Chapter 8

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Legolas struggled as violently as his oxygen-starved body would let him, thrashing against his bonds and the human who had him pinned, but he could not escape either.  Castamir was merciless, working handful after handful of devilish agony into the elf’s already flaming welts and lacerations.  

The prince was sobbing in earnest now in Castamir’s grip, but the hold on his neck didn’t even give him enough air to scream.  Hazy yellow spots danced and exploded before his eyes and his mind was sluggish from lack of air.  Castamir’s presence was suffocatingly close, which did not help the blind panic engulfing the elf’s hurting body.  

Legolas couldn’t breathe and every fiber in his being seemed to be on fire.  Shame crushed him at his own weakness, but he couldn’t take it anymore, he couldn’t... 

“Stop!  Please stop...” he half-choked, half-rasped around the vicious hand on his throat.  “Stop...” his shaking plea was desperate.  

Castamir ginned wickedly.  “Begging already?  That was quicker than I thought... what was it you said?  I couldn’t hear you...” 

Legolas closed his eyes, the world spinning around him.  “Please...” Tears of pain and utter shame slid down the elf’s cheeks, adding to the growing list of things he could hate himself for.  

Suddenly the tent flap was thrown back.  Aragorn’s dark, shocked, angry eyes took in the situation in barely half an instant and rage hotter than dragon fire flared in his heart; the words that he had just heard Castamir speak and the ones wrenched from Legolas seared deeply into the smoldering flame of his wrath.  

Before Castamir even had the chance to understand that he had been discovered in his game he was flat on his back on the floor.  His alcohol and rage laden mind reacting irrationally to the realization that he was in trouble, Castamir swung out in panic and tried to get away.  It was a stupid move.  

Aragorn easily dodged and took the soldier down again, slamming Castamir’s head back against the ground repeatedly until the man was too dizzy to respond.  

Denethor, still standing in the doorway, was completely shocked by what he and Aragorn had just found.  Castamir was supposed to see to the elf’s injuries, not torture him further.  He did not interfere when Aragorn took the soldier down, but after a few moments he moved into the tent and lightly touched the back of Aragorn’s shoulder, quietly bidding him stop.  

The ranger was almost angry enough to kill Castamir with his bare hands for the pain he had been causing Legolas, but Aragorn had more restraint than that, so he simply gave the man one more good slam against the ground before dragging Castamir to his feet and handing him off to the other soldiers who had come hurrying at Denethor’s bidding.  

Denethor turned a dark glare upon Castamir, but Aragorn was giving him no more thought. His attention had turned to Legolas and he dropped down next to the elf.  

Legolas was trembling hard and he turned away from his friend, hanging his head and pressing his face against his bound arms.  Raggedly he gulped for air as the haze in his mind and body began to dissipate and clarity returned... However, with it came the realization of how badly Castamir had broken him and the fact that Aragorn, Denethor and possibly others had witnessed his humiliation.  He had never broken like that before.  He had never given in to what a tormentor wanted from him... his weakness was unforgivable.  

Soft sobs that made the prince burn with shame, and yet could not be helped, shook his shoulders.  His back was still burning almost as badly as it had been when Castamir was tormenting him and the pain was overwhelming.  That on top of his immense sense of disgrace was so great that he could not bring himself to meet even Aragorn’s kind, concerned eyes.  

Aragorn thought his heart would break.  He wanted to hold Legolas close and comfort him, but he was half afraid to touch the elf, afraid of causing more pain and fear, so instead he just knelt near, his fingers hovering lightly on the prince’s trembling arm.  “Legolas?” 

The elf would not look at him. 

“You betrayed my trust, engaged in the unlawful torture of a prisoner under your care, struck out at a senior officer and disobeyed a direct order.” Denethor was giving Castamir a cold dressing-down.  His voice was quiet, but his displeasure obvious.  He did not take kindly to being disobeyed, or having people work behind his back.  Besides, something about seeing Legolas the way they had found them made him feel strangely ill.  Denethor’s heart was not made of stone, even if it was confused and stubborn.  “What do you have to say for yourself?” 

“He’s a cold-blooded murderer and a spy. He hasn’t got any feelings.” Castamir glared in the elf’s direction and Legolas’ head sunk a little lower as if trying to block out the man’s voice.  “Isn’t that what you said, Captain?  Begging your pardon, sir, but if you really want answers out of him I can get them.  Don’t you see, sir?  He was ready to beg, he’s ready to talk...” 

Aragorn bristled fiercely, his face turning deadly as he let his hand rest more firmly on his friend’s arm.  He was almost about to rise when Denethor shook his head firmly, raising his hand to cut off the soldier’s attempt to save himself. 

“NOT like this!” the future Steward ground out, irritated at having his words flung back at him in a way he felt was out of context.  “That elf is under the protection of our laws regarding prisoners of war.” Denethor’s voice was firm and hard.  “We are a civilized people.  There are limits and rules and you honor those.  Besides, none of that changes the fact that you, Castamir, disobeyed a direct command.  He was put in your care to be treated, not questioned.  Your blatant disregard for command makes you a traitor to your people and the laws you swore to uphold when you entered this army.  In so doing you have forfeited your honor and perhaps even your life.  I will not tolerate such a breach of trust, not at a time like this.  Take him away until I decide what to do with him,” he motioned to the soldiers holding Castamir, who complied swiftly, dragging the struggling, swearing man out with them. 

“So only you are impervious to our laws, is that it Lord Denethor?  What have I done that you have not?  If I am a traitor for my actions, what are you?” Castamir’s angry, muffled voice drifted back to them only faintly as he was pulled outside.  Of course it was stupid to be so insubordinate, but Castamir was still under the influence of a touch too much alcohol to be rational.  

Denethor just stood motionless for several moments glaring after them, his hands clenching and unclenching quietly.  

“Legolas?” Aragorn was still trying to reach his friend, but every time he got close the elf would turn his head away, seeming to pull further into himself and refusing to answer.  Horror squeezed the ranger’s heart tightly.  He had promised the elf he would be safe here, and that had not proven to be the case.  “Legolas... please...” 

The imploring voice drew Denethor’s eyes to them.  The elf was still shaking with soft, uncontrollable anguish and the look of pain on Aragorn’s face was hard to witness, even if Denethor did almost hate the other captain.  

“No one will take those kind of liberties again while you are under my protection,” the future Steward said quietly to Legolas.  Why his heart should go out to a prisoner he did not know, but it did.  

“Your protection?” the elf’s voice was muffled and hoarse, but tinged with bitter irony.  Denethor might as well have said that he wouldn’t let anyone other than himself harm Legolas, but the elf was in too much pain to point that out.  

Denethor did not respond to that, but turned his gaze towards Aragorn.  He had half a mind to summon the other captain to come with him, they had much to plan and tomorrow would come too swiftly... but when he saw the look in Aragorn’s eyes he knew the man would never leave the elf alone right now, even if he had to disobey direct orders.  

Aragorn’s eyes were filled with sorrow and fixed on Denethor with a hint of accusation.  Castamir may have been more brutal and acted without leave... but exactly where was the difference between his actions and Denethor’s?  Motive perhaps, and methodology, but in the end... they had both hurt Legolas.  

Denethor chose to ignore his second-in-command’s look.  In his mind there was a distinct difference and he didn’t have the time right now to try to look any deeper, despite what the quiet little voices in the back of his mind had to say on the subject. 

“When you’re done here, meet me in the staging area.  We have much to discuss,” Denethor told Aragorn quietly.  “Have several of the guards stand watch outside the tent when you leave, but forbid them to enter on pain of death.  I will not have a repeat of this situation.”  With that, Denethor turned and walked out.  Pausing in the doorway he looked back and for a brief moment he caught Aragorn’s eyes.  The ranger wasn’t sure what exactly he read there... but a moment later Denethor was gone.  

Aragorn turned back to his friend.  “Legolas?  Legolas look at me, please...” he begged softly, but the elf did not move or speak.  He was too wrapped up in his own pain and shame.  

With utmost gentleness the human cut the ugly ropes binding the elf to the pole.  Legolas’ wrists were bloody from having struggled so hard.  The prince hissed softly when Aragorn touched his raw wrists and feeling rushed back into his fingers.  The elf remained still except for the soft trembling of his hurting body, making no motion to move away from where he knelt, or support the weight of his own arms.  Pain was swallowing his world and if he moved, if he spoke, he felt sure that he would break again.  

Aragorn gently set Legolas’ hands in the prince’s lap.  The elf’s lack of response was beginning to gravely worry him.  He knew that Castamir had been hurting the prince, but he wasn’t sure exactly how and the possibilities frightened him.  

“Legolas, what did he do to you?” 

The elf didn’t answer, but pressed his eyes closed and clenched his fists.  His back was still burning and he rocked back and forth, trying not to let it make him start crying again.  

Legolas knew his friend wanted answers, but didn’t know what to say.  His own condemning thoughts ran wild through his head.  //“Made me cry like a child and beg like a whipped cur to be released, that’s what he did...”// his mind taunted bitterly, but he could not bring himself to speak his humiliation to Aragorn.  Besides there was no need, the ranger had seen it for himself.  

With gentle care Aragorn began looking over his friend’s injuries since Legolas would tell him nothing.  The prince allowed his friend to clean the blood from his wrists but his eyes remained nailed to the floor and his body was tense as a bowstring under the human’s hands.  

Aragorn’s brows furrowed.  “Legolas, you are in pain...” He knew that was a stupid thing to say considering how ill-used the prince had been, but that wasn’t what he meant.  Legolas’ body was still trembling and the prince had resumed rocking back and forth.  “Please, my friend, what did he do?” the ranger was beginning to fear the answer.  

“It... hurts...” Legolas ground out through his teeth, keeping his gaze riveted on the earth as he clenched his hands around one another, trying to deal with the pain.  However, that, on top of his already emotionally drained state, was proving too much.  

Aragorn understood that the elf meant his back.  Obviously, it was only natural that it would hurt considering the state it was in, but when Aragorn looked closer he saw that the bleeding had stopped and a fine, light-colored powder dusted the entire length of the elf’s slender, graceful back.  

The ranger sucked his breath in sharply, beginning to realize just how cruel Castamir had been.  Aragorn knew exactly what this stuff was and what it did.  If he had not known his friend’s stoic constitution so well it would have been a wonder to him that Legolas was not screaming at the agony he knew the elf must be in.  The medicinal horse powder was never meant to be used on humans or elves.  It took unimaginable hatred to do this to someone.  

“By the Valar... Legolas I’m sorry!” Aragorn was swiftly in motion, grabbing the water pail from the corner of the tent and retrieving the cloth that Castamir had been using before he turned to more sadistic pursuits.  

Dipping the rag into the water and moving behind his friend, Aragorn hesitated.  This was perhaps the cruelest part of what Castamir had done, because now to help Legolas, Aragorn would have to be the one to cause his friend more pain.  

“Legolas...” he whispered softly.  “I’m going to wash it off.” There was no need to specify what ‘it’ was.  “Otherwise you will simply continue to hurt.  But...” his heart twisted.  “But understand that this powder is activated by water.  That’s how they use it for the horses, it’s put into the affected hoof and water is added.  I can’t just wipe it off, it has to be dissolved.  There’s no other way to get rid of it, but... Legolas, what I’m trying to say is that this is going to hurt.” 

Legolas nodded once.  He couldn’t imagine hurting worse than he already was... but if Aragorn said it had to be done then it had to be done and he wanted to get it over with.  He felt that the pain was undoing him.  

Aragorn winced in anticipation before quickly wringing the rag over Legolas’ hunched shoulders, letting the cleansing water run down his back.  

Legolas stifled a scream.  His friend had not been exaggerating about the effect that water had on the substance that Castamir had so heavily treated him with.  Legolas jerked away from Aragorn, falling forward to rest on his hands, his body simply trying to escape the pain. 

Aragorn bit his lip against the anguish in his heart and patiently followed the elf, dousing the wounds again and quickly running the cloth along the torn and inflamed flesh.  “I’m sorry, Legolas, I’m sorry...” 

Legolas reacted badly, pulling away sharply and retreating, soft, painful sobbing taking over him again.  “I-I can’t... Estel, please don’t...” 

Aragorn stopped and knelt very still, his hands shaking slightly from the tension in his own body and the distress he was causing in the elf.  Tears stung his eyes as his heart broke painfully within him.  

“Legolas, please, I’m sorry.  I don’t want to hurt you, I know you’re already in enough pain... but it will only continue to burn you until we get it off... if there was another way you know I would take it.  Please mellon-nín, I’m sorry...” Aragorn felt worse than horrible.  He didn’t even have anything he could give the elf to help him with the incessant fiery burning that was consuming the prince. Almost all the medicines that he or the army had had been used up or lost by now.  

Legolas forced himself to be still, hunching painfully over his knees.  “Do it then,” he whispered shakily, bowing his head down until it rested on his clenched fists against the ground.


Aragorn was as quick and as gentle as he could be, but he knew that it hurt Legolas terribly anyway.  The elf cried in pain that he could not hold back, but did not struggle again.  There was no other being on Middle-earth, either elven or human, that Legolas would have trusted at this moment so much that he would let them do this.  Possibly not even Lord Elrond or his own father.  But there was a deep down, inexplicable faith between he and Aragorn that had come over the years they had spent together.  So he bid his body to fight the natural reaction of wishing to strangle the person who was at the moment seeming to cause him even more pain.  

It was well that Legolas could find that level of restraint, because Aragorn would never have had the heart to hold the elf still, even to help him.  He knew that to forcibly restrain the prince at this point would frighten and hurt Legolas far too much both mentally and emotionally after he had already been put through so much pain by others.  

Finally Legolas’ body stopped shaking so much as the pain slowly began to ease and lose its bite.  The natural hurt of the injuries seemed almost nothing to the elf now as the unnatural pain of the powder was finally washed away and his body relaxed a little in blessed relief as Aragorn finished washing and dressing the irritated welts.  

Aragorn gently wrapped the last bandage and sat back on his heels.  Wiping his grimy cheeks with the backs of his hands he pressed his knuckles into his eyelids, trying to check the tears that were burning his weary, bloodshot eyes.  Emotionally drained beyond all reason after the day’s events he had nothing left to deal with the anguish of having to dress Legolas’ wounds while the prince cried under his touch.  

The ranger felt someone’s gaze on him and opened his eyes.  Legolas was sitting up again and the elf was watching him.  As soon as the ranger caught him, however, the prince looked away.  

“Legolas, I am so sorry.  Sorry that this happened and you have once again been hurt.  Sorry that you trusted me and I broke my promise.  I-I did not keep you safe.  I failed you, Legolas, and all I can do... isn’t enough.  And then... Please believe me that the last thing I wanted to do was cause you more pain...” Aragorn’s heart was breaking.  Everything today had gone horribly wrong.  He reached out and touched Legolas’ shoulder lightly.  

The elf involuntarily flinched and pulled back, not because of Aragorn’s touch, but because his body was still on edge from all he had suffered.  

Aragorn withdrew quickly.  Legolas had not recoiled from his touch like that in years.  Had the trust between them been that severely ruptured?  He could still remember what it was like in the early days of their friendship, when the prince got edgy if Aragorn got too close, retreated from casual contact, and kept his heart closed.  Aragorn didn’t want to go all the way back there, didn’t want to lose what had grown between them.  He thought he would be ill.  

Legolas’ eyes flashed with pain when he realized what his friend thought.  “I know.  I know, mellon-nín.  This isn’t your fault, Aragorn,” he whispered hoarsely.  “I do not blame you for Denethor or Castamir’s actions, nor what you had to do to undo them.  It was the only way and it... it is better now... you have nothing to apologize for.  If I were not such a weak and pathetic excuse for an elf you would not have had as much trouble...” The prince pressed his lips together, treacherous tears forming again in his weary eyes.  He seemed to have no control over his emotions at all anymore and that irritated Legolas beyond belief.  

Aragorn blinked in surprise and gently drew his friend close to him so that the elf’s head was resting lightly against his shoulder.  “Legolas, you are anything but weak!”  

The prince laughed mirthlessly against Aragorn’s tunic.  He did not resist Aragorn’s attempts at consolation because even if it only proved his weakness further, his reeling body and mind took comfort from his friend.  “Yes, and I look it right now don’t I?” 

“Yes,” Aragorn affirmed decidedly.  “Legolas, no one should have been put through the kind of pain you have been.  But the fact that you were hurt is no shame to you.” 

Legolas let his body relax and rest heavily against Aragorn’s, closing his eyes slightly.  “I think if anyone else tried to touch me right now they would be dead,” he murmured wearily, but with a hint of humor.  It was true; but his trust of his long friendship with Aragorn was deeper than his hurt or his fear and he allowed the human to sooth him without objection. 

“Well then I’m glad I’m not anyone else!” Aragorn chuckled slightly.  “I rather fancy remaining alive.” 

Presently Legolas pulled back slightly and Aragorn immediately released him, but kept a hold of his hand.  He was gratified to see that normal color was returning to Legolas’ face and the painful desperation had left the prince’s eyes.  

Legolas sighed softly, his composure gradually returning as the pain and fear of his situation drained slowly away, not disappearing completely, but lessening to bearable proportions.  

“I rather fancy it too,” he said quietly, with a small hint of a smile.  “You know... I believe that you are the only man who has ever repeatedly seen me in moments when I am all that I despise being.  When I am weak, when I am so helpless and vulnerable that I would rather die than suffer anyone to see the shame of it... and yet somehow... I do not resent you that knowledge.”  Legolas meant that he felt safe with the Dúnadan, as strange as that seemed, but he didn’t know how to say it.  

Aragorn nodded slowly.  That’s what friends were for.  “And you, my friend, you have seen me through the same.  I seem to remember someone who held me in the snow and listened to me cry and did not think me a weakling for my hurts or insecurities... but you have never seemed anything other strong and resilient to me Legolas.  I see no weakness when I look in your eyes, no hurts or trials even after all the many difficult and terrible things we have faced together that have ever gone beyond body to touch your spirit.” 

Legolas chuckled softly.  “You know... your father told me something very similar once, a long time ago.”  Aragorn knew Legolas was talking of Elrond, for the prince had never known his birth father.  “You are very like him, Estel.” 

“I take that as a very high compliment,” Aragorn said softly, moving the elf around so he could clean the cuts on his cheek, harsh reminders of where Castamir’s fingernails had cut him.  

Legolas smiled somewhat wearily.  “Except that you never seem to wash your hands,” he jibed softly, glancing at the human’s hand which were still stained, despite being clean from having washed his friend’s wounds.  “Or your face...” the elf’s lips quirked in a grin that at least shadowed a glimpse of his normal self.  “And I’ll bet no one has seen to your wounds yet and I can tell you have them,” Legolas added, his eyes fixing meaningfully on the crusted, scabbed cut on the side of Aragorn’s face which he had only just now truly noticed.  

Aragorn started to respond, but Legolas just shook his head.  “I know, I know, you’re fine.” 

Aragorn smiled softly, but then his eyes flashed pain, which quickly shifted to determination.  “No, I’m not,” he shook his head, rising slowly to his feet and helping Legolas up with him.  “I’m not fine.”  Sliding off his cloak he wrapped it around the elf’s shoulders, pulling it up over the fair being’s head.  

Legolas winced at the touch of cloth against the fresh bandages on his hurting back and looked at Aragorn questioningly.  The ranger just put his finger to his lips for silence, taking the elf’s hand and leading him quietly out of the guard tent. 

There was no one outside because they all knew that Captain Thorongil was in there and would summon guards when they were needed.  Aragorn paused to get something out of another nearby tent and then Legolas followed his friend swiftly and silently to the edges of the camp before he realized what Aragorn was up to.  

In the safety of the darkness outside the army camp, Aragorn slid out of the supply pack that was still slung across his back, forgotten during the day’s many long events, and passed it to his friend, handing over also the elf’s weapons which he had retrieved on the way out.  Squeezing the prince’s hand, Aragorn nodded out towards the welcoming shadows beyond.  “Go, Legolas. I’ll see that you are not missed until at least tomorrow, longer if I can.” 

Legolas was shaking his head, trying to give Aragorn his pack back.  “Strider, I can’t do that... they will know it is you who let me go.  You will be a traitor in their eyes. Your life will be forfeit!” 

“Go, Legolas!” Aragorn’s voice took on an emphatic tone.  “Don’t you understand?  Denethor still thinks you a spy!  He may keep the likes of Castamir away from you, but... Legolas, if he thinks you know something he will question you again.  I do not have the authority to stop him.  I cannot protect you here, I cannot keep any of this from happening again and I would not see you hurt this badly again ever.” 

“The cost is too high!” the prince shook his head. 

“No higher than that which you gave up to save my life in Mirkwood when I was young.  You went into exile for me. Consider this my opportunity to finally repay you for that if you will.” 

“You wouldn’t run then, Aragorn. Do you think I hold my honor any less dear?  I will not leave.” Legolas dropped the pack.  “Not unless you come with me.” 

“I can’t do that, Legolas,” Aragorn’s voice was soft and his eyes pleaded with his friend to just go.  

“And neither can I,” the elf whispered back, drawing the human’s head closer until their foreheads touched.  “Do you think I could live knowing that you traded your life for mine?  Could you if our places were reversed?” 

Aragorn dropped his head in defeat.  No, of course he couldn’t.  “Legolas...” 

A sudden clamor interrupted them and Aragorn half-spun towards the direction from which it came.  The clash of sabers, shouts of alarm and the rattle of mail spoke clearly of heavy fighting being joined quite close at hand. 

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