Tears Like Rain

Chapter 2: Enter Night

by Cassia and Siobhan

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    Doriflen quietly insinuated himself into almost all aspects of Legolas’ life after that.  He was careful, however, to avoid letting his actions be noticed by the boy’s father or mother.  Thranduil was not so hard to avoid, Elvéwen on the other hand could be quite a nuisance to his plans sometimes simply because she spent far too much time with the child for his liking.  Still, Doriflen had the capability of being supremely patient when it suited his purposes.
    Legolas had to trust him first.  Then the true molding could begin.

    It was almost two weeks later that Legolas first began to see a possible darker side to his new training.
    Legolas’ tutor had left him about an hour before and the young prince was stewing in his rooms.  Today hadn’t gone too well.  His instructor, Lord Dridian, informed him he was not paying enough attention to his studies and said that he was going to talk to his father.
    The door opened and Legolas half-expected it to be his father, but it was not; it was his uncle.
    Doriflen had met Dridian in the hall when he tried to see the King.  His brother was busy he said, but if it concerned Legolas he would take the message to him later.
    Thranduil would never get the message.
    The elder elf walked across the room, running his fingers across the pile of scrolls and haphazardly stacked books that Legolas had shoved to one side of his table in frustration.
    “Your father is not pleased with Lord Dridian’s report of you, Legolas.”
    Legolas looked down.  He hadn’t suspected he would be.  “I’m sorry Vede, I don’t mean to vex him so much.  It’s just all the names and dates and facts... they’re so hard to remember sometimes.  I know that’s no excuse though,” he added quickly.
    Doriflen nodded slowly, gesturing for Legolas to come to him.  The prince did.
    “I told your father I would help make sure your marks improved and he agreed.  So...” Doriflen picked up one of the scrolls near the top.  “Is this the one Dridian was using today?”
    Legolas nodded.  “I’ve been going over it again since he left. I will do better next time.”
    “Well then, we’ll go over it again now.  I will ask you questions, you will answer them.  All right?”
    Of course Legolas agreed, and so Doriflen worked his way down the page, quizzing the younger elf on every nuance of the text and the information contained therein.
    To his credit Legolas really had done a competent job of memorizing the information, but inevitably he eventually fumbled on a question and got the answer wrong.
    Legolas started and yelped slightly in total surprise when his uncle slapped him firmly across the face with an open hand.
    Doriflen liked the startled, pained look in the younger elf’s eyes.  He was sure his brother was far too lax with the child for Legolas to understand physical punishment.  So he reversed his swing, backhanding his nephew the other direction.
    Legolas backed up a few paces, utterly shocked and confused.  Both his cheeks were flushed and hot and he pressed the back of his right hand against one, looking to his uncle with wide, questioning eyes.
    Doriflen’s face was impassively neutral.  He acted as if nothing unusual had happened.  “That was the wrong answer. Try again.”
    Legolas wasn’t sure he wanted to, but he collected his thoughts and tried to figure out which part he had erred on.  He spotted it without much difficulty and corrected himself, looking hesitantly to his uncle to see if he was right this time.
    Doriflen smiled and nodded.  “That’s correct.”  He moved on again, posing another question, and another until the prince missed one again.
    Legolas didn’t make a sound this time but he still started sharply when his uncle struck him.  He unconsciously pulled away a step, although it did no good because Doriflen just followed him.  He tried to correct himself again, but it was a question he was a little uncertain about and it took him several tries to get it right.
    Doriflen struck him for each wrong answer and the prince’s eyes glistened with a dangerous amount of moisture by the time he finally got the right one.  Legolas’ breath came quick and fast, wobbling slightly.
    “All right, enough study for today,” Doriflen abruptly ended their session, rolling up the scroll and setting it aside.  “We’ll do more later.  I don’t think you’re prepared enough right now.”  He brushed Legolas’ flushed cheek with one hand, his thumb skimming under the prince’s eye and catching the un-spilt tear.  “Tears are for children, Legolas, you’re an adult now.  Please act like one when we’re together.”  The reprimand was not exactly biting, but it was close.
    Legolas nodded, blinking his eyes dry quickly.
    Doriflen’s fingers tightened on his chin a little.  “Say ‘yes, sir,’ when I give you an order, Legolas.”  His voice was deceptively soft.
    “Yes, sir,” the younger elf responded dutifully.  “But... Vede?” his confused eyes were questioning.  “Why...?” he couldn’t figure out what exactly he was asking.
    Doriflen smiled somewhat condescendingly.  “Legolas, Legolas, you have so much growing up to do!  Don’t take it personally.  I am here for a purpose, to help you learn better.  Pain is a teacher, it molds us, shapes us, hardens us to face the future.  When you first took up a bow you hurt afterwards, did you not?”
    Legolas nodded slowly.  Yes, that was true.  He often ached after practice.  And if they weren’t careful when sparring, the boys could hurt each other or themselves pretty badly.  He understood the concept that if it hurt, you wouldn’t make that mistake again.  He supposed he had better stop being such a big baby about this.
    “Never shy from pain, especially the pain I give you,” Doriflen nodded approvingly when he saw the boy rationalizing it all in his mind.  Legolas was so eager to please, and that made him supremely pliable.  “It is for instruction and for your own good.  Do you understand that nephew?”
    Legolas nodded.  “Yes, Vede, I’m sorry.  I will do better.”


    Over the days that followed, Doriflen continued to ‘help’ Legolas with his studies, relying heavily on this form of instruction.  He quickly deemed that bruises on his face would draw far too much attention.  Therefore he took to quizzing Legolas with a switch instead, applying a single stroke to the boy’s shoulders or backside for each wrong answer.  There, the bruises he left his nephew with did not show.
    Legolas’ studies did improve, since he now lived in fear of getting a wrong answer.  Lord Dridian complemented him on his progress, but was privately puzzled by the boy’s subtle change of attitude.  Although the tutor had sometimes complained of a lack of attention, Dridian had always found his young charge inquisitive and outgoing; a bright mind full of questions.  But Legolas asked fewer questions now and seemed slightly withdrawn from their discussions.  The boy could almost always cite exactly the right answers from the text, but he no longer elaborated on them, no longer tried to use his own logic and imagination as the source of those answers, preferring instead to stay strictly with whatever he felt were the safe or expected replies.
    Dridian couldn’t complain because the boy’s knowledge was exemplary, but still... it was odd.
    Legolas knew he shouldn’t fear his training, but he slowly began to dread lessons with his uncle.  The older elf was becoming more and more demanding, which usually meant that Legolas was left hurting.
    Yet even so, nothing prepared Legolas for the evening when Doriflen summoned him to his chambers.  He should have felt uneasy when his uncle locked the doors, but he was still far too trusting.
    “You avoided me today, Legolas.”  Doriflen turned to the younger elf and Legolas backed up a pace.  He didn’t like what he saw in his uncle’s eyes.  There was a strange light in them that wasn’t always there.  It sent a funny shiver down the prince’s spine.
    “No, sir, at least, I did not intend to...” Legolas started to shake his head, but was stopped when Doriflen backhanded him.  The boy flinched but had become accustomed to that kind of treatment.
    “Do not contradict me,” Doriflen warned.  “Now we always have lessons after your tutor leaves.  So why didn’t we today?”
    Legolas was surprised to realize what this was about.  “I-I thought you were too busy today, Vede.  I waited for you, but you did not come.”
    The prince expected the blow that followed.  He could tell his uncle was angry, and it frightened him.
    “And am I always supposed to come running to you?  If you know you are supposed to do something you do it, Legolas!  You don’t wait for others to hand it to you.  If I am not there, you should come looking for me!”
    “Yes sir, I will remember that,” Legolas promised, trying to keep his heartbeat steady.
    “I’ll make sure you do,” Doriflen countered darkly and the younger elf felt a zing of fear shoot through him, turning his blood cold.
    “Come here.  Come here!”  Doriflen grabbed the boy’s wrist when he did not obey immediately.  He shook Legolas hard.  “You’re not making this any easier on yourself, Legolas; you obey me when I speak and you do it instantly, or you will suffer the consequences, do you understand?”
    Legolas could do nothing but nod in terror.  His throat had closed off and left him no voice.
    Doriflen flung Legolas facedown over the end of his bed and pulled off his belt.  There was no warning, no preamble; he simply started lashing the boy.
    Legolas jerked and started, unused to this new kind of unrestrained abuse.  He tried to get up off the bed, tried to get away from the sudden, terrible pain, but Doriflen caught him and flung him back down again.
    “You do not run and you never, EVER fight me!” Doriflen punctuated that command with a hail of forceful blows, while he pressed Legolas down so hard that the boy’s face was half-smothered in the bedclothes, leaving the young prince dizzy and faint.
    “I’ll tie you down if I have to, but believe me, Legolas, it only gets a hundred times worse for you after that!” he threatened darkly.  Doriflen liked pain.  He liked to see people in pain, and he liked to play twisted games with Legolas’ mind.  But right now he was also angry.  Thranduil had somehow managed to push through the limited measures he had proposed for the aid of Esgaroth.  Not only that, he had actually swayed some of the councilors into believing it was the best thing for them all.  This did not fit well into Doriflen’s plans and he was angry with his brother.  Yet there was no way he could vent that anger on Thranduil... so tonight Legolas would pay the price instead.
    Realizing he had no choice, Legolas stopped struggling and lay as still as he was able, squirming only when the pain became bad and allowed his uncle to beat him without restraint.
    It was not the worst beating Legolas would receive from his uncle’s hands, but it was the first and it left the boy weak and in a world of pain.
    When Doriflen finally released him that night he made Legolas thank him for the punishment, which the prince did, through hitching sobs.  Then he sent the boy back to his own rooms with a warning.
    “I trust you will remember this, Legolas.  And that you will not shame your training.  Everything that passes between us falls under the bond of Saelonship.  You understand that, Legolas?  This is just between the two of us.  I will never shame you by speaking of what you make me do to you to others, and you will not shame yourself or your family by weighing them down or breaking the trust of your training.”
    Legolas nodded shakily and promised to remember before fleeing back to his rooms to bury his burning face in his pillows and let them receive the torrent of his confused and hurting tears.
    He hadn’t known.  He hadn’t known that going forward with his training would be like this.  No wonder students weren’t allowed to talk to one another about their Saelons!  He wondered if Cirlith was this hard on Raniean.  He hoped not.  The young prince felt incredibly betrayed that his parents would submit him to this, yet at the same time he felt horrible for even feeling that way.  Certainly he knew they loved him, they were wiser than he was, and if his father felt this was what he needed, then the fault must lie in himself.
    Slowly, Legolas’ breathing calmed, although the pain remained.  It was a lesson, like his other lessons, he had to think of it that way; he had to be rational and accept correction when he erred.  He sighed into his now damp pillow.  He would simply have to try harder.  If he made fewer mistakes, he would not be punished like this again.  Or so he hoped.
    Physically and emotionally exhausted, the prince eventually fell asleep.

Something’s wrong, shut the light,
Heavy thoughts tonight
and they aren’t of snow white.
Dreams of war, dreams of liars,
Dreams of dragon’s fire
and of things that will bite.

Sleep with one eye open,
Gripping your pillow tight
Exit light
Enter night...

-- Metallica

    The next morning was bad.  Legolas hurt terribly.  When he bathed he could see that his uncle had left him with multitudes of bruised welts across his shoulders and backside.  The water stung and he didn’t stay in it long.  As he gingerly pulled on his class clothes he took a moment to be glad that he had some time ago convinced his father that he was too old to be having servants bathe and dress him every morning.  These marks he bore today would have been too humiliating to explain should anyone have seen.
    He arrived on time for class, which was a kindness at least, but moaned inwardly when he realized they were going to be sparring again today.  He did not feel up to it at all.  To make matters worse, he was paired with Nynd, one of the bigger boys who was often reprimanded for over-aggressive behavior in matches.
    Legolas was good, but he wasn’t compensating well for his injuries and after only a few painful minutes, Nynd pinned him hard.  Legolas’ hurting back was ground into the rough dirt below, making the young elf grit his teeth.
    “Anno,” the prince gasped out, not caring if he lost at this point, just wanting to be let up.
    Nynd pretended he hadn’t heard the soft word and pressed down harder.  It was the first time he had beaten Legolas in a match and he was enjoying it.  “What?”
    “Anno!” Legolas’ voice was jagged and he struggled to be released.  Pain flared, making his breathing short.
    “Nynd!” Tegi was beside his two students now.  The dark-haired elf’s green eyes flashed in warning.
    Nynd quickly let up when their teacher said his name.  Rocking backward and giving Legolas one more small, triumphant shove as he rose to his feet.
    “Are you all right, Legolas?” Tegi was puzzled by Legolas’ poor showing today, but the boy was breathing heavily and his voice before had held a strangely desperate edge that made the teacher think Nynd must have been hurting him more than they could see.
    Legolas was not all right, but of course he didn’t say so.  Instead he nodded, giving a weak attempt at a smile.  “Yes, sir, I’m sorry.”
    “What’s the matter your highness. Not used to a few bumps?” Nynd chuckled unpleasantly.  He disliked Legolas simply because the boy was the prince.
    Tegi was scowling.  He was not impressed.  Several of the boys’ behavior routinely dismayed their instructor.  Nynd son of Melryn and his cousin Amon son of Amilon were two of the worst offenders.
    “Nynd, a match is not just about winning, but about how we win,” Tegi tried for the fifty-millionth time to get that across.  “I am not going to give you points for victory unless you show you can gain it in a responsible manner.”  He let that sink in for a moment before clapping his hands.  “All right then, clear the field.  Next pair, Raniean and Trelan, let’s go!”
    After class was done, Legolas did not change his clothes as he usually did.  He did not want to take his shirt off around his classmates right now.
    “You don’t have lessons today?” Raniean drifted over almost as soon as class ended.
    “No, I do, but I’ll change at home,” Legolas dismissed it easily.  “You and Trelan looked really good today.  Tegi’s got to give you more field time now Trelan, you were good!”
    Trelan pretended to scowl. “I didn’t win,” he glanced at Raniean.  “But at least I know that you didn’t let me win either.”
    “Never worry about that,” Raniean assured with a teasing smile.  “But Legolas is right, you did really well.  It was almost a fluke that I beat you.”
    Trelan smiled and shrugged, then turned his attention back to the prince.  “Legolas... are you all right?  Did Nynd hurt you?”
    Legolas bit his lip, fighting the flush that wanted to creep up his cheeks.  “Not much, really.  He just pinned me kind of hard, I couldn’t breathe too well.”  It wasn’t entirely the truth, but it was all Legolas could give them.  “I feel like such an idiot over the way that ended up.  I’m just having a really bad day I think.”
    “I’m sorry, Legolas,” Raniean said, wishing he could do more than that.  Genuine concern showed in both his friends’ eyes.  “Is there anything we can do?”
    Legolas smiled and shook his head.  “No, it’ll be all right.  Well... actually, would you walk home with me?”  The prince didn’t want to be alone just at the moment; he wanted someone to smile with, he wanted something to take his mind off his problems at home.
    “Of course!” Trelan agreed for them both and all three boys headed back towards the palace.
    “So do you want to tell us what’s making today so bad?” Raniean asked presently, once they were away from the training grounds.
    Legolas didn’t shrug because that would have hurt, but he imitated one pretty close.  “Not really.  Just... family matters.  You know.  How are things going with your Saelon?” It was a question that had been burning Legolas’ mind for a little while now.
    It was Raniean’s turn to shrug.  “All right.  Cirlith’s a good teacher, I like him.  He’s not overly patient though.”  He chuckled.  “I think I drive him crazy sometimes, but so far, so good.”
    Legolas nodded slowly.  “Ran, does he ever... is he ever... really hard on you?”
    Raniean wasn’t sure what his friend meant.  “Yes, I suppose so, sometimes.  Why?  Legolas, do you have a Saelon now?”  Raniean’s look turned excited.
    “If I did, you know I might not be able to tell you Ran,” Legolas shook his head.
    “I know.  Bother that whole thing, it’s such a weird way this all works,” Raniean sighed.
    “Well I still don’t have one in case anyone is wondering,” Trelan spoke up.
    Legolas wanted to tell his friend that he didn’t want one, that he had no idea what the future was like... but he couldn’t.
    “Well you’re not missing too much right now, I can tell you,” Raniean chuckled.  “I am becoming convinced that no one can give withering glares quite as well as Cirlith.”
    Trelan laughed.  “Oh?  Well from what I heard you had that coming.  Honestly Ran, you rigged the trap backward?”
    Raniean flushed and turned to Legolas.  “You know, for being little he sure has big ears!”
    “I heard that!” Trelan protested.
    “And an even bigger mouth,” Raniean added loudly.
    Legolas was chuckling now too.  “Peace!  Peace!  Both of you, now I want to know what happened!”
    “If it’s up to Trelan, the whole FOREST will know before sundown,” Raniean muttered.  “All that happened was that Cirlith was teaching me how to lay a particularly difficult type of snare and I simply reversed a few of the steps by accident.”
    “Oh yes, which caused the trap to spring backward and catch Cirlith about the ankles.  He was left dangling upside-down from a tree so high Ran couldn’t even reach him!” Trelan broke out in another fit of giggles.  “He had to go get his father to cut him down!”
    “Ha ha ha, oh yes, it’s sooo funny Trelan,” Raniean’s cheeks were completely flushed now.
    Legolas was laughing, he couldn’t help it.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized when Raniean turned his glare on him.  “I hope you didn’t get into too much trouble.”  Legolas suddenly realized that this might not be a laughing matter at all.  He shuddered to think what Doriflen would have done to him for something like that.
    Fortunately for Raniean, Cirlith was nothing like Doriflen and would never have thought of harming the boy.  Nor would Raniean’s father, or the true bond of a real Saelon, have allowed such a thing.
    “No, it’s all right,” Raniean assured, rolling his eyes.  “I’ll live.  Living it down however...” he glared at Trelan.  “Seems to be harder.  Oh Trelan, Cirlith taught me something new after that.   Remind me that I want to take you Trellep hunting sometime.”
    “Trellep hunting, what’s that?” Trelan inquired curiously.
    “You’ll see when I take you.” Raniean replied with a grin.  “Oh, you’re welcome to come too, Legolas.”
    From the way his friend was grinning Legolas wasn’t so sure this was a good thing or not, but he laughed anyway.  “I doubt I’ll have time for a while, but someday I will go with you.”
    “Good.” Raniean smiled again.
    The three friends parted ways outside the palace gates since Legolas had more lessons to attend and the other two had family waiting for them.
    Legolas felt better after talking to his friends, but also concerned.  Interpreting Raniean’s comments from his unknowingly skewed perspective made him a little uneasy for his friend’s wellbeing.  Raniean seemed all right... but then again, so did he.
    Lessons with his tutor went well, but the session with Doriflen afterwards did not.  His uncle was still in a singularly sour mood and Legolas could have sworn that Doriflen was throwing questions at him that they hadn’t covered merely as an excuse to punish him for not knowing the answers.  Of course, he figured it was his imagination.
    Still hurting from yesterday, it was hard to hold still for the ‘lessons’ today, but Legolas managed not to cry this time.  That seemed to please his uncle.  Doriflen did not hold Legolas past their allotted time at least and indeed, the older elf seemed to have other things on his mind.  Legolas was only too glad to be ignored.
    Many troubling questions were weighing on the young elf’s mind, and although he was a little frightened, he wanted to do what he had always done and go to his parents with what disturbed him.
    Thranduil was in his study, working very hard over something, when Legolas knocked hesitantly on the doorframe.  The Elvenking looked up and graced his son with a small smile before turning his eyes back to his work.  “Come in, Legolas.”
    Legolas did, seating himself gingerly on the edge of one of the chairs near where his father was working.
    “What are you working on?” the boy inquired, not sure how to even begin to ask his real questions.
    Thranduil rubbed his tired eyes.  “I’m going over requisition lists.  These are all the things that people in various parts of the kingdom need that they want us to supply.”
    “Can we supply them all?” Legolas slid off the chair again and wandered closer.
    “No,” Thranduil shook his head with a weary sigh.  “Not even half.  So I have to decide which ones are most urgent, and how to try to care for the rest with resources we don’t have.  To make matters worse, some of these requests have already been filled, but they are not of the most pressing nature, so I have to figure out how to ask for those resources back without offending people and creating a small riot...” Thranduil stopped, smiling slightly.  He doubted Legolas really wanted to hear all that, or even understood most of it.  Still, the concerned and interested look on the boy’s face warmed his heart.
    Legolas was close now, peering over his shoulder at the lists and confusing arrays stamps and seals decorating the parchments.  He frowned.  “Isn’t Vede supposed to be handling that?”
    Thranduil’s smile was brittle.  He wouldn’t speak ill of his brother in front of his son, but he could think ill all he liked.  “Yes, he was.  That’s how some of these requests became... mistakenly filled.  But I have to do it now.”
    Legolas nodded, although he didn’t understand a tenth of the sabotage and intrigue that was going on behind the scenes.  Not even Thranduil really knew that.  Not yet.
    “Ada...” Legolas studied his fingers as he tried to work up the courage to speak.  Thranduil had gone back to work and Legolas hated to bother him when he was busy like this, but...
    “I was wondering... I mean, well, I... A-about the Saelons-”
    Thranduil held his hand up, halting the boy mid-sentence.  “Legolas, that is not something I can talk about right now, all right?”  He had to find the right words to explain to Legolas why he wasn’t choosing a Saelon for him yet, and at the moment his attention regretfully had to be elsewhere. 
    Legolas hesitated uncertainly.  He knew it wasn’t supposed to be talked about, he had simply hoped...
    “Is there anything else?” Thranduil looked up after a moment when Legolas said nothing, but did not leave.  He didn’t mean to sound impatient, but it was the effect that came across.
    “No, Ada,” Legolas said quietly, shaking his head.
    Thranduil turned back to his work, but a few moments later he paused, realizing Legolas had probably taken his words as a curt dismissal, which wasn’t exactly how he had intended them.
    “Legolas?”  He looked around, but his son had already left, as silent as the wind.  Thranduil sighed.  He would have to talk to Legolas later when he could more fully explain himself.  Unfortunately, such resolves are easily made, and just as easily pushed aside by other pressing matters.  Sometimes, ‘later’ never comes.  Little did the Elvenking realize how much this conversation would haunt him in the years to come.
    No one could really tell how Doriflen got all of his information, but the things he seemed to know sometimes made one ready to believe that the walls themselves had eyes and ears to report to him.  When Legolas went back to his rooms, his uncle was there waiting for him, a dark look in his eyes.
    Legolas froze in the doorway, almost unable to breathe.  What had he done now?
    “Legolas, Legolas...” Doriflen was pacing now, his belt already clenched double in his hand as he patted it lightly into his other palm.  “You almost broke the bond today.  Your father is very angry that you tried to speak to him about us.  He told me to teach you a lesson worth remembering.”
    “Please, no...” Legolas didn’t resist when Doriflen pulled him into the room and shut the door, but his heart recoiled within him.  He knew he shouldn’t have done that; now he had made his father angry with him too.
    Doriflen’s look was unrelenting.  “You learn the rules so slowly, Legolas, I’m going to have to start being harsher about how I teach them.”  He smiled at the fear in his nephew’s eyes.  “Oh yes, much harsher.”

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