Lost

Author: FirstMate

Disclaimer: Don't own them! Just borrowing some of Tolkien's characters and adding a few of my own for awhile...they'll all be back in one piece by the end of my story.

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Drama/Angst

Summary: Aragorn finds Elrohir after he's been missing for over two years. The story follows their journey home and Elrohir's attempts to rediscover his lost life.

E-mail: FirstMate_Four@hotmail.com

Feedback: Sure. Constructive criticism is always welcome (but of course, I wouldn't object if you happen to say nice things, either!)

Chapter 1, A Missing Brother

The summer day was hot, oppressive. Not a breath of air stirred as a small group of rangers quietly made their way through the barren countryside. They had been called to look into reports of large numbers of people disappearing in this region. They had suspicions that someone had been building a pool of slaves by kidnapping unsuspecting travelers. Slavery was common in Middle Earth, but the slaves were usually criminals serving out life sentences or men captured as war prisoners. To simply take travelers and turn them into slaves was uncommonly brutal, even for these times. The mission of the rangers was to scout around and find the truth to the rumors and then if they were true, find the enslaved travelers and free them.

The five rangers who were following a trail along a dried up riverbed were an interesting group of individuals. They were led by a grizzled old veteran, Hammond, who was as tough as he was mean looking. Anyone who didn't know him would think that he was a born killer, but the rangers knew that his outward appearance hid a valiant heart and would follow this man through the gates of Mordor itself.

His second in command was an unlikely sort. Tall and thin, with delicate features and soft flowing brown hair, Syndar would have looked more at home in a royal court than dressed in the dark cloak of a ranger. But he was a born adventurer and was well-known amongst the rangers as one of their best swordsmen.

Tolen was the third member. On the short side with frizzy blond hair and a full beard, he was built so solidly that his fellow rangers named him "Bull." He was strong and fierce, and many a good soul owed their life to this noble ranger.

The fourth ranger was Benodorius, called "Ben" for obvious reasons. He was the most light-hearted of the five and could always be counted on to keep the group in good spirits when his skills as a master archer weren't needed.

The last of their number was a relative newcomer who was known to the rangers only as "Strider." This was a serious young man in his early 20s who had been brought up by elves and had only recently joined the rangers. He had met up with them the previous year while hunting for his missing brother and after many months of traveling together, realized that he'd found a new place in life and had formally joined them. Although young, his formidable skills as both a warrior and a healer had already been appreciated by the small band in the months he'd been with them.

As the rangers followed the uninspiring trail, Aragorn, which was Strider's real name, studied the landscape in search of dangers. Seeing nothing of interest, he allowed his thoughts to reflect back on his hunt for Elrohir, his elven foster brother who had vanished without a trace well over two years ago. At first the family had not been greatly alarmed when he had not returned from a trip to Rohan to select new horses for Rivendell's elven patrols. Elrohir was well-known as a fierce and determined warrior who could handle himself in any situation. No...only Elladan, Elrohir's identical twin brother, had been worried when his brother did not come home on time.

Aragorn grimaced as his thoughts spun back to those early days of Elrohir's disappearance. By the time he was only three days overdue, Elladan was almost frantic. He had gone to their father, Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, and begged for a contingent of warriors to help search for his lost twin. However, even Elrond, wise all-knowing Elrond, had not taken Elladan's concerns seriously. He dearly loved his children and never would have allowed a moment to pass without sending out a search party if he'd thought there had been any real cause for anxiety. Elrond knew, though, that his elven sons had been upset with each other just before Elrohir's departure, over some trifle he was sure, and thus he dismissed Elladan's unease as simply an overreaction to the guilt he felt for sending his brother off with harsh words. No, even Elrond hadn't seen a problem with the younger twin's tardiness.

It wasn't until Elrohir was a week late that Elrond finally agreed to send out a party of scouts. There still wasn't a great sense of alarm, though. There were any number of benign events that could have been keeping the young elf lord from returning home-an unexpected visit with friends, perhaps a blocked path from a rockslide, or even bad weather. There had been no reports of any hostile activity on the roads between Rivendell and Rohan, so there really hadn't been any reason to fear that something terrible had befallen Elrohir.

Elladan, however, had seemed to know from the very beginning that there had been something dreadfully wrong. Often during the following months of searching Aragorn had wondered if things might have turned out differently if they'd heeded Elladan's concerns earlier and had set off immediately to find their lost brother. As it was, by the time they had begun their search the trail was cold and not a trace of him could be found. Elrohir had apparently reached Rohan, stayed for several days as he made his selections of horses, and then left after arranging for their delivery to Rivendell in the fall. After that, nothing. No one had seen nor heard of the elf after he left Rohan. No faded tracks, no scrap of fabric, not even a sign of his horse. He was just...gone.

A call from Hammond broke into Aragorn's reflections, "Strider, you plan on joining us for lunch, or perhaps you're tired of our company?"

Aragorn halted in his tracks as he heard snickers from some of the other rangers. He noted with embarrassment that the others had stopped several yards back while he had walked on, lost in his memories.

"My apologies," he answered with a wry smile. As he walked back to join the others, he knew he'd have to endure some serious ribbing for being caught "daydreaming." It was just the sort of thing his brothers would have teased him for mercilessly-a thought that made the smile fall from his face as he sadly reflected that there was no danger of that happening. Elrohir had long-since vanished and Elladan had lost all sense of lightness and humor with the disappearance of his twin. With a sigh, he pulled out his rations and joined the others on the ground.

"Why so serious, lad?" asked Tolan, who had taken on the self-appointed task of looking out for their newest member.

In appearance, Tolan couldn't have been more different from Aragorn's elven brothers. His short, stocky frame contrasted directly with the twins. They were dark-haired, tall and slender with the handsome perfect features that had captured the eye of many an elven maiden. Physical appearance aside, however, Tolan reminded Aragorn strongly of his brothers in the way that the older man was constantly trying to "take care" of him. It had greatly annoyed him in the past when his brothers had been overprotective, but now he accepted Tolan's concern without irritation, if only as a bittersweet reminder of what he'd lost.

"Just thinking, Bull," answered Aragorn with a brief smile for his friend.

"Your brothers, again?" pressed Tolan.

Aragorn looked up from the sandwich he had pulled from his pack. Although all his companions, of course, knew of the circumstances that had led the young man to the rangers, he didn't feel at the moment like sharing his thoughts with anyone. His memories were a little too close to the surface today, and he wouldn't risk becoming emotional. So he answered, "It's nothing, really. I just got lost in thought. The scenery here is so dull that I was forced to reflect back on more appealing lands. Have you ever seen a place so lacking in interest as this?"

Accepting Aragorn's question as a cue to switch subjects, Tolan started in on a description of some of the more dull places he'd traveled to, and soon the rest of the rangers were involved in a contest of "the most boring places I've been."

The companionable banter of the rangers along with the need to focus on his surroundings kept Aragorn's thoughts distracted from his brother's plight for the rest of the day. It was only at night as he lay on his cloak that he once more found himself remembering the long ago events.

The first months had been a flurry of activity as the whole of Rivendell seemed to focus on finding their lost prince. Lord Elrond had sent requests for aid to the other elven realms as well as to many of their dwarven and human allies. From Rivendell itself, countless search parties were formed and sent along the roads between their home and Rohan, spreading out farther and farther as no sign was found of Elrohir. Elladan and Aragorn had been part of those search parties, spending long, tedious hours scouring the countryside for the slightest sign of their beloved brother. But the days had stretched into weeks and the weeks into months as no one found even the smallest hint of Elrohir's fate.

As Aragorn tossed restlessly, unable to sleep, he tried to decide why all this was coming back so powerfully to him today. After nearly a year of searching, he, along with the others, had been forced to give up and start living their lives again. Never forgetting Elrohir, of course, and never ever getting over the loss, but moving on. Only Elladan refused to give up the hunt, determined that somehow, somewhere, he'd find his twin. But now almost a year and a half had passed since Aragorn had forsaken the hunt and he found it strange that today he'd be feeling the loss again so keenly. Joining the rangers and forging a new life had helped Aragorn move past the devastating effect of not knowing what had happened to his brother, so it was perplexing that his loss was now so thoroughly consuming his thoughts.

Perhaps it was the ranger's mission that was bringing everything back so strongly, Aragorn reflected. If the reports were true, unwary travelers were being snatched away from their lives and thrust into slavery, leaving their families behind to wonder what happened to them. Although they were nearly a continent away from where Elrohir had disappeared, the similarities between his unknown fate and those of the missing travelers were apparently enough that Aragorn's subconscious was linking them. At last, that's what Aragorn decided before he finally fell asleep.

-------------------

Two days later, the small group of rangers reached their destination. They had paused just inside the valley, beyond sight of the village to change from their distinctive ranger attire to that of simple travelers and then continued on. The outlying lands were parched and barren, with cultivated patches of greenery the only sign of life. The largest of these patches, they were to learn later, belonged to Lord Hebert, a man that the rangers had especially wanted to question. As the main power in these lands, he would have a good idea of what was going on in this area. Or, of course, he may be the very one responsible for the disappearance of so many travelers! Either way, Hammond instructed his little band of rangers to find out as much as they could about this man as they entered the large, bustling village.

The rangers spent the first two days in the valley getting to know the countryside and the people. They spent hours visiting the marketplace and socializing in the taverns, talking to the townspeople while trying to determine what, if anything, was going on. The residents were incredibly close-mouthed, either from natural reticence or perhaps fear. At any rate, the rangers were rather frustrated in their search until Ben was able to charm some information from a cheerful young barmaid. She had either not learned yet to keep local information from outsiders, or decided to ignore that unspoken rule when faced with the brilliant smile of the flirtatious stranger.

Ben shared his news at the end of the day when the small band met back up in the inn that they'd chosen as their nightly rendezvous point.

"I have learned something," he announced to his companions as they sat down to dinner. He spoke in a low tone to ensure that no one else could hear. "The large farm run by Lord Hebert wasn't doing very well until just recently. The land here requires a great amount of work in order to produce anything worthwhile. Work that requires large numbers of laborers. The little maid I spoke to told me that Lord Hebert's crops were failing, and then slowly he began to build a pool of slave labor that he was able to use to care for his lands. And now, he is the most prosperous landowner on this side of the mountains. Although she didn't say it directly, she implied that the villagers thought it odd that he could afford slaves when his lands were doing so poorly."

"He might have had some money put aside, or sold some family jewels to pay for them," said Tolen thoughtfully. "It is interesting, but this doesn't tell us if the slaves are really ill fated travelers."

"True," added Hammond. "We need to do some more digging. Syndar, you, Ben, and Strider keep up the hunt for information tomorrow in the village. Bull, you will come with me. It's time we paid Lord Hebert a visit."

-------------------

The next morning, the rangers split up to perform their assigned tasks- three of them heading to various spots throughout the village while Hammond and Tolen started for the large farms nestled in the foothills of the large valley. It was midmorning before the two reached the outermost of Lord Hebert's fields. As they walked amongst the green rows of crops, they passed many workers laboring in the already blistering heat. At first, they'd tried to talk to these men, but realized in short order that they would get no information from the field slaves. Even the ones that looked like they might like to talk became quickly silent when one of the guards, who were posted throughout the fields, approached. The rangers finally stopped trying to engage them and by the time the sun was fully in the morning sky, they reached the main house.

As they neared the front door, they noted with approval the clean, well- kept yard and freshly painted buildings. Glimpses of the abundant harvest piled high in the various barns also told the story-whatever else he was, Lord Hebert was obviously more than competent when it came to managing his farm. Everything spoke of prosperity and careful attention. Taking silent note of these findings, the rangers were not surprised when the door opened before they had even knocked. In such a well-run establishment, their arrival would not have gone unnoticed.

"Greetings, fine sirs," stated a tall, rather rough-looking man who joined them on the front stoop. "This is a long way off the beaten path. What brings you to us this morning?"

Tolen let Hammond do all the talking, and he quickly launched into the story that they had decided on earlier, "Greetings. I am Hammond. My partner is Tolen. We are from a village on the other side of the mountains that has suffered greatly from many recent floods which destroyed our spring crops. We have come to these lands in order to buy enough food to get our people through the rest of the season, until we can bring in another harvest."

Hammond saw the interest in the other man's eyes. He obviously wasn't the type to be overly concerned at another's misfortune if it meant more profits for him. Hammond continued to size the man up. This wouldn't be Lord Hebert himself. The man was simply not the type-despite his initial attempt at polite conversation, he had clearly been brought up in a less genteel setting. His common accent as well as his graceless posture did not bespeak of a man used to high society. Still, he did have a certain air of power...probably the overseer here.

Hammond allowed himself a small sense of triumph at the man's next words.

"I'm Borgas, Lord Hebert's overseer. He's not here now...he likes to travel and has left me to take care of things. Come along, let's walk to the barns while we discuss what you need. Then you can look over our harvest and we can agree on a price if you like what you see."

The rangers followed Borgas over to the closest outbuilding while they listened to him ramble on about the efficiency of his workers, the quality of the produce, as well as the great variety he had to offer. Making appropriate responses but assuming he was exaggerating, the rangers were quite surprised and impressed when they walked into the barn. Borgas obviously hadn't been overstating anything. From floor to ceiling, the barn was full of well-preserved, perfectly grown crops. Not a blemish was seen on the fruits, vegetables, and grains that lined the barn.

"This was picked yesterday," said Borgas proudly. "We're crating it up tonight and sending it off to Tarberville. You know it? The town to the east of yon mountains?"

Tolen responded with the first words he'd spoken to Borgas, "Aye, it's about fifty leagues from our village, but they were spared the floods by a valley that runs between us."

"It looks like you have precisely what we need," stated Hammond. "However, we would need a large amount fairly soon. Do you have the manpower to gather up what we need and prepare it for transport within the several weeks?" continued the ranger, finally trying to divert the conversation into a discussion of the laborers.

"No worries there!" guffawed the overseer. "Our men'll do what they're told. If they have to work without sleep, we'll get the job done!"

Smiling to keep things light, Hammond continued, "Then you must pay your men well if they are willing to work like that! You are fortunate."

"Don't pay them nothing! They're slaves," said Borgas disdainfully. "A piece of the crop to fill their bellies and a roof over their heads is more than enough for them!"

Hammond paused a moment, trying to decide just how to pursue a discussion about the slaves when the conversation was suddenly interrupted by a commotion behind them. Turning around with interest, the rangers saw an altercation between a couple slaves in the far corner of the yard. The shorter of the two, a mousy looking fellow, was gesturing and screaming obscenities while a tall, scruffy dark-haired man stood there with his arms folded, apparently refusing to pick up the bundle on the ground between the two.

"Ach, not again!" grumbled Borgas. "That's the third time this month. Sometimes he's more trouble than he's worth! You wait here. I have something to take care of," the overseer added to the rangers and stormed off.

Hammond and Bull hesitated just a moment before following, hoping for a better chance to learn something when things were in disarray.

"Silence!" roared Borgas as he approached the two slaves. "Now, what's happened?...as if I couldn't guess!"

The slave that had been yelling cut off his ranting with a squeak. Then, turning to the furious overseer, he pointed at the other slave, still standing stock still with his arms folded and glaring straight ahead. "HE won't do his fair share!" whined the short, wiry slave. "I brought these canes up from the field, and HE's supposed to take them to the barn and stack them. But he won't pick them up!"

Several of the other slaves who had gathered around to watch the dispute nodded in agreement when the overseer looked at them.

Shaking his head in utter irritation, Borgas back turned to the other slave, who had yet to make any move or sound. "Well?!" he shouted. Getting no answer and expecting none, he brutally punched the silent slave in the stomach, the swiftness of the attack startling the watching rangers.

The slave was bent over, trying to catch his breath when the furious overseer used a massive hand to pull him up by his throat and snarled in his face, "I've just about had it with you. You never seem to learn, do you?" Striking him in the face with the back of his other hand, he continued, "You do what you're told. Period. Not what you want. Not what you decide. Just what you're told!"

The rangers fought the urge to interfere as they saw the silent slave's face turn red as his breath was slowly choked from him. Interestingly, the dark-haired man made no move to fight or pull away from the overseer. Before he could pass out, though, Borgas roughly dropped him to the ground and watched as the slaved curled up and gasped for air.

"I will NOT tolerate any kind of trouble! Do you all hear?!" he shouted at the group of slaves gathered around. He emphasized his point with a vicious kick at the slave laying in the dirt.

Hammond hissed as he watched the heavy boot connect with the slave's lower back. The hapless man on the ground twisted in pain but made no sound as another kick caught him higher up on his back, then a third on his shoulder, and then a final one caught him on the side of his head. To the utter relief of the watching rangers, the rain of blows then ended with that.

Borgas nudged his difficult slave with a foot, satisfied that he'd made his point and turned back to the rangers in disgust.

"Damned elf!," he said angrily. "Works as hard as ten men usually, but then he's more trouble than fifty when he's a mind to!"

Turning back to the crowd, he bellowed to two guards who had come up from the fields when they'd heard the shouting, "Get him out of here and chain him up. You know what he's like after a beating!"

The rangers watched as each of the guards grabbed an arm and dragged the semi-conscious slave across the yard, making no effort to avoid the many rocks that littered the ground. Hammond looked at the overseer, whose face was hard with anger. He debated approaching him just yet, but he had to find out if he'd actually heard what he thought he'd heard.

"That slave...the one that caused the trouble...you called him an elf?" asked Hammond calmly. He was feeling anything but calm, though. It was bad enough having to watch the unnecessary brutality, but...an elf!! That dark-haired slave hadn't been a man at all, but an elf?! What possible reason could there be for a firstborn to be held as a slave?

"Aye!" growled the overseer, calming down as the crowd dispersed to do their jobs. "Hardest worker we have most of the time, but then he gets stubborn and we have to get him under control again. Flaming nuisance! Now it'll be days before he's pulling his full load again."

Borgas mistook the look on the rangers' faces, "Don't worry...we have plenty of other workers. There won't be any delay in bringing in the harvest."

This newest development was quite intriguing to the rangers. If nothing else, the presence of an elven slave would tend to suggest that there might be something strange going on at this estate. It certainly seemed to lend credence to the rumors that the slaves may not be the usual criminal sort. However disturbing their new findings were, though, they still needed to keep up the appearance of produce buyers.

"Good," Hammond answered Borgas' comments regarding the harvest. "As to the price...how much for a yield similar in size to the one in the barn, ready for transport in two week's time?"

"Well," started the overseer, "normally it would be about two hundred silver pieces, but seeing how it's for a village in trouble, I'll let it go for one-eighty."

Since the rangers had no intention of really buying anything, the cost was irrelevant. They just needed an excuse to hang around and talk to the slaves. They'd find a way to cancel the deal before the crops were actually harvested, making sure that if the farm was a legitimate business, they didn't cause them to lose money from having harvested the crops without having a buyer ready. Still, it was not standard practice to accept the first price-a bit of haggling would be necessary.

"I appreciate your generous offer," said Hammond, "but I simply can't do one-eighty. I'm prepared to offer one-fifty-still a handsome price, you must agree."

Borgas shook his head. He, also, knew how to play this game. "At that price I'd have to be answering to my lord when he returned. One-seventy!"

"One-sixty," countered Hammond.

"One-sixty-five," was Borgas' next offer.

"Done!" agreed Hammond and the men shook hands. "I'll be back tomorrow to work out the details of what precisely we'll need. And if you don't mind, I'd like to bring my son with me. He stayed back in the village, but I know he'd appreciate seeing such a well-run farm as this one. He's always had a great interest in the running of large businesses. Maybe he could pick up a few pointers from your men."

Borgas nodded agreeably. As long as he was making money, he didn't care if some whelp wandered around asking questions.

With that, the rangers said their farewells and headed back into town, curious to see if compatriots had found out anything as interesting as they had learned that day.

-----------------------------

That evening as the rangers gathered around the inn table once more, they shared their findings from the day. The group that had stayed in town hadn't found out anything new at all. Even Ben, who had gone back to see the pretty barmaid could get nothing else from her. She had apparently been scolded severely for talking to the stranger earlier and had greeted his return coldly.

The rangers quietly discussed the findings from the two who'd been to the farm, pleased that their story had been so readily accepted and that they'd be able to return again. This time, they'd be able to walk amongst the fields, presumably to decide which of the crops they wanted, but in reality they'd be able to question the field slaves again. Perhaps even out of sight of any of the guards. They were confident that they'd soon be able to find the truth.

Aragorn noted Bull watching him as Hammond completed his report of their findings. He understood why when Hammond paused at the conclusion of his narrative and then added, "Strider, you'll be the one to accompany me tomorrow. I set it up that you'll be my son, who's coming along since he's interested in running a large business. You'll be able to walk around the farm asking questions without anyone getting suspicious. But lad...that's not the main reason I chose you. You see...there's one last thing you need to know. We saw a slave there today...he was tall, dark-haired...and it was an elf, lad. We don't know anything else about him, but I was thinking that you and I could go back tomorrow and take a look at him."

Aragorn's heart stopped. He was certain it did. He felt that everything in his body just froze as he contemplated what he'd just heard. Hammond had seen an unknown, dark-haired elf. Against all logic, he just knew...it HAD to be Elrohir! They hadn't found him anywhere else in Middle Earth, so why couldn't he be here? Fate, or divine intervention, or even plain dumb luck must have led him to this place to find and rescue his brother. He dimly became aware that Bull was talking to him.

"Lad...breathe. Come on...let's be calm," he said soothingly.

Pulling himself quickly back together, the young ranger asked, "You said you saw him. What did he look like? You've seen Elladan...did he look like that?" Not pausing for answers, he continued, "Was he okay? Did they say anything about how he came to be there? What was his name?"

"Strider," interrupted Hammond's deep voice with a patient smile. "Like I said, we don't know anything beyond that he's a dark-haired elf. Honestly, he was too covered in dirt to see what he looked like."

He deliberately didn't mention that even without the dirt, the elf's face would've been hard to recognize, first when he was gasping for air from being choked and then when he had been in agony from the brutal treatment he'd endured. No, this little piece of news wouldn't help Hammond's attempt to keep his youngest ranger from getting too anxious.

Instead, he continued, "We didn't want to create any suspicions by inquiring too much into his past, but we did learn that he'd been there for around two years...." He raised his hand to stop the young man who obviously wanted to interject something, "Ah, ah...just wait, Strider. As I was saying, he'd been there for about two years, so there isn't much danger that he'll be gone by tomorrow. We can go back then and see what, if anything, needs to be done."

The rest of the evening passed quietly as the rangers discussed plans for the next day. Understandably, their youngest member was distracted and frequently had to be brought back into the conversation. Aragorn could hardly sit still, which was very uncharacteristic for this normally unruffled young man. He knew it was ridiculous, but he was ready to jump up right then and there and race out to the farm, even if it meant he'd arrive in the middle of the night! Common sense told him this was a stupid idea, but...but what if it WAS Elrohir? Having to wait until the next morning to find out was simple torture! The other rangers did what they could to distract him, teasing him when his mind continued to wander. Finally, Hammond conceded defeat and sent the preoccupied youngster up to bed.

Aragorn lay in his bed, wide awake until the wee hours of the morning. Hundreds, maybe thousands of memories crowded his thoughts. Random scenes from his childhood popped into his mind, one after another. Leaping into his brothers' arms when they returned from one of their many hunting trips. Sitting in an apple tree with the twins, loving them for the patient way they listened to how he'd gotten in trouble once again for mischief. Watching his brothers laugh themselves silly over yet another one of their pranks. Rejoicing at the pride he saw in their eyes when he hit his first bull's-eye........The crushing despair that Elladan radiated after his twin's disappearance. That was the memory that finally consumed Aragorn's thoughts. He couldn't get it out of his mind how inconsolable his eldest brother had been when everyone had been forced to give up the search for Elrohir. Lying there, wide awake, he made a promise to Elladan that he'd go tomorrow and find his twin and then nothing would keep him from bringing him home!

-------------------

Miles away from the restless young ranger, the dark-haired troublemaker came to, face down in a muck-filled stall with a metal cuff on his ankle, chaining him to the wall. He fought back a groan as he pulled himself up. He couldn't remember being chained up. At some point during his trip to the barn, he had apparently passed out and he was irritated to note that he was covered with even more scrapes and bruises than he'd had before being kicked around by the overseer. He carefully cataloged his new hurts, calling himself an utter fool in a hundred different ways for having caused trouble in the first place. He should have known better! He shouldn't have refused to take the bundle into the barn, even if it was crawling with vermin. He had seen the bugs that would have quickly infested the rest of the harvest and he was TRYING to do the right thing. That weasel of a slave who got him in trouble had seen the bugs, as well. He knew that. But the other slaves seemed to find a special joy in finding ways to make his life miserable. Ever since he'd arrived, they'd found a perverse satisfaction in finding ways to torment him themselves or get him in trouble with the guards or the overseer. He had never done anything to them to justify this abuse, but he assumed that the sorry lot simply enjoyed making someone else more miserable than them. Well, never again would he give them such an easy opportunity! If they wanted to ruin the crop, so be it! He'd not interfere!

The elven slave carefully shook his head, surprised to find how clear his thoughts were for once! Usually he had such trouble focusing on things that he would simply go along with whatever he was told to do-incidents like this afternoon's being a notable exception. This momentary ability to think clearly wouldn't do him much good, however. He was unable to do anything other than just sit there, seeing how the chain was going to keep him in the stall for a good many days. He'd been chained before, countless times if truth be told, and he knew that he'd be stuck there for at least a week before the overseer got over his anger and once more released him to work in the fields. With nothing else to do, the wretched elf decided to go to sleep. Unable to bear laying down once more in the reeking filth, though, he pulled his sore body to the wall, brought his knees up, and lowered his head into his arms, finding comfort in the welcoming oblivion of darkness.