Chapter 1: Dark as a Tomb
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Author's Note: The story takes place in two time lines. One timeline is set about two years after Mistaken Identity and the other is about 30-50 years after Captive of Darkness.
Aragorn sighed deeply and slid down the rough wall of stone that
blocked his path. Crumpling at the base of the caved in wall, he
slapped the rocks ineffectually but, as his anger ebbed away, fear and
pain eagerly rushed in to take its place. The sound of his
breathing was loud in the small cavern, so loud that he had to fight
back the claustrophobic feelings that overwhelmed him like a flood tide
blocking all rational thought. He could barely hear the townsfolk
now. He wondered idly how much debris lay between him and the
outside. Slight sounds of shifting rocks caused him to wince and
hold his breath; the mountainside was still settling in on itself,
adjusting under the weight of the newly shifted rocks. Dust fell
into his eyes and choked his breath.
Closing his eyes, the ranger worked to calm his breathing and still the
anxiety in his heart. He didn’t need any more adrenaline in his
system; he already felt shaky from what they had just survived.
Legolas! The elf had to be in here somewhere.
Giving up his failed attempts to dig them out, Aragorn crawled a few
paces to the back of the cavern. The shallow indentation in the
cliff face that they had been buried in was no deeper than the length
of a man and barely tall enough for him to stand upright. From
what he had seen before the rocks caved in the opening, Aragorn thought
the width of the cave could have been no more than ten paces
long. He fought down the bile that rose in his throat conjured
from the fear of their confinement.
Hesitantly, he tested the floor in front of him with his right
hand. It was pitch-black in the cave and he couldn’t see a
thing. His left arm was useless, having been broken or dislocated
in the fight; he hadn’t taken the time to find out exactly what was
wrong. He was fairly certain something was broken, since it hurt too
much when he moved his arm and it wouldn’t support any of his
His fingers brushed against soft cloth and he inched closer.
Gently, Aragorn ran his right hand over Legolas’ prone body. The
elf didn’t move. The prince was lying in a crumpled heap where he
had been thrown. Slowly Aragorn turned the elf over onto his back
and eased Legolas into his lap. It was hard to do with his left
arm hurting so badly, but he needed to know his friend was alive and he
needed the contact whether he wanted to admit it or not.
“Legolas?” His voice was oddly loud in the silent cave. Tomb, he thought darkly to himself, this is a tomb. Or it would be if they weren’t found soon.
The elf in his arms didn’t answer him. The ranger gently laid his
right hand on the prince’s chest. To his great relief, the steady
beat of his friends’ heart thumped softly against his fingertips.
Now that his eyes were adjusting to the lack of light, the human could
make out the natural glow of the elf. Closing his eyes the ranger
sighed in relief as the wild tinges of panic began to recede.
Scooting back against the wall, Aragorn pulled Legolas more tightly
against him and settled them both as comfortably as he could. The
ground beneath him was cold and littered with small pieces of rock and
debris. The wall of the cave behind him wasn’t much better.
It took him a couple of minutes to find a place that was smooth enough
where the rocks didn’t dig into his back and shoulders.
With a hiss, he shifted his wounded arm so that it lay across the
prince’s chest. It felt better when the weight was taken off of
it. He was beginning to think his collarbone was fractured.
He had had broken arms before and this didn’t feel like that.
Carefully he worked his hand and arm. Movement in his shoulder
sent shooting flares of pain through his awareness and he stilled
stiffly until the ache was gone.
Definitely my collarbone, he thought darkly.
Well at least it was something new and not the same old broken arm or
leg that he usually returned home with. Not that Ada would find
Turning his attention back to the elf, Aragorn wondered how badly
Legolas had been hurt. His fingers trembled slightly as he
brushed the prince’s face.
It shouldn’t have ended up this way. He had never seen it
coming. The possibility hadn’t even entered his mind. He
thought they had left the memory of Hebrilith behind; that had been
nearly two years ago. But they had forgotten that the Silvan
prince was a dead ringer for the tormented elf that had hunted the
humans this side of the mountains. And the folks hereabouts
thrived on tales and myths. The legacy Hebrilith had built over
the years through his activities had been enlarged upon in the small
outposts until the dark elf had become the embodiment of all evil that
haunted the villages. They didn’t know Hebrilith had died.
And they didn’t believe the ranger when he had tried to reason with
them. It was easier to believe the lies, the half-truths and
legends and to keep the fears alive. Tales told round campfires
late at night have a way of never dying. And so Hebrilith lived
Aragorn wanted to kick himself for not thinking about that when he and
Legolas had entered the outskirts of the town. It was almost by
accident that they had stumbled on the village at all. They had
been following the trail of recent evidence that seemed to point to a
small enclave of orcs nearby when they very nearly ran into a group of
He remembered the looks on the faces of the men when Legolas had walked
up next to him. Fear, horror and surprise were quickly masked by
anger and rage. No amount of talking or reasoning had convinced
the men that Legolas was not Hebrilith. They had even accused
Aragorn of being merely an embodiment of a dead ranger that Hebrilith
had enslaved to his corrupted will.
“Quite an imagination,” Aragorn whispered aloud. He sighed deeply
and shook his head. They weren’t bad people, just scared
people. He knew the populaces in the hills near Imladris were a
superstitious lot when it came to things like elves or the other races
that inhabited Middle-earth. Most had never even seen an elf and
Hebrilith had done them no favors.
Aragorn gently touched his head. He winced as his fingers brushed
the jagged cut to his temple. He had been trying to reason with
the hunters when he had been knocked unconscious. When he woke up
he had found himself inside this small cave. The villagers were
sealing it off, stacking large rocks in even rows against the
opening. Aragorn had begged them to go to Rivendell to verify his
story but they wouldn’t listen. The ranger had no idea what they
had done next. But after they were through sealing the cave, the
hunters had somehow triggered an avalanche and buried them deep within
the mountain. They wanted to make sure that the evil the elf had
done was never able to escape.
And they’ve done a good job of it too, Aragorn thought darkly.
The fact that Legolas was unresponsive worried him deeply. The
last time the prince had been mistaken for Hebrilith it had nearly cost
him his life.
He began slowly inspecting the elf more closely. Legolas’ natural
glow was extremely dim in the darkened cave. His wrists were
abraded and cut. A nasty gash on the elf’s temple mirrored the
one on his own. He couldn’t tell if the prince was wounded more
severely than the external bruises and cuts. He would have to
wait until Legolas woke up; he hoped that would be soon.
Before they had left, Aragorn had told his brothers, Elladan and
Elrohir, where they were going and when they could be expected to
return. When the elf and ranger didn’t show up, he was sure the
twins would start hunting for them.
“Legolas? Come on, I need you to wake up. Please,” Aragorn
quietly begged the still elf. His shoulder and arm were aching
fiercely. He wondered idly how he had come to be so beaten
up. What had happened to them after he had been knocked out?
He could feel the elf's breathing underneath his left hand and the
steady pulse of the elven heartbeat beneath his fingertips. At
least Legolas was alive. For the moment that was all that
mattered. Leaning his head back against the rock wall behind him
Aragorn closed his eyes. He just needed to be patient, just
needed to rest...
Someone stirred nearby. White-hot pain flared behind Aragorn’s
eyes and a sickening, grinding feeling in his shoulder brought him
fully awake. Involuntarily he cried out and tried to stop the
movement that jarred his arm.
“Aragorn?!” The panicked shout reminded the ranger of their predicament.
“Stop moving, Legolas,” Aragorn panted hoarsely. He closed his
eyes and held his breath against the pain. His right hand
tightened on the prince's shoulder. “We’re safe for the
moment. Just don’t move.”
“Estel, what is it?” Legolas questioned worriedly, immediately
stilling his movements. He realized with sudden clarity that he
was being held by the ranger. His hands gently touched the
ranger’s wounded arm and began feeling it for breaks. “Is it your
Aragorn shook his head still trying to calm his own racing heart.
Finally finding his voice he responded aloud. “No.” His voice was
soft in the small confines. “I think it’s my collarbone. My
arm seems to be fine but it hurts when I move it at all and I can’t put
any weight on it.”
“I should wonder if it didn’t. I was afraid you had been injured
more severely,” Legolas responded cryptically. He groaned softly
as he stirred. “Where are we?”
“Don’t ask,” Aragorn responded distractedly. “You really don’t
want to know.” He was looking around them in earnest for anything
they could use to make their stay more comfortable. It appeared
that their captors had simply thrown them in the cavern and kept all
“Are we in a cell?”
“Of sorts,” Aragorn answered. He directed his attention back to
the elf in his arms. “How badly were you hurt? What
happened, Legolas?” He gently brushed the hair away from the elf’s face
as best he could with his right hand.
“Well I only remember some...” the elf’s words were soft and they
drifted off as Legolas recalled the events that he could. He
didn’t move out of Aragorn’s arms. The truth was that he hurt too
badly at the moment and their surroundings were strangely frightening
if he thought about it too hard.
“After you were knocked unconscious I tried to get to your side and
help you, but they wouldn’t let me. I told them the truth many
times but they were convinced that I was lying and would hear none of
it. They intended to slit your throat in hopes of ‘freeing’ your
spirit that they just knew I had enslaved,” Legolas quietly repeated
all that had happened to them. “Finally I simply agreed with
them. I told them I was Hebrilith and they could do what they
wanted with me if they left you alone and let you live. It was
the only way I could convince them to let you remain unharmed.”
The elf sighed softly. It was hard to breathe and harder to
recount what had happened. When he breathed in deeply it was
painful. He was positive he had broken ribs. It was a
feeling he had learned over the past few decades and one that the mind
didn’t let go of easily.
“What did they do to you, Legolas?” Aragorn asked fearfully, the horror
evident in his voice. His grip tightened on the elf as the prince
spoke of his treatment at the hands of the men. Aragorn knew that
he was greatly simplifying what had really happened. “I’m so
sorry I was not there to help you,” the ranger whispered.
“Estel, it was not your fault. Who knew that this village had
been so devastated by Hebrilith’s hunting? Honestly, it wasn’t
anything worse than Taradin and his men did to me. I will be
fine,” Legolas concluded. “I will heal. You, however,
sustained your injuries when they threw you into the back of a wagon
that was brought up from the town. You fell out and landed on
rocky ground when the horses were spooked by the hunters’ caches. It
was the dead deer that they piled into the cart that set them
off. No one was paying attention to us at that time. I was
positive that you had been injured but they did not care. In fact
when I expressed concern for you they used it as an excuse to beat you
as well, though there is not half the sport in beating an unconscious
man. That is probably why you ache all over. They said they
were going to make sure that I could never harm another soul and that
my corruption would not spread through you either. Then the large
man that knocked you out did the same to me.” The elf shifted
slightly and fingered his temple. “I really hadn’t thought I
would awaken. I thought we were both dead.”
“Don’t tell me these are Mandos’ Halls, my friend,” Legolas jested, trying to lighten their situation.
A small snort of laughter was the ranger’s reply.
“No, I’m afraid we are still in Middle-earth...somewhere.
However, the townspeople felt that in order to keep us from spreading
evil we needed to be buried,” Aragorn explained simply. He felt
the elf in his arms stiffen.
Now that he focused on their surroundings, Legolas realized where the
familiar sense was coming from – they were underground. “We are in a
“Yes, I’m afraid so, my friend,” Aragorn answered. “They walled
up the exit and then somehow brought the mountain down on top of us to
ensure we could not get out. I cannot find a way out. I
have been trying. The cavern itself is small and there is no
tunnel leading out but the one that they collapsed. El and El
will come for us, I know it, Legolas. They told me if we didn’t
return in a fortnight they would come after us. They will
come.” The elf simply nodded against the man that held him.
Silence fell in the grotto. When Legolas didn’t speak up right away, the ranger tried to change the subject.
“Tell me where you hurt,” Aragorn asked softly. He pressed the
fingers of his left hand down gently on the elf’s chest.
“I ache all over,” Legolas answered with a small laugh. “I’m sure
I have broken ribs as well. It hurts to breathe.”
Aragorn turned his head and silently laid his cheek on the elf’s
head. “I’m sorry,” he whispered softly, his heart breaking.
He knew if they ever got out of this predicament they would have to
return to the village and ensure that this abuse was never
repeated. He knew of a few people that could come to his help in
that matter – if they got out.
“You know, Estel, I don’t mind getting into trouble with you or even
running into enemies. But I am sorely sick of having broken ribs,”
Legolas spoke quietly. He stifled a small laugh when his body
protested. “It is not something I ever wish to do again. I
want you to know that, because I have never had them until I met you – human,” he jested lightly.
His taunting did the job as he felt the man laugh softly.
“You expect me to believe that you never had a broken bone before you met me?”
“No, in all honesty before I met you, Estel, I never
had a broken rib. My wounds were... of a different nature I am
afraid.” His voice quieted as he thought back to an earlier time.
“I’m sorry...” Aragorn repeated again. When Legolas tried to
protest the human resisted. “No. I’m sorry your ribs were
broke and I’m sorry we are in this hole in the mountain.”
“I’m not worried, Estel. None of this was your fault or
mine. It belongs to an elf whose soul is now with Mandos.
You were right, your brothers will come. It was nearing a
fortnight when we headed back two days ago,” Legolas commented softly.
He smiled at the grey eyes that stared down into his. In the dim
light his glow afforded, he could see the worry in his friend's
gaze. “Besides, this is not the worst imprisonment I have ever
endured.” The last was said with a small smile.
Aragorn nodded mutely. His friend’s words sank slowly into his
mind. His eyes had barely adjusted to the dim light the elf shed
and he watched the prince closely.
“Would it be better if you were sitting up?” Aragorn prompted.
“If you don’t mind,” Legolas answered honestly, “I would really just
like to remain here. It hurts to move too much and right now it’s
not so bad.”
Nodding slowly, Aragorn relaxed against the rocks behind them once more.
A thought occurred to him and he gazed back down at Legolas. “What do
you mean it’s not the worst imprisonment you’ve ever had? What
was the worst?” Aragorn questioned. It helped to simply talk,
helped keep their minds off the small confines they found themselves
Legolas barely laughed. “Oh no, the worst came from a more familiar
hand and in quite an unexpected manner,” the elf spoke softly and
haltingly. Sometimes his words were faint and at times he stopped
to catch his breath.
“Is it a story you can tell?” Aragorn prompted.
“Now...yes,” Legolas answered. “There was a time when it was
never spoken of, a time when it hurt too much to even think
about. But now... now time has dulled the ache and it is more of
a point of humor and embarrassment to those involved. I am sure
they wouldn’t mind if I told you.”
Aragorn smiled and simply waited his friend out while the elf took a few painfully deep breaths.
“You already know some of the story of my mother, but I have never told
you of my sister,” Legolas began his story by way of explanation.
“Sister?!” Aragorn leaned down closer, gazing deeply into the
elf’s eyes to make sure he had heard correctly. “You have a
sister and you never told me?”
“I’ve seen what happens when you get around elven maidens,” Legolas joked, arousing laughter from the human.
“Don’t even go there,” Aragorn warned him off laughingly. “Now
what is this about a sister?” His voice was teasing. “Tell
“Well it happened over two-thousand years ago,” Legolas began.
“When the forests were first overrun by the spiders we didn’t realize
what a threat they were, how vile and evil their hearts were or the
darkness that ruled their simple minds. In the beginning we still
ventured into the southern reaches of the forests thinking we were
safe. We were not.”
Legolas grew quiet. A million thoughts assaulted his mind at
once. It had been over a millennia and yet it still felt as fresh as if
the events had happened yesterday. His heart had healed and he
was content with the fact he would see his family again someday, but
memories were so different for the eldar – sometimes more painful.
Taking a deep breath Legolas launched back into the tale.
“My sister’s name is Celesté; she is younger than I. One
day in late summer we decided to go on a small trip near the southern
regions – the parts where travel is now forbidden. It was not
always as it is now; Mirkwood was beautiful. We were all supposed
to go, Ada, Nana, Celesté and I. But my father ended up
having to cancel because of affairs of state and things of that nature
so he declined, remaining behind while we traveled on. Running a
kingdom has always been a consuming job for my father,” Legolas
commented softly, smiling as he thought back through all the times
Thranduil had had to cancel plans to attend to some crisis or mediate
Shaking his head to clear the more recent memories, he continued.
“Celesté was too young to ride a horse by herself, so she sat
with Nana. The two had wandered off ahead of me...I don’t quite
recall now why I was not nearer them. Something had caught my
attention and distracted me. I never heard the attack.
Several large spiders dropped out of the trees in front of Nana’s
horse, spooking it. The poor beast was terrified.
Celesté died instantly when she and Nana were thrown from the
horse. I was able to drive the spiders back so they could not
reach my mother and sister. Fortunately a small hunting party
nearby heard our cries for help. They chased the beasts away, but
it wasn’t in time. The damage had already been done.” Legolas’
voice had faded to a whisper and he closed his eyes tightly against the
sorrow that welled in his heart as he remembered the sight of his
sister’s small body lying so still in the meadow.
“She was never still in life. Always so full of all that was
alive in the forests,” Legolas spoke distractedly. His voice startled
him. He hadn’t realized he was speaking his thoughts aloud.
Glancing up at Aragorn he noted the pained look in his friend’s eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Legolas,” the ranger replied. He wasn’t sure what
to say. Legolas was right; he had never heard this tale and that
it still hurt the elf to retell it was painful for him. “I never
knew. I mean I knew your mother had gone across the sea...
With a smile the prince set the man’s heart at ease. “It has been
many years now. My father and I have both come to terms with
Celesté and Nana’s departures. I know I will see them
“Still...” Aragorn shook his head in empathy as he thought
through all the elf was telling him. He understood loss,
understood it all too well. “But if your mother wasn’t hurt...why
then did she leave? I thought she was wounded?” the ranger asked
gently. He didn’t mean to pry but his curiosity had gotten the
better of him. It was a trait the elf had come to expect from
humans and he nodded as he followed the man’s train of thoughts.
“Yes and no. Not as you understand wounding. Remember,
Estel, that for an elf a wound to the heart can be as fatal as an
injury to the body,” the prince explained. “My mother could not
get over the grief from the loss and left for the Undying Lands where
she knew she would be reunited with Celesté. It was not an
easy decision, nor did it come quickly. But it did compound the
emptiness in both my father’s heart and mine. You see my father
was not there and for his part, because of that, he had his own guilt
over it. Because he was supposed to have gone with us and did
not, he blamed himself for Celesté’s death and Nana’s state of
heart. With both of us experiencing the same guilt, we naturally
sparked off of each other and contributed to our problems, growing
father apart and never realizing what the other was feeling. In
the end after they had both left, we made our lives a living torment,
“Why didn’t you just tell your father what you were thinking and
feeling?” Aragorn questioned. He hadn’t meant the query to sound
harsh; he was simply trying to fathom why the situation had gotten so
out of hand. In his household everyone freely voiced their
opinions, thoughts and emotions. If he didn’t, his Ada would
simply drag it all out of him anyway, so there was no use in
“I wish we had had that type of relationship back then. We could
have avoided so much hurt and loneliness. My father is a good
king. He is a decent father although he would be the first to
admit he is still learning that role.” Legolas laughed softly, his
breath catching slightly as the pain reminded him of his injury.
“I also have had much to learn. When Nana left, it was hard to
talk to anyone about the way I felt. She was the one I always
went to when I was troubled or frightened or needed advice. I am
sure that Adar would have wanted to be the one that I confided in, but
most of the time he was too busy and...well...Nana just had a way about
her that was soothing and calming. I still miss her,” Legolas
“The fact remains that when she left I shut everyone out. It was
easier that way. Easier to channel all the loss and pain and
forge them into a blunt anger, which developed into a hatred for the
spiders in the southern region. I didn’t care what clan or
enclave I ran across, I simply wanted to kill them all. I took to
hunting them any chance I could get. And I got pretty good at it
too. Of course once Raniean and Trelan found out what I was up to
they wanted to accompany me. We spent every spare moment tracking
the spiders and killing any we came across. It went on for a bit
until it was brought to my father’s attention,” Legolas snorted softly
as he remembered the exact day his father found out.
“I don’t know if he was told what we were up to or if he simply noticed
how much I was gone. But when he discovered our forays into the
southern forests, he forbade me to continue them. Only his wishes
didn’t matter to me at the time and I defied him. It really was
my fault. I pushed him too hard, but at the time all that I was
clinging to was my hatred and anger. Ada had allowed his duties
to the kingdom to consume him. It was how he dealt with the
pain. But we were both just retreating from the truth.
Finally he could take it no more and ordered me to appear before him,
which of course I declined,” Legolas admitted sheepishly. He
smiled as Aragorn shook his head at the elf’s stubbornness.
“Oh Legolas...” the ranger groaned. “My friend, you still have that stubborn streak down your back.”
“Yes, but at least time has tempered it. Ada and I now have a
much closer relationship. We are both learning how to love one
another,” Legolas replied. “Now stop interrupting or I won’t tell
you the rest!” The elf laughed softly, holding his ribs with his
The rocks in front of them shifted and slipped. Aragorn curled
over Legolas, sheltering him as the wall in front of them moved closer,
collapsing in on itself. Small bits of debris showered them with
dirt. Dust filled the air and choked their lungs making breathing
Curling in on himself Legolas tried to catch his breath. Fire
raced through his body as his ribs protested any attempt to
breathe. Tears formed at the edges of his eyelids unbidden.
He could hear Aragorn speaking but he couldn’t concentrate on the words.