Family Trouble

Chapter 4: Punishment and Hope

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The instant they stepped outside the young prince felt a thrill of joy pierce him, despite all the sorrow and pain in his heart.  Lifting his face towards the sun he had so long missed, Legolas sighed softly and actually smiled.  The gentle scents of the blooming garden filled his lungs and the sweet song that nature sings to those of the elven race filled his heart and his consciousness.  It was like taking a deep drink after languishing in a cold desert.  To feel the breeze in his hair and the sun on his face, to walk across the green grass... it almost made the price he knew he would pay for his escape attempt worthwhile. 

The guards let the prince linger in the gardens for almost two hours.  None of them had the heart to tell him it was time to go, yet Legolas could sense their growing unease and knew he could not remain in this bliss forever.  Slowly, with unwilling feet, he walked back to them.  He did not want to go back.  He did not want to go back into the dark, into the cage.  His heart cried out against it, yet he had no choice. 

Fear began to touch his heart again as he joined the guards, but he tried to force it down.  “Thank you,” he said softly.  The gift these few hours had been was not something he could even put into words. 

Renault looked away so that no one would see the moisture glistening in his eyes.  Just at this moment he hated himself and all the oaths he had taken that bound him to this blind duty. 

“You have been good to me at risk to yourselves, I thank you,” the elf prince’s voice was quiet.  “I know I must be punished now.  I ask only one thing more of you, if it is within your power to grant.  Please...” he swallowed the lump of fear and shame that had formed in his throat.  “Please do not beat me in the dark,” he whispered, a lost, haunted look entering his eyes.  He had moved on, but old scars had not entirely faded.  He could still hear the rattle of chains.  Meléch’s voice taunted him in the dark corner of the cell as the lash fell again and again...  Legolas pressed his eyes closed to still the voices and images in his mind.  Dorolyn was no more.  Meléch was dead.  Amil-Garil and Renault did not hate him and took no pleasure from hurting him, it was different, it would not be that way.  Yet that did not seem to still the fear in his heart. 

Amil-Garil looked a little surprised and definitely uncomfortable.  Obviously he knew the prince knew what they had to do, but hearing him speak of it seemed somehow to make it even more shameful. 

“Please, don’t put me in chains and not in the dark.  Let it be here.  I promise to submit to you.” Legolas’ plea was earnest.  He could take the pain, that was nothing to him, but the memories that being chained up and beaten in the dark brought back were more hurtful than any punishment ever could be. 

“As you wish, your Highness,” the guards said softly. 

Legolas took several deep breaths, trying to settle the tremor that was making his hands shake before he slowly removed his tunic.  The simple motion was emotionally hard for him and his heartbeat sped up until it was hammering in his ears.  Cursing himself Legolas tried to bring his wildly fluxing emotions under control.  This shouldn’t be that hard.  He could not let that old fear have so much hold over him.  But it did. 

Kneeling gracefully at the base of a tall beech tree, Legolas folded his hands and placed them against the tree trunk.  Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against the back of his palms. 

One of the guards stepped up behind him.  Legolas didn’t know which one and he didn’t want to know.  He just wanted this over.  He had too many dark memories of this kind of pain, first his uncle, then Meléch... 

He tensed and winced as what felt like a leather strap made firm contact with his bowed shoulders.  The guards refused to use a whip on the young elf. 

Legolas leaned against the tree, drawing strength from its strength.  He didn’t know what the prescribed number of strokes was for an escape attempt, as the wood-elves seldom ever kept prisoners and punished them even less.  However, he knew that whatever the usual was he would get twice as much, just as his father had said.  The prince bit his lip as the memory seared his heart.  Surprisingly enough he felt neither hate, nor even anger towards his father, just gut-wrenching heart-ache in knowing that their relationship had changed this much. 

Legolas slid his hands away and pressed his forehead against the rough bark of the tree.  Holding his breath, letting it out.  Holding his breath, letting it out.  It seemed impossible, but he always forgot how much this hurt. 

The guards went as lightly as they could, but the strap raised dull, flushed welts anyway.  

Legolas could tell the guards were holding back.  He knew how it could feel when someone wasn’t.  His uncle had taught him that.  The prince’s breath caught slightly in his throat.  Yes, the physical pain was sharp, but it was his heart that was bleeding.  What Doriflen had done to him left Legolas with a deep-seated, lingering fear that seemed to be proving true.  The fear that there was simply something fundamentally wrong with him that forced others to react to him in anger.  That made them have to hurt him.  And now he had finally pushed his father that far.  He could never hate his father, but he was quite sure his father hated him.  And why not?  Why not when he had caused the loss of everything that both of them had loved? 

A soft, silent sob shook the prince’s shoulder as his emotional turmoil bubbled to the surface, goaded by the pain of the strapping.  Perhaps his father meant to keep him locked up forever.  Perhaps eternal darkness was the price he had to pay for failing to protect his little sister.  It was no less than he deserved he supposed, but the thought that he had lost all hope of love in his life nearly broke the young elf. 

Amil-Garil squeezed his eyes shut.  Oh Valar, please don’t let the prince be crying.  He couldn’t take that.  

But Legolas was crying, softly, silently. 

As suddenly as it had started, the beating was over.  The prince had absorbed only three-quarters of the prescribed double-total, but the captain of the guard could not let it go on.  He could not stand to watch Legolas shudder as he was struck with tears running quietly down his face.  Orders be damned, the young elf had been punished enough. 

Legolas felt gentle hands pulling him up and realized that he must have closed his eyes.  He opened them in time to see Amil-Garil and Renault looking at him with deep pain written in their eyes. 

“I’m sorry, your Highness, so very sorry,” Amil-Garil whispered. He supported Legolas as the prince regained his footing and drew several deep, steadying breaths. 

Legolas just nodded.  He knew. 

The prince did not resist when they took him back inside.  He stood quietly in the middle of his cell until the door was shut again.  His back ached fiercely, but the beating had not broken the skin and no real damage had been done.  It just hurt.  Like his heart.  

Curling up into the smallest ball possible, on the bed against the wall, Legolas drew into himself as he tried to hold onto the feel of the wind on his face and the song of the trees as his world faded back to darkness.   


It was late at night when Thranduil returned at last to the palace.  The long mission had wearied him greatly, but in the end they had been successful and all the prisoners had been rescued alive, and for the most part well. 

The king knew it was late, but was slightly surprised and disappointed nonetheless that Legolas did not come to welcome him back.  He had hoped that the months apart might have cooled his son’s displeasure with him.  Thranduil sighed.  Perhaps it hadn’t... but the truth was he missed the boy.  Not just his presence, but the laughter and happiness that they used to share.  That had been missing for a long time now and he began to wonder if that was his fault. 

Thranduil half thought to go to Legolas’ room, just to see the boy, to hold him... But if Legolas had not come perhaps the king was not welcome in his chambers, and Thranduil could not handle his son’s rejection at the moment.  Not when he was this weary and heart-sick.  No, he would wait until tomorrow.  Surely Legolas would not avoid him forever.

Exhausted, the king sank into bed. 


Amil-Garil strode swiftly and purposefully down the hall towards the King’s chambers.  Thranduil had been home since yesterday and he had not even mentioned Legolas or shown any desire to see him.  The king may think that the prince deserved this kind of treatment, but the Captain of his Guard did not.  Ordinarily he would never over-step himself like this, but Amil-Garil was becoming increasingly worried about Legolas’ health. 

Since his escape attempt and punishment, the young prince had not moved from his place in the corner.  He didn’t even eat anymore.  That had been three days ago.  If something did not change....  The guard pushed the door to Thranduil’s chambers open. 

“Elrynd,” he nodded to the king’s top aide and personal servant.  “Please tell his Majesty that I need to speak to him at once.” 

Elrynd acquiesced, hoping that the captain of the guard was here about what he thought he was.  Everyone in the palace had begun to feel for the prince’s plight, but they were all a little too afraid to say so. 

Thranduil was poring distractedly over some reports when Amil-Garil entered.  The king laid them aside.  When he heard someone wanted to see him he had hoped it was Legolas.  The boy had not joined him for breakfast as he had both expected and hoped.  The nobles and chief members of the council had dumped a load of backlogged policy issues and domestic problems that had accumulated in his long absence on him directly after breakfast and he had been trying to muddle through them ever since. 

He didn’t know exactly what Legolas wanted.  Yes, he supposed the prince was not pleased at being confined to the palace during the king’s extended absence, but Thranduil could not help that he had been gone longer than expected.  Both of them had duties to their people that came before personal matters and he knew Legolas understood that.  He was trying to be respectful of the young elf’s maturity and not act like he expected his son to come running whenever he called but, confound it all, if the boy did not at least show up for meals with him after his having been gone so long, he was going to send for him.  Or at least ask one of the servants where he was and what excuse he was using to avoid his father. 

“Yes, what is it?” Thranduil inquired of his Captain of the Guard, hoping it was not another grievance he was going to have to settle.  The stack he had to deal with now was already reaching mountainous proportions. 

“Your Majesty,” Amil-Garil bowed, unsure how to start.  “Your Majesty, I bear you only the utmost respect and I hope you know that I have never questioned your orders nor your reasons.” 

Thranduil nodded somewhat impatiently.  “Thank you, Amil-Garil, I am aware of your loyal service record.  Is there a problem?”  There almost always was when someone started out with a statement like that. 

“It’s your son, your Majesty.  Do you not think he has been through enough?” the guard asked quietly. 

Thranduil did not understand what was meant.  “If Legolas convinced you to come to me to try to lift his restriction it is not going to work.  He can come and speak to me himself if he has something to say.” 

Amil-Garil blinked at the easy dismissal and the words that did not make sense.  “That would be difficult for him to do from a prison cell, your Highness,” he said with a hint of bitter accusation in his voice. 

“A what?!” Thranduil’s head snapped up, his full attention suddenly riveted.  “What did you say?” 

Amil-Garil was thoroughly confused now and actually backed up a pace as Thranduil rose to his feet.  “Your Highness, I don’t-” 

“Where is my son?” Thranduil demanded, cutting off the captain’s surprise.  “Where is he?” 

“H-he is in the dungeons, my Lord, as you ordered.  He has been for the past three months,” Amil-Garil stammered slightly in shock at the violent reaction the king was having.  How could he have not known?  What kind of terrible mistake had occurred?  This didn’t make sense! 

“My son has been locked down in that hole the whole time I was gone?!” The king’s eyes snapped fire and his voice was almost murderously angry.  He would never have done something like that to Legolas, never!  He knew how much the boy needed sunshine and free air.  This surprise blow was crushing, and anger and horror mingled freely in the elf lord’s rapidly throbbing heart. 

“Yes, my Lord, but those were your orders to us before you left!” Amil-Garil backed away a little, not wishing to be on the receiving end of the king’s anger. 

Thranduil shook his head in blank denial and shock.  “I sent Larous back to tell you to let him out, but to keep him in the palace before we even set out!” 

Understanding crashed into Amil-Garil and he felt sick as he realized what had happened.  “Larous was found dead in the woods a week after you left.  Orcs shot him.  He never returned here.” 

Thranduil put his hand against the wall to steady himself as he too began to understand.  He thought he would be ill.  “Take me to him, at once!  He must be released immediately!  I will not have him down there another moment!” 

Amil-Garil was only too happy to agree but, as he hurried down to the prison with Thranduil, he knew there was more the king should know, and he had better know it before he saw Legolas.  “Your Highness... you should know, the prince he... he tried to escape - a few days ago.” 

Thranduil pulled up, a confused frown wrinkling his face as he tried to understand what was being told him. 

“Your last orders on that subject were followed,” the guard said quietly. 

Thranduil’s face drained of all color as he remembered that last conversation and the things he had said.  By the Valar he had never meant for this to happen though!  “You beat my son?” he whispered, his voice shocked and cracking.  “You beat my SON?!” the sorrow was quickly formulating back into rage. 

“I-I did not want to!  I would rather have died, your Majesty!  But I swore an oath to obey you to the death and those were your last orders to me concerning him.  We had no way of knowing a message had been lost... I am sorry, your Majesty.  If you want my head, take it; it can be no worse than living with the knowledge of the horrible mistake I have made and the pain it has caused.”  Amil-Garil was dead serious. 

Thranduil shook his head, his hands trembling.  “It wasn’t your mistake, it was mine.  I am the one who deserves... oh Valar!  Just get him out!  Get him out!” 

Quickly the correct cell was located and Amil-Garil turned the key in the lock. 

Legolas was still lying on the bed, facing the wall.  He did not look over when the door opened. 

“He has not moved in days,” Amil-Garil whispered quietly to the king as Thranduil brushed swiftly past him. 

Thranduil thought his heart would break when he saw Legolas curled up on the bed, looking so lost and alone.  Dear heaven what had he done?  What had he done? 

Thranduil touched Legolas’ shoulder lightly, noting with horror and heartache the still clearly visible bruises and fading welts that crisscrossed the prince’s pale back.  “Legolas?”  His voice cracked. 

Legolas started slightly at the sound of his father’s voice and rolled over.  “Ada?”  His voice was very small and Thranduil was pained to see fear in the clouded blue eyes.  Fear he had never hoped to see again... but then he had promised Legolas when they rescued him from Doriflen that he would never hurt the boy like his uncle had, and now he had broken that promise, even if it was unintentionally.  He had not meant to, but that was no excuse.  The fact was, it had happened.  And now Legolas looked at him with those fear-filled eyes that had seen too much pain already in their short lifetime.  Eru!  How could he have added to all that hurt in his son’s life that he hated? 

“I’m sorry, Father,” Legolas had sat up and was talking softly, holding his hands firmly clamped in his lap in an attempt to keep from trembling.  This was the first time his father had come to see him since his imprisonment and he desperately hoped it would not be the last. 

“I will not disobey you again.  Please... please don’t keep me here forever.  Even if you hate me, even if you can never look at me with love again, let me be near you.  If I do not deserve to see the sun or walk beneath the stars again, then let me die and follow Celesté and Naneth, but do not hold me for an eternity of darkness!”  The broken words tumbled quick and fast from the young elf’s lips.  He was mortally afraid that his father would leave before he heard him out and he would be left alone once more with no hope. 

Thranduil shook himself out of the horrified daze he was caught in and, dropping to Legolas’ side on the small bed, he wrapped his arms around his son’s shoulders, drawing the boy close.  “Oh Legolas...” his cracking voice was hoarse with pain.  “What have I done?  What have I done to you?” 

Legolas was surprised by his father’s embrace, but welcomed it, letting himself rest against Thranduil’s chest and allowing the king to hold his head against the elder elf’s shoulder.  Some part of him felt he should be angry over his father’s treatment of him, but his need for his father’s love and approval after the months of emotional privation was greater. 

“Legolas, I am so sorry.”  Thranduil held his son’s head to his shoulder, running his fingers through the silky hair and feeling the boy’s hitched breathing against his chest.  He would have given anything to take all the pain and heartache out of his son’s body at this moment.  But it could not be done, and he wondered if Legolas would hate him forever when he found out what had happened.  He feared that this would be a wound between them that might never heal.  He feared that with all of his heart. 

“I never meant to keep you here, my son.  I never meant for you to be hurt like this... it was a mistake, Legolas, a mistake!”  The king spoke softly into his son’s hair, his hands trembling as he felt Legolas’ body stiffen with confusion.  “I only meant for you to spend the night, a day at the most.  I was called away suddenly and came back only last night.  I sent a messenger back to tell them to release you before I left... but I find out only now that he was killed before he could deliver his message.  I never wanted you kept in darkness, Legolas.  I would never be that cruel to you, my son, I am so sorry.  So sorry.  If you can ever forgive me it will be more than I can do for myself.” 

Legolas looked up to find that his father was crying softly, the silver tears wetting the younger elf’s hair.  The prince felt slightly stunned.  A mistake?  This had all been a mistake?  Could he even believe that?  Part of him was relieved, relieved that his father had not intentionally wanted him to suffer so, and part of him ached for the needless weeks of dark torment he had endured. 

“Ada?” he whispered into Thranduil’s shirt.  “Can we leave please?  I want to go outside.” 

“Of course, Legolas, of course.”  Thranduil drew Legolas up with him.  The boy was weak and dizzy, so he supported him as they made their way out into the gardens.  Once outside Legolas felt his strength beginning to return as his body was replenished by something better than food.  He thought he had never seen the world the way he was seeing it now, through the eyes of one who thought himself condemned to darkness, only to discover that he still had an eternity of light ahead of him.  His confusing mix of emotions were too much and Legolas felt tears building in his eyes. 

“I never meant to hurt you,” Thranduil repeated quietly, his heart bleeding as he saw how pale and drawn his little boy had become.  “I hope someday you can forgive me.” 

Legolas shook his head numbly.  Forgive him?  Forgive him?  Thranduil wasn’t the one who needed forgiveness. 

Unable to speak or reason through the jumbled tangle of his thoughts and emotions, Legolas grabbed the low flung branch of the beech tree and pulled himself up.  Climbing hand over hand he worked his way swiftly to a high place in the tree, at the same time reveling in the freedom he had been denied for months and trying to figure out what was going on inside him so he could actually formulate something to say to his father.  Everything had been happening so suddenly, he was still a little stunned and confused. 

Thranduil closed his eyes and leaned against the tree.  He took Legolas’ actions as an answer to the negative.  The boy could not forgive him for what he had done.  Who could blame him?  The elf lord almost followed his first instinct to walk away and give Legolas space to enjoy his renewed freedom, assuming the younger elf did not want his presence, but then he stopped himself.  Lack of communication and misunderstanding had caused this whole mess.  He was hiding, he realized, and he had been for years now.  He didn’t talk to Legolas when they had a problem because he was... afraid?  Yes, as idiotic as it sounded, he, Thranduil, King of Mirkwood, was afraid.  He was afraid to meet with his son’s rejection, especially now that his son was the only family he had left.  So he pulled back.  Gave the boy space... or at least that’s what he thought he was doing.  But now was not a time for that.  He owed it to Legolas to talk to him and, if the boy was angry with him, then it was no more than he deserved. 

Legolas was surprised when he felt the tree quiver lightly with movement as his father joined him on the branch he was sitting on.  Thranduil had not climbed trees with him since he was a child. 

The Elvenking sat down next to his son.  He didn’t say anything right away because he didn’t know what to say, so he just sat for a moment, looking out at the gardens.  “It’s a beautiful view.” 

Legolas nodded, swinging his legs lightly where they hung down over the end of the branch.  It was unusual that his father had pursued him rather than let the issue drop as Legolas had fully expected, but the younger elf was not necessarily displeased.  In truth he had felt more than a little abandoned by his father in recent years.  They never talked.  Problems were never resolved; they were just left to dangle and ignored like dirt swept under a rug.  The accumulative silence that had grown between them as a result had become painfully difficult to bridge. 

“I was punished at the base of this tree for trying to escape.” Legolas said after a moment, his gaze drinking in the sight of the forest spread around him.  “It’s easier to be up here than down there.”  His voice was quixotically light for the words spoken, but he held his father with his gaze as if testing the older elf by his reaction. 

Thranduil’s eyes registered deep sorrow, but he did not look down or break away from his son’s intense gaze.  “I am sorry, Legolas.  I never meant for this to happen and I was wrong to put you down there in the first place.  I wish I could make right what has happened, but I cannot,” the elf king’s eyes were earnest and sad.  “I wish to heaven I could.” 

Legolas did not respond.  His piercing blue eyes held his father’s... they seemed to be looking for something, but what it was he sought, Thranduil could not guess.  “I don’t know what else you want me to say, Legolas,” he shook his head softly. 

“Say that you forgive me,” Legolas spoke so quietly he was nearly whispering.  “But only if you mean it.” 

“Forgive you?” Thranduil was surprised at the request.  “For what?  Disobeying?  Hunting spiders?  Valar, it’s forgiven, Legolas!”  The king was shaking his head, but Legolas closed his eyes and looked away, drawing his knees up to his chest and perching on the thick branch with ease that only an elf would have. 

“No,” Legolas whispered somewhat hoarsely.  That wasn’t what he wanted.  What he needed.  “Not that...” 

“Then what?” Thranduil reached out slowly, softly brushing Legolas’ hair off his shoulders.  He touched the young elf’s face lightly with the back of his fingers; the contact a silent plea for his son to look at him. 

When Legolas turned back his eyes were full of unshed tears.  “For Celesté and Nana,” the prince’s voice wavered slightly and one silver tear escaped down his cheek.  “For not being there for them when I should have been, for – for causing them to be taken away from us like that!”  The tears were flowing freely now and soft sobs shook the young elf’s shoulders as he buried his face upon his crossed arms.  He did not want to let his father see him cry, but could not help himself. 

Thranduil did not know what to say for a moment, so he quickly gave up on words and wrapped his arms around his son tightly. 

Legolas seemed surprised and stiffened momentarily, but he let his father guide his tear-stained face into the crook of the older elf’s shoulder.  

“Oh, Legolas...” Thranduil’s whisper was hoarse.  “There is nothing to forgive.  I never blamed you, my son.  It was not your fault.  If we are to ascribe blame, it might as well be mine.  I was supposed to go with you that day, but I did not.  If I had been there, instead of at some meaningless council meeting...” his voice trailed away and his hand slid up to cup the back of Legolas’ head gently.  “But I was not.  We cannot change the past, ion-nín.  We cannot take back those we have lost.  Just... don’t let me lose you too.  I... I would die of grief.”  The last few sentences were spoken so softly they could barely be heard.  Yet hear them, Legolas did. 

It did not take away the pain of loss in the young elf’s heart, nothing could do that.  Time does not always heal, but healing always takes time.  Yet his father’s words penetrated the pain and added the one thing the prince had been missing in the long, dark seasons since his mother left – comfort, comfort and the assurance that there was still love in his life to counter the pain.  The comfort of knowing there was another heart that ached as much as his. 

Legolas buried his face deeper in the silky, brocade fabric of his father’s shirt, and wept freely for the first time since Celesté died. 

Thranduil held him close, pressing his face into his son’s tousled hair, his tears joining those of his son. 

Their hearts were broken, but now at least there was the hope that out of two broken hearts, whole ones could someday reemerge.  And neither of them wept alone. 


The tale told to completion, Legolas rested against the wall behind his back, a soft smile on his face.  When he glanced over at Aragorn he was surprised to see tear tracks staining the ranger’s face. 

“Oh, my friend, why are you crying?” Legolas asked.  “What’s wrong?”  He sat up away from the wall and leaned closer. 

“No, no it’s nothing,” Aragorn lied.  He swiped at his face clumsily, wiping the tears from the corners of his eyes. “I just never knew.  So much confusion and lack of communication caused so much pain in your family when you were younger.  How did you cope with all that?  And then as I thought it over it made me think of my Ada.  He doesn’t know where I am.  He was gone when I left.  But he’d back by now.  What if we never get to tell them, Legolas...what if we don’t have another chance?” 

“Stop it,” the elf demanded gently.  “You cannot think that way. Do you believe your brothers would let it go that we did not return when they knew we were tracking orcs?  Do you honestly think your father does not know you love him?  My friend, there will be another chance but you must not give up.  I did then in that cell and it nearly cost us both.  My father would have passed on as well and who knows what would have happened to our kingdom?  Your father is counting on you coming back to him.  So is mine.” 

Suddenly their roles were reversed as Legolas quietly consoled his friend and encouraged the man.  He knew how easily despair could siphon the life out of a body and he didn’t want Aragorn falling into that trap. 

“Besides that, we best live for the sake of those idiot villagers themselves.  If your brothers and our fathers find out what has happened to us, that village will wish that Hebrilith had taken them all,” Legolas joked lightly. 

“Their deaths would certainly be easier by his hand than our relatives,” Aragorn concurred.  The teasing had worked and the human’s spirit brightened considerably.  “Not to mention what Raniean and Trelan would do to them if my brothers left anything for them!” 

Gently holding his ribs, Legolas couldn’t help laughing. “You have a point,” the elf admitted.  “Therefore, you can see how important it is that we survive this.” 

Sobering, Aragorn glanced about them, eyeing the tiny cave once more. “Then I guess I better get to finding us a way out of here.  There just has to be a place to start,” Aragorn shifted away from the wall and slowly stood to his feet.  His left ankle wouldn’t support his weight and he balanced on his right foot as he felt the rock wall with his good hand. 

Legolas watched for a few moments; the ranger was not going to be able to do anything to free them.  And the elf knew that he was in no better shape to help.  His chest burned where his ribs were broken and fast movement made him nauseous.   He wondered if it had something to do with the beating he had taken.  There was no way either of them was going to be able to dig themselves out.  He even doubted that the cavern would remain stable if they attempted it. 

“Estel, sit down before you hurt yourself further.  We are not going to be able to move those boulders.  We must rely on Ilúvatar sending your brothers in time,” Legolas gently reprimanded the man.  “Come, sit.  It feels like it is night again.  Let us rest and preserve our strength.  Perhaps we will still have need of it in the near future.” 

Aragorn leaned heavily against the wall in front of him, resting his head on his good arm.  He wasn’t ready to give up and he wasn’t sure what strength he needed to preserve.  He hadn’t much left as it was.  Thirst was now his constant companion, making him lightheaded and leaving a gnawing ache inside his body.  He hadn’t told Legolas but he was sure the elf knew anyway.  They didn’t have much longer one way or another. 

He started to protest Legolas’ request when the prince spoke up again. 

“Did you hear that?”