stopped circling and held out his hand. One of his soldiers
three-tongued, braided rope whip in his upturned palm and Doriflen
fingers around the handle with a grin.
“I hear you completed the rite of passage, Legolas. That makes you an adult now, doesn’t it? So we can lay childish things behind us and I will punish you like an adult.” Doriflen whacked the lash lightly against his leg.
“I know you’ve never felt the sting of one of these before, so let me tell you what to expect.” Doriflen liked to psyche out his victims so that they were living in fear of him even before he laid a hand on them. “This, is a training lash. If it were a normal one, made of leather, the beating I have in mind for you would strip the skin off your bones and possibly bleed you to death. Fortunately for you, I want you alive, for now. The rope will not cut so quickly nor so deeply, but I still think it will be a nice change from the dull implements we’re used to between us in the past, don’t you think, Nephew?”
Legolas stared straight ahead, refusing to bend to his uncle’s games, but he could not deny the rapid pounding of his heart or the terrified dryness that was making his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth.
Doriflen shook his head in mock-dismay. “Why Legolas, you really have forgotten everything I taught you. You answer me when I speak to you boy!”
Legolas’ straight gaze at the far wall did not waver. “I have nothing to say,” he ground out between his teeth. “Do whatever you’re going to do and be done with it.”
Doriflen inclined his head. “If that’s the way you wish it.”
Legolas winced as the rope flail connected sharply with his lower back. Pressing his eyes closed he tried to accept the pain and deal with it as it came. He pulled upon the steady breathing patterns he had learned to bolster his endurance when under his uncle’s strict ‘training’ before. The young elf bit his lip. Doriflen was right, even his previous experiences with his uncle had not left the prince ready for the sheer, agonizing bite of the lash being used on him now. Despite what Doriflen said, Legolas felt like it must surely be cutting his back to ribbons.
Doriflen was a master of pain-craft. He flogged Legolas brutally, but not without strategy. He knew just how to pace the blows to keep his nephew reeling and unable to collect himself and he knew just when to focus on one place in order to make the young elf writhe in his bonds and hiss with contained cries.
Legolas wrapped his hands in the chains over his head, gripping them tightly as each blow swung him forward a little. He thought of stars dancing in the trees on a windy night and happy hours on the archery ranges with his friends... he thought of anything other than where he was and what was happening. The denial of reality helped, but not enough.
Trelan had started shouting and pulling against his bonds, but was quickly silenced when one of the guards shoved a wadded gag in his mouth.
“Quiet now, you’re here to watch only, little one,” Doriflen sneered in Trelan’s direction, giving Legolas another hard crack with the lash. “The only voice I want to hear right now is Legolas’. Have you forgotten how to plead for mercy, Nephew? I used to tell you not to scream, but I lift that restriction now as needless. Indeed, you will hardly be able to help it eventually. Feel free to scream. No one will hear you, no one but us.”
Legolas clamped his lips shut tighter, ruthlessly muffling any and all sound of his distress.
Doriflen smiled. Legolas was such a very willful child. He would enjoy breaking him all over again. He switched hands, lashing the boy from a new angle. No sense wearing himself out too soon. Legolas had quite a long lesson in store for him. The pale skin of the young elf’s back was flushing swiftly, but he was nowhere near drawing blood. The rope lash was less damaging than his belt in some ways, but infinitely more painful in others, especially since it allowed him to flog the boy for long periods of time without doing any truly serious damage.
Doriflen had spent far too long scouting out his nephew’s strengths and weaknesses. So when he focused his cruel attention on the sensitive area below Legolas’ left shoulder blade the pain made the prince squirm and struggle earnestly against his bonds. The older elf was relentless, laying one stroke directly on top of another across the injured flesh until Legolas shook with only half-contained sobs and Doriflen was finally treated to the sound of his nephew’s cries.
Rather than easing off now that he had what he wanted, Doriflen drove the boy harder, quickening the pace of the blows cruelly. Now that he had broken Legolas’ shell, the real punishment could start.
Doriflen beat his nephew for a long time, intentionally draining Legolas until the young elf had screamed himself completely hoarse and spent all his tears. When Legolas could do no more than shake with dry sobs and dangle from his bonds, Doriflen finally stopped. Blood ran freely down the prince’s back and his head spun dizzily.
Grasping Legolas’ chin bruisingly between his fingers again, he forced the boy to look at him. “Now do you remember, Legolas? Why you never cross me? Or is a longer lesson necessary?” Doriflen shook out the bloody lash and moved as if to begin again.
“No!” Legolas croaked softly, his whole body shuddering from the shock of the terrible abuse. “N-no more, please.”
Doriflen paused and cocked his head to the side with a mocking grin. “What was that, Legolas? I didn’t hear you. You say you want me to keep going?”
Legolas truly could not take any more; he had been too hurt already and his body betrayed his firm intentions to not let his uncle break him again. “No, please, Uncle, no more,” he begged softly, his voice raw and trembling from crying. “I-I do remember. Please...” his small voice trailed off hopelessly as his head sank forward in pain and shame. He should have been stronger than this, but Doriflen knew too well how to utterly shatter his defenses.
One of the soldiers stationed by Trelan had to turn his face away to hide his tears. The sight of the bleeding, shaken child was too much. Torturing children was not what he had joined this party to do. Fortunately for the soldier, Doriflen did not see him. Otherwise such an action would have warranted death.
With a smug grin of satisfaction, Doriflen stalked over to where Trelan was tied to the chair, still gagged and sobbing quietly at what he had been forced to watch. “Think you will remember this, child?”
Trelan could truthfully say it was a sight he would never forget, one that was now burned upon his heart and soul.
Doriflen read that truth in the boy’s hurting, angry eyes. “Good,” the elder elf nodded approvingly. “Then now you are going to do something for me and for Legolas. You’re going to be that good little loyal elfling and carry a message to Thranduil.” Doriflen grabbed a handful of Trelan’s hair, tipping the small elf’s head back until the boy’s neck was craned so that he was looking up into the older elf’s face from where he sat bound.
“You’re going to tell him that I have his precious son and if he ever wants to see him alive again he will drop this despicable charade, remove himself from the throne he has stolen and give me back my rightful place! Tell him. Tell him everything you have seen here today and make sure he knows that every day he delays, Legolas will pay this price again.”
Stalking back beside the prince, Doriflen pulled a knife from his belt. Legolas flinched in fear, but his uncle merely grabbed two of the small braids that dangled amidst his loose hair. Roughly cutting the plaits off near the scalp, Doriflen wound the golden plaits around his hand and ran one side of them across the bleeding welt below Legolas’ shoulder blade. Legolas shuddered and stifled a moan.
Returning to his other prisoner, Doriflen shoved the bloody braids into Trelan’s bound hands. “Give that to Thranduil. Tell him whose it is. Tell him I do not make idle threats. I will be watching his every move. If he has not done as I bid him in one week’s time, he will receive his son’s body in so many pieces he’ll barely recognize it. Tell him!”
Trelan nodded in horror and Doriflen roughly yanked the cloth out of his mouth, nearly making the child gag. “I-I will deliver the message,” Trelan rasped shakily, shooting a last anguished glance at Legolas.
At Doriflen’s bidding, the soldiers guarding Trelan unbound him from the chair. One threw the small elf over his shoulder while a second firmly tied a blindfold over the child’s eyes.
Doriflen folded his arms. “Don’t let him see the way out. Once you are safely away, release him somewhere where he can make his way back. It would not do to have our messenger boy become wolf bait.”
The soldiers bowed wordlessly, and carted Trelan out.
“Hold on, Legolas!” Trelan called desperately as he was carried blind out of the room. “Help will come, hold on!”
The door banged shut between them.
Legolas stared at the closed portal numbly, still trying to deal with the immense pain he was enduring. Hopelessness pulled at him as he saw the truth. Doriflen would use him for leverage against his father. If Thranduil submitted, then all was lost. If Thranduil did not submit... Legolas shuddered. He knew his father could not submit to these demands. The young elf wanted to be brave. He wanted to not care what rejecting Doriflen’s terms would mean for him... but the truth was he was afraid. He did not want to die, and he did not want to spend the last week of his life under his Uncle’s brutal care.
Doriflen turned back to his hurting, dangling nephew with a cruelly amused grin on his face. “Hard choices now, yes? Do you want your father to come, or do you want him to abandon you? Which way would let you die happier I wonder? Well, we shall see.”
stairs. Trelan counted them as he was jounced up the staircase
over the broad
shoulder of his guard. Then a right turn. Now a left.
They went straight and
then mounted a few more stairs, probably through some kind of gate
Trelan’s keen hearing picked up the sound of heavy hinges turning upon
themselves. Cool breeze on his face indicated that they had just
Trelan tried to memorize every detail he could pull together about his surroundings as he was roughly dumped belly-first over the back of a horse. It was a game that Raniean, Trelan and Legolas had invented when they were very small. One would lead the other blindfolded along a difficult and twisting path, and then the blindfolded one would have to try to retrace their steps alone. When one such frolic had ended with Raniean nearly falling into the Enchanted River, their parents had outlawed the game as too dangerous. Now, Trelan tried to put all that old practice to good use, attempting to remember everything.
He felt the horse shift as a heavier rider mounted behind him and sensed the presence of the rider’s leg near his face. The creature started off at a sharp trot. Straight, and then hard left.
The horse jolted and jounced under him, causing the animal’s hard backbone to dig into Trelan’s stomach and ribs. The impact was nauseating and gave the elfling trouble breathing. Trelan tried to ignore the discomfort and focus on the angle of the sun that warmed the exposed skin on his arms and neck. The trees frequently interrupted the sunlight so it was an arduous task, but he finally decided that it was striking him from behind, which meant that they must be traveling north.
The young elf’s head spun dizzily because of his inverted position and the helpless pounding his midsection was taking. His hands were bound in front of him, but another rope around his chest and elbows kept him from letting them hang over his head, forcing his hands to dig painfully into his diaphragm. He feared he was going to miss important clues if this kept up because he was feeling too miserable.
“Can I sit up?” he asked his captor. No answer or change of pressure from the hand that was resting on his back, holding him on the horse.
Trelan tried again. “Please, can I sit up? I think I’m going to be sick.” He made his voice more pathetic than he actually felt, hoping to get a reaction either out of pity, or at least because the guard would not want the elfling to throw up directly on his leg.
The horse did not stop moving, but Trelan felt large hands grip his arms and the back of his tunic, dragging him upright and settling his small frame easily astride the horse. Trelan’s bound legs kept him from straddling the animal, so he was placed side-saddle, with his knees bent together and resting against the horse’s neck. The soldier behind the bound child wrapped his arm around Trelan’s chest to make sure the elfling would not fall off.
Trelan’s bound ankles dangled off the left side of the horse, and the warm sunshine that fell upon them every now and again confirmed his suspicions about which why they were traveling.
Trelan could hear the sound of at least two other horses keeping pace with them, maybe more, and he tried to keep a silent gauge of how much distance they were covering, although it was difficult to judge. They came to what was apparently a steep hill, because Trelan could feel the slant and the strain in the horse as it worked its way down the sharp grade. There was a shallow river or stream at the bottom apparently, for water sloshed audibly under the horse’s hooves for a few moments before they found dry land again.
Trelan’s hopes dipped as their ride dragged on and on. Deep under the cover of the forest now he could not feel the sun and hoped they were not making any drastic course adjustments that he did not realize. There was little to distinguish one part from another now and he feared he would lose all sense of direction. Images of the horrible scene he had been forced to witness in the small, windowless room that morning crowded his mind, demanding attention.
Trelan tried to shut them out, tried not to hear Legolas’ agonized cries in his head, but he could not. His heart burned and silent tears wet his blindfold. A few escaped quietly down his cheeks. Never in his short life had he seen anything that brutal or horrible. He was still badly shaken by the experience. His hands clenched tightly around the thin, silky braids entwined around his fingers.
The tree cover overhead must have opened up for a few minutes because Trelan suddenly felt the warm rays of the sun direct upon the side of his face. He realized with a start that they had gradually shifted their course because the sun was now striking low against the right side of his face. He was trying hard to hold onto his sense of direction, but this sudden change threw him a little and the young elf felt despair wash through him. A small sob escaped him as he realized he might never be able to bring anyone back to help Legolas as he had hoped.
The soldier riding with Trelan was the one who had turned away when Legolas was beaten. He was trying hard not to feel the tremors shaking the small body in front of him but, when a slight, muffled sob shuddered through his arm that rested against the little one’s chest, he could ignore it no longer.
Gently, the older elf reached up and wiped the tears from Trelan’s face since the elfling was incapable of doing so himself because of the way he was bound.
Trelan flinched at the unexpected move and tried to pull away from the unfamiliar touch. All he could do was push himself farther back against the adult elf’s chest, however, and his body tensed.
“Nobody’s going to hurt you, child,” the guard said softly. His voice was trying to be gruff, but not entirely succeeding.
“No?” Trelan choked on the word, his tone accusingly incredulous. He could not get Legolas’ tearstained, sobbing face out of his mind. He hated these people, he hated them for what they had done! “I suppose you’ve had your fill of torturing the innocent for one day then, is that it?” his voice was thick and bitter. It was an impudent thing for a captive to say, but Trelan did not care.
The soldier stiffened, but did not react in anger as the younger elf had expected. Instead he was silent for a long time.
“I’m sorry,” the older elf’s voice was barely a whisper, meant only for the ears of the child in front of him. “You should not have had to see what you did. I do what I am told by those I have sworn oaths to obey, that does not mean I enjoy the duty.” The soldier had had no idea that Doriflen was going to take the young prince’s chastisement that far. A little blood for the message, to let Thranduil know they were serious, that was one thing... but to take it in that way... to torture one child in front of another... to totally break one so young... These were things that the elf could not rationalize to himself. Worse, he had seen the feral enjoyment in Doriflen’s eyes when he flogged the boy. That was a side of his Lord he had never fully seen before and it both disgusted and confused him.
“Then don’t do it!” Trelan said softly, almost pleadingly. “Help me help my friend, please!”
The soldier’s heart was torn but he knew he dared not give in to the child’s dangerous request. Whatever he felt, he had taken oaths that he could not now pull back, and even if he could... was he so sure he was right and not merely missing the big picture somehow? Was he really willing to gamble with the lives of his own family? He knew what Doriflen did to those he considered traitors; Doriflen was always very good about making public examples. Now he saw that not even the young were exempt. Was he ready to see his own son in those chains because his father had showed any kind of doubt or hesitancy? No.
His answer was soft. “I cannot.”
“Naerdil! Don’t talk to him. You know what Lord Doriflen said,” one of the other soldiers warned, having seen rather than heard the other elf’s soft words.
Naerdil stiffened quickly. All of Doriflen’s soldiers lived in fear of getting put on report. When it became evident how harshly their Lord dealt with even minor offences, most of the troop leaders had quickly stopped recording all but serious transgressions. This did not please Doriflen, however, and he wasted no time in showing that if the leaders made no reports, then they themselves would be punished for hiding the fallibility of their men. Unfortunately, this resulted in the leaders having to look for a reason to report someone, simply to keep themselves and their families from harm. Naerdil did not wish to be the one who was picked as an easy scapegoat next time a report was due.
“He was complaining, I told him to be quiet,” Naerdil defended hastily. The other soldier seemed to accept that and they continued on in silence.
After what seemed an interminably long time, they finally stopped. Trelan was aware of Naerdil shifting behind him and presently felt something hard and cool slide between his bound hands. It must have been a knife because the young elf felt the ropes slip away and flexed his stiff fingers as tingly waves of feeling crept back into the digits. The ropes around his ankles and arms followed quickly thereafter. The blindfold was removed last.
“Don’t bother yelling or trying anything because we’re too far out for anyone to hear you,” one of the other soldiers warned.
Trelan blinked at the rush of visual input. It was evening and the sun, hidden now by the trees, must have been sinking fast for the horizon because long black shadows stretched around them. Almost before Trelan even had a chance to take all this in, Naerdil swung him off the horse and lowered the young elf to the ground.
Trelan stumbled slightly when he tried to stand and found that his feet were painfully asleep.
Naerdil did not like leaving the young boy this far out with night approaching, but they did not have leave to take him any further. “Go straight ahead, towards the evening star and you will find your people,” he told Trelan as the four soldiers wheeled their horses around.
Trelan looked about, trying to get his bearings and figure out where he was. “Please,” he called out to Naerdil. “Please don’t let him hurt Legolas again! Please!”
Naerdil refused to let himself look back at Trelan. “Deliver your message, child, that’s the only way you can help your friend now.”
With that the older elves kicked their horses to a gallop and disappeared into the darkening trees.
stood for a moment, watching them go. He was almost positive that
just left in a different direction than they had come, but he was
now and unsure. With a sigh he looked above the closely crowding
saw the faint glimmering of Eärendil appearing in the sky as the
light began to call out the stars.
Setting his face towards the star of hope, Trelan clenched Legolas’ bloody braids tightly in his fist and started for Lasgalen at a swift run.
The soldiers’ idea of ‘close to home’ left something to be desired. The moon was riding high in the sky and Trelan was still running through the darkened woods. His lungs burned and his sides ached fiercely, but he would not let himself slow.
was an exhausted, wild-eyed elfling that crashed his way into the
and right into the startled form of an older elf.
Trelan stumbled and fell backward on impact. The entire hunting party gathered around swiftly as the elf Trelan had run into bent over the small form.
“Child, are you all right? What are you doing out here?” Umdanuë’s worried face appeared in Trelan’s wavering line of vision.
“I’ve got to get to the King! They took him and they’re going to kill him and the King must be told, he can’t let them, he can’t let them!” Trelan scrambled to a sitting position and tried to rise, his panic making him difficult to understand.
“Slowly, slowly... Trelan, right? Breathe child, breathe. Catch your breath and tell us slowly what’s happened,” Umdanuë soothed.
Trelan shook his head. “No time!” he panted, but tried to compose himself anyway. “Prince Legolas, he’s been captured! Doriflen has him, h-he sent me back with the message,” Trelan choked back a sob that was half for air and half from emotion. “I have to get to the king at once, please!”
“What? These are ill tidings you bring.” Umdanuë’s face darkened immediately at the mention of his former tormentor. Helping Trelan swiftly to his feet he put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and started them both off at a swift clip towards the trees without waiting for the others to follow. The hunting party had only one horse with them that they had been using to carry their small catch of venison. Umdanuë quickly bid the supplies be removed. Putting Trelan up on the animal’s back the older elf swung easily up behind him. He knew the rest of the party would take care of business and make their own way back as soon as they could.
“Come, child, you are right, we’ve not a moment to waste,” the older elf said as he spurred the horse towards the heart of Lasgalen at a quick gallop.