Captive of Darkness

Chapter 8

by Cassia

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    Shape and shadow, reality and dream melded around Legolas as he drifted somewhere between this world and the next. He lost track of time as he wandered heedlessly between horrible nightmares and visions of light, but none of them owned him.
    When he heard the voices speaking around him, he did not know if it was yet another dream.
    "Gently now, be careful."
    "This will break the king’s heart..."
    "Hush, he’s waking."
    The last voice sounded like Elrond’s, but Legolas couldn’t be sure.
    The immense, burning pain of his body returned gradually, telling the elf prince that this was no dream now. He moaned softly and shifted. Forcing leaden eyelids open, he found that he was being hurriedly carried along on a bier. Elrond walked beside him on one side and Ardil on the other.
    Above him familiar treetops waved welcome and Legolas realized with a start that he was home once more, being carried through the trees of Mirkwood, towards his father’s halls.
    He tried to sit up, but Elrond pushed him back down with gentle firmness. "Lie still, Legolas, it’s all right. You’re home now, and fortunate to be so. I thought I was going to lose you for a time." In truth, if Legolas had been with anyone other than Elrond, he would have died. It had taken almost all of the elf lord’s skill to keep the boy in the land of the living, but the worst danger was over now.
    Legolas must have drifted off again, because the next thing he remembered was the feeling of being eased down upon something soft and silky. He winced as his lacerated back made contact, attempting to struggle through the haze around him and once more reach consciousness.
    "Legolas!" the familiar, distraught voice made the prince’s eyes drift open. He blinked, trying to clear his vision as gentle hands held the sides of his face and smoothed his hair back from his forehead.
    "Legolas, my son... what have they done to you, my son?" Thranduil gently caressed his child’s bruised face. He took in his son’s injuries and the ugly chains that still hung from the prince’s slender limbs with mounting, broken-hearted fury.
    "Father..." Legolas tried to speak, but his voice came out a whisper.
    "Shh, shh, don’t speak," the Elvenking gently placed his finger against his son’s bruised lips. "Just rest, Legolas, just rest. Everything will be all right."
    Thranduil clasped Legolas’ hand gently between his own and Legolas relaxed a little against the pillows.
    Attendants were swarming around them now, tending the prince and attempting to make him comfortable.
    "Get me a smith in here, at once!" King Thranduil ordered gruffly, not able to bear the sight of his child in chains.
    Once the smith had been sent for, Thranduil turned to Elrond. The elf lord’s clothing was dusty and stained with Legolas’ blood and his face was weary, for he had poured much of himself into keeping the younger elf alive, but his nobility still showed in his bearing, despite his disheveled state. Of course, Thranduil already knew who he was; they had met before.
    Although they respected one another, there was no great love between the two elf lords, especially after the outcome of the Last Great Alliance of Men and Elves, which Elrond had supported but Thranduil and his father had not. In the end Mirkwood had reluctantly joined, but suffered great losses, including Thranduil’s father. Under normal circumstances, Thranduil’s greeting of the other elf lord would have been cool and reserved but, given the situation, Thranduil dispensed with formality.
    "What happened? What does this mean? What did they do to my boy?" he asked, his voice choked with fierce emotion.
    "Great evil, I fear," Elrond said softly, drawing Thranduil away from Legolas’ bedside a little so that the prince would not overhear them. "It is a long tale, your highness, but now is not the time or place." He glanced meaningfully at Legolas’ half-conscious form and the other king seemed to understand. Thranduil pressed his lips into a tight line and Elrond couldn’t help noting Legolas’ gestures played out upon his father’s features, although, he supposed that it was actually the other way around, and it was Legolas who had inherited so many of his father’s mannerisms.
    "The people who did this will pay a terrible price!" Thranduil threatened darkly, glancing painfully at his injured son.
    "They already have," Elrond said simply. "Their own evil became their undoing."
    Thranduil nodded slowly. As his initial shock and rage cooled, he began to realize that he had been discourteous. He sighed slightly. "You must forgive me, Lord Elrond. I fear my welcome for you has not been what it should. Seeing Legolas like this..."
    Elrond shook his head, indicating no apology necessary. "I understand perfectly. I know how I should feel if any of my children were brought home to me thus."
    "You are weary, please, take your ease now, my home is your home. My servants will see to anything you need. I thank you for all you have done for my son," Thranduil said sincerely.
    Just then the metalsmith arrived to remove Legolas’ chains and Thranduil returned to his son’s side.


    Legolas’ body mended swiftly although his mind was perhaps another matter. Yet although the nightmares of what he had been through would haunt him for a long time, his light, merry spirit had remained unbroken and it was not long before he was walking under the trees he loved and singing carelessly to the stars once more.
    Elrond tarried a fortnight as a guest in Thranduil’s halls while the remaining loose ends of the situation with Dorolyn were tied up. In truth, he also remained because he would see Legolas fully recovered before he left.
    After King Melèch’s death, Dorolyn became scattered. The death of King Elnon had rendered the civil war in Ilnnarion moot and a new, just ruler had quickly come to power. The new ruler annexed the floundering people of Dorolyn under a new name and it was a beginning of some of the first good times those two kingdoms had had in many years.

    On one crisp, sunny day in late autumn, Elrond took his leave of Mirkwood, heading back up the Old Forest Road towards the Misty Mountains and Rivendell beyond. Legolas and a small party of Mirkwood elves rode with him to the edge of the forest to see him off.
    Elrond glanced sideways at Legolas as they rode side by side. Legolas had turned to share a jest with his friend, Raniean, who rode on his other side and the two young elves laughed merrily, their clear, happy voices ringing musically through the tree branches.
    The elf lord liked to see the young prince able to laugh and be at ease with the world once more. It took strength of spirit to come through a trial like that with no lasting ill effects. However, although Legolas bore no serious visible scars, mental or physical, from the ordeal, his opinion of the race of men was for a time significantly lowered. It would take one special man, many centuries later, to completely change his mind on that subject.
    "I heard that the last of the slaves had finally been set free in Dorolyn. The stone pits are empty now," Elrond ventured conversationally after a few moments.
    Legolas nodded, his eyes turning serious for a moment, but his smile did not dim. "Yes, and I am glad. I feel sorry for those people. They knew no life but drudgery. It will be hard for them to adjust to the change, yet it will be a good change for them. They had no hope before, I could see that. Now they have some. And sometimes that is all one needs, so long as they are true to it," Legolas shot Elrond a knowing, somewhat impish grin. "Or so someone wise once told me."
    Elrond just grinned.
    When they reached the edge of Mirkwood Legolas and the elves of his party halted, leaving Elrond and the Rivendell elves who had joined him several weeks ago, to continue their homeward journey alone.
    "Farewell, Lord Elrond. You and your heirs shall always be welcome in these woods," Legolas bid the older elf goodbye.
    "Namàrië, Legolas," Elrond returned in kind. "May Eärendil always shine upon your path."
    As soon as the Rivendell elves were on their way, Legolas and his friends turned back into the woods. As they did, the prince’s horse stumbled slightly on some hidden hummock. The creature shied sideways, making Legolas re-adjust his balance quickly. It was a small thing, so trifling it normally would not have been noticed, but the prince’s friends had come to feeling quite over-protective of him during his recovery.
    "Legolas, are you all right?" the prince’s friend, Trelan, asked with concern.
    Legolas rolled his eyes. If he sneezed they asked him if he was all right. He just wanted this whole thing behind him, and he did not appreciate being treated like glass.
    "I’m fine, I’m not going to break you know," he said somewhat testily.
    "I don’t know... looks like you could fall apart on the spot to me," Raniean said with a challenging grin.
    "Oh really?" Legolas quirked one graceful, incredulous eyebrow. "Well then..." he glanced between his friends with a mischievous glitter in his silver eyes. "You’ll have no trouble getting back before I do!" he said suddenly, kneeing his horse to a quick canter, inviting a race.
    Trelan shouted in mock dismay at the unfair advantage of the first start as he kneed his own horse on, but Raniean had seen the look in his friend’s eye and been ready for him. Urging his horse until it was neck-to-neck with Legolas’, Ranien vied with him for first place.
    Legolas laughed at the fun of it. "You can’t beat me, Raniean, I’m the prince! I think there’s a law against it or something..."
    "Hm... well remind me to ask your father about that after I leave you far behind!" his friend shot back gaily.
    As Elrond’s party rode away, they heard the merry laughter of the young elves retreating behind them. The Lord of Rivendell shook his head with a small smile. Young ones...

The End

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