Author's Note 1: This is the first time I've tried my hand on a long story, I hope you're going to like the result. :-) "Hunted" is part of my Mirkwood Tales. It is not necessary to have read any of my previous stories to understand it, but there will be slight references to other stories in that series (all the stories are listed in chronological order in my profile). All you really need to know is that, in this series, Aragorn and Legolas have known each other and been friends since Aragorn's early childhood. This is a story about friendship, not slash.
Feedback and constructive criticism are very welcome - I am always grateful if mistakes are pointed out to me. :)
Note of Thanks: I want to give a very special thank you to my wonderful editor, Imbecamiel. Working with her has not only encouraged me as a writer and improved my stories, but also taught me invaluable lessons about the English language. Hannon le, mellon-nîn! (((HUGS)))
I also want to thank WendWriter for spotting several mistakes in this chapter and helping me to correct them. :)
Author: Silivren Tinu
Beta: the wonderful Imbecamiel (hugs)
Rating: T (for violence)
Summary: A horde of orcs is sent out from Dol Guldur on a deadly mission, and when Legolas and Aragorn cross paths with them it soon becomes clear that not only their lives are at stake, but also the fate of the entire Woodland Realm. Friendship, angst, h/c. Pre-LotR. Characters: Legolas, Aragorn, Thranduil, Nestadren, and some friendly orcs. (eg)
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or places that are recognizable from Tolkien's books. I do, however, own the plot, Nestadren, and Tuilinn. They are mine, my preciousssssssssss:D
- Hunted -
Chapter One: Trapped
"To win the battle is to be prepared to die."
The first thing he became aware of was pain, a dull, throbbing pain. There did not seem to be a part of his body that did not ache. For a while he simply lay there, listening to his own ragged breathing and the pounding of blood in his ears. Slowly his breathing evened out, and he noticed another sound, the dripping of rain. A light wind made the leaves above him rustle and sent a shower of raindrops over his prone body and on his face.
There was something soothing in the familiar sounds and the cool, clean water on his face was refreshing and made him long for more. Some of the drops ran down to his dry lips, and he licked them up. It made him feel a little bit better, though they were not even enough to moisten his parched throat. The earth and grass he lay on were cold and wet and smelled of rain, and spring, and green, growing things.
He inhaled the fresh air as deeply as his battered body would allow and felt his still-tense and cramped muscles slowly relax. He kept his eyes closed tightly, knowing what sight would await him if he opened them, and not ready to face it. He still lay on his right side, curled up on himself as far as possible in an attempt to protect himself which had failed completely.
His movements had been hindered by the facts that his hands were bound tightly behind his back and that one of his feet had been tied to a stake that had been driven into the ground to prevent him from moving away. Unable to do anything to defend himself, he had done what he had done so many times before now – given up and allowed them to have their way with him, drifting in and out of consciousness until darkness finally claimed him and he sank into welcome oblivion.
This beating had been worse than all the ones before, but he knew he had still been lucky so far. They had beaten him frequently, but not otherwise tortured or injured him severely yet. They were trying to break his spirit and keep him weak, but they still needed him to be able to walk or run as long as they were moving through territory that was patrolled by elves.
He had fallen into the hands of these orcs three days ago and since then his life had turned into a nightmare of pain and darkness. He had not expected to meet a horde of orcs as far north as the Elf Path – no, they had not expected to meet orcs there. When the orcs had attacked, he had not been alone. He shied away from that thought. It brought a different kind of pain and threatened to wake memories that he knew he was not able to bear right now.
He had learned by now why the orcs had dared to venture so far north. They did not know that he understood their foul language and had talked among themselves quite often in front of their prisoner. Besides, they had not always known that he was conscious enough to hear them. They had been ordered by their Master to go north, capture an elf, and bring him back with them.
From what he had heard, they had already lost some of their number to the spiders and were still very nervous about the possibility of running into an elven patrol on their way back to the south. They were moving slowly and stealthily along the western rim of Mirkwood now. Their captive could have told them that they were in no danger of meeting any patrol on the way they had chosen, but the only thing this meant for him was that there was no chance of being saved in time.
The only good thing in his entire situation was that the orcs had no idea who their captive was. So far, they believed him to be just any elf, and none of them suspected that they had by chance captured the prince of the elven realm they hated so much and had fought against for so long now. At first Legolas had believed that they knew who he was, and had been sent after him, but he soon found out that this was not true. He had simply been the first elf to cross their path. Legolas had no doubt that his treatment would have been far worse if they had known.
Still, Legolas knew that his identity would not remain a secret for long. Each day brought him closer toward Dol Guldur and a fate that he knew to be far worse than death. It had been easy to guess who the 'master' of these orcs was, or at least one of their masters. Legolas had been forced to face a Nazgûl before. (1) The circumstances had been completely different then, and he had not been alone, but he still recalled the terror of those short moments.
He dreaded their arrival at the dark tower and the darkness that awaited him there. The Nazgûl would either know who he was or find a way to learn his identity. They would do their best to use both him and his knowledge against his father and his people, and Legolas was neither arrogant nor foolish enough to believe that a Nazgûl would not be able to break him with time.
And the worst was that they would probably succeed in using him as a weapon against his father's kingdom. Legolas was well aware how dear his father held him. To know his son's fate would break Thranduil as surely as Legolas' body and soul would sooner or later be broken by the torture of the Nazgûl. Legolas shivered, unable to do anything against the despair that welled up inside him once more.
To fear what the Nazgûl would do to him was bad enough, but to know that he would also be used to destroy his family, his friends, and his realm was more than he could bear. Suddenly he wished that the orcs would have hurt him much worse, bad enough to keep him in the safe, dreamless darkness of unconsciousness for a long time, or to never wake up at all. The memories of the day of his capture haunted him as much as his fear of the future, and the present provided no comfort.
The first two days he had fought against his bonds and tried everything he could think of to free himself, but to no avail. The orcs kept him bound all the time, and they guarded him closely. Apart from that, they had found ways to ensure that his strength was waning. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, they beat him or found other creative ways to hurt him.
Legolas knew that he owed it only to their fear of their leader and to their leader's fear of the Nazgûl that he was not tortured to death instead. The orcs never allowed him to rest as long as he needed, or to restore his strength after a long day's march or a severe beating. They had allowed him only some sips of stale water and had not given him anything to eat, and when he fell – or one of them caused him to fall – they simply dragged him along until he managed to stagger to his feet again.
Legolas was quite sure that the orcs would start torturing him as soon as they felt safe. They would not damage him too much, not wanting to incur the wrath of their master, but they would have their fun with him. Knowing what fate awaited him at their destination, he did not really fear what they would do to him.
In fact, it had become some kind of hope, the only way of escape that he could still think of. Perhaps the orcs would get carried away, perhaps he could provoke them so much that they killed him, perhaps he could impale himself on a knife they used on him… There was no other way out now. Legolas was startled out of his thoughts when the silence around him was broken by harsh, guttural words and orders were bellowed behind him.
As often as he had heard the black speech in these last days, he would never get used to it. All about it was ugly and felt wrong, and it nearly hurt to listen to it. Slight vibrations in the ground beneath him told him that they were coming for him. He opened his eyes, refusing to give them a reason to 'wake him up' and wanting to at least see the danger, when he could not evade it.
The orcs had withdrawn deeper into the forest to rest and wait for nightfall, shunning the daylight as dim as it might be. For once, Legolas was grateful for the creatures' sensitivity to light. The familiar dark twilight that reigned beneath the interwoven boughs and the canopy of the mighty Mirkwood trees did not hurt his eyes or his slightly throbbing head.
He caught only a glimpse of dark trunks and green leaves above him, then the sight was blotted out by the sneering face of the orc leader towering over him. Legolas did not bother to try and raise his head or move backwards, he was too tired and hurt too much to care about his pride. He simply met the orc's gaze as coldly and defiantly as he could, trying not to show his apprehension. He was not sure he could endure another beating right now.
The orc stared down on him for a long moment. "You do not look too well, elf," he finally said in the common language.
Legolas had to stifle an answer that would have certainly caused him to be punished. He knew it was too dangerous to provoke his captors now. He did not really care for his own fate anymore, though he did not look forward to the pain. But he knew he could not risk his last chance of escape into a merciful death. The orc leader was not stupid, and if he saw through his tactic too early and failed to kill him… Legolas would be doomed to spend the rest of his life in the dungeons of Dol Guldur.
So the elf simply stayed silent, as he had done for the entire time of his captivity, watching the orc. The creature bent lower, and Legolas could not help flinching as clawed fingers buried themselves in his hair and his head was jerked off the ground. For a moment he thought that the orc was going to break his neck, but the orc did not make any further move. He brought his face directly in front of the elf's, his grip preventing his captive from moving away.
Both the proximity of the orc and his touch were disgusting, and Legolas had to force himself not to struggle against the painful grip, knowing that he had no chance of breaking free, bound as he was. He took shallow breaths to avoid gagging on the foul smell of the creature, but he did not try to turn his head away, still meeting his enemy's gaze directly. The orc smiled at him, exposing sharp, crooked yellow teeth.
Legolas knew that the orc leader was as unhappy about the Nazgûl's orders as his underlings were. There was a greedy gleam in the creature's eyes whenever his gaze fell on his captive that spoke of his hunger for the elf's flesh and his pain. Legolas suppressed a shiver, but could not stop his heart from beating faster. He gritted his teeth and forced himself to meet the gaze of the burning yellow eyes only inches from his own unflinchingly.
The orc had found his own, private way to torture the elf and humiliated him whenever he got the chance. So far, he had not succeeded in breaking the elf's pride or his stubborn defiance, and Legolas was determined to keep what was left of his dignity for as long as he could.
"Still so quiet, elf?" the orc hissed. "Good. I do not want to hear your talk, only your screams."
The brief triumph that flared up in the orc's eyes and his widened smile showed Legolas that the slight shudder that went through his body at the orc's words had not gone unnoticed. Still he refused to back down or look away.
"But until then, I can't have you slow us down," the orc continued.
Legolas spotted a movement out of the corner of his eyes and, risking a short glance, he saw that the orc's free hand was reaching for a flask that the elf had seen him carrying around fastened to his belt all the time. He was instantly alarmed. He had been determined to refuse any kind of nourishment from his captors even if they offered it to him, but this promised to be even worse.
Seeing the sudden resistance flare up in the eyes of the captive and his body tense, the orc barked an order. From one moment to the next, Legolas found himself surrounded by orcs. Hands were grasping his shoulders and his legs, holding him down, and the pain of sharp claws piercing his bruised and cut skin made him gasp. For a moment he panicked and began to struggle against the hands on him, but they pinned him down, not allowing him to move away.
He felt the hand of the leader in his hair again, and then his jaws were forced apart, and some liquid poured into his mouth. The taste of the vile potion made him rear up against the hands that held him once more, but his head was caught in an iron-hard grip and claws held his mouth shut before he had a chance to get rid of the burning liquid. Fingers pinched his nose and left him only the choice to swallow or choke. As black spots began to dance in front of his eyes he finally gave in and swallowed reflexively.
The orc leader forced several more sips of the liquid down the elf's throat before he was content. The hands finally let go, and Legolas slumped in exhaustion. The elf felt nauseated, and his stomach cramped. He was shaken by dry heaves, and he wanted nothing more but to rinse his mouth, or retch. But before he could even find the strength to spit out the small part of the potion that still seemed to cling to his mouth, his jaws were forced apart once more and a gag was forced into his mouth the taste and smell of which made his stomach heave again.
The gag was secured with a strip that the orcs tore out of his own tunic. He forced himself to take deep, slow breaths until his stomach had calmed so far that the danger of retching and choking had passed. He knew that the orcs used these vile potions both to strengthen themselves after injuries, and sometimes to replace food and drink while travelling. The potion could be used to strengthen elvish prisoners as well, but elves usually preferred to die rather than drank the potion out of their own free will.
Legolas had never tasted the potion before and did not wish to ever do so again. There was something in it that darkened his spirit, and the liquid seemed to burn him from inside. The orcs had taken all choice and control from him, and seldom before had he felt so helpless or vulnerable. He should have known that they would gag him – they always did after a beating.
They did not want to miss any sound of pain he made, but they did not want him to be able to alert a patrol or anything else when they were not having their fun with him. His heart was still beating wildly, and he closed his eyes and tried to further calm his breathing. Slowly, the burning inside of him lessened, but he seemed to feel both his aching body and the cold beneath him more intensely than before.
Once again, hands were on him, lifting him. He did not open his eyes, still feeling nauseated and not wanting to see the world turn around him. Again the claws added bloody marks and new bruises to his skin. The orcs carried him a short distance, then he was simply dropped. Legolas groaned as his already badly bruised body hit the ground hard, but the gag swallowed the sound.
He opened his eyes again, just as a new pair of hands gripped his shoulders, dragged him into an upright position, and shoved him backwards against something hard. His head collided painfully with the hard surface and, for a moment, he blacked out. When he came around again he felt someone cut the ropes on his hands, not caring that the blade cut into the surrounding skin quite often or that the rope had cut deeply into the elf's bloodied wrists.
Legolas had lost all feeling in his tightly bound hands hours ago, and as the pain hit him he almost wished it had stayed that way. At least it made him aware enough to realize what was happening to him. As always when the orcs wanted to rest, they bound their captive against a tree. He felt the rough bark pressing against his back, and a moment later his arms were bent back and bound together again.
More ropes were wrapped around his torso, securing him against the tree, and his legs were bound to stakes that were driven into the ground. He was too exhausted to even wince anymore, though his wrists felt as if they were on fire and the ropes were painfully tight, aggravating the cuts and bruises on his body and seeming to cut deeper with every breath he took. Finally, the orcs were done and left him alone, but not before they had delivered some well-placed, but half-hearted kicks against his ribs and legs.
Having expected this treatment, Legolas did not react to it. When the orcs had left, he allowed his still-tense body to slowly relax against the bonds. He let his head sink back against the tree trunk, and looked up to the dark boughs and the canopy overhead, trying to distract himself from the pain that the bonds caused him, and his still-cramping stomach. Not a glimpse of sky could be seen. The orcs had chosen an especially dark part of the forest to hide in and now that Legolas had some time and quiet to listen and feel he noticed that this place was not only dark on the outside.
The voices of the trees had either fallen silent, or they had been turned into malicious whispers. When he listened more intently, he realized that the tree he had been bound to was one of those that were poisoned by shadow. There would be no strength or comfort to be gained from it, only dark whispers and emptiness. He shivered and lowered his head, feeling defeated and lost. Hopelessness and despair enveloped him like a dark, heavy blanket, weighing him down, threatening to crush all beneath them that he had once been. Never before in his life had he felt so alone.
Finally, exhaustion won over despair, and though there was a silent warning inside of him that told him not to give in to sleep, he simply could not help it. Both his spirit and his body had been pushed to the brink of what they could bear for much too long now. His chin sank against his chest and he drifted into welcome oblivion, leaving the darkness and the pain behind, if only for a little while.
To be continued…
(1) "Legolas had been forced to face a Nazgûl before" refers to a previous story of mine, "Stronger than Darkness".
I definitely hope you enjoyed this chapter more than Legolas did. (evil grin)