Black Breath


by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next   

    The foul troop halted several hours later.  Legolas’ back was placed against a tree and he was forced to sit at its base while his arms were tied behind him, around its trunk. 
    Presently the Nazgûl approached him, crouching down in front of the elf.  He held a long, dark-bladed, evil-looking knife in his gloved hands.  Holding it up where the prince could see it, he twirled it lightly between his fingers.
    “Do you know what happens to mortals when their hearts are pierced with a morgul blade?” the Witch King inquired somewhat tauntingly, like a cat with a plaything. 
    Legolas did, but he said nothing.  He wouldn’t play the evil one’s game.
    “They fade.  They become as myself, neither living nor dead, bound to the will of the mighty one I serve,” the wraith placed the tip of the dagger lightly against Legolas’ chest.
    “Not so an immortal,” Legolas said coldly.  “The Firstborn do not fade, nor do we serve the dark power, ever.”
    “No, no, you are right, more’s the pity,” the Nazgûl admitted.  “My blade would kill you, but it would not turn you.  However... there may be other ways.  You will serve me in the end.”
    Legolas’ hard gaze turned even icier. “I will never serve you.”
    “So you think,” the wraith’s voice held cruel amusement.  He let his knife drift along Legolas’ chest until it came to rest against his blood soaked shoulder.  The wraith pushed Legolas’ bloody tunic off his shoulder, cutting away the fabric that did not give and revealing the wound.  His actions were un-gentle and Legolas flinched slightly in pain. 
    The elf did not know what the Nazgûl intended, but was taken by surprise when the wraith thrust his blade into the open wound, widening and deepening the injury. 
    Legolas cried out in surprise and pain as the evil knife cut deeper into his flesh.
    The wraith seemed pleased with his work, and presently withdrew his blade. 
    Fresh red blood ran down Legolas’ shoulder and he felt almost dizzy with pain.  He closed his eyes for a moment, attempting to calm himself.  When something pressed against his injury, his eyes popped open again and he found that the wraith was applying some kind of poultice to him, but something about it felt wrong, incredibly wrong.  Whatever the Nazgûl was working into his wound was evil and done with evil intent. 
    Legolas struggled, wincing at the fiery pain blossoming in his shoulder as the wraith forced the dark concoction down into the elf’s wound.  The poultice burned like fire and bit like steel and the elf had to clench his teeth tightly to keep from making any sound.  A cold, icy dizziness swept over Legolas as the wraith’s potion worked its way into his bloodstream, assaulting his mind and making his body scream at the evil intrusion.  After a few minutes, Legolas blacked out, his exhausted body unable to handle whatever was being done to it.
    The Nazgûl continued to work over the unconscious elf.  He had been wanting to test this new evil on someone and the elf was the perfect subject.  If he could subdue a strong will such as this, then weaker ones would crumble before him like dust.  It was going to take time to bend the elf to his will.  Time, and much pain on the elf’s part, but he would see it done.  Since the forging of the One Ring, no elf had ever walked in the service of the Dark Lord.  The wraith intended to change that.  He looked down at Legolas’ unconscious form with a cruel gaze.  “Soon you will serve me, elf, whether you desire it or not.  Soon.” 


    Aragorn held his bow strung and ready as he crouched in the underbrush.  Something approached and he waited patiently for it to enter the clearing that he had covered in his sites. 
    The young ranger had expected a deer or even a boar, for he and his brothers were on a hunting party after all, but what came into the clearing instead surprised him. 
    A young woman with auburn hair and a bundle in her arms stumbled into the view through the trees.  A few steps closer and Aragorn could see that the bundle was a baby.  The young mother’s face was drawn and pale.  She looked nearly ready to drop. 
    Aragorn sprung quickly from his hiding place. It was obvious that the girl needed help. 
    Maraen was not prepared for his sudden appearance and stumbled back with a small cry of fear, bumping into a tree behind her.  Clutching her baby tightly she sank wearily to her knees.  She had been wandering for a long time now in the wilderness.  She didn’t even know how long she had been out here because somehow it seemed as if she had lost time somewhere... and her sense of direction had been unclear ever since then, although she attributed the haze to the stress of the birth of her daughter, an event she could only dimly recall. It had been weeks now since Estelle was born and Maraen had woken up in the woods confused, disoriented and completely lost. By this time she had almost given up hope of ever making it out alive.
    “Don’t hurt us, please,” she whispered, pressing her eyes closed and hunching over her baby.  She felt ill and a perpetual chill that even the bright sunshine could not drive away clung to her like evening mists.
    Aragorn crouched next to her, laying a gentle hand on the young girl’s shoulder.  He could tell that she was quite a bit younger than he.  “It’s all right, I’m not going to hurt you.  I want to help.  Who are you?  What are you doing way out here?”  The baby in her arms could not have been more than a few weeks old at most, yet the area they were in was almost completely unpopulated. Where had these two come from and why were they alone in this vast wilderness?  The questions concerned Aragorn.
    “My name is Maraen.  O-orcs destroyed our village, higher up in the mountains.  M-My husband and I were trying to get away... but I-I fear they got him too,” the woman seemed too emotionally drained and too ill to even cry, but her voice held her anguish.  “I-I’ve been lost out here forever... I don’t even know how long...”  There was more.  She felt like there was more, but she could not remember it if there was. 
    Aragorn squeezed her shoulder comfortingly.  It was amazing that they had survived as long as they had.  “Come, you need food, shelter and rest.  Rivendell is less than a day’s travel from here; let me take you there.  You and your child will be safe.”
    Maraen nodded slowly.  “Thank you,” she whispered as he helped her to her feet.
    Elladan and Elrohir came upon them then and glanced inquiringly between the woman and child and their younger brother.
    “Well, Estel, this is an unusual catch you’ve bagged,” Elrohir joked with a smile. 
    Aragorn rolled his eyes.  “She’s ill and in need of shelter and rest.  I’m taking her back to Rivendell.”
    “We will come as well,” the twin elves agreed, but Maraen was looking strangely at Aragorn.
    “He called you Estel,” she said softly.  “That means hope... doesn’t it?”
    Aragorn stopped, a puzzled look on his face.  “Yes it does, but how did you know that?”  Most humans had a very minimal grasp of elvish.
    Maraen glanced down at the sleeping child in her arms and a real smile touched her weary face for a moment.  “Her name is Estelle.”
    “A beautiful name for a beautiful child,” Elladan said softly, as he and Elrohir exchanged covertly questioning glances.  It was an unusual name for a human to give to a child. 
    Aragorn too was a little surprised to hear the female form of his own elven name.  “You know elvish, Maraen?”
    The woman shook her head blankly.  “No.  No, someone else told me what it meant...” Her brows furrowed as she tried to remember who, but her memories were hazy and slid uncertainly through her fingers when she tried to grasp them.  She wavered slightly on her feet, dark spots dancing before her eyes.  “I-I can’t remember who...” she nearly swooned, but Aragorn caught her.  Elladan and Elrohir hurried over to help their brother.  Elladan took Maraen from his younger brother, gathering the young girl up in his arms, while Aragorn took the baby from her mother’s limp grasp.  Elrohir hurried to get their horses.
    Elladan shook his head as he shifted the girl’s weight in his arms.  “She’s burning up. We have to get her home as quickly as possible or I fear she will not live.”
    Elrohir came back with the horses and they mounted up.  Elladan kept Maraen’s unconscious form with him on his horse while Aragorn held Estelle carefully in one arm, holding his reins in the other.  He realized that the child wasn’t even swaddled in a proper blanket, but wrapped in a fleece-lined leather vest.  It was obviously a man’s vest and Aragorn wondered somewhat sadly if it had belonged to the child’s father.  He knew what it was to lose parents before you were even old enough to remember them.  “Don’t worry, little one,” he whispered as they rode hard for home.  “We won’t let your mother go too, not if we can help it.” 


    Legolas resisted the urge to moan.  Even opening his eyelids hurt.  For almost three weeks he had done nothing but endure the slow, poisonous torture that the ringwraith had seen fit to put him through.  They traveled but little, since in these initial stages Legolas was left too weak to walk very far and the Nazgûl was directing most of his strength and attention at overcoming the elf’s will.
    Outside, the elf prince refused to give any quarter that he could not help giving.  Inside, Legolas was terrified because he felt as if he were losing himself slowly.  A shadow was creeping into his thoughts and his mind and although it could not own his spirit because he was not choosing it, it was wearing away at his will and seeking to take control of his body away from him.  And it was working.
    He realized that in some way the Nazgûl was indeed trying to turn him into a wraith of sorts, and the thought horrified the elf more than any other could have. 
    Until he had him completely under his control, the Witch King made sure that Legolas was kept bound and under guard at all times.  It wasn’t so much that he doubted the elf’s word that he would stay, but he knew that now that the fair being was aware of what he was trying to do to him, it was very likely that Legolas would prefer to choose death at his own hand rather than life as a servant of Mordor. 
    Legolas tried not to flinch as his black-robed torturer knelt over him again.  He knew what would come, but couldn’t help jerking in pain when the foul potion was applied to him yet again.  Each time it left him weaker and weaker.  The elf did not know how much longer he was going to be able to fight the doom that was coming for him.
    When it was over, the prince felt dizzy and ill.  He could barely move on his own and each breath was beginning to feel like an unbearable agony. 
    “Who is your master?” the wraith demanded, fixing Legolas’ clouded eyes with a piercing stare.  He was not pleased with how long the elf had been resisting him.
    Legolas did not answer but turned his head away. 
    The Nazgûl grabbed the elf’s chin between the spiked fingers of his glove and forced the prince to look at him.  “Who is your master?!”
    “I have... no master,” Legolas forced out around the shrieking protest of the darkness that was growing inside him. 
    The wraith slapped his head to the side.  This was not going well.  The elf should have been his by now.  Rising in cold anger, the Nazgûl summoned the captain of the orcs under his control.  “Tell your men that I’ve decided to let them have a little fun with the prisoner,” he said harshly, glancing down at the bound elf.  “They can have their sport, but be sure that they do not damage him severely, or permanently.  Just teach him a lesson.”
    “Yes, sir,” the orc captain grinned evilly.
    Legolas swallowed hard, trying to still his trembling body.  He was trapped in hell and there seemed to be no way out.  He wondered if anyone would ever know what had happened to him. 


    “Is she going to be all right?” Aragorn inquired of his adopted father with concern as the elf lord emerged from the guestroom where Maraen had been laid. 
    Elrond nodded, but his eyes were lost in thought.  “She is awake, but incredibly weak.  Some of the ladies are still with her.  She was severely dehydrated and I doubt she has eaten in a long time. It’s amazing her body found anything to give her child at all, but the daughter seems to have fared better than the mother.  Her fever comes from not being properly cared for after childbirth, but we have caught it in time and she will be all right.  However...” he shook his head slowly.  “That is not the sole cause of her illness.  I see on her a shadow that I do not understand.  She has been touched by an evil far greater than she should have had to cross, I fear, but how or why... I know not.”
    “And the baby?” Aragorn inquired, deeply troubled.  This young woman seemed full of mysteries. 
    “I am on my way to check on the little one now,” Elrond said as they walked down the hall together.  “Telwen is looking after her and I believe your brothers are down there as well.  She is being well cared for I think,” he grinned slightly.  “It has been a long time since there has been a baby in this house.”  The elf lord glanced fondly at his youngest son. 
    Celboril approached them and they paused to hear his message. “Lord Elrond, visitors from Mirkwood are here to see you,” the elf reported.
    “Oh?” Elrond queried. 
    Celboril nodded.  “Two warriors, one is very short.  They are looking for Prince Legolas, I believe.”
    “It must be Raniean and Trelan,” Aragorn surmised, remembering Legolas’ friends quite well.  Trelan was about the only elf he could think of that ever fit the description of being short, although he had enough fire in his blood to more than make up for his size.  Why they would be looking for Legolas immediately concerned the ranger.
    Aragorn had actually been planning on going to Mirkwood to seek out Legolas and let the prince know personally that he was well.  The elf had not returned yet as he had promised and Aragorn was well enough to travel now.  He had intended to leave after the hunt, if they were successful, but it seemed as the though the turn of events had conspired against him.
    “Then you can greet them for me, my son,” Elrond told Aragorn.  “I will be there presently, but I wish to see the child first and be sure that she is all right.”
    Aragorn nodded and followed Celboril away.  True to his suspicion, it was Raniean and Trelan who waited for him in the audience hall.  They traded warm welcomes and greetings, but the eyes of the two Wood-elves were troubled. 
    “King Thranduil was concerned,” Raniean explained, but Aragorn could see in the elf’s eyes that the king was not the only one.  “According to the last word we received Legolas is long overdue.  We thought to meet him on the road perhaps... but we did not.  We were hoping that he had merely extended his visit again without informing us.  He did not attend the yèn celebration.”  The warrior was trying to remain light and hide the true depth of his concern, but Aragorn could see through that.  Worry gripped his own heart.  There was no reason that they should not have met Legolas on the path, indeed, no reason that the elf prince should not have already made it home. 
    “Legolas left here almost a month ago specifically to attend the celebration, I thought him safely home by now.” Deep concern flashed in the ranger’s dark eyes.  "I was coming to visit in the next few days when we have had some unexpected guests whose arrival changed those plans.  I had wanted to tell Legolas myself that I was all right.
    By the looks on their faces, Aragorn could tell that that was not what the prince’s friends had wanted to hear. 
    “Then I fear something grave has befallen him,” Raniean said softly.  “They were to send out runners after us if he arrived after we had left. None have come and I do not think it likely that we could have missed him on the road.  There is only one safe path between Mirkwood and Rivendell.”
    “Strider, we would speak to Lord Elrond if we could,” Trelan requested.
    Aragorn nodded, his heart beginning to spin with gnawing fear.  “Of course, come, I’ll take you to him right away.” 

    They found Elrond still with baby Estelle and his sons.  The elf lord held the wee babe cradled in one arm and was speaking to her softly, his ancient face gentle as the little one gazed up at him with huge, innocent eyes.  Elrond looked up when Aragorn and the Wood-elves entered and the looks on the threesome’s faces instantly told him that something was wrong. 
    “Father, Legolas never made it back to Mirkwood and Raniean and Trelan did not meet him on the road,” Aragorn informed quickly, not waiting for pleasantries. 
    Elladan and Elrohir stiffened visibly.  They had come to like the elf prince quite a bit and they knew how close Estel was to him. The news that he was missing was a hard blow, not made any easier by the fact that they had had to practically chase the elf prince out of Rivendell.
    “This is indeed grave news,” Elrond said seriously. 
    Telwen re-entered the room at that moment, having left in search of some proper clothing for the baby.  Elrond passed Estelle to her and the elf maiden removed the child from the vest she had been wrapped in these many days and slid her into a clean, new blanket.  Among other things the little girl would need a bath, but on the whole she seemed to have fared better than her mother and Elrond had only been able to sense the very slightest tinges of shadow around her.  It was still enough to be troubling however.
    “Ai!” Trelan reacted when he saw the discarded vest, snatching the article up and showing it to Raniean.  The warrior’s face reflected recognition and confusion.  “Where did you get this?” he asked the others in the room.
    “The baby was wrapped in it when we found her and her mother wandering around in the woods,” Aragorn said, puzzled.  “Why?”
    “Unless I’m very much mistaken, this belongs to Legolas,” Raniean explained slowly, turning the article of clothing over in his hands as if searching for something, stopping when he found it.  “See, here?” he pointed at a small crest emblazoned into the leather near the waistband.  It was easily missed if one didn’t know what to look for. 
    “That circle of leaves is the crest of King Thranduil’s house.  Only he and his heirs may wear it,” Trelan explained, but it was not necessary, almost everyone in the room already knew that.  Elrond certainly did, and even if he had not known what the crest meant, Aragorn had seen that particular device worked into most of Legolas’ clothing in one way or another and had thought it a design his friend must favor.
    “The question then is how did this baby come to be swaddled in an elven vest and given an elven name and yet her mother remembers none of it?” Elrond said after a moment of thought. 
    “The prince would not willingly abandon anyone he had taken under his care,” Raniean shook his head.  “If he aided this woman he would not have left her to wander the woods alone as you say you found her.  So then what happened?"
    “I think these are questions we had better put to Maraen,” Elrond said as he rose.  He knew he needed to get back to her anyway.  He was still greatly concerned about her state of being.
    At his father’s bidding, Elrohir stayed behind with Telwen and Estelle to keep watch on the child, because as slight as her brush with whatever darkness they were dealing with had been, Elrond did not wish her left alone until something could be done. 

    Elrond, Aragorn, Raniean, Elladan and Trelan made their way back up to the room in which Maraen lay resting.  Only it didn’t sound like she was resting when they arrived.
    Low, wailing cries assaulted their ears from half way up the hall and they hurried faster.  When they entered the room they found Maraen tossing and turning restlessly on the bed, emitting infrequent, keening cries.  The two elf maidens attending her were beside themselves with worry. 
    “Lord Elrond, thank goodness you’ve come. I was just about to send for you,” said one of the ladies as she rose with deep concern in her eyes as Elrond approached.  “She started acting like this about five minutes ago.  We can’t seem to get through to her.”
    “It’s all right, Eliwen. I’ll take over from here,” Elrond nodded quickly, dismissing them.  The elf maidens left and Elrond sat down on the edge of the bed, beside the young girl.  The others gathered around the bed, looking at the shaking, moaning girl with worry and alarm.
    “It’s as I feared,” the elf lord said with deep concern, smoothing the girl’s hair back from her clammy forehead and trying to still her trembling, convulsing body.  “The shadow is devouring her.  It is possible that it is also what was affecting her memory.”
    “You... I-I know you...” Maraen fixed fever-bright eyes upon Raniean, reaching out towards him for a moment before her arm fell limply back to her side.  The blonde elf reminded her of someone... another elf... but not the dark-haired elves of Rivendell who had been caring for her.  She tossed her head on her pillow with a small moan.  “No... no I don’t, not you...  where is he?  He said he wouldn’t leave me, he said he wouldn’t!” she continued to ramble deliriously, but Aragorn and the elves did not miss the implication of her words. 
    “Who said, Maraen?” Elrond asked gently, squeezing her shoulder in a calming manner and holding her hand.  “Who?”
    “E-elf...” she murmured, her face creasing with pain as if trying to remember actually hurt her.  “Beautiful elf.  Saved me... saved me from them... delivered my baby...” her words broke off in a small cry of pain as her body convulsed and she retreated back into the delirium that had her in its grasp. 
    “Orcs!” she cried in wide-eyed terror, her eyes springing open again.  She tried to push herself further back against the headboard of the bed, trembling with fear and illness.  Her face was wild and she was obviously not seeing anyone who was truly in the room.  “Orcs!” she half-screamed a second time.  “Don’t let them get my baby, don’t let them get my baby!!” she was nearly shrieking in hysteria. 
    Elladan and Aragorn helped Elrond restrain the delirious girl before she could do herself damage, gently trying to push her back onto the bed.  Whatever she had been through must have been horrible.
    “Shh, shh...  It’s all right child, it’s all right,” Elrond soothed reassuringly, reaching out to her with the power of the light that was within him and attempting to dispel the darkness around her, but the shadow was curiously strong.  Still, he had a calming effect on her and Maraen’s tense body relaxed a little bit as they laid her down again. 
    “Don’t let them get Estelle... Take her Legolas, run!” Maraen murmured in fevered exhaustion, dry sobs shaking her slim shoulders as she relieved the events that were still partially blocked from her full memory. 
    Everyone in the room stiffened at the mention of Legolas’ name.  They had already felt almost sure that the prince was the elf Maraen spoke of, but now there was no doubt.  Yet what had happened?  Where was he now and why had Aragorn found Maraen and the child alone?
    “No, no...” Maraen moaned softly, closing her eyes and clutching at her head. 
    Elrond softly told Elladan the things he needed and the younger elf hurried off to get them.  Elrond knew he was going to have to do something for Maraen soon or they would lose her, but he could not let go of her because at the moment he was about the only thing keeping her from disappearing into the shadow of madness and death that wanted to have her.
    “No, let him go!” Maraen’s eyes sprung open once more.  “Let him go!”  her eyes roved the room wildly.  “They took him,” she moaned.  “They took him.  It’s my fault.  They took him.  No, no, no, no, no....”
    Aragorn felt a cold sick feeling settle in his stomach.  The glance he exchanged with Raniean and Trelan told him they were feeling the same thing.  If Legolas had been taken by orcs... Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment, repressing evil memories with a shudder.  He knew first hand what that was like.  Yet how could he have been taken and Maraen escape?  It didn’t make sense. 
    Elladan re-entered the room with the things Elrond had requested.
    Without warning the girl’s body shuddered and went still.  Elrond rose quickly.  “She is not dead,” he answered the unspoken question.  “But she soon will be if the shadow upon her is not lifted.  I need everyone to leave so I can work.”
    They all obeyed immediately, but Elrond caught his youngest son’s arm.  “Not you, Estel, I want you to stay here with me.”
    “Yes, Father,” Aragorn nodded quickly.  He was glad to be able to help, but pained because he wanted to begin searching for his missing friend immediately. 
    “Patience, my son, all things in their time,” Elrond accurately read the young ranger’s heart.  “Right now we must be swift if Maraen is to have any hope.  Heat the water,” the elf lord instructed as he unrolled a cluster of herb leaves.  Aragorn recognized the plant as athelas, or kingsfoil in the common tongue.
    “Estel, I want you to pay attention to what I am going to show you,” Elrond said as he worked.  “This girl has been touched by a morgul darkness.  I know not how, but it is an evil that comes from Mordor in whatever form she encountered it.  The shadow must be driven away and she must be called back to the light before it is too late.”
    Aragorn nodded gravely, even if he did not completely understand what his father had just told him.  He watched as Elrond took the athelas leaves in his hand and breathed across them.  Crushing them and releasing their sweet, fragrant odor into the room, he threw them into the water.  Aragorn had seen his brothers do something similar for his father when Elrond had been injured in an earthquake some time ago, for the wholesome herbs cleaned the air and seemed to aid the healing of mind, body and spirit, but what Elrond did next was wholly new to Aragorn. 
    Bending over Maraen, Elrond took her hand again in both of his.  “Maraen, Maraen...” he called softly.  A call so compelling that Aragorn did not think any who heard could resist answering.  “Leave the shadow behind, child.  Be free.  Wander no more down the dark paths of forgetfulness and death, return to the light.  Return to your daughter whole.”
    Maraen stirred slightly and a faint smile brushed her lips as some of the lines began to ease from her young face. 
    Elrond stepped back, satisfied.  Squeezing her hand one more time he laid it back by her side.  “Rest then, young one, regain your strength.”
    Aragorn watched with wonder.  It was as if he could physically see the change come over her; see the darkness fleeing away as Maraen returned to herself.
    Elrond laid his hand upon his son’s shoulder.  “There are not many now who can dispel the morgul darkness when it falls upon someone, Estel.  Your brothers and I are some of the last.  But the reason I show you this is because you alone among the world of men have the ability do as I have just done, and someday my son, you may need it.”
    Aragorn regarded Elrond seriously.  “I don’t know that I could ever do that...” he whispered softly, looking at Maraen’s still form, so changed from what it had been just moments before. 
    Elrond shook his head.  “Do not underestimate yourself.  The power of the kings that runs in your blood is stronger than you know, son of Arathorn.” 


    Legolas wasn’t sure when his eyes were open and when they were closed.  Darkness seemed to be all around him now, his very being ached with it.  He had tried to cling to his memories, but slowly the shadow had grown up and devoured them all.  He couldn’t remember anything past the pain.  He could recall no time when he had not lived in this murky twilight world.  He didn’t feel like he belonged there, but he must because there was nothing else. 
    A voice called out to him.  A voice he could no longer refuse.  Indeed, he couldn’t remember why he had been refusing it.  Something in him resisted, wanted to fight... but he didn’t know why, and the call was too strong.
    “Who is your master?” the ringwraith hissed at the helpless elf, looking deep into the prince’s pain-glazed eyes. 
    Legolas blinked slowly, and when his gaze came to rest on the robed figure above him it was as dark and empty as the blackness that hung behind the shadow of the Nazgûl’s dark hood.  “You are,” the elf’s voice was toneless and as dead as his eyes. 
    The wraith hissed in pleasure.  Finally.  Finally it was beginning to work.  “And whom do you serve?” he pressed.
    “The Dark Lord of Mordor,” came the response.  Yet even as he said it something twisted inside of Legolas.  The words were what was expected, what he felt he was supposed to say... but something somewhere felt terribly wrong. 
    The wraith was pleased; he stroked the elf’s pale cheek lightly.  “Good... good,” he purred softly.  Cutting Legolas loose from his bonds, he let the elf sit up on his own for the first time in weeks. 
    Legolas rubbed his raw wrists absently.  They hurt, but pain was beginning to take on a new meaning to him.  It seemed that it was part of life and it almost didn’t matter.  Every moment seemed painful because of the darkness that had wrapped itself around him, but he did not know of any other way to be, so he could not think it an unusual thing.
    “Get him something to eat and drink,” the Witch King instructed one of the orcs.  That was another thing that Legolas had had precious little of this whole time. 
    The wraith placed his hands on the elf’s shoulders and Legolas repressed a cold shudder, but did not pull away. 
    “It’s time to start building your strength up again.  The more I find I can trust you, the more freedom I will give you.  Please me, elf, and you will be rewarded.  Provoke me and I will make your life miserable... do you understand?”
    Legolas nodded slowly, his empty eyes focusing on nothing.  “Yes.”
    The ringwraith’s hand tightened on his shoulder slightly, his voice quietly seductive and threatening at the same time.  “Yes, what?”
    “Yes, master,” the elf murmured.