Legolas had given up trying to understand what the humans around him were saying, so it took him a while to realise that the richly dressed arrival was talking about him. He appeared to be arguing with the slaver who watched over the tent Legolas was trapped in, chained to a peg on the ground. Legolas supposed it was a barter over the price.

Legolas wasn't sure if he'd prefer the customer to be a good negotiator and stop the slavers getting too much out of their crimes, or if he'd rather the customer be forced to pay a lot for his purchase.

The man didn't look like the people of this land. His skin, though tanned, was the paler colouring of the northern men. He wouldn't have looked too out of place in laketown There were others nearby who had followed the customer as he arrived. Probably soldiers or bodyguards, though the man himself was well armed.

"Stand up!" the customer ordered in common tongue. Legolas remained sitting on the ground. "Are you disobedient or simply stupid?" Legolas glared.

The slaver said something. Legolas didn't understand the language, but could guess it was some comment about spirit being easy to beat out, or how he could be convinced to turn that pride to his work and prove a useful slave.

"Do you have a name, elf?" Legolas continued to glare. The human's response was unexpected. He reached down and forced Legolas' mouth open. Legolas yanked his head back, trying to bite down on the invading fingers.

"So you have a tongue, you just don't use it." The slaver made more comments. About how a silent slave had his uses, most likely. The customer went back to talking to him and eventually took out a leather purse. Legolas watched with wide eyes as a huge amount of gold coins were counted out of it. He must be paying almost three hundred!

Yet the purse was still heavy as the customer tucked it safely away again. So he was being bought by a rich man. One with plenty of slaves so he could go unnoticed long enough to escape?

The man signalled to some who stood outside. They were dressed not finely, but smartly, in dark browns and greens. Every one of them was armed with sword, bow and dagger. There was no common uniform, but on all their faces was a look of pride that marked them apart from the slavers and prisoners.

As the slaver released the chains Legolas was in from the peg, the men stood waiting. Their leader was looking at Legolas, his gaze matching the proud stare of the elf. Legolas stood, but made no movement towards his new owner.

"Come," the man ordered. Legolas remained.

"Will you walk? Or shall I have my men drag you?"

"I will obey no orders from a man," Legolas said.

"Not today, perhaps," the man said, "but you will." Two of his men came forwards at a hand signal, seizing Legolas' arms firmly. They marched him from the tent and into the blazing heat of the slaver's camp. They had only gone a short distance when the leader motioned to one of the men and spoke quietly.

"Take him back to the camp and secure him, I have further purchases to make."

"My lord?" the man inquired.

"Go, Ethindal. Jarallin, Marken, remain with me." With that, Legolas was steered out of the camp, surrounded by armed men so that he couldn't escape.

Soon they arrived at another camp. This one contained but two tents, with others having to sleep on the bare ground under the sky. The parched land burned beneath the sun, and the men that guarded the camp looked tired and worn. Yet still there was that look of pride in their eyes.

Horses were tethered near a bale of hay, since there was no green food for them to eat. There were two covered wagons nearby, on the edge of the camp. A man was climbing out of one with a barrel.

Ethindal took Legolas to the very centre of the camp, between the two tents, and forced him down until he was sitting on the ground. Then he swiftly removed the chains on Legolas' wrists. Unfortunately, others stood around to make sure Legolas could not escape.

He was surprised by the removal of the restraints, and Ethindal must have caught his expression.

"My lord has no liking for chains," he explained.

"Why do you do this?" Legolas demanded, as the man bound his hands behind him.

"Because my lord ordered me to."

"Do you obey every order your lord gives?"

"I would follow him into fire and war and death, and I would trust him to lead me out again. There is not a man here who would not say the same." Legolas suspected that many in his father's court could not have said that with honesty.

"What has he done to earn such loyalty?" Legolas asked.

"When you come to know him," Ethindal said, "you will know the answer."

"I have no wish to know him."

"There may come a time when you are glad you do."



Author's note: Only a short opening chapter, but hopefully the next one will be longer. As always, reviews would be greatly appreciated.