Tears Like Rain

Chapter 5: Painful Discoveries

by Cassia and Siobhan

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I have a tale to tell,
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well.
I was not ready for the fall,
Too blind to see the writing on the wall...

A man can tell a thousand lies;
I’ve learned my lesson well,
Hope I live to tell
the secret I have learned, ‘till then...
It will burn inside of me.


    When Legolas woke he was no longer bound and was lying fully clothed on his Uncle’s bed.  The young elf moaned softly in pain and rolled onto his side.  He had only passed out a handful of times when Doriflen was punishing him, but it was becoming more frequent as Doriflen became more violent.  Legolas stared down at the muted shades of the rust-colored quilt underneath him and realized he was shaking, but it wasn’t just from the pain.  He was scared.
    Something was wrong.  Somewhere in his heart he was having trouble believing that his father and mother wanted him hurt this way, this frequently.  He still believed that some of what he endured was normal, but he was beginning to think that his Uncle’s unstable nature was making it worse than it should have been.
    It hadn’t started like this... at first lectures and lessons had been all there was, and Legolas was used to that from all his teachers.  Then when the abuse started... it hadn’t been all at once, but introduced gradually and the young prince always believed it was his fault.  Lately though, Doriflen seemed to have no restraint with him and Legolas was truly beginning to fear that his uncle might go too far and kill him by accident one of these days.  It was a horrible feeling and a sickening fear to carry all alone.
    There was something wrong with his uncle.  He could see that now, some unbalanced fire in his eyes and his soul that Legolas had learned to fear.
    Besides all that though, there were also the disturbing things he’d been hearing about Doriflen of late that made him question just how much trust he should be placing in the elder elf... it had been for a little while now.  Yet... he was afraid.  He was afraid to question, afraid what Doriflen would do to him if he found out, afraid that his parents would be angry.  And he was ashamed; ashamed of the secrets, of the lies, of the hurts and humiliation, of what his uncle did to him and his own reactions.
    Voices from the next room caught his attention, so he just lay still on the bed and listened, not feeling ready to do anything else yet.
    “You have the brat secured?” Doriflen was asking someone who responded to the affirmative and Legolas wondered what they meant since he himself was no longer bound.
    “Good.  The last thing we need is more people knowing too much. Amilon tells me that there are some who are beginning to question my authority and who doubt the truth of what I say.”
    “It is true, there are indications that some of our following are beginning to doubt your claim to the throne.  The unrest is growing, we must move soon or I fear we will lose too much of our backing.  Words mean nothing without action.”
    Legolas recognized the voice of the second elf as that of Melryn, Nynd’s father.  The things he heard Doriflen saying startled him.  What could they possible be talking about?  Legolas had heard the rumors that there were traitors amongst them, but surely it couldn’t be his uncle.  Thranduil’s own brother couldn’t want to hurt him that way... could he?
    The prince’s brows furrowed at the disturbing and confusing words he was hearing.  It seemed he was coming into the middle of a conversation.
    Slowly he pushed himself off the bed and made his way uncertainly across the carpet towards the door.  He didn’t know what time it was now and had to get back to his rooms before he was missed, but something troubled him about whatever Melryn and his uncle were talking about.  There was a light coming from under the door to Doriflen’s study and Legolas quietly made his way down the hall towards it.
    The voices of the elves within the study grew louder as they argued and Legolas carefully cracked the door, barely pushing it past the frame as he listened.
    “Is that what they are saying?”  Doriflen asked darkly as he paced back and forth.  “Well I think I know just the thing to stop their doubts.”  The elf lord stood perfectly still and smiled darkly at his captain.  “In fact tonight we will have rule from within the palace and no one will question me again.”
    “My lord, how do you propose to do this?”  Melryn asked, shifting nervously under Doriflen’s piercing gaze.  “Thranduil is still king and his guards are loyal...”
    Melryn stepped back quickly as Doriflen moved menacingly towards him.
    “Thranduil is weak,” Doriflen spat with venom.  “His rule is weak and he is not the lawful king.  He is a sniveling usurper and I will expose him for what he is!  Tell me, Melryn, have you found anyone with access to Thranduil’s chambers yet that we can trust?”
    Melryn seemed a trifle disgusted.  “No.  No one goes in or out of the King’s private chambers at night except for his family and his personal attendant.  There’s no moving Elrynd; he would cast himself into the fire before he betrays Thranduil.”
    “You were not too obvious with him were you?” Doriflen asked sharply.  “I don’t really relish having another case like Umdanuë on my hands right now, they’re still searching for him.  Someone like Elrynd would be too conspicuous of an absence.  Dealing with that nosey child is going to be quite enough.”
    “No, my Lord, Elrynd suspects nothing.”  There was a pause.  “My Lord, what was done with Umdanuë?”
    “None of your concern,” Doriflen brushed the question off with irritation.   His voice had taken on a quiet, dark tone, his attention distracted by the smallest of unexpected sounds.
    On the other side of the door, Legolas’ heart froze.  What madness of treason was this that they were speaking?  With a quiet gasp the prince realized that his uncle was the traitor he had heard about.  He almost couldn’t comprehend this sudden revelation, yet it was all there, too much to be ignored.  It was true then; the ugly whispers he had been hearing were not rumors only.  Doriflen did intend to try to take the throne from his father.  Legolas still did not understand everything being said, but what he did understand was quite enough to horrify him.
    Motioning Melryn to silence, Doriflen walked soundlessly back to the far side of the room, out of Legolas’ view where he stood by the door.  The silence within alerted the youth and he quickly turned to flee, but he was not fast enough. He had just reached the hallway when Doriflen flung the door to his study wide open.
    Legolas darted back into the bedroom, but he was sure his uncle had seen him.  He tensed, listening – he had been discovered.  He spun on his heels, there was no escaping now, he would have to admit he had been eavesdropping.  Under normal circumstances that would have been frightening enough, but now...
    “Nephew, you are awake.”  Doriflen walked into the bedchambers, his tone conversational, his hands clasped behind his back.  “Feeling better are we?”
    The question tossed Legolas off guard and he stammered slightly as he replied, “Yes, Uncle, but I should be going or I will be missed.  Was there anything else?”  His attempt at innocence did not fool the older elf.
    With a feral smile that shot fear straight through Legolas’ heart Doriflen walked up to the young elf and placed his arm around the prince’s shoulders, directing him back into the bedroom.  He wondered how much the boy had heard.  Probably more than was healthy.  They might just have to speed things up a little.
    “Actually, it’s funny that you ask, there is more to tonight’s lesson.”  The fear that shown in Legolas’ eyes at this pronouncement delighted Doriflen.  “Tell me, Legolas, how does the King deal with those who eavesdrop on important meetings in his chambers without leave?”
    Unwillingly, the prince began to shake, he could not handle another beating tonight; he feared he would not survive.
    “Tell me, child, don’t make me wait for the answer.  You know what happens when you aren’t prompt with my questions.”  Doriflen stopped walking and turned the younger elf towards him, lifting the boy’s chin until Legolas was forced to stare into his eyes.  “Now answer me.”
    “They are flogged,” the elfling whispered.  He was trying hard to control his breathing and contain his fears, but his stoic mask was slipping.
    “Ah,” Doriflen turned his back on Legolas and walked to the far side of the room as though deep in thought.  “That is what I was afraid of,” he commented after a few moments.  “Then that is what I shall have to do to you.”  With a slight, sympathetic smile he glanced back at his nephew.  “You were snooping near my door, were you not?”
    Without waiting for Legolas to answer, Doriflen picked up a coiled whip that lay on the chair near his bedside.  Legolas did not want to consider why it was there.  Doriflen slapped the leather handle in the palm of his hand, beating out a steady rhythm as he walked back towards his nephew.
    “You know how I hate to do this...”
    Try as he might Legolas could not stay put as he was told.  Doriflen had never used a real whip on him before and he was terrified senseless by the threat.  He backed away from the older elf, his hands in front of him in a placating gesture.
    “No, Uncle, please.  I...I am sorry, it was not intentional, it was...” Legolas stopped pleading as he bumped into Melryn, who gently held the child in place.  Legolas squirmed lightly in his grip, petrified.  He didn’t know if his uncle knew how much he had heard or not and did not want to let on that he knew about the treachery for fear that his uncle would never let him leave these rooms alive if he did.  Glancing at the whip in Doriflen’s hands the prince’s heart trembled; maybe his uncle did not intend to let him live through tonight anyway.
    Melryn had walked out into the chamber after his lord when heard the prince’s voice and now held the boy’s arms firmly.  He had been afraid that something like this might happen.  He had told Doriflen many times in the past that attempting to turn the King’s son against him was reckless folly, but his liege would never listen to him.
    “No?” Doriflen repeated Legolas’ request, twisting the word back on the child, mimicking the prince’s voice. “Then perhaps you have a better punishment in mind.”  When the young elf did not answer, Doriflen continued, “I thought not.  You know I cannot let you go unpunished.  You must learn and you are such a slow learner.”  He tapped the handle of the whip against his lower lip as though deep in thought.
    “There might be a way for you to redeem yourself without forcing me to flog you.”  Doriflen gazed at the elf that held the child securely, a wicked smile spreading across his thin lips.
    Touching the leather thong of the whip to Legolas’ cheek, Doriflen tormented him with the feel of the instrument of punishment, forcing Legolas to wait on his uncle to continue.  The prince closed his eyes tightly and evened his breathing out as he waited.  Anything that Doriflen could come up with instead of his regular beatings would be bad indeed.
    Jerking the leather roughly along the line of Legolas’ chin, Doriflen walked back to the chair and dropped the whip back into it, his tone of voice conversational once more.  “Yes, there is another way.”
    When his uncle turned back to him, Legolas shivered involuntarily at the demented light in the elf’s eyes.
    “Have you seen the ring that your father wears?  The one with the green stone set in silver leaves?"
    Legolas nodded slowly.  “The edsiria?” he asked quietly.
    “Yes, the edsiria of the royal house that should have passed to me when father died, but did not,” Doriflen concurred darkly.  The ring was old and had a very long history, most of which was unknown to Legolas.
    Crafted many ages ago by one of the Mírdain of Eregion, the mithril and emerald ring had been one of their early essays into making rings that were more than just jewelry.  The edsiria, as the ring was called, was not at all like the later rings of power that had been forged by those elves, but it was special all the same.  The ring had no power in its own right, but it acted as a channel, or a prism that enhanced and focused the natural strengths and abilities of the wearer.
    The edsiria had been given as a gift to Oropher before Sauron, calling himself Annatar, had come to Eregion in fair form and befriended the craftsman elves.  The skills that had made the edsiria and other lesser rings like it were then used as building blocks for the creation of the rings of power although, since it had been made before Saruon’s arrival, the edsiria was untouched by the evil that tainted most of the other work done thereafter.
    Oropher’s ring was the last known instance of one of those early rings that still survived in Middle-earth and Doriflen greatly desired to posses it.  Not only was it the official seal of Mirkwood, but it allowed Thranduil better control over the elf ‘magic’ at work through the woods, including the palace gates and many other measures of protection in their realm.  If Doriflen had it, not only would Thranduil be crippled, but Doriflen’s own power would expand.  Getting it was the only problem, and Doriflen had a plan for that.
    “So, you’ll be able to redeem more than one wrong tonight, Legolas.  You will take the ring from his room and bring it to me.”
    Before he realized what he was doing, Legolas was shaking his head, “No, no, Uncle, I cannot.  The ring is special and I am not allowed to touch it.”
    “Did you just refuse me?” Doriflen’s voice was cold and the tone shot fear through Legolas’ heart.  He knew what it meant for him.
    “No... I mean yes.  But no, I did not mean to refuse you.” The prince stumbled for the right words to assuage his uncle’s ire.  “I meant that Father never removes it from his finger.  I have not seen him without it, it would be impossible.” Legolas swallowed hard.  He could not steal from his father; it was unthinkable.
    Doriflen sighed as though speaking to someone who was very slow, “Your father does not always wear the ring, Legolas.  Your father,” he bit the word off as though it were a slur, “is bound by tradition.  It rules him, he believes in the codes and the old ways passed down by the ancients and therefore I know that your father does not wear the ring at night.  You see the ring used to belong to our father and he would always place it in a wooden box by his beside at night.  A small, polished wood box with carvings on the outside.  Have you seen such a box?”
    Again Legolas simply nodded.
    Even though the edsiria had never been touched by evil and indeed did not posses the power-retentive qualities that would have been needed for it to retain such evil even if it had been, Oropher had never felt completely comfortable about it after the revealing of Sauron and the destruction of Eregion.  He got in the habit of not wearing the ring all the time and taking it off when he went to rest at night.  All this was unknown to Legolas, however, since Thranduil had not considered the ring a topic for children.
    Legolas was not struggling anymore, so Melryn released him and moved to the doorway that led to the hall.  He stood guard to see that no one interrupted.  The last thing they needed was to be discovered now.  The captain watched with awed surprise as Doriflen manipulated the young prince to concede to his way of thinking.  It was always a bit of a shock how Doriflen could bend people to his will, even people like the prince who should have had deep reasons to despise or distrust him.
    “If you have seen the box, then you have seen where the ring lies at night.  This is your final test, Nephew.  Bring the ring to me after your father has fallen asleep.”
    “How can stealing from my father be one of the tests, Uncle?  I do not understand.”  The request felt wrong.  Legolas knew that his father had told him to never touch the ring.  He did not know why, but had always been told that in time he would learn everything when it was necessary for him to know.
    Doriflen, knowing the logic that Thranduil used on Legolas, as it was how their own father had treated them, turned the king’s words against his son, “When it is time for you to know the ‘why’ of everything I will tell.  But now is not the time nor is it yours to question me as your Saelon.  All elves must pass a final test similar to yours.  Do it and bring me the ring.”  He watched amused as Legolas warred within himself.
    His father had rules.  Doriflen had rules.  The rules themselves seemed to contradict each other and the prince was confused.  Moreover, having heard the treachery his uncle was planning made him extremely hesitant to trust anything he said.  The words of his father’s caution rang more clearly in his head and with shame he dropped his gaze, his voice a mere whisper.  “I cannot, Uncle.  It is forbidden to me to touch it.  I cannot disobey my father.  Let me tell him of your request and then...”
    “You will do as I tell you!”  Doriflen’s outburst of anger caused even Melryn to flinch and step back, bumping into the doorframe.  He winced when the elf lord slapped Legolas harshly.
    For a few moments Doriflen paced the room.  This was getting him nowhere and they were running out of time.  If persuasion wouldn’t work, he would try something a little stronger.  Stopping in front of the prince he reconsidered his options.  “Very well, Nephew. I had not wanted to do this, but you give me no choice.”
    Legolas steeled himself for the worst, but he knew he had chosen right.  He needed so desperately to talk to his father about what was going on, but after refusing his Uncle he wondered if he would even have the chance.
    “Your friend, the taller one that you play with in the afternoons?  Remember him?”
    Nodding slowly Legolas glanced from Doriflen to Melryn, fear knotting once more in his stomach.
    “Well, he interrupted your lesson this evening.”  Doriflen smiled as Legolas’ eyes went wide as that information sunk in. “Very rude of him, walking in without knocking.  He saw things he was not meant to see, and for that he should be punished. I have him hidden away and if you do not do as I say and return to me before sunrise I will give him the flogging that you so richly earned.  His blood will be on your head, do you understand me?  Now go get that ring and bring it back here.  And do not think to go for help or try to tell your father what I have done, for if anyone but you passes back through my door this night, Raniean will not just be punished, he will be dead.  If you tell anyone what has passed between us, or what errand I have set you, your friend is dead... and he will not go easy, that I promise you.”
    When Legolas hesitated Doriflen continued, “Need proof do you?”  The elf lord stalked into his study and returned with a wadded up green cloth.  He threw the bundle at Legolas, causing the young elf to stumble back slightly.
    Carefully Legolas shook out the cloth.  It was a cloak, a simple elven cloak that might have belonged to Legolas; but the brooch that was pinned at the nape of the neck was not the royal insignia: it was the symbol that belonged to the House of Randomir.  Legolas thought his heart had stopped beating as his fingers gently brushed over the silver pin.  Ran had been wearing this only today; he remembered it clearly.  There was no way Doriflen could have gotten this if he hadn’t captured Raniean.
    “He was bringing you this.”  Doriflen tossed Legolas’ own brooch at the elf.  It fell to the floor between the boy’s feet.  “Really, Legolas, you must be more careful about leaving your things around.  I do believe you have already had a lesson in that have you not?”
    Slowly Legolas glanced from the glittering brooch near his boots to his uncle’s face.
    “Uncle,” his whisper was broken.  “I will do what you ask, just do not harm Raniean.”
    “Then you had better hurry, you’ve already wasted precious minutes, dawn is not getting any further away,”  Doriflen taunted.  He looked to Melryn and motioned to the guard who quickly opened the door and stepped aside as Legolas fairly flew out into the hallway and headed for the upper rooms.  He had no idea how he was going to pull this off, but Raniean was counting on him.
    “Do you think this wise?” Melryn asked softly after the child was gone.  He was not convinced that the prince would not simply run crying to his parents about the whole thing.  But then, he did not know Legolas as well as Doriflen did.
    The laughter of his liege sent chills skittering up Melryn’s spine.  Doriflen walked back to his guard and closed the distance between them. “You question my intentions and my command constantly, Melryn; that is not wise.  Legolas will do as he has been told.  Once I have that ring it won’t matter what my brother knows.  I will be in control of all his precious defenses and he will have no choice but to step down.  Now go, hide that brat of Randomir’s where he can never be found but by us; you know where I mean.  Gather the men and be ready for my call. Tonight the throne will belong to the proper king.”
    As Melryn formally bowed at his dismissal, Doriflen was already planning what his next steps would be.  He no longer paid attention to the soldier that left to do his bidding.  Thoughts of the future he had set in motion flooded his heart and mind and he hummed happily to himself as he entered his study to wait.  It wouldn’t be long now.  He would have the ring, he would have the rule, and elven blood would run through the house of Oropher once more in payment for the foolishness of an old elf that had not the foresight to see the inevitable – he was the rightful ruler of Mirkwood, he had always been.

    Legolas stopped running when he reached his own chambers.  He gently set Raniean’s cloak down on his bed.  His knees buckled beneath him and he crumpled to the floor, crying.  He felt trapped.  There was no one he could talk to, no one to whom he could turn.  He wouldn’t have time to reach Trelan’s house and get back before sunrise and even if he did, his friend could not help him, no one could help him now.  Every moment he spent crying was one more that he could not afford to lose.  He wanted nothing more than to run to his father’s room and tell him everything, but he feared for Raniean’s life.  Doriflen would carry through on his threat, of that he had no doubt.
    Pulling his knees up against his chest he tried to calm himself and formulate a plan.  He needed to get the ring, deliver it to his uncle and then he would go straight to his father and tell him everything.
    With that resolve in mind he pushed himself up off the floor and crept stealthily out into the hallway.  Of course the sentries guarding the passage that led to his parent’s chambers did not even look twice when the prince padded silently by them.  Legolas could come and go as he pleased as far as they were concerned.
    The door to his parent’s rooms was open and, as Legolas approached, he could see his father at his desk.  Thranduil had been entering the last of the day’s events in his journals and going over the kingdom’s records, trying to make a balance between the need of the people and the supplies they were able to obtain.  It was a tiring business and one he had gotten into the nasty habit of doing right before bedtime.  So it was that he often fell asleep at his desk and the task had been given to Elrynd to wake him and send him off to bed.
    This was how Legolas found his father tonight as he stole quietly into the main chamber and stealthily approached his father’s desk.  True to what Doriflen had said, there was no ring on Thranduil’s finger.  Legolas simply stared at the sleeping elf for a few moments, wondering what his father really thought of him, what he would think when he explained everything, wondering if things could ever go back to the way they had been between them before.  Tentatively he reached out towards the older elf.
    Thranduil shifted in his sleep, the pen in his fingers rolling off the edge of the book as he settled himself more comfortably.  Legolas pulled back quickly, standing perfectly still.  He was afraid he had awakened his father; but the elder elf slept on.
    With a small sigh, the prince headed for his parents’ bedchambers, set just off from the small study.  The door was cracked open, wide enough to let Thranduil in and closed enough so that Elvéwen could sleep.  The Queen had grown accustomed to her husband’s late night habits, although she hated to see him wearing himself out in this way.
    Slipping silently into the room, Legolas glanced quickly at his mother to make sure she slept and sidled alongside the bed. He hadn’t the heart to gaze on her for very long because he knew what he was about to do would hurt her.  He hated to give Doriflen what he wanted, for he began to fear that it was somehow part of his plot to injure his parents, but he did not know what choice he had and he could only pray that they would understand when he explained himself afterward, if he could.
    The box sat on the small nightstand near his father’s side of the bed just as Doriflen had said.  The young elf’s booted feet made no sound as he approached the table and quietly pressed the ornate fastener aside; it wasn’t locked.  Lifting the wooden lid he revealed the silver ring that lay in a pocket of deep green velour.  It was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  The silver band of the ring was fashioned like overlapping leaves and intertwined branches that held a beautiful green gem.  The stone was like an emerald, but cut so that it reflected all the colors of the rainbow and into its shining surface was etched the royal emblem of Mirkwood, making it one of the most exquisite sealing rings in Middle-earth.
    Taking a deep breath, Legolas plucked it up from where it lay.  Looking into the jewel it seemed that it had no end, almost as if it were eternal like the race that had bore it.  It was breathtaking really, but the young prince could enjoy none of its beauty at the moment.
    Legolas never even thought of putting the ring on, but grasped it tightly in his fist as he made his way back to the outer chambers and into the hallway.  With a sigh of relief he rounded the corner in the passage, thinking how easy it had been and grateful that he had enough time to reach Doriflen before Raniean’s time ran out.  Once he knew his friend was safe, then he could expose the treachery that was being plotted.  His thoughts were so intense and so wrapped up in formulating his responses to his uncle and the explanation to his parents that he was taken completely off guard when he rounded the corner and ran straight into Elrynd.  The ring flew from his open hand and clanked against the wall, drawing the servant’s attention.

    The moon was bright and fully overhead this time of the evening hours.  Elrynd smiled softly to himself as he gauged the depth of the night about them.  This was the hour that Thranduil had asked his servant to come and wake him should he have fallen asleep at his desk.  Elrynd stirred the cup of tea one last time before placing it on the tray and heading for Thranduil’s rooms.  He had nearly gained the king’s study when Legolas bolted around the corner and collided into him.
    The young prince, completely startled, stumbled backwards and lost his balance.  The tray teetered dangerously in Elrynd’s hands and it took all of the servant’s skill to keep from losing the cup of tea all over the floor as he recovered from the collision.
    The clank of metal against the walls of the passageway drew his attention and Elrynd bent over to retrieve the bit of silver that Legolas had dropped.
    “Are you all right, your highness?  Here...”
    The prince scrambled for the ring but he was not fast enough.
    Elrynd scooped the trinket up and offered it back to Legolas when he suddenly realized what it was he held.  The prince did not reach out for the ring but stood horrified as recognition dawned in the servant’s eyes.
    “Legolas, this is your father’s, is it not?”  The fingers of the older elf’s hand closed reverently around the piece of jewelry, “It is very powerful and is only to be worn by the King.  What were you doing with it, child?”
    “I...I was...” With a sigh Legolas stopped talking and hung his head, unable to tell the servant what was going on, not with his friend’s life at stake.  “Please, Elrynd,” he begged with a shake of his head.  He was in too deep and there was no way out now; if Elrynd stopped him, Raniean would pay the price.
    “I think, young one, we had better go back and talk to your father.” Elrynd wrapped an arm around the dejected shoulders of the elfling and led him back into the King’s chambers.
    The soft sounds of Elrynd’s moving about the room woke Thranduil.  He smiled as the servant placed the warm mug of tea near his hand and was about to say something when Elrynd gently set the King’s ring down on the open page of the journal in which he had been writing.  The smile slipped from Thranduil’s face as he saw the jewel and he glanced sharply at his servant.
    “Elrynd, where did you get this?” His questioning was harsher than he intended, edged with surprise at seeing his family’s heirloom where it should not have been.  He touched his ring finger absently, trying to remember if he really had placed it in the box next to his bed before returning out here.
    “I am afraid I do not know why it is out of the box, my lord, but I do know who may.” Elrynd stepped aside as he spoke and Thranduil noticed for the first time that Legolas stood behind the servant, trying to hide for as long as possible.
    The prince had no idea how to explain any of this to his father.  He had thought to win Raniean’s freedom and then come back with an explanation, but of what manner he hadn’t yet decided.
    “Legolas?”  Thranduil stood to his feet and rounded the desk to stand before his son.  “Did you take my ring from the bedside?”
    The sounds of voices in the antechamber had awoken Elvéwen and she entered the study, wrapping her slim frame in a thick robe.
    “My love, what is it?” She walked up behind the King and smiled at Legolas.  “What troubles you so this late at night?”
    Instead of answering his wife in words, Thranduil simply opened the palm of his hand and revealed the edsiria, his gaze never straying from Legolas’.
    “Legolas?” Elvéwen queried the silent elfling, her eyes clouding with concern.  “What happened, son?”
    “I...I need...it’s just that...” Legolas stopped speaking, he was near tears and angry with himself for the weakness.  He desperately needed to tell them what had happened, but knew that it would only end badly for his friend.  The fear of not being able to answer correctly and the anger in his father’s gaze froze him in place and he did not know what to say.
    “I will ask you again.  Did you take the ring, Legolas?”  Thranduil glanced up as Amil-Garil stepped into the chambers, followed by his second in command.  Agitated voices from within his Lord’s chambers had drawn the Captain of the Guard to the scene in concern.  He was in time to hear the prince’s whispered answer.
    “Yes, Adar, I took the ring.”  Legolas winced as his mother gasped softly in shock.
    “Why would you do this, love?”  The tenderness in her voice choked off Legolas’ answer and he simply shook his head, biting back the tears.
    Thranduil gripped the ring tightly in his palm, a sinking dread pulling at him.  There were few who knew about the edsiria, or his habit of taking it off at night.  Legolas would have had no reason to take the ring for himself, no reason the King could think of to want it... but Thranduil knew someone else who did.
    “Legolas, have I or have I not told you to never touch this ring?” Thranduil demanded, his stomach tight with fear and betrayal.
    Legolas nodded miserably, he couldn’t speak.  Of course Thranduil had, even if he didn’t know why.
    “Then why did you?”
    No answer.  Thranduil had been trying to gather his calm, but Legolas’ guilty silence ground on his frayed nerves.  “Answer me, Legolas.  Who put you up to this?  Was it your uncle?  Tell me, child!” he had no idea how Doriflen would have gotten Legolas to be his pawn, but it both hurt and angered him that his son would let himself be used in this way.
    Legolas desperately wanted to say yes, wanted to explain the whole, sorry mess... but that would seal Raniean’s fate, if indeed, his own failure had not already done so.  If he failed, Raniean would be flogged, but if he told... Raniean would be dead.  The prince buried his face in his hands and did not answer.
    “My lord, is everything all right?  We heard voices.  Do you require our assistance?”  Amil-Garil asked quietly.
    “The penalty I would pass down for any other subject of this kingdom caught stealing from the royal family is imprisonment.”  Thranduil ignored his guard for the moment.  His tone was harsh; he was finding it increasingly difficult to understand his son.  Legolas’ willful disobedience and refusal to even speak to him made him question the boy’s motives even further.  If Legolas had been tricked that was bad enough, but if he was actively choosing compliance... Thranduil did not want to have to consider that.  It was easier to hide behind the veil of power and duty than reveal the depths of his betrayed heart.
    “Can you explain yourself?  Do you have a good reason for the treason you have done here?  Have you any idea what could have happened if this were put in the wrong hands?”  Thranduil was almost certain he knew exactly who was behind this attempt to gain power over his house, but he wanted to hear it from his son.  He needed to hear it from him before he could take any action in response.
    “I cannot tell you why, please Ada...” Legolas stepped back a pace, flinching as his father cut off his explanation.
    “Yes you can, as your father and as your king I command you to tell me. It’s important, please Legolas,” Thranduil’s appeal was both firm and entreating at the same time.
    Legolas couldn’t breathe.  He had never seen his father this angry and yet there was nothing he could say.  No way he could explain his hideous actions without forfeiting Raniean’s life.  It broke Legolas’ heart to refuse, but the child could do nothing but shake his head helplessly.  “I’m sorry, Ada.”
    A stony mask fell over Thranduil’s face.  “Very well then.  If you wish to play the base role of a common criminal, you shall be treated as such.  Amil-Garil, it seems that I do have need of your assistance.” Thranduil’s voice was firm and his eyes hard.  Legolas had betrayed him and would not even tell him why.  “Take the prince to the prison and put him in one of the cells.  He is not to be released until I say so.”
    Any remaining color drained out of Legolas face as he dropped his head, unable to stand the contempt in his father’s eyes.
    Elvéwen tightened by her husband’s side.  She would not openly cross him in front of the guards, but her gentle eyes burned hotly as they followed Legolas’ small form out of the room.
    Elrynd waited for his liege’s nod of dismissal before following the sad little party out, a deep, troubled frown on his face.  He did not understand what was happening, but hated seeing the family he loved and served so torn apart.
    As soon as the door closed behind them, Elvéwen rounded on her husband with an icy glare.  “In all our years together Thranduil I have never questioned you, never contested any order you saw fit to give.  But here I draw the line.  You are not putting our son in prison!  He is a child, a frightened child.  I don’t pretend to know what is going on in his head that he would do what he has done, but you know he is not the one behind it.”
    Thranduil sighed and dropped down into a chair, clenching the edsiria in his fist and putting his head in his hand as she spoke.  Finally he turned his eyes up towards her.
    “Véa... I know he is not behind it.  This has Doriflen’s fingerprints all over it.  He used Legolas, my love, he used him, and somehow Legolas let himself be used.  No, I don’t doubt that the boy’s reasons were good in his own mind, but understand Elvéwen, if Doriflen used him once, he will try to use him again.  We have no way of knowing what Doriflen has over Legolas unless the boy tells us, which he seems unable to do, but whatever it is he must not be allowed to use it again.  Legolas is safe in prison because my brother cannot get to him.  I do not lock him up only to punish him, I do it to put him out of harms way and that decision I will not recant.”
    Elvéwen’s heart twisted in her chest.  She understood her husband’s reasons but that did not mean she liked the methods.  “I will not leave him there alone,” she said quietly.


    The heavy door closed quietly, but Legolas could hear the key turn in the lock with a distinctive click.  The young elf pulled himself into the tightest ball he could manage, hugging his knees and burying his face against them to muffle the sound of his shame-filled tears.
    He had lost everything.  His parents' love, his father’s trust, maybe even Raniean’s life.
    A few minutes after the guards left, Legolas heard a sound outside his cell and froze as a familiar voice hissed in through the grate in the door.  “You failed me, Legolas.  You failed me.  And tonight Raniean shall pay for your failure since I cannot reach you.”
    “No!” Legolas scrambled towards the locked door.  “I-I didn’t tell them!  I didn’t tell them anything.  Leave Ran alone!”
    The dark chuckle that answered chilled the prince’s young heart.  “It’s too late, little one.  You’ve failed me for the last time.  I hope you told him goodbye when you parted last.”
    Legolas fairly flung himself against the locked door between them.  “Don’t hurt him don’t you dare hurt him!” the young elf half-raged, half-pleaded desperately.  “You used me, Uncle!  You are a traitor to Mirkwood and plotting against my father, I heard you!  If you hurt him I will tell them everything I know, I swear it!”
    Doriflen just laughed softly.  “Then you seal his doom all the more swiftly.  I will destroy him.  I will destroy your father and your mother and anyone else who stands in my way.  Except maybe you, Nephew... you I may keep to finish your training, or discard you broken if you continue to prove unworthy.  Tell them what you like, little princling.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  After tonight, nothing matters.”
    “Uncle?  Uncle!” Legolas pounded his fists on the door, but Doriflen had already left.  “Hello?  Is anyone out there?  Help me!  Hello?!” he shouted desperately, seeking anyone that could help.  He had to tell someone the truth before it was too late, he had to try!
    Unfortunately Amil-Garil was far away from there and the two sentries on either side of the prince’s cell did not move as they watched their lord walk away, ignoring the cries of their young prisoner.  After tonight they would no longer have to serve Doriflen in secret.
    Horribly, Legolas realized that no one was going to come.  He was alone, despised, forgotten, and utterly helpless.  His shoulders shaking with sobs he could no longer contain, the young elf slid to the floor, leaning against the rough wooden door and burying his face in his arms to hide the shameful flow of unstoppable tears.

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