SaphireCat -- I'm glad you liked it so far. Of course, in a sense, it's just beginning.

Astievia -- Ack!!!! It's painless? Oh, phew! Lol. Yeah, poor Estel, and even more so until it ends. Mwahahaha!

Chapter Seven

Giran circled around his young prisoner. "Where?" he demanded. The prisoner shook his head. The king nodded to his guard. The whip raked across the young man's back again. The boy cried out in pain and terror. "Where are they?" the mortal king demanded.

Another blow. The prisoner shook his head slightly and cried out, with words this time. "They are safe now, and I would rather die than change that!" he screamed in pain.

Giran motioned to the guards. They cut the ropes binding the young man to the pillar. The boy collapsed to the floor. "Take him to the market and dispose of him," the king ordered. "He is no further use to us."

The boy made no resistance as he was drug to his feet. He had no strength left to fight with. He had done his part and freed his brother and the prince. He had pointed the son of his father's closest friend to freedom. It was over now. What happened to him no longer mattered. If only he could see Arwen one last time.

Estel was only dimly aware of staggering through the crowded city streets to the slave market. His guards shoved him onto the slave block. It felt as if he were watching the customers inspect him from somewhere else, like in a dream. Finally, a hooded man pulled off the platform and dragged him through the city. Strider never could remember what happened between being dragged off the slave block and being slammed against the stone wall inside a dark doorway.

"I know who you are, Heir of Isildur," the man whispered fiercely, as he gagged his captive. Aragorn recognized the man as Giran's chief advisor. "Sauron will pay me well for your capture. You have quite a bounty on your head, boy."

Estel cried in terror, fighting desperately against his bonds. Sauron could not find him now! Not after all the trouble his family had taken to keep him hidden. Not with all he was already going through at the hands of his father's former ally.

"Ah, you wish to learn how I found you," the noble gloated, obviously pleased with himself. Aragorn merely glared at him. What he wanted was his freedom, and he was sure his captor knew that. The evil man shoved him forward, forcing the young ranger to walk before him into an inner room.

Strider looked around him as he reluctantly stepped into the room. There was a small table with a dark globe on it. Suddenly, Aragorn realized what it was. This was one of the lost palantiri. He moaned, knowing that his captor was had most likely told Sauron when he had been found.

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