The trolls were fighting among themselves. I took advantage of the opportunity and planned my escape. I urged Ekuar to come with me but he shook his head sadly and told me he was too weak. I in turn was barely strong enough to walk, certainly not strong enough to carry him. So I said my goodbyes to the companion of my captivity and sneaked into the Tunnel of Golden Light. The sunlight pouring from outside was balm to my eyes after so many turns of the seasons spent in the underground torchlight darkness of the troll kingdom. I moved from shadow to shadow, keeping my eyes on my goal and a prayer to the High Ones, my parents, on my heart. Watch over me. Give me freedom. Let me walk under the daystar once more.

I came to the opening of the tunnel, and my heart sank. Ahead of me spread a desert without end, baked by the scorching rays of a flaming sun. On both sides of me spread a rock wall, high and steep. I started shaping stairs into the stone, leading me up, but when I tried to climb I realized I was too weak for that exercise. Too weak and old and brittle. I shaped a little cave to shade me from the sun and crawled into it.

And here I am, in my little hole. I think of my youth. I remember Mekda and Ekuar, my friends. I remember how Mekda used to laugh when Ekuar shaped stone into the visages of our elders, twisted in unnatural expressions of rage or stupidity. We had no respect for them. We were young, and we thought we could do anything. Rock obeyed our will, so we thought we could shape our lives like stone to suit our fancy. We stayed behind when the others left, seeking to claim the Palace. Instead we were ourselves claimed by the cruel trolls, and taken away to slavery.

The long years of my slavery are all a blur, underground I could not count the seasons, and one day wore the shape of any other. Work there was as much as we could do, and then some. Food, there was as well, vile in taste and never enough to end the pangs of hunger. Water, there was, stale, with dirt in it and the taste of mud. Beds, there were, hard and cold. Love, it was found only in each other, the trolls knew no compassion. To them we were less than tools, for their tools they kept in good condition. We grew sick and gaunt, and they mutilated us just to show us they could. They knew we did not need our fingers to shape stone.

So here I am, with one finger left to me, all others cut away for what my masters called punishments. I still do not know how I angered them. Perhaps I worked too slow, or spoke a word too many, perhaps I smiled. Perhaps I was punished for being an elf.

The air grows hotter as the day passes. I lie still and think of my life. I know I have not much time left. I am weakened by hunger I have not eaten since the trolls started their fighting. I am thirsty.

But a glorious song echoes through the chambers of my soul. I am free. I have escaped. I shall die free. Soon my spirit will travel to the Palace. I can hardly wait. And why should I wait, why should I tarry here any longer and watch my body wither away? Why should I feel the heat and cold, the hunger and thirst, the gnawing ache of my injuries? True freedom awaits me.

Slowly, I reach my hand to rest against the wall and close the opening of my little cave. I seal my own tomb. In it I rest in silence, in the cold womb of stone. My mind grows light as air grows scarce, I find myself floating half outside my body. Soon I shall be free of the prison of this battered flesh. I can hardly wait. I cry tears of joy.