by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next   

    Aragorn concentrated on breathing, trying to shut out the pain.   He needed to get loose and get them out of here.  Doriflen was right about one thing: he had no intention of waiting for that madman to return.
    “Legolas?”  Aragorn twisted in his bonds and kneeled next to the post, carefully easing his wounded leg out from under him.  He leaned forward to try to catch a glimpse of the elf’s face but the prince’s hair had fallen over his shoulders, concealing his features where he hung. “Legolas!  Come on, wake up.”  The ranger glanced at the elf’s back and drew his breath in in a sharp hiss.  Legolas’ back was welted and bruised.  Burn marks lacerated his skin in odd patterns.  “Damn, what did he do to you?” 
    His binds weren’t as tight as they should have been and the human began to work the rope back and forth against itself, straining at the knots until they began to ease up.  He ignored the ache in his wrists as the rough hemp dug into his skin.  Grabbing one of the loops with his teeth he pulled the knot slowly apart.  Within moments his hands were free and he rubbed them gently, trying to ease the pain his escape had caused.
    Silently he moved in front of Legolas and awkwardly crouched down near the elf.  Slowly easing his hands up the sides of the elf’s face he tipped the prince’s head back, brushing the long strands of hair easily out of the way.
    “I have to get you out of here,” he whispered to his unconscious friend.
    He had no weapons and none had been left in the room.  Legolas, unlike himself, had been staked between the two poles and secured with manacles that were attached to the wood.  Frantically he searched the ground for something, anything to help him free the elf.  His fingers closed about a small thin tine.  Doriflen had dropped one of the tiny torture devices earlier and hadn’t noticed its absence.  The spoke’s needle-tipped point was perfect for picking the locks on the manacles.
    Limping back to the post, Aragorn attacked the locks desperately.  The small spine was perfect and Legolas’ right wrist fell free of its bondage.  The elf crashed to the ground, suspended by his left arm only.
    Aragorn quickly moved around the prince and picked him up off the floor.  Gently, the ranger rested the elf’s head on his shoulder, pulling his friend against him, trying to ease the pressure to his still manacled wrist.  Aragorn carefully brushed away the blonde stands of hair that fell into his eyes so he could concentrate more easily on the lock.  He could feel Legolas’ light, shallow breathing as he held the unconscious elf, and he hoped that his friend would be all right.  The seconds dragged by as the ranger fought with the cuff. It seemed as if it took forever for the lock to release its hold on Legolas.  Limply, the prince leaned into the human as Aragorn compensated for the extra weight, pulling them both unsteadily into a standing position.
    Bending down, Aragorn tucked his head against Legolas’ side and shifted the elf onto his shoulder, holding the prince’s legs as he stiffly stood from the crouched position. His wounded leg buckled under him, threatening to collapse and send them both back to the floor but the ranger quickly shifted his weight and was able to maintain his balance.  He limped towards the opening of the room and peeked around the corner, glancing both ways.
    No one was around and no sounds echoed through the passage.  Carefully and quietly he edged out into the hallway and moved back up towards what he hoped was Thranduil’s main palace and somewhere familiar where he could hide.  He needed to find a place out of the way, someplace safe so he could see to Legolas’ wounds and his own.
    He walked uneasily up the tunnel and through a doorway that looked as if it had been recently made in the wall that he walked through.  Rubble and stones littered the floor as he moved through the opening but he didn’t take the time to ponder what it meant. Moving into a passageway that he recognized from previous visits he passed a storage room, marking the door in his mind and continued on.  Testing the doorways along the way the ranger kept searching for any place where they would be unnoticed.  Legolas’ weight under normal circumstances would be a small thing to deal with, but with the wound to his thigh, Aragorn was almost out of strength to continue their flight. He grimaced in frustration, realizing that was exactly what Doriflen had in mind – to cripple him.
    He pressed in a door on his left. The dark room was barely lit but for a tiny shaft that cut through the rock to the surface.  The sounds of water dripping somewhere in the recesses sounded oddly in his ears and the room was filled with a moldy scent.  There was no telling how long the chamber had been left unattended, unopened, overlooked.  Crates lined the walls and stacked in rows into the interior of the room.  It was perfect.  They could hide behind the boxes and never be seen.
    Glancing back down the hall to see if their escape had been noticed, Aragorn edged into the room and quietly shut the door behind him, throwing the bolt in place.  He squeezed between the boxes and pressed for the back of the spacious closet.  Water dripped down the wall of the limestone, ponding in a small pool before leaking out a crack in the floor.  It was here near the back wall that he finally dropped painfully to his knees and lowered Legolas gently to the floor, careful not to let the prince fall on his wounded back.  He propped the elf against a nearby stack of boxes and quickly shrugged out of his overcoat, laying the long leather jacket on the floor before easing Legolas stomach down onto the worn coat.  He gently pulled the elf’s arms out from under him, trying his best to make the prince more comfortable.
    It was cool in the chamber. Aragorn rose unsteadily to his feet, stepping towards the crates hoping that there would be something useful in them.  The first carton produced nothing he could use and he dug into the next one.  There were furs stuffed into the wooden box and below them was a bolt of fine cotton spun for dressmaking – it would do.  He pulled the furs out and stacked them near Legolas’ head, dragging the cotton down with him as he re-seated himself next to the unconscious elf.  His fingers shook slightly as he brushed locks of stray hair away from Legolas’ face.
    “Legolas?”  Aragorn bent close to the elf and stared at the pale face.  The prince did not move.  He placed his hand gently between the elf’s bare shoulders, careful of the red welts that decorated his back, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine now.  I just have to get you cleaned up.”  He quickly began tearing the cotton into strips.  Dipping one length into the pooling water behind him, he cleaned the ugly burn marks on his friend’s back, gently removing the ash and soot left by the burning tines.
    His own leg had begun to throb unmercifully and he grabbed a length of the fabric and wrapped it tightly around his thigh, stopping the blood flow and closing off the wound.  With that taken care of Aragorn turned his attention back to Legolas.  The elf was breathing more easily now and the ranger began to carefully clean the deep, bruising welts that crossed his back and wrapped around his ribs.  He hissed in sympathy as a soft moan escaped the prince. “I’m sorry, Legolas.  Shhh...I’ll be more careful.” He quieted the elf, gently laying his hand on Legolas’ head and speaking softly.
    When the elf’s wounds had been seen to, Aragorn bound the worst of them with strips of cloth and laid a barrier of the fabric over the prince’s back before piling the furs on top of his friend to keep him warm.  He sat for moments in the dark silence, closing his eyes and just allowing the stress of the whole day to roll off of him.  He hadn’t realized that Doriflen was quite as mad as he was.  The elf truly was insane. Pushing himself stiffly to his feet he limped to the door and cracked the entry slightly open.  He needed to find some clothing for Legolas and some food for both of them.  It wouldn’t be much longer before Doriflen’s men found that they had escaped and came looking for them.
    There were no sounds in the long passage and he crept out of his hiding place, stealing back down to the storeroom he remembered passing earlier.  Aragorn was relieved when the door opened with no resistance.  He pressed inside and quickly rifled through the provisions stacked there.  Dried venison was stuffed into his pocket and he grabbed a small stack of newly prepared tunics on his way back out.  He moved quickly towards the room where he had left Legolas, surprised and grateful that their absence had gone unnoticed thus far.
    Stealing back into the forgotten storage room that served as their hiding place, Aragorn quietly shut and locked the door behind him, sliding the bolt into place so the door could not be opened from the outside.
    He was taken off guard as someone lunged at him from behind.  His attacker grabbed his head, one hand under his chin forcing the ranger’s head painfully to the side, a slight twist emphasized his captor’s seriousness and he groaned softly against the abuse.
    “Where have you taken him?” a dangerously low voice whispered in his ear.
    “Legolas?”  Aragorn glanced out of the corner of his eyes trying to get a look at the person behind him.
    “Aragorn?” The elf let up his strangle-hold on the human and staggered back.
    Turning quickly the ranger saw the way prince stumbled and he dropped the tunics, catching his friend before he fell. “What are you doing?”
    “I didn’t know who you were.”  Legolas grabbed onto the human, allowing the man to steer him to the back of the storeroom. “How did we get here?  Where are we?”
    “Calm down.”  The ranger gently seated his friend on the pile of discarded furs and gingerly knelt in front of him, careful of his own wounds.  He took the elf’s face in his hands and held him still, “We are safe for now. We are not far from where Doriflen kept us, but they will not suspect we are here.  I got us free and found some food and extra clothing.”
    Legolas eyes were huge in the semi-darkness as he listened to his friend. He wrapped his slender fingers around the man’s forearms, concerned about what may have happened after he passed out. “Did he hurt you? Did he torture you?”
    “I am fine.” Aragorn smiled at the worried elf, “I got a little scratch that is all.”  He glanced down at his leg, a crimson stain had spread across the lightly colored fabric that he had bound the wound with and he grimaced slightly.
    Legolas followed his glance and started. “That is no scratch Strider!”
    “Hey!” The human whispered fiercely at the elf, redirecting his attention. “It’s fine.” He emphasized his words slowly and nodded his head at the prince.  “You are the one I am worried about.”  He carefully pulled the elf forward, allowing his friend to lean against him as he inspected the wounds on the elf’s back once more. “What did he do to you, Legolas?”
    The prince closed his eyes tightly shut and shook his head, moving away from the ranger.  Tears spilled over the brims of his eyelids and he pressed his fists hard against his eyes trying to shut out the emotions, trying to suppress the images and the pain.  He felt like an idiot for being this weak, but no longer seemed able to control himself.  Memories from his childhood mingled with the present and made everything harder.
    “No. It’s all right.” Aragorn pulled the elf against him and held him there until he stilled.
    “It’s not all right.”  Legolas didn’t move, he just relaxed against his friend. “He said he did the same thing to my father only...” the elf’s words choked in a sob and he stopped speaking.  Aragorn shut his eyes tightly trying to control his hatred for the elf that had done these things.  Legolas continued softly, “He said he did the same thing to my father, only worse.” The words were barely a whisper. 
    “Legolas, I am so sorry.”  Aragorn tried to comfort the prince, “We’ll find your father I promise and together we’ll take back the throne.  He won’t hurt any of you again.”
    There was no response from the prince and Aragorn gently pushed him back to stare into the glazed silvery blue eyes.  “Hey, you with me?”
    Legolas nodded slightly and met his friend’s gaze. When he smiled Aragorn pulled him back towards him, resting his forehead lightly against the elf’s as he spoke, “I brought food and clothing.  Let’s rest up here for a bit and then we can go find your father.  Sound good?”
    The elf nodded against him and finally returned the smile.
    Aragorn stood to his feet to retrieve the bundle of tunics he had dropped, when the door was roughly jerked against its bolt from the outside.  He crouched back down next to Legolas and peered around the crates.  The sounds of conversation could just barely be heard beyond the heavy door.    
    “It’s locked.”
    “Break it in then!” Doriflen’s angry voice could be heard yelling above that of his men.
    “Begging your pardon my lord, but that door is always locked.  A cave-in caused by an earth shake sealed it off. The room hasn’t been accessible in years.”
    Legolas stared at Aragorn in surprise.  The voice of the elf that had just spoken belonged to Brenyf, captain of Raniean’s guard.  He had just lied to Doriflen. The two escapees held their breath, hoping it would work.
    It was quiet for several moments out in the corridor, “Very well, move on. But find them or it will be you I put in those stocks!” Doriflen screamed at the guards as they moved off down the hall.  He slammed his fist hard against the locked door before stalking away.
    Aragorn let his breath out in a rush as the hall outside quieted once more.  He glanced at Legolas as the elf sat back down, closing his eyes and breathing heavily.  It had been very close, but Brenyf had just bought them a few extra hours.
    Shakily, Aragorn stood once more to his feet and retrieved the tunics he had dropped near the door.  He pulled out the venison and handed a few strips to the prince as he reseated himself, unwadding the clothing and looking it over.
    He passed a dark green under-tunic and a darker brown over-shirt to the prince. “These look to be your size.”
    Legolas took the proffered shirts and laid them in his lap, tearing off a bite of venison.
    “You are shivering,”  the elf observed.
    “No. I think that last encounter just shook me up a bit.”
    “No, you are shivering.” Legolas laughed lightly at the ranger's denial and pulled a fur out from under him where he sat, passing it to the human.
    Gratefully Aragorn wrapped the fur around his shoulder and nodded, rolling his eyes. “Fine. I was shivering.”
    “I know these things.”  Legolas took another bite of the jerky.
    “Oh yeah, you know everything.”
    They both laughed lightly, the tension easing as their safety, momentary though it was, settled in.
    “Well there are some things I don’t know,” Legolas responded softly.  His eyes drifted down to the fur beneath him as his thoughts drifted to his father once more.
    “Why don’t you get some rest?”  Aragorn reached out and touched the prince’s shoulder gently. “Get into that clothing and rest a bit. I’ll stay up and watch.”
    “No. Strider, we need to press on. Who knows what that madman is doing or has done to my father? We need to find him.”
    Aragorn held the elf’s gaze unwaveringly. “I agree, but not with Doriflen’s men hunting us.  We are safe now.” He kept talking as Legolas tried to interrupt, “Your father would want you to stay that way and besides,” he smiled wickedly at his friend, “I am not carrying you another step of the way!”
    Legolas laughed and shook his head, stiffly shrugging into the tunics Aragorn had brought him.  “Very well.  You have a point.”
    The ranger leaned carefully back against the stone wall, as his friend gingerly laid down on the furs, easing onto his stomach with a soft groan.  The man draped a thick fur across the elf’s shoulders. “Sleep, Legolas. I’ll wake you.”
    With a slight nod the elf fell fast asleep, the stress from his wounds and the abuse to his body overriding his desire to begin the search for his father.  Strider was right. It would do no good to be recaptured, for Doriflen would not allow them a second chance at life. 


    “Show me where it was that Doriflen kept us.”  Legolas glanced back at Aragorn as the man quietly closed the door of the storage room behind them.  They had sheltered in the forgotten closet for a few hours while the prince regained some of his strength, but he had grown anxious to find his father and they had heard no sounds in the hallway for quite some time.  Thinking the passage safe, they set out to find King Thranduil.
    “I am not going back there,” Aragorn whispered fiercely, glancing over his shoulder as they stalked cautiously back into the bowels of the palace.
    He bumped into Legolas who had stopped and was glaring at the human. “Strider, that room that my uncle had us in...” He thought through all his long years in the palace halls, shaking his head softly. “I have never been there before and yet Doriflen claimed we were just beyond the storage rooms.  There is nothing beyond the storage rooms. They are a dead end.”
    “They aren’t a dead end any more.” Aragorn edged around the elf and took point, leading them towards the storage area.  “You'll hate it in there.”  The ranger glanced back at the elf with a cryptic smile on his face.
    “What does that mean?”
    “Well for a race that hates caves you sure have carved out a series of tunnels that resembles them quite well.”  Aragorn turned left at fork in the hallway and stepped cautiously back into the room with the broken wall.
    “Strider!”  Legolas glanced at the high, airy shafts that decorated the tunnels they walked in, lighting the large passages and causing the white stone walls to seem more spacious than they were.  “This is my home.  How can you possibly compare the palace to a cave?!”
    Turning back towards the prince, Aragorn stopped him.  “You haven’t seen it down there. I have.  Whatever that section of the palace is, it’s not like here.”  He waved his hand above them indicating the air and light vents.  “It’’s evil Legolas. It’s dark.”  He was frowning as he thought about the tunnels he had passed through on his way out of the lower dungeons.  Casting his eyes to the back of the storage room they stood in he quietly continued, “Come on, you'll see.”
    Stepping around the supplies that commandeered most of the space in the small room Aragorn pressed towards the back wall.  He picked his way around the rocks and debris that littered the back half of the room. The huge break in the wall, obscured from view by the crates and boxes, loomed darkly in front of them.
    Legolas stopped walking and carefully looked over the ragged hole that had been made in what he had always been certain was nothing more than a dead end.  He fingered the jagged edges of the makeshift door that had been broken into the wall.  The soft rock that had concealed the passage easily crumbled in his hands, nothing more than a well concealed patch.  The floor beneath his feet was littered with rocks and rubble and he looked about him in confusion.
    “What is this place?”  He turned huge, confused eyes on the man that stood quietly off to the side, listening for any sounds of approach.
    “I don’t know.” Aragorn shook his head.  If Legolas did not recognize it, then certainly the human had no idea.
    Anger flared through the prince, igniting his resolve with hot flame.  “We have to find my father.  Doriflen must have known about these tunnels all along.  There is no telling what else he has done to the kingdom.”
    “Legolas...” Aragorn’s arm on the elf’s sleeve caused the prince to glance back at the human. “It truly is more like a cave than your home,” he tried to warn his friend.
    With a slight nod the elf stepped into the passageway behind the storage room.  Indeed the ranger had been correct.  Here the air and light vents were few and far in between.  The air was old and held a slightly stale scent to it that he had not noticed when he had been with Doriflen.  The walls and floor were rougher. They did not resemble the smooth, fair quality of workmanship that the elves were famous for and Legolas found himself halting quickly after he walked only a short way.  It was true, the very place felt as though a great evil had been worked here, whether recent or simply a remnant of another age, the elf could not tell.
    “You are right Strider.”  Legolas glanced about them in the dank passage, “It is more like a cave, like the passages in Eowioriand.  But... but I have never heard of this place.  Why would it not...”  His words were cut short as Aragorn grabbed him, shushing him quickly and dragged him farther into the strange tunnel. 
    He pressed himself into a deep recess, pulling Legolas back with him and turned his back to the hallway, hoping his dark overcoat would blend in with the blackness around them. “Someone approaches.”  The ranger whispered quietly into the elf’s ear.
    Legolas listened, throwing his awareness out into the hall behind them.  Sounds of hurried footsteps reverberated on the rocky floor and voices floated to them.
    “I don’t care what you heard. The king and his son are not returning.  Doriflen is your master now. You would do well to obey him,” a harsh voice warned.
    “I will never call him lord.” Another answered in an icy, clipped tone.
    “Listen to him,” a voice that held ages of weariness interrupted the conversation, “It is not wise to cross Doriflen.  You will not survive it.  Just do as he says and ask no questions. Come on now, all of you.  Let's collect those supplies Lord Doriflen asked for and leave this place. I do not like the way it feels here.”
    Their voices grew distant as they passed on through another adjacent tunnel, oblivious to the presence of the escaped prisoners.
    Aragorn let out a deep sigh of relief - it had been so close.
    “Did you hear what they said?”  Legolas stared down the passageway.
    “I did. But it’s a lie.”  The ranger tangled his fingers in the sleeve of the prince’s tunic and pulled him in the opposite direction. “Come on, I’ll show you that room.”

    Legolas stared hard at the two pillars that decorated the now empty chamber.  Dried blood on the ground had stained the roughed rock a dark ominous color.  He swallowed hard, knowing the black drops that stained the floor had come from him.  He couldn’t repress the shiver that overtook him as he thought back on his time here.
    “Let us be gone from this place.  It is not good to be here.”  Aragorn stood near the rear exit.  He glanced back in at his friend, following the elf’s gaze to the reminders of his torment.  “Look! There is another entire section of passages that lead off from this one.  Let us try some of them. It may be that we will find your father there.”
    Legolas nodded absently. The whole turn of events was almost more than he could handle.  His father had been taken hostage by his uncle, an elf known for his cruelty, and was being held somewhere in a labyrinth of tunnels that the prince had never even known existed.  Everything was wrong and he had no idea if he would ever be able to right it again.
    The elf turned to follow but was stopped as a dark figure filled the doorway behind him.  Legolas swiveled on his boot heels in time to see the captain of Doriflen’s guard step into the room. Surprise was written on the guard’s face as he took in Mirkwood’s prince unbound and ready to flee.  “Stop!” he yelled at them before leaning back into the hallway and calling for help.
    Legolas fled out the back door, grabbing Aragorn and pushing the human in front of him.  “We have been found!” he explained as he pelted up the passage, adrenaline lacing like fire in his veins.  He had no wish to be caught by that madman who called himself his relative.
    The ranger ran behind him, slowed by the injury to his leg.  Spurred by the sounds of their pursuers he did not relent to the deep ache the wound caused him as he followed the prince through the unfamiliar halls, weaving in and out of different rooms, both large and small.  The interconnecting tangle of passages confused the human, but he would rather be lost in the bowels of Mirkwood’s palace than be caught by their tormenter.
    Aragorn raced down the darkened tunnel that Legolas had turned into, the injury to his leg was causing him to move more slowly and stiffly now.  He grew frustrated with himself as the elf rounded a corner out of sight ahead of him.
    “Legolas, wait up!” the ranger called down the hallway.
    The prince skidded to a stop and ran back towards his friend, “Strider, are you are all right?”
    “Yes.”  The human had stopped and was standing in the middle of the hall.  He bent over and gripped his thigh hard above his knee trying to still the pain. “It just aches. I can’t keep up.”
    “Alright, slower then, but we must leave this area.”  The elf cast his eyes behind the man and listened intently down the tunnel. “We are not safe here.  Doriflen’s men are still near.”  Legolas stepped forward, intending to help Aragorn, allowing the human to lean on him, but a low grinding noise stopped him as the shriek of metal on rock filled the shaft and an iron gate fell between them, its pointed tips driving hard into the stone floor.
    Legolas barely had time to move out of the way before the grate clanged down against the stone, separating him from the human.
    Aragorn lunged forward, grabbing the steel bars with his hands.  He pressed his body against the gate and tried to move the obstruction up.  Legolas threw himself against the metal bars on his side and added his strength, but the steel door didn’t budge.
    The sounds of feet running in the hallway behind Aragorn echoed along the stone shaft.  The ranger glanced behind him, there was no way out.  Legolas reached frantically through the bars, grabbing the human’s tunic.
    Panic swept through his heart as Strider turned back to the elf. He pulled away from his friend’s grip and shoved the prince backwards away from the gate, “Go!”
    When Legolas didn’t move, the man grabbed the bars and pressed his face closely against them, whispering fiercely at the elf, “Go, Legolas!  Get out of here.  They can’t get you again.”  Aragorn knew that Legolas was the one Doriflen really wanted, and the young ranger couldn’t stand the thought of having to watch Doriflen get another chance to visit his cruelty upon the prince.
    “I can’t leave you.”  Legolas shook his head vigorously, desperately searching for some way that they could both get out of this together.  He couldn’t let Aragorn be retaken! Who knew what twisted things his uncle would find to do to the ranger?  For no other reason than because he was Legolas’ friend!  Anguish squeezed the elf’s heart tight as he tugged desperately at the bars separating them.  It was to no avail.  
    “You can’t stay.  Quickly, before they find us.”  Aragorn’s eyes were huge as he begged his friend; he fought the fear that pounded at his heart with every beat.  His captors were almost upon them. “Please go.”
    Legolas stepped forward, pressing his forehead against the steel bars, barely touching Aragorn’s. He wrapped his hands behind the ranger’s head and held the man against him for a second, closing his eyes as he fought the despair in his heart.  He couldn’t believe this.  Not again.  Not again!  It reminded him of Moria all over... his friend was trapped and he had no choice but to abandon him to what he knew was going to be a cruel fate.  The prince had sworn he’d never be in this position again, he had sworn it!  Legolas felt helpless, anguished frustration sting his eyes. 
    Aragorn’s hands gripped his forearms tightly. “Go!  Please, Legolas,” he whispered once more.
    “I’ll be back, my friend,” the elf’s voice was strained. “I promise.”
    Aragorn nodded against him, closing his eyes as Doriflen’s men rounded the bend in the passage behind him. “Just make it soon.”  His voice trembled as he pushed himself away from Legolas and spun around, pressing his back against the metal door. If they wanted him, they would have to take him, for he wouldn’t go willingly.  He heard Legolas pelt up the passageway as the warriors fanned out in front of him. One of them leaned around to catch a glimpse of the elf prince as he passed out of sight.
    “You’ll come along with us now,” Amon, the captain of the guard, threatened.
    “I don’t think so.” Aragorn’s voice was hard and dangerous as he viciously quashed the fear racing around inside him.
    The commander of the elves laughed slightly, “Oh really?  You want it to be rough then?  Lord Doriflen is waiting for you.  He won’t tolerate your tardiness.”
    “Lord Doriflen can sleep in Gorgoroth for all I care. I am not going with you.” The ranger stepped into a defensive posture and balanced his weight, ignoring the pain that shot up his leg; he had no intention of making his recapture easy on the elves at all.

First > Previous > Next