Legolas! Have you heard?” Raniean ran into Legolas' chambers
fairly beaming. “Father
recommended me as a Sentinel!”
Legolas jumped up from his bed, leaving his lessons forgotten for the moment. “Yes, I heard, and Adar told me this morning he was going to accept you, so it’s official now?”
“Yes, I’m supposed to report to Amil-Garil to learn the passwords and duties that go with the position, I start today!” Raniean was very excited. The Sentinels were special guards assigned to the protection of the royal family. It was not often someone as young as he was even considered for such a post, but Raniean was advanced for his age and already well on his way to following in his father’s footsteps. He had begged for the chance and his father consented to recommend him. That he had actually been accepted was still making his head spin giddily. He really hadn’t expected it and it was quite an honor.
“That is so wonderful!” Legolas shared his friend’s excitement eagerly. Being the prince naturally excluded Legolas from participating in most of the posts in the palace, but that was only logical. Thranduil had promised his son that as soon as he was a little older and Randomir and Tegi agreed he was ready, Thranduil would commission him a lieutenant in Randomir’s contingent. Legolas looked forward to that eagerly, but he was willing to wait until he knew he was ready for such a responsibility.
“Did Trelan make it in too?” Legolas knew that Trelan had put in for the elite sentinel division as well and Randomir had agreed to recommend both boys.
Raniean sobered. “No, he didn’t. They say his marks weren’t high enough yet, but I think...” the young elf looked away. “I think it’s because they worry about him, being so small, just like Tegi does. I feel really bad for him, Legolas, he was so disappointed. That’s actually part of why I came here. I was trying to cheer him up, but I have to report to Amil-Garil now, so I thought maybe...”
Legolas was already on his way for the door. “Of course, I’ll go be with him for a while. I don’t have to have this lesson done until tomorrow and Naneth said I may have the rest of the day off if I wish. We’ll go do something together.”
Raniean brightened. “Oh good, that should help. Tell him I’ll still meet him after dinner and we can run through a few drills together. Say... Legolas, are you free after dinner? We can try to work on the relay shot some more.”
Legolas rolled his eyes and grimaced, rubbing his chest. The boys had been diligently practicing the difficult trick they had seen in the tournament before the start of the war, but had yet to master it with any success. Because Legolas was the best of the three of them at archery, he was usually the one in the dangerous middle position, attempting to first catch the flying arrow and send it back again a moment later. Raniean and Trelan switched positions, alternately being the one to fire or the one to slip on the ribbon ring. The young prince wore armor guards to keep himself from getting injured when he failed to catch the arrow in time, but he had still accumulated quite a few bruises from having the projectile strike his chest guard repeatedly. He had yet to actually catch the arrow, so thus far neither Raniean or Trelan had had to worry too much about catching it on the return trip.
“All right, but you can be the middle person this time, I’m tired of getting hit,” Legolas agreed ruefully.
Raniean chuckled as he hurried out of the room, not wanting to be late. “All right. I have to go. I’ll see you later!”
Legolas waved goodbye as his friend dashed away before he turned his attention to searching out Trelan. He finally found the smaller elf on the empty practice field, taking his frustration out on one of the punching bags that the young elves used to practice their hand-to-hand combat blows.
Trelan kicked the bag and added a vicious elbow-jab, practicing his routines with unusual vehemence. He stopped and stood panting lightly as he sensed Legolas’ approach.
“I think the bag concedes the match, Trey,” Legolas said lightly, glancing at the battered prop. As if agreeing with the prince’s assessment, the bag toppled over, falling to the ground with a soft thump. Legolas laughed. “It cowers before such a fierce opponent!”
Trelan grinned somewhat bitterly, giving the bag a last kick. “It’s the only one that does. Everyone else thinks I’m a weakling. I hate being small, I hate being such a failure!”
“Trelan, you’re not a failure,” Legolas shook his head. He could sympathize with his friend’s feelings on this subject. “And you’re not weak just because you’re small. Naneth says that Ilúvatar made us all just the way we are for a reason, so we are each perfect in our own way.”
“Right,” Trelan said sarcastically. He was obviously unconvinced. “I guess you heard about the Sentinel appointments.”
Legolas nodded. “I’m sorry, Trey, I know how much it hurts to be passed over. You’ll get in next time, I know you will.”
Trelan sighed, picking up the equipment he had been working with and putting it away. “Ada was really disappointed. He tried not to let me see, but it was obvious. I’m such a disappointment to him and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.”
Legolas winced in empathy. “Well then we’ll just have to work extra hard to make sure you make it in next time, all right? I’ll help in any way I can.”
Trelan smiled wanly. “Thanks, Legolas, you’re a good friend.”
Legolas clapped him on the shoulder. “So are you. Come on, I have the afternoon off, let’s go see if the fish are jumping in Silver Pond. Sarcaulien said he saw a big one down there yesterday; shall we go see?”
Trelan nodded quickly. He was very quick with his hands and loved trying to catch fish right out of the water. Of course, Legolas knew that, it was why he suggested the outing in the first place. Together, the two friends raced one another to the lake.
hours later they were both wet and a little muddy from doing more
fishing, but having a grand time.
“Prince Legolas, Prince Legolas!” an urgent voice interrupted the elflings’ play and made them both look up.
Another young elf ran into view. His dark hair clung to the sides of his face and he was panting as if having run quite fast. After a moment, Legolas recognized him as Cirlith’s son, Garilien.
Knee-deep in the water, Legolas quickly waded for shore, snatching up his outer tunics off the dry rocks as he went.
“Yes? What is it, is something wrong?” the prince asked with concern as he pulled his tunic back on over his head, letting it dry the rest of the water from his body.
“Your father is in Lant Gerin and sends for you at once, your highness,” Garilien reported quickly.
Legolas frowned as he quickly buckled his belt and pulled his boots back on; Trelan was following suit.
“Why? What’s wrong?” The prince thought his father was going to be cooped up in the palace again most of the day; he wondered what had been disturbing enough to change his plans.
Garilien shook his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t know, he just said it was urgent, come.”
Legolas and Trelan hurried after Garilien, hoping nothing horrible had happened. Lant Gerin was a wide, open clearing encircled by oak trees In the old days it was often used for feasts and celebrations, but had not seen much company lately as the wood-elves had little to celebrate in these days. It was quite a distance from Lasgalen and took them almost ten minutes to reach even at a run.
grass of the old party glen was carpeted with wild flowers that bobbed
as the three young elves passed by, but was otherwise empty as Legolas,
and Trelan entered the glade.
Legolas paused on the edge of the desolate meadow in confusion. A funny uneasiness that he did not understand settled over him as he walked slowly forward with Trelan on his heels, calling for his father. There was no answer.
“Where is Father? What’s going on, Garilien?” the young prince turned questioning eyes on the elf that had brought them here, but Garilien was gone.
“Garilien?” Legolas called out, his gaze darting apprehensively around the empty meadow as he backed up. He and Trelan were alone and too far away for anyone from Lasgalen to hear them, and the prince suddenly found himself desperately wishing that he was home. “Garilien!”
Trelan was just as confused and worried. “Legolas, what...” he never got the chance to finish.
Suddenly dozens of adult elves dropped from the trees around them and appeared from the edges of the clearing. Legolas recognized Melryn and one of the other chieftains who had formerly commanded warriors under his father, but switched his allegiance to Doriflen at the start of the war. The prince’s mind screamed that this was a trap and panic pumped through his veins. He scrambled backward, only to bump into more warriors.
Before Legolas and Trelan could even respond to the sudden threat, strong hands seized them. Legolas remembered thrashing violently for only moments before a balled fist dug expertly into the pressure point behind his jaw and ear, causing darkness to descend immediately.
and the rushing murmur of voices filled Trelan’s ears as he floated
reality and dream. His eyes fluttered open and he saw the stars
through the trees above. It was dark and his fuzzy mind
contemplated how much
trouble he was going to be in with his parents for being out so late
He saw Legolas bobbing limply over someone’s shoulder next to him and realized they were both being carried through the darkened woods.
Someone must have seen or felt him beginning to stir because Trelan felt a sharp application of pressure behind his ear as he was intentionally plunged back into unconsciousness.
The next time Trelan awoke he
was alone, but still in
darkness. He was in a small room with no windows and a locked
door that would
not open. He pounded on the wooden door, yelling to be released
for Legolas, but no one came; no one answered.
Finally, after what seemed a long time later, the door did open and Trelan blinked at the brightness of the torch in the guard’s hand.
Jumping up, the small elf attempted to dart between his captor’s legs and escape, but they were too quick for him. Trelan was swift and slippery. It took several seconds of struggling and no few bruises before the older guards finally wrestled him down to the ground. Realizing they had a little tiger cub on their hands, they bound the young elf’s feet and hands so that he would not hurt them or himself by any further attempts. Picking him up, one of the guards carried the bound child over his shoulder out of the room.
“Where are you taking me, where’s Legolas?” Trelan wanted to know, still struggling against his bonds and trying to kick his captor in the chest.
“Quiet, young one, you’re being taken to your friend now,” one of the guards said sternly, but not harshly, trapping the child’s feet to keep from getting pummeled. Trelan stopped fighting upon hearing that and let them carry him away.
Legolas had also woken up alone
in a darkened room, but a
soldier was keeping watch over him and as soon as he awoke he was
the room he was in and taken through several twisting, windowless
flanked on all sides by attentive guards.
“Where are we going?” Legolas whispered, afraid of the answer.
“Lord Doriflen awaits you,” one of the guards answered him.
Legolas’ feet froze in place as panic surged through him. The guards pulled on his arms insistently and the prince went suddenly ballistic. Struggling and fighting like a wild thing, Legolas tried to get away from them. The sentries were surprised at his unexpectedly violent reaction, but the prince was too well guarded to get away. Catching hold of his arms they were forced to manhandle him down the hall and into another torch-lit chamber.
“Well, Nephew, we meet again,” Doriflen smiled as Legolas was dragged, struggling into the room.
“Release me, Uncle!” Legolas demanded angrily, pulling in vain against the strong hands that held him.
“So bold, young one,” Doriflen’s look turned wicked. “You forget your fear of me so quickly? I shall have to refresh your memory.”
Legolas felt his stomach flip-flop painfully as fear spiraled its way through his heart. No, he had not forgotten. He had not forgotten one hellish moment of what his uncle had put him through and, although he was loath to show it, he was terrified.
“I will not be your pawn again!” Legolas shook his head, trying to deny his fear. “I know you for what you are now and whatever you are planning will not work.”
Doriflen looked slightly amused. “But you have no choice, Legolas. You are mine, and you are the pawn that will topple a king.” He turned to the soldiers holding the prince. “Remove his tunic and put him in the fetters.”
Wordlessly, the guards obeyed, stripping Legolas against his will and dragging the prince to the center of the room where a set of chains dangled from the ceiling.
Legolas struggled and resisted them. Even though he was at a disadvantage, he still managed to make quite a nuisance of himself and the two older elves had to hold him very roughly to keep him subdued as they snapped the young elf’s wrists into the chains over his head. The manacles were hung at the right height for an adult elf and Legolas had to stand on his toes to keep from dangling when he was released. The cuffs bit sharply into his wrists and hands.
Doriflen walked around the boy, appreciating his helpless situation. “Chains befit you, Nephew,” He sneered smugly. “I always wanted to see them on you. You see, Legolas, we don’t have to hide anymore. This is my kingdom and we do things my way. I can do whatever I want to you now and it doesn’t matter what marks are left to show for it...” he grinned, capturing the young elf’s chin between his thumb and forefinger. “I’m going to enjoy this, and you, dear prince, are going to regret the day you betrayed me. But first...”
Doriflen gave a short command and his men brought a second elfling into the room.
“Trelan!” Legolas was horrified that Doriflen was going to hurt his friend as well. “Uncle, don’t...”
Doriflen slapped the youth, hard. “Do not speak unless you’re spoken to!” he snapped. His angry outburst cooled quickly and his menacing smile returned. “Don’t worry, Nephew. Your little friend will come to no harm, which is more than I can say for you right now. Fortunately for him, he is merely here to observe.”
Doriflen stalked over to where the soldiers held Trelan. The small elf was tied hand and foot and the soldiers were more carrying him than guarding him.
“Trelan, son of Telrayn, do you consider yourself a loyal subject of my dear misguided brother, Thranduil?” Doriflen inquired with mock-sweetness. “Or would you be loyal to me?”
“Don’t answer him, Trey!” Legolas shook his head, making his chains clank. He did not want his friend falling prey to his uncle’s twisted games.
Doriflen growled. “Shut UP, Legolas, you are making what is ahead very difficult for yourself. Trelan, I ask you again, to whom are you loyal?”
Trelan was obviously frightened and his gaze kept traveling in disbelief to where Legolas hung from the chains, but his eyes snapped fire when he looked back at the traitorous older elf. “I am loyal to Thranduil, true King of Mirkwood, and not even death can change that!”
Doriflen smiled knowingly. “Ah, so you say, but there are so many things worse than death, young one. And what about your friend, what about Legolas? If it meant the difference for him between life and a long and painful demise... where would your loyalties lie?”
Trelan blinked, trying to fathom the horrible question of which loyalty was stronger, that to his King, or that to his friend. He opened his mouth but didn’t answer, anguish written across his young face.
“Trey, don’t listen to him!” Legolas would not keep silent. Doriflen was going to have his hide one way or another and he knew it, so he did not bother keeping his peace as prudence suggested.
Doriflen scowled, but kept his intense, penetrating gaze locked on Trelan. Legolas would pay soon enough. Trelan thought he was going to wither or be melted to the bone by Doriflen’s dark eyes. The elf may have been mentally unbalanced, but he was powerfully strong of will.
“I-I don’t know,” Trelan stammered.
Doriflen laughed, a light and surprisingly musical sound, yet still unpleasant. “Oh yes you do know, little one. You would swear allegiance to your bitterest enemy if it saved your friend from a death of a thousand screams.”
Doriflen’s eyes seemed to pierce Trelan’s heart and the young elf knew that as much as he wanted to deny it, it was true. Legolas’ life would come first, even if he had to turn traitor to save it.
“You see? You aren’t as loyal as you think. Indeed, loyalty is such a fickle thing, is it not? Think about this as you watch what you were brought here to see. Because I fear that right now, nothing is going to save dear Legolas from what he has coming to him. Watch and understand what happens when people don’t know where their loyalties should be placed. Watch and remember every moment!” With those words, Doriflen released Trelan from his gaze and turned, striding back towards Legolas.
Trelan felt weak-kneed when Doriflen released him and almost didn’t notice as he was shoved into a chair, his arms and legs bound firmly to the frame so he could not move. The young elf had often wondered why people followed Doriflen, why he had been able to fool even Legolas for a time... now he did not wonder anymore. There was something darkly, but powerfully compelling about the elder elf; the innate power of his royal heritage twisted into a shadowed, seductive lure. Doriflen had a way of making whatever he said seem irrefutable and turning one’s own thoughts against them until a person was ready to question their most deeply held convictions.
Trelan hated Doriflen for all that he knew he had done, but his words still confused the young elf. He watched with trepidation and fear as Doriflen toyed lightly with Legolas’ hair, laughing when the prince scowled darkly at him.
“You will never defeat my father,” Legolas said bitterly, trying desperately to hold onto his courage as Doriflen stood before him, mocking the young prince with his own helplessness, to avoid whatever the older elf had in mind for him. “Whatever you do to me will not change that.”
Doriflen’s manner turned condescending. “That is where you would be wrong, Legolas. What I’m going to do to you will have everything to do with my winning this war. But for now... let’s focus on the moment, shall we? Your friend and I were talking about misplaced loyalty, Legolas, something I fear you know a lot about. I gave you the chance to help me willingly, and you betrayed me. You’ll have to pay for that now, Nephew, and you will help me, unwillingly.”