Captive of Darkness

Chapter 4

by Cassia

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    Two days later Legolas was greatly surprised to see a small company approaching the palace gates, when an errand took him by one of the windows in the tall watch towers.
    The prince froze; his heart speeding up as the wind caught and lifted the banner held in the lead rider’s hand, revealing the emblem of the green tree. These riders were from Mirkwood! Apparently his father had not waited as long as Legolas had thought he would before dispatching messengers in search of his wayward son’s party.
    Normally, that kind of protectiveness might have irked the young prince just a bit, but right now he was simply too glad to see anyone from his home to feel anything other than breathless hope mingled with swirling concern.
    Surely King Melèch would lock him away as soon as he knew that a party from Mirkwood had arrived, searching for their lost envoys. Legolas could not risk Melèch being able to put his plan into action! No matter the risk, he had to attempt to contact the Mirkwood elves, and that meant avoiding the guards who were probably coming for him at this very moment.
    Leaving his tasks unfinished, Legolas swiftly made his way down from the tower, his mind swirling as he quickly sought to construct a plan of action. The arriving elves would be taken directly to King Melèch of course, and the meeting would most likely take place in the King’s great receiving hall. Therefore, his best chance of overtaking them would be when they passed through the courtyard. The elf’s legs moved faster.
    Suddenly Legolas pressed himself back flat against the wall, alerted by the sound of approaching feet. Captain Dagred and several of his men appeared in the cross passage opposite to Legolas’ position and the elf held perfectly still.
    "Spread out and find him, and I mean now or King Melèch’ll have our heads, got that?" Dagred growled to his men, confirming Legolas’ suspicion that Melèch had already ordered his detention.
    Silently, Legolas willed the men to keep going straight and not take the side passage that he was hiding in. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
    Dagred swung around the corner and nearly stepped on Legolas before he saw him.
    Swinging into motion, Legolas shoved the captain back into the two men behind him, before turning and flying back up the stairs he had just descended as fast as his long legs could carry him.
    Dagred swore loudly. "Here we go again!" he scowled harshly as he and his men chased the fleeing elf up the stairs. "You’re not going to be able to move when I get through with you, elf!" he shouted angrily after Legolas. "I don’t care how you do it, men, but catch him! If you don’t, it’ll be all of you taking his punishment. Is that clear?!"
    Legolas fled swiftly in front of his pursuers, dashing lightly up the stairs despite his heavy, cumbersome chains. The clanking rattle they produced was horribly disturbing and served as an incredibly effective homing beacon for his pursuers to follow.
    The short chains that connected his ankles also limited his usually long stride, making Legolas feel clumsy and stilted. His feet slipped on the steep, narrow stairs and he caught himself against the wall, but did not stop moving. Taking a turn off at the next level, Legolas tried to put as much distance between himself and Dagred as was possible.
    Tearing down a long, tapestry-draped hallway at full speed, Legolas was forced to pull up abruptly when half a dozen soldiers appeared in the cross passage ahead of him. Nearly skidding on the highly polished floor, Legolas backtracked swiftly.
    Caught in the passage between the two groups of soldiers, Legolas took a desperate gamble and sprang lightly up, grasping hold of the curtain rod above one of the tall windows that studded the hall. Swinging forward feet-first, Legolas crashed through the window and jumped to the ground, four stories below. There was nothing to catch hold of or break his fall, so Legolas landed hard on the cobbles below in a shower of broken glass. He landed on his feet, dropping into a crouch to better absorb the impact, but he still felt one of his ankles twist under him slightly at the sharp, jarring impact. Pain shot up his leg as he sprang quickly to his feet, but the elf did not let that stop him.
    His unconventional exit landed him in the large, bustling yard behind the kitchens. Unfortunately, this was the palace guards’ favorite place to linger, where they could obtain free food and liquor from the friendly kitchen staff.
    Half a dozen guards immediately sprang to attention when they saw him.
    Forcing aside the pain that was spearing up his leg, Legolas broke into a run. The main courtyard was only a few passages away from here.
    "Stop him! Stop him!" Dagred’s voice from above called down and the guards immediately gave chase.
    Moving as fast as he could around the new limp he had acquired, Legolas rounded the corner only to be faced with another score of guards hurrying towards him from the opposite direction.
    Several of the soldiers grabbed for him and Legolas spun away, jabbing one man in the stomach with his elbow and flipping another lightly across his back.
    Dagred and his men gained the ground level amazingly fast and now poured out of the doorway on the right to further overwhelm the lone elf.
    Legolas spun, jabbed and twisted his way through them for a moment and the guards struggled to even lay a finger on him as he fought desperately. The courtyard was so close; it was just around the corner...!
    But it was too far for the injured elf to reach.
    Grasping hands caught Legolas’ swinging chains and jerked him off balance. He fought bravely, but with over thirty soldiers attempting to bring him down, the odds were simply too great.
    His attackers bore him down to the ground, jerking him to his knees under a hail of irritated tugs and blows.
    Dagred’s enraged boot caught the elf in the stomach, kicking him again and again as Legolas wrapped his arms around his now screaming ribs and tried to curl away from the abuse.
    Unshed tears of extreme frustration and pain shimmered in the young elf’s eyes as the soldiers ground him ruthlessly into the cobblestones only a few yards away from his destination. But Legolas was too stubborn and too proud to let them fall.
    Dagred dragged the bleeding elf to his knees, forcing a pole between Legolas’ elbows and back. Hooking the slave’s chains to the pole, they trapped his arms uselessly. Yanking him to his feet they marched him away, cuffing and cursing him liberally for the trouble he had caused them yet again.
    "King Melèch is going to have your head on a spit, boy!" Dagred threatened darkly as they locked Legolas up to await the King’s wrath. "You’ll beg for death before we’re done with you!"


    Legolas’ wrists were still fastened to the pole threaded through his bent arms when he was dragged out of his cell to face a fuming King Melèch. Immediately, Melèch slapped the elf forcefully, snapping the slave’s head to the side. Legolas was already in so much pain that a little more barely seemed to register. In the time between his capture and his dreaded audience with Melèch, Dagred and his men had been making good the Captain’s threat about what kind of condition he was going to leave Legolas in after having been led on a second mad chase.
    The elf breathed heavily, falling forward to his knees when he was released. One side of his face was slowly turning purple-brown with bruises and he could hardly bear to stand on his injured ankle anymore.
    "You had to try, didn’t you?" Melèch accused Legolas as he paced angrily before his prisoner. How close the elf had come to succeeding and totally bollixing up his whole plan made Melèch positively furious. "You just had to try. I don’t know what I’m going to do with you! I beat you, I work you, but you just refuse to learn!" Melèch was shaking with rage.
    "Well no more. If you will not learn the easy way, then I will let those more experienced then myself teach you a lesson you will not forget!" Clapping his hands, Melèch summoned a servant who brought Unuth of Umbar into the room.
    Unuth looked calculatingly between Melèch and the elven slave kneeling on the floor. "You requested my presence, my Lord?"
    "Yes," Melèch folded his arms, glaring coldly at Legolas. "This slave gives me nothing but trouble. You are a man experienced in these matters. I offered to loan him to you if you desired; well, he’s yours. I leave him to you and Captain Dagred and his men. Do with him what you will, but do not be gentle and make sure it is something that he will never, ever forget!"
    Unuth smiled cruelly as he looked down at Legolas’ hunched form. "With great pleasure, my Lord," he assented.
    Taking Legolas’ chin in his hand, he pulled the elf’s head up, his eyes sweeping the slave’s body. "This will be to my liking," the unsavory man said, cupping Legolas’ bruised cheek roughly in his hand and trapping the elf’s golden hair between his fingers.
    Fear spiked in Legolas’ pain-glazed eyes and a shudder that he could not repress shook his frame as his body shied away from the man’s loathsome touch.
    Captain Dagred’s knee in his back pushed the elf forward and held him still as Unuth’s coarse hands dropped down to work the catches on Legolas’ tunic.


May it be an evening star shines down upon you
May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true
You walk a lonely road... oh how far you are from home

Mornië utúlië
(Darkness has come)

Believe and you will find your way

Mornië alantië
(Darkness has fallen)

A promise lives within you now...

    Shuddering helplessly, Legolas hugged himself tightly as he rocked back and forth in the darkness of his small cell. Silent tears that he could no longer hold back coursed quietly down his bruised cheeks. He had refused to cry when his tormenters had him, but now, alone in the dark, the pain was too much to hold inside.
    The darkness around him was thick, suffocating, and what was worse, Legolas felt as if the darkness was now inside him as well, eating up his soul and leaving him empty and hopeless. It was said that an elf could die from a broken heart; whether or not that was true Legolas did not know, but right now the despair working on him certainly felt as if it wanted to crush the life out of him.
    Every inch of his body hurt and he had no escape from the pain and the endless torment of his memories of horror.
    Suddenly the door to the cell scraped open and Legolas pulled back tighter into the corner, leaden fear clutching at his heart. Had they come back? By the Valar... weren’t they finished with him yet?
    A quiet sob shook his shoulders as he tried to make himself impassive, not wanting his captors to see his weakness. Yet even the elf’s strong pride could no longer keep him emotionless in the face of his distress.
    A tall figure entered the room slowly and the door was closed behind him. Legolas heard the lock slide back into place and the rough voice of the guard called in, "Just give a knock when you’re done with him, but be careful. Them elves is dangerous folk."
    Legolas resisted the urge to pull even farther back into the corner. There was no use fighting the inevitable and he would not let these people see his fear if he could help it. At least there was only one this time... the elf bit back the raw, choking lump in his throat.
    The elf did not raise his eyes because he found it easier if he did not have to look, if his tormenters remained faceless. He had closed off his extra senses long ago because it hurt far too much to feel anymore than he had to. Locked inside himself now, Legolas hugged his knees tightly and waited for the inescapable.
    The newcomer hesitated in the entry for a moment, his deep, sad eyes taking in the miserable form of the young elf hunched in the corner. Naked except for his chains, Legolas shivered from much more than cold.
    The fellow crossed the small room and knelt silently by Legolas’ side.
    Legolas pressed his eyes shut, waiting, but the person beside him made no move. After several moments the apprehensive stillness was more than he could bear.
    "Do what you’re going to do, but do not toy with me," the elf ground out between his teeth, his hands balling into tight fists.
    "Still so proud, young one..." It was Esgal’s soft voice, laced with incredibly sadness.
    Legolas’ head came up abruptly. Drawn up inside himself he had not known it was the other elf. For a moment he caught Esgal’s eyes, before quickly turning his head away and dropping it down onto his arms with a shudder that was really a barely contained sob. Somehow it was unbearable, having the older elf see him like this. Legolas did not want anyone’s pity.
    "It is all right to speak if we speak softly," Esgal said in a quiet whisper, for Legolas’ ears only. "The guards think I am here on other business; they will suspect nothing."
    Legolas made no response, but hugged his knees tighter. He did not know what Esgal wanted and right now his hurting heart could trust no one.
    Sliding his long grey cape off his shoulders, Esgal draped it gently around Legolas’ shivering frame.
    The young elf grabbed the edges tightly, hugging the soft fabric to his body with trembling hands. Still he did not look up. His own shame kept his eyes glued to the ground.
    "What is your business here?" Legolas asked softly, his normally flowing voice roughened from physical and emotional pain.
    "I heard what happened from Unuth," the obvious disdain and loathing in Esgal’s voice was clear and sharp. "I... I could not find it in me to leave anyone alone under these conditions." He laid a gentle, comforting hand on Legolas’ back, but the younger elf stiffened at the touch and Esgal withdrew quickly.
    "I do not need your pity," Legolas blinked rapidly, trying to force back the treacherous tears that wanted to betray him. His voice ended up sharper than he intended.
    Esgal was not put off. "That is well, because you do not have it," the elder elf said calmly, but his voice was not hard. "Pity is for the helpless and you, young prince, are not helpless. Neither are you permanently marred. People can do what they will, but they cannot change you, they cannot touch your soul if you do not let them." His words were strong, but his underlying tone was  laced with compassion. Esgal knew that Legolas was hurting horribly and that it would take him time to recover from this, but he knew the young elf would recover... Now Legolas just needed to know it.
    "I see in you a strength, young one, that tells me these chains are temporary and that no bonds can hold your spirit if you choose not to let them." Esgal’s voice was soft now and he lifted his eyes towards the small, barred window near the top of the far wall. The moon had just risen and Eärendil shone brightly between the bars like a small but faithful pinprick of hope.
    "I know of what I speak, Legolas Greenleaf," the elf said slowly. "I have been a captive, I have lived despair. I have seen war after war, each one heralded as the conflict to end all conflicts. I have seen elves slaughter elves. I have lost my brother to the mortal fate, and my mother and father to the Undying Lands." Esgal took a deep breath.
    "You wondered, Legolas, did you not, how I knew the name of Gil-Estel?" he asked softly, the light of the star mirrored in his eyes. "Well I have good reason to know it and know it well. Gil-Estel, the star of high hope... is the light of my father’s golden ship." In a gesture of trust and good faith, Esgal finally revealed himself for who he was.
    "The radiance of the Silmaril burns on the breast of Eärendil, as he sails across the sky to meet my mother, Elwing, who waits for him in her tall tower..." the elf’s voice trailed off slowly as he gazed at the twinkling star, the only sight he had seen of his father in centuries.
    "My brother and I were prisoners when my mother threw herself into the sea to save the Silmaril from capture. Our father was away. She found him again, but I have seen neither of them since. Ours was a light captivity, as it ended up, for our keeper became fond of us and treated us like his own... yet captivity is captivity, son of Thranduil, and I have endured far worse than that. I found the strength to go on, and so will you." The elder elf’s eyes burned with sincerity.
    Legolas looked up to meet his companion’s gaze for the first time and the young elf’s eyes were wide with shock and awe.
    "But... but that means... that would make you..." Legolas dropped into a respectful bow over his knees, his golden hair brushing the floor. "Lord Elrond," he whispered, slightly over-awed at meeting for the first time one of the elves about whom stories and songs had been spun around the fires of his father’s court for time out of mind. "Forgive me, I did not know you... I have treated you ill, my Lord," the young elf murmured, even more deeply ashamed of himself now.
    "Rise," Elrond bid him gently and Legolas obeyed, still trembling lightly. "You saved me from discovery when I was careless enough to almost be caught. I see no need for an apology," the Elven lord shook his head.
    Legolas nodded slowly, leaning back against the wall with aching weariness. "Why are you here?"
    "There are disturbing things going on in Dorolyn that I do not yet understand," Elrond said thoughtfully. "A shadow is creeping over the land. Several have come to investigate in one way or another; none ever returned. I came myself when I was convinced that the need was dire enough. Melèch thinks me to be a lord from the land of Emyth Muir. The men of Emyth Muir are well known for their metalwork, but they are good people. When a strange order from Dorolyn came to them, they were perplexed and troubled by the secrecy that was demanded regarding it. This was discovered by some of my people and an agreement was reached between us that they would fill the order and I should take it, posing as one of them. In this way, I hope to learn more of the situation and Melèch’s purpose for the strange rings I brought him."
    Legolas’ hurting head came up urgently. "Then you must know, you must warn my father, his life is in danger. Melèch wishes to murder the entire royal family of Mirkwood, yet I do not know why."
    Elrond nodded, deeply disturbed. "These are disquieting tidings indeed, son of Thranduil, but do not fear. This man will not succeed in his aims."
    Legolas sighed softly, feeling a little better already because at least someone knew what he knew, someone who had a far better chance of warning his father’s messengers than he did at this point.
    Elrond considered the younger elf somberly. He hated to leave Legolas in the cruel situation he was in, but there was nothing he could do at this time without endangering his cover. So right now the best he could offer the young prince was hope.
    "Do not let your light go out, Legolas," Elrond encouraged, lightly touching the younger elf’s shoulder. This time the prince did not flinch away from his touch and Elrond gently drew Legolas back to rest against his shoulder, stilling the young elf’s trembling with the incredible calm and peace of his presence.
    Legolas’ body relaxed slowly under the influence of Elrond’s strong presence and healing touch that soothed both his injured body and hurting heart.
    Together they gazed up at the small space of stars through the barred window. "See? Eärendil is shining down on you, Greenleaf. He is watching over you, just as he is watching over me. Gil-Estel, high hope... Sometimes hope is all we have Legolas, but it is enough, if only we are true to it."

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