Chapter 3: Horribly Awry
First > Previous > Next
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” Aragorn interrupted. His horror
had mounted through the retelling. He was having a hard time
reconciling what Legolas was saying with the Thranduil he had
met. Oh he had heard the tales of the king’s quick temper and
even seen it in action before. But he knew that Thranduil loved
Legolas. This was a part of his friend’s family life that he had
never heard. He needed to stop the story and get a few more
“Are you telling me your father imprisoned you for not giving your
word? In a cell? In the dungeon?! You are kidding me,
right?” The ranger found that information incredulous and stared
in shock at his friend. “Why didn’t’ you ever tell him how much
you feared the dark and the confines? You’ve told me. It
can’t be that terrible of a secret. Legolas, that stubborn streak
of yours will be the death of you yet.”
“Well it almost was,” Legolas answered softly. He smiled up into
the wide-eyed stare that Aragorn laid on him. “You must know,
Estel, that my father loves me very much. He didn’t do it to be
mean. He thought he was helping the situation. Believe me,
he knows about my fears. You have seen how hard-headed he can be
at times and you know of my stubbornness. They can be a nasty
mix. I fear I am more like him than we both want to admit.
Sometimes we just don’t communicate very well. Ours has been a
very different relationship than the one you have with your
father. I always worried that he would see my fears as weaknesses
and I would lose his respect. His love I always have. But I
needed to know that he knew I could take over in his stead should he
require it. An elf that is afraid of the dark and small places is
not fit for leadership.”
“Obviously that assessment is wrong,” Aragorn replied softly.
“Fears do not make you weak. They make you more real, easier to
get to know than if you were a perfect pointy-eared elf.” The
last was said with a quiet laugh.
Legolas couldn’t help the quiet snicker that escaped his lips.
“Don’t make me laugh, Estel, it hurts,” he whispered through gritted
teeth. “It has taken many years for me to be able to agree with
you on that. But at the time the losses in my life outweighed my
reasoning and I locked myself away from all others – even my
father. It was not wise.”
Aragorn snickered softly. “That’s an understatement.
Somehow Ada is always able to pry out of me what is going on in my
head. But if he imprisoned me every time I wouldn’t promise not
to get into trouble or do something that he had asked us not to do, I
think we should all still be serving out our time in our rooms.
You know, come to think of it, we don’t have dungeons in
Imladris. We don’t even have cells.”
“Rivendell is not a kingdom like Mirkwood is,” Legolas explained a bit
further. “There are many differences in our homes. It is
important for a king to be constant in his rule even with his own
“You said it didn’t work out well...what happened?” Aragorn asked
hesitantly. He felt Legolas shudder slightly and he tightened his
grip on the elf’s shoulder. “You don’t have to talk about it if
you don’t want to. I mean I know you told me your father had put
you in the dungeons before, but I guess I just thought you were
kidding. I never realized you meant it.”
“No, I’m afraid this wasn’t the first time it happened. Only it
wasn’t meant to be for an extended period of time. Later that
same day word was sent of a violent orc attack on some of the patrols
near the southern border. So my father went out with a large
contingent of reinforcements to see for himself what had happened and
lend any aid he could. When he reached the site of the battle, it
was revealed that many had been killed but dozens more were taken as
captives. That was unacceptable and my father wished to journey
with the garrison to free the prisoners,” Legolas continued the
He halted every so often to catch his breath or rest. It was hard
to keep up the conversation, but it kept his mind off his hurting body
and their cramped predicament. Aragorn was satisfied to simply
wait out the elf until Legolas was ready to speak again, letting him
have what rest he needed.
“My father sent back a runner to tell Amil-Garil to release me, but
confine me to the palace grounds until he could return.
Unfortunately, the messenger never reached the palace. He was
killed before he could return and his message was never delivered,”
Legolas picked up the story again after a long pause. Most of the
tale evoked little emotion from him now. It had all happened so
long ago. But parts of it were still painful to tell. And
this was one of them.
Aragorn was shaking his head in disbelief. His stomach churned as the prince’s voice dropped off.
“I’m so sorry,” the ranger whispered. “Was no one else sent back? No word brought after?”
“Well, eventually some of the warriors who had been wounded, but not
killed in the previous fight, made their way back to Lasgalen.
From those soldiers we were able to find out what happened and where
the king and the other contingent went off to. However, they also
brought with them no word from the king on my behalf and so my guards
had no other orders but the last ones they were left with.
Amil-Garil and the rest of the guard had no choice but to continue to
keep me imprisoned. For their part, they did what they were
supposed to do and it was to their honor that they did. It
brought them no pleasure and they were kind to me. But they could
not let me out without the king’s word. They had no idea he had
already given it.” Legolas stopped speaking again and winced,
holding his breath against a spasm of pain.
“Legolas?” Aragorn moved slightly, wincing in sympathy.
“Perhaps I should sit up. My ribs ache fiercely,” Legolas answered the question.
“Maybe you should just stop talking. I could tell a story
instead. Have you heard about the time we tricked Ada into
drinking some of his own tea, but Elrohir made it and it was too
strong? There was a delegation from the surrounding towns coming
for a council the next day and Elrohir and Elladan took turns
pretending to be Elrond because we couldn’t wake Ada up.” Aragorn
laughed at the recollection.
“Yes, I have! And shame on you all! You are lucky it worked so
well. You and your brothers never cease to amaze me.” Legolas
smiled up at his friend. “But no, really, I just think I need to
sit up for a bit, please, if that’s possible.”
“Of course,” Aragorn complied. “Wait a moment though...”
Gingerly he lifted his left arm from where it lay across Legolas’
abdomen and held it tightly to his chest.
As Legolas tried to rise, Aragorn knelt beside him and helped him sit
up as best he could with his right hand. After a few moments the
elf was resting against the warm shallow where Aragorn had sat a few
Moving slowly around the prince in the tight confines, Aragorn stepped over Legolas and seated himself on the elf’s left.
“You need a sling for that arm,” Legolas commented softly. He was
breathing better now that he was sitting up, although the change in
“It’ll be fine,” Aragorn commented. “I’m more worried about you right
now.” He watched as the elf moved slowly, unfastening the catches
on the leather belt that held his quiver in place.
“Here, use this,” Legolas offered. Leaning forward he clumsily
adjusted the straps until they held Aragorn’s arm tightly to his chest,
with the weight resting on the ranger’s right shoulder. “That
should help a bit.”
It did indeed help and the human sighed as the pressure was taken off his collarbone.
Sitting back against the rock, he shouldered the elf forward until
Legolas was leaning against him, his warmth helping to ease the
pain. For several moments neither of them spoke as their bodies
readjusted to the movements and the new positions they sat in.
The pain slowly ebbed away and in moments Legolas was breathing
“Better?” Aragorn whispered.
“Yes much,” Legolas countered. He laid his head against Aragorn’s shoulder as they sat there side by side.
“They’ll find us. I know they will,” Aragorn reassured
quietly. He spoke the words aloud as much for himself as for the
“I hope they do,” Legolas whispered. “I really don’t want to remain here for the rest of my days.”
With a laugh Aragorn glanced over at his friend. “Yes, this would be much worse than one of your father’s cells.”
“Ah yes, that’s right. The story,” Legolas smiled as he returned
to the telling. “Well in all honesty I actually feel a little bit
like I did back then. It was hard to breathe in the dark.
It felt like the walls were physically closing in on me whenever I
opened my eyes. In fact I actually took to softly banging the
back of my head against the wall behind me repeatedly for hours on
end. It was odd, but it helped, and at that time I needed
anything to distract from the tightness that the fears were wrapping
around my heart. Eventually I lost all track of time after the
first three weeks. However, far from becoming accustomed to the
prison cell, every passing moment seemed to make me more and more
desperate to do anything to get away from it. I couldn’t stand
it, I couldn’t stay there.”
“Oh, Legolas, tell me you didn’t try to escape,” Aragorn groaned
quietly. He squinted his eyes shut against the thought. To
him this retelling of his friend’s past was terribly painful.
“I did,” Legolas answered simply. “Elves were not made to subsist
in the dark. It is one the closest things to death that can ever
be done to them. To lock them away from all that is good and fair
or to banish them forever from their people – both are death sentences
to an elf.”
“We’ll get out of here,” Aragorn repeated fiercely. “I’ll not let
you die here. My brothers are out looking for us right now.
I know it.”
Legolas simply nodded and laid his back against the ranger’s
shoulder. It helped a little bit to have hope that someone was
searching for them.
In moments Aragorn’s breathing had evened out and deepened. The
man had fallen asleep. With a soft sigh Legolas relaxed against
his friend, content to wait. At least this time he wasn’t
The night was quiet and warm. The sounds of small animals and
night insects serenaded the full moon that shone above the canopy of
trees sheltering a grassy meadow near the small outpost Legolas and
Strider had stumbled upon not so long ago.
Silently two identical elves walked out from under the shadowed shelter
of the woods and approached the clearing. The meadow glistened in
the evening moonlight. On the far edge of the grassy bowl a group
of men were sitting around a campfire, enjoying an evening meal and the
company of one another. The path that the elves were tracking
passed right by this very shallow. The fact that one of the human
voices was familiar to the two elves was the very thing that had
brought them out into the open.
It hadn’t taken much in the way of tracking skills to find the hunters'
campfire. The sharp ears of the elves had picked up the sounds of
full laughter and loud boasting while they were still some ways
off. With barely a word spoken between them they had shifted
their course in hope of uncovering clues to the whereabouts of those
they tracked. In the moonlight their glow was set off by
the natural illumination that fell on them. As they picked up
their pace they moved as one.
The laughter round the fire died down as the men took note of the two
cloaked beings that exited the forest. A large man stood up and
addressed them. His eyes were quick and thick, graying hair
crowned his head. He was dressed in the brown, leather garb of
the hunters this side of the Misty Mountains. Next to him a
younger man stirred but was pressed back down by the older hunter.
“It’s late, friends. What brings you out this way? Care to join us?”
The question was part invitation, part warning if the strangers had
mischief in mind. His right hand strayed to the hilt of his
hunting knife as he waited for a response.
“Told you it was Taradin,” a soft whisper traveled on the slight breeze.
“Who comes calling?” the hunter called again.
Elladan flipped the hood of his cloak back revealing his raven hair and fair features. A brilliant smile lit up his face.
“Taradin, you scoundrel, we thought we heard your laughter above the
rest. How fare you and young Garith? He is there with you
is he not? Father has inquired on your well being many a time,” Elrohir
called out to the man.
“Elladan? Elrohir?” Garith jumped to his feet and began shuffling
the men over, making room for the two elves near the fire.
“Come! Sit and join us! Is Strider with you?” The
young man had a fondness for the ranger that they had befriended.
“What brings you elf lords out this way?” Taradin asked jovially.
He rounded the fire and grasped each of the slender elves in a crushing
hug. “Been meaning to head out your way before the winter storms
set in. How is your family doing?”
The twins exchanged worried glances. The older hunter knew a bit
about their family. The exact nature of Aragorn’s relationship to
them had never been fully explained. They stepped round the fire
and seated themselves next to Garith, easily exchanging greetings
before answering Tarith’s questions.
“The reason we are here concerns a member of our family,” Elrohir answered hesitantly.
“Actually two of them, our extended family,” Elladan covered
easily. “Strider and Legolas have been missing for a few
“It wouldn’t be odd usually,” Elrohir continued quickly, “But they said
they would return in a fortnight. That was two days ago and their
trail leads near some of the more outlying towns. We were worried
they may have fallen into trouble. They were tracking orcs.”
Taradin sobered. He glanced across the fire and locked eyes with
a man on the other side of the firepit. The sandy hunter dropped
the piercing gaze and shifted uncomfortably. The man was more of
youth. Caught in between the growing-up years, the young hunter was
broad across the shoulders, his green eyes obscured by a shock of light
brown hair that kept falling across his face. He was obviously
uneasy with the attention and the change in conversation.
“Renning, didn’t you say your townsfolk ran into some odd travelers but
two days ago?” Taradin questioned the younger hunter. He turned
to the elves seated next to him and explained the other’s
presence. “Renning here is from an outpost just over the next
hill. Small town, mostly built on trading. We passed through
there just yesterday and some of the kin asked if they could accompany
us – deer's been scarce this season.”
“That would be from the orcs that Strider and Legolas have been
tracking,” Elrohir offered. “There is an enclave somewhere near
these hills. They were trying to uncover where the orcs are
nesting before winter sets in and they become bolder ”
Turning his attention back to the hunter across from him, Taradin
pressed him for an answer. The youth had not yet been forthcoming.
Before Renning could respond, an older man sitting on his left piped
up. “The only people we seen in these here parts was that demon spirit
of an elf and some poor ranger he enslaved to his will. Weren’t
your people,” he snapped at Elladan tersely. “They’s the ones
that haunt this area. Finally caught them we did. Took care
of them right good. They’s the ones scaring off the deer, not no
orcs.” The older man’s gaze shifted to Elrohir and his eyes
narrowed. “That one was pure evil, shoulda done him in long time
ago. Now he’s taken to capturing the bodies of good men and
bending them to his will and lies – dangerous. But he won’t be
hurting no one, no more, now,” the balding hunter finished
grumpily. He locked eyes with Taradin and glowered at the
“Uncle!” Renning growled warningly trying to stop the others
tirade. “That is not true and you know it. They were not
The news was disturbing and more than that, confusing. A frown creased Elrohir’s brow and he glanced at his bother.
Elladan gently touched Elrohir’s thigh.
“I’m afraid you have confused us,” Elladan replied politely. “What elf
are you speaking of?” A mounting horror was eating at his
heart. He dreaded the hunters’ next words as much as wanted to
“There ain’t no demon elves in this area, Trenth. Haven’t been
any for a few years now,” Taradin explained slowly. “Only the
elves from Rivendell.”
“Nah, he weren’t like them. His dress was different and his hair
was lighter colored. Not related they ain’t,” Trenth
explained. He leaned closer and pierced Taradin with a hard
stare, “You know the one I’m talking of...killed your Elbamir a bit
ago. Bastard of an elf.” The last was spit out as a
“Valar, no!” Elladan whispered as he finally understood what the man was thinking.
“Elladan! We have to find them,” Elrohir had risen to his feet in alarm.
For Taradin it took a few moments longer to fully understand what
Trenth was talking about. When he realized that the townsfolk had
mistaken the ranger and the elf for Hebrilith, the dark elf that
haunted the woods a few years ago, he could barely believe what he had
heard. Memories of his own bouts with misperception dogged his
conscience. It was something he had learned to let go of but
never forgiven himself for. A lesson learned the hardest way
possible. The experience had left him no less gruff but much more
humble and compassionate with those he encountered.
At the moment however his ire got the best of him.
Trenth had stood to his feet and was shouting about the townspeople
having done what should have been done a long time ago. His
nephew was trying to calm the older gentleman and settle those around
the fire. He was doing a poor job of it. When Taradin spoke
the whole camp quieted under his angry bellow.
“Trenth! I always took you for a damned fool but I never thought you
were stupid enough to do anything like this. Renning, you’re no
idiot like your kin, why didn’t you stop them? Have you any idea
what you have done?” Taradin shouted angrily.
Renning forcefully pushed Trenth back to the ground with a warning and
paced around the fire till he was standing in front of the two
elves. Elladan’s glare made him flinch slightly as the elf turned
towards him. He would endure whatever they had in mind for
him. He needed to tell someone what had happened; it had been
weighing heavily on his conscience. Though he did not know these
two, he hoped they could help. It might not be too late.
“I did try. You know the myths they tell in these places,
Taradin. There’s no reasoning with them when they get of one
mind. When I attempted to stop them, Gentry strong-armed me and
tied me up, took me back to the outpost. They were convinced the
evil elf had filled my mind with lies. They wouldn’t listen to
the ranger and they didn’t believe the elf that accompanied him.
News never gets up to us here about the true goings-on of things and
that wood elf sure looked a lot like the evil one that used to pick us
off. Only he didn’t act like him at all. Seemed he had a
heart to him,” Renning explained softly. He brushed the hair
quickly out of his eyes before opening his hands, displaying them for
the elves and men to see. Rope burns still flared painfully
around his wrists confirming his story. “I tried all I could to
stop them. They knocked them out and planned on burying them near
the cleft, the one with the overhang. That was all I heard before
they dragged me back to town.”
The young man dropped his gaze and shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry,
Taradin,” the tortured whisper was not lost on the elves.
“It’s not your fault,” Elrohir replied softly. He reached out and
touched Renning’s shoulder gently. “Could you take us
there? Do you know the way?”
“Is there a chance they are still alive?” Elladan asked hopefully. He was sure his heart had stopped beating.
“Yes, it’s not far,” Renning answered. Turning his gaze on
Elladan he shrugged helplessly. “It’s possible they might still
be alive. From what I gathered they buried them in a shallow cave
that the locals call the Cleft. It was two days ago now.”
“Trenth, I’m telling you the truth, that dark elf was put down nigh
over two years ago now,” Taradin explained calmly. “All those
stories they still circulate are just that - stories. If Elladan
says there is a band of orcs nearby than you can bet there’s a band of
orcs nearby, not elves. These two were part of the ones that took
that evil one down. Why in the blazes didn’t you ask a few
seasons back? I thought we explained it all to Manneth.
Didn’t he tell you the truth?”
Trenth was chewing on the inside of his mouth, his brow creased in a
frown where he sat crosslegged on the ground. “Well, there was
talk that Manneth was cracked. Some didn’t believe him and the
killings haven’t stopped none,” the old hunter offered.
“It’s the orcs,” Elrohir repeated patiently. “You have sentenced
my brother and his friend to death mistakenly. The one you feared
is dead. He is in Mandos’ Halls now. I pray the Valar have
more pity on him than you have shown to strangers passing through your
lands. Take us to this place so we can free them and then we will
help you with the orcs.”
“If they are alive,” Elladan added darkly. “If they are not, I
will escort the orcs to your village and let them decimate it before I kill them.”
“You had best pray they live,” Taradin warned as he started packing his
rucksack to accompany them. He nodded at Garith who quickly
joined him as they broke camp. Some of the men would remain
behind with the traps and their catches. Most of them would be
needed to help dig the ranger and the elf out – all of them were more
than willing to help. Garith quietly began dividing up the camp,
designating who would remain behind. He was quickly becoming more adept
at being Taradin’s second-in-command and the men accepted his orders
with the ease that they took their leader's.
Elrohir glanced at his brother out of the corner of his eyes. The
look on Elladan’s face frightened him. He desperately hoped Estel and
Legolas were alive as much for themselves as for the sake of the
townsfolk. He hadn’t allowed himself to think through what his
reaction would be if they found them dead. He couldn’t.
They had to be alive. Turning back to Taradin he helped the
hunter collect what they would need.
They would be heading out tonight.
He wasn’t sure when they had fallen asleep. It was during one of
Legolas’ longer pauses that exhaustion had found the two and overcome
them. Time was lost in the cave and Aragorn had no way of knowing
whether it was day or night. He stirred and stretched his legs
out in front of him. They scraped the wall of collapsed rocks
reminding him of how tight their confines really were.
“You awake?” Legolas whispered.
“Yes,” Aragorn answered around a yawn. “Did you sleep?”
“Not really,” Legolas confessed. He had always found it hard to sleep when confined.
“Did you really expect me to?” the elf questioned sarcastically.
“No,” Aragorn sighed in defeat. He was actually surprised he had fallen asleep himself.
Silence settled between them for a bit.
“Shouldn’t we try to get out?” Legolas offered softly.
“I have. We are in no shape even if we could. I can’t lift
the rocks on this side of the wall and neither could you without
further injuring yourself,” Aragorn explained. “And I don’t have
my pack so we are out of food and water and any herbs or
“So what is the bad news?” Legolas joked lightly.
The sound of Aragorn’s soft laughter cheered his heart.
“The bad news is I am horrible at waiting,” the ranger
responded. He shifted slightly, readjusting his position
against the wall behind them. “And I think my back end has fallen
asleep from sitting on the ground so long.”
Legolas had to curl into himself to keep his ribs from hurting as a fit of laughter caught hold of him.
“Stop. Please, Estel, don’t make me laugh; it hurts too much,”
the elf whispered through bouts of mirth that mixed with the deep ache
in his chest.
Aragorn chuckled lightly but refrained from commenting until the prince
was able to catch his breath and relax. The soft exhalation of
their breathing was the only sound in the tiny cavern for some time as
each of them dealt with his own private thoughts and emotions.
The dark possibility that they would not cheat death this time
overwhelmed the ranger and he turned to the elf for distraction.
“So did you escape? Did you get free? You left the story
there last time. I’d love to hear the rest of it.” Aragorn asked,
curious to hear his friend’s tale. “Please tell me that they
didn’t recapture you.”
Legolas barely laughed, trying to contain his mirth as he watched his
friend wince with the thoughts of the elf’s recapture.
“If you like, I can tell it that way,” Legolas smiled softly.
“But that was not the way it happened. You see, finally I could
take it no more. I was positive that my father really did hate
me. He had left me down in the dungeons with no word for over
three months. He hadn’t come to see me and no one had told me
what had occurred or that he had been called away. I simply
thought I had lost him forever. When Renault came in one morning
to bring food for me to break fast with, I caught him off guard.
I took his hunting knife, overpowered him and locked him in the cell
and I fled up the halls.”
When Legolas paused Aragorn did not interject. He quietly sat
next to friend and wondered at the depth of pain the young elf had
erroneously endured. How could the light-hearted person he knew
as Legolas ever bounce back so easily from such hurt and pain that he
kept buried so deeply within. He kept reminding himself that this
was the elf’s far past and had happened long before even his father’s
father was born.
“I nearly made it too, but Amil-Garil discovered my escape and cut off my route...”
“What are you going to do with that, Legolas?” Amil-Garil kept his
hands up and his distance even. He would not draw a weapon on the
prince, but neither could he ignore his King’s orders and let the boy
escape. “Are you going to kill me?”
Legolas wavered uncertainly, the blade in his hand lowering a few
inches. Of course he wasn’t going to kill anyone. He had no
intention of harming the guards, he knew they were only doing their
job... he just wanted out. He needed the free air like a starving
man needs food. The confinement and lack of light was killing his
He would fight if he thought he could get away without hurting anyone
but, with the passage behind Amil-Garil filling up with guards, he knew
that was becoming impossible. He was trapped.
“I want out. Please, Amil, I just want out!” his voice shook
slightly, but the dangerous look had left his eye, replaced by one of
“I know you do, I’m sorry,” the captain of the guard moved forward
slowly. Gently he took the long dagger from the prince’s
hand. Legolas did not fight him; there was no point. He had
lost and now he had to suffer the consequences.
Amil-Garil shook his head, touching the prince’s shoulder gently.
Legolas flinched instinctively and pulled back. The guard’s eyes
reflected pain. He wanted to tell the young elf he wasn’t going
to hurt him, but that would be a lie, because he knew he was going to
have to hurt him, and that thought tore his heart.
“Your Highness...” Amil-Garil wished he knew what to say. “Why
did you have to do this? You know our orders.” He did not want to do what he knew he was going to have to do to the young prince.
Legolas, breathing hard as he leaned against the wall just turned and
pressed his forehead against the cool stones. He was trembling
slightly. “I-I know. I’m sorry. I... I just had to
get out! I cannot take the darkness anymore, I shall go
Renault moved up next to his captain, still rubbing the sore arm
Legolas had given him. He felt no anger towards the prince,
however. The guard’s anger was reserved for the King who could be
heartless enough to punish his son this severely. It was totally
unlike Thranduil and they did not understand it. Unfortunately,
theirs was not to understand, theirs was to obey.
“Come, your Hhighness, let’s get this over with,” Renault said quietly,
taking Legolas’ arm with the utmost gentleness as he and Amil-Garil led
the younger elf back down the passage.
Legolas felt an icy slick of fear enter his stomach, making it
churn. He dug his heels in slightly, checking their forward
progress. “P-please, wait,” his voice shook slightly although
that irritated him to no end. “I know you will do what you must
do, but... if I could spend just ten minutes in the garden first.
Please, I swear to you on my honor I will not try to run again, I-I
just need to see the sun. Please.”
Amil-Garil and Renault looked at one another. They had never had
a duty they hated this much. There was nothing in them that could
refuse the young prince his sorrowful plea, especially knowing what
they would have to do to him afterward. If they got in trouble
for it, then they got in trouble for it.
The two guards nodded softly and turned their course, escorting the
prince towards the outside of the palace. “We could no more deny
you sunlight than deny you air, my Lord,” Amil-Garil whispered sadly as
they exited out into the palace gardens. “Please know... nothing
we do is born of our wish.”
“I know,” Legolas whispered, stepping away from the guards who let go
of his arms. They trusted his word to them that he would not try