did not beat the prince as badly as he had the day before, but it was
almost more than the young elf could stand.
When it was over Legolas was sobbing again, which surprised him because he didn’t think he had any tears left to cry.
Doriflen released the catches on the chains around his wrists and the prince crumpled to the ground in a lump of misery. It felt good to be free of the agonizing manacles, but his whole body ached fiercely.
For a moment, the prince did not move as he tried to deal with the pain. Then he heard the sound of someone else entering the room and stiffly dragged himself back into the far corner of the small cell, scrambling away from whatever else his uncle might have in store for him. He felt too vulnerable in the center of the room.
Fortunately, the newcomer was not to be feared. An elf woman carrying a tray of food and a pitcher of water knelt next to the cowering child.
Legolas looked at her uncertainly, not sure what to expect.
The woman’s brows furrowed and faint traces of horror were visible behind her eyes as she gently reached out and touched the young one’s flushed cheek. No one had told her what was actually being done to the captive prince that she had been bidden to tend.
Legolas flinched and pulled back.
The woman wanted with all her heart to comfort the young prince, but with Doriflen’s watchful gaze upon her she dared not risk too much. She had tarried too long in surprise and compassion as it was and Doriflen’s harsh voice made her jump.
“Onethiel, you’re to make sure he’s fed, not worry over him like a mother hen,” the elf lord made himself clear.
Onethiel gave a quick nod and set her tray down, trying to avoid looking into Legolas’ hurting young eyes.
Legolas was desperately thirsty, but his arms and fingers were not working properly after having had his weight hanging from his wrists and shoulders for so long. Moving his arm even a little sent hot ribbons of agony through his torn shoulders, inside and out, and the prince winced in frustration and pain. He could not make his fingers close around the cup.
Quickly and quietly, Onethiel picked the cup up for him and put it to his lips, allowing the child to drink. Legolas drained the mug dry and Onethiel obligingly poured him another.
Doriflen did not hinder her in this because he wanted the boy fed. He could not afford to lose him too soon, and Legolas would have to keep up some strength to deal with his daily visits.
In the end, Legolas had no choice but to allow Onethiel to feed him as well, which he found utterly humiliating. The discomfort was eased at least a little though because her eyes and her movements were filled with compassion and she obviously did not begrudge him the task.
When Onethiel took her leave, Doriflen went with her and Legolas was left alone.
As Onethiel walked away from the small room with the empty dishes, she felt a deep sense of shame and loathing filling her. Who could do this to a child? Even if his father was a usurper as she had been brought to believe... no young one deserved to suffer like that.
Her gaze flickered to Doriflen, striding down the hall ahead of her, the bloody flail still dangling casually from its strap around his wrist. Was she so certain now that this elf should be the King, after seeing what he was capable of doing? How had things changed so much? How had she come to a place where feeding the little prince after he had been tortured too much to be able to feed himself was all that she could do?
Onethiel did not know, and that galled her.
chewed his lower lip hard enough to leave bruises, an intent scowl on
face. He was attempting to retrace his path of the day before for
the King and
his scouting party, but the young elf kept running into too many things
could not remember.
Telrayn squeezed his son’s shoulder reassuringly, feeling the tension in the small body seated before him on his horse. “Relax, Trelan, don’t try to force it, let it come to you.”
Thranduil was impatient, but he tried very hard to not let the elfling see that. Trelan had been attempting to lead them for the better part of the day. At first the boy had been sure of his directions, but now he was looking increasingly doubtful and frustrated.
A few miles further and they came to a broad, swift flowing tributary of the Forest River. Trelan wanted to cry.
“No, no, this is wrong; we didn’t cross a river this deep...” He buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry, Ada, I don’t know where we are. I thought I could retrace it... I’m sorry...” tears of frustration and failure wet his small face.
Telrayn hugged Trelan gently. “You did your best, my son, it is all right. Your Majesty...?” he turned questioning eyes upon his liege.
Thranduil sighed. It had been worth a try. “Take the child home, Telrayn; at least he has pointed us in the initial direction. Randomir, divide your company and begin a thorough search to the north-east and north-west. Traycaul, take your people south-west and south-east and return the way we have come in case we have gone too far. Amil-Garil, take your company on ahead and scout the areas surrounding Doriflen’s known encampments. Be careful.”
The three leaders inclined their heads, placing their clenched fists over their hearts in salute before spurring their mounts away to gather up their contingents and do as commanded.
Thranduil rode ahead with Amil-Garil’s company of royal guards because they took the most dangerous path that would lead them closest to the enemy. They had scouted out the known villages and encampments of Doriflen’s followers for many seasons, although many of them moved frequently. Yet most of these were peasant dwellings only, full of women, children, and families. Doriflen kept his soldiers constantly on the move to avoid detection of their camps.
Thranduil feared it was in one of these moving encampments that Legolas was being held, for that would make the task of finding him doubly difficult. Yet Trelan’s account of where they had been held gave him hope. The child had spoken of rooms made of stone with no windows. Such a structure surely must mean that Doriflen had a more-or-less permanent encampment there. In all likelihood, it was the hidden base of operations that Doriflen seemed to withdraw and disappear into whenever Thranduil’s people came too close. Much effort had already been expended in an attempt to find this place since the war began, and all attempts had been in vain.
Thranduil could only hope against hope that this time, things would somehow be different.
//”I’m coming, Legolas, please, hold on, ion-nín,”// he thought painfully. The Elvenking looked up at the sun riding high in the sky above. They did not have much time.
the loud way the door was banged open Legolas knew that this was going
to be a
bad day. He had learned enough of his uncle’s moods to ascertain
that at a
The prince rose slowly to his feet. Every inch of him hurt. Doriflen’s lashings had grown steadily worse over the past few days as Thranduil’s seeming lack of response gnawed at the twisted elf’s confidence in his plan. Legolas was grateful for the small mercies, however, and at least since he was no longer left hanging for long periods of time, his arms and hands had returned to normal function.
The prince remained in the corner, but refused to flinch or cower from Doriflen’s angry glare. He had resolved himself to perish here, but if he had to die, then he would not go as a coward or a weakling.
Doriflen did not like the change in the boy and struck him hard with an open hand, knocking Legolas to the floor. “Hold him!” he ordered his guards harshly.
Hesitantly, Naerdil and his companion took hold of Legolas’ wrists and ankles, pinning him to the floor.
Not bothering to take the time to even put him in chains, Doriflen laid into the boy with a vengeance.
Legolas whimpered and closed his eyes tightly. He knew that when Doriflen was too angry to even play at his mind-games, then he was in for a rough time.
felt the boy’s slim wrists twist desperately in his punishing grip, saw
written across the prince’s young features. The guardsman thought
had stopped. Valar, what was he doing? Why was he going
along with this? The
child did not deserve this utter torture. Yet fear held the elder
place. He was beginning to think that maybe they were all
prisoners in one way
Doriflen was forced to stop in order to catch his breath, having pushed himself too fast and too hard in his rage to maintain a steady pace. He had been so brutal that Legolas’ back was already bleeding again.
Doriflen knelt by his shuddering nephew’s side, harshly tracing the injuries with the hard, rough pommel of the flail.
Legolas inhaled sharply and pressed the side of his face harder against the cool floor.
“It seems your father doesn’t care much for you after all, Legolas,” he said softly, but his words were hard-edged and lined with malice. “All he has to do is lay aside the throne and I would bring him to you... and all this pain could end. But I guess there are other things more important to him.” Doriflen gave a deep dig into an inflamed welt. “Only two days left, Nephew... time is running short. You better hope your precious Ada decides that you’re worth saving soon, or it will be too late for him to change his mind.”
Legolas gasped softly, but his eyes flashed steel. Doriflen could not play those lies on him anymore. He knew that it was not through a lack of care that his father could not save him.
“Father will not come,” he said quietly. His young voice had a remarkable amount of steadiness and conviction considering his current situation. “Nor do I want him to do so. His first duty is to our people, as is mine. If I have to die for them to stay free, so be it. I do not count one life as too high a price to pay, and neither will Ada.” Legolas’ voice trembled slightly, but his sincerity was obvious.
The raw honesty of the little one’s words shook Naerdil to the core of his being. So much courage from one with so much to lose... it made him ashamed. He unintentionally locked eyes with the guard across from him, saw the same thoughts written clearly across his comrade’s face, before the other soldier quickly closed off and looked away. How had it come to be that they were all living in fear of one elf?
Doriflen reacted with a predictable flash of violent rage. As soon as he had finished speaking, Legolas immediately tensed, knowing what would come.
He was unfortunately correct.
Doriflen rose stiffly to his feet, a dangerous look in his eye. “So you don’t care what happens to you then, Nephew? That is well, because today I mean to make you wish that you were already dead!”
Naerdil found that his hands on Legolas’ wrists were trembling when Doriflen started in on the boy again. He couldn’t do this. It was wrong, everything in his being screamed it was wrong.
Naerdil released Legolas’ wrists, sliding sideways a little, closing his eyes and pressing his hand to his face.
Legolas curled in on himself at once, instinctively trying to twist his injured back away from the cruel abuse.
Doriflen faltered and stopped, turning an angry glare on the guard. “WHAT is the problem, Naerdil. Are you ill, or merely stupid?”
The two soldiers standing by the doorway tensed, as if awaiting orders.
Naerdil fought the dryness in his mouth. He wanted to speak up, to say something... but he realized with shame that he was too much of a coward. Gripping the bandage on his left arm that hid a wound he had received not long ago, he shook his head, trying to make his voice work. “I-I do not feel well. I think there may be something wrong.” Oh there was something wrong all right... everything.
Doriflen scowled, but he was too angry and too focused on Legolas at the moment to take his guard’s incompetence as anything other than mere incompetence. “Fool! Get out of my sight!” he shouted. “Get him out of here!” Doriflen added to the guards by the door who dutifully rushed forward to remove Naerdil.
Doriflen was about to order one of them to take his place, when a cruel smile twisted his lips. “Wait... bring me the new boy.”
Legolas took the small reprieve to gather his strength, wondering numbly what his uncle was up to now.
Several minutes later, a boy that Legolas recognized entered hesitantly. The prince looked saddened. It was Garilien.
Garilien recoiled in shock when he saw Legolas curled up on the floor, his back painfully marred from his uncle’s attentions. The boy’s eyes widened and a shot of horror went through his heart. What had he done? Legolas was supposed to be a playing card only; insurance to force Thranduil to capitulate... He had never thought the prince would be harmed. He had accepted the offer Doriflen made him through Amon more to spite his father than anything else, after the blow-up they had had... but now he wondered at the cost his actions may have produced.
Doriflen did not miss the boy’s horrified look, but he had expected such. “Proud of your work, Garilien?” he said softly. “I am. Don’t be concerned about Legolas; he has made some very bad choices that led him to the state you now see.” He walked towards Garilien slowly, the flail swishing with menacing ease in his hand. “But you don’t make bad choices, do you? You make smart ones. So I need your service again. Help Niphred hold him while we finish up this little matter,” he nodded his head towards the place that Naerdil had recently vacated.
Garilien backed up a step, only to bump into the soldiers behind him. He swallowed hard and shook his head. “I-I can’t... I didn’t want this... I didn’t want anyone to get hurt...”
Doriflen’s eyes locked on him intensely and the boy felt as if he had been rooted to the spot. “Didn’t you? Did you not join us to spite your father? Or was it out of true devotion to our cause? If the former is the case, then you deceive yourself to think you wanted no one hurt; if the later, then you will obey me because you must realize that I know what I am doing and obey me without question. This is war, Garilien; people get hurt. Do you want to be one of them? Would you rather take his place?” The elder elf stretched the lash he was holding in front of him, letting Garilien see that the rope thongs were stained with blood.
Garilien crumpled under Doriflen’s powerful glare and maddeningly inescapable logic. He dropped his head. “No,” he whispered hoarsely.
Doriflen smiled. “Good. Then do as you're told and I will try to forget that you almost disobeyed me.”
Numbly, Garilien did as Doriflen ordered, kneeling and taking Legolas’ wrists in his hands. He couldn’t look at the prince and bowed his head guiltily.
“Garilien!” Doriflen’s voice snapped harsh as a whip, making the child jump. “You watch your work, take pride in it... and do not make me think you unworthy or un-useful... consider this a meaningful lesson in what happens to people who are either of those things.”
Garilien obeyed and forced his eyes open as Doriflen struck Legolas sharply, but he thought he was going to be ill. He would not blame the prince if he hated him forever.
Legolas did not hate Garilien, that sole privilege was reserved for Doriflen. As odd as it seemed, Legolas felt sorry for the other boy because he saw someone who was falling prey to games he knew far too well. He tried to catch Garilien’s eyes, but the other elfling studiously avoided his gaze, although tears were forming rapidly in the dark-haired elfling’s eyes.
Doriflen made good on his threat about how severely he intended to make his displeasure known to his nephew. By the time he was done, Legolas had passed out.
Garilien pried his stiff, aching fingers off the prince’s limp wrists, looking at his hands as if they were alien to him. He was crying almost as hard as Legolas had been. He had never felt so despicable and wretched.
Doriflen dropped his hands soothingly on Garilien’s shoulders. “Pain will pass and harden into steel. It will make you stronger. I’m proud of you.”
Garilien had nothing but contempt for the older elf now, but he held even more for himself. Pushing to his feet he ran out of the room.
Doriflen watched him go with a small smile. Garilien hated him right now, but he could tell the boy hated himself more and that was all that was needed. Garilien could never go back to his old life with the weight of these things on his conscience. The boy was irrevocably his now. Doriflen’s eyes turned dark and distant. Wasn’t that the way it always worked? There were some things that changed you forever, some hurts that were best hardened into steel with which to force others to your will. That moment had come for him so long ago he almost did not remember it now, back after the ruin of Doriath when he and Thranduil were still children. Back when a young elf not much older than Garilien had been taken unawares in the woods by servants of Morgoth and taught the meaning of pain and despair.
Oropher tried to protect the boy when he was brought home and never spoke to a soul about the three days his eldest son had gone missing, trying to help him forget... but there was no forgetting. Thranduil had been only a child and everyone shielded him from the truth. To the end of his days he would never know what had put the first twist in his brother’s soul.
Doriflen had never let go of the hurt, letting it harden into hate, letting the helplessness he had felt burn out into an insatiable desire for power and domination. He chose to embrace the darkness that had touched him, seeing the might it wielded and reveling in the power it gave. He had been broken and within him grew the desire to break others, to show them how the broken vessel could be re-forged into something deadly powerful.
The dark elf had watched Legolas grow with interest. It was not only because Legolas was his brother’s son that he had tried so hard to turn him. He could tell the boy would be powerful in his own right someday. Legolas had inherited the strength of his father’s royal blood along with the influence of his Silvan mother’s stronger connection to nature; it was a promising combination. He had tried to show Legolas the same path to power that he had found, but the boy had refused to learn, refused the chance to become a force to truly be feared.
Doriflen scowled. Legolas might refuse to be taught, but even if they were less powerful he had found plenty of others that were much more easily molded. Children were his favorite candidates because they were so much easier to guide. Amon and Nynd were perfect examples; they were proving very apt pupils and he already had high hopes for their futures.
The elf lord glanced down dispassionately at Legolas’ unconscious and bleeding form. Those who did not let the pain mold them would find that it destroyed them instead. That was simply the way things were.
“How many times did I try to tell you, Nephew? In the beginning, we are all victims. Then we choose our path and become the masters of fate rather than its slaves. It is too bad you chose the path to destruction.” Doriflen shook his head with a small look of disgust. “You have no idea what you threw aside.”
found Raniean sitting cross-legged on the bank of the small pond near
absently flinging tiny stones into the water with small, bitter
was obvious the taller boy was upset.
Trelan sank down next to his friend, his own heart heavy. Neither boy spoke of the weight that was pressing down on them, but both knew what it was.
Two days. Unless something happened, Legolas would have only two days left to live. It was so hard for the young, immortal elves to understand death, and it was a frightening concept for them to try to accept that their dear friend might never be coming back.
Trelan rested his chin on his hand, feeling like an utter failure as he watched the disturbed ripples from Raniean’s stones dance across the surface of the pond. He didn’t want his last memories of Legolas to be what he had seen in Doriflen’s little room of horrors.
“Ada wouldn’t let me go out with them again,” Raniean said after a few moments, supplying the reason for his distressed irritation without being asked. Up to this point Randomir had allowed his son to join the search parties with either himself, or Thranduil. Now however, after nearly a week of ceaseless searching, Randomir had sent his son home to rest. But there was no rest for Raniean.
“I think he does not want me to be there if... if they find Legolas too late,” Raniean whispered, chucking the stone in his hand into the pond with a particularly vicious swing.
Trelan lay back and looked up at the sky, trying to deny the treacherous tears that rose unbidden to his eyes. “I should have been able to take them back to him, Ran... I’m usually really good at that game, why couldn’t I do it when it really mattered? I tried so hard... I don’t know what went wrong.”
Raniean stopped throwing stones and reached out, resting his hand on Trelan’s arm. “You did your best, Trey.”
“It wasn’t good enough,” the small elf turned away. More than a dozen times Trelan had tried to retrace his journey, but always without success and the young elf hated having wasted the search parties’ precious time.
“It was a long journey,” Raniean said quietly. “You must have ridden all day, you were blindfolded. Trey, many wouldn’t be able to retrace something like that even with the use of their eyes.” The young elf tried to assuage some of his friend’s guilt.
“It wasn’t all day,” Trelan sighed bitterly, plucking several strands of grass and twisting them harshly between his fingers. “And I should have remembered.”
There was a long silence in which Raniean did not know what to say. His own guilt over failing Legolas was acute; how could he comfort Trelan’s?
Trelan rolled back towards his friend, a puzzled, thoughtful look on his face. “It wasn’t all day, was it?” Time had been so hard to measure. It felt like forever, but unpleasant things always felt that way. “I mean, it couldn’t have been if we got back before dark.”
Raniean shrugged, not understanding. “Well, unless you left in the morning.”
Trelan shook his head. Their cells had not had windows, but he had already been awake for hours before the guards came to take him to Doriflen and Legolas. It had to have been at least noon by then. “Couldn’t have, the time doesn’t fit. We were unconscious on the way there, but it can’t have been a day because one day there and one day back would leave no time for us to have been prisoners and...” he turned away, preferring to try to forget what he had seen.
Raniean blinked. “Trelan... you were gone for three days. Not two.”
Trelan’s brows furrowed and he stared at his friend, startled. Three days? That wasn’t possible, was it? He had been firmly convinced he was only gone two.
“Are you sure Ran?” Even when he told the tale, no one had thought to correct him before, they had been too lost in the horrible news of the message itself.
“Very sure,” Raniean almost laughed. “You didn’t know? We were searching for you for days already before you came back. How could you not know?”
Trelan wasn’t sure. Being rendered unconscious more than once and kept in a windowless environment that showed no daily changes had obviously skewed his internal sense of time. “We were unconscious... I didn’t think it was for very long. Then I woke up and it was dark... and they put me out again. The next time I woke up it was in the cell and I assumed it was morning...” his eyes were distant as he tried to sort the confused jumble of memories. “But if we were really gone three days... then who knows what night it was or how long until I awoke again.”
A sudden jolt of realization shot through the young elf and he bolted upright. “Raniean! What if I was wrong about the time? What if it did take us all day to get back here? What if we did leave in the morning!”
The small elf was very excited suddenly, but Raniean did not yet understand why. “Slow down, Trelan! Even if you were, what of it? What does that mean?”
“It means everything!” Trelan shook his head. “If it was morning, and not afternoon as I thought, than all the directions I was memorizing were backward! The sun would have been in the east not the west and that makes everything different.”
That would also explain how they seemed to go straight without a change of course under the shade of the trees for a very long time, and yet when they came out into the sun once more they seemed to have taken a distinct turn. They hadn’t turned; the sun had passed over noon and was now striking from a different direction!
“If that’s true, than we have to find father or the king! You’ve got to try again, Trelan, working with reversed directions!” Raniean said, rising quickly to his feet, beginning to catch some of his friend’s urgency. Then he halted, realizing the problem with that plan. “...except that everyone’s gone searching and we have no idea where they are or how far away,” he said in deflated frustration.
Trelan rose to his feet as well. “What if I’m wrong, Ran? I-I would hate to lead them on another wild goose chase, especially with so little time left to waste. I think the King would kill me.”
Raniean chewed his lip. No, they didn’t want to waste the searchers' time, nor could they FIND any of them right now had they wanted to... that left only one option.
“There’s one way to find out for certain whether we’re right or wrong,” the young elf said decidedly.
Trelan took a deep breath, guessing what his friend was thinking. “You mean the two of us can try it out first.”
Raniean nodded. “That won’t waste anyone’s time if we’re wrong, and if things start feeling familiar to you than we can run back for help and try to find our fathers.”
“All right,” Trelan agreed without hesitation. “I’ll get my weapons and meet you back here in ten minutes. If we’re going to try we’ve got to hurry before we lose the light.”
Once they had gathered what they needed, the two young elflings made good time back to the by-now familiar glade where Trelan remembered being left by Naerdil. Consciously flipping every conception of direction he had had before, Trelan led Raniean off in the opposite direction from what he had been trying previously.
“Trelan?” Raniean said after a few minutes, causing his friend to turn and look at him. “Whether this works or not... it’s not your fault, all right?”
Trelan looked unconvinced, but nodded his thanks as they quickly forged deeper and deeper into the trees.
stared into the fire as evening shadows lengthened. He imagined
he could feel
the eyes of Doriflen’s spies burning into the back of his head.
He knew they
were watching him, his actions had put him deep in the distrust of
leader. Yet surprisingly... the more he thought about it, the
less he cared.
Life without honor was worse than death, even for an immortal.
Naerdil was beginning to think that they had all forfeited their honor
Doriflen, somehow. That was a disturbing realization.
He wished he had seen this earlier. He wished he could take his wife and his son and get out of here... he even wished that he could tell Thranduil where the prince was. All such wishes were in vain, however. As long as Doriflen had his wife and child spirited ‘safely’ away in one of the other numerous camps scattered throughout the woods, Naerdil’s hands were tied. He would risk his own life, but not theirs.
To the naked eye, it seemed that Naerdil and the others were merely one of Doriflen’s small warrior encampments. The presence of women and children lent the temporary settlement an air of innocence. All that however was a mask, a sham meant to deceive; one that was apparently working very well. In reality the entire area was bristling with hidden patrols and sentries. This was the single largest concentration of Doriflen’s military presence in Mirkwood, but it was well disguised.
Not twenty yards from where Naerdil sat, concealed trapdoors covered the entrance to Doriflen’s hidden underground fortress. It was not a new construction. When Doriflen and his friends left Mirkwood in anger after his father had shifted the title of heir apparent to his brother, he had not spent all his time outside the forest. During those seasons he had overseen the construction that turned a natural subterranean cave system into a rough sort of stronghold. He had never actually lived there, however. Word of Oropher and Thranduil’s hesitant decision to join Gil-Galad and Elendil in the Great Alliance had come to him shortly after it was finished. After that he had returned home to judge the shifting political clime, only too happy to take up with the sympathies of those elves who felt that Mirkwood had no place meddling in the affairs of humans or the Noldor.
The old fortress had lain unknown and unused... until the start of this war.
Naerdil sighed and shifted. Not far away he could see a group of ladies talking as they prepared food for their families. He recognized Onethiel as the one who cared for the young prince between his Uncle’s visits. His brows furrowed as he realized what she was talking about, and none too quietly either.
“I’ve never seen anything so cruel,” Onethiel was obviously disturbed. “He couldn’t even lift his head without crying, the poor little thing. So much blood...” she shuddered. “It broke my heart. But he never complains. Heaven knows how much it had to hurt when I cleaned him up, but he never made a single sound...” the woman had to blink back tears. “It is more than wrong, it is unforgivable.”
One of her companions hushed Onethiel quickly. “Shh! Have you lost your mind? Don’t speak so loud. Do you want them to make an example out of your husband like they did with Meldir?”
One of the other ladies looked around fearfully. “I cannot believe Lord Doriflen would act so without a very good reason, maybe there is more going on here than we understand right now, you can’t know for certain.” In her heart, she did not believe that, but she was afraid who might have overheard them.
Onethiel grimaced bitterly. Doriflen had a way of using those they loved to keep them submissive and she was beginning to see that. She dropped her voice to a more cautious whisper, but her tone remained caustic. “What I know is that when Oropher and Thranduil were king, we never had to worry about something we said causing one of our loved ones to be flogged and disgraced.”
The other women shifted nervously, but they could not disagree. Things were not going at all like they had thought when they separated themselves from their kin and took Doriflen as their lord.
Naerdil wondered how many other people felt just like them, but were too afraid to act... or had no idea what kind of action to take.
and Trelan glanced up at the fading sky. So far their progress
fair... that was to say, they had not yet come across anything that
should not be in their path... even if they had not come across
conclusively told them they were on the right track either.
As the sun dipped down below the horizon, Trelan paused. “Ran?” he asked quietly. “Do you think we should keep going, or turn back?”
Raniean’s mind was divided. If they were going to go back, they should have done so some time ago. Now that darkness was falling going back was as dangerous as going on, and they still had nothing to show for their efforts.
“And tell them what?” the taller elf asked resignedly. “We don’t know if this is the way yet or not.”
Time was running out. They now had only one night and one day until Legolas’ time was up. Normally, Raniean would have taken the cautious route and gone back, but with his friend’s life on the line...
Trelan nodded, he was thinking the same things. Their parents would begin to worry about them soon, but they were already so far distant from home that it would take half the night just to get back. That seemed incredibly wasteful when they had no real news to give. There was nothing they could do at home but wait and hope... at least out here they were doing something, even if it didn’t end up amounting to anything. They were trying, and that was better than sitting around and waiting for their friend to be killed.
“Then let’s keep going,” Trelan pressed forward determinedly. The stars were already beginning to come out, and the young elves could navigate by them just as easily as by the sunlight. If they were not going to go back, then they were certainly not going to wait for morning to continue onward. Time was of the essence, and time was quickly slipping away.
in the windowless, underground cell, day and night blended into one
miserable twilight for Legolas. He could only count the passage
of days by how
many times his uncle had come to beat him. The young prince
wondered numbly if
he should take comfort in the fact that there would be only one more
before the inevitable end of his captivity came.
He clung stubbornly to his resolve to bear this trial to the end without breaking again, yet despite what he told Doriflen, part of the prince wanted nothing more than for his father to rescue him... for anyone to rescue him.
Legolas wanted to go home. He wanted it so badly that his heart ached nearly as much as his abused body. He wanted to see the woods again; the sun and the stars above the trees in their turn, the long grass blowing in the gentle breeze... wanted to feel his mother’s embrace, see his father’s smile and hear his friends' laughter. He was resigned to die, but he wanted to live. Wanted it so much it hurt.