Tears Like Rain

Chapter 15: The Hour Grows Late

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Adult elves could easily go for days without sleep, never feeling a thing.  Raniean and Trelan were not adult elves.  They were not exhausted, but they were tired from their long trek by the time the light of the sun began to brighten the eastern sky, hidden from their sight by the leafy barrier of the woods.
    The rising sun lent energy to the young elves’ movements and brought a clearer focus to Trelan’s mind.  He had nearly despaired in the dark of the night as every tree looked like the one before and every slight rise and fall of the earth began to feel strange and out of place.  It was slow going attempting to retrace on foot a journey that had been made on horseback and Trelan could only hope and pray that he was doing a somewhat accurate job.
    As the sun rose, Trelan felt a small shudder of familiarity.  Not so much for their location as for the way the sun felt as it struck the side of his face.  Closing his eyes he froze for a moment, trying to absorb only the information he could feel and not that which he could see.  Yes, if he had ever had any doubts before he was sure now that it must have been the morning sun he felt on his exit from Doriflen’s hidden fortress.
    “We need to turn a little this way, Ran, it’s striking me too much from the right,” Trelan turned aside a trifle from their previous course as they forged steadily ahead.
    Raniean and Trelan were too young to know how impossible it should have been for two children to hope to retrace an unseen journey of this many leagues with any sort of accuracy, too hopeful to know that they should have ended up nowhere but hopelessly lost.  Instead they proceeded with the trusting faith of childhood and the unswerving loyalty of friendship into the face of the odds against them.
     It should have been almost impossible... yet sometimes, beyond all reason, Ilúvatar chooses to smile upon the innocent trust of the pure of heart.  Such was the case today.
     A wide, shallow stream cut through the forest ahead of the two elflings.  On the other side, the ground rose steeply up before disappearing back into the tree line.
    Trelan became very excited.  “Ran!  Ran, this is it!  I remember coming down this hill and riding through this river!  We have to be almost there!”
    The two young elves came to life, their weariness forgotten as they splashed easily through the shallow water and scrambled up the hill.
    At the top, Trelan paused, collecting his bearings.  They were not exactly where he had been, there was too much shade here and he distinctly remembered full sunlight when they crested the hill.  The question now was which way were they off?
    Fortune continued to be on their side, because their sharp elven ears could hear the faint murmur of voices that alerted them to the smell of cook-fires being waked for the morning meal wafting to their senses from away to their left.
    Blending into the trees, Raniean and Trelan made their way quickly and quietly toward the source of the sounds and smells.  They had a long walk ahead of them, having wandered no small distance off course from the real path that Trelan had been taken.

    The sun was a visible orb peering down around the branches of the trees by the time the two young elves came within sight of the first sentries guarding the encampment they had found.
    Hidden behind a cluster of trees and tangled undergrowth, Raniean and Trelan pressed themselves to the earth as they watched the adult guard pad silently past them, his eyes scanning the trees around, but missing their hiding place.  The children’s hearts hammered in their chests because they had almost not seen the sentry until too late.  They lay on their stomachs in the hiding place for some time, barely daring to breathe, until they felt sure that the guard was well away.
    “This must be it,” Raniean murmured, barely above a whisper, almost breathing the words into Trelan’s ear.  “We’ve found them!”
    Trelan nodded, but at the same time felt his stomach twist.  Yes, they had found them, but they had found them too late for it to matter.
    “We’re too late Ran, we’ll never make it back in time to lead anyone here before time runs out,” he whispered in dismay, cursing himself for not realizing his idiotic error sooner.
    Raniean knew it was the truth.  They were out of time.  By the time they made it back for help, Legolas would be dead.  His fists balled tightly, determination welling up inside him.  He was a royal sentinel, sworn to protect the King’s house.  Legolas was his charge, his responsibility, Randomir had all but told him that.  Even more importantly than that... Legolas was his friend.  Raniean was young, but he was not a fool.  He knew what kind of chance he had of getting anywhere near Legolas, much less actually rescuing him alone, but his mind was made up.  He would see the prince freed, they would die together.
    “Trelan,” Raniean raised himself cautiously up on his hands and knees, looking around.  “I’m going to try to find Legolas and get him out of here.  I want you to go back as fast as you can, tell them what has happened.”
    Trelan was already shaking his head fiercely.  “No, Raniean, I won’t leave.  I’m coming too.”
    “Somebody has to tell the King!” Raniean protested.  If they were both captured or killed, no one would ever know what happened.  “Trelan... this is my task, and I have no illusions about my chance of success.  I won’t take you down with me.  Go!”
    Trelan had his arms folded and his stubborn glare firmly in place.  “You need me here, Ran.  You don’t know where Legolas is, you don’t know where Doriflen has him, or how to get in or how to get out.”
    Raniean hesitated.  That was true.  “And you do?” he asked skeptically.  “Trey, you were blindfolded.”
    Trelan gestured around them.  “I got us here didn’t I?  Ran, we stand a better chance together.  If we fail, then it doesn’t matter if anyone knows where we’ve gone or what we’ve found, it will be too late anyway. I’m not leaving.”
    Raniean sighed, unable to fight against his friend’s logic.  “All right then.” He gripped his friend’s elbow.  “Together?”
    Trelan returned the gesture.  “Together.”
    Raniean glanced up at the tall trees around them.  “These trees are tall, if we climb high enough we may be able to get quite close without anyone noticing us.  If there is some kind of stronghold it should be easy enough to spot.”
    Trelan nodded thoughtfully as they climbed swiftly towards the treetops.  “I suppose...” a memory was niggling at him and he was trying to decide what it meant.  “But Ran... I remember going up stairs to get out, and then we passed through some kind of gates and were outside.”
    Raniean paused for a moment before swinging up to the next branch, absorbing this new information.  Perhaps it was a good thing that Trelan was with him after all.  “Then what we are looking for may actually be underground.”  He grimaced.  “This is going to be interesting.” 


    Legolas lay curled on his side, his eyes closed against the darkness around him.  It was past time for his Uncle to come for him and he was trying not to feel frightened.  Yet he could not help jerking when the door scraped open and he saw Doriflen’s body framed in the entryway.
    Doriflen was alone this time.  He was beginning to question the effects that his dealings with his nephew were having on his guards.  Because of what he planned to do today, it was best he be alone.  Besides, he did not need them; Legolas was in no condition to fight back.
    Dragging Legolas to his feet, Doriflen pulled the boy across the room, but did not place him in the center restraints as the prince expected.  Instead, Doriflen pushed him against the far wall.  There were several iron rings set into the floor in that corner and it was between them that Doriflen forced Legolas to kneel.
    Legolas resisted stiffly, but had no real strength or hope to fight with as his uncle bound his left arm securely to one ring with a length of thick cording.
    “You know, I don’t think your father takes me seriously,” Doriflen said in a conversational tone as he finished tying the knot off tightly, yet his eyes sparkled with dark malice.  “Maybe I can convince him of the gravity of this situation... and you can help me.”
    Legolas did not like the sound of that at all and watched his uncle fearfully as Doriflen forced his right arm through a second iron ring, jerking the boy roughly down to his stomach on the floor.  Doriflen made Legolas bend his arm so that his elbow was hooked through the ring, stretching the boy tightly between the two restraints.
    “Have you ever heard the story of Beren, a mortal man who dared set his sights on the daughter of King Thingol of Doriath?” Doriflen asked casually as he pulled Legolas’ right wrist forward, stretching the boy’s bent arm further forward and causing the metal ring around the prince’s elbow to dig painfully into his flesh.  “Thingol set Beren to a task, but the human returned empty-handed... do you know why?”
    Doriflen paused, giving Legolas a hard-edged look that the boy immediately recognized from his many ‘lessons’.  His uncle wanted an answer.
    Legolas was tired and hurt too much to be pointlessly defiant.  “Because the wolf took his hand off with the Silmaril in it,” he said quietly, resting his head against the stone floor wearily as he watched his uncle pull his wrist level with a third floor ring.
    “That’s right,” Doriflen nodded, binding Legolas’ right hand to the last iron ring so that the boy’s arm was stretched uncomfortably tight between the restraint around his elbow and the taut cords around his wrist.
    “And what about Maedhros, son of Fëanor; you recall his story?” Doriflen rocked back on his heels, regarding the bound child.
    Legolas’ slight nod of acknowledgement was all Doriflen needed to continue.  He put on a mock-teacher’s attitude, a condescending facsimile of the role he used to play in his nephew’s life.  “So tell me then, Legolas, like a good little princeling: Upon viewing their stories, what similarities do you find between Beren and Maedhros?”
    Legolas did not have to think hard, although he was growing uneasy about where this game was heading.  “They both lost a hand,” he whispered, fear beginning to crowd the shadows in his eyes.
    Doriflen grinned mirthlessly and twisted Legolas’ bound right wrist viciously, making the boy gasp and wince in pain.  “True. Ah, but Legolas, you disappoint me; do not always stop at the obvious conclusion, for there is often more hidden underneath.  They both lost their hands because they were failures, having not prevented their enemies from taking them captive, and they also both ultimately died.”
    Doriflen smirked, allowing the large blue eyes locked on him to read the intentions in his own dark gaze.  “So on all counts nephew, you will be in memorable company, if that is any comfort to you.”
    Legolas felt his heart lurch as he realized his uncle’s intentions.  The young elf began to struggle vigorously with the ropes holding him, but Doriflen had done his work well and Legolas was completely trapped by the cords and the iron rings he was staked out between.
    “No!  Uncle, please don’t...” Legolas shook his head, his body filling with terror as Doriflen rose and retrieved a small, curve-bladed elven hand-axe he had left outside the door.
    The elder elf returned and crouched in front of Legolas again, turning the deceptively graceful weapon over in his fingers and glancing between it and Legolas’ outstretched wrist.
    “Ah but I must, for it seems your father could do with a more substantial reminder of what will happen tomorrow if he does not respond immediately.  I mean to send him a token that cannot be ignored.  Oh don’t worry, Legolas, it won’t kill you, not unless I want it to.  There will still be time for Thranduil to change his mind before it comes to that... but not much.  Still... ‘tis a pity really,” Doriflen smiled cruelly.  “Even if he does come to his senses... you’ll never be able to handle a bow again.  But then, there’s that element of self-sacrifice for the greater cause and all that that you always like to talk about.  I hope that comforts you.  And of course if he doesn’t change his mind, then it won’t matter anyway, will it?”
    Legolas was still shaking his head desperately against the cold stone floor, squirming in his bonds and trying to pull his arm away, despite how useless he knew the effort was.
    Doriflen liked the terror he could see running through his nephew’s eyes.  Legolas had never looked quite this frightened before and he savored having found something that truly seemed to shatter the boy’s iron defenses so completely.  He only wished he could be there to see his brother’s face when he received his little ‘gift’.  Maybe he would send Naerdil with it; that way if Thranduil exploded and killed the messenger, he would be rid of someone who was quickly showing himself to be a weakling of suspicious loyalties.
    The elder elf touched Legolas’ face in mock-gentleness, tracing the boy’s tear-stained, trembling cheek.  “Are you afraid Legolas?  Would you do almost anything I bid you to escape what I am going to do now?” Doriflen asked quietly, that odd, unbalanced mix of genuine curiosity and malicious playfulness sparkling behind his eyes.
    Legolas swallowed and closed his eyes, curling in on himself as much as he was allowed and bowing his head in shame.  Valar forgive him, at this moment his uncle was right, he was terrified and desperate.
    Doriflen chuckled, releasing his face.  “You would, wouldn’t you?  You know that, and hate it.  But you know there is no escape for you now, don’t you?  Can you feel them, Legolas?  The cracks running through your very soul?  You are weak, Nephew; you refused what I tried to give you, the path of strength I would have shown you, and look where that has taken you.  You will be destroyed, your father will be destroyed, your mother will be destroyed... and if I were really cruel, I would let you live to see it, but I won’t.”  His hand tightened menacingly on the boy’s out-flung wrist.
    “Please...” Legolas whispered hoarsely.  “Don’t do this.”
    Doriflen just shook his head.  Fear, terror... they were such amazing things really.  Give a person enough time and fear alone could kill them.  It was just an emotion, just a feeling... yet one strong enough to break the will and the strength of the mightiest warrior if used properly.  It always fascinated Doriflen to see just how much havoc a person’s mind and body could wreak upon itself if left to its own devices after a proper application of impending doom.  Elves were more resilient in most cases, but he had seen some humans completely fall to pieces and become blabbering idiots with nothing but a little pain and a lot of fear to guide them.  Sometimes you didn’t even have to touch them, their minds did all the work for you.  It was really quite amusing.
    It would be interesting to see just how far Legolas’ own fear would break him before Doriflen even applied the threatened amputation.  Legolas always did hate to be made to wait for his punishments.
    Smiling with morbid fascination, Doriflen rose to his feet, leaning the curved axe against the wall just out of Legolas’ reach, but well within his eyesight.
    “I get ahead of myself.  I should have a torchbearer here to cauterize the wound so you don’t bleed to death.  Couldn’t have you dying too soon, now could we?  Wait here, Legolas; I’ll be back presently,” he smirked, as if the boy had any choice.
    Doriflen shut the door behind him and threw the bolt across the latch, locking it from the outside.  He could not afford to wait too long really, because he needed there to be enough time for the messengers to deliver his little gift to Thranduil... but one more hour would not hurt anything.  He wondered what kind of a mess Legolas would be when he came back... it was very intriguing.

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