I see the blood all over your hands
Does it make you feel more like a man?
Was this all just a part of your
Torches were burning inside the guard tent, lighting it from
within. But although Aragorn could see moving shadows, he could
not tell what was going on in there. The ranger’s steps quickened
to a run, apprehension gripping at his heart.
Just as he reached it, the tent flap was thrown open and he nearly ran
into Denethor, on his way out.
“Thorongil,” Denethor pulled back a little to avoid colliding with the
other. “The captives, did you...”
Aragorn shook his head, his gaze dropping for a moment. Their
mission had not been a success. “They were ready for us, kept us
bottled up in the south pass until it was too late.”
Denethor let his breath out sadly. He had feared as much.
This whole thing had been far too well planned and executed.
“It’s not your fault. Somehow they seem to know our mind better
than we do,” the other human’s voice was bitter.
That reminded Aragorn why he was here and he cast his gaze around the
tent, trying to see around the other captain’s form, which was blocking
the doorway. “Denethor, what did you do with-” He stopped,
searching gaze passing over the future Steward’s shoulder and turning
hard, fixing upon the hunched over, bleeding form of his friend.
The elf’s shoulders were rising and falling raggedly and a multitude of
bloody lines crisscrossed his smooth back.
The ferocity in Aragorn’s glare when it turned back on Denethor
surprised the other. He had always found Thorongil to be a quiet,
unassuming man who rarely ever lost his temper, but there was no doubt
about the violent anger in the ranger’s snapping eyes. “What have
you done?!” Aragorn demanded, his voice low and threatening.
“What I had to do.” Denethor tried to shoulder past the other
captain. “And what I will do again if he does not see
reason. You had better examine your priorities, Thorongil, unless
you want to be counted with traitors.”
Aragorn caught the future Steward’s wrist and held it tightly, refusing
to let Denethor walk away from him. “Don’t be a fool! You
are making a mistake! You have no idea what damage you have
done!” Aragorn hissed at him, shaking the other slightly.
He couldn’t believe this. He couldn’t believe he had let this
happen to Legolas, after promising to keep him from harm!
“I’m not the one making the mistake here.” Denethor tried to yank free,
and was more than a little surprised when he could not.
Aragorn was not letting go. “I know what you think of me,” he
said softly, trying to keep their words from the others present.
It did no good to spread dissention among the men. “Do NOT take
it out on him! I would have thought you more honorable than
that. Do not punish him to hurt me!”
“This is not about you!” Denethor spit back, his anger rising to meet
that of the other man.
The soldiers were staring at their captains. Despite both men’s
efforts, the quiet row was attracting attention.
Denethor grabbed Aragorn’s shoulder and pulled him close. “Not here, not in front of the
men. Come,” he gestured his head
towards his own tent across the green. “We have to talk. In
Aragorn understood the wisdom of that, but he hated to leave Legolas...
he glanced back at the elf. One of the soldiers was kneeling
behind the prince, washing his lacerated back. Legolas’ fists
were balled and he did not look up, even though he had to know that
Aragorn was in the doorway. No amount of whispering could hide
their conversation from elf ears. The ranger’s heart was torn,
but Legolas was being cared for at the moment and he would come back
and see to him himself later. Right now he and Denethor had to
have some words if he hoped to keep this from happening again.
Ripping his gaze away, Aragorn followed Denethor to his tent, slapping
the fabric door aside with unconcealed anger as they went inside,
leaving the soldiers outside. The Gondorian troops looked at one
another before drifting back to their duties. All of them would
have given a month’s pay to know what would go on inside the future
Legolas remained still and silent as Castamir washed his wounds.
He heard Aragorn’s voice outside the tent, speaking with
Denethor. His friend was angry, he could hear it in the
tone. So Aragorn hadn’t known. A small part of the elf’s
heart relaxed a little. He knew it could not be true.
The elf’s own humiliation was too keen and he did not look up, even
when he felt his friend’s eyes on him. He couldn’t face anyone
right now, not even Estel.
Castamir’s motions across the elf’s back were neither light, nor
gentle. The cloth in his hand bit sharply into the bleeding
wounds, making the elf tense and hold his breath. The cleaning
hurt nearly as bad as the whipping had. And, of course, that was
the way the soldier wanted it. He did not understand why Denethor
had stopped short when the elf’s resistance was obviously on the path
to crumbling. He was not pleased.
Motion at the tent flap caused Castamir to stop and turn on his boot
heels in his crouched position. Legolas did not bother to glance
at the new arrival, he felt as though he could suffer no more shame in
his lifetime and would not given another Gondorian the satisfaction of
seeing his soul bared or the pain and humiliation they had caused
him. However, the newcomer had not come to see the elf, but his
Tyrion pushed the tent flap open and stood just inside the doorway,
staring at Castamir. Tears rolled down the young soldier’s
face. He was dirty from the long fight and bloodied from a wound
to his shoulder. His hair was tousled and unkempt, making him
looking younger than his years.
Rising to his feet Castamir walked over to youth and gently touched the
boy’s shoulder, his heart going out to the soldier. Tyrion, Krit
Elan had always been close. Because of Krit he had known all
three lads since childhood. “What is it, Tyrion?” he asked
The young man shook his head, his breath coming in irregular gasps as
he tried to catch his breath and fight the emotions that spilled down
his cheeks. Turning, he led the older soldier outside the tent and away
from the prisoner.
Lowering his voice so that Legolas could not hear his conversation,
Tyrion’s words tumbled fast and breathlessly.
“They killed him, Castamir. They killed him.” Tyrion swiped
his dirty tunic sleeve across his face, smearing the dirt over his
“Who? Who is it you are speaking of?” Castamir frowned
trying to follow and listen closely enough to catch all the whispered
words. “Slow down boy, take your time.”
“Lieutenant Alcarin. He’s dead.” Tyrion bit his lips and
jerked in a shallow breath, casting his gaze out across the meadow of
men that were returning, “I was with Thorongil. The Corsairs took
him down and we couldn’t reach him. The city was on fire... we
got separated.” Huge brown eyes stared back up at the older
soldier. “He called out to us, but we were too late and now he’s
gone. His body burned in the town...” The boy’s words choked off
and grew even more soft. “The soldiers who brought the dead back tell
me they don’t even know which body is his ‘cause so many are so badly
charred... I saw them all lying there.” The young man’s voice
cracked. “And in the pass... we fought for hours... so many
dead... I don’t even know yet if any of our company has survived beside
us. It was awful.”
Castamir sighed and closed his eyes against the news, biting back his
own feelings. He and his commanding officer had had their
difference of opinions, but he had respected Alcarin. He didn’t
deserve to die like that. However, Castamir’s pride kept him from
allowing the grief any access to his heart. Gently he placed his
arm around the slender shoulders of the youth and turned him back
towards the center of camp. “Don’t you worry, Tyrion.
Alcarin was a good man, so was every soldier in our troop.
They’re in a better place now. We’ll see them again.
Alcarin wouldn’t want you worrying about him now. You have to
concentrate on the living. You go see to that wound of yours
‘fore it gets infected.” Giving the boy a gentle push, Castamir
nodded his head and tried to smile as Tyrion glanced over his shoulders
at the man. “Go on with you now. The Captain may not have
the stomach for it, but I’ll get to the bottom of who it is that’s
giving us up to the enemy. I know just who to ask and how.”
With a small nod the young soldier stumbled wearily towards where the
wounded were being cared for. Castamir was right, Alcarin was
better off now then they all were.
The large guard watched Tyrion until another soldier took charge of the
injured youth. The boy had never seen real war before, never seen
death on this scale. Castamir had by now seen too much of it, but
he still remembered the first time, so many years ago... It was after
that battle he had taken his first drink and there had been many since
then. Alcohol helped him forget... but tonight even that solace
brought him no peace, although he had tried. No, only answers
were going to bring him peace now, answers and vengeance. His
gaze darkened and he turned resolutely back towards the prisoner’s
tent. Oh yes, he knew just who to ask and he knew how. He
absently brushed his arm against a bulge in his tunic pocket as he
clenched his fists. Stopping he pulled a small sack from the
interior compartment in his shirt. A grim smile tugged at the
edges of his lips as he remembered what it was he was carrying.
Yes, he would see that the traitor talked. In the end he would be more
than willing to talk. Stuffing the bag back into his over-tunic
Castamir threw the tent flap back and walked up behind his charge.
“The Captains are too gentle with you, elf,” Castamir said with a quiet
sneer, the hatred in his heart blinding him further after the news he
had received. Picking up the cloth he had thrown aside he
purposefully dug into the deep laceration below the prince’s shoulder
blade, swiping at the blood. “Just like Alcarin was.” His
voice was choked by the emotions running through him after speaking
with Tyrion. What he couldn’t express in sorrow in front of the younger
soldier found its vent in the anger held towards the elf.
Legolas jerked and stifled a hiss of pain. Castamir had come back
from his short interlude with a new dose of renewed contempt and in his
current state the last thing Legolas needed was to have to endure more
of Castamir’s burning hatred. The elf’s keen nose told him that
the soldier had been drinking pretty heavily at some point earlier in
the evening. Mixing Castamir with too much alcohol was never a
good thing; Legolas had learned that much on the long journey
“Wounds like this... they heal so fast and the pain is soon over
with. Now if I were them, I’d give you something to really think
about... something that would make you talk. In fact I think we
need to have a little talk just between us.” Castamir reached
inside his tunic and once more drew out the small, heavy pouch.
“You know what this is? I think it will help make everything a
little clearer,” he hissed in the prince’s ear, tipping the elf’s head
back and to the side. Legolas could just barely see the man in
his peripheral vision. He couldn’t begin to guess what the
held nor did he think he wanted to. It couldn’t be good.
The elf jerked his head away. “Your captain gave you orders. Do not get
yourself into trouble you could avoid.” He hoped that Castamir
was simply taunting, trying to frighten him. Unfortunately past
experience warned Legolas that Castamir’s threats were usually not
idle. The elf resisted the urge to shudder. He couldn’t
take any more pain right now, not when he had thought it was
Castamir just laughed. “He said to tend you and that is exactly
what I’ll do... with a little of this.” The soldier poured a
small handful of the powder inside the pouch into the palm of his
hand. “You don’t know what it is, do you? Well you won’t
forget it after tonight, I promise you.” The human was enjoying
himself far too much.
“Looks pretty innocent...” Castamir continued tauntingly.
“Doesn’t even have a proper name. We put it on horse’s hooves
when they get thrush and it helps them just fine. But on a man,
or an elf... that’s a different matter.” As if to illustrate what
he meant, Castamir let the handful of powder sprinkle down onto
Legolas’ bleeding back.
Legolas started at the sudden stinging burn that spread like molten
fire across his injuries. The sheer shock of the pain was
Castamir’s eyes glinted with alcohol-induced amusement and bitter
vengeance as he dished another palm-full out of the bag and rubbed it
slowly and deliberately into a welt that ran along the back of Legolas’
“Stings, doesn’t it? And it only gets worse, trust me. You
see, the remarkable thing about this stuff is that it doesn’t wear off
or go away. It stays. And stays. And stays.
Tomorrow morning it’ll still be hurting, just as bad... maybe even
worse. And do you know what, traitor? It’s nothing more
you deserve! Killing Krit and the others, selling us out to the
Corsairs, that wasn’t enough for you, was it?! Well let me tell
you something, those soldiers that lost their lives today, they were my
brothers, maybe not by blood but by a bond just as strong. But
you wouldn’t understand that. I begin to think your kind knows nothing
of loyalty. Have you any idea of the pain and suffering those
innocent townspeople will go through at the hands of your Corsair
companions? I do. I’ve seen what they do to their
slaves. Captain Denethor may not think you can be broken but he
doesn’t know you like I do. I know that you can be and I intend to do
it. I don’t care to be thought a hero, but at least they’ll know
you for what you are, traitor. By the time I’m through with you,
you’ll tell me everything I want to know and more.”
Legolas squirmed and tried to pull away, but tied to the pole as he was
he had no place to go. The agony of whatever Castamir was
treating him with was taking his breath away. The elf had felt a
lot of pain before in his life, so it was saying quite a bit to admit
that he had never felt anything that hurt quite this badly.
Castamir held the elf’s shoulder tightly, pushing the prince forward
over his knees and against the post he was bound to so that the elf
could not escape from him no matter how much he struggled.
Cruelly, deliberately the human worked the burning powder into every
welt and cut. “Maybe tonight this will help you think about what
you’ve done... oh go ahead and cry. If you don’t now you will later,
trust me,” the soldier mocked slightly when Legolas’ shoulders began to
tremble under his cruel ministrations.
Legolas’ eyes burned and blurred but he hated to let his pain
show. It was what Castamir wanted and for that very reason he
hated it. Yet the agony in his back was building quickly and
making him want to scream.
“Alcarin told you repeatedly to leave me alone. Do you think Captain
Denethor will take any kinder to your actions?” the elf bit out, his
voice shaking more than he would have liked. In all honesty
though, Legolas wasn’t so sure the other Gondorians would really
“Alcarin is dead!” Castamir spat at the elf his tone turning
angry. “And do you think Captain Denethor is going to believe
anything you say now? You get me in trouble again, elf, and you
won’t live to regret it. Besides... I’m just doing my job.
After all, the bleeding’s stopping isn’t it?”
Castamir grinned wickedly, dragging the elf’s head up again so that he
could see the pain on the prisoner’s face. Trapping Legolas’ neck
in his hand, he continued to work Legolas’ back with the other.
“Scream for me...” he whispered. “Cry and beg me to stop and
maybe I won’t make you suffer through this pain all night...
maybe. If you tell me what I want.”
Legolas glared harshly and spit directly in the human’s face. He
would die first.
Castamir grimaced harshly and backhanded the elf sharply a few times
until Legolas’ mouth bled before he trapped his throat again.
Squeezing tightly, Castamir restricted the elf’s airway, allowing him
only a portion of what his body needed.
Legolas thrashed against the choking restriction, pulling at his bound
wrists and twisting as he tried to escape, but Castamir had him in too
firm a hold and soon his body didn’t have enough air to fight.
The elf’s head spun dizzily as Castamir continued to work the dry,
hellish fire into his back. Painful, weakened sobs that Legolas
could not help shook his frame much to Castamir’s amusement and the
“I told you you’d cry,” Castamir hissed mockingly.
“Do NOT question me in front of the men Thorongil. You should know
better than that!” Denethor rounded angrily on Aragorn once they were
safely inside the tent and away from the prying eyes and ears of the
camp. “Father put me in
charge of this mission and you had
better remember that.”
“Do not use people as pawns and I will not question you!” Aragorn shot
back. “I tell you Legolas is innocent! He has not been
tried yet and until he is brought before your father you have no right
to take his punishment or his questioning into your own hands!”
“We are in a state of war here in case you hadn’t noticed,” Denethor
shook his head, his jaw tight. “He is a prisoner of war. I
am in charge and I will take whatever measures I must to protect those
entrusted to my care. Have you forgotten what we saw today
already?! That elf and whoever he’s working with caused
“No he did not!” Aragorn shook his head. “I don’t care what
anyone says. I will never believe that!”
“I know he was your friend once, but people change, Thorongil. I think
you have to face that just as I did.” Denethor’s voice softened
slightly as he remembered Mardil. He understood the pain of
betrayal and would not wish it on anyone. “Don’t look at me like
I am a monster for doing my job! Often times kindness is repaid
with death, isn’t that what we’ve seen here? Sacrifices have to
Aragorn caught Denethor’s wrist again, holding it up so the blood on
his fingers was visible. “Sacrifices? What kind of
sacrifices? Legolas is not
Mardil, Denethor! Stop trying
to make them the same.” Aragorn held up his own hand, stained
with the blood and dirt of battle. “I see a difference between
the blood of enemies spilt in battle and the blood of a prisoner wrung
by torture! Do you enjoy that? Does it make you feel
powerful somehow to know that you can inflict pain? If so then I
fear for this kingdom when your father dies!” The ranger was
Denethor’s glare turned lethal. “And you think you would make a
better ruler, is that it? Don’t think I haven’t seen how you
curry favor with my father and the people! Always you are first
in his heart and you are not even of his blood! Well I will show
him and everyone that I am not weak and I am no man’s pawn! And
if that elf’s life is the price I have to pay to get to the bottom of
this I will do it and you will not stand in my way!”
“You have no idea of what I do and do not want, or what I could do or
be if I so chose!” Aragorn’s voice was hard and tense. “But I am
no thief and would never take that which is not mine, nor take it by
force or trickery. You are the jewel of your father’s heart,
Denethor. Prove his trust and his love right by being the just man that
you have the power to be!”
With that Aragorn turned and left the tent without another word.
“Thorongil, where are you going?” Denethor followed him out, not sure
what the look he had seen in the other man’s eyes meant. “We are
“To see to my friend,” Aragorn said darkly as he walked back towards
the guard tent, not bothering to turn around. “And we are
finished as far as I am concerned, your highness.” His words held
more meaning than Denethor realized.
“You are pushing your luck on this, Thorongil! If you insist on
associating with him you may begin to change my mind on the likeliness
of your being the
second traitor we’re looking for,” the future
steward threatened, walking quickly to try to catch up with the
ranger’s long strides.
Aragorn turned to say something to Denethor, but a soft, muffled sound
of utter distress from the guard tent next to them caught his sharp
hearing and made him forget whatever it was he had been going to say.