and this horse appeared to be able
to tell that the prince understood him and intended him no harm.
“Firebrand here is used to being wild, that is where his heart is, but
be gentle with him, and he will prove an excellent mount. Let me
ride him for a few days and I think I can convince him to bear others
Freca nodded. Whatever it took to get this horse rideable and out
of his hair sounded good to him. The creature had been nothing
but an expensive nuisance since he arrived. “You’re obviously a
natural at this, Legolas, you sure you don’t want a job with us when
your treatment’s up?” The offer was half-jest, half-serious.
Legolas just smiled wryly and shook his head, taking Firebrand around
for another pass and petting the horse’s arched neck with one
hand. “Some of us were always meant to be free,” he
Day was fading into night outside as Léod dropped dramatically
down onto his bed against the far wall. “I could sleep for a
“You should talk,” Fastred shook his head as he dumped his gear in the
corner of the room and tugged off his boots.
Legolas was already sitting on the bed that had been assigned to him
while he was here. The first few nights he had stayed in the main
house with Freca, until the boss was sure that the AntiVen had the same
desired effect on the elf as it did on humans. After the main
danger was perceived to be over, Legolas had been moved to the common
house with Fastred and Léod.
Léod seemed about to respond when Freca’s form appeared
unexpectedly in the doorway.
“All right come on, turn out everybody!” the boss called as he leaned
in. “Got a group riding in, looks to be at least six to eight
The other two humans moaned.
“Now?” Fastred griped as he tugged his boots back on. “It’s
bloody nightfall. Couldn’t they choose a better time?”
Legolas just slid off his bed and moved towards the door. He had
let his hair down so it now fell over his ears and around his
shoulders, but was otherwise still dressed and ready.
“Hey, we don’t control the time, we control the horses, now come on,
get moving,” Freca shook his head. “You’re all getting soft and
lazy! Look at Legolas here, he’s not tired.”
This was met with more good-natured mumbling from the humans as they
pulled themselves together. “That doesn’t count. He’s never tired!”
Freca laughed. That nearly seemed to be true. While Fastred
and Léod got ready, Freca passed the small corked drinking horn
he was holding in one hand to Legolas. “Drink up lad,” he
Legolas unstopped the opening and swallowed the liquid inside in one
draught. He knew what it was. By now his morning and
evening doses of the lhyguan anti-venom had become quite
habitual. The weeks had passed quicker than the elf had feared
and in two more days Legolas’ treatments would be ended. In
truth, the elf felt fully well again already and had for some
time. It was Legolas’ personal opinion that he was well enough to
leave now, because he did not think these men took into account the
fact that elves mended faster than humans, but for caution’s sake and
to avoid argument, he would wait out the last two days before saying
Legolas handed the drinking horn back to Freca. The only thing
that still reminded him at all of his near-death encounter was the thin
white bandage that ran in between his right thumb and forefinger and
wrapped around his palm in an X before tying off around his
wrist. The bite wound to the prince’s hand had taken a strangely
long time to heal, but the breakers had assured him that was normal for
a lhyguan bite and it too would heal completely with time.
Freca re-corked the horn and nodded. “All right then, let’s
move,” he said before turning and heading out to meet their arriving
Léod and Fastred shoved Legolas lightly from behind as they
walked out into the cooling evening. “Oh yes, look at Legolas,
he’s never tired...”
Legolas rolled his eyes. He was never quite sure whether they
were teasing him or actually irritated when they got like this, but
shrugged it off in any case, because they never seemed to hold him any
serious ill will, whether they were teasing or peeved.
When they got down into the lower pasture some of the first riders and
horses had already begun to arrive. A robust, sandy-blond haired
man of obvious Rohan heritage swung down off his horse and had just
finished speaking to Freca when the others joined him.
Freca turned to his three hands. “All right boys, roll up your
sleeves and get ready for work! This is Gram, and these gents
have some horses that need grooming, tending and shoeing. Spruce
‘em up, they gotta look nice to sell. These six here are just the
first batch; the rest of them are a little behind with their main
company. They want the already broken ones ready by morning,
which gives us less than an hour to get these beauties started on
before the others arrive. Let’s get to it then!”
“How many more head will your boss be bringing in?” Freca asked Gram as
Legolas, Léod and Fastred got to work, herding the horses
towards the pens across the yard with the help of Gram’s two
“Near twenty,” Gram wiped his brow with the back of his hand, glancing
back over his shoulder as he spoke. “They would have been with us
but a couple of the horses are incredibly wild, gave us a hell of a lot
of trouble and slowed the main group up. My boss, Scatha, let us
ride on ahead to get things started.”
Freca whistled softly. “Twenty? Unbroken?” This was an
unusually large order of business for the off season and normally Freca
would have had more workers on hand to deal with an influx of horses as
large as this was proving to be.
“No, they’re all broken,” Gram shook his head. “Only two of them
are giving us trouble...” his eyes unfocused for a moment. “But
we’ll deal with that. We don’t need your services for breaking;
we just need them fixed up a bit. The trail’s been long and not
all of them are looking their best. We also need a few
re-shoed. Got a couple of ones that are pulling lame on us and we
don’t know why... that sort of thing.”
Freca nodded. “I’ll send down to Kurnwait,” he indicated the
direction of the nearest town with his head. “Get a few extra
hands up here to help...”
Gram was already shaking his head. “No, not necessary.
Kurnwait is two hours from here. It would only waste time.
Scatha wants these animals ready to go by sunrise. Don’t worry,
our hands will help as soon as they get here and you will be well paid
for your services and the use of your equipment.” Gram’s tone
brooked no disagreement.
Freca’s eyes narrowed slightly. “If you’re sure that’s the way
you want it...”
Gram nodded confidently. “We’re sure.”
“All right then,” Freca shrugged. “Let’s get to it.”
By the time Freca reached the stables the horses had been penned
outside and three of them were on cross-ties against the inside wall of
the stable with the five workers buzzing busily about them. More
than a dozen torches had been lit, chasing away the growing evening
shadows and giving plenty of light to work by. Freca reasoned
that they would need more torches than this before the night was
over. These were very strange customers indeed.
Legolas curried one of the new horses with quick, efficient movements
while Fastred lifted each foot in turn, checking the shoeing job.
Léod and Gram’s two men were working on some of the other
animals. All of the horses were coated in mud and in some cases
their original color and markings were almost impossible to tell under
the layers of dirt.
“This one’s thrown a shoe, but the other three are still good,” Fastred
straightened up. “Legolas say’s he’s got a cut on his foreleg, but now
that we’ve washed the worst of the dirt off him it’s not that
bad. Two others I’ve looked over so far in more or less the same
shape...” the man hesitated, speaking quieter, his words now meant for
Freca’s ears only. “Although I’d love to know where they got over
twenty perfectly saddle-broken horses, some of which, like this one,
are sporting incomplete sets of steel-weight shoes...”
Freca raised his eyebrows. Steel-weight shoes were
expensive. Very expensive and they lasted for a long time.
No one in their right mind sold a horse still wearing such shoes when
they could easily be first replaced with cheaper ones and the more
expensive ones re-used. And if a horse was sold with them
included in the price... who would be so careless as to let such shoes
be lost? But then, from the condition that these horses were in,
it did not seem that their current owners had been overly concerned
about their care or over-gentle in their handling.
Legolas stopped moving, pushing his loose hair absently back from his
face a little, the currycomb in his other hand resting on the horse’s
shoulder. This horse acted calmly, but it was disturbed and
agitated inside. He could tell. Nature and animals spoke to
elves in ways that humans could never understand, and this horse spoke
of disturbing things. As the mud was worked out of the black
horse’s coat, an unusual patch was revealed on his shoulder.
Cleaning further, Legolas realized that the patch was in fact a brand
mark, an identification of some sort. He had not seen this
practice used before, but supposed it to be a local custom for the
Gram, who had come over to stand near Freca, saw the elf staring.
Legolas’ hair was still down and in the torchlight Gram did not realize
that the prince was not a man. Besides, all Gram was interested
in was Legolas’ questioning look.
“Oh, I forgot to mention,” Gram turned to Freca. “Some of these
horses were marked by their previous owners. You have the equipment to
remove those of course...” it was not a question.
Freca watched him for a moment, but did not seem tossed off.
“Yes. Of course we do.” He did not mention that such work
was almost always done before
the horse was sold, and at the owner’s bidding, not the buyer’s.
He was sure that Gram and whoever this Scatha was that he was working
for were also well aware of that.
“Will that be a problem?” Gram’s eyes were hard as he held Freca’s gaze
and there was a hint of threat in his stony glare.
“What problem?” Freca cocked his head. “I told you we could do
it, didn’t I? As soon as this one’s clean, get him into a marking
halter, Fastred. And watch for any others who need it,” he
ordered calmly, before moving on to see how Léod’s work was
Fastred moved off to do as he was told, but Legolas caught the other
man’s arm, inclining his head towards the horse in front of him.
“Fastred... something is not right. This horse does not belong to
Fastred just looked at the elf for a moment before he shrugged the
other’s hand off. “It’s none of our business, Legolas. We
do what we’re paid to do and we don’t ask unhealthy questions.”
“But...” the elf shook his head.
Fastred stepped closer for a moment, putting his head near Legolas’ and
lowering his voice. “Look, right now there’s three of them and
three of us, but who knows how many are coming over the hills in the
next hour or so? You heard what they told Freca. Now just
do your job and don’t ask questions that you don’t want to know the
answer to, all right?”
Legolas looked away. He understood, but he didn’t agree.
Fastred, however, did not care whether or not the elf agreed and was
already busy back about his task
The elf slid his hand gently along the horse’s neck. The sound of
approaching hooves made everyone look up.
“Looks like your friends got here a little sooner than expected,” Freca
called to Gram as he went down to meet the newcomers.
Scatha was a swarthy man. A Rohan native, he obviously had a fair
share of Dunlending blood in his veins as was evidenced by his dark
hair and dark eyes.
Freca greeted him politely, although there was little trust between the
men of Rohan and those of Dunland ancestry. Gram had not
exaggerated; there were at least twenty horses now being herded into
his larger pens in the low meadow behind them. With just his
workers, the task they were being asked was impossible, however, Scatha
had brought at least a dozen men with him, so they might possibly be
able to pull it off... but the pay had better be well worth the
Gram looked down the hill and his eyes gleamed with hard amusement as
his boss talked with the head of the breakers. Scatha would
promise these people whatever they wanted. It mattered not,
because none of them would live to collect. Once their usefulness
was done these four men were dead. It would never do to leave
anyone around who might report them. Besides... it was so much
less expensive this way.
“You run into a mudslick?” Freca questioned. All the arriving
horses were as dirt-coated as the ones they had already begun cleaning.
Scatha smiled at the other man. “You run into lots of things out
in the wilds. That is not your concern. All I want to know
from you is if you can do the job or not.”
Freca nodded with clipped motions. “Oh we can do it so long as
you can pay.”
“Don’t worry, my friend, you will be well rewarded for your service,”
Scatha assured. Talk of just what exactly that pay involved was
interrupted by a commotion in the middle of the herd.
Two of the horses were not loose with the others, and it was not hard
to guess that those were the troublemakers that had been mentioned
earlier. Several of Scatha’s men had been trying to pen them with
the other horses, but as soon as the creatures had the chance they
bucked and reared, shaking their heads and trying to yank away from
The four humans guarding them swore loudly as they avoided the flying
hooves and yanked on the halters which they had rigged to work like
choke-chains; striking the horses brutally with the crops in their
hands in an effort to subdue them. This particular pair of horses
had been nothing but trouble and the mens' patience was gone.
“Got yourself a couple of fiery ones there, hm?” Freca whistled softly
as he turned towards the struggle taking place nearby, wincing inwardly
at how rough Scatha’s handlers were being with the high-spirited
horses. That was no way to handle the situation, but these were
not his horses and no one had asked for his opinion.
Scatha scowled. Those two beasts had almost been more trouble
than they were worth. They were a treasured prize, but they would
be useless if they remained as untamable as they had been thus
“Hey! Léod!” Freca called up the hill. “Send Legolas
down here! We’ve got a couple of wild ones, let’s see what he can
Léod, halfway between the stables and the lower meadow pens,
nodded and sprinted up the hill. The breaker poked his head into
the stable quickly where Legolas and one of Gram’s men were still
working. “Legolas! Freca wants you down the hill!” he
called before heading back to his tasks. They were all going to
be very busy and the sooner they got to work the sooner they’d get
done. He figured that tonight would be a long night.
Léod had no idea just how right he was.
Legolas dropped the wet sponge he was using on the horse in front of
him back in the bucket by his feet and wiped his hands off on the
soiled apron tied around his hips. Pushing his hair back behind
his ears for the dozenth time he exited the stable and walked down the
hill towards the main group.
At the same time, the two rearing horses broke free of their vicious
handlers. Nearly trampling Freca and Scatha who only just got out
of the way in time, they bolted up the hill.
“Legolas, look out!” Freca called in warning as the horses barreled
towards the prince.
However, the horses had no intention of running the elf over.
Instead they pulled up on either side of him, tossing their heads and
neighing in distress.
One of the horses pressed her muzzle against the elf’s shoulder
pleadingly, leaving behind a dirty smudge. Her sides were heaving
and bright red blood from the cruel crop strokes of her handlers
mingled with the mud that clung to the distressed creatures.
Legolas blinked in shock as he looked into the mare’s frightened, but
trusting eyes. The two horses were so mud-coated that they were
almost unrecognizable, the dark earth hiding their light, dappled grey
coats. However no amount of dirt could hide them from the
“Avornwen?” Legolas said in surprise, taking her head gently in his
hands before moving one hand to rest on the nose of the other horse who
was now nipping lightly at his shirtsleeve. “Kynter?”
Surprise turned quickly to rage as he took in the cruel choke-halters
that they were trailing and the injuries they had both sustained.
Scatha and his men followed the horses up the hill slowly now that they
seemed to be under control. Scatha’s eyes locked on the
fair-haired elf standing between the two horses and his look
darkened. He recognized the elf, and as Legolas’ eyes met his he
knew instantly that the elf recognized him as well.
As Legolas looked at Scatha he felt his blood run cold. Horse
hooves pounded in his head and he was on the edge of that grey shale
cliff again; the one he now knew was called Scatha was leering at him
as they tried to spook Avornwen and unseat him...
The moment hung suspended for a very long instant... before absolute
Scatha’s eyes narrowed dangerously. They had been recognized and
could no longer afford to delay getting rid of these unwanted
liabilities. “Change of plans boys!” he thundered, drawing his
sword and pointing it at Legolas. “Kill him. Kill them
Scatha’s men reacted almost instantly. An arrow whizzed by
Legolas’ head and he dodged only just in time. Grabbing
Avornwen’s mane he swung up onto her back, away from the lunge of
another man’s sword. The mare wheeled around as Legolas’ eyes
searched for Freca, Fastred and Léod. He couldn’t see any
of them, only the tossing sea of men and weapons that were rushing
The elf felt uncomfortably naked without any of his weapons on
hand. Avornwen and Kynter sprinted up the hill, away from their
pursuers, but Legolas knew he could never just run away and leave the
breakers here alone. He scanned the dark landscape for them
Suddenly Avornwen stumbled and swerved sharply to the side, making
Legolas clamp tightly with his knees and cling to the horse’s mane to
keep from sliding off the horse’s mud-slicked back.
Gram and his men, stepping from the shadows of the stables where they
had been all but forgotten, had grabbed the trailing choke-rein from
Avornwen’s halter and wrapped it around the stable door post, checking
the horse’s full-out flight sharply.
As her hooves skidded sharply, Avornwen gave a snorting, strangled cry
at the cruel yank. She couldn’t turn fast enough to counter the
check to her speed and fell heavily to her side.
Legolas let out a soft cry as his left leg was caught between the
ground and the horse and the side of his head slammed forcefully
against the earth. Avornwen lunged against the choke-line,
rolling to her knees and trying to break free. Legolas rolled
away swiftly before another vicious tug pulled the panicking horse back
onto her side. Avornwen was so quick that she had not stayed down
long enough to break her rider’s leg, but the impact had not done
Legolas any good and he staggered slightly as he pulled himself to his
Gram, having reached the downed horse, tried to tackle Legolas but
missed by only inches, the elf’s injured leg shooting sharp pains
through him as he danced away. The pain was distracting and he
was not quick enough to avoid the second attacker who knocked the elf
to the earth, rolling over and over with him as they grappled for the
upper position. Legolas gained the top and slammed the man’s head
back forcefully against the rocky ground, punching him hard and jumping
up and away. Gram and his men blocked the elf’s retreat up the
hill and Legolas spun around, only to come face to face with Scatha and
more of his men coming up from below.
The main host had caught up now and some of the men were holding Kynter
again as Avornwen struggled to her feet, obviously winded.
Legolas’ eyes darted around him, but his options were incredibly
limited. Torches were bobbing everywhere; casting confusing
twisted shadows on the darkened earth. Sounds of chaos filled the
lower pasture where the other horses, half-in the pen, half out when
the commotion began, had spooked and were wreaking havoc with the men
trying to recapture them.
“Don’t run, elf, and we’ll make this quick,” Scatha threatened, his
bloody sword drawn as the circle of men surrounding the prince drew
tighter. “Not like the other elf.”
Legolas’ gaze burned into the Dunlending as he tried to circle
warily. His left leg was screaming at him and would barely hold
his weight. It may not have been broken, but it was definitely
not happy with him.
“What did you do to Trelan? Where is he?” the prince ground out
through his teeth. Wishing again that he had some kind of weapon,
Legolas limped slightly as he moved and Scatha noticed. His grin
“Was that his name? We didn’t do anything, but the horses did
pretty good I hear. You ever seen a person trampled to death,
elf? Well you don’t want to. Don’t give us no trouble and
we won’t be forced to let you see how it feels either,” Scatha moved
closer, forcing Legolas to retreat nearer to the men behind him.
“Your boss is dead,” he fingered his bloody sword. “Your other
friends soon will be if they aren’t already... don’t make this harder
than it has to be, or I’ll make sure you go slow.”
Legolas’ eyes narrowed and his heart filled with crushing sorrow.
“You’ll pay, Scatha,” he whispered softly, lethally, pain making his
eyes hard. “I swear you’ll pay for what you did to Trelan and
“At whose hand, elf? Yours?” Scatha laughed, leveling the tip of
his blade with Legolas’ collarbones. “I don’t think so.” He
nodded almost imperceptibly towards Gram. Legolas caught the
motion and tensed, but did not know what it foreboded and had no time
to react. Gram, knowing what Scatha was doing by driving the elf
towards him, had uncurled the long lashed whip that hung by his side
and held it loosely in his hand. At Scatha’s signal he let the
lash snake out with practiced skill and wrap around the elf’s bad leg,
drawing it back swiftly and yanking Legolas’ footing out from under
Legolas gasped slightly as he hit the ground, half-catching himself on
his hands, the jarring fall making his shoulders and palms ache.
Before he could even draw his breath in again a sharp boot caught him
in the stomach and ribs while another barbed and braided leather thong
wrapped around his upper arm, jerking back hard and flipping the elf
over onto his back. The lash cut through his sleeve as it was
yanked away, leaving a curled, bleeding welt behind on the arm
Scatha stomped ruthlessly on the elf’s out-flung wrist, pinning Legolas
down as Gram knelt, grabbing the prince’s other arm and sliding the
sharp edge of a dagger under Legolas’ chin. The prince winced as
Scatha’s boot ground into the still healing wound on his hand.
Legolas stopped struggling reluctantly as he felt the steel biting the
soft flesh of his neck, his eyes blazing furiously up at Gram as the
human carefully pinned both his arms over his head by kneeling on the
elf’s wrists, keeping the dagger tight against Legolas’ throat.
Here and there in the distance Legolas could hear the sounds of raised
voices and fighting and guessed that somewhere Fastred and Léod
were putting up a fight. The spooked and unsettled horses down
the hill had broken through the fence holding them in, as well as the
one holding the other horses that the breakers had been boarding and
the creatures were scattering everywhere, leaving a number of the
thieves chasing them around and generally adding clamor to chaos.
Avornwen and Kynter were bucking and pulling on their lead-lines as
they were drug forcefully away, trying desperately to get back to the
elf, but the men holding them were not about to make the mistake of
letting those two escape again.
Most of the other thieves had scattered to try to keep as many horses
as they could from running away, leaving only Gram, Scatha and three of
his men hovering around their captive. Scatha stood over Legolas,
grinning, his whole attention on the elf and not sparing too much
thought to anything else right now. His men would take care of
the horses, but this elf... this elf was his and he was going to pay
for causing them as much trouble as he already had. Letting his
sword rest against Legolas’ chest, Scatha dragged the razor blade
slowly down the prince’s torso, cutting open his tunic and the skin
underneath. Legolas tensed but wouldn’t show them pain, biting
back his breath to keep from crying out.
Scatha’s smile just widened. “I lied,” he whispered softly.
“You die hard, elf. You die very hard.”