Doriflen quietly insinuated himself into almost all
aspects of Legolas’
life after that. He was careful, however, to avoid letting his
actions be noticed by the boy’s father or mother. Thranduil was
not so hard to avoid, Elvéwen on the other hand could be quite a
nuisance to his plans sometimes simply because she spent far too much
time with the child for his liking. Still, Doriflen had the
capability of being supremely patient when it suited his purposes.
Legolas had to trust him first. Then the true molding could
It was almost two weeks later that Legolas first
began to see a
possible darker side to his new training.
Legolas’ tutor had left him about an hour before and
the young prince
was stewing in his rooms. Today hadn’t gone too well. His
instructor, Lord Dridian, informed him he was not paying enough
attention to his studies and said that he was going to talk to his
The door opened and Legolas half-expected it to be
his father, but it
was not; it was his uncle.
Doriflen had met Dridian in the hall when he tried
to see the
King. His brother was busy he said, but if it concerned Legolas
he would take the message to him later.
Thranduil would never get the message.
The elder elf walked across the room, running his
fingers across the
pile of scrolls and haphazardly stacked books that Legolas had shoved
to one side of his table in frustration.
“Your father is not pleased with Lord Dridian’s
report of you, Legolas.”
Legolas looked down. He hadn’t suspected he
would be. “I’m
sorry Vede, I don’t mean to
vex him so much. It’s just all the
names and dates and facts... they’re so hard to remember
sometimes. I know that’s no excuse though,” he added quickly.
Doriflen nodded slowly, gesturing for Legolas to
come to him. The
“I told your father I would help make sure your
marks improved and he
agreed. So...” Doriflen picked up one of the scrolls near the
top. “Is this the one Dridian was using today?”
Legolas nodded. “I’ve been going over it again
since he left. I
will do better next time.”
“Well then, we’ll go over it again now. I will
ask you questions,
you will answer them. All right?”
Of course Legolas agreed, and so Doriflen worked his
way down the page,
quizzing the younger elf on every nuance of the text and the
information contained therein.
To his credit Legolas really had done a competent
job of memorizing
the information, but inevitably he eventually fumbled on a question and
got the answer wrong.
Legolas started and yelped slightly in total
surprise when his uncle
slapped him firmly across the face with an open hand.
Doriflen liked the startled, pained look in the
eyes. He was sure his brother was far too lax with the child for
Legolas to understand physical punishment. So he reversed his
swing, backhanding his nephew the other direction.
Legolas backed up a few paces, utterly shocked and
his cheeks were flushed and hot and he pressed the back of his right
hand against one, looking to his uncle with wide, questioning eyes.
Doriflen’s face was impassively neutral. He
acted as if nothing
unusual had happened. “That was the wrong answer. Try again.”
Legolas wasn’t sure he wanted to, but he collected
his thoughts and
tried to figure out which part he had erred on. He spotted it
without much difficulty and corrected himself, looking hesitantly to
his uncle to see if he was right this time.
Doriflen smiled and nodded. “That’s
correct.” He moved on
again, posing another question, and another until the prince missed one
Legolas didn’t make a sound this time but he still
started sharply when
his uncle struck him. He unconsciously pulled away a step,
although it did no good because Doriflen just followed him. He
tried to correct himself again, but it was a question he was a little
uncertain about and it took him several tries to get it right.
Doriflen struck him for each wrong answer and the
glistened with a dangerous amount of moisture by the time he finally
got the right one. Legolas’ breath came quick and fast, wobbling
“All right, enough study for today,” Doriflen
abruptly ended their
session, rolling up the scroll and setting it aside. “We’ll do
more later. I don’t think you’re prepared enough right
now.” He brushed Legolas’ flushed cheek with one hand, his thumb
skimming under the prince’s eye and catching the un-spilt tear.
“Tears are for children, Legolas, you’re an adult now. Please act
like one when we’re together.” The reprimand was not exactly
biting, but it was close.
Legolas nodded, blinking his eyes dry quickly.
Doriflen’s fingers tightened on his chin a
little. “Say ‘yes,
sir,’ when I give you an order, Legolas.” His voice was
“Yes, sir,” the younger elf responded
dutifully. “But... Vede?”
his confused eyes were questioning. “Why...?” he couldn’t figure
out what exactly he was asking.
Doriflen smiled somewhat condescendingly.
“Legolas, Legolas, you
have so much growing up to do! Don’t take it personally. I
am here for a purpose, to help you learn better. Pain is a
teacher, it molds us, shapes us, hardens us to face the future.
When you first took up a bow you hurt afterwards, did you not?”
Legolas nodded slowly. Yes, that was
true. He often ached
after practice. And if they weren’t careful when sparring, the
boys could hurt each other or themselves pretty badly. He
understood the concept that if it hurt, you wouldn’t make that mistake
again. He supposed he had better stop being such a big baby about
“Never shy from pain, especially the pain I give
you,” Doriflen nodded
approvingly when he saw the boy rationalizing it all in his mind.
Legolas was so eager to please, and that made him supremely
pliable. “It is for instruction and for your own good. Do
you understand that nephew?”
Legolas nodded. “Yes, Vede, I’m sorry. I
will do better.”
Over the days that followed, Doriflen continued to
‘help’ Legolas with
his studies, relying heavily on this form of instruction. He
quickly deemed that bruises on his face would draw far too
much attention. Therefore he took to quizzing Legolas with a
switch instead, applying a single stroke to the boy’s shoulders or
backside for each wrong answer. There, the bruises he left his
nephew with did not show.
Legolas’ studies did improve, since he now lived in
fear of getting a
wrong answer. Lord Dridian complemented him on his progress, but
was privately puzzled by the boy’s subtle change of attitude.
Although the tutor had sometimes complained of a lack of attention,
Dridian had always found his young charge inquisitive and outgoing; a
bright mind full of questions. But Legolas asked fewer questions
now and seemed slightly withdrawn from their discussions. The boy
could almost always cite exactly the right answers from the text, but
he no longer elaborated on them, no longer tried to use his own logic
and imagination as the source of those answers, preferring instead to
stay strictly with whatever he felt were the safe or expected replies.
Dridian couldn’t complain because the boy’s
knowledge was exemplary,
but still... it was odd.
Legolas knew he shouldn’t fear his training, but he
slowly began to
dread lessons with his uncle. The older elf was becoming more and
more demanding, which usually meant that Legolas was left hurting.
Yet even so, nothing prepared Legolas for the
evening when Doriflen
summoned him to his chambers. He should have felt uneasy when his
uncle locked the doors, but he was still far too trusting.
“You avoided me today, Legolas.” Doriflen
turned to the younger
elf and Legolas backed up a pace. He didn’t like what he saw in
his uncle’s eyes. There was a strange light in them that wasn’t
always there. It sent a funny shiver down the prince’s spine.
“No, sir, at least, I did not intend to...” Legolas
started to shake
his head, but was stopped when Doriflen backhanded him. The boy
flinched but had become accustomed to that kind of treatment.
“Do not contradict me,” Doriflen warned.
“Now we always have
lessons after your tutor leaves. So why didn’t we today?”
Legolas was surprised to realize what this was
thought you were too busy today, Vede. I waited for you, but you
did not come.”
The prince expected the blow that followed. He
could tell his
uncle was angry, and it frightened him.
“And am I always supposed to come running to
you? If you know you
are supposed to do something you do it, Legolas! You don’t wait
for others to hand it to you. If I am not there, you should come looking for me!”
“Yes sir, I will remember that,” Legolas promised,
trying to keep his
“I’ll make sure you do,” Doriflen countered darkly
and the younger elf
felt a zing of fear shoot through him, turning his blood cold.
“Come here. Come here!” Doriflen
grabbed the boy’s wrist
when he did not obey immediately. He shook Legolas hard.
“You’re not making this any easier on yourself, Legolas; you obey me
when I speak and you do it instantly, or you will suffer the
consequences, do you understand?”
Legolas could do nothing but nod in terror.
His throat had closed
off and left him no voice.
Doriflen flung Legolas facedown over the end of his
bed and pulled off
his belt. There was no warning, no preamble; he simply started
lashing the boy.
Legolas jerked and started, unused to this new kind
abuse. He tried to get up off the bed, tried to get away from the
sudden, terrible pain, but Doriflen caught him and flung him back down
“You do not run and you never, EVER fight me!”
that command with a hail of forceful blows, while he pressed Legolas
down so hard that the boy’s face was half-smothered in the bedclothes,
leaving the young prince dizzy and faint.
“I’ll tie you down if I have to, but believe me,
Legolas, it only gets a
hundred times worse for you after that!” he threatened darkly.
Doriflen liked pain. He liked to see people in pain, and he liked
to play twisted games with Legolas’ mind. But right now he was
also angry. Thranduil had somehow managed to push through the
limited measures he had proposed for the aid of Esgaroth. Not
only that, he had actually swayed some of the councilors into believing
it was the best thing for them all. This did not fit well into
Doriflen’s plans and he was angry with his brother. Yet there was
no way he could vent that anger on Thranduil... so tonight Legolas
would pay the price instead.
Realizing he had no choice, Legolas stopped
struggling and lay as still
as he was able, squirming only when the pain became bad and allowed
his uncle to beat him without restraint.
It was not the worst beating Legolas would receive
from his uncle’s
hands, but it was the first and it left the boy weak and in a world of
When Doriflen finally released him that night he
made Legolas thank him
for the punishment, which the prince did, through hitching sobs.
Then he sent the boy back to his own rooms with a warning.
“I trust you will remember this, Legolas. And
that you will not
shame your training. Everything that passes between us falls
under the bond of Saelonship. You understand that, Legolas?
This is just between the two of us. I will never shame you by
speaking of what you make me do to you to others, and you will not
shame yourself or your family by weighing them down or breaking the
trust of your training.”
Legolas nodded shakily and promised to remember
before fleeing back to
his rooms to bury his burning face in his pillows and let them receive
the torrent of his confused and hurting tears.
He hadn’t known. He hadn’t known that going
forward with his
training would be like this. No wonder students weren’t allowed
to talk to one another about their Saelons! He wondered if
Cirlith was this hard on Raniean. He hoped not. The young
prince felt incredibly betrayed that his parents would submit him to
this, yet at the same time he felt horrible for even feeling that
way. Certainly he knew they loved him, they were wiser than he
was, and if his father felt this was what he needed, then the fault
must lie in himself.
Slowly, Legolas’ breathing calmed, although the pain
was a lesson, like his other lessons, he had to think of it that way;
he had to be rational and accept correction when he erred. He
sighed into his now damp pillow. He would simply have to try
harder. If he made fewer mistakes, he would not be punished like
this again. Or so he hoped.
Physically and emotionally exhausted, the prince
eventually fell asleep.
Something’s wrong, shut the light,
Heavy thoughts tonight
and they aren’t of snow white.
Dreams of war, dreams of liars,
Dreams of dragon’s fire
and of things that will bite.
Sleep with one eye open,
Gripping your pillow tight
The next morning was bad. Legolas hurt
terribly. When he
bathed he could see that his uncle had left him with multitudes of
bruised welts across his shoulders and backside. The water stung
and he didn’t stay in it long. As he gingerly pulled on his class
clothes he took a moment to be glad that he had some time ago convinced
his father that he was too old to be having servants bathe and dress
him every morning. These marks he bore today would have been too
humiliating to explain should anyone have seen.
He arrived on time for class, which was a kindness
at least, but moaned
inwardly when he realized they were going to be sparring again
today. He did not feel up to it at all. To make matters
worse, he was paired with Nynd, one of the bigger boys who was often
reprimanded for over-aggressive behavior in matches.
Legolas was good, but he wasn’t compensating well
for his injuries and
after only a few painful minutes, Nynd pinned him hard. Legolas’
hurting back was ground into the rough dirt below, making the young elf
grit his teeth.
“Anno,” the prince gasped out, not caring if he lost
at this point,
just wanting to be let up.
Nynd pretended he hadn’t heard the soft word and
harder. It was the first time he had beaten Legolas in a match
and he was enjoying it. “What?”
“Anno!” Legolas’ voice was jagged and he struggled
released. Pain flared, making his breathing short.
“Nynd!” Tegi was beside his two students now.
elf’s green eyes flashed in warning.
Nynd quickly let up when their teacher said his
backward and giving Legolas one more small, triumphant shove as he rose
to his feet.
“Are you all right, Legolas?” Tegi was puzzled by
Legolas’ poor showing
today, but the boy was breathing heavily and his voice before had held
a strangely desperate edge that made the teacher think Nynd must have
been hurting him more than they could see.
Legolas was not all right, but of course he didn’t
Instead he nodded, giving a weak attempt at a smile. “Yes, sir,
“What’s the matter your highness. Not used to a
few bumps?” Nynd
chuckled unpleasantly. He disliked Legolas simply because the boy
was the prince.
Tegi was scowling. He was not impressed.
Several of the
boys’ behavior routinely dismayed their instructor. Nynd son of
Melryn and his cousin Amon son of Amilon were two of the worst
“Nynd, a match is not just about winning, but about how we win,” Tegi
tried for the fifty-millionth time to get that across. “I am not
going to give you points for victory unless you show you can gain it in
a responsible manner.” He let that sink in for a moment before
clapping his hands. “All right then, clear the field. Next
pair, Raniean and Trelan, let’s go!”
After class was done, Legolas did not change his
clothes as he usually
did. He did not want to take his shirt off around his classmates
“You don’t have lessons today?” Raniean drifted over
almost as soon as
“No, I do, but I’ll change at home,” Legolas
dismissed it easily.
“You and Trelan looked really good today. Tegi’s got to give you
more field time now Trelan, you were good!”
Trelan pretended to scowl. “I didn’t win,” he
Raniean. “But at least I know that you didn’t let me win either.”
“Never worry about that,” Raniean assured with a
“But Legolas is right, you did really well. It was almost a fluke
that I beat you.”
Trelan smiled and shrugged, then turned his
attention back to the
prince. “Legolas... are you all right? Did Nynd hurt you?”
Legolas bit his lip, fighting the flush that wanted
to creep up his
cheeks. “Not much, really. He just pinned me kind of hard,
I couldn’t breathe too well.” It wasn’t entirely the truth, but
it was all Legolas could give them. “I feel like such an idiot
over the way that ended up. I’m just having a really bad day I
“I’m sorry, Legolas,” Raniean said, wishing he could
do more than
that. Genuine concern showed in both his friends’ eyes. “Is
there anything we can do?”
Legolas smiled and shook his head. “No, it’ll
be all right.
Well... actually, would you walk home with me?” The prince didn’t
want to be alone just at the moment; he wanted someone to smile with,
he wanted something to take his mind off his problems at home.
“Of course!” Trelan agreed for them both and all
three boys headed back
towards the palace.
“So do you want to tell us what’s making today so
bad?” Raniean asked
presently, once they were away from the training grounds.
Legolas didn’t shrug because that would have hurt,
but he imitated one
pretty close. “Not really. Just... family matters.
You know. How are things going with your Saelon?” It was a
question that had been burning Legolas’ mind for a little while now.
It was Raniean’s turn to shrug. “All
right. Cirlith’s a
good teacher, I like him. He’s not overly patient though.”
He chuckled. “I think I drive him crazy sometimes, but so far, so
Legolas nodded slowly. “Ran, does he ever...
is he ever... really
hard on you?”
Raniean wasn’t sure what his friend meant.
“Yes, I suppose so,
sometimes. Why? Legolas, do you have a Saelon now?”
Raniean’s look turned excited.
“If I did, you know I might not be able to tell you
Ran,” Legolas shook
“I know. Bother that whole thing, it’s such a
weird way this all
works,” Raniean sighed.
“Well I still don’t have one in case anyone is
Legolas wanted to tell his friend that he didn’t
want one, that he had
no idea what the future was like... but he couldn’t.
“Well you’re not missing too much right now, I can
tell you,” Raniean
chuckled. “I am becoming convinced that no one can give withering
glares quite as well as Cirlith.”
Trelan laughed. “Oh? Well from what I
heard you had that
coming. Honestly Ran, you rigged the trap backward?”
Raniean flushed and turned to Legolas. “You
know, for being
little he sure has big ears!”
“I heard that!” Trelan protested.
“And an even bigger mouth,” Raniean added loudly.
Legolas was chuckling now too. “Peace!
Peace! Both of
you, now I want to know what happened!”
“If it’s up to Trelan, the whole FOREST will know
Raniean muttered. “All that happened was that Cirlith was
teaching me how to lay a particularly difficult type of snare and I
simply reversed a few of the steps by accident.”
“Oh yes, which caused the trap to spring backward
and catch Cirlith
about the ankles. He was left dangling upside-down from a tree so
high Ran couldn’t even reach him!” Trelan broke out in another fit of
giggles. “He had to go get his father to cut him down!”
“Ha ha ha, oh yes, it’s sooo funny Trelan,”
Raniean’s cheeks were
completely flushed now.
Legolas was laughing, he couldn’t help it.
“I’m sorry,” he
apologized when Raniean turned his glare on him. “I hope you
didn’t get into too much trouble.” Legolas suddenly realized that
this might not be a laughing matter at all. He shuddered to think
what Doriflen would have done to him for something like that.
Fortunately for Raniean, Cirlith was nothing like
Doriflen and would
never have thought of harming the boy. Nor would Raniean’s
father, or the true bond of a real Saelon, have allowed such a thing.
“No, it’s all right,” Raniean assured, rolling his
live. Living it down however...” he glared at Trelan.
“Seems to be harder. Oh Trelan, Cirlith taught me something new
after that. Remind me that I want to take you Trellep
“Trellep hunting, what’s that?” Trelan inquired
“You’ll see when I take you.” Raniean replied with a
you’re welcome to come too, Legolas.”
From the way his friend was grinning Legolas wasn’t
so sure this was a
good thing or not, but he laughed anyway. “I doubt I’ll have time
for a while, but someday I will go with you.”
“Good.” Raniean smiled again.
The three friends parted ways outside the palace
gates since Legolas
had more lessons to attend and the other two had family waiting for
Legolas felt better after talking to his friends,
concerned. Interpreting Raniean’s comments from his unknowingly
skewed perspective made him a little uneasy for his friend’s
wellbeing. Raniean seemed all right... but then again, so did
Lessons with his tutor went well, but the session
afterwards did not. His uncle was still in a singularly sour mood
and Legolas could have sworn that Doriflen was throwing questions at
him that they hadn’t covered merely as an excuse to punish him for not
knowing the answers. Of course, he figured it was his
Still hurting from yesterday, it was hard to hold
still for the
‘lessons’ today, but Legolas managed not to cry this time. That
seemed to please his uncle. Doriflen did not hold Legolas past
their allotted time at least and indeed, the older elf seemed to have
other things on his mind. Legolas was only too glad to be
Many troubling questions were weighing on the young
elf’s mind, and
although he was a little frightened, he wanted to do what he had always
done and go to his parents with what disturbed him.
Thranduil was in his study, working very hard over
Legolas knocked hesitantly on the doorframe. The Elvenking looked
up and graced his son with a small smile before turning his eyes back
to his work. “Come in, Legolas.”
Legolas did, seating himself gingerly on
the edge of one of
the chairs near where his father was working.
“What are you working on?” the boy inquired, not
sure how to even begin
to ask his real questions.
Thranduil rubbed his tired eyes. “I’m going
lists. These are all the things that people in various parts of
the kingdom need that they want us to supply.”
“Can we supply them all?” Legolas slid off the chair
again and wandered
“No,” Thranduil shook his head with a weary
sigh. “Not even
half. So I have to decide which ones are most urgent, and how to
try to care for the rest with resources we don’t have. To make
matters worse, some of these requests have already been filled, but
they are not of the most pressing nature, so I have to figure out how
to ask for those resources back without offending people and creating
a small riot...” Thranduil stopped, smiling slightly. He doubted
Legolas really wanted to hear all that, or even understood most of
it. Still, the concerned and interested look on the boy’s face
warmed his heart.
Legolas was close now, peering over his shoulder at
the lists and
confusing arrays stamps and seals decorating the parchments. He
frowned. “Isn’t Vede supposed to be handling that?”
Thranduil’s smile was brittle. He wouldn’t
speak ill of his
brother in front of his son, but he could think ill all he
liked. “Yes, he was. That’s how some of these requests
became... mistakenly filled. But I have to do it now.”
Legolas nodded, although he didn’t understand a
tenth of the sabotage
and intrigue that was going on behind the scenes. Not even
Thranduil really knew that. Not yet.
“Ada...” Legolas studied his fingers as he tried to
work up the courage
to speak. Thranduil had gone back to work and Legolas hated to
bother him when he was busy like this, but...
“I was wondering... I mean, well, I... A-about the
Thranduil held his hand up, halting the boy
“Legolas, that is not something I can talk about right now, all
right?” He had to find the right words to explain to Legolas why
he wasn’t choosing a Saelon for him yet, and at the moment his
attention regretfully had to be elsewhere.
Legolas hesitated uncertainly. He knew it
wasn’t supposed to be
talked about, he had simply hoped...
“Is there anything else?” Thranduil looked up after
a moment when
Legolas said nothing, but did not leave. He didn’t mean to
sound impatient, but it was the effect that came across.
“No, Ada,” Legolas said quietly, shaking his head.
Thranduil turned back to his work, but a few moments
later he paused,
realizing Legolas had probably taken his words as a curt dismissal,
which wasn’t exactly how he had intended them.
“Legolas?” He looked around, but his son had
already left, as
silent as the wind. Thranduil sighed. He would have to talk
to Legolas later when he could more fully explain himself.
Unfortunately, such resolves are easily made, and just as easily pushed
aside by other pressing matters. Sometimes, ‘later’ never
comes. Little did the Elvenking realize how much this
conversation would haunt him in the years to come.
No one could really tell how Doriflen got all of his
the things he seemed to know sometimes made one ready to believe that
the walls themselves had eyes and ears to report to him. When
Legolas went back to his rooms, his uncle was there waiting for him, a
dark look in his eyes.
Legolas froze in the doorway, almost unable to
breathe. What had
he done now?
“Legolas, Legolas...” Doriflen was pacing now, his
clenched double in his hand as he patted it lightly into his other
palm. “You almost broke the bond today. Your father is very
angry that you tried to speak to him about us. He told me to
teach you a lesson worth remembering.”
“Please, no...” Legolas didn’t resist when Doriflen
pulled him into the
room and shut the door, but his heart recoiled within him. He
knew he shouldn’t have done that; now he had made his father angry with
Doriflen’s look was unrelenting. “You learn
the rules so slowly,
Legolas, I’m going to have to start being harsher about how I teach
them.” He smiled at the fear in his nephew’s eyes. “Oh yes,