Mellon Chronicles

Family Trouble

Chapter 1: Dark as a Tomb

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Author's Note: The story takes place in two time lines.  One timeline is set about two years after Mistaken Identity and the other is about 30-50 years after Captive of Darkness.

Aragorn sighed deeply and slid down the rough wall of stone that blocked his path.  Crumpling at the base of the caved in wall, he slapped the rocks ineffectually but, as his anger ebbed away, fear and pain eagerly rushed in to take its place.  The sound of his breathing was loud in the small cavern, so loud that he had to fight back the claustrophobic feelings that overwhelmed him like a flood tide blocking all rational thought.  He could barely hear the townsfolk now.  He wondered idly how much debris lay between him and the outside.  Slight sounds of shifting rocks caused him to wince and hold his breath; the mountainside was still settling in on itself, adjusting under the weight of the newly shifted rocks.  Dust fell into his eyes and choked his breath. 

Closing his eyes, the ranger worked to calm his breathing and still the anxiety in his heart.  He didn’t need any more adrenaline in his system; he already felt shaky from what they had just survived. 


Legolas!  The elf had to be in here somewhere. 

Giving up his failed attempts to dig them out, Aragorn crawled a few paces to the back of the cavern.  The shallow indentation in the cliff face that they had been buried in was no deeper than the length of a man and barely tall enough for him to stand upright.  From what he had seen before the rocks caved in the opening, Aragorn thought the width of the cave could have been no more than ten paces long.  He fought down the bile that rose in his throat conjured from the fear of their confinement. 

Hesitantly, he tested the floor in front of him with his right hand.  It was pitch-black in the cave and he couldn’t see a thing.  His left arm was useless, having been broken or dislocated in the fight; he hadn’t taken the time to find out exactly what was wrong. He was fairly certain something was broken, since it hurt too much when he moved his arm and it wouldn’t support any of his weight. 

His fingers brushed against soft cloth and he inched closer.  Gently, Aragorn ran his right hand over Legolas’ prone body.  The elf didn’t move.  The prince was lying in a crumpled heap where he had been thrown.  Slowly Aragorn turned the elf over onto his back and eased Legolas into his lap.  It was hard to do with his left arm hurting so badly, but he needed to know his friend was alive and he needed the contact whether he wanted to admit it or not. 

“Legolas?”  His voice was oddly loud in the silent cave.  Tomb, he thought darkly to himself, this is a tomb.  Or it would be if they weren’t found soon. 

The elf in his arms didn’t answer him.  The ranger gently laid his right hand on the prince’s chest.  To his great relief, the steady beat of his friends’ heart thumped softly against his fingertips.  Now that his eyes were adjusting to the lack of light, the human could make out the natural glow of the elf.  Closing his eyes the ranger sighed in relief as the wild tinges of panic began to recede. 

Scooting back against the wall, Aragorn pulled Legolas more tightly against him and settled them both as comfortably as he could.  The ground beneath him was cold and littered with small pieces of rock and debris.  The wall of the cave behind him wasn’t much better.  It took him a couple of minutes to find a place that was smooth enough where the rocks didn’t dig into his back and shoulders.  

With a hiss, he shifted his wounded arm so that it lay across the prince’s chest.  It felt better when the weight was taken off of it.  He was beginning to think his collarbone was fractured.  He had had broken arms before and this didn’t feel like that.  Carefully he worked his hand and arm.  Movement in his shoulder sent shooting flares of pain through his awareness and he stilled stiffly until the ache was gone. 

Definitely my collarbone, he thought darkly.  Well at least it was something new and not the same old broken arm or leg that he usually returned home with.  Not that Ada would find that amusing.

Turning his attention back to the elf, Aragorn wondered how badly Legolas had been hurt.  His fingers trembled slightly as he brushed the prince’s face.

It shouldn’t have ended up this way.  He had never seen it coming.  The possibility hadn’t even entered his mind.  He thought they had left the memory of Hebrilith behind; that had been nearly two years ago.  But they had forgotten that the Silvan prince was a dead ringer for the tormented elf that had hunted the humans this side of the mountains.  And the folks hereabouts thrived on tales and myths.  The legacy Hebrilith had built over the years through his activities had been enlarged upon in the small outposts until the dark elf had become the embodiment of all evil that haunted the villages.  They didn’t know Hebrilith had died.  And they didn’t believe the ranger when he had tried to reason with them.  It was easier to believe the lies, the half-truths and legends and to keep the fears alive.  Tales told round campfires late at night have a way of never dying.  And so Hebrilith lived on. 

Aragorn wanted to kick himself for not thinking about that when he and Legolas had entered the outskirts of the town.  It was almost by accident that they had stumbled on the village at all.  They had been following the trail of recent evidence that seemed to point to a small enclave of orcs nearby when they very nearly ran into a group of hunters. 

He remembered the looks on the faces of the men when Legolas had walked up next to him.  Fear, horror and surprise were quickly masked by anger and rage.  No amount of talking or reasoning had convinced the men that Legolas was not Hebrilith.  They had even accused Aragorn of being merely an embodiment of a dead ranger that Hebrilith had enslaved to his corrupted will.  

“Quite an imagination,” Aragorn whispered aloud.  He sighed deeply and shook his head.  They weren’t bad people, just scared people.  He knew the populaces in the hills near Imladris were a superstitious lot when it came to things like elves or the other races that inhabited Middle-earth.  Most had never even seen an elf and Hebrilith had done them no favors. 

Aragorn gently touched his head.  He winced as his fingers brushed the jagged cut to his temple.  He had been trying to reason with the hunters when he had been knocked unconscious.  When he woke up he had found himself inside this small cave.  The villagers were sealing it off, stacking large rocks in even rows against the opening.  Aragorn had begged them to go to Rivendell to verify his story but they wouldn’t listen.  The ranger had no idea what they had done next.  But after they were through sealing the cave, the hunters had somehow triggered an avalanche and buried them deep within the mountain.  They wanted to make sure that the evil the elf had done was never able to escape. 

And they’ve done a good job of it too, Aragorn thought darkly. 

The fact that Legolas was unresponsive worried him deeply.  The last time the prince had been mistaken for Hebrilith it had nearly cost him his life.

He began slowly inspecting the elf more closely.  Legolas’ natural glow was extremely dim in the darkened cave.  His wrists were abraded and cut.  A nasty gash on the elf’s temple mirrored the one on his own.  He couldn’t tell if the prince was wounded more severely than the external bruises and cuts.  He would have to wait until Legolas woke up; he hoped that would be soon. 

Before they had left, Aragorn had told his brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, where they were going and when they could be expected to return.  When the elf and ranger didn’t show up, he was sure the twins would start hunting for them.  

“Legolas?  Come on, I need you to wake up. Please,” Aragorn quietly begged the still elf.  His shoulder and arm were aching fiercely.  He wondered idly how he had come to be so beaten up.  What had happened to them after he had been knocked out? “Legolas?” 

He could feel the elf's breathing underneath his left hand and the steady pulse of the elven heartbeat beneath his fingertips.  At least Legolas was alive.  For the moment that was all that mattered.  Leaning his head back against the rock wall behind him Aragorn closed his eyes.  He just needed to be patient, just needed to rest... 

Someone stirred nearby.  White-hot pain flared behind Aragorn’s eyes and a sickening, grinding feeling in his shoulder brought him fully awake.  Involuntarily he cried out and tried to stop the movement that jarred his arm. 

“Aragorn?!” The panicked shout reminded the ranger of their predicament. 

“Stop moving, Legolas,” Aragorn panted hoarsely.  He closed his eyes and held his breath against the pain.  His right hand tightened on the prince's shoulder.  “We’re safe for the moment.  Just don’t move.” 

“Estel, what is it?”  Legolas questioned worriedly, immediately stilling his movements.  He realized with sudden clarity that he was being held by the ranger.  His hands gently touched the ranger’s wounded arm and began feeling it for breaks.  “Is it your arm?” 

Aragorn shook his head still trying to calm his own racing heart.  Finally finding his voice he responded aloud. “No.”  His voice was soft in the small confines.  “I think it’s my collarbone.  My arm seems to be fine but it hurts when I move it at all and I can’t put any weight on it.” 

“I should wonder if it didn’t.  I was afraid you had been injured more severely,” Legolas responded cryptically.  He groaned softly as he stirred.  “Where are we?” 

“Don’t ask,” Aragorn responded distractedly.  “You really don’t want to know.”  He was looking around them in earnest for anything they could use to make their stay more comfortable.  It appeared that their captors had simply thrown them in the cavern and kept all their supplies. 

“Are we in a cell?” 

“Of sorts,” Aragorn answered.  He directed his attention back to the elf in his arms.  “How badly were you hurt?  What happened, Legolas?” He gently brushed the hair away from the elf’s face as best he could with his right hand. 

“Well I only remember some...” the elf’s words were soft and they drifted off as Legolas recalled the events that he could.  He didn’t move out of Aragorn’s arms.  The truth was that he hurt too badly at the moment and their surroundings were strangely frightening if he thought about it too hard. 

“After you were knocked unconscious I tried to get to your side and help you, but they wouldn’t let me.  I told them the truth many times but they were convinced that I was lying and would hear none of it.  They intended to slit your throat in hopes of ‘freeing’ your spirit that they just knew I had enslaved,” Legolas quietly repeated all that had happened to them.  “Finally I simply agreed with them.  I told them I was Hebrilith and they could do what they wanted with me if they left you alone and let you live.  It was the only way I could convince them to let you remain unharmed.” 

The elf sighed softly.  It was hard to breathe and harder to recount what had happened.  When he breathed in deeply it was painful.  He was positive he had broken ribs.  It was a feeling he had learned over the past few decades and one that the mind didn’t let go of easily. 

“What did they do to you, Legolas?” Aragorn asked fearfully, the horror evident in his voice.  His grip tightened on the elf as the prince spoke of his treatment at the hands of the men.  Aragorn knew that he was greatly simplifying what had really happened.  “I’m so sorry I was not there to help you,” the ranger whispered. 

“Estel, it was not your fault.  Who knew that this village had been so devastated by Hebrilith’s hunting?  Honestly, it wasn’t anything worse than Taradin and his men did to me.  I will be fine,” Legolas concluded.  “I will heal.  You, however, sustained your injuries when they threw you into the back of a wagon that was brought up from the town.  You fell out and landed on rocky ground when the horses were spooked by the hunters’ caches. It was the dead deer that they piled into the cart that set them off.  No one was paying attention to us at that time.  I was positive that you had been injured but they did not care.  In fact when I expressed concern for you they used it as an excuse to beat you as well, though there is not half the sport in beating an unconscious man.  That is probably why you ache all over.  They said they were going to make sure that I could never harm another soul and that my corruption would not spread through you either.  Then the large man that knocked you out did the same to me.”  The elf shifted slightly and fingered his temple.  “I really hadn’t thought I would awaken.  I thought we were both dead.” 


“Don’t tell me these are Mandos’ Halls, my friend,” Legolas jested, trying to lighten their situation. 

A small snort of laughter was the ranger’s reply. 

“No, I’m afraid we are still in Middle-earth...somewhere.  However, the townspeople felt that in order to keep us from spreading evil we needed to be buried,” Aragorn explained simply.  He felt the elf in his arms stiffen. 

Now that he focused on their surroundings, Legolas realized where the familiar sense was coming from – they were underground. “We are in a cave?” 

“Yes, I’m afraid so, my friend,” Aragorn answered.  “They walled up the exit and then somehow brought the mountain down on top of us to ensure we could not get out.  I cannot find a way out.  I have been trying.  The cavern itself is small and there is no tunnel leading out but the one that they collapsed.  El and El will come for us, I know it, Legolas.  They told me if we didn’t return in a fortnight they would come after us.  They will come.”  The elf simply nodded against the man that held him. 

Silence fell in the grotto.  When Legolas didn’t speak up right away, the ranger tried to change the subject. 

“Tell me where you hurt,” Aragorn asked softly.  He pressed the fingers of his left hand down gently on the elf’s chest. 

“I ache all over,” Legolas answered with a small laugh.  “I’m sure I have broken ribs as well.  It hurts to breathe.” 

Aragorn turned his head and silently laid his cheek on the elf’s head.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered softly, his heart breaking.  He knew if they ever got out of this predicament they would have to return to the village and ensure that this abuse was never repeated.  He knew of a few people that could come to his help in that matter – if they got out. 

“You know, Estel, I don’t mind getting into trouble with you or even running into enemies. But I am sorely sick of having broken ribs,” Legolas spoke quietly.  He stifled a small laugh when his body protested.  “It is not something I ever wish to do again.  I want you to know that, because I have never had them until I met you – human,” he jested lightly. 

His taunting did the job as he felt the man laugh softly. 

“You expect me to believe that you never had a broken bone before you met me?” 

“No, in all honesty before I met you, Estel, I never had a broken rib.  My wounds were... of a different nature I am afraid.”  His voice quieted as he thought back to an earlier time.

“I’m sorry...” Aragorn repeated again.  When Legolas tried to protest the human resisted.  “No.  I’m sorry your ribs were broke and I’m sorry we are in this hole in the mountain.” 

“I’m not worried, Estel.  None of this was your fault or mine.  It belongs to an elf whose soul is now with Mandos.  You were right, your brothers will come.  It was nearing a fortnight when we headed back two days ago,” Legolas commented softly. He smiled at the grey eyes that stared down into his.  In the dim light his glow afforded, he could see the worry in his friend's gaze.  “Besides, this is not the worst imprisonment I have ever endured.”  The last was said with a small smile. 

Aragorn nodded mutely.  His friend’s words sank slowly into his mind.  His eyes had barely adjusted to the dim light the elf shed and he watched the prince closely. 

“Would it be better if you were sitting up?” Aragorn prompted. 

“If you don’t mind,” Legolas answered honestly, “I would really just like to remain here.  It hurts to move too much and right now it’s not so bad.” 

Nodding slowly, Aragorn relaxed against the rocks behind them once more. 

A thought occurred to him and he gazed back down at Legolas. “What do you mean it’s not the worst imprisonment you’ve ever had?  What was the worst?” Aragorn questioned.  It helped to simply talk, helped keep their minds off the small confines they found themselves in. 

Legolas barely laughed. “Oh no, the worst came from a more familiar hand and in quite an unexpected manner,” the elf spoke softly and haltingly.  Sometimes his words were faint and at times he stopped to catch his breath. 

“Is it a story you can tell?” Aragorn prompted. 

“Now...yes,” Legolas answered.  “There was a time when it was never spoken of, a time when it hurt too much to even think about.  But now... now time has dulled the ache and it is more of a point of humor and embarrassment to those involved.  I am sure they wouldn’t mind if I told you.” 

Aragorn smiled and simply waited his friend out while the elf took a few painfully deep breaths. 

“You already know some of the story of my mother, but I have never told you of my sister,” Legolas began his story by way of explanation. 

“Sister?!”  Aragorn leaned down closer, gazing deeply into the elf’s eyes to make sure he had heard correctly.  “You have a sister and you never told me?” 

“I’ve seen what happens when you get around elven maidens,” Legolas joked, arousing laughter from the human. 

“Don’t even go there,” Aragorn warned him off laughingly.  “Now what is this about a sister?”  His voice was teasing.  “Tell me more.” 

“Well it happened over two-thousand years ago,” Legolas began.  “When the forests were first overrun by the spiders we didn’t realize what a threat they were, how vile and evil their hearts were or the darkness that ruled their simple minds.  In the beginning we still ventured into the southern reaches of the forests thinking we were safe.  We were not.” 

Legolas grew quiet.  A million thoughts assaulted his mind at once. It had been over a millennia and yet it still felt as fresh as if the events had happened yesterday.  His heart had healed and he was content with the fact he would see his family again someday, but memories were so different for the eldar – sometimes more painful. 

Taking a deep breath Legolas launched back into the tale. 

“My sister’s name is Celesté; she is younger than I.  One day in late summer we decided to go on a small trip near the southern regions – the parts where travel is now forbidden.  It was not always as it is now; Mirkwood was beautiful.  We were all supposed to go, Ada, Nana, Celesté and I.  But my father ended up having to cancel because of affairs of state and things of that nature so he declined, remaining behind while we traveled on.  Running a kingdom has always been a consuming job for my father,” Legolas commented softly, smiling as he thought back through all the times Thranduil had had to cancel plans to attend to some crisis or mediate some decision. 

Shaking his head to clear the more recent memories, he continued. 

“Celesté was too young to ride a horse by herself, so she sat with Nana.  The two had wandered off ahead of me...I don’t quite recall now why I was not nearer them.  Something had caught my attention and distracted me.  I never heard the attack.  Several large spiders dropped out of the trees in front of Nana’s horse, spooking it.  The poor beast was terrified.  Celesté died instantly when she and Nana were thrown from the horse.  I was able to drive the spiders back so they could not reach my mother and sister.  Fortunately a small hunting party nearby heard our cries for help.  They chased the beasts away, but it wasn’t in time.  The damage had already been done.” Legolas’ voice had faded to a whisper and he closed his eyes tightly against the sorrow that welled in his heart as he remembered the sight of his sister’s small body lying so still in the meadow. 

“She was never still in life.  Always so full of all that was alive in the forests,” Legolas spoke distractedly. His voice startled him.  He hadn’t realized he was speaking his thoughts aloud. Glancing up at Aragorn he noted the pained look in his friend’s eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Legolas,” the ranger replied.  He wasn’t sure what to say.  Legolas was right; he had never heard this tale and that it still hurt the elf to retell it was painful for him.  “I never knew.  I mean I knew your mother had gone across the sea... but...” 

With a smile the prince set the man’s heart at ease.  “It has been many years now.  My father and I have both come to terms with Celesté and Nana’s departures.  I know I will see them again.” 

“Still...”  Aragorn shook his head in empathy as he thought through all the elf was telling him.  He understood loss, understood it all too well.  “But if your mother wasn’t hurt...why then did she leave? I thought she was wounded?” the ranger asked gently.  He didn’t mean to pry but his curiosity had gotten the better of him.  It was a trait the elf had come to expect from humans and he nodded as he followed the man’s train of thoughts. 

“Yes and no.  Not as you understand wounding.  Remember, Estel, that for an elf a wound to the heart can be as fatal as an injury to the body,” the prince explained.  “My mother could not get over the grief from the loss and left for the Undying Lands where she knew she would be reunited with Celesté.  It was not an easy decision, nor did it come quickly.  But it did compound the emptiness in both my father’s heart and mine.  You see my father was not there and for his part, because of that, he had his own guilt over it.  Because he was supposed to have gone with us and did not, he blamed himself for Celesté’s death and Nana’s state of heart.  With both of us experiencing the same guilt, we naturally sparked off of each other and contributed to our problems, growing father apart and never realizing what the other was feeling.  In the end after they had both left, we made our lives a living torment, unintentionally.” 

“Why didn’t you just tell your father what you were thinking and feeling?” Aragorn questioned.  He hadn’t meant the query to sound harsh; he was simply trying to fathom why the situation had gotten so out of hand.  In his household everyone freely voiced their opinions, thoughts and emotions.  If he didn’t, his Ada would simply drag it all out of him anyway, so there was no use in hiding. 

“I wish we had had that type of relationship back then.  We could have avoided so much hurt and loneliness.  My father is a good king.  He is a decent father although he would be the first to admit he is still learning that role.” Legolas laughed softly, his breath catching slightly as the pain reminded him of his injury. 

“I also have had much to learn.  When Nana left, it was hard to talk to anyone about the way I felt.  She was the one I always went to when I was troubled or frightened or needed advice.  I am sure that Adar would have wanted to be the one that I confided in, but most of the time he was too busy and...well...Nana just had a way about her that was soothing and calming.  I still miss her,” Legolas confessed. 

“The fact remains that when she left I shut everyone out.  It was easier that way.  Easier to channel all the loss and pain and forge them into a blunt anger, which developed into a hatred for the spiders in the southern region.  I didn’t care what clan or enclave I ran across, I simply wanted to kill them all.  I took to hunting them any chance I could get.  And I got pretty good at it too.  Of course once Raniean and Trelan found out what I was up to they wanted to accompany me.  We spent every spare moment tracking the spiders and killing any we came across.  It went on for a bit until it was brought to my father’s attention,” Legolas snorted softly as he remembered the exact day his father found out.

“I don’t know if he was told what we were up to or if he simply noticed how much I was gone. But when he discovered our forays into the southern forests, he forbade me to continue them.  Only his wishes didn’t matter to me at the time and I defied him.  It really was my fault.  I pushed him too hard, but at the time all that I was clinging to was my hatred and anger.  Ada had allowed his duties to the kingdom to consume him.  It was how he dealt with the pain.  But we were both just retreating from the truth.  Finally he could take it no more and ordered me to appear before him, which of course I declined,” Legolas admitted sheepishly.  He smiled as Aragorn shook his head at the elf’s stubbornness. 

“Oh Legolas...” the ranger groaned.  “My friend, you still have that stubborn streak down your back.” 

“Yes, but at least time has tempered it.  Ada and I now have a much closer relationship.  We are both learning how to love one another,” Legolas replied.  “Now stop interrupting or I won’t tell you the rest!”  The elf laughed softly, holding his ribs with his arms. 

The rocks in front of them shifted and slipped.  Aragorn curled over Legolas, sheltering him as the wall in front of them moved closer, collapsing in on itself.  Small bits of debris showered them with dirt.  Dust filled the air and choked their lungs making breathing hard. 

Curling in on himself Legolas tried to catch his breath.  Fire raced through his body as his ribs protested any attempt to breathe.  Tears formed at the edges of his eyelids unbidden.  He could hear Aragorn speaking but he couldn’t concentrate on the words.