Kings in Grass Castles (rev)

Apparently, my story "Kings in Grass Castles" is not acceptable for this web page and had been removed. Apparently it contains "explicit content or adult content above current rating." This astounds me, as my story was still quite tame and included nothing that cannot be found elsewhere on fanfiction.net. Also, the "R" rating does not exactly indicate fluffy bunnies and happy rainbows.

I will not be editing my work to fit these fickle and un-clear guidelines. I realize that this little message is also not allowed on its own, so I will be reposting the first chapter as there shouldn't be anything that could possibly considered offensive or explicit therein.

My apologies go out to those of you who were enjoying this piece. Thank you all for your time and reviews. If any of you would like to reach me, please do so through my e-mail: aegroto_dum_anima@hotmail.com. Peace and prosperity all.

Chapter One (repost)

Slowly Aragorn raised his head. He had been captive in this place for days, but no ill touch had been laid upon him, no scream rent from his throat. Given food and water, the air warm and pleasant; he had not been made to suffer. Straw had been provided for his rest and neither iron nor rope had bound his limbs.

It was maddening.

He did not know what had become of his brothers, of his father, of Arwen or Legolas. He did not know where he was, or in whose possession.

What he did know, was that Imladaris had been attacked. Assassins of a sort he did not know had stolen into their home, somehow eluding the elven patrols. Starting awake to crashes and screams, he had grabbed the dagger kept by his bed, flying headlong and rash from his chamber. Thick smoke filled the halls, the heat of licking flames preceding their creators. A streak of someone else's blood had spattered his face and he felt a slight pinch at the base of his neck. When next he opened his eyes he was here.

He had scoured his empty prison, desperately searching for some indication as to where he was, but found nothing. In a similar vain act, he had checked his neck for some trace of a dart, trying to explain what had happened, but he was met, once again, with nothing.

All he had were a few fleeting seconds of memory. Shouts of panic, fire and blood that was absent from his skin when he awoke.

No sounds reached him from beyond the stone walls, only the sounds his mind created filling his ears. Food was always brought while he slept, despite his efforts to elude sleep, resting only lightly when he could no longer resist slumber's pull. It was a foreign infliction on the ranger – he believed the food to be drugged, but never felt a negative effect, always clear headed and light on his feet.

He had shouted unrelentingly for the first few days, trying to draw someone – anyone – forth, even if led it to the pain or bitter death he was expecting. At long last, he had sank down, setting himself to wait, unable to believe that his captor would go to so much trouble and fail to make himself known.

The door opened slowly, startling Aragorn out of his reverie. He leapt to his feet as a tall figure swept in, moving gracefully.

The man smiled, "Makovan nee, Aragorn."

His first thought was to kill him. The man bore no weapon, the door to the prison left open behind him.

"Go ahead... if you feel you must," the man replied with a coy grin, knowing Aragorn's intent from the way his body tensed, from the stance he took. "Only keep in mind that many lives hang in the balance besides yours and mine."

The ranger stood frozen. He sought to make a reply, but could think not of what; he sought to fight, but could not will his body to make the attack.

"You have been well treated, I hope," the man continued with the same easy confidence. "It would vex me horribly if my orders were not followed. Speak, young man, if you have any complaint."

Again, Aragorn could not reply. He screamed questions in his mind, but could not force his tongue to speak them. It was arrogance. He would not give the man the satisfaction of knowing he was burning with the need to know.

"Well," the man shrugged, thrown slightly by his silence, but not showing it. "You look well in any case. I suppose that shall suffice."

He turned, showing he was not afraid to expose his back, moving to close the door.

"Leave it," Aragorn hissed, a deadly tone seeping into his voice.

The man smirked, not pausing in his act.

"I need no weapon to kill you."

"I know," the smirk widened into a smile. "I wish to speak with you. Give me five minutes of your time and I shall open this door and you may leave, killing me first if you wish."

"No." Aragorn stepped forward. "I will go now."

Grinning, the man pushed the heavy wood with a flick of his wrist, the door slamming shut. "If you kill me, before I open it, you will rot here, with naught but my decaying corpse for company. Now, may we be civil?"

"There is no civility here."

He chortled. "You do not even know where is, my dear boy. I have given you no cause for malcontent nor reason for distrust."

"You imprisoned me here and that is reason enough."

"Perhaps," he smiled. "But I have a promise to hold to and five minutes is a short while. I will waste no more of it."

Aragorn stared him down, sizing him up, looking for weakness.

The man nodded contemplatively, "You measure your enemy. Good. I have measured mine. I know there are questions you long to ask. Do not let fear of cliché prevent their answer."

"Who are you?"

"A loaded question to be sure... and not the one most prevalent in your mind. Interesting." The man stepped around Aragorn, coming into the room. "Who I am shall be revealed. Would a name satisfy your curiosity for the moment?"

"No."

"Pity, for it is all you shall receive." He sat upon the straw mattress, somehow seeming not to lose any of his height or elegance. "I am called Donnal." He paused, "I see you do not know that name."

"Should I?"

"No. Indeed I am delighted that you do not. It tells me much."

"You are a man?"

"Is that a question, or a statement, dear Aragorn?" Donnal simpered. "Yes, I am indeed a man."

"Where am I?"

"You? You are a guest in my care and company."

Aragorn snorted.

"Do you debate my care of you? Have you been ill-treated in any way? Denied anything you needed? Though I do apologize for the room conditions," he mused, glancing about. "It is below the standards I hoped would be met... but certainly hospitable to be sure. Far beyond complaint for a ranger."

"Where is this place?"

"Not where you would expect."

Aragorn's fist clenched in frustration. "Very well. How, then, did I get to this place I would not expect?"

"My – oh, now what is a good word to describe them – servants? Well, no, that is not it in as much... I hesitate to say my 'men' as it will lead to further confusion... Ah. Those under my command were kind enough to escort you here under my direction."

"To what point and purpose?"

"I will get to that." Donnal continued to smile. "Now, do you have any further burning questions, or can we move on?"

Aragorn hesitated. He lusted desperately to know of the fate of his house, of his family, indeed of Rivendell. Fleeting images of flames continued to haunt his thoughts, dancing behind his eyes when he closed them. Yet he did not want to ask this man. He did not want to reveal a weakness or provide a glance into his thoughts. At long last, he opted for the lie, "No."

Donnal chuckled. "Good. I am impressed. You see I know the inquiry that hides behind your lips – truly I know much about you - yet you do not give your enemy anything which he may use."

"And why is it that you would wish to know about me?"

"Can you not guess? Aragorn, heir of Gondor?"

"I am but a ranger," Aragorn replied smoothly, effortlessly.

Donnal's chuckle grew louder. "Indeed. Strider, Ranger of the Dunedain, Ellessar of the Elves, Estel of Rivendell, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, descendant of Numenor, heir to the throne of Men... all are the same." He shifted, "Such is an impressive resume, especially for one so young." He waited, studying the other, "The faint glimmer of surprise in your eyes is delectable."

Aragorn bit his lip, "What has become of Rivendell?"

Donnal sighed, "Most of it, I am afraid, has been razed. A spot over- eagerness on the part of several of my subservients. Believe that it was not intended and that punishment has been delivered."

Aragorn screamed a thousand times over in his heart, but his face remained placid.

"I am sorry," Donnal continued. "There is no shame in grief."

"You will not tell me who you are," Aragorn's voice did not waver. "You will answer what you want of me."

Donnal nodded, seeing the king rise in the other man. "It is not a great matter. I ask simply that you provide me a service, which shall not be spoken now."

"Damn your service!"

"Which you will perform."

Aragorn chuckled, "May my flesh rot and my soul depart ere I fulfill your request."

Donnal nodded in amusement. "I expected nothing less."

"And nothing is what you shall receive!"

The man stood, rising to his full height, "My time is all but spent and I will not have it said that I am anything but a man of my word." He crossed to the door, drawing a complicated key from his robes. "I am impressed that you have not inquired after them. I can see that you are itching to know."

Aragorn stood his ground, hating the cockiness of the man, hating his knowledge, hating that he was right. His head snapped around as the man began to hum softly. His breath caught, "Where did you hear that?"

Donnal smirked viciously. "I could not honestly tell you. I cannot tell them apart."

Aragorn felt his heart skip. It was a simple song that Elladan had sung to him when he was very young, one that his twin had never opted to harmonize. This man should not know it.

"Though the voice in which I heard it is hardly recognizable now." He slid the key into the lock.

He composure was crashing around him, shattering like crystal on stone, "What have you done to them?"

Donnal stopped, chortling venomously. He turned slowly to face the younger man, "I merely took precautions to ensure that the favor I asked would not be refused.

"May death find you swiftly if they have come to harm."

He snarled, "Harm is a delicate term."

"Where are they?" Aragorn demanded coming forward.

"Your courage is fading to bravado." Donnal faced him, "It does not become you."

"You will take me to them!"

"Yes," Donnal replied smoothly, seeing Aragorn's shock and relishing in it. "That was my intent all along."

Aragorn's brow knit tightly as Donnal opened the door, gesturing for him to lead the way out. "The singer waits."

The ranger stepped around him, resisting the urge to plant his boot in the man's stomach, knocking him back hard into the room, slamming the door in his face.

Instead Donnal came coyly beside him. "Follow me."